Imagine sacrificing your life to save an enemy. In times of war this would be called a treason. In times of peace we may tolerate our enemies, but we certainly don’t embrace them or even try to help them at the cost of our lives, and yet this is exactly what Jesus did.
Why would the Son of God love His enemies? That’s the puzzle of Good Friday. His interactions on the cross speak volumes. Here He is, in excruciating pain, and another man going through the same ordeal is insulting Him (Luke 23:39):
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
Jesus is neither offended nor does He condemn the man. He is able to see past the insult. That’s the heart of grace. I believe His reaction was an eye-opener for another criminal bleeding on the cross. His name is unknown, but He was deeply moved by Jesus’ reaction and didn’t mince words when he addressed the angry individual who insulted Jesus just moments ago (Luke 23:40-41):
“But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’”
When the person who spoke up for Jesus asks Him a favor, He answers kindly (Luke 23:42-43):
“Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
The angry criminal on the cross must have overheard this conversation. We don’t know whether or not he was moved, but I love the fact that this man may have died condemned by men, but not condemned by the Lord. All this is possible because God loves His enemies. A revolution happened on the cross. Jesus extended a hand of grace so we in turn, touched by grace, give room for grace when others have offended us. Grace turns a horrible Friday afternoon with condemned and bleeding individuals on the cross into Good Friday – a Friday of hope – with resurrection just around the corner.