For our daily devotions leading up to Good Friday, I’m going to share with you some short devotions on the 7 Words of Christ from the cross by Pastor Emeritus Daniel Fleischer. Here’s the first one:
THE FIRST WORD FROM THE CROSS
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Throughout His trial Jesus did not complain. He did not strike back with His tongue at the evil that was hurled at Him. He was silent, except when it was necessary to witness to the truth or proclaim the honor of God. Yet upon the cross, when the die was cast He spoke treasured words. The first words were words of intercession. But for whom were they spoken? They were spoken for the betrayer and the denier. They were spoken for the soldiers who had taken Him in the garden as well as for those who had borne false witness against Him. They were spoken for the High Priest and the crowd that called for His crucifixion. Included were Pilate and Herod, and finally those who crucified Him and mocked Him at the cross.
Even as He prayed He witnessed to His relationship to God. He called Him, “Father.” He did not say to the people at the cross, “I forgive you.” The offenses against Him were directed at the Father who had sent Him. He implored the Father to forgive them, and thus showed that He had not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
The cross of torment and death was the cross of love. We sing in a hymn, “The King of love my Shepherd is.” Never was such love shown by one person for so many as when the Savior God, having taken the sins of mankind on Himself, died to validate the very prayer that He spoke, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
But this all sounds so abstract to many. Furthermore, of what importance are the words spoken by Jesus Christ two millennia ago? Today the issues are race relations, the economy, the impending war, taxes, social welfare and equality and a myriad of other things. Who cares about what Christ said so long ago?
In response let us recognize that those words were spoken for us and for all people. When the crowd cried “crucify Him” Jesus” response was “Forgive them, Father.” In the face of the world’s blasphemy, Jesus says, “Forgive them.” When our conscience cries out against us because we have transgressed, Jesus” words still echo across the centuries, “Father forgive them.” The message of the Gospel is that where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation. All who recognize the terrible burden of sin and its eternal consequence are thankful for the price Jesus paid for which reason the Father graciously forgives our sin. Amen.