Who Were the “Them” in Jesus’ Prayer for Forgiveness?

Final notes from my husband’s Good Friday sermons.

Luke tells us in his Gospel that Jesus prayed from the cross “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  These words were among some of the last brief statements He made before His death.

Who exactly was He speaking to?

  • The Roman soldiers.  They were standing there gambling for His clothes at the foot of the cross as they watched Him die.  It was probably not the first crucifixion detail they had been assigned.  But this one was different.  This man claimed to be the Son of God.
  • Maybe it was the Jewish crowd that had gathered there that day.  They had seen him heal their sick, fed them on occasion and told them all types of parables and stories of God and His kingdom.  Now they had shouted:  “Crucify Him.”
  • Perhaps it was His disciples, especially the ones who had fled and were in hiding.  Only John was present at the cross with Mary, Jesus’ mother.
  • Maybe He saw ahead in time and saw the crowd that stoned Stephen to death.  That crowd was full of hate for Stephen.
  • Perhaps he looked further down in time when the early Christians were martyred in the coliseum of Rome by wild animals.  Surely their persecutors were included in His statement from the cross.
  • What about all the wars that have been fought in the name of religion, the Crusades, the Protestants against Catholics and the Catholics against Protestants?
  • Maybe he saw the barbarians throughout the world who have committed wholesale slaughter of whole groups of people simply because they were different.
  • Or, maybe he looked out to 2019 and saw us when He was there on the cross.  Was he speaking of us as He hung there?  Was it our sin that we have committed day by day, year by year without regard to our own eternity?  Do we realize the total sacrifice that was made for us that day?

Surely He was speaking of me also from the cross that day.

Whatever Happened to Sin?

We seem to have done away with sin.  No one sins.  They make mistakes.  They “mess up.”

In “The Thirteen Clocks” author James Thurber has a character who states:

“We all have our weaknesses; mine just happens to be that I am evil.”

If there is no sin, only weaknesses, mistakes, character flaws, the whole point of Good Friday and Easter is meaningless.

“Why is sin sinful, not just a “little weakness”?  Who says sin is sin?  One of the words the Bible uses to refer to sin means “to miss the mark,” implying that there is a mark or target that has been missed, so the word sin itself implies a standard.  If a highway patrolman stops you for speeding, it implies that the official government has set a speed limit, and you violated it.  Similarly, the moral standard for all humanity comes right out of the holy character of God.  His glory, his holiness, is the standard we all fall short of.”

When we are enjoying our favorite foods and entertainments, it can be easy to forget the decay of sin and death all around us.  Lent helps us remember that there is only one who actually reverses decay – the God who raises the dead.”….Timothy G. Walton

For me I think I have heard the story of the cross and the resurrection so much that I just take it all for granted.  But this season of Lent, I am thankful for the price Jesus paid for us all.

 

 

I Have Sinned Against God?

My husband and I finished reading the book of 2 Samuel this morning.   Growing up I loved the stories of King David:

  • the young man who killed the giant Goliath with a sling and a stone
  • the shepherd boy writing beautiful Psalms
  • the mighty warrior king
  • the man who wanted to build a temple for God

One of the best known stories is his great sin when he coveted the wife of another man.  Psalm 51 is believed to have been the psalm he wrote after repenting of his terrible sins.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.

 

Reading this I cannot help but think of al the people David sinned against.

  • Bathsheba who he seduced into betraying her husband
  • Her husband, Uriah, whose wife he stole and then had killed
  • His own family for who he set such a bad example
  • His military commander, Joab, who was forced into a compromising position in having Uriah killed

Yet David said he had sinned against God and God only.

Understanding how David must have felt when the full sense of what he had done hit him helps explain this I believe.  David had from his youth depended on God and reading the Psalms he wrote you can see the love he had for God.  When he fully realized how he had betrayed, not only Uriah and Bathsheba, but the very basis of his faith, he was devastated.

So when David says, “Against you and you only have I sinned,” I don’t think he means, “I didn’t wrong Uriah by killing him, and I didn’t wrong Bathsheba by raping her, and I didn’t wrong the baby by being the cause of its death.” He meant, “The horrible thing here, ultimately, is that I rebelled against God. I rejected God as my treasure. I scorned the word of God.” This is what Nathan said to him when he came and pointed the finger at him: “Why have you despised the word of God?” That’s what Nathan said. Nathan didn’t say, “Why have you killed a man, and why have you raped a woman?” He said, “Why have you despised the word of God?”

So David knows from the prophet that the worst thing that has happened here is that he has despised God. And so I think that’s what he means. He is simply drawing attention, not to the minimization of rape and murder, but to the maximization of the assault on God that happened in those acts.

They are not less horrible because he says this: they are more horrible because he says this….John Piper

When Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife he resisted her by saying.

“My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

Of course such a sin would have been against Potiphar but Joseph placed his greater loyalty to God and God’s laws.  It was God he did not want to offend.

So, I ask myself – When I offend someone, when I harm someone, when I sin against someone, how do I sorry for that?

Do I just apologize to that person and move on?  Do I think that takes care of everything?  Or, do I realize that my sin is also rejecting the word of God?  Do I realize how I have counted my desire to “do my own thing” more important than my desire to remain true to my faith, my God?

Lord, help me to value my relationship with you and my loyalty to your Word that I will not regard my sins so ightly, but reconize my sins are against You and repent accordingly.