What does it say?
We turn now from Matthew and Mark’s account of the crucifixion to the versions offered by John and Luke. As you read, look for additional material that John or Luke offer, or things they do not include. For example, only Luke records the confession of one the thieves crucified with Jesus, while only John mentions Jesus’ seamless coat and how the Roman soldiers cast lots for it.
With no recorders or camcorders, recalling events such as this depends upon eyewitness testimony. Under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, the gospel writers assemble the details, and each chooses particular elements to emphasize. An example of how all this fits together is in the sign that was hung over Jesus’ head on the cross. Each Gospel writer gives a slightly different wording, but it all very plausibly fits together with no contradiction. The sign must have said: This is (Mat & Luke) Jesus (Mat & John) of Nazareth (John) the King of the Jews (all four).
What does it mean?
The importance of Christ dying in our place to satisfy the demands of our sin cannot be overstated. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the very heart of the Gospel, the Good News. Matthew contrasts what is happening on the cross with the very human story of Judas Iscariot. Overcome by the shame of his treason, Judas concludes that suicide is the only way that he can deal with the shame. Ironically, the One he betrayed is dying on the cross to provide the only way to completely deal with guilt and shame. His suicide did not have to happen. There is nothing of such finality in our lives that has to happen as the result of our sin because Jesus’ death provides for our redemption and restoration. It’s simply a matter of whether we choose to believe or not.
Another important contrast in these chapters is between the fear and failure of The Twelve as Jesus is crucified and the courage of a prominent believer named Joseph of Arimathaea. John will tell us that he was a “secret” believer for fear of the Jews and that Nicodemus (John 3) is another silent believer that assists him in giving burial to the body of Jesus (John 19:38-40). Sometimes we are tempted to judge people that for whatever reasons don’t participate in all the programs and ministries of the church. Here, the “regular church-goers” turn up short and the ones that come through courageously are those that we might least expect.
How will I respond?
Because of what Jesus did on the cross, a guilty believer is an oxymoron. Do I wrestle with guilt and shame in any areas of my life? Why? What step can I take today to make effective application of Jesus’ finished work on the cross to deal with my sin and shame