Friday, April 06, 2007

"Father forgive them..."

Our Good Friday Service is "The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross." My contribution is the first word, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34):

As the curtain lifts on Christ on the cross, we see humanity at its worse. We see the Son of God at his best. The world had done all they could to him. They beat him. They spit upon him. They humiliated and disgraced him. They mocked and abused him. They did everything they could, except what they should and that was to worship him. And in light of all the unwarranted abuse, we must stand amazed, in awe, and even ashamed at our Lord’s response.

The first word Jesus speaks on the cross is not a word of rebuke toward his captors. It was not a word of correction to his accusers. It was not even a word of reproof for his tormentors. Instead of cursing those who curse him, He blessed them. Instead of accusing them, He pleads for their souls. Instead of destroying those who sought to destroy him, He prayed for them.

This is a most remarkable word in light of the surrounding circumstances. Who would have begrudged Jesus for a word of vindication or malice? Who would have thought wrong of him if he had decided to curse these ungrateful sinners? Surely the Lord of glory, the one who gives breath and life, would be right and just to take the life and breathe of those who curse and mock him rather than worship him.

And yet, instead of what the world would expect him to do, he prayed. At the time of his agony, he prayed. At the time of his torture, he prayed. At the time of his pain, he prayed. He prayed not for himself. He prayed for those who sinned against him. He prayed for the mob who said, “Crucify him!” He prayed for those who caused his pain. He prayed for the authorities who plotted to kill him. He prayed for those who spit on him. He prayed for the soldiers who hammered the nails. He prayed for those who knew not who he was nor knew not what they did.

Is that not you and me? How many of us have acted in this life as if we did not know the Lord of glory? Have you mocked his word this day? Have you behaved in such a way as to disrespect his love for you and his word to his people? Have you sinned against Christ and brought the crucified one all the more pain this day? Might I say that he is today, saying as he said then, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

In dying he made intercession for sinners. In living, the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 7:25, “…He ever lives to make intercession for us.” This night we are reminded that as we look at the cross and the pain and agony that our sins caused the perfect Son of God, brothers and sisters, let us sin not. But if anyone does sin, let us know that we have an advocate, one who pleads our case before the Father; he is Jesus Christ, the righteous (1John 2:1). He says today, at the right hand of the Father, the same as he said then hanging, bleeding on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

I’m not only glad he stayed on the cross, for my sins. I am also glad he prayed on the cross for my sins. Aren’t you?

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