Ben H. Swett
Bethany Christian Church
Easter 1974

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

Soldiers have just driven nails through his hands and feet and hoisted him up by those nails. He does not fear those who kill his body; he pities them and prays for them. If they knew how much this hurts, they could not do it to anyone. They are unwitting instruments of the higher purpose that brings him here.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)

But physical torment takes its toll. He suddenly discovers that he cannot hear the still, small voice; he has lost his two-way communication with God. His lifeline is not working, so he must face the narrow gate of death alone.

He said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold your mother!" (John 19:26-27)

Not quite alone. He looks down. Which hurts worse: the pain of being crucified, or the pain of a mother watching her son be crucified, or the pain of a boy whose beloved teacher hangs bleeding before his eyes? He understands their pain in the midst of his own, and tells them to care for each other.

"I thirst!" (John 19:28)

Time passes slowly. His spring of living water runs dry. He reaches the end of his strength. This is the moment the Tempter has been waiting for: through the voices of cynical men, Satan tries again, as he did in the wilderness: "If you are the Christ, prove it! Save yourself and impress the people."

"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)

But a dying thief says, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." What the cynical voices suggest is not the way to prove he is the Christ. His kingdom is not of this world. He ignores them and reassures the thief.

"It is finished!" (John 19:30)

He has defeated the Tempter again. Despite the agony, he has rejected temptation and cared for those around him. His temporary duty on earth is complete. He has shown the way God wants us to live. He has demonstrated the fact that faith and hope and love cannot be destroyed by anything men can say or do.

"Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

Like a trusting child, he turns to the Father and takes the next step. He has bound himself by love, to both God and the human race. Soon he will begin his long-term ministry by demonstrating the fact that human beings survive physical death. Then he will continue to draw to himself, and thus to heaven, everyone he can ... for as long as it takes ... until whosoever will has come.

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