Summary: It was not just once that Jesus prayed this prayer. Again & again He prayed, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." But I wonder if we understand what He was praying for? (Powerpoints Available - #274)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
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ILL. Jamestown, VA, was the first permanent English settlement in the new world, & some of their religious practices were rather interesting.
For instance, they had 2 one-hour-long prayer services every weekday, one at 10:00 & another at 4:00. On Sundays their 2 prayer & preaching services lasted a total of 5 hours, & everybody had to attend.
Missing church was considered a sin & was dealt with severely. The penalty for missing a service was the loss of food rations for a whole day. A second absence resulted in a public whipping. And the penalty for missing 3 times was to be placed in the stocks daily for 6 months!
Historians tell us that research has not revealed anyone in the Jamestown Colony ever missing church 3 times.
ILL. During colonial days, in almost every colony, an adulterer could be publicly disgraced & branded on the forehead or on the cheek. Things are certainly different today, aren't they?
Now none of us would like to return to Puritanical punishments, but hasn't the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction? We've emphasized love, grace, & forgiveness, but say little about sin, wrath, & punishment.
And the result is that many today view God as a doting grandfather who would never hold us accountable for our sins. In fact, the prevailing attitude today seems to be, "God will forgive us; that's His job!"
A. With that in mind, go back with me for a few moments to the morning Jesus was crucified, & listen to these words from Luke 23:32 34.
"Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified Him, along with the criminals one on His right, the other on His left.
"Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'"
ILL. H. G. Wells wrote a story entitled, "The Country of the Blind." In it he tells about a hidden valley shut off from the rest of the world by high cliffs. That valley was inhabited only by blind people, & no one there had ever been able to see.
A lost & weary traveler stumbled into this country of the blind, & stayed with them for a while. As he lived among them, he found himself falling in love with a blind maiden, & began considering the possibility of marriage.
But the blind people thought that this man who could see was strange. They felt that his mind was cluttered & confused, distracted by his ability to see. So they insisted that if he wanted to continue living among them, he would have to have his eyes put out & become as blind as they.
For a while the man thought that he would be willing to do that. But one morning he got up & saw the beauty of the sunrise, the mist rising from the valley floor, the dew glistening on the petals of the flowers, & he realized that he could not stay in the country of the blind.
So he climbed out of the valley & returned to the world of sight.
B. When Jesus came into our world He saw things that the world was unable to see. He thought thoughts that the world had never thought. He did deeds that the rest of the world could not do.
And our world could not stand that. It tried to pull Him down to its own level. But Jesus refused to be a part of the darkness of this world.
But there the story loses its analogy, because Jesus did not run away from our darkness. Instead, He conquered it. And the place where that victory occurred was on an old rugged cross on a hill called Calvary, Golgotha, the "place of the skull."
The gospel writers say that Jesus spoke 7 times while hanging on the cross. And His first words were those that we read just a few moments ago, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."
PROP. Now we have heard & read those words many times, & they are precious to us. But I think that a lot of people misunderstand what He is doing. And it is important that we don't misunderstand.
I. JESUS IS PRAYING
A. So what is Jesus doing? Well, the answer is obvious, "Jesus is praying." But wait a minute, men don't usually pray on crosses. We pray in gardens. We pray in church buildings & synagogues. We pray where we can get away from the noise & confusion of the world & think clear thoughts. But we don't pray on crosses.