Summary: The Seven Words of Jesus from the Cross are a wonderful commentary in his own words of Forgiveness, Salvation, Love, Atonement, Suffering, Victory and Security.
What does this tell us? All these groups either actively or passively helped to crucify Jesus - they were all guilty, but in a very real sense they are only representatives of a wider number of those responsible for crucifying Jesus, because the message of the Bible is that it was the sin of the world which crucified Jesus. The gospel writers simply wrote "They crucified Jesus". Who crucified him? I’ll tell you who crucified him. I did - and you did, and they did, those groups around the cross. The old Negro spiritual asked the question, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" “They” crucified the Lord? It would be truer to say "We crucified the Lord". Every one of us is equally guilty, "They do not know what they do" said Jesus. What a perceptive word this is. Mankind had become so blinded by evil, so corrupted by sin that it reacted violently to the purity and holiness of God as shown in the Lord Jesus Christ. These poor representatives of mankind were swept along by the power of Satan in seeking to destroy the Lord of glory - "they do not know what they do" - but they did it all the same.
The wonder of this Word from the Cross is that there is forgiveness. Forgiveness for the disciples who forsook Jesus and fled in the night. Forgiveness for the evil ones who drove Him to the Cross. Forgiveness for the soldiers who nailed him to the tree. Forgiveness for the bitter hearts of his religious enemies, the priests and teachers. Forgiveness for every person who has ever sinned or made a mistake. Forgiveness for you and for me. Thank God, there is forgiveness but it is a forgiveness that requires to be taken individually, to be drawn upon in the way that God has planned. Years later, one of the disciples, John, restated this truth when he wrote, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
Forgiveness has always been the hallmark of Christianity, following the great example of its founder. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, 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 Christ’s 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."