By the time Jesus utters these words from the cross he had already endured suffering. The passion of the Christ had begun. By this point, He had suffered much at the hands of the religious leaders and the Roman soldiers. He had been beaten, mocked, bruised, spat upon and now he is hanging on this tree.
Picture it: Jesus is now hanging on this tree raised above the crowd. He is bloody, battered, bruised and weak. Each breath he takes is a painful, horrible struggle. It is from this position that he looks down and sees the very ones He came to save mocking him, laughing at him, ridiculing and jeering. He sees the soldiers who have mocked, scourged, and tortured him and who have just nailed him to the cross. He probably remembered his accusers—Caiaphas and the high priests of the Sanhedrin. Perhaps in that moment he remembered Judas his betrayer. Could it be that he noticed his beloved disciples—and friends who had deserted him? An now he is surrounded by this crowd—many of whom only days ago celebrated his entry and praised his entrance into Jerusalem and now he is being crucified at their request. Remember, they asked for Barrabas to be released and said that Jesus should be crucified instead. In that moment on the cross when Jesus prepares to utter his first words-he could’ve said a number of things! Yet, it is from this place that Jesus looks down, sees his accusers and the angry mob, but his heart is not full of hatred toward them. We know this because the words he utters aren’t words of anger, hatred or retaliation but they are words of mercy, love, and grace. He prays for their forgiveness.
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus, could have called a legion of angels to come to His defense. He could have wiped out every one of his accusers. He could have silenced them on the spot. But instead, He stayed the course. Not only that, but he took it a step beyond enduring the ill-treatment by praying for them. In that moment, Jesus does not meet hatred with hate or anger with anger or malice with malice.
Instead HE PRAYS FOR THEIR FORGIVENESS.
From the cross, in this very moment Jesus is still teaching us how to live! On His way to the cross, Jesus taught the disciples how to deal with enemies. He said pray for your enemies, bless those who curse you, bless and curse not, pray for them who despitefully use you!!! Now in this moment, He blesses His enemies just like he taught others too. Jesus was not a hypocrite! He practiced what He preached.
Jesus was no fool either. He knew then what many of us know now. He knew the nature of people. He knew that people will act ugly, folk will try to kill you , destroy your reputation, your destiny, and your character. He knew that haters will hate. However, He gives us the ultimate example of how to respond. Just because folk act ugly, that does not let YOU off the hook—not if you are a CHRISTian. LIVE UP TO YOUR NAME!!!! BE like CHRIST!
JESUS IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE OUR EXAMPLE. Right here in the face of his enemies, Jesus prays for God to forgive His enemies! Jesus did not ask God the Father for judgment, vengeance, or punishment of his enemies but he prayed for their FORGIVENESS! What is the lesson learned?
When you find yourselves in difficult situations with difficult people who are doing all they can to make your life difficult, Your response should echo Christ’ as he hung there from the cross.
…FATHER FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO!
Who is in need of your forgiveness today? Who haven’t you forgiven? Who haven’t you let off the hook?
Sometimes the one person that we struggle to forgive the most is ourself. Afterall we are often our biggest critics. Is that you? Are you still holding yourself hostage for things in your past? I urge you to let yourself and others off of the hook. Allow God’s love, and grace to both rest in you and flow through you toward others.