The week preceding Easter, known as Holy Week, begins on Palm Sunday (13 April) and, for Christians, is a week of sombre reflection on the events preceding Jesus’ death: His triumphant entry into Jerusalem; His betrayal by Judas; His Last Supper with His twelve apostles; His arrest, crucifixion and death; and His burial in a tomb.
What follows are some thoughts on the last seven sentences spoken by Jesus from the Cross and how these can relate, not just to humankind, but also to His animal creation.
I have based this post on the Good Friday Prayer Vigil held for several years outside the notorious Hazleton Laboratories, Harrgate, by May Tripp of Animal Christian Concern.
1. “Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23 v 34)
And so, humankind nailed Jesus to the Cross.
The intense pain of crucifixion is indescribable. Suspended with arms outstretched, Jesus would have had to apply pressure to the nails in his feet to enable him to breathe deeply enough to speak. Yet He managed to speak through His suffering, begging forgiveness for those who tortured and killed Him.
In vivisection laboratories, factory farms, bloodsports, fur farms, entertainment etc., animals are being tortured and killed. As Jesus was innocent and betrayed, so too are these animals, who show love and loyalty to those whom they trust. So, animals are also willing to forgive those who torture and kill them.
The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that we are forgiven as we forgive others, so we must ask God to transform the hearts of all who treat animals with cruelty, help them to “know what they are doing”, and turn away from it.
2. “Indeed, I promise you today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23 v 43)
God made this promise, through Jesus, to a man who was also suffering crucifixion but who, unlike Jesus, was guilty of crime.
Recognizing the innocence and authority of God in Christ Jesus, this criminal, in penitence said, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King.” He was then given the promise of Paradise and, as he was the first man to be saved by faith in Jesus on the Cross, he was the first Christian.
The Gospel tells us that we and every creature may be saved by this Cross.
But, as at the Fall of creation, humans chose to disobey God, thus separating ourselves from Him (Genesis 3), we must, like that first Christian, turn to God in sorrow and accept Jesus as the One who will mend that broken relationship, no matter what we have done.
Thank you for reading! Your thoughts are welcome! Please read Part Two next week! ~Ros