Father Forgive Them – Jesus’ first statement on the cross was personally seeking forgiveness for the world’s most wretched sinners. Jesus showed and informed humanity there is no sin God cannot forgive. If there was forgiveness available for those vile people then there is forgiveness available for me, you, or anyone. It’s a picture of God’s never-ending love.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE CHAPTER 23
Father Forgive Them (Luke 23:39-49)
By Pastor Delbert Young
Father, Forgive Them
Scriptures: Luke 23:38, Luke 23:34, Acts 6:7, John 19:23-24, Luke 23:39-42, Luke 23:43, Luke 23:44-46, Mark 15:34, Mark 15:37, Hebrews 10:19-20, Hebrews 4:16, Luke 23:46, John 19:28-30, Luke 23:47-49, Mark 15:39, Luke 23:48-49
Last time in our Gospel According to Luke study we left Jesus hanging on the cross being mocked and humiliated around the theme the death squad developed from the written notice placed above the head of Jesus.
Luke 23:38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
The death squads consisted of trained professionals. A large part of their expertise was to turn the person hideously executed into a laughing-stock and this death squad was the best. A laughable crucifixion made a good crucifixion. Jewish leaders knew the Romans made a comedy of a crucifixion and was the reason they demanded Jesus be crucified. Punishing or scourging him was not enough. They didn’t want Jesus taken seriously by the people. They wanted him remembered as a laughing-stock. They seemed successful.
The bloodthirsty spell upon the people continued as even both thieves joined in (Mat 27:44; Mar 15:32). This is amazing, showing how successful the death squad was at turning this bloodbath into an infectious humorous burlesque. All mocked Jesus: the soldiers; crowd; passers-by; the thieves. How did Jesus respond? How would you?
Jesus spoke seven recorded statements from the cross. 2) He spoke to one of the thieves. We will talk about this shortly (Luk 23:43). 3) He spoke to his mother and to John the apostle (Joh 19:26-27). 4) About the ninth hour he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mar 15:34). 5) He spoke to the soldiers, “I am thirsty” (Joh 19:28). 6) He spoke to himself and said, “It is finished” (Joh 19:30). 7) He spoke to Father God saying, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luk 23:46). But, the first statement Jesus made during all the laughter and humiliation was,
Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “FATHER, FORGIVE THEM, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
His first statement was personally seeking forgiveness for the world’s most wretched sinners. Jesus showed and informed humanity there is no sin God cannot forgive if a person will repent. If there was forgiveness available for those vile people then there is forgiveness available for me, you, or anyone. It’s a picture of God’s never-ending love. Did he actually mean all of “them”? He certainly didn’t mean the soldiers and the criminals did he? Were the Jewish leaders included?
Only fifty days later at Pentecost three thousand were forgiven and baptized (Act 2:41). Many of those were people who lived in Jerusalem and Judah (Act 2:14) likely including those mocking that day. A few weeks later two thousand more believed and the number grew to five thousand (Act 4:4) there in Jerusalem. Amazingly, some of those there on the day Jesus was crucified became a part of the first church to ever exist in history.
Acts 6:7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples IN JERUSALEM INCREASED RAPIDLY, and a LARGE NUMBER of PRIESTS became obedient to the faith.
Some of the Jewish leaders even repented and became obedient to the faith. The thief obviously did and we’ll talk about him shortly, but something happened to more than the thief that day. Jesus prayed for their forgiveness. Many were. He’s prayed for your forgiveness too. No sin is too big or bad for God to forgive if we repent. What about us? What is our forgiveness tolerance? How much can we forgive?
The death squad took and shared the final belongings of all victims as an occupational perk. John gives us more information on this.
John 19:23-24 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the UNDERGARMENT remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide BY LOT who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did.
Another prophecy written a thousand years earlier was fulfilled (Psa 22:18). A man wore five pieces of clothing – cloak, sandals, a head-piece, a sash/belt, and an undergarment. There were four soldiers in a squad (Act 12:4). They all wanted the undergarment as it was seamless andwoven in one piece from top to bottom. They decided by lot who would get it. When we put all this together, Jesus was likely naked stripped of all dignity. Instead of God killing an animal to cover nakedness and sin as with Adam and Eve (Gen 3), he sacrificed Jesus to cover our nakedness and sin.
Luke 23:39-42 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “DON‘T YOU FEAR GOD,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But THIS MAN has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “JESUS, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Recall, one thief was crucified on Christ’s right and one on his left. The conversation between the two thieves would be across Jesus. One stopped heaping insults. He went from heaping insultsto repentance. He realized he was under the same sentence. He was about to die and come face to face with God Almighty! The fear of God hit him.
Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, “I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Take notice of the lower case “p” used. This isn’t a place such as Purgatory. It’s a dimension.This was where Jesus would be and Jesus wasn’t going to Purgatory. Apostle Paul talked and wrote about being caught up to paradise the “third heaven” (2Co 12:2-4). Paul “heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.” Paradise is a synonym for heaven. The first heaven is atmospheric. Second heaven is celestial. Third heaven is the abode of God. Revelation 2:7 talks about those who overcome and eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God. The tree of life is in the Holy City, the Lamb’s wife (Rev 22:19), not in Purgatory. Jesus simply said the thief was going to heaven today. His entire life qualified the criminal for hell, but in one moment he qualified for heaven.
Why did Jesus emphasize this with “I tell you the truth”? It’s because it’s so difficult to believe. How can God embrace a wretched sinner who only minutes prior was blaspheming God? Because there is no sin God cannot forgive. Two things happened to the criminal on the cross: 1) the fear of God (Rom 3:18) which is the first evidence of salvation; and, 2) the awareness of who Jesus is. He is the Christ, the King of the Kingdom of God. Only the king can pardon the condemned. Jesus just prayed, “Father forgive them.” This crowd received what Jesus prayed. How about you? This transformation took place in a moment, so can yours, but don’t wait till you’re about to die. Enjoy your salvation while you’re alive!
Likely all of us have asked at some point, “Am I really saved?” Some people really struggle with this. Learn from the criminal. 1) Do you fear God? 2) Is Jesus your King and Lord? If so, you will be in paradise with him.
Luke 23:44-46 It was now about the SIXTH HOUR, and DARKNESS came over the whole land until the NINTH HOUR, for the sun stopped shining. And the CURTAIN of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, HE BREATHED HIS LAST.
Three hours of darkness. It would seem the curtain of the temple being torn in two is out of context. Was it? No. The darkness, the curtain torn, and Jesus breathing his last breath are all connected. Something immensely meaningful and supernatural took place. Around noon, the sixth hour, it became dark. The lights went out and it remained dark until about 3 pm. The air had been full of the verbiage of mockery when unexpectedly an eerie darkness came. As they mocked the man hanging on the cross their world went pitch black. What would they have thought? Do you suppose they may have silenced the mockery? Did the jokes stop? What did happen?
We think the darkness was upon them. No. The darkness was upon Jesus. It was at this time God forsook Jesus. This was when the sins of the world came upon Jesus and he took all the sins of humanity.
Mark 15:34 And at the NINTH HOUR Jesus cried out in a LOUD VOICE, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” — which means, “My God, my God, why have you FORSAKEN ME?”
Mark 15:37 With a LOUD CRY, Jesus breathed his last.
This was the fulfillment of Christ’s death written by King David a thousand years earlier (Psa 22:1). Only God knows the future. How can anyone doubt when something so prophetic and profound was written in their scriptures a thousand years earlier?
The temple was separated by three primary sections: outer court; holy place; and most holy place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept symbolizing the presence of God. Only the high priest could go in there and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. All three areas were separated by curtains, but the curtain referenced here was the curtain separating the presence of God from the people. When this curtain was ripped, no longer was God’s presence separated. This happened as the priests were preparing to sacrifice thousands of lambs in the outer court, but the sacrifice of those lambs was useless. The true Lamb of God was sacrificed.
Hebrews 10:19-20 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the MOST HOLY PLACEBY THE BLOOD OF JESUS, by a new and living way opened for us THROUGH THE CURTAIN, that is,HIS BODY
The writer of Hebrews explained to the Jews/Hebrews exactly how Jesus fulfilled their sacrificial system. The curtain was his body. As Jesus died and his body ripped and pierced, the way was made.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
The way was made for you and me when this darkness came, the curtain was torn in two, and Jesus breathed his last. Jesus took our sins giving us access to God. God invites and welcomes you to come on in.
Luke 23:46 Jesus CALLED OUT WITH A LOUD VOICE, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
His being forsaken by Father was over. It was finished. The relationship was restored. I made mention how I didn’t think Jesus was so weak he couldn’t carry his cross. Instead Simon from Cyrene was forced to help to speed up the death parade. I also said it had been proven hanging in crucifixion did not cause death by asphyxiation. Rather death was usually from smashing the femur causing blood clots to go straight to the heart bringing heart failure. A person could not callout with a loud voice – meaning from the top of his lungs – if already too weak to carry his cross and after hanging on a cross for six hours. Neither could Jesus have called out with a loud voice if struggling for breath from asphyxiation. My point is Jesus would die when it was finished and only then.
John 19:28-30 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “IT IS FINISHED.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
I could talk about the drink and thoughts I have on its connection with the immediate death of Jesus after all was now completed. We will save it for another time. Just note the connection. The primary point is “IT IS FINISHED.” Jesus accomplished ALL.
Luke 23:47-49 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
This centurion had killed a righteous man!
Mark 15:39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and SAW HOW HE DIED, he said, “Surely THIS MAN was the Son of God!”
A Roman centurion was a commander of a hundred men, thus called a centurion (100). He would have been the one overseeing the scourging, the crown of thorns, the nasty robe, the stick scepter, the spitting, the punching, and all the mocking. Something about how Jesus died moved this centurion to believe this man was the Son of God.
Luke 23:48-49 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight SAW WHAT TOOK PLACE, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
To beat their breasts is a sign of mourning (Isa 32:12; Nah 2:7; Luk 18:13). They went from mocking to mourning. Something took place those last three hours causing them to reevaluate. Those who knew Jesus were shocked and stunned. What happened made no sense. For them it was the end of everything. Jesus was dead. It’s a overwhelming thing to be stunned and shocked by the cross, but for us we know it wasn’t the end.
Jesus said, “Father forgive them…” They were the wretched of the wretched, yet forgiveness was available for them and those who repented received it. How about you? Have you done something you feel God can’t forgive? He can, will, and desires to forgive you. Your part is to repent. What about your forgiveness tolerance? Who is it you can’t forgive? Through Jesus you can. You must. Are you saved? Do you fear God? Is he King and Lord of your life? If so, be confident you will be in paradise with him.
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