28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ 31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”
33 “When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on His right and the other on His left. 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His garments by casting lots.”
One of the most powerful points of the passage that many of us miss it that there are actually three sons in the parable. There’s the younger son who ran away and returned. There’s the older son who responded with resentment. And then, there’s the third son, the Son of God the one who is telling the story. He is the son who left His Father’s house to come to the far country of planet earth to die for our sins. Unlike the younger son whose departure was rooted in rebellion, Jesus didn’t leave his home in heaven because he was disobedient but because He was obedient even unto death. Jesus didn’t just preach forgiveness he practiced it. In Luke 23 we see him modeling the message of forgiveness even in the face of hurt and hate. Often the last words of a dying person are the ones that are not forgotten. A person’s closing comments often reveal their pain and agony. Some enter eternity without saying anything, while others utter sentiments that disclose their values, priorities, and innermost thoughts. Here are a few of the last words of famous people:
“This is the last of Earth! I am content!” John Quincy Adams, a former president of the United States, gleefully pronounced these words on his deathbed on February 21, 1848.
“I’m going away tonight.” These were the last five words uttered by James Brown, “The Godfather of the Soul,” shortly before he died
While on the brink of death, the wife of renowned chemical scientist Michael Faraday asked him if he had ever pondered what his occupation would probably be in the next life. To which he responded with his last words “I shall be with Christ, and that is enough.”
Joan Crawford, highly regarded as one of the most spectacular movie actresses of her time, got cancer in her 70’s. The two nurses who took care of her on her last day offered a prayer beside her bed. The movie star saw them praying, and uttered “Don’t you dare ask God to help me,” then breathed her last.
When we come to the cross we hear the final cries of Christ, seven shouts of the Savior that are filled with meaning and purpose. Most of the time on the cross was spent in silence except for seven sentences that are recorded for us. These weighty words fell from His lips as His blood flowed down the cross. Because His body was wracked with pain and his throat was parched with thirst, He had no energy to waste on trivial words. No each word serves as a window that lets us look through and see the true heart of Savior and His ultimate sacrifice. These statements are linked together like the rungs on a ladder creating a mutual dependence. The first three take place from 9:00 a.m. to noon:
- “Father, forgive them.” (Luke 23:34)
- “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
- “Dear woman, here is your son.” (John 19:26)
From noon to 3:00 p.m. darkness covered the land and then beginning at about 3:00, Jesus uttered his final words:
- “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
- “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28
- “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
- “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Christ’s final words reveal to us the rich doctrines of Christianity: forgiveness, faith, family, the humanity of Christ and His substitutionary death, the fulfillment of Scripture, the justification of the believer, and the absolute certainty of eternity. In this blog we are only going to focus on the first cry from the cross, “Father forgive.” In order to catch his breath and be able to speak Jesus had to push up on the nail in his feet, forcing him to scrape the lacerations on his back against the rough timber of the cross. As Jesus experienced the agony of the cross he chose to use his last words to forgive. Struggling for breath with carbon dioxide accumulating in his body he spent his energy not on himself but on others. Roman historians reveal that it was common for those who were being crucified to utter blasphemies and hurl words of hate at those involved in their execution. The Roman philosopher Cicero writes that sometimes the executioners would cut out the tongues of those being crucified so that the soldiers would not have to listen to their vindictive verbiage. When it comes to how Christ responded to the crucifixion Peter provides us with this perspective, In 1 Peter 2:23: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when He suffered, he made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.” What a contrast in how Christ responded on the cross. Jesus could have prayed for the Father to consume them and wipe them of the face of the earth and yet he prayed for the Father to forgive. When faced ridicule and rejection what is your reaction? Do you fight or forgive? Jesus faced these pains with prayer, instead of turning to anger he turned to the Almighty. Instead of responding with retribution he prayed a prayer of pardon. His request was not for Himself but for “them” for sinners just like us. Instead of focusing on the pain He pleaded in prayer for our forgiveness. When man had done his worst, Jesus prayed, not for justice, but for mercy. As amazing as all this is what really shocks me is that the tense of the verse indicates that this wasn’t just a one-time request. Jesus prayed repeatedly for their forgiveness. When the nails tore through His tendons, sending pain shearing through His body, He prayed, “Father, forgive them.” When the cross was dropped into place between the two criminals, He cried out, “Father, forgive them.” When they gambled over his only earthly possessions he exclaimed, “Father, forgive them.” As the religious rulers insulted Him He replied, “Father, forgive them.” When the soldiers mocked Him, he responded with the words, “Father, forgive them.” Jesus prayed in the pain but he didn’t just turn to prayer in the problems, His public ministry began with prayer at his baptism in Luke 3:21: “…And as He was praying, heaven was opened.” He went on to flooded heaven with His prayers during His three years of preaching, as He taught His followers to do the same. His time on earth started and ended with prayer. What about you is prayer a part of your life, does it permeated everything that you do, or is prayer something you pull out only in the problems? Instead of spending His energy fighting Jesus expended it on forgiving. When we focus on the father we focus on forgiveness. One of the reasons may of us fail to forgive is because we have a faulty focus. We are focusing on our hurts instead of the healer. Not only did Jesus intercede but he still does, as Hebrews 7:25 says, He “always lives to make intercession for us.” Today we can not only find forgiveness, we can share it. Just as Jesus forgave the unforgiveable so can we. Who do you need to forgive today?