If the murder of the Son of God was forgivable, then your sin—whatever it may be—is forgivable, too.
When Jesus hung on the cross on that first Good Friday, he made seven statements that the Gospel writers preserved for us. No single account has all seven, but all four Gospels together give us the complete record.
These statements reveal to us the character of God, the heart of Jesus, and the very essence of the Christian faith. They contain a goldmine of theological truth and spiritual inspiration. No matter how many times we return to them for reflection, they jolt us afresh. They also comfort us anew because the cross shows us—more than anything else—that God is for us, not against us.
Our study will focus on two dimensions of each statement—the good news and the good life. That is, each of the seven statements has in it divine grace for us to receive (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and a divine example for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21). The order is important, as we cannot give away what we have not received ourselves. That is especially true of the first statement.
Jesus begins by saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV), or the more familiar, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (KJV). One can hardly think of a more unlikely thing for Jesus to say, given the circumstances in which he said it.
In Part 1 of this series, “The Word of Forgiveness,” we hold up and then turn the diamond of Jesus’ prayer, watching it radiate the brilliance of divine grace against the backdrop of human cruelty and injustice. Be prepared to be melted by love.
(Also posted on Twitter: @FleetwoodBible #TGIFseries):
The ANGUISH of This Prayer—A Touch of Hell on Earth
Crucifixion was designed to be maximally painful; to be crucified was to “die a thousand deaths.”
Christ’s agony is not only physical; it is spiritual, too. His gracious prayer is spoken from inside the vortex of a living hell on earth.
God forgives his people not by ignoring their sin but by bearing their sin—in the person of his own Son.
The ATTITUDE of This Prayer—A Touch of Heaven on Earth
Jesus does not defend his innocence or curse his enemies; rather, he prays for those who are torturing him.
For Christ to pray such a prayer in the very act of being executed is an expression of amazing grace.
Jesus practices here what he has preached, which is noteworthy because he has the power to stop the whole ordeal.
The removal of our sin is more important to Jesus than the removal of his own sufferings on the cross.
Jesus prays for his enemies—not after his wounds have been healed, but while they’re still open.
The ADDRESS of This Prayer—To the Heavenly Father
The first, fourth, and seventh statements from the cross are prayers from the Son to the Father.
Though immersed in agony, Jesus dies believing in the goodness of God despite the wickedness of man.
How is it with us when we’re maligned or attacked? Are we able to pray, “Father,” or do we lash out at God or others when life is hard?
The APPEAL of This Prayer—Divine Forgiveness for Guilty Sinners
God didn’t sweep our sins under the rug; he swept them onto Christ. Jesus takes our place as he dies our death.
A great exchange is taking place here at Calvary (1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21). “Bearing shame and scoffing rude / In my place condemned he stood.”
The searing holiness of God demanded an infinite penalty for sin; the inexhaustible grace of God paid it.
What Jesus is really praying here is, “Father, forgive them, and condemn me. Charge their wrongdoing to my account, and I will pay the last penny.”
If the murder of the Son of God is forgivable, then your sin—whatever it may be—is forgivable, too.
The thing that matters most in death is this—am I ready to meet God?
The ARGUMENT of This Prayer—They Just Don’t Get It
They don’t understand the identity of the one they are killing (Acts 13:27; 1 Corinthians 2:8).
It’s the kind of ignorance we see in Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25. “Lord, when did we see you?”
They don’t understand the enormity of the crime they are committing. If you had been there, would you have understood?
Sin is a little bit of hell let loose. We don’t always realize how badly it’s going burn us, or others.
Our ignorance is like the soldier who turns over a corpse expecting to see the face of the enemy he just shot—only to discover that he shot one of his own men. What a costly, horrifying ignorance.
The ANTICIPATION of This Prayer—The Prophet Foretold It
The fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12 means that God is all-knowing and that the cross is no accident.
The fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12 means that Jesus is still in control and still in possession of his faculties.
The APPLICATION of This Prayer—Living the Way Jesus Died
The main application is forgiving others as we have been forgiven. And that’s hard!
A broken heart can hurt more than a broken bone. And if setting a broken bone is painful, setting a broken heart can be worse. Forgiveness is how it gets set.
Forgiveness always sounds like a great idea until we’re the ones who have to do it.
We tend to attribute other people’s faults to their character, and our own faults to our environment. Grace helps us challenge that perspective.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
When we don’t forgive others, we tear down the very bridge that we ourselves have to walk on to connect with God.
Do we need to forgive people who haven’t acknowledged that they’ve wronged us? In our hearts? Yes. With our mouths? Only when Luke 17:3 happens.
I cannot give away to others what I’ve never received myself. That includes forgiveness. Have you received the forgiveness of Christ by faith?
We are never more like Christ than when we accept God’s forgiveness and then forgive other people.
Forgiving those who’ve wronged us is actually the key to not being victimized or controlled by them any longer.
The ANSWER to This Prayer—Every Believer . . . Including You?
The answer to Jesus’ prayer was his own death, which brings about the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7).
Every time a person places his or her trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it’s an answer to this prayer.
The answer to this prayer has gone all the way from the foot of the cross to where we are now in the 21st century.
The answer to this prayer must go from where we are now to wherever the people are who have wronged us.
After looking at the first word of Christ from the cross, we begin to see why that awful, awe-filled Friday is called “Good.”
Sermon in a Sentence (the “Big Idea”):
Accept your acceptance from God, and then forgive others as Christ forgave you—gracefully and extravagantly.