I want to share a few thoughts I picked up from Arthur W. Pink’s book, ‘The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross.’ They are worth your time to contemplate forgiveness.
Man had done his worst. The One by whom the world was made had come into it, but the world knew Him not. The Lord of Glory lived among men, but He was not wanted. The eyes which sin had blinded saw in Him no beauty that He should be desired. At His birth there was no room for Him in the inn. Shortly after His birth Herod sought to slay Him and this forecast the Cross as the climax of man’s hatred. Jesus had yield Himself to their hands. A mock trail had been gone through, and though the judge found no fault in Him, he yielded to their cries of crucifixion.
No ordinary death would suffice. A death of intense suffering and shame was given Him. He was nailed to a cross. And He is hanging in silence. But His lips begin to move. Is He crying for pity? Is He pronouncing judgment against His crucifiers? No. He is praying, praying for His enemies.
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” (Luke 23:34)
Here we see:
1. The fulfillment of the prophetic word.
Is. 53: 12 tells centuries before, that Jesus would ‘make intercession for the transgressors.’ He thought of His murderers. He pleaded for His crucifiers. He made intercession for their forgiveness.
2. Christ identified with His people.
“Father, forgive them.” On no previous occasion did He make such a request. Never before did He ask His Father to forgive. He forgave Himself. To the man sick of the palsy, He said, “…thy sins be forgiven thee.’ (Matt. 9:2) Why now? Forgiveness is God’s prerogative. The Jewish leaders were right to question, ‘No one can forgive sin but God only’ (Mark 2:7). He was the Son of God who came to earth to be the Son of Man. The Gospel is very clear – ‘The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins’ (Matt. 9:6) and now He was no longer on earth. He had been ‘lifted up from the earth.’ (John 12:32). On the cross He was our substitute. He was no longer in the place of authority. He was absolutely identified with His people. He was no longer in the position ‘on earth’ where He had the power or right to forgive sins; instead, He intercedes for sinners – as we must.
3. The divine estimate of sin and its guilt.
In the Old Testament, God required that atonement should be made for sins of ignorance (Lev. 5:15-16). Sin is always sin in the sight of God whether we are conscious of it or not. Sins of ignorance need atonement just as much as conscious sins. God is holy and will not lower His standard of righteousness to the level of our ignorance. Ignorance is not innocence. And yet the fact remains that we are ignorant of many things and the fault and blame are ours. Praise God for the atonement of infinite sufficiency, which cleanses us from all sin.
4. The blindness of the human heart.
They did not know the enormity of what they did. They did not know they were crucifying the Lord of glory. But they should have known. Their blindness was inexcusable. The Old Testament prophecies which received fulfillment in Jesus were plain to identify Him as the Holy One of God. While there was no excuse for the ignorance, it did demonstrate the blindness of their heart. This is still being repeated today. For many it is not as much ignorance, but blindness of heart.
5. A lovely example of His own teaching.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught ‘Love your enemies, bless them hat curse you… and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.’ (Matt. 5:44) Above all others Christ practiced what He preached. Here on the Cross He exemplified His teaching. He personally did not forgive His enemies. The person who wrongs must repent to receive our forgiveness. Even God does not forgive without repentance (1 John 1:9). But we can pray for them as Jesus did.
6. Man’s great and primary need.
We are all sinners and unfit before God. The question of forgiveness is a basic and fundamental need. So here we learn how forgiveness is obtained. Normally when we forgive others it is really leniency. We don’t enforce wrong that is due someone else. We really can’t remove wrong. And God won’t either. He does not shortchange justice just to show mercy. Jesus paid for our sin. It was in the view of of the blood He was shedding that Jesus cried ‘’Father, forgive them.’
7. The triumph of redeeming love.
Mark opens his account of these words with ‘Then.’ It was after the criminals were crucified with Him that He uttered these words. After man had done his worse, Jesus did His best – He loved. When Jesus came to His end, rather than take revenge for all the hurt He received, He prayed for His enemies.
1. Those who crucified Jesus did not fully know what they were doing. But if you reject Jesus today, you have no excuse. You know exactly what you’re doing.
2. Jesus forgives all your sins on the cross – past, present, and future. Christians are a forgiven people.
3. Pray forgiveness for those who hurt you.
You can read the other sayings of Jesus: “Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross“