Mar. 26, 2012
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his cloths by casting lots.
This is the first phrase Jesus says as from the cross; the first of his seven words or phrases from the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Who is the “them” Jesus is talking about? As he looks down from the cross, Jesus sees various people. He sees Roman soldiers laughing, shaking dice and gambling for his clothes. Merchants and money changers thrown out of the Temple earlier in the week are still angry at Jesus for stopping their income source. He sees the people responsible for his death and asks for them to be forgiven; the priests and the Pharisees, the people convinced he had to die. Even Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who ultimately turns Jesus over to be crucified is forgiven. No, he’s not at the foot of the cross. He’s back in his palace where he washed his hands of the whole deal.
Is there anyone else Jesus was praying for? The church believes he was praying for us; praying for every human being ever born. There’s a song that says, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” Yes, you were there. I was there. Jesus is the Lord of time and space. From the cross, Jesus is staring through history, until he comes to me and he cries out my name, Dianne, Father forgive Dianne, for she doesn’t know what she has done. Likewise, this statement is for you.
When we say “I forgive you,” we imply the person sinned against you. As Jesus says this, he makes it clear people have violated God’s path. They need forgiveness. We are broken and we need to be fixed. As Jesus says these words, he’s not focusing on you as a sinner. He’s offering you grace.
We should be overwhelmed as we realize that Jesus is dying an incredibly painful and slow death. Speaking from the cross is extremely difficult. Yet, his first words from the cross are a prayer in which he asks his heavenly Father to forgive you, long before you were even born.
When a person has a heart condition, they usually go to the doctor. If the doctor discovers there is serious blockage, surgery may be necessary. Jesus has diagnosed our need for forgiveness and offers us the cure. From the cross, Jesus looks down through swollen, blood-shot eyes. His body is breaking down and cannot withstand more pain. But he doesn’t get angry or desire to get even. He simply prays for forgiveness. God answers Jesus’ prayer by offering a cure. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We are the “them.” We’re sinners. We need forgiveness. Jesus came to save you and prayed for you. God has already answered the prayer through heart surgery conducted by the divine physician who laid down his life.
Father, forgive them. They know not what they do. We are the “them.” Thank God there is a diagnosis and a cure.
Let us pray: Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble! Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Amen.