HOLY WEEK: RECOLLECTION
Luke 23: 32-46 (NRSV)
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 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.
Good Friday. Today is the day for us to recall that terrible, final day of Jesus’ earthly life. We cannot fathom Jesus’ pain, suffering, anguish, humiliation, torment, ridicule, and his slow, tortuous death on the cross. Jesus only wanted to give us life and love, and this is what we did to him. May we all take some quiet time today to recall all of this, to grieve and to despair again, with very sorry and very thankful hearts.
Our word for this Good Friday is Recall. Merriam Webster defines recall in these ways: to remember (something) from the past; to ask or order (someone) to return; or to ask people to return (a product with a defect or problem). Let’s consider all three meanings today.
To remember from the past…
We recall that day with great sadness. But we recall these words of Jesus with thankfulness, deep relief, and greater peace: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”* His words are difficult to believe- that Jesus would do this at all, and that Jesus has done this for us. WE ARE FORGIVEN. There is nothing we can do to merit our forgiveness. This is a gift of complete mercy and grace.
To ask someone to return…
Every day Jesus is recalling us back as his followers. In what ways have we been negligent of Jesus recently? What gifts of God have we been taking for granted? In what new ways might we grow in our discipleship? Jesus asks us always to return to him. In this week of recollection, let’s return to him by revisiting the Good Friday story in the context of his love. Let’s return to him by re-membering him each day with our life and love. Let’s return to him by being attentive and ready with open and thankful hearts, as he recalls us anew each day.
To ask people to return a product with a problem or defect…
Finally, Jesus is recalling us back to the cross. He is asking us to return to him with our own brokenness- our problems and defects. We are imperfect. We need to hear his words of forgiveness once again. Jesus wants to restore us and make us new. On this Good Friday Jesus is also recalling us back to the cross so that we may die to ourselves once again. Let’s go to the cross and surrender. Let’s go to the cross and allow Jesus to keep working in us, perfecting us and completing us, removing every defect. Today is the day.
Loving, merciful Jesus,
Oh, how you love us! On this terrible and Good Friday, we recall your immense suffering and death on the cross, with great sadness and guilt. But we also recall your words of mercy and forgiveness, with great hope and peace. We hear you recalling us today to be your devoted followers. We hear you recalling us back to the cross for surrendering and perfecting. We hear your call. Help us to heed your call. Amen.
(*As I was preparing this devotion, I noticed that the verse, “Father forgive them…” was enclosed within brackets. I learned that these words of Jesus were not included in the original manuscript of Luke, and may have been added later. They also may have at one time been removed by ones who didn’t want to excuse Jesus’ killers. I found several online discussions about this! Did Jesus actually say this? WOULD Jesus have said this? But as we did earlier this week, if we revisit this story in the context of Jesus’ life, love, and his commands to forgive one another, I believe Jesus surely could have said these words, don’t you?)