What emotions arise in you when you read of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial in Luke 23? Although I know it was part of God’s plan and Jesus willingly gave His life for you and me, anger at the Council, Pontius Pilate, and the people yelling “Crucify Him!” is one feeling that is stirred up in me often times.
Today though, let’s focus on the courage shown in Luke 23, instead of the cowardly actions of the Council, Pontius Pilate, and the people. The first act of courage we see is shown by Jesus. I had a Sunday school teacher growing up who would cry nearly every time he spoke of Jesus’ death. In my young age and immaturity, I did not understand why this moved him so much. Now older, and maybe a tad bit wiser, I think about the sacrifice, pain felt, and courage shown by Jesus to justify not what He had done, but because of what I have done, and it can move me to tears often, too. Watching The Passion of Christ movie really helps to grasp this. If you have not seen this movie, I strongly suggest you do.
The second act of courage in Luke 23 is that of one of the two criminals being crucified next to Jesus. While the people below and the other criminal being crucified mocked Jesus telling Him to save Himself if He truly was the Christ, this criminal stepped up with great courage. He was willing to be different and asked Jesus in Luke 23:42 to “remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Although we don’t know his name, we are assured that Jesus does. He says in Luke 23:43, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” This is also a good reminder for each one of us and to others we love that need to know Jesus that regardless of what sins we have done and no matter how many times we’ve committed them, anyone can be saved if they believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness, even in the last seconds of their life. It is never too late.
The last act of courage we see is that of Joseph of Arimathea who went to Pilate in Luke 23:52 and asked for Jesus’ body to give him a proper burial. Had he not just seen what they did to Jesus and the contempt they had for Him? But greater than that, we are told in Luke 23:50 that He was a member of the Council…the same group that had Jesus arrested and just asked Pilate to kill Jesus. However, Luke 23:51 tells us that he was “looking for the Kingdom of God” and that he “had not consented to their decision and action.” Wow…talk about showing courage and a willingness to stand up for what you believe is right!
As I reflect on this, I ask myself the following questions. Am I looking for the Kingdom of God like Joseph of Arimathea? Am I willing to take a stand, despite criticism for doing so, like the criminal on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him in paradise despite mocking from the other criminal and likely the people below? Am I willing to be different and live the type of life we are called to live as the Bible instructs us? Or am I conforming to what the world tells me is right? Although I can never be perfect like Jesus, am I striving to be more like Him daily and following His example? Am I like the criminal who gave His life to Jesus? Am I like Joseph of Arimathea who was willing to be different, not only risking his reputation, but potentially his life? Or unintentionally and unbeknownst to me, am I more like one in the crowd yelling “Crucify Him?” I do know one thing is for sure, I am forever and immeasurably grateful for Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness, and saving grace!