Summary: Jesus went to the Cross so that we, through his death and resurrection might have a personal relationship with God and that we might know its power in every area of our lives.
Seven Last Words
The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the corner stone of our faith. It is the chosen symbol of the Christian faith. We see it empty, it is an empty cross because of the apparent tragedy which God turned for good and the apparent victory for evil which God overturned by the power and purposes of God into the triumph the forgiveness of the sin of all mankind, and subsequent resurrection of Jesus. But what does it mean to us? Is the Cross in our experience any more meaningful than a pretty sculpted piece of wood or a piece of shiny metal hung around the neck? The Cross of Christ is God’s final word as to the character and consequence of human sin, and of the wonder and sacrifice of divine love.
Jesus went to the Cross so that we, through his death and resurrection might have a personal relationship with God and that we might know its power in every area of our lives. When we speak of "the Cross", we’re not thinking of it in the purely physical sense of two rough pieces of wood, bolted together and suspended by its vertical section before being dropped into a hole in the ground. To the Christian, it is much more than that - "the Cross" is a "shorthand" expression meaning the death of Jesus. Its Jesus stretched out between heaven and earth, suffering more than anyone has ever suffered, for you and me. The Cross is Jesus as our Savior. There is no holier place that we can ever hope to come to - the Cross is the place "to where heaven’s love and heaven’s justice meet".
The Gospels contain a most wonderful commentary on the Cross in the words of Jesus himself, spoken from the Cross itself. Seven sayings are recorded: if there were more we don’t know but surely it’s significant that seven is God’s perfect number. It represents completeness and wholeness. As Jesus hung upon that Cross almost two thousand years ago, he made seven great statements, treasured by believers as the Seven Words from the Cross. They cover the basic needs of mankind. The Words from the Cross reveal God’s answer to our basic needs.
THE FIRST WORD
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
"Forgive them" said Jesus. Who, I wonder, was Jesus referring to? There were many groups of people around the Cross. Closest to him would have been the execution party, soldiers of the Roman garrison, coarsened by discipline and cruelty. They had the task of nailing Jesus to a cross. But, while they were involved, they may have been the least guilty of all.
As Jesus prayed his utterly unselfish prayer "Father, forgive them" his eyes would have taken in other groups: they were the scribes and Pharisees, the teachers who hated him, the priests who bought him with silver, the traitor who sold him to them, the crowd who had cried "crucify him" at his trial. I in the distance was Pilate in his palace trying to salve his conscience by blaming somebody else for what was happening. But perhaps Jesus was encompassing more people those. There was the band of disciples who had been his constant companions for nearly three years. They were there, at a discreet distance, perhaps standing next to the secret disciples of Jesus, those kindly men Nicodemus and Joseph who were to minister to the dead body of Jesus. Unwilling to risk, or unable to stop what was happening.
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 song that asks 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. Mankind had become so blinded by evil and sin that it reacted violently to the purity and holiness of God as shown in the Lord Jesus Christ. These representatives of mankind were swept along by the deception 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, "9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. " (I John 1:9).