Apostles

Father Forgive Them

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Early on the morning of what is known as “Good Friday” Jesus stood alone facing the council of the Sanhedrin in a mock trial with false charges being leveled against Him. He remained silent before His accusers for there was no need for the Son of God to give defense for the truth of His Father God Almighty. The purpose of the Sanhedrin was to plot a murder that the threat to their selfish love of authority would no longer be usurped by this man from Nazareth. They rationalized in their own minds the justification to take Him before Pilate to be condemned to the cross. Pilate could find no fault with Jesus and desired to set Him free. But because of his own lust for power he fell to political pressure that the Sanhedrin would tell how he let a threat to the Emperor go free.

Pilate sent Jesus off to be scourged and beaten. The Roman cohort mocked Him, beat Him beyond human recognition, placed a crown of thorns deep into His head, and took Him off to be nailed to a cross on Calvary’s hill. While Jesus hung there, bleeding and in agony for each breath of air that He could grasp, the crowds that had gathered jeered and taunted Him, the Son of God their Creator. This the only man to live in complete submission to the will of God, His Father, received His reward from the creature that He so loved. Then as the waning moments of His life began to slip away He prayed, “Father, forgive them.”

I personally cannot find the words to express this greatest declaration of the love that Jesus has for the souls of men. As the Apostle John wrote in his gospel record, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Neither can I with all honesty say that I would suffer such indignation from men and the shame of being crucified without even a charge against me. Yet, our Lord and Savior, loved you and me and all of mankind so much, that He prayed to His Father in Heaven for the forgiveness of those who put Him upon the cross. The truth is that He sacrificed Himself for our sin as well as those who drove the nails into His hands and feet, we also share in the guilt. And Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them.” He asked the Father to forgive us all past, present and future.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, as those who walk in faith upon His word, we are to grow in the likeness and image of Him who leads us through this world to the greater world soon to come. I have in my past, and most likely will in the future have to forgive people for very difficult things which they have done against me. This I have done to the best of my ability standing upon His commandment. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) This is true for all of us. When I consider the example of my Lord and Mater here in this moment I realize the impossibility of such a doctrine.

How can I, and maybe you, be nailed to a cross and ask God to forgive them? How do we achieve such a love, an agape love that only God the Father has? I can’t and neither can you. Our Lord knows this and has made provision that we will be able. Jesus promised that He would not leave us as orphans, that He would come to us in the Spirit and enable us to do the will of the Father just as He. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13) This is the power within us that is greater than the power that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

As we grow in our walk, as we gain greater spiritual maturity through Jesus, we grow more into His likeness and our lives become further and further blessed by His presence. The Christian experience is not a stand still adventure but a moving walk to the land of God’s glory. If the Christian is stagnate in their faith then they are not walking in faith but living in hope of what could be. We are in this world but not of this world and must live in the place that God is. We are home now in His eyes and we must grow in our life there where our home is. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

It is God’s Word that all must live by, for it is God’s Word that all will be judged by. “I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26) Only Jesus is worthy, only Jesus is the one who lived a spotless life and can collect or throw stones. (John 8:7) It is in His power that Jesus can justify us to stand before the Father. It is by His great love for mankind that He has the power to forgive. There is no measurable magnitude to His love. He loves the righteous just as much as He loves the unrighteous. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

By the prayer of Jesus on the cross He released a mighty power that He has and we also should have, the power to forgive. Therefore, by His prayer on the cross, “Father forgive them,” He released the Father to forgive humanity from the debt of their sin. That does not mean that all will be forgiven as we have to accept that forgiveness and trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior. What is does mean is that by Jesus sacrificing His life in place of ours for the wages of sin we can be released from the wrath of God. By our belief and faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior we will be transferred from death unto life. “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14) Considering the suffering that Jesus went through to provide us with this privilege what more can be said except that He loves us, He loves us, He loves us! Yet, still this day He is rejected and despised.

In the example of the One we are trying to imitate and grow into a likeness of we should also forgive and release them to the Father for forgiveness. It is not to their advantage only, it is to our advantage as well. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14) It is not a onetime proposition but an ongoing work of love. By our confession and repentance each day we are forgiven of our stumbling walk with the Lord. By the same measure that we receive we should also give. “Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22)

I know this is a hard statement to accept, by my own personal experience, but there is another truth here that we need to see. As earlier said we all must live by God’s Word and all will be judged by God’s Word. The sins against us by others is not only against us but against God’s word. We are only to examine ourselves against the righteousness of Jesus and not others. That is God’s work. If we do not forgive others then we have not released them to be forgiven by God. This opens all kinds of doors to tragedy for us and the one that has wronged us. King David realized the truth of this when his sin was brought before him. As he wrote in Psalm, “Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.” (Psalm 51:4) Out of the love we must have for our family, friends, associates and neighbors we must always be willing to forgive.

Jesus went to the Cross because of His agape love for humanity, His love for you and His love for me along with all of humanity. As followers of Jesus we should share this love that He has given to us. “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” (John 15:9) We cannot be so arrogant to accept the forgiveness of our Lord through His agape love for us and not share that same love towards our fellow men. This is the prayer of Jesus from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” This too should be our prayer. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11) Let us love one another in forgiveness.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, April 5, 2015

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