He Forgives – Luke 23:34-37
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” are perhaps the twelve most improbable words we could ever imagine. Jesus had been beaten and scourged and hung on a cross, although he was innocent of the charges against him. And as he hung there, he was derided and demeaned by onlookers. He was cursed and criticized by the soldiers who cast lots to divide his clothing, as well as the criminals hanging on the crosses beside him.
So, after everything He’d gone through, we could understand if when Jesus was up there with nails in His bleeding hands, He’d decided to just not say anything. But instead, He forgave those who wronged him.
I know if I was up there on the cross, I would probably have cut that powerful prayer right out of the text. Forgiving my torturers wouldn’t ever have made it onto my list of priorities right then. And if that’s what Jesus had chosen to do, then He’d be a lot more like you and me. That kind of forgiveness goes against human nature.
But that statement was typical Jesus. To the paralytic He says, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” To a woman cowered and wounded, He says, “Woman, your sins are forgiven.” Turning to the disciples one day, Jesus gives them—and us—the model prayer that has as its centerpiece these words, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
You know what I think really happened on that cross? Because Jesus is the king of a better kingdom than we’ll ever understand down here, He was simply doing what He’d always done. Offering absolution. It’s interesting to note that those words were later removed from some Bibles because certain scribes didn’t want to see Jesus offer forgiveness to everyone. They wanted to hold a grudge. I guess the scribes were a lot more like us when it comes to forgiveness.
But beyond that, I wonder if maybe Jesus understood something that we’re just getting around to discovering. Forgiveness offers a way out. It doesn’t change the issue of blame, but it does allow a relationship to start over again.
From the cross, Jesus prayed to forgive the soldiers, the people, the leaders, the criminals, and even you and me, because it offered us a way out of our own personal spiritual prisons. Jesus knew that whenever we withhold forgiveness, we become imprisoned. We become our own jailers.
Forgiveness is the quality of divine kingship that defies the human instinct for revenge and frees us to begin again. One act of forgiveness pays it forward through our lives in one forgiving act after another. One single encounter with forgiveness, even before we repent, can melt the iciness of the most frozen heart.
During this season of Thanksgiving, we should add one more thing to our list of things to be thankful for. Jesus forgives. We should, too.
He Forgives – Luke 23:34-37