Summary: Jesus willingly gave up His life, so we can have life.
First Baptist Church
February 10, 2002
Has anyone ever really hurt you? Obviously, we have been hurt in our lives. But I want you to think if there are people who have done something to you that is so terrible that forgiveness seems out of the question. Today we are beginning a new series of sermons. Today, and for the next 6 weeks we are going to look at what is called the “7 Last Words of Jesus on the Cross.” The first time I heard this I looked up the last saying of Jesus and tried to make it into 7 words. I was sorely mistaken. The 7 last words of Jesus is better called the “7 Last Sayings of Jesus while He was on the cross.”
With virtually each of these statements by Jesus, we will gain new insight into our Savior; and we’ll learn more about what these statements mean in our lives and how we can apply the words of Jesus in our everyday situations.
With that in mind, let’s look at the first saying of Jesus while He was on the cross. In fact, I believe the first statement by Jesus may be the absolute hardest one for us to understand. But understand may not be the proper word — it may be more proper to say this statement by Jesus is almost impossible for us to comprehend.
After all, Jesus had just been beaten and whipped and punched and mocked; He has had a crown of thorns jammed onto His head; His robe was ripped off His beaten back and the bleeding started again; and He had to carry the instrument of death, His cross. After all this, Jesus, who hovers near death because of the merciless, yet normal crucifixion beating, must be nailed onto the cross. His wrists are tied to the cross and the nails are pounded into the forearm side of His wrists. This way the heavy spike will not rip through His hands. Now His feet are tied onto the post that will support Him and the spike goes through the bones and muscles in Jesus’ feet.
The Roman centurions carefully pick up the cross and with a thud, it falls into place in the ground. Their work is done. Jesus hangs on the cross, pain ripping through His body, people mocking Him, the two criminals mocking Him, the guards casting lots for His clothes, His beloved disciples have mostly scattered.
Jesus now looks into the crowd of people and He makes His first proclamation, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Can you imagine that statement? Let me say it again, and let it sink in for a moment — “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Could you do that? Yea, right. Let’s go back to my first question, ‘has anyone hurt you so bad that their sin was unforgivable?’ Maybe someone slandered your name, they told stories that were not true. It cost you your job, maybe a career, it impacted your family life, your finances, your belief in the goodness of people. And you knew that these same people were avid church-goers. How could you forgive them?
Or maybe it was something someone did to you physically. Another person took advantage of you physically, you were raped, or abused. It has affected your relationships, it has changed your view of yourself and intimacy. It has taken away some of your personhood. How can you forgive those people?
A woman sat in her pastors office and said, “I think I’m going to kill myself. I don’t have any reason to live anymore.” Her friends had desserted her, she had no job, she had no money and even her children had abandoned her and couldn’t care less about what happened to her. She explained that when she told her son she was thinking about killing herself, he replied, “Mom, why don’t you just go ahead and do it and get out of our hair.”1
How do you forgive the unforgivable? If any act in history is unforgivable, the act that occurred 2,000 years ago is the one. What could be more unforgivable than to see the Son of God, hanging from a cross. When you crucify the Son of God you’ve crossed the line and have entered into the unforgivable, you have entered what we would consider to be an act that is beyond forgiveness.
Let’s take a quick look at that statement by Jesus, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing?” Who was He talking about? Who is the “THEY?”
Let’s look at some of the possibilities. First, there were the Roman soldiers. Obviously, they knew what they were doing, they were doing their job, crucifying someone. They knew there was a larger than usual crowd, and people seemed more vocal. But, that’s all they knew. If anybody really didn’t know what they were doing, it was these soldiers.