The cross is more about life than death. Jesus teaches us how to live life in his last moments. He teaches us what it means to be godly—to love those who hate you, even in the most painful circumstances. Here are the five things Jesus taught me on the cross:
1. Forgiveness is about us, not them. Forgiveness is not dependent upon other people’s actions. Luke’s gospel records Jesus looking down on the men who beat him and crucified him, and saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus doesn’t ask God to forgive the men who crucified him, and the crowd who mocked and beat him, because they deserve mercy, but because they are ignorant. They are anything but deserving. Jesus forgiving those who killed him shows us more about him than it does them. He was right with God, even when people had done wrong by him. We should forgive others because God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it.
2. Fulfilling your call is the most important thing of all. It was part of Jesus’ vocation to suffer. He was called to suffer like the suffering servant prophesied 500 years before he was born. Hence why Jesus says to Mary, “Woman, behold, your son!” (John 19:26). In other words, “Behold, I am fulfilling my calling.” If God has called us to do something, it is our duty (our obligation) to fulfill that calling—no matter what the cost.
3. It’s never too late to be saved. When one of the criminals who was crucified next to Jesus says, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”, the criminal being crucified on the other side of Jesus rebukes him and says, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” He then says to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus then replies, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:39–43). It’s never too late to come to Jesus, but never too early. All we have to do is commit our life to Christ. The moments following that commitment may be short, but God will still accept our commitment. That doesn’t mean we should delay, though, because we never know when we won’t have another chance. (We could all get hit by a bus.)
4. Pain can be holy. In Jesus’ last moments, he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34). (These are words echoed from Psalm 22:1.) Then, according to Luke, Jesus says, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). And just before dying, Jesus echoes Psalm 22:31 (“he has finished it”), when he says “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus is quoting the first and last line of a Psalm, which is how rabbis in the ancient world cited biblical passages. In citing a psalm about deep, painful lament, Jesus is saying: “I am the ultimate lamenter. I am that man.”
5. Sometimes the earth has to shake for us to get “it.” All the prophetic signs were in place, but no one got “it.” So what does God do? Shake the earth after Jesus dies. Would we get “it” if we were there? I doubt it. But after the earth shakes, and everything comes crashing down in our lives, we have a tendency to see things more clearly. After the earthquake, it’s not a Jewish priest, or an expert in the Bible who gets “it”: it’s a Roman soldier. He remarks, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). According to Luke’s Gospel, he also remarks, “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47). Like Jesus, we can lament in a godly way. Pain can be holy. We just have to follow the guidance of psalms like Psalm 22.
Jesus died for us on the cross. But he also taught us about life on the cross. Now it’s our obligation to live it. May the man who died for your life teach you to live a godly life.