“Father, forgive them,” Jesus cried out on the most horrific day in history. “For they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
In Facing Your Giants, Max Lucado writes, “No one had a clearer sense of right and wrong than the perfect Son of God. Yet, 'when he suffered, he didn't make any threats but left everything to the one who judges fairly.' (1 Peter 2:23)
This morning before the boys left for school, we talked about what Good Friday means and we read in The Jesus Storybook Bible about the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Arrest, and the Crucifixion:
“My body is like this bread. It will break,” Jesus told them. “This cup is like my blood. It will pour out.”
“But this is how God will rescue the whole world. My life will break and God's broken world will mend. My heart will tear apart—and your hearts will heal. Just as the passover lamb died, so now I will die instead of you. My blood will wash away all of your sins. And you'll be clean on the inside—in your hearts.”
“God was going to pour into Jesus' heart all the sadness and brokenness in people's hearts. He was going to pour into Jesus' body all the sickness in people's bodies. God was going to have to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong. It would crush Jesus.”
“Father, forgive them,” Jesus gasped. “They don't understand what they're doing.”
"It wasn't the nails that kept Jesus there. It was love."
This morning as we read and talked about the events, I wondered for the first time how the disciples must have felt when Judas arrived with the soldiers to arrest Jesus. Clearly he had betrayed Jesus (who had forgiven him before the act had even been committed). But I'm sure the disciples must have felt a sense of betrayal too. How could Judas--who had spent as much time with the Master as they had--turn against Him like that?
On Good Friday we are humbled by Jesus' death on the cross. His willing sacrifice as the perfect Lamb of God. God's forgiveness extended. Undeserved mercy for sinners.
But after we've received and been cleansed by God's forgiveness, how well do we extend His forgiveness to others?
Last Sunday at Pulpit Rock, Thomas addressed the issue of forgiveness and how it relates to our joy. He asked, "Why would you want to hold on to something that's hurting you?" He challenged us with the statement: "There's never a reason not to forgive." And, "Whatever Jesus expects of you, He empowers you to do."
On this topic, Max Lucado writes, “Forgiveness is, at its core, choosing to see your offender with different eyes.”
“To forgive is to move on," he explains, "not to think about the offense anymore. You don't excuse him, endorse her, or embrace them. You just route thoughts about them through heaven. You see your enemy as God's child and revenge as God's job.”
When we try to seek revenge, he says it "removes God from the equation. Vigilantes displace and replace God. 'I'm not sure you can handle this one, Lord. You may punish too little or too slowly. I'll take this matter into my hands, thank you.'”
Kind of like Peter, who was quick to react in Jesus' defense and sliced off a guard's ear with his sword. Jesus then reprimanded him, “Peter, this is not the way.” (John 18:10-11)
Can we entrust ourselves like Jesus did, in the face of mistreatment, to the One who judges rightly?
Can we echo Jesus' words, “Father forgive them”?
Can we see our offenders as God's children and route our thoughts about them through heaven?
Can we pray for their hearts to be healed as ours have--through Jesus' broken body and blood poured out on the cross?
Jesus died so that we--and they--could experience true reconciliation.
Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the Theme of Forgive