Jesus entered Jerusalem, proclaiming himself King. This could not stand. To prevent violence and preserve the status quo, Jesus was condemned to die the death of a common criminal. In crucifying Jesus, the Romans and the Sanhedrin believed they were silencing a trouble maker once and for all. Even the agony of the Cross could not stop our Lord from speaking. In his final hours on the cross, Jesus spoke his “Last Seven Words.” Not simple words, but phrases rich and deep with meaning for those who proclaim him “Jesus, Savior, Redeemer and Lord.”
Over the next seven days, we will explore each of these words and their meaning for our lives as those who believe with all our hearts that Jesus death and resurrection bring us life eternal.
The First Word: “Father, forgive them; for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34, NRSV)
It should be no surprise that our Lord spoke a word of forgiveness from the cross. After all, God sent his only Son to die for the remission of our sins so that we may be reconciled with God throughout eternity. Jesus interceded on behalf of those who cried out for his death and for those who carried out the sentence. “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” Although they were willing participants in this gruesome event, they were not aware of the significance of this man’s death. Without understanding that this was the long-awaited Messiah sent to usher in the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of peace and love, they simply carried out the death sentence to end potential violence and possible rebellion. To them, He was just a problem that needed to be put to an end – a common criminal sent to die a criminal’s death.
What lesson can we learn from Jesus’ word of forgiveness from the cross? First, Jesus displays his unconditional all-encompassing love for the world. Second, these words remind us that we, too, are forgiven – when we knowingly or unknowingly transgress. God’s amazing grace reaches down to us and brings us to newness of life each and every day. We do nothing to deserve it, but it is there for us to grab hold of so that we may be freed from the bondage of sin and be granted eternal life through Christ. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NRSV)
Jesus, let your word of forgiveness sink deep into my heart so that I may believe your word wholly and completely. Let your word fill me so that I may learn to forgive those who have trespassed against me, just as you forgave those who trespassed against you. I praise you for your unconditional love for me and all of God’s glorious creation. In the Name of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen
Learning to forgive,