Pentecost 27 Sunday
“Two others, criminals, were also led away to be killed with him. And when they came to the place called Place of the Skull, they crucified him there and the criminals with him, one on his right and one on his left. Jesus, however, said, Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do. And they divided his clothes by casting the lot.”
Since the history of Christ’s suffering is so exceedingly rich that we cannot do it justice in a day or a week, we today want to stick to these two aspects and talk about Christ’s prayer on the cross for his enemies and about the example of the good robber. For we are not only to look to the works done by the Man; we are also to listen to the words he preaches. For his words explain his doing and suffering, stating why he is there and what he does there. For above all things let this
suffering be distinguished from the suffering of all other people. This is so not only because of the person–Jesus Christ is the eternal God by whom heaven and earth were created and all things were made–but also because of the reason for his suffering and because of the benefit or fruit flowing from such suffering, as no other suffering can produce such fruit. For as you have heard, he does not suffer for his own sake, but for our sake, so that we are thereby freed and liberated from sin and death. Such we see here as well in his words which every Christian should justly note and store in his heart as the greatest treasure and comfort. For Luke says: When Christ had been nailed to the cross, and the criminals with him, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” These are brief, but very comforting words. For we must consider that Christ, as he hangs in the air on the cross, is in his true priestly office and carries out his task for which he came to earth, even by this prayer. For this is why he came, as he says in John 17:19, “to sanctify himself” for us, so that we would be rightly “sanctified in the truth.” In John 10:12 he said that he “gives his life for the sheep.” And you can find many other verses like these. They all testify that his suffering is to be called suffering for us, not for himself or for his sake. Such work and sacrifice he carries out there on the cross in such earnestness, that he even asks that his Father would forgive those who crucify him, not punishing but remitting their sins, so that everybody might see the reason for
which he came to the cross and draw comfort from it. This, then, is the true priestly finery of our dear Lord Christ: He not only suffers, but also prays for the sinners. Aaron in the law of Moses also had his priestly finery; it was finery for splendor. But this Priest’s finery is that he hangs there naked. Still, he carries out the priestly office most excellently and most diligently by praying also for his enemies.