Summary: IF CHRIST COULD FORGIVE WHEN HE DIED ON THE CROSS WHY CAN'T I?
Just before the Valentines Day the sporting world was shocked to learn that Oscar Pistorius popularly known as the “blade runner” allegedly killed his girl friend Reeva Steenkamp a 29 year old South African Model. Another tragic loss of life! Following the tragedy Reeva’s uncle Mike Steenkamp made a refreshing statement saying, “I would like to meet Oscar Pistorius and forgive the man who killed my niece “That way I can find more peace with the situation,” he told CNN’s Drew Griffin during an interview that he would forgive Pistorius whether the shooting was an accident or not. “Whatever, whatever the outcome. I feel with my belief and if Christ could forgive when he died on the cross, why can’t I?”
What a courageous statement of forgiveness! When I hear such statements it makes me think that that this world we live in is not all that bad; there are some who still believe in the message of forgiveness. The world needs this message so desperately. While Jesus was hanging between life and death on the cross said. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Why should Jesus offer any forgiveness, especially towards those who ordered His execution? Yet Jesus prayed for forgiveness because it was his mission to forgive, though it cost Him His life. It is not easy to forgive, yet forgiveness is what the Cross is all about. God placed all our sins on Jesus on the cross so that you and I might be forgiven of our sins.
Let’s look at how Christ exhibited “Radical Forgiveness” in Luke 23: 33-43. According to the traditional church calendar we are entering the Holy week. The Holy week is the week preceding Easter and the final week of Lent. It begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday.
During the Holy Week, Christians commemorate the Passion of Christ, on Good Friday we remember his death for the sins of mankind. Before we delve into the message of the Cross let me point out some ironies. In fact the crucifixion itself is the great irony. It doesn’t make sense to the common mind. The scriptures say that, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” I Cor 1:18 (NLT) Oh! How we thank God for the Cross without which we have no redemption.
I. THE GREAT IRONY:
The whole act of crucifixion from beginning until its end is filled with one big Irony. The innocent one who committed no violence was accused of subverting the nation and stirring up trouble. The king of the universe stands meek before Governor Pontius Pilate. There was no reasonable evidence to suggest that Jesus committed any of the allegations against him. In fact Pilate himself said three times, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” (Luke 23:4) Yet the crowds sought for the highest punishment according to the law; the death penalty. The crowds: some of them perhaps were healed by him; ate the bread and fish and blessed by his teachings now have turned against Him, shouting Crucify him! Crucify him! A man who knew no sin was cowardly handed over to be crucified while a rebel and a murderer was released.
The creator of the world now in the hands of those he created; mocked; beaten up; humiliated and finally hung on the cross like a criminal between two robbers. Has this humiliating situation changed his relationship with the father? In no way it was jeopardized He still called God, “Father” How would you address God if you are to go through such pain? Do you curse him or still call him “Father? Jesus interceded for both Jews and Romans. Jesus not only asked God to extend forgiveness to his tormentors but he himself granted forgiveness to a repentant criminal in his final hours as the true Messiah.
II. RADICAL FORGIVENESS:
The gospel writer Luke included more details of the crucifixion in his gospel where the other writers either have omitted or paid not much attention. Luke explains in detail about the mockery of the religious leaders, the Roman soldiers and the executed criminals. Though all these three groups mocked at Jesus the most dishonoring mockery came from the criminals whose place in the mainstream society has already been categorically dismissed.
Let me set the scene for you. Two men were crucified at the same time as Jesus, one on his right hand and one on his left. We read in Vs 39, “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us! This insult was loaded with sarcasm and aimed at undermining the very purpose of Christ’s coming into this world which is “to seek and save what was lost.” Luke 19:10, The first thief lacked the fear of God. He did not recognize Jesus as the true savior of the world. As always Christ refused to act on the demand of the first thief. Was Christ not really capable of saving himself and the thieves? No! Then what can we make of his refusal? We must realize here that Jesus’ unwillingness to act was not a sign of impotence instead it was a sign of absolute humility and the act of ultimate submission to God.