Harold Bennett - We Remember Calvary - Glencoe, Australia - 1995

Luke 23:43, “Today thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” These were the last words Jesus spoke on the cross and they are such gracious words. At the beginning of His Ministry, there were those “blesseds” but at the end, on the cross, there were seven last utterances from His human body. Jesus proved the will of God could be done in a human body. So often, when a criminal dies, they end their life with a curse, but our Saviour ended just summing up what He had lived and taught while here on earth, on the cross; some spoken in light, some in darkness.


A lot happened before Calvary. It was in the garden of Gethsemane where God strengthened Him for Calvary, where He took His disciples and then took Peter, James, and John a little further and prayed. That is in Mark 14:36. There was a cup to be drunk and His flesh was shrinking from it, and a decision needed to be made. His flesh was trying to find a way round it. In our lives sometimes, we could come to our own Gethsemane where our flesh shrinks from death.


He looked on the cup and His Father’s will and He knew it meant death to the flesh. We shudder to think where we would be if He had not drunk that cup. There would have been no hope for us. The Master of the universe, the Wisdom of the ages, the One to whom angels bowed, stood trembling with that cup and wondered if there could be any other way to save people saying, “Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done.” Jesus knew the safest place for Him was on the cross, and it was the happiest place too, because that was the Father’s will. The only safe place for us is within the will of the Father. Sometimes we have tried out another way, have taken our own way, and it has led to such unhappiness.


Human help failed Him. The disciples were sleeping when they could have entered into that hour with Him, but the Father sent an angel to strengthen Him. The chief priests and others came and took Him to the palace of the high priest. It was a night trial and He did not have one article of justice. They had vain fellows as witnesses but they could not agree together. “In His humiliation, His judgement is taken away.” In the palace of Caiaphas, He answered nothing. It says they spat on Him and smote Him. Jesus would have answered Caiaphas and Herod if they had been there to learn but they were not there to learn anything of Him.


Early next morning when the court house opened, they brought Him to the Roman governor, Pilate, because they needed Pilate’s sanction to put Jesus to death. Pilate said, “I find no fault in this Man.” There was no fault in His teaching, His life, or the way of Jesus, His Ministry. Pilate heard Herod was in town and so he sent Jesus to Herod. Then Herod sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate remembered that at that time of the year, it was a custom for the Roman government to release a prisoner to the Jews in order to appease them. It would be Jesus or Barabbas, a thief and a murderer, and he could hardly comprehend that when they had the choice, they chose Barabbas, a taker of life, rather than the One who is the giver of life.

Pilate tried to wash his hands to show his innocence, but he could not wash the stain of guilt off his hands by something applied to the outside. The only thing to do that is if the water had been applied to his heart. The people cried, “His blood be on us and on our children,” a terrible prayer. The blood of Jesus can be on us to condemn us or to justify and cleanse us if there is submission and repentance.


Pilate said Jesus was to be scourged. The Roman scourge is made up of nine strips of leather with short pieces of bone attached to the end of each strip. A prisoner would be beaten until his flesh would hang in ribbons. Soldiers dressed Jesus in a beautiful robe, put a reed in His hand to show how weak He was, put on Him a crown of thorns to show how much they hated His thoughts, and bowed their knee, but it was in mockery because they were not subject to Him. So it is with us, if we are not subject to the King, I would say it is just mockery.


They led Jesus to Calvary and some followed lamenting. Jesus turned and said, “Weep not for Me, but for yourselves and your children.” Jesus knew what was coming to this world because they chose a taker of life and one who disturbs peace. On the cross, they drove those heavy nails through His hands and His feet, then set it up between two thieves, signifying He was the worst criminal of them all. They wrote that he was the King of the Jews. It was written in Greek, the language of the social and cultural world, in Hebrew, the language of the religious world and in Latin, the language of the political world. Jesus was not King in any of those worlds, and there at Calvary’s cross, the whole world stood condemned as Jesus stood alone.


From the cross, Jesus spoke. His message was on forgiveness, in Luke 23:34. When one is crucified, the body hangs from the nails through the hands. You try to push up with your feet because the lungs are expanded. You can breathe air into the body but you can’t breathe it out. You push up with the feet to get a few gasps of air. Because of pain, the body sags again and you try to push up again. As His body filled with air, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” There is not a sin so great but He’ll forgive it. You could hardly believe how Jesus could forgive Pilate, Annas, Caiaphas, and the crowd that mocked.


Sometimes we grieve over something we have done, or past mistakes, before we began to serve God. The enemy of our soul tells us we have done something that God cannot forgive, but Jesus says, “Father, forgive them....”  Sometimes we have feelings against another person, things have been said and done, and then it is good to remember Calvary and hang our heads in shame, because we are so slow to grant others the forgiveness they need, when Jesus was so forgiving to those who put Him on the cross. That was the greatest crime ever committed, such an ignominious death.


In Matthew 5:45, it speaks of loving our enemies and we find it so hard to love our enemies, to bless them that curse us and to do good to them that hate us, but at least we can pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. It will always soften our own heart if we have an enemy and pray for him. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus knew that if He had a wrong attitude in His heart, it would put Him in wrong standing with the Father. On the Judgement Day, we won’t be very much concerned with how others treated us, but how we treated others. Jesus found real forgiveness in His heart there on the cross. When God raised Him from the dead, He could have taken the worst kind of vengeance on Pilate, Annas, and those who put Him there, but He had real forgiveness in His heart and it remained.

In Luke 23:42-43, we read about the thieves. Previous to that, both thieves railed on Him. The crowd was crying, “Come down and we will believe on You,” and also, “He saved others but He cannot save Himself.” That was true, but if He had saved Himself, the whole world would have been lost. One thief got a little glimmer of hope from “Father, forgive them...” He must have thought, “If He can forgive all of those who put Him on the cross, He can forgive me, too.” He got a little vision of Jesus as the friend of sinners and said, “Lord, remember me ...” He saw some wonderful things, nothing very uplifting to the human eye on the cross, or in the truth, but his inner eye of faith saw Jesus, that He was not leaving a kingdom but He was going to a Kingdom. On the cross, a work was done in this man’s heart. Salvation is a heart work. That is the only work that is lasting and that will endure.


That thief had a change of heart. God does not banish people just because they make mistakes. That won’t send them to a lost eternity, but it is because they won’t change. That thief had a change of heart and Jesus said to him, “Today, thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.” The crucifixion let the man know that he was dying, that he had just a little time left. A thief takes what does not belong to him and he keeps it. People take a life that belongs to God and they keep it. That thief’s death on the cross may have made it right with society, but only Jesus’ death on the cross sets things right for us in God’s eyes.


The thief would be thinking, “In just a little while, I’ll be gone and Jesus will be, too,” so he took advantage of his opportunity and said, “Lord, remember me when Thou comes into Thy kingdom.” Jesus said, “Today, thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.” That changed life’s darkest day into its brightest day for that man.


One lady said, “What happens after death?” She feared sleeping in the grave until the resurrection, until the Lord returns. We have a better hope than that. When a child of God passes into eternity, they open their eyes to be with the Saviour. To be absent from the bloody is to be present with the Lord. Paul spoke of this in Philippians 1:23. He knew that when the end came for him to depart he would go to be with Christ, which is far better.


In John 19:26, Jesus spoke to His mother and to the disciple whom He loved. Even on the cross, in His anguish and agony, Jesus was thinking of others: His mother. He did not forget about human ties, and the disciple He loved. It is easy, when in pain, to think about ourselves and our own problems. His mother did not try to interfere. The angel had said, “He shall be great ... the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father, David.” Now she must have seen that His greatness was coming in a different way to what she had thought. To the world, it looked like weakness and failure, but it was the greatest victory and strength the world has ever seen. Mary would know, “One day He was my child, but now on the cross, He is my Saviour.” A sword pierced through her soul, but this is God’s work. To the disciple He loved, He said, “Behold thy mother.” She was not his mother but He told him to take her to his own and then, “She will be a mother to you.” Jesus was just confirming the family fellowship.


In this family of God, we have those who are fathers and mothers to us. This is not a sect or denomination or group held together by rules and regulations, but it is a family brought together by a bond that is hard to be explained. It is life’s greatest privilege to be part of this family and to know the greatest care and provision of any people on the earth. And so, there on the cross, Jesus was just confirming what He had taught by His life, of the family of God and family fellowship. Jesus there provided a home for His mother and also opened a home in Heaven for us as part of God’s family.


In Matthew 27:46, we read,”My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Darkness came over the earth at about noon and remained there for about three hours. It was a miracle God performed to show to the earth that the world was trying to put out the Light of the world. “My God ...” It was the only time Jesus addressed His Father without calling Him, “My Father.” It was the only time Jesus questioned the will of God and the only time He was forsaken by God. It was the only time Jesus didn’t have the light of Heaven upon Him. He would have remembered the promise, “I will never leave Thee or forsake Thee...” and think, “Now I am forsaken.”


On the Mount of Transfiguration God had said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” because He was pleased with everything Jesus did. Then God added, “Hear ye Him.” God was well pleased with everything Jesus had lived and taught in His message until this time and now Jesus was questioning, “Why has He forsaken Me?” Jesus could endure anything: the temptation in the wilderness, Gethsemane, the scourging, Pilate, but He could not endure to be forsaken by His Father. There were times when Jesus had been alone in His thoughts, when He prayed alone when His disciples were no more with Him, when they had forsaken Him and fled. He knew what it was to be alone but He had always had the presence of His Father with Him. But now He could not endure to be forsaken by His Father, and the light and smile of Heaven being taken from Him.


II Corinthians 5:21, “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus was not made a sinner but He was made sin to bear our sin. We knew no righteousness and He knew no sin, but He was made sin so that we could be made righteous. God could not behold iniquity or look on evil, so God turned His back on His Son that day because His Son was bearing the sin of the world. Jesus cried in His anguish, because that is what a lost eternity is like. No influence of Heaven can reach into the darkness of a lost eternity on the wrong side of that gulf that is fixed, where there is no warmth, no love, no peace from Heaven. Nothing can reach it, and Jesus endured those hours of darkness in extreme, so that we would not have to endure through the ages of a lost eternity, the darkness and aloneness of sin. “He died, the just for the unjust...” God turned His back on His Son that day so that He could turn His face to us. In His anguish, Jesus knew the awfulness of people who perish, so that we could know salvation.


In John 19:28, Jesus said, “I thirst.” In the beginning of Calvary, they had wanted to give Him wine mingled with myrrh that would deaden His faculties and prevent the fullness of His agony, but He refused it. He refused to have His senses impaired. He wanted to go to the uttermost for us. He knew that if He did not suffer to the uttermost, He would not be able to save to the uttermost. He said, “I thirst,” Jesus, the Water of Life. He wanted to give those who stood by a chance to do something for Him, to lay up treasure in Heaven. He knew there was reward for giving a cup of cold water. They filled a sponge with vinegar and put it in His mouth. A sponge is the lowest form of animal life, given to help the One who was the highest form of life. It shows to us the lowest in the Kingdom can do something that will enable them to lay up a little treasure in Heaven. In John 19:30, Jesus said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost. They did not take His life, He gave it up. He laid it down in every sense of the word. The Romans never took His life. They were surprised when they came, to find that He was already dead.


At twelve years of age as they returned from the feast, Jesus’ mother found Him and said, “Why hast Thou dealt thus with us?” Jesus replied, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” Sometimes at the end of a business meeting, they will ask if there is any unfinished business. When you are on a business trip, everything else takes lesser importance, but for Jesus, there was no unfinished business. He could say, “It is finished,” and then He gave up the ghost. He sometimes said, “Mine hour is not yet come,” because He had His eye on the clock of eternity. His work was to be accomplished in His time. Old Testament prophecy came to an end. He gave to the world His Father’s voice, true in every detail so that no one could add to it or need to complete it. All God had planned, all His time and work, they came out even and He could say, “Now I am ready.” With that one cry, He bowed His head and gave up the ghost.


In Luke 23:46, the last utterance on the cross was, “Father, into Thy hands, I commend My Spirit,” and He gave up the ghost. He commended His spirit into His Father’s hands. He never kept His Spirit in His own hands. Some people wonder, “How will my spirit be disposed of when it leaves this body?” Our spirit will go back to God who gave it and God will either accept it or reject it. In Acts 7:59, Stephen said, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.” If we had a nasty, hard, selfish spirit could we say that? In the end, we won’t go back as a Worker, saint or child, but as a spirit, and that is why it is so important that a work of perfecting our spirits be done while here on this earth. Hebrews 12:23 speaks of, “... the spirits of just men made perfect.” They are men in whose spirits the Lord has been able to work and to perfect them.


Elijah asked his companion if there was anything he could do for him. Elisha gave him one of the greatest compliments, when he wanted a double portion of his spirit. Jesus commended His spirit back into the hands of God.


I Peter 4:19, “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” Jesus did that. We remember Calvary: the message, the forgiveness, the hope, the family that Jesus confirmed on Calvary’s cross, and the spirit of Calvary, and on this day, the first day of the week, we don’t want to forget all that it stood for. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” I want to give my life and my soul and my all in gratitude for that.