Summary: To explore the depth of God’s forgiveness and some characteristics of it.
The Depths of God’s Forgiveness
Primary Purpose: To examine how much God has forgiven us through Jesus Christ.
When we examine the accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus, you may notice that Matthew and Mark’s accounts are very similiar. John’s account is different since he was a eyewitness and he was given the duty of taking care of Jesus’ mother Mary at the cross. Luke’s account seems to be the most complete account, giving us several statements that Jesus made that the others don’t. Most of these statements have to do with forgiveness. (Read Luke 23:33-46)
Several people have asked me since we started this series if I have seen the movie “The Passion of the Christ”. My answer is always the same “No, but I read the book”. Personally, I think it is inappropriate to have a movie about the crucifixion without also mentioning the resurrection. It’s like showing a fight and then not telling who wins. When we examine the crucifixion we need to remember that this is not the end of the story. It is a story about how much God loves each one of us. It reminds us that God was willing to come down to us and become flesh and go through death,so that we wouldn’t have to.
I have a little poem on the inside of my Bible that I really like. I reminds me of how much God loves me and each person. Someone said that this was found written on the inside of a prison cell.
Could we with ink the oceans fill
And were the skies of parchment made
And every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the oceans dry,
Nor could that scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
I don’t know who wrote that poem. But, they seemed to have a handle on how much God loves us. God went to the cross to forgive us of our sins. On the TV show called the X-Files, they had a story about a family that used to keep an ugly looking creature in their basement. And what was even stranger was that people would bring their sick and dying family members over to see this creature and they would come back healthy. When Scully and Mulder went to see what was happening, they found out that tis creature was able to take people’s infirmities on himself. So if they came to him and had cancer, he was able to take the cancer and his body, suffering a few days, and then vomit the cancer out. So as this creature lived on, it became uglier and ugler as it was contaminated with diseases, until it finally took on the disease of death and died. It was a strange story, but one that is a good illustration of what Jesus does with our sins. He doesn’t just heal us of our guilt and sin by giving us some medicine. When Jesus went to the cross, he had to take on our infirmities, our sins, our guilt, and our punishment.
(Story originally told by Joel Pankow)
On the cross I think we can see Jesus’ forgiveness described in at least 3 distinct ways.
1. God’s love is unusual- One of Jesus first words “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” v.34. This is such a unusual statement. He’s still not thinking about himself, though nobody would blame him if he did. He’s concerned about the relationship that these soliders who just beat him within a inch of his life have with the Father. He’s not demanding his right, cursing or crying out for revenge. Maybe part of our problem is that we think God’s forgiveness is like ours, that it is so partial, indecisive or indifferent. There’s nothing here about God’s forgiveness that is fickle.
There is another part of the story that is told only by Luke. It has to do with one of the thieves next to Jesus. The story goes that the people, the religious rulers and the soliders were all mocking Jesus along with one of the criminals next to Jesus. History tells us that one of the criminals names is Dismus. Luke’s story says that he recognized his own sin and said that he deserved his punishment v.41. He then cries out to Jesus to remember him when he comes into His kingdom. He is acknowledging that Jesus is a king. Jesus then tells him that that day he will enjoy Paradise with Jesus. This is the second characteristic of God’s forgiveness
2. God’s forgiveness is undeserved v.43. Dismus, if that was his name, did nothing but crime that by his own account crucifixion was a just punishment for. Did you know that sometimes criminals would hang on the cross for a entire week before dying. That was part of the torture of the cross, that it would take the person right up to death and then let them linger, till they died of dehydration and hunger. Dismus must have been startled to know that Jesus promise included so much more than he expected. He expect to be remembered, not to enter into this kingdom. Dismus would never have the chance to do a single thing to deserve forgiveness. This is what Scripture means when it says in Romans 5:8