“Father, Forgive Them” (Luke 23:32-43)

Good Friday: Chief Service
April 2, 2010

“Father, Forgive Them” (Luke 23:32-43)

It’s Good Friday, and Jesus is led away to be crucified. Crucifixion was a method of execution that the Romans used, throughout their empire, but not on their own citizens, since it was the most brutal and degrading form of execution they could use. Crucifixion was extreme, slow, cruel, and, for them, not so unusual a punishment, done to common criminals, as a public display that served as a deterrent, to keep the masses under control and keep order in the realm. The Romans didn’t mess around.

So Jesus is led out with two criminals to be subjected to this public death on a cross. He is placed smack dab in the middle of these two wrongdoers, just like he’s one of them. And yet, what wrong has he done? In his ministry he has done only good. Spectacular good: healing diseases, feeding multitudes, casting out demons. Sublime good: speaking as a prophet sent by God, teaching God’s word with heavenly wisdom. Supreme good: forgiving sins, calling sinners to repentance, seeking and saving that which was lost. Yes, Jesus has done only good, nothing wrong, in his ministry. And yet they crucify him.

But what is even more amazing is the first word that comes out of his mouth, as this righteous man is now hanging there nailed to a cross. Jesus lifts up his head to his Father and prays, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Now this strikes us as strange for a couple of reasons. One, to be in such agony and pain, unjustly, and to have the thought to pray for those who have just put you on that cross–that is amazing. Who would do such a thing? Pray for their forgiveness? Wouldn’t we rather be calling out for revenge, for vengeance to be visited upon these evil men? Wouldn’t we be crying out, maintaining our innocence in the face of such cruel injustice? Yet Jesus does none of this. Instead, he prays, “Father, forgive them.”

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Published in: on April 2, 2010 at 10:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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