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Innocent for the Guilty


Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” Luke 23:46-47

Holy Week is a special time. To many in the world the week of our Lord’s Passion is simply another week, but for those who hope in Christ—those who have been redeemed by his precious blood—this week provides an opportunity to reflect, be quiet, and be reminded of the deep love of our Savior for us. Reading through Luke 22 and 23, we come across so many verses and passages that cause us to stop and consider the weight of our Savior’s sacrifice. But Luke 23:46-47 contains a truth that causes me to pause and glimpse the wonders of the love Christ has for his people. Jesus, the sinless One, dies for the sinful. The innocent dies for the guilty.

As we read Luke’s account, the innocence of Jesus seems to be recognized by many. Pilate repeatedly insists that Jesus has done nothing wrong (Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22). One of the thieves beside him professes Jesus’ innocence in verse 41. Then, immediately upon Jesus’ death, the centurion exclaims, “Certainly this man was innocent!” Not only do these passages assert the innocence of Christ, the rest of Scripture affirms it as well.

  • Isaiah 53:9: “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For he made him to be sin, who knew no sin...”
  • Hebrews 7:26: He was, “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners.”

Jesus was innocent. And this is the good news of the darkest day in the history of the world. This is good news because it is only an innocent Jesus that could pay for the guilt of his people. Look at the verses surrounding those cited above.

  • Isaiah 53:11: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For he made him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
  • Hebrews 7:26, 27: “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest… He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”

Friends, hear the good news of Good Friday. Jesus loves us so much that he offered himself as the perfect, innocent sacrifice to pay for every single one of our sins. For every aspect of our guilt: Jesus paid it all. He bore every ounce of God’s wrath for our sins upon the cross. Our guilt was counted to the innocent One, so that, by his death, his innocence could be counted to us!

So, lift your head, o weary sinner, for your Savior’s sacrifice is sufficient. Let the love of your Savior wash over you, and know that forgiveness is in God and God alone. In days of uncertainty, in times of doubt, and from the depths of discouragement, we can cry to our Savior. We can call upon the one who has paid for our sins, and we can rest in his embrace. With the centurion, let us praise God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”