are we now living in the time when the tree is dry? It seems like it. Like every age in every generation, we say, how much more can the world take? How much more can we spiral downward, How much more can we dry out. it seems like we are coming to the end!
As Jesus marches to the place of the skull, he warns them the world will continue with hardships… but then// his first words on the cross are the solution:// forgiveness. No matter how dark the world may seem, no matter how dark YOUR world becomes, forgiveness is the key to find peace. READ Luke 23:32-34. Learn to forgive. Learn to receive forgiveness. Make it a way of life. Find peace and joy though it’s a hard world. Jesus first words on the cross underscore the importance of forgiveness as a powerful life changing act! Jesus’ practice perfect forgiveness; we look to His perfect forgiveness as an example for us. Forgiveness is the answer to smooth over the rough edges of this old world. Forgiveness is a bridge to bring peace and hope.
Let’s look close at forgiveness based on Jesus’ first words on the cross.
1. Forgiveness is letting go of past offenses. This is not new! No doubt when Jesus says, “Father forgive them” he has in mind Judas who betrayed him, religious leaders that plotted against him, the guards that mocked him, taunted him and thrust long thorns on his head, the court that broke its own rules to condemn him and gave him an unfair trial, Pilate the wimp that didn’t want to condemn Jesus but did anyway, Herod that saw Jesus as a spectacle to taunt…and more. when Jesus says forgive “them” I include me that has turned away from the Lord in my thoughts, words and actions, too many times to count.
2. This might be new: The Jesus’ way of forgiveness also means forgiving the future. It’s wild the way Luke writes Jesus words on forgiveness quickly followed by a long list of opposition to Jesus. READ Luke 23:34 without a period… “are doing” active…. And they cast lots… also 23:35, 36-37, 38, 39. It’s like Jesus is forgiving in advance…
It can be frustrating when people hurt us over and over and over again. They say they’ll change but then they don’t. At it’s worst, every time we are let down, bullied, stomped all over, we relive the hurt thinking it is going to get better. We feel so helpless and depressed. Jesus is showing us that forgiveness is for the future too… because we need the peace that comes with a forgiving heart before it even happens, we need to lighten the weight of disappointment. The old saying is true, “unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” You need to forgive even when it seems like nothing changes…
3. You forgive even though many won’t respond like you want. Jesus’ perfect forgiveness meets a brick wall. In our minds, when we forgive, the other person repents, and we live happily ever after. If you are continuously disappointed because your forgiving words are not met with perfect repentance then I have a simple question: What planet are you living on! Jesus dies with peace even though the abuse continues. He offers forgiveness and most of the responses it doesn’t appear to make a bit of difference. Sometimes the hardest situations are abuse from the past, maybe a hurtful person has died and there is no possibility of earthly reconciliation…. I find great comfort/truth to know that Jesus forgave those who did not immediately repent…. Look at Judas!!!!
4. But guess what??? some will repent. Amen! And when they repent it’s Party Time! It is exciting when the behavior/attitudes are transformed, and it is like a new life/relationship. I officiated at a renewal of a wedding vows ceremony where the husband was so abusive and so evil, but he did completely change, and it was just like a wedding with suits/dresses/ bridesmaids…. Restoration of a broken relationship comes when there is forgiveness and repentance. There is nothing more beautiful than a restored relationship.
The second criminal repents and Jesus promises a reunion in heaven: READ Luke 23:40-43. Never give up on the possibility of complete reconciliation. Many won’t. bit some will. Forgiveness brings peace even if the other person never changes, but to reconcile is the sweetest of all.
5. Here’s an insight from Jesus words that help clarify the nature of sin and make forgiveness easier: The people that hurt you don’t know what they are doing! Isn’t that what Jesus says? “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” It’s easier to be a forgiving person when you take Jesus literally at his word. One of the lies we tell ourselves is people that hurt me know what they are doing… Jesus says they don’t. People are purposefully destructive, but they don’t see the big picture. They don’t know how your mind thinks. They lie to themselves and justify their actions. When people hurt you of course it is hurtful, yet there is a very real sense that it says more about them than you…
I know what some of you are thinking, “Carl, you don’t understand. They knew what they were doing before they were doing it. They knew they were going to hurt me and they went ahead and did it anyway. When he double-crossed me he knew what he was doing. When he stepped out on me he knew what he was doing. She knew what she was doing.”
But what else could Jesus possibly mean? Jesus was talking to guards who knew they were mocking him, roman soldiers who drove nails into his hands and feet… but they didn’t know who he truly was, they did not know the big picture... crucifixion was what their commander ordered them to do. Surely they didn’t really know WHAT they were doing.
Pilate was just passing the buck. Herod thought Jesus was a clown… How do people live with themselves that hurt others? They divorce the people they hurt from their personality, just an object in the way… when people hurt you they don’t know your personality, your history, what you’ve been through, the way you think. Even the ones that think they do…. That’s what we do when we hurt others, we don’t know them. That’s the only way I can fathom the mob of boys on the news that attacked the 15 year old girl to get her Air Jordan’s… she wasn’t a person with shoes, she was shoes with a person attached and in the way…. She was a convenient target to get an adrenalin rush. Commentators said she’ll be scarred for life, of course… but the attackers ignored the fact that she is a person…
Of course people are guilty when they abuse others in any way, but in their mind they justify it…Jesus insists they don’t fully know what they are doing… that makes forgiveness a bit easier for me… If I could practice the same perfect forgiveness as Jesus, I want to give grace to my enemies, those that hurt me.
Judas is guilty, but of all the betrayers of Jesus he is the most haunting because he had a bit more of a clue as to the fullness of Christ, Peter is very similar, but Peter seemed to know what he had done and fully repented ~ but Judas found no peace and killed himself. Judas came close but he didn’t get Jesus, he didn’t get grace. He didn’t understand the cross. As people begin to fathom the depth of what they have done, that is when true repentance happens. The thief on the cross understood when he said, “…. We are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
I hope you find it a tad easier to forgive people when you see the larger perspective that they do not know WHAT they are doing. If you disagree with me, I dare you to wrestle with Jesus words that they don’t know… They don’t know the larger ramifications, they don’t see the larger picture… Is it too much to look at those who hurt you and feel sorry for them for their short-sighted view of the world? Wouldn’t you rather be the one to be hurt than to hurt others? Forgiveness is the beginning of peace in this world with the possibility of reconciliation.
6. Another way of saying the same thing: People need forgiveness more than they know. When Jesus cried, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” he was also saying “Father forgive them because they need forgiveness more than they know.” If people don’t know what they are doing, then we need to forgive them for their sake. they knew what they were doing when they made that telephone call or when they wrote that letter, when they said that thing that tore into your heart, when they left and walked out. They knew exactly what they were doing but they didn’t know how bad and terrible it was. They did not know the full story. They only knew on the surface. The people, who have hurt you, need your forgiveness more than they need anything else in the world. You can’t control how they respond. You can’t dictate whether they repent or not. Yet that does not change the fact that they need it more than they know.
7. The last truth is the most amazing: Jesus forgave you and me when we least deserved it. That’s why we forgive others.
We forgive the past offenses. When we know what’s coming but can’t stop it, we forgive the future hurts. Some may repent but others may not. When they repent have a reconciliation party! Keep in my the perspective of Jesus that those who hurt you don’t fully know what they are doing. They need forgiveness more than they realize. Jesus forgave those who least deserve it including you and me.
It is easier to talk about forgiveness than it is to do it. Yet we all know how much we suffer when we forget about the perfect forgiveness Jesus gave while dying on the cross. Grant us the courage to take the giant step of forgiveness. Teach us that however painful forgiveness may be, it is infinitely better than refusing to forgive. We ask these things in the name of Jesus, who forgave us. Amen.