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Luke 23:32-34 "THE FIRST WORD: "FATHER, FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY DO" Luke 23:34"
Day 322 – Luke 23
Text: Luke 23:32-34
THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF JESUS
THE FIRST WORD: “FATHER, FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY DO” Luke 23:34
An old traditional spiritual comes to mind as we read about the crucifixion of Jesus. This famous song speaks deeply to the heart, raising question after question, causing the singer to ponder on the death of Jesus.
“Were You There?”
Were you there when they crucified My Lord
Were you there when they crucified My Lord,
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they crucified My Lord…”
If you were there, standing as close you possibly could to the Cross of Jesus, you would have heard Him utter seven absolutely simple but profound statements, or words!
Imagine yourself as a passer-by. You would have seen how the soldiers stripped Jesus of His garments. You would have seen them push Jesus down on the rough and crude wooden beams that would be his instrument of death. You would have heard the sounds of the nails as they were driven into his hands and feet! You would have seen the soldiers drive the cross into the ground after the inscription had been placed on it. The words were clear to all who could read. It said, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”.
Would you have shuddered, would you have trembled as you saw all those things? The atmosphere would have been very tense. The crowd seemed most hostile. They were shouting at this Man called Jesus. They taunted Him and called Him “Christ – The Anointed One.” What did they mean when they mocked Him and asked Him to come down from the cross?
Just about everybody cursed and swore at Him. Not everyone did though. There were some who stood quite near by. They were weeping silently. They stood out actually. There were also other passers-by. They too must have just stood by and tried to absorb the crucifixion scene and its meaning.
The Man in the center, was so different from the other two, who were infamous criminals. Whereas the two felons also cursed and railed, Jesus uttered the first word that would have taken away the breath of any passer-by! He cried out,
“Father, forgive them,
for they know not what they do.”
A PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS!
His words must have touched some hearts that day. Did they touch the hearts of those who were taunting Him? They seemed quieter after those words were said. How could anyone pray for forgiveness at such a time as this?
The natural human reaction would have easily included anger. Resentment and even hatred would have been understandable! If a prayer were to be uttered, would not that have been imprecatory, where God’s wrath is called down to judge the people?
How did this Man called Jesus of Nazareth pray? Did He call His God, “Father”? How could He speak with such gentle trust? How could He call Him “Father” when He was being crucified so cruelly?
Questions… more questions… must bombard the heart and mind as the crucifixion is viewed. The crucifixion began at 9.00 in the morning (Mark noted the Jewish hour of reckoning time, noting that Jesus began His ordeal at “the third hour” – Mark 15:25). This particular crucifixion would last about 6 hours, because the Jews did not like to have bodies on crosses as they celebrated their Passover, a major religious feast!
The Passover involved the sacrifice of a lamb. This Feast was kept to commemorate a special historic event. God said that He would visit Egypt and slay the first-born son of all who opposed and resisted Him. Many died that night, including the firstborn of the Pharaoh! However, the children of Israel were spared.
The blood of the lamb kept them from harm. When God came down to judge the land of Egypt, He would notice each home. The household that had the blood of the sacrificial lamb splattered on the doorposts and lintel would see their firstborn son spared!
As a passer-by, you would have listened to the crowds that milled around the three crosses. You would have heard people mentioning many things about Jesus. Some would have spoken about how He was regarded as the Christ of God. Others would have remembered that a famous preacher called John the Baptiser used to call Jesus, “The Lamb of God”. He spoke of Jesus as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
You cannot help but notice the blood that flowed on Calvary that day. The blood flowed from His brows because of a crown of thorns that had been cruelly placed on the head. The body must have oozed out blood too, for the lacerations were still red and angry. They were well-known marks on a person who had been scourged!
How could this Man pray for forgiveness? How could He say that those who crucified Him did not know what they were doing? What kind of a heart did He have to be able to utter such astonishing words of grace and love?
“BUT WE SEE JESUS…”
“Were you there when they crucified my Lord…” was a traditional spiritual that sought to capture the crucifixion scene in song. In our mind’s eye, we see how,
“For Christ also suffered once for sins,
the just for the unjust,
that He might bring us to God,
being put to death in the flesh…”
1 Peter 3:18
These words were written by Peter, one of the leading disciples of Jesus. He did not fully understand the suffering of Jesus once. He and his fellow-disciples struggled with the idea of the suffering of their teacher. Why did He need to suffer at all?
As understanding grew, Peter began to realize just why Jesus had to suffer! He suffered for sins – our sins! He who was truly Just had to suffer and die for the Unjust! There was no other way to reconcile and bring us back to God! The only way to redeem us back to God was for Jesus to be put to death in the flesh!
THE RESPONSES OF SOME TOTALLY HARDENED BY SIN
Luke and the other Gospel writers took careful note of the various responses that people made as they stood by, at Golgotha, the place of the skull.
“And the people stood looking on (passers-by, or bystanders)
But even the rulers with them sneered, saying,
‘He saved others; let Him save Himself
if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.'”
Luke 23:35 (Cf.Mark 15:31-32; Matthew 27:39-43)
These obviously did not understand why Jesus had to die! Their responses were wicked and sinful. Their hearts had been hardened by their sins! How could anyone mock Jesus at anytime, let alone see Him suffering on the cross? Many till today do not fully understand the theological significance of the death of Jesus.
HAVE YOU UNDERSTOOD THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS’ WORDS AS HE PRAYED FOR FORGIVENESS?
The Apostle Paul wrote deep theology as he reflected on the significance of the death of Jesus in his epistle to the Colossians.
“For it pleased the Father that in Him
all the fullness should dwell,
and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
having made peace through the blood of His cross.
And you, who once were alienated and enemies
In your mind by wicked works,
Yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death,
To present you holy and blameless, and above reproach
In His sight-
If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast,
And are not moved away from the hope of the Gospel
Which you heard, which was preached to every creature
Under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister”
Jesus died that He might reconcile us back to God. Have you believed in Jesus?