September 27, 2020
By Ross Patterson
❖ The Sanhedrin had done its worst! The priests had done their worst in stirring up the people against Him! Pilate and Herod (as political leaders in Judea) had executed justice unjustly! The Roman soldiers had performed their duty and crucified Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
❖ Now He hangs between heaven and earth, crucified! Now He was enduring the physical pain of one of the most evil and painful tortures devised by the sinful heart of man.
❖ Yes! In the life of Jesus, it is Friday! We call it “Good Friday!” because on it the Christ sealed our redemption, the forgiveness of all our sins.
❖ That day witnessed the death of the Creator by His creature, man, who was made originally in the very image of God, to reflect the glory of God. So it could also be called “Black Friday.”
❖ Yet it is a “Good Friday” for all those who put their trust in this vicarious death of the Son of God for our sins.
❖ But for those who reject Christ and His salvation - it is a “Black Friday”.
The Word of Forgiveness
❖ Jesus is crucified! There He hangs! Silent! Alone! What will happen next!
❖ Will the thunderous and mighty judgment of God fall on those who have murdered the King of glory? Will the earth open and swallow them?
❖ No! Because the judgment of the Father is falling on His Son who is receiving in His body and soul the punishment of our sins! This is indeed a holy day! The climax of history up to this moment!
❖ This is the hour when my sins (and yours!) will be blotted out and the black stains of sin will be cleansed into a purity whiter than snow!
❖ But wait! His lips are moving! Is He crying for pity? No!
❖ Is He pronouncing the curse of God upon His crucifiers?
❖ No! Astonishingly, it is the exact opposite! He is praying for His crucifiers!
❖ “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” - He is praying that His Father would forgive them this most heinous of all sins!
❖ It is the first of seven highly meaningful words that Jesus would speak on that first Good Friday – each worthy of a sermon and our careful meditation.
❖ Is it not amazing that in His suffering for our sins, He occupies Himself with prayer – the prayer of intercession for His enemies!
❖ Here we truly see our Lord as our great High Priest – first offering Himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins and at the same time acting as the Intercessor for those who had sinned against Him most wickedly!
❖ Truly He sets us an example:
o He Himself taught us to pray for our enemies and those who “persecute you.” - now He puts it into action!
o So, when someone hurts you in word or deed, is it our first heart thought to pray for them – to forgive them? - or get even?
o Is it not rather to demand their apology & request for forgiveness?
o This was not & is not the way of Jesus! He does not wait for the priests to repent & beg for divine mercy - He seeks their forgiveness beforehand.
o The Christ-way is, as Paul states in Col. 3:13 - “Bear with each other & forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you!”
o Do you have a grievance against one of these brothers or sisters in Christ?
o What is the state of your heart toward them? One of anger & self-justification - which says “I will not forgive you until you apologise!”
o It is true that this is not an easy thing to do - requiring much of God’s grace & Spirit!
o Paul & Jesus say - “Forgive as the Lord forgave you!”
o This begs the question - “What is the process by which God forgives us our sins?”
o You see, if the Lord had waited for us to repent & say “sorry” for each of our sins, we would be still lost in the darkness of our sins.
o The compassionate God knew our hearts and “when we were His enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son.” (Rom. 5:10)
o So if you harbour a grudge against a person or government, may the Lord Jesus give you the heart of Jesus and pray for them! And forgive them! Period! Difficult as it may be, our Saviour directs us to “forgive as the Lord forgave you!”
❖ At the point of death, He engages in the ministry of praying for forgiveness!
For Whom Did He Pray?
❖ One marvels that Jesus even made an effort to pray for His enemies in His dying hour! Yes! The “them” in this context can only refer to:
o The Jews –
▪ the Sanhedrin who plotted against Him and hounded Pilate into holding a trial;
▪ the Jewish crowd who screamed out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” to Pilate, pressuring him to make an unjust decision.
o The Romans –
▪ Pilate, the Roman appointed Governor of Judea, responsible for executing justice, found no basis for condemning Him, but yet did so, making the ultimate decision for Jesus to be crucified and for which he, in Roman law, was fully responsible.
▪ Herod, the Tetrarch of Galilee, also appointed by the Romans to govern Galilee, had the opportunity to pardon Jesus, yet acted unjustly and sent Him back to Pilate.
▪ Lastly, the soldiers who hammered the nails into their Creator.
▪ But, viewing the whole teaching of scripture on the event, we cannot escape adding a last category - us - you/me - as the hymn writer aptly says - “Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon you? It is my treason, Lord, that has undone Thee! ’Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied Thee! I crucified Thee?
The Efficacy of His Prayer
❖ Again, we are confronted with the forgiving love of God through His Son! - He is praying for forgiveness for His enemies who have committed the mother of all crimes, the sin of all time! – “Father, forgive them.”
❖ And when the Son, whose actions always bring pleasure to the Father, prays – would they not achieve their goal – forgiveness? Yes!
❖ But someone will say, that forgiveness is always preceded by repentance – a deep heartfelt sorrow for one’s sins. That must first be expressed by the Jew & Gentile!
❖ And though Jesus does not make it a condition in His prayer - that is what happened - but not that day.
❖ 50 days later, on the Day of Pentecost, when Peter preached the gospel to the assembled Jews (including Jews from the crowds crying for His crucifixion, priests and members of the Sanhedrin) from all over the Roman Empire, that 3000 responded to his invitation to “repent” from their sins.
❖ How many of those who cried “Crucify Him!” repented and believed that Jesus was the Christ we do not know – but, for sure, there were those who received forgiveness for their heinous sin. In the following days we read of many more Jews of Jerusalem doing the same.
❖ And then, in chapter 6 of Acts, we read more amazing words – “a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” They too repented and acknowledged that the condemned criminal, Jesus of Calvary was their High Priest, who had offered up Himself as a sin offering! Actually. their new-found faith had put them out of work!
❖ And 2000 years later, you & I, by God’s amazing grace & the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit, were granted repentance & the forgiveness of all our sins.
❖ Yes! Jesus’ prayer on the cross was dramatically and powerfully answered by His Father.
❖ Sometimes we are tempted to think that the worst of mankind – the mass murderers, the war criminals, the child abusers, the rapists – are beyond Christ’s redemption, beyond the grace of Christ.
❖ We think that only medium or minimal sinners like my law-biding neighbour can be a recipient of Christ’s forgiveness.
❖ Please resist that temptation – in the light of Christ’s prayer for His own murderers! His own abusers!
❖ Yes, you can pray for such people in faith for His death reaches to the worst of sinners – even to the murderers of Christians! Remember Paul? - who saw himself as “the chief of sinners” because he had killed Christians.
❖ We also know of Augustine, John Newton & Charles Colson - Prison Fellowship workers will tell you of many criminals who have been found by Jesus while in Prison.
❖ You may have seen the film “Unbroken” - a true story of World War 2 where an American airman was captured by the Japanese & tortured mercilessly - after the was he was converted, returned to Japan where he personally forgave as many of his guards as he could track down.
❖ Another poignant story is the 9 year old Napalm girl of the Vietnam War - Her village was mistakenly bombed by American bombers - the napalm burnt her back horribly so that she still has constant pain at the age of 56 after numerous operations. She also was converted to the forgiving Jesus & has publicly forgiven all involved in her painful life.
❖ But now we must consider a problem with His prayer – Why should Jesus petition His Father for their forgiveness and not grant that same forgiveness Himself – as He did in His public ministry. He said to the paralytic in Mark 2:5 – “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
❖ The answer is found in that His teaching ministry is now over and He is now in the act of completing His priestly ministry of atonement as our Sinbearer.
o As such He was our Representative (representing our humanity).
o He was no longer in the place of divine authority to forgive sins.
o Here on the cross He was one of us – needing to petition the Father to forgive.
The Reason for Their Forgiveness
❖ It is marvellous beyond words that Jesus even presents a reason for His prayer to His Father - but He does! – “for they do not know what they are doing.”
❖ Yes, they did know that they were crucifying a Man who had dared to declare that He was their Messiah; and some even knew that His trial was a mockery of Roman justice –
❖ But none really knew that they were crucifying the Son of God; none comprehended that this Jesus of Nazareth was indeed who he said he was – Messiah! Immanuel! The son of David!
❖ Theirs was a great sin! Yet a sin of ignorance!
❖ Are they excusable in God’s sight? No! In the Mosaic Law God had acknowledged that some sins were in ignorance – but sin nevertheless and they needed sin offerings also. (Lev. 5:15-16)
❖ And they ought to have known that He was their Messiah!
o His teaching was with divine authority
o His miracles were proof that He was from God.
❖ The word “forgive” has another meaning that has relevance here. There is the sense – Let their judgment for their sin be delayed, giving them time to learn what they have really done.
❖ And it was delayed – for nearly 40 years this generation was given time to learn, repent and believe.
❖ Many did! But many didn’t and their judgment came in 70 A.D. when the Romans utterly destroyed Jerusalem & Israel ceased to be a nation. The survivors were transported as slaves to all parts of the Roman Empire.
❖ That time of opportunity is with us today. The Great Judgment is just over the horizon, but there is no longer an excuse for ignorance – the gospel is being preached to all corners of the earth. The Word of God is in hundreds of languages.
❖ The reason - “for they do not know what they are doing”- does not stand any longer.
❖ And people from all nations are still repenting and receiving Christ’s forgiveness. His Word of intercession is still bearing fruit today! Even in times of Corona virus & continued persecution.
❖ So again we have had the opportunity to reflect on the first of Jesus’ seven words on the cross!
❖ How will it change your life? His unique suffering and death demands a response! His word of forgiveness demands a response.
o Will it leave you with an increased awareness of the enormity of your sin and unworthiness? “Mine! Mine was the transgression! But Thine the deadly pain!”
o Will it leave you speechless and overwhelmed that your sin could only be forgiven if the Son of God became incarnate and became your Substitute?
o Will it draw forth a greater desire to meditate on this great plan of salvation purposed by God in eternity?
o Will it make you want to search the Bible more deeply to discover more of this Christ who died for the forgiveness of your sins?
o Will it enthuse you with boldness & wisdom, to give a stronger Christian testimony in your daily life?
o Will it challenge you to forgive the grievances you have against your neighbours? Not to do so in your self-righteousness & pride simply says you living in sin & don’t yet understand the gospel of salvation.
❖ Jesus’ first word on the cross was a word of intercession for the forgiveness of sinners like you and me.
o What a great Saviour! As He is in the act of achieving our salvation, He is praying for those who will receive it.
o It is a word that perfectly describes our great High Priest – interceding and sacrificing simultaneously.
o A compassionate Saviour! A forgiving Saviour! Truly He is the Son of God!
❖ And what’s He doing now? Why! He’s still interceding for sinners – us – that these changes might be our heart response!