Hanging on the cross, in the last hours of His earthly life, Jesus forgave the people who were killing Him. Can we do any less than to forgive those who have offended us?
The cross, like forgiveness, is both horizontal and vertical. Vertically, we are forgiven by God. Horizontally, we are called to forgive others. If there was ever a time in the history of the world that forgiveness needs to become an elixir for everything ails us, it’s now.
"Our faith in Jesus transfers God’s righteousness to us and he now declares us flawless in his eyes. This means we can now enjoy true and lasting peace with God, all because of what our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, has done for us. Our faith guarantees us permanent access into this marvelous kindness that has given us a perfect relationship with God. What incredible joy bursts forth within us as we keep on celebrating our hope of experiencing God’s glory!
"But that’s not all! Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!
For when the time was right, the Anointed One came and died to demonstrate his love for sinners who were entirely helpless, weak, and powerless to save themselves.
"Now, who of us would dare to die for the sake of a wicked person? We can all understand if someone was willing to die for a truly noble person. But Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly!
"And there is still much more to say of his unfailing love for us! For through the blood of Jesus we have heard the powerful declaration, 'You are now righteous in my sight.' And because of the sacrifice of Jesus, you will never experience the wrath of God. So if while we were still enemies, God fully reconciled us to himself through the death of his Son, then something greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, and because we share in his resurrection life, how much more we will be rescued from sin’s dominion!
"And even more than that, we overflow with triumphant joy in our new relationship of living in harmony with God—all because of Jesus Christ!”(TPT).
"Two criminals were led away with Jesus, and all three were to be executed together. When they came to the place that is known as The Skull, the guards crucified Jesus, nailing him on the center cross between the two criminals. While they were nailing Jesus to the cross, he prayed over and over, 'Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing'” (TPT).
Our servant Savior’s first words upon the cross—spoken even as the nails were being driven deep into His flesh like fiery fangs—are words of forgiveness. As His guiltless blood falls to the ground, mercy falls from His lips.
This is not what He simply said—this is who He supremely is. This He knows and He wants us to know: there is purpose in His pain. This is why He came.
He Himself said it to the seeker Nicodemus who approached Him by night, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).
Even now – especially now – our Great High Priest is interceding. The soldiers hear it. The two thieves on His left and right hear it. The gathered onlookers hear it, too. But most importantly, the Father hears it. “Forgive them.”
Clearly, this petition for mercy extends beyond the soldiers simply doing their hellish duty like gentle ripples under the ocean of grace. It extends to the crowds who have cheered or jeered on this very day. It extends to those who conspired to bring it all about.
But that prayer for mercy extends farther still. That call for clemency expands to … all, to every son and daughter of Adam’s race in every age and in every place—to you and to me—and to all we sinners whose transgressions were the consummate cause which have now nailed the Son of God to Calvary's cross.
Yes, He stands “in the gap” in that chasm created constructed between Creator and creation. He alone upon two timbers has bridged that darkened abyss. He intercedes for us, whose sins He “bare in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).
Down through the corridors of time that fountain of forgiveness will flow to us. The headwaters of that river of mercy can be traced here—to the crest of this barren hill. This request of the Father was made here in this moment as His atoning blood begins to be shed.
The first “word” from the cross is Jesus giving voice to what His own spotless blood is asking, and still asks while these days of mercy continue. “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they do.”