As I begin blogging this week I want to look at Jesus famous last words from the cross. There are seven phrases that Jesus spoke from the cross, today I want to look at the first phrase: “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Jesus lived a perfect sinless life. He healed the sick, spoke to the dead and they came back to life. He left the comfort of heaven to share The Father’s love with each of us. He loved in a way that no one had ever loved before Him to give all of us, the world, eternal life. Yet, He was betrayed by one of His own. Falsely accused, tried, and condemned, even though He was innocent. He was stripped of His clothes and beaten; they placed a crown of thorns on His head and mocked Him. He never retaliated; in fact He spoke no words up until this moment. Then from the cross, as He suffered for our sins, He begins to speak.
Had I been there as a spectator I would press in during this moment. I would want to hear what Jesus was going to say. My expectation would have been that He may respond like I would have, maybe cursing those who had crucified him, or praying to the Father for relief from the pain of being crucified, but He didn’t. Instead He spoke these famous last words; “Father, forgive them. For they don’t know what they are doing.”
Amazing; His first words from the cross are words of forgiveness. The significance of these words are powerful. Prophecy from 700 years earlier is fulfilled (Isaiah 53:12). He prayed for the sin of those who crucified Him. Amazing; He modeled prayer for us from the cross. He started His public ministry with prayer and now as His public ministry is coming to an end, He prays, and He models what He taught us, “pray for your enemies.” Amazing; His first words from the cross reveal humanities greatest need, forgiveness.
In my daily life the first words from the cross come to life…what do I do when someone has hurt me? What do I do when someone has done me wrong? I do what Jesus did, I pray; “Father forgive them…” I have to admit, my tendency is to pray that the person wronging me will get what’s coming to them that God will get them. I know most of you would never feel that way. I have to ask God for help to even utter these words. Yet, it is so important. Not so much for the person I am praying for, but for me. Unless I learn to pray like Jesus prayed from the cross, bitterness, un-forgiveness and hatred will contaminate my heart and destroy me.
Jesus taught it, (Matt 5:43-45) “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” Now from the cross Jesus models it for us.
So, who is it that has hurt you? What broken relationships need restored? What do you do with those people in your life? Pray like Jesus prayed. Pray for those who have hurt you. Pray for restoration. Pray to forgive. Pray this way for your own heart, pray that God would make the words of your mouth the sincere desire of your heart so that you, like Jesus on the cross, can live in freedom.