Words From The Cross (Part 1)
I have not been around many people who were approaching death, but I imagine the final words a person speaks reveal what is on their heart. In the case of Jesus, the Gospels record seven statements Jesus spoke from the cross as he was approaching death. To be crucified was an excruciating thing to go through. The very act of speaking would have been extremely painful and require great exertion. The victim would have to pull himself up by the nails in his wrists to expand the diaphragm to speak. Needless to say, words were sparse among those being crucified. But, Jesus spoke from the cross. Luke records the first words Jesus spoke from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). It should not be surprising to us that the first words Jesus spoke from the cross were a prayer. What is surprising is what He prayed, "Father, forgive them..." Even as He is nearing death, Jesus stayed true to the hallmark of His ministry – the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28).
But for whom was Jesus praying? Who was the "them" Jesus was asking God to forgive? He was praying for the soldiers who cruelly tortured, crucified and gambled for His clothes. "Father forgive them." He prayed for the crowd who were verbally assaulting Him and mocking Him. "Father forgive them." He prayed for the religious leaders, who in their jealousy conspired to kill Him. For those hypocritical leaders He prayed. "Father forgive them."
We are also among the "them" Jesus was praying for when He said, "Father forgive them." Friends, you and I were there when they crucified Jesus. So, whatever we are embarrassed of, whatever we are ashamed of, whenever we get off course, for all we have ever done and all we will ever do.....Jesus prayed for us, "Father forgive them" and it is on the cross where Jesus purchased our forgiveness.
This prayer by Jesus is also meant to be our prayer. On the cross, Jesus' words demonstrated God's willingness to forgive us and they call us to do the same. "Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us“ (Matthew 6:12). Not forgiving results in us being consumed with resentment, anger, and hated. Not forgiving destroys relationships! It destroys friendships and it ends marriages. So, let your prayer be Jesus' prayer, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Who do you need to pray for?