27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
In days of stress, we often see the true nature of things. Peace and prosperity can mask the nature of people and things. I once witnessed a large store closing. I liked going to this place, but the economics just were not working out for it. It was closing. I regularly went to the liquidation events they held. Some of the employees were stripping out things for their own selves, stealing what they could. Others were valiantly trying to make things work until the very end. But it was the manager who stood out to me. He was consistently taking care of the employees and the customers as best as he could. He was unflappable and, though you could see the strain on his face, he remained a solid and calming presence to the very end. I would like to work for a guy like that, someone who thought about his employees and others when the chips were down, and he was losing his job too.
We come today to the celebration of the Last Day – the day when Christ reveals His kingdom for every eye to see, when every knee will bow, and every eye will see that He is King. That will be an awesome day, a day of glory and power. But what of that King who will receive our worship? What sort of a person is He? Matthew turns our eyes turned toward the inauguration of His kingly rule, long ago, when he hung dying on a tree. Notice the three groups he addresses in this narrative. He notices, warns, and comforts the women who follow him. He forgives the men who pound the cruel nails into his hands and feet. He hears and forgives the criminal who hangs beside Him on another cross. Thus we learn something of that King whom we worship.
He sees the humble and powerless people, noticing their suffering and grief. He forgives even the worst of us. He saves even the one whose deeds and life merit suffering and death. That is the sort of King we anticipate. Good Friday was a day of stress and death for Jesus, a day to reveal Him as He really is. Stripped of everything, we see Him loving, listening, forgiving, and saving. That is what our King is really like. I look forward to the day when all will see His rule.