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.”
The last truth we see from Christ’s cry from the cross is:
- The victory of love.
Not only did Jesus request forgiveness for the unforgivable but he did it immediately after being impaled on the cross. He didn’t wait till His hurts had healed, or to see if they would come around and respond in repentance. He chose to forgive when man was displaying his worst, when the horror of the human heart was revealed in all its vile ugliness. He chose forgiveness in the face of wickedness, when creation executed the creator. It was divine love that triumphed and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” We see the response to this prayer in the proclamation of the centurion who in Mark 15:39 said “Surely this man was the Son of God!” As well as one of the criminals who was crucified next to Christ and called out for salvation, Luke 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” This prayer was also answered in a profound way on the Day of Pentecost where in Acts 2:41 we read that 3,000 people were saved in one day. It was modeled by Stephen as he was murdered in Acts 7:60: “He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.” Christ’s prayer was also answered when Paul, who was complicit in the murder of Stephen, met Jesus on the road to Damascus in Acts 9 and was saved. The power of this prayer is still being seen today when people repent, turning from their sins and placing their faith in Jesus Christ. In that moment the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin and the Father declares us forgiven. Jesus shows us that love always triumphs over hate. When Samson came to the end of his life his revenge caused him to take others with him when he died. In contrast Christ desired to take his enemies to life through his death, He not only prayed for them but He died for them. As Jesus said in John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that He lay His life down for His friends.” What held Jesus to the cross wasn’t man made nails it was the Messiah’s love. So what are you going to do in light of His love? Now it’s your move and I am going to pose two questions to help you make your move. First:
- Have you been forgiven?
Some of you may feel like you are beyond being forgiven, but if Jesus can forgive those who killing Him, then He can forgive you. The power of Christ’s prayer on the cross is that no one is beyond salvation; regardless of your failure you can be forgiven. None of us are good enough to save ourselves but no one is so bad that God cannot save them. Today you come face to face with forgiveness, what will you do, do you want it, and will you receive it? The price has been paid and the path has been laid, the question is will you accept the payment and allow it to be applied to your account? And will you follow the path laid out for you in God’s Word and commit to walk in it as a believer? The second question is this:
- Have you forgiven others?
It has been said that forgiveness is the virtue we profess to believe but fail to practice. In theory forgiveness is not hard to comprehend but in practice it is always harder to live out. The word “forgive” comes to us from the world of commerce and banking, where it refers to cancelling a debt or pardoning a loan. When it comes to our debt with the Deity we are grateful to God for canceling our debt but how many of us are unwilling to follow His forgiveness and cancel the debts done to us? If we would pay attention to the word forgive we would see that within it we find the word give. Forgiveness is not just something we get but something we can give. To forgive is to cancel the debt of others so that they never have to pay us back for what they’ve done to us. It means to share God’s grace with those who doesn’t deserve it. But many of us are like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18, we beg for forgiveness from the master but then turn around and beat those who owe us. Why don’t we forgive because we want others to pay for the pain they have caused us, but what if on the cross Christ had had this same mentality and tried to make us pay? When we try to make others pay we are the ones who end up paying the price because we are the ones who end up stuck in a prison of pain. Many people today continually relive the pain done to them because they live in the hate of revenge instead of the hope redemption. The key to forgiving others is to remember how much Christ has forgiven you. In Ephesians 4:32 we find these words: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” In order to forgive we must focus first on our forgiveness. We need to come back to the cross and hear the first shout from the Savior: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” What if Christians became an oasis of forgiveness in this dry and dusty desert we call life. As a pastor I still find forgiveness easier to preach than to practice, partly because I want to focus on my feelings and feed my flesh instead of focusing on the Father and His forgiveness. It’s also that forgiveness costs, it cost Christ His life and it will cost you. When we forgive we chose to release the right for revenge and let go of our anger and bitterness. In order to practice what Jesus preached I want you to take a piece of paper and at the top write the words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing” On the left side, write down all the times people have hurt you in the past. When you’re finished, to the right add this one word in large letters next to each offense: Forgiven…Forgiven…Forgiven. When you’re all done, take the paper and rip it up. So let me ask you have you been forgiven, and what are you going to do with God’s gift of grace, will you forgive those who have sinned against you?