To prepare yourself today, spend some time reflecting on the sins that have been separating you from God recently. Ask for God’s forgiveness for them.
Jesus, the innocent man, is led out to be crucified. As they go, they seize Simon from Cyrene to carry the cross for him. It was very heavy, and Jesus wouldn’t have had any sleep or food for a while, and had probably also been tortured as the guards had mocked him and beaten him. It is a sad scene.
There were two other criminals being executed at the same time, one on either side of Jesus. Most people around kept on mocking Jesus. They knew he had saved others, so why did he not save himself? Where was his supernatural power that had raised people from the dead? Even one of the other criminals joined in.
The other criminal however didn’t join in. He asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. He realised something of what was happening. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, it is never too late to turn to Jesus. And Jesus promises him: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” He doesn’t say, you’ll be in Paradise (heaven) once you have paid for all your mistakes. In ten years time.
Jesus’s death means freedom for us all. Through Jesus, we can all be in Paradise, if we recognise him for who he is and what he has done for us. As Jesus died, there was some sort of eclipse happening, which meant that the world went dark – appropriate as the Light of the World was extinguished. The curtain in the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom – it was a curtain separating the people from God. It could only have been God. The people standing around the cross, who had been mocking him, realised that this man was righteous before God – ie innocent. He should not have died.
Lord God, thank you that you suffered and died on that cross so that I could go free. Thank you that you promise us eternal life and Paradise when we know you as our Lord and our Saviour. Thank you that through your death, everything changes. Amen.
Spend some time reflecting on the cross, and worship God for all he did there.