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The Power of Forgiveness

Posted on March 29, 2013 at 5:31 PM Comments comments (4)

             "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. . . ."
                                                                                     Luke 23:34   

The culmination of God’s redemptive mission on earth began with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem – traditionally called Easter or Resurrection Week. Saint Matthew reported that in spite of the religious leaders’ opposition, the people sang this great heroic song: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt. 21:9) The Master was riding a “colt, the foal of a donkey” as was prophesied by Zechariah (Zec 9:9). He cleansed the temple and reminded them by quoting Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:1, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers” (Mt 21:13).  The text reveals that the “whole city was stirred and asked: Who is this man?” I would answer that He is the Word that became flesh, the Word that created everything in heaven and on earth (Jn 1:1-3,14).  Not only that, He is the King of kings, the only true perfect High Priest, and the Prophet as was promised by Moses, the servant of God (Dt 18:5). 

The King was betrayed by His own people because, as the Scripture says “they received Him not.” (Jn 1:7) However, the promise is “But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name” (Jn 1:12-13). God’s mission on earth in Christ must be fulfilled.  He was arrested by the Jews, and judged  at night (which was against their law). They presented Him to Pilate in the morning as one who has been found guilty punishable by death.  At this time Judah was ruled by the Roman Empire.  So, there were two laws in Jerusalem.  The Jews were allowed to practice their religion and its laws, but the Romans’ laws were the law of the entire empire. The Jews had to obey it. Hence, they could not sentence anyone to death; it had to be done in the Roman’s court. This is why Pilate was involved.  His court had the jurisdiction to sentence anyone to death.  However, Pilate confessed that Christ had not committed any crime deserving of death.  But due to the insistence of the religious leaders, and that God’s will must be done; Jesus must face the cross for mankind. Thus Christ was finally nailed on the Cross.  The seven sayings of Jesus on the cross are called the Seven Last Words from the Cross. Traditionally, these seven sayings are called words of: 

   1. Forgiveness - Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what
                                               they do.”
  2. Salvation - Luke 23:43: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in
  3.  Relationship-John 19:26-27: “Woman, behold your son. [To John] Behold your 
  4.  Abandonment - Matthew 27:46: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” 
  5.  Distress – John 19:28: “I am thirsty.”  6. Reunion –John 19:30: “It is . . .
  7.  Triumph- Luke 23:46: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” 

It’s not my intention to discuss each Word. My focus on this Good Friday is the first Word of Jesus on the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…” (Lk 23:34).  The first Word of Jesus on the Cross set the stage of Christianity’s distinction from other religions. I will only discuss the phrase, “Father, forgive them....”  

“Father, forgive them…” – This is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:12: “He made intercession for the transgressors.” Christ prayed for those who were guilty of putting Him on the Cross because they did it out of ignorance. The Jews knew, indeed, that Christ was "innocent” and they had evidence, if they would have looked at it, that He was the Messiah; but they did not know what would be the effect of their guilt.  They did not know what judgments and calamities they were bringing down upon their people. However, the grace of God is above man’s sin.  There are three things that we can learn from this prayer:  

  • Our duty is praying for our enemies, even when they are endeavoring most to injure us. If we sincerely pray for our enemies, God would pardon them and give them better minds. This may lead to their salvation.
  • Forgiveness is the power and excellence of the Christian religion. No other religion teaches people to pray for the forgiveness of their enemies. Men of the world seek for "revenge;" the Christian bears reproaches and persecutions with patience, and prays that God would pardon those who injure them, and save them from their sins.
  • The greatest sinners, through the intercession of Jesus, may obtain pardon. For example, God forgave Paul. Paul persecuted the Christians out of ignorance and unbelief (1Timothy 1:13). There is no reason to doubt that many of His enemies obtained forgiveness and new life in Christ.  (Compare Acts 2:37; 2:42-43; 6:7; 14:1.) God also winked  at  the  ignorance of the Gentiles (Acts 17:30).  

As we celebrate this Holy Week, may I ask you this unique question?  Do you have an enemy? What are you doing about it?  The problem about our enemies is we carry them wherever we go.  The person is not physically with us but he/she is emotionally. If you are at work, every thought you have about the person indicates that person’s presence while the person is maybe having a good time somewhere. This kind of burden brings psychosomatic illness which cannot be cured by any medical doctor.  In this case, the healing power is in your hand.  I know forgiveness is not a cake-walk; it’s difficult to do.  But put that issue at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to empower you to forgive the one who had hurt you, and turn him into your friend. Or, as a similar saying goes, “Withholding forgiveness is like swallowing a poison and hoping that the other person dies.”

Happy  Easter/Resurrection Week from all of us at Africa International Christian Mission.

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