showed this spirit when he was being stoned to death, "Lord," he prayed, "do not hold this sin against them." Non-Christians may have in their hearts the unforgiving spirit, but Christians know better; we are Christís men and women, and we must forgive as He forgave.

One of the great preachers of the early part of this century, Dr. F B Meyer, says that "in uttering this first cry from the Cross, our Lord entered that work of intercession which he ever lives to continue on our behalf. He thinks, not of himself, but of others; he is occupied, not with his own pain, but with their sins. He makes no threat but instead offers a tender prayer of pleading intercession." When was that prayer answered? Seven weeks after this, on the day of Pentecost, three thousand of these people, whom Peter described as the murderers of Christ repented and believed; and, in the days that followed, thousands more, including a great number of the priests. That was the answer to this intercession, and it has continued down the centuries for we too, are the fruits of his prayer, "Father, forgive them."

THE SECOND WORD
"Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
If the First Word embraced all mankind within the scope of the dreadful act of crucifying Jesus and the potential of forgiveness through his prayer, then the Second Word narrows its focus to one single needy sinner. God not only sees the whole world but he sees it made up of individuals. On that fateful day in the history of the world, it happened that there were two thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus. This fact isnít just recorded to give a bit of colour to the dark scene. Itís not just to round up the story, but as a piece of evidence that what was happening was part of Godís plan of salvation. It was conceived before the world existed and revealed through Godís messengers, centuries before. The particular prophecy that was being fulfilled is recorded in Isaiah 53 where, among many other predictions, the prophet declared that the coming Suffering Servant of the Lord was he who "was numbered with the transgressors" (53:12).

This ancient prophecy was fulfilled quite literally when Jesus was crucified in the company of two thieves, obviously known to each other. Something of the way that Jesus conducted himself must have convicted one thief of his own vileness when contrasted with the righteousness of Jesus, visible to all who had eyes to see it. It soon dawned on his understanding that he was witnessing something not of this earth. Instead of curses from the lips of Jesus as the soldiers hammered in the nails, it was a prayer of forgiveness for his torturers. It seems likely that he had known of the life of Jesus for when the other thief was casting abuse at Jesus, this fellow tried to restrain him and told him that, although they were receiving the just reward of their misdeeds Jesus had done nothing amiss. Evil man though he was, he feared God and that was the beginning