Summary: We must forgive others before we can be forgiven ourselves.
By Pastor Jim May
I want to focus only on one scripture this morning, but to me it is one of the most powerful scriptures in the Bible.
Luke 23:34, "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots."
All of us know the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. I won’t go into it in detail or spend a lot of time describing the suffering and pain that He bore. He had been unjustly arrested, brutally beaten, mocked, spat upon and stripped naked, and nailed to a wooden cross. As He hung there, I am amazed at the love and compassion that was shown to those who abused Him so greatly.
And now the mission that He had come to accomplish was nearing its completion. The weight of sin for the whole world was now placed squarely upon the shoulders of God’s only Son as hung upon that cross.
I cannot begin to fathom what Jesus suffered that day. He carried my weight of sin that day too, just like for all of you.
I can sense a little of the pain that Jesus felt on that day. I’m not talking about the pain he felt as those great iron nails were tearing through his wrists, breaking bones, severing blood vessels and ripping the flesh as they were hammered into that wooden beam. I can’t imagine the pain that he felt as his feet were nailed, each one in turn, with a giant iron spike that tore through his instep and exited the bottom of his foot. Surely the pain that he felt was more than I can imagine.
But I sense another kind of pain in Jesus. It was the result of the weight of oppression that he suffered because of the sin that He took upon Himself for you and me.
As He hung there, He was mindful of those who stood around the foot of the cross. There were mixed emotions in the crowd. Some, like Mary and John, were sad and confused, not yet fully understanding why this had to happen. Why was this great man, this teacher of teachers, this man who had such love and compassion, this man who they all thought would be the great Messiah of Israel, dying on a cross? What purpose could this serve?
Others who stood around were shouting for joy, expressing their anger and were a mob whose thirst for vengeance against this “blasphemer” and traitor could only be satisfied by the death of Jesus once and for all. They were driven into frenzy as they watched him suffer for 6 long hours.
Still others stood around, uncaring, unconcerned and unmoved by what was happening. These were hardened men; hardened by the many battles that they had fought in, and by the many times that they had been called upon to do their duty. The Roman soldiers, for the most part, didn’t care. They were doing their duty, and when their work was done, they just sat down to gamble over the only possession of Jesus’ that carried any value to them; his robe.
Other’s stood around in a somber mood, at least on their outward appearance. Inwardly they were glad to see it all come to an end because now they could have their old ways back again without interference from this Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to be the very Son of God. These were the priests, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and those whose political power and religious authority had been challenged time and again during the past 3 ½ years. It would soon be over for good and life could get back to normal once again.
But they couldn’t join in with those who were shouting for joy and had the mob mentality. These men were leaders in Israel and they had to maintain a certain poise and dignity. They had to appear above reproach and so they could not allow their emotions and passions to be expressed and destroy their credibility.
I see all of these people, hanging around the scene of the crucifixion, with all of their hatred, envy, and jealousy. They were blood thirsty and filled with vengeance. Then those who are broken hearted, hopeless and filled with grief, and I wonder at how much love Jesus had to say those words that carry such a huge meaning, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
I know what it is like to be a father and see my children go astray. I know what it is like to feel the pain of their rejection and rebellion when they refuse to listen to the counsel of wisdom and knowledge that has been hard earned in the crucible of life’s battles. I watch them as they walk away, to go and make so many mistakes that could have avoided. I watch as they suffer the consequences of those mistakes and sometimes, when they reach the end of their rope, they come back for help.