The final words uttered by a dying person are often of great significance. Never has this been more true than in the case of the Lord Jesus. Consider this: Jesus has been beaten beyond recognition. He has been spat upon. He has been mocked and humiliated. Now He hangs on the cross writhing in pain and agony. As He nears asphyxiation, does He cry out for pity? Does He curse His crucifiers? Does He plead to be set free? No. He prays, not for Himself, but for His enemies. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus didn’t mean that those around Him were innocent of the crucifixion. Judas knew he had betrayed Christ. Pilate knew he had condemned the Lord. The crowd knew they had cried out for His blood, and the soldiers knew they had nailed Him to the cross. They all knew what they had done. But did they know the enormity of their crime? Did they know that they had crucified the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords?
In spite of their inhumane ignorance, Jesus extends God’s greatest gift to man: Forgiveness. Why? All of us are sinners, and the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). The price must be paid. We stand condemned, but God has provided a substitute in Jesus. Forgiveness from God means more than escaping the penalty of sin and hell forever. When we come to God through His Son, He not only saves us from a terrifying judgement, but He justifies us and treats us as if we’d never sinned.
Those of us who have experienced God’s forgiveness know the freedom of it. And if Jesus willingly forgave us, shouldn’t we willingly forgive our brothers and sisters who also belong to Him?
Inspired by the sermon notes of Pastor Gary Elliott