“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'” Luke 23:34
As we have spent a few weeks on prayer, we have highlighted a few ways in which Jesus prayed.
This week, let’s see what Jesus prayed in His final hours, while enduring great physical pain and deep emotional distress.
Please read Luke 23:26-34.
“As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to the, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and your children. For the time will come when you will say, “Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!” Then, they will say to the mountains “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”‘ For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? ”
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the other criminals, one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Imagine what Jesus must have felt: Desperate fear. Unbearable loneliness. Unjustified abhorrence.
He knew what was coming: death. Something He should never taste, something He most certainly did not deserve.
He was sentenced to a criminal’s punishment. And He would be punished, physically, smack dab in the middle of two bona-fide criminals. A place He should never have needed to be. A place He chose to be.
Any onlookers might, with finger-pointing, have said, “Look at the row of criminals hanging there.” Masquerading as a criminal, Jesus pointed us to the greatest love ever, and paved the way for us to simply reach that love of God, by accepting the sacrifice of His son.
When Jesus spoke to His Father, His own deep love for God and humanity clearly resonated. Jesus did not ask for legions of angels to come rescue Him. He did not ask God to strike any mean bullies down in a prayer of revenge.
No. He asked His Father for forgiveness. Not forgiveness for himself: He was without sin.
He asked for forgiveness for those who persecuted Him.
For those who hated Him. Forgiveness for those who would not rest until they had hung Him on a cross and left Him for dead.
The ultimate heartless act of cruelty.
And yet, Jesus met their cold, calculating actions and miserable, me-istic motives with a warm, loving intercessory prayer on their behalf.
“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
When you are in pain, physical, emotional, and/or spiritual, because of someone else’s words or actions, can you clearly see what your persecutor needs? Can you ask God for mercy on his behalf?
We might console ourselves about any inabilities, thinking, ‘no one knows all I have been through.’ Yet Jesus knows. He knows abandonment. He knows accusations. He knows physical torture. He knows downright humiliation. He knows what it’s like to have no one, absolutely no other person on earth, understand him.
Yet, in His final earthly conversation with God, He asked for mercy on His enemies.
Should not we?
Monday: For a moment, try to imagine the pain of being nailed to the cross. The physical pain of having your hands, sides, and feet pierced. The humiliation of accusations you never fulfilled. How would you respond?
Tuesday: Pray acknowledging the deep pain Jesus encountered for humanity. Thank Him for what He chose to do for each of us.
Wednesday: Ask God to show you if there is someone in your life you have not been able to forgive. Pray that God would soften your heart to obey Him.
Thursday: Jesus said “My grace is sufficient for you.” (II Corinthians 12:9) Ask God to help you offer forgiveness. (Remember: forgiveness does not equate justification. The pain you feel is real. The words or actions inflicting the pain were not justified or right. But through Christ, we can offer grace as He freely offered it to us.)
Here is an inspiring song. by Matthew West. At WinterJam, Matthew shared the inspiration behind this song. A woman lost her teenage daughter in a car accident. The drunk driver who hit her daughter’s car was sentenced to over two decades behind bars for the crime. The mother and many members of the family felt they were imprisoned by their own feelings of unforgiveness. They knew they needed to forgive. They worked with the sentencing judge to reduce the term in half and met with the driver. Through their interactions, the driver came to know Christ, and began speaking about the power of Christ’s forgiveness. Here is a link to the song inspired by this story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1Lu5udXEZI&feature=player_detailpage
Friday: Read Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Claim God’s promise that somehow, someway, He will use even this, for good.
Thank you for reading! Please return by Monday, April 1, for the next post. Happy Easter!