Father, forgive them.

I’m taking a quick break from my weekly paper writing.  I was recently asked by my pastor, who didn’t know better :),  to give a short meditation to speak in church on Jesus’ first statement while on the cross.  I thought I’d post it, because in seeing Jesus’ reaction, I was immediately reminded of my failure to be anything like him when I was going though very painful times in my life, specifically my ugly church experiences where I made many enemies.  It has been an inspiration for me to read and think about this moment in Jesus’ life, and is a story about a person’s heart that we should all strive for, whether Christian or not.

When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right and one 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. – Luke 23:33-34

At this point, the Roman soldiers who were responsible for performing the gruesome task of crucifixion had finished.  As was the custom, they began sorting though his clothing to decide who would get which item.

This was not the beginning of Jesus’ torture, but final portion of a day filled with it.  He had been beaten by his guards after his trial in the house of the High Priest early that morning. Later he was flogged under orders from Pilate, probably by hardened soldiers because of its intense brutality.  Afterward, he was beaten repeatedly in the head with a staff by a company of Roman soldiers.

So finally, the most painful torture yet had begun: the crucifixion— a gruesome practice that the Romans adopted from the Greeks and Medes and had perfected.  It was indented to be the most painful death possible with a purpose to scare observers into never breaking the same law themselves.

The first reaction to a terrible experience is often one of shock, where a person tries as best they can to make sense of what is happening to them.  But after the shock has worn off, other thoughts and feelings come to the surface—anger, bitterness, hopelessness.  This has been my experience over the years during the most difficult times.  When I am squeezed just so much, ugliness comes out.  Unable to handle the pain in those circumstances, after the shock had worn off, anger and hate dominated my life long afterward.

That was how I handled pain.  But how did Jesus handle it?  By this time, the shock of what was happening to him must have worn off, and the thoughts and feelings that come afterward must have taken its place.  I can guess what a man would be thinking.  But what was God thinking?

But even before his first statement on the cross, we are given a glimpse into Jesus’ heart and mind. Not more than twenty or thirty minutes ago, we see him consoling a group of women mourning for him.  He is worried not for himself, but for them—he tries to warn them of the terrible days ahead and is discouraged for them.

But now on the cross, we see His words once again revealing his heart and its focus on others, even in his excruciating pain.  However, this time not towards those who are weeping for him, but towards the uncaring men who are killing him— “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus was not focused on his physical pain, or his spiritual suffering  soon to occur when he would be forsaken by God and left alone.  His mind was on the people around him.  Even though they are doing something terribly wrong, he understood that they were completely unaware of who he was and what he was doing. They were killing the one who was sent to save them from their brokenness that separated them from a God that so dearly loves them.

In this moment, in this pivotal point in all of history, it was God Himself who had come to pay the price to reconcile all men and women who are willing to Himself.  How could they have known this?

So in these words, we see the heart and mind of God.  It is one not focused on himself and his pain, but on the people he is dying to save—A people who are lost, ignorant, confused, without hope, hurt, and angry.  In reality, the events of this day, even at this very moment, were not hopeless but were the outcome of God’s orchestration—the hardening of men’s resolve to accomplish his will to reconcile a lost world to himself.  While he accomplished that great purpose, his heart and mind were on his people with compassion—both his friends, and his enemies.

This is God’s heart.  I wish very badly that it was mine too.

    2 Responses to “Father, forgive them.”

    1. xJane

      That’s absolutely beautiful. I wish I had that kind of capacity for forgiveness (I feel like I’m getting better—but certainly nowhere near the meditative state that Jesus was in). Certainly something to aspire to

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    2. Jonathan
      Author Comment

      xJane – great to see you around! I must stop by MOF again sometime and see what you guys are talking about again! It’s my prayer that we both aspire to Jesus’ heart for people.

      Reply to this comment.

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