“Father, forgive them” ~Luke 23:34
Have you ever been falsely accused?; ever been fired because of false accusations?; lost a romance based on lies told about you?; have you gone to jail because of false evidence?; or have you been sentenced to death based on lies and false accusations?
Jesus, the only perfect man, is praying on the Mount of Olives, preparing for the horrific next steps essential for our (all people in the world) forgiveness. He understands more vividly than anyone could that he is about to be sentenced to death, mercilessly beaten, nailed to a criminal’s cross and killed. So our sins could be forgiven!
“Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him. He prayed more fervently, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.
Shortly after this, a crowd (chief priests, officers of the temple guard, and the elders), led by Judas the betrayer, appeared. A moment’s pause and then Judas greeted Jesus with a traitorous kiss. “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man* with a kiss?”
In the jostle that followed, one of Jesus’ disciples whacked the ear off the high priest’s slave. Ever the peacemaker, Jesus touched the man’s ear and healed him. I’m sure that man shared this moment with anyone who would listen for the remainder of his life!
So they arrested Him and led Him to the high priest’s home. The guards in charge of Jesus began mocking and beating Him. They blindfolded Him and said, “Prophesy to us! Who hit you that time?” And they hurled all sorts of terrible insults at Him.
Jesus was led before the high council and they said, “Tell us, are you the Messiah?” He replied, “If I tell you, you won’t believe me. . .But from now on the Son of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand.”
After much debating between Pilate and Herod, Pilate tried to have Jesus flogged and released but with a mighty roar, the crowd demanded, “Kill Him and release Barabbas to us. Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded. Try to imagine yourself in this position, knowing you are totally innocent. All the accusations are false and all hope of rescue is fading away, you are going to be killed soon!
A few simple words describe the excruciatingly painful experience that followed: “Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with Him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed Him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified— one on His right and one on His left. Amazingly, Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” ~Luke 23:34
As the three men hung grotesquely on their crosses, slowly and painfully dying, one mocked the Lord but the other, sensing something special about Him said, “We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into your Kingdom.”
And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Remember, these men are not sitting around a campfire chatting, they are experiencing agonizing death, nails driven through their hands and feet as they suffocate.
Now, imagine we are watching this in a movie and after Jesus speaks to the criminal the camera zooms in for a close up of His face. Jesus lifts His head as we look into His eyes and He painfully speaks, “I am doing this for you.”
“For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to be its Judge, but to be its Savior.”
*(in the Gospels, Son of Man is the title Jesus used most often when referring to Himself. He said it instead of “me” or “I.” Son of Man is used 30 times in the Gospel of Matthew.)