THE FIRST WORD:
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
"Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other 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 23:32-34)
As we approach the last seven words of Christ, one must do so with the attitude as on bended knee. This approach is rooted in the tension that is held if you have ever been by the bedside of a loved one who is about to pass to glory. Not only can the passing of a loved one be horrible but at the same time, strangely beautiful. This is our picture of Christ’s final words upon his death. The first and last words of Christ are bookended in the prayer, “Father . . . ,” as we hear the first two persons of the Godhead strategizing concerning the salvation of humanity! Let’s hear the first words of Christ.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Has anyone ever hurt you? I mean, really hurt you. As Christ struggles to utter these eternity-changing words, imagine His body ravaged by the whipping from a cat of nine tails, a crown of thorns ripping through His brow, the pain of dull metal hammering through His hands and feet and, finally, the weight of His own body suspended in air with the force of gravity hanging on three nails driven into a cross.
No one has ever hurt me that bad, yet I’ve held onto unforgiveness towards them! However, as it might appear that Christ is forgiving the pain and death being inflicted upon him by the Jewish leaders and the relatively innocent Roman soldiers, the true forgiveness that Christ prays for to the Father is for your sin and mine. The concept of forgiveness of sin is part of the Hebrew people’s worldview, culture, and theology, and is something the audience around the cross would have understood (See Leviticus 16).
There’s only one barrier that keeps us eternally separated from Christ—our sin.
As we enter this Lenten season and reflect on the last words of Christ, be encouraged to get away from our common distractions and meditate on Christ’s prayer on the cross for you—”Father, forgive them”.
Jacob Myers, Cross-Cultural Worker in Residence, Randall University