Summary: God’s Purpose was to save the lost
Luke records one of the turning points in Jesus’ life: “When the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51). We should steadfastly set our faces toward the cross that we might appreciate what Christ accomplished and what God offers to those who trust in his salvation. Charles Spurgeon said, “A view of Christ on Calvary is always beneficial to a Christian.”
Repeatedly, we need to go to Calvary where God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. We need to go to Calvary where Christ was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. We need to go to Calvary and by inspired imagination behold him bearing our own sins in his body on the cross. We need to go to Calvary to be overwhelmed with the tremendous truth that God has commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.
There were great crowds on Calvary that day when the sinless, stainless, spotless Lamb of God was crucified. Some of the onlookers were indifferent, but also in the crowd were the triumphant, self-righteous Jewish leaders who bitterly resented Jesus because he did not fit into their plans for a nationalistic and materialistic messiah. The brutal Roman soldiers were there as well, unconcerned about the sufferings of him whose agony of soul for sin far exceeded the physical anguish of death by crucifixion.
Further back were the distressed and desolate loved ones of Jesus whose hearts were indescribably crushed by this shameful catastrophe.
If we had been there that day on Calvary, we would have seen and heard many things that needed interpretation if we were to relate ourselves properly to him who died on the center cross. For example, listening sympathetically to the cries of those who were dying on the crosses would help us to learn more about Jesus. He had said on one occasion, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34 NIV). The words that fall from our lips are photographs, to some extent, of the mind from which they come. The words of Jesus spoken from the cross present to us a photograph of his heart’s concern for sinners.
It is highly possible that Jesus’ plea for forgiveness for those who were in charge of the crucifixion helped bring about the change in attitude of one of the thieves who was also being crucified. Matthew’s gospel records that at first both of the thieves railed upon him and mocked him (Matt. 27:38 – 44). Something happened to cause one of them to acknowledge that he was receiving the due reward of his deeds, and there arose from his heart a plea for merciful consideration once Jesus entered his kingdom (Luke 23:40 – 42). Possibly his curses and insults were changed into a prayer for mercy as he heard Christ pray, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
I. The desperate need for forgiveness.
“Father, forgive them.” It was beyond the power of those who had a hand in Jesus’ crucifixion to comprehend fully the enormity of their sin. They could not possibly recognize, at this time, how greatly they needed the forgiveness of God.
A. Judas, the betrayer, needed forgiveness.
B. The Jewish leaders, who in proud, prejudiced self-righteousness were gloating in success over Christ’s death, needed forgiveness.
C. Herod, the puppet king who considered Jesus as a worker of magic and who requested the performance of a miracle, was in need of forgiveness.
D. Pilate, the conniving, cowardly politician who had delivered an innocent man into the hands of a malicious mob needed forgiveness.
E. The cruel Roman soldiers who, in total indifference to his sufferings, gambled for his robe while he suffered indescribable agony needed forgiveness.
F. The milling mob who came by to curse and revile and taunt the suffering Savior was greatly in need of forgiveness.
G. The disciples who, in fear for their lives, had fled during the night because of their personal peril needed forgiveness.
H. All of us stand in need of forgiveness, for all of us are sinners. We have broken God’s holy law. We have fallen short not only of the divine standard but of our own human standard and ideal. Honesty would require of each of us that we admit, “I am a sinner and in need of forgiveness.”
II. The meaning of forgiveness.
A. Perhaps Jesus was interceding to hold back the wrath of God upon those who were unjustly crucifying an innocent man.
B. Perhaps Jesus was praying for them to have a full opportunity to repent and to experience the cleansing of forgiveness.
C. To experience forgiveness is to have an indictment based on personal guilt removed and canceled.