The Lord’s Supper (or Communion) is when we take time each month to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf and remember his great love for and forgiveness to us. Over the next several weeks, we will be exploring the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice by considering his seven last words on the cross. The following reflection was shared at our Good Friday Service on March 25, 2016, by one of our elders, Howard Botterill.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” —Luke 23:34
After being beaten, interrogated, scourged, and forced to carry his cross, Jesus was paraded through the narrow streets of Jerusalem and nailed and bound to the cross and then the cross was dropped into the ground with a terrible jolt. As he hangs half-naked in the sun, what is the first word we understand to come from Jesus’ mouth?
Is it a vitriolic? Was it accusatory? Was it about His pain? No.
His first word of this first utterance was: “Father”
For anyone who had questioned if he was really the Son of God; for anyone before this, thinking he was delusional; for anyone thinking he was a fake: did you catch that He was really calling out to the Almighty God – Yahweh – and calling him Father? He must really be the “Son of God.” He is truly what he claimed to be! He is the long promised Messiah, the “Son of God” that God promised to send.
He is TRUTH!
But Jesus continues . . . what does he say next? “Forgive!” Who?
He said, “Forgive them!”
Who is he referring to by saying “them?”
- The Jewish Rulers who called for his crucifixion
- The Roman rulers who condemned him.
- The Roman soldiers who treated him so cruelly and gambled for his clothes.
- The people who mocked and insulted him on the street.
The answer is: to ALL that were involved in his crucifixion!
Did they deserve forgiveness? No.
Could there ever be greater irony? Jesus asks his Father to forgive, but it is by his very sacrifice on the cross that mankind is able to be forgiven! At the Last Supper, Jesus explained his crucifixion to his disciples when he told them to “drink of this cup, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for [what?], the forgiveness of sins.”
To ask God, his father, to forgive them, Jesus was requesting undeserved love, undeserved treatment.
That is GRACE!
Jesus did not ask for forgiveness for Himself – he didn’t need to; he was sinless.
Instead he prayed on behalf of his accusers. Forgive them! This is the epitome of grace.
If Jesus could forgive those who were killing him, he surely can forgive us of our sins and that is what he offers if we repent.
He is both TRUTH and GRACE! He really is the Son of God.
Remember why the Father sent him? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish [meaning: that person is forgiven] but have eternal life.” —John 3:16
It requires that we quit trusting ourselves – not saying like my granddaughter “I will do it myself!” – and ask God to forgive us and follow Him.
Let’s pray that he will help us truly accept his forgiveness and follow him completely:
Dear Lord, though we believe at one level that you have forgiven us, this amazing truth needs to penetrate our heart in new ways. Help us to know with fresh conviction that we are fully and finally forgiven, not because of anything we have done, but because of what you have done for us. You are the epitome of both Truth and Grace! Amen.