He Saved Others ... And He Saved Me!
Millions of Christians celebrate our crucified and risen Lord on one particular weekend each year. The world with its Easter bunnies considers this strange. Foolish, actually. How could the death of a peasant itinerant 2,000 years ago provide purpose for life today — with assurance of heaven for eternity?
For many unbelievers, the best thing to say about Jesus on the cross is that He was a very good man having a very bad day. But we Christians understand that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not counting our trespasses against us” (2 Cor. 5:19).
Christ’s saving reconciliation shines through each of seven statements He made on the cross. Let’s consider them in turn, beginning with Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Amazing grace! Jesus intercedes on behalf of murderous enemies. Meanwhile His disciples, then and now, are clueless about the depth of our own depravity (John 13:8). Even our best works require forgiveness, since everything we do falls short of perfection. Thus grace is never earned — just humbly received and shared.
Christ was crucified between two thieves cursing and mocking Him (Matt. 27:44). What wondrous love is this, stooping so low to save us! Even naked criminals sense their social superiority to the disgraced “King of the Jews.”
Suddenly one of them is jolted to his senses — this is indeed the Messiah! He pleads for mercy: “Lord, remember me.”
Christ’s response is swift and certain: “You will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The forgiven thief died in peace.
Somehow, many Christians today are reluctant to embrace that assurance of salvation. And yet we too may “rejoice because our names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
As Jesus on the cross opened to us the gates of heaven, He was going through hell in experiencing the universal and final death we all deserve (Heb. 2:9) Beyond physical torment is Christ’s loss of eternal fellowship with the Father, since He who had known no sin had become sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). Suffocated with our guilt, Jesus laments, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
Christ was forsaken so we can be accepted, not just by God but by each other. We are brothers and sisters in His redeemed family of a shared new humanity. This is evident in Christ’s next statement at Calvary, perhaps the most underappreciated of them all:
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:26–27).
Christ’s mother is suddenly more than a friend; John now has family responsibilities. Likewise with us. As fellow believers we comprise a new human race, the body of Christ. We become brothers and sisters with people who otherwise would be strangers or enemies — at best just pleasant acquaintances or friends. But now we are united forever in a new community of the Spirit through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Suffering on the cross, Christ finally attends to His own miserable condition. Through parched lips, He cries, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28*). Beyond physical thirst is His burning yearning for love from those He came to save (Desire of Ages, p. 191).
Finally on that fateful Friday, Christ’s six hours of unfathomable suffering draw to an end with the shout, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). This is not a wail of despair but a triumphant announcement of accomplishment. Christus victor!
His life’s work complete, Jesus offers Himself in final surrender: “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Then He bows His head and dies.
Like many of you, each year at this season I read anew the gospel accounts of our Lord’s death and resurrection. I was captured by the irony of the mockery of Christ’s enemies as He hung on the cross. They “scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’” (Luke 23:35).
“He saved others”? Indeed He did — He saved me! The devil’s own disciples unwittingly announced my salvation! Overwhelmed at that insight, I found myself laughing and crying at the same time.
A skeptical world considers this foolish emotionalism. Well, fine! Paul boasted, “We are fools for Christ’s sake” (1 Cor. 4:10). But “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Cor. 1:25).
Glory to the crucified and risen Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ!
*Lexham English Bible; all other Bible texts are from the English Revised Version.