“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him. And by His wounds, we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
It’s Easter weekend, which is, in my opinion, the most important holiday in the Christian faith. Even more than Christmas.
Easter is when we remember the day Jesus was crucified to save us from our sins. We remember how He was betrayed, arrested, ushered through bogus trials, flogged and beaten with glass and rocks, forced to wear a crown of thorns digging into his scalp, then made to carry the crossbeam the Romans would nail Him to up a long hill named Skull Hill, or sometimes called Calvary. And all this without having had any sleep for over 24 hours. He was exhausted and in horrible pain.
Yet, in the middle of it all, there were four amazingly compassionate things Jesus said as He carried the cross and endured the torture of crucifixion. It always humbles and amazes me when I think about it. His compassion and thoughtfulness of others continued to supersede anything He was going through personally. It’s hard to for our human minds to understand.
Let’s take a closer look at Jesus’ final words.
Compassion on the Road to Calvary
After Jesus was condemned, He was forced to carry his cross to His execution. It was a common part of the punishment in those days. Onlookers, gawkers, and critics filled the streets. It seemed the entire city had turned out to watch the death of the man who claimed to be the Messiah (which He was).
Among the crowd was a certain group of women crying and following Jesus. It’s not known for sure who they were. What we do know is that Jesus ̶ though beaten, bloodied, exhausted, and carrying a cross that weighed likely a good one hundred pounds as the crowd cruelly heckled Him ̶ noticed them.
With the Roman soldiers continuing to whip Him, Jesus paused to warn the women about what was yet to come. The account is recorded only in Luke 23:28, which says,
“But Jesus, turning to them (the women), said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed.’” (Addition is mine)
Jesus is trying to warn the women that things will get worse for the entire Jewish nation at the hands of the Romans. If the Romans were willing to send an innocent man to be crucified, how much more will they do to the entire nation? He also tells the women they will be considered blessed for not having any children to mourn at that time (His words may even be prophetic of the earth’s last days).
It seems incredible that Jesus would have the strength and wherewithal to warn these women about the future. He was still focused on others, showing His compassion for them instead of Himself.
Compassion for the Crowd
Jesus’ compassion continued three more times even after He was nailed to the cross.
First, Luke 23:34 tells us He began by asking the Father to forgive the executioners and all the Romans and Jews who were tormenting Him. Even though none of them deserved forgiveness, Jesus understood their spiritual blindness and the guilt each of them had.
“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
The apostle Paul re-emphasizes the need for forgiveness in 1 Corinthians 2:8,
“For if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness is such a beautiful expression of His infinite compassion and grace. It may be that this prayer was what brought many in the city to finally believe and accept that He was indeed the Messiah.
“And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow.” Luke 23:48
Compassion for the Robber
Not much later, Jesus shows compassion and grace again. One of the thieves hanging on the crosses next to Jesus decides to join the soldiers in mocking the Lord by saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” (Luke 23:39) It’s so disrespectful and blasphemous, don’t you think?
After this had gone on for a little while, the second thief finally tells the first thief to button his lip.
“But the other, answering, rebuked him saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing as you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds. But this Man has done nothing wrong.”
The second thief then turns to Jesus and asks, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
Jesus slowly lifts His head and turns His bloodied face to the robber saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Again, Jesus is compassionate in the middle of His own suffering. Through the pain in His body and the fight for breath, Jesus gives grace to someone who finally figured out that he had no hope left except for divine grace. Jesus graciously confirmed the thief’s new faith and gave him salvation.
Compassion for His Mother
As the oldest child, Jesus was expected to ensure proper care of His mother after His death. Normally, the responsibility would fall to His earthly brothers; however, they weren’t exactly a close family.
Most of His siblings (brothers and sisters alike) didn’t support or approve of Jesus’ ministry, which means they certainly didn’t believe He was the promised Messiah. They didn’t even show up the day Jesus died. They were back home in Capernaum. Side note: Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude who both wrote epistles in the New Testament, didn’t believe until after the Resurrection as stated in Acts 1:14.
Abandoned by His family, Jesus had no choice but to give the distinct honor of looking after His mother to his dear friend, John. He was the one who consistently showed his enduring love for his friend. It was a great compliment to John and a very high honor indeed.
The scene is recorded in John 19:26. His mother, His mother’s sister-in-law (both named Mary, oddly enough), and His friend, Mary Magdalene, were all standing at the cross with John, supporting Jesus as best they could in His worst hour.
“When Jesus, therefore, saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour, that disciple took her to his own home.”
Though dying on a cross, Jesus had the presence of mind and thoughtfulness to make sure His mother was placed in good hands. But, He wasn’t just being the responsible son here. He loved His mom very much. She was Mom. Even before His birth in a manger, she had never doubted Him, and she had never left Him. She was the one person who stayed with Him every day of His earthly life, through thick and thin.
The love between a son and his mother is a special kind of love with bonds that go beyond space and time. Jesus clearly shows it here with His compassion for Mary.
Three More Notable Sayings from the Lord
Jesus speaks only three more times before His death.
1. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Jesus quotes directly from Psalm 22:1 here. It indicates the depth of despair and abandonment Jesus was experiencing as He took on the sins of the world and the divine wrath of the Father.
It was a feeling He had never known before. Jesus and the Father were separated for the first time. And since Jesus is a part of the trinity of God, it must have felt like His soul was splitting in two. I can only imagine the agony and sadness He felt at that moment, which I can’t.
2. “I thirst!”
It’s entirely plausible that Jesus was thirsty by this time. Instead of water, though, the Roman soldiers gave Him sour wine on a sponge to drink. The sour wine was purposely chosen to prolong His suffering, but that evil tactic did nothing because there were only a few minutes left of Jesus’ suffering.
3. “It is finished.”
This is the last thing Jesus said before He went home to heaven. He bowed His head and let His spirit leave His body to return to heaven, which proves what He said in John 10:17–18 where He said no one could take His life from Him except Him. By saying these words, Jesus was conveying that He had fulfilled His religious obligation and the entire work of redemption was complete.
After His Death
On the third day after Jesus’ death and burial, His tomb was miraculously found empty. He had conquered death and sin just as He said He would. He died as a lamb put to slaughter, but He rose like a lion! We serve a risen Savior who holds all power and authority in His hands and an unimaginable amount of love and compassion in His heart.
His death makes us feel sad and troubled knowing He took on the punishment we deserved. But, don’t forget He did it willingly to save us all from eternal death. And He rose again so that we would have a chance at eternal life with Him.
How Much Does Jesus Love You?
There’s a cute children’s classic tale called “Guess How Much I Love You.” It’s a story of a father rabbit and his son trying to explain just how much each loves the other. The son says he loves his dad “to the moon and back.” When we think of Jesus, try to guess how much He loves you. The answer is to hell and back…and up to heaven forever.
This Easter, let’s give thanks to the Father for the unspeakable gift of His Son’s life, Jesus’ final earthly act of compassion for us.
“I go to prepare a place for you. And, if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:14