“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis
A few days before He went to the cross, Jesus told the disciples what would happen during their final Passover meal. Knowing what lay ahead, Jesus prayed to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane that the cup might pass from Him. He was betrayed by Judas, arrested by religious authorities, and interviewed by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Without any reason, the crowd demands that He be crucified. First, brutally scourged by the Romans, Jesus is crucified between two criminals as part of a public spectacle. Jesus, dangling there in excruciating pain, says: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing…” (Luke 23:34).
What are you thinking in times of real trouble? You would probably be thinking, “Why is this happening to me?” or “When will this all be over?” But not Jesus. With gasping breaths, Jesus asks His Father for the forgiveness of others. Isaiah 53:12 says, “Because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors” (ESV).
He asks His Father to forgive the Roman authorities who scourged Him, mocked Him, and crucified Him. Forgive the Jewish leaders who had a vendetta against Jesus. The request for forgiveness includes the fickle crowd who hailed Him as King when He entered Jerusalem and now were demanding His crucifixion. Forgiveness for the disciples who pledged never to leave His side but disappeared.
In this statement from the cross, Jesus does not name who He is specifically forgiving. Most people would speculate that Jesus was seeking forgiveness for the Romans who crucified Him and the mob that clamored for it. But rather than seeing Jesus’ request to forgive others, we need to insert our names. This passage isn’t about us being able to forgive others even though that is true. It is about Jesus forgiving us for our sins. We need His forgiveness and grace more than we need anything else.
Can we look at this scene on the cross and understand the depth of His passion, then justify our unwillingness to forgive our neighbor? As those who have been forgiven much, we owe much, both to our Lord and to our others: “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love” ( Luke 7:47).
Wherever you find yourself today, on the offering or receiving end of forgiveness, you can find wisdom, peace, and the ability to offer or receive this precious gift from the One who paid for and gives ultimate forgiveness, our Lord Jesus.
- What is forgiveness to you?
- Is there power in forgiveness? Why or why not?
- What happens if I don’t forgive?