Read Luke 23:33-49

      When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”  And they cast lots to divide his clothing.
       And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
       One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
        It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
       When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”  And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.  But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

from Rev. Joshua Patty, Central Christian Church, Fairmont:

In the end, Luke reminds us as he tells of Christ’s crucifixion, there were winners and losers.  The crowd witnessed the entire spectacle, then returned home “beating their breasts.”  The same people who had cried out for blood, who had embraced the murderer Barabbas instead of Jesus, who demanded “Crucify him!” got their wish.  And they went home, proud of themselves.

            Standing “at a distance,” likely in silence and grief, were the losers, many of Jesus’ disciples and loved ones, who witnessed not only the brutal execution of their friend and teacher, but the violent self-satisfaction of the crowd.

            You and I watch this unfold at a greater distance across the centuries.  In that time, we’ve managed to neaten the scene into basic categories: Christ’s noble suffering and demeanor, the horror of sin and violence, the ultimate meaning of Christ’s death.  Brashly, the symbol of horror – the cross – has become the positive representation of our faith, in our art, our architecture, and even our fashion.

            Harder to admit, given nearly 2000 years since that awful Friday, is that we sometimes bear more in common with the smug chest-beaters who demanded, and then cheered, Jesus’ death.  We seek violence and call it justice; we blame our problems on others and scapegoat them.  In actions large and small, we have cried out for blood, “Crucify him!”  Proudly, we thump our chests.            Christ bore it then, and bears it still – the scorn, the condescension, the blood thirst, the sins.  He suffered, bled and died.  But he forgave them.  And he forgives us.

As we have seen the cross of Jesus once again, O God,
help us to receive your boundless mercy which it depicts,
and which it delivers to our lives and to our world.
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