Why did Jesus die on the cross? How would you answer this question?
Each of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) records different things that Jesus said while he was on the cross. Luke’s gospel records two things that Jesus said that also explain exactly why Jesus died on the cross. Listen to these words from Jesus on the cross:
Luke 23:34. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:43. And [Jesus] said to [the thief on the cross next to him], “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus died on the cross for us for two reasons.
1) So that we might be forgiven of all our sins – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
And 2) So that we might live with him forever in heaven – “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
When Jesus said “Father forgive them,” he was talking about the soldiers who were nailing him to the cross. The very men that were hurting him and crucifying him, Jesus was praying for their forgiveness. Wow.
Jesus could only forgive these men because he knew God loved him no matter what, and he knew that ultimately he would be OK in the end. And guess what – we know these same two things don’t we? We know that God loves us no matter what and that we will be OK in the end too. And we know that we are forgiven just like the men who nailed Jesus to the cross. Every single sin we’ve ever done, every bad thought and deed, every selfish action, all erased by Jesus’ death for us on the cross. Praise God!
But we’re not only forgiven. It gets even better. We are also brought into the presence of God forever. When Jesus said “today you will be with me in paradise,” he was talking to a man who was being crucified alongside of Jesus. But just before he died this man showed that he trusted in Jesus. He asked Jesus to “remember me” in heaven. And Jesus promised the man that he too would go to heaven with Jesus. He would live with God forever.
And that is Jesus’ same promise to us today, starting now. Yes, one day we will go to heaven with Jesus. But right now we are with God. How? Because God is with us, living inside of us all of the time when we trust in Jesus. We may not be in paradise yet, but paradise is in our hearts. All of God’s love for us is already ours and it lives inside of us reminding us that we are loved no matter what and that ultimately we will be OK.
And that means that like Jesus we too can forgive. We too can live each day as if Jesus is with us wherever we go – because he is!
Because of Jesus we are forgiven and we will live with God forever in heaven.
With Jesus we can forgive others and enjoy the presence of God all the time.
DO SOMETHING TOGETHER
Talk to your family about being a family that always forgives each other. Talk about the importance of apologizing and asking for forgiveness with each other. But also remind them that God forgives us even before we ask – all we have to do is receive his forgiveness.
A great movie teaching the themes of forgiveness and presence (the two things the cross accomplished) is Mary Poppins. In the end Mr. Banks is forgiven by his children and he adds his presence to their lives.
You have forgiven me of all my sins and come to live in my heart. Help me to always know that you are with me.
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