SEVEN SAYINGS FROM THE CROSS
A THEOLOGY OF FORGIVENESS
"FATHER, FORGIVE THEM…"
1. When someone dies, a frequent question that people have is: “Did he or she say anything at the end?” We want to know what the last words were. We are hopeful that there will be a final acknowledgment that they understood how much we loved them. We look for some word of insight, a wise truth, a word of hope.
2. Shakespeare once wrote in his play Richard II…The tongues of dying men--Enforce attention like deep harmony--Where words are scarce--They are seldom spent in vain--For they breathe truth--That breathe their words in pain.
3. When Jesus was dying on the cross, He gave seven important statements (commonly referred to as "The Seven Sayings From The Cross"). These statements…the last of a dying man…enable us to see into the very core…the very heart of Jesus. His final words from the cross will provide us some important theological principles and practical spiritual lessons. Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at these last words of Jesus.
THIS MORNING, WE WILL BEGIN STUDYING JESUS' SEVEN SAYINGS FROM THE CROSS.
I. THE FIRST SAYING FROM THE CROSS IS FOUND IN (LUKE 23:34).
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
A. TO HELP US BETTER APPRECIATE THESE WORDS FROM JESUS, WE MUST LOOK AT SOME PRIOR EVENTS THAT HAD TAKEN PLACE.
1. Remember, before Jesus was nailed to the cross, we read that He experienced many terrible things. He was flogged. This was usually done with a whip that had bits of bone or metal embedded into it. The effect was to tear up the back of the person.
2. Following the whipping, we are told that the soldiers mocked and beat Jesus. They dressed Him up as a king with a crown of thorns on His head. Then they beat Him and spit on Him. They hurled insults at Him. What I want us to see is that Jesus was physically abused by His enemy.
3. Not only was Jesus physically abused, He was humiliated as well.
4. As you may recall, the soldiers made Jesus carry His own cross to the place of execution. This process was designed to humiliate. Jesus was being showcased to the people as a vile criminal.
5. If that was not enough, Jesus was executed publically. People stood around and waited for Him to die. Every gasp, every twitch from pain, every moment of struggle was watched by the crowd. He couldn't even talk privately with His family and friends!
6. But there was yet one final insult. Even as He was hanging on the cross the guards were gambling to see who got to keep His clothes. This was worse than a family fighting about the will before someone has died. It's like watching all your possessions sold before your very eyes. His dignity was gone. Jesus was humiliated.
B. THE RESPONSE OF JESUS.
1. After being betrayed, falsely convicted, beaten, spat upon, and unjustly nailed to a cross to die an agonizing death, the Son of God harbored no hatred for His tormentors but instead we read that He offered them forgiveness…His first words from the cross were “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
2. Jesus asked His father to forgive the very ones who abused, rejected, and humiliated Him. These words from Jesus show us the compassionate heart of our Savior.
3. Jesus’ words were not just spoken for the crowds that were watching Him die. They were also spoken for us to hear today.
C. HERE ARE SOME LESSONS THAT WE CAN LEARN FROM JESUS' FIRST SAYING FROM THE CROSS.
(1) FIRST, WE CAN LEARN THAT FORGIVENESS REACHES OUT TO THE UNDESERVING.
1. The people who had beat Jesus, mocked Him, and nailed Him to the cross did not deserve forgiveness. But Jesus through His kindness offered it to them. The point is that forgiveness reaches out to the undeserving.
Chris Carrier of Coral Gables, Florida, was abducted when he was 10 years old. His kidnapper, angry with the boy's family, burned him with cigarettes, stabbed him numerous times with an ice pick, then shot him in the head and left him to die in the Everglades. Remarkably, the boy survived, though he lost sight in one eye. No one was ever arrested.
Recently, a man confessed to the crime. Carrier, now a youth minister, went to see him.
He found David McAllister, a 77-year-old ex-convict, frail and blind, living in a North Miami Beach nursing home. Carrier began visiting often, reading to McAllister from the Bible and praying with him. His ministry opened the door for McAllister to make a profession of faith.
No arrest is forthcoming; after twenty-two years, the statute of limitations on the crime is long past. In Christian Reader (Jan/Feb 98), Carrier says, "While many people can't understand how I could forgive David McAllister, from my point of view I couldn't not forgive him. If I'd chosen to hate him all these years, or spent my life looking for revenge, then I wouldn't be the man I am today, the man my wife and children love, the man God has helped me to be."
2. David McAllister didn’t deserve forgiveness. He beat and tortured a little, precious child. However, Chris Carrier had the Christ like heart to forgive him.
3. Brethren, we must likewise forgive people who don’t deserve it.
4. We are to forgive others just as God forgives us.
(Mark 11:25) "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
(Ephesians 4:31-32) “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
5. Right now in your life, are you harboring any bitterness and anger against someone who did you wrong? Do you wake up in the morning with hatred in your heart towards someone? If you do, this morning is the perfect time to let go of your bitterness & anger and forgive the person who has treated you badly.
6. But you may want to say, “But Keith, they don’t deserve to be forgiven.” But I say, “Did the people who put Jesus to death deserve to be forgiven? No. “Do we deserve to be forgiven by God when we sin against Him? No. But yet God still forgives us. We must forgive because God forgives us.
Leonardo da Vinci painted the fresco "The Last Supper" in a church in Milan. Two very interesting stories are associated with this painting.
At the time that Leonardo da Vinci painted "The Last Supper," he had an enemy who was a fellow painter. da Vinci had had a bitter argument with this man and despised him. When da Vinci painted the face of Judas Iscariot at the table with Jesus, he used the face of his enemy so that it would be present for ages as the man who betrayed Jesus. He took delight while painting this picture in knowing that others would actually notice the face of his enemy on Judas.
As he worked on the faces of the other disciples, he often tried to paint the face of Jesus, but couldn't make any progress. da Vinci felt frustrated and confused. In time he realized what was wrong. His hatred for the other painter was holding him back from finishing the face of Jesus. Only after making peace with his fellow painter and repainting the face of Judas was he able to paint the face of Jesus and complete his masterpiece.
One of the reasons we may have a hard time accepting the forgiveness of God is that we find it hard to forgive others. That's why Jesus said, "If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matt. 6:14,15). If you want your relationship with Jesus to be all that it should be, forgive your enemies and do all you can to demonstrate Christ's love to them.
7. Brethren, I realize that at times, it is hard to forgive…but we must. We must forgive so that we can get on with our lives. At this moment, if you need to forgive someone, do what Jesus did, pray…"Father, forgive them…"
(2) SECOND, WE CAN LEARN THAT FORGIVENESS ULTIMATELY COMES FROM GOD THE FATHER.
1. Although Jesus could have easily forgiven these men Himself, why did He ask His Heavenly Father to forgive them?
2. The answer is…Jesus wants us to understand that forgiveness ultimately comes from the Father. An offense against the Son was an offense against the Father. A sin against any other person was – and is – a sin against God; like the prodigal son said to his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21).
3. When we sin against others, we are also sinning against God. When we sin against another person, not only should we ask that person for forgiveness, but we should also ask God for His forgiveness. Why? Forgiveness ultimately comes from God the Father.
1. This morning, we have looked at the first saying from the cross… “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
2. These words are inspiring and they teach us several wonderful lessons.
a. Forgiveness reaches out to the undeserving.
b. Forgiveness ultimately comes from the Father.
3. I hope and pray that the words of the Lord have touched your heart. At this time, if you would like to respond to the Lord’s invitation…receive God’s wonderful forgiveness…please come now as we stand and sing.
Primary Resources Used To Develop This Lesson:
Sayings One Friday By Kenn Filkins
The Compelling Power Of The Cross By Dr. John Hobbs
Sermon By Dr. James McCullen