READ: Luke 23:26, 32-43 As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to the place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified -- one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. "He saved others," they said, "let him save himself if he is really God's Messiah, the Chosen One." The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" A sign was fastened above him with these words: "This is the King of the Jews."
One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, "So you're the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself -- and us, too, while you're at it!" But the other criminal protested, "Don't you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn't done anything wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom." And Jesus replied, "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise".
In today's scripture we see Jesus struggling to carry the cross and Simon being forced to carry the heavy cross for him. What do you suppose was going through Simon's mind? I often wonder this....
Next we see Jesus suspended from the cross with two criminals - one on each side of him. He is hanging in agony, struggling just to breath, laboring extensively with each breath, his life blood draining from every open wound. Death with inevitable. Yet - Jesus is still so full of love. Enough love to ask God the Father to forgive those who are killing him and enough love to promise the dying thief on his one side that he would be with him in paradise.
Jesus is so full of love for mankind that he willingly laid himself down. Those executioners didn't take his life from him - he willingly gave it up because of the love that he has for YOU!
Have you accepted the LOVE that he has for you? John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whosoever believeth in Him will not perish but will have eternal life". He loves you so much that wants a relationship with you. Are you His? And if you are - are you closer to him today than you were yesterday - are you growing in your relationship with Christ Jesus?