Journey Toward Easter: Father, Forgive Them
On the morning of February 14, 1929, the weather in Chicago was frigid — a mere 10 degrees. Gangster Frank Gusenberg and six other men who worked for "Bugs" Moran, had gathered in a garage on the north side of town. They were playing poker when four men walked into the garage. Two of them were dressed as policemen. They lined Gusenberg and his companions up against the wall as if for a routine frisk for weapons. But instead of frisking them, the four men pulled out Tommy-guns and riddled the men with over one-hundred bullets.
All but Gusenberg were killed instantly, and he died minutes later in the hospital. As the life ebbed from him, he upheld the gangland code of silence by which he had lived. He would not be a snitch even though dying. When a police officer asked who had done the shooting, Gusenberg replied, "Nobody. It's getting dark now, sarge. So long."
Most people die the way they have lived. Only rarely will someone change their thoughts and attitudes as they are breathing their last breaths. P.T. Barnum, for instance, part owner of the "Greatest Show on Earth," reportedly asked on his deathbed, "What were today's receipts?"
On the other hand you have men like R.G. Lee. Lee, was one of Southern Baptist's greatest preachers and was pastor of Belview Baptist Church in Memphis, TN for over 30 years. Just before he died he was heard to say, "I see the great lights of glory. It is even more beautiful than I imagined."
The gospels give us an ear to the last words of Jesus as He died on the cross. This morning we begin a seven-week journey toward Easter. We will take time to look at each of the seven “last sayings” of our Lord, Jesus from the cross.
His first statement is recorded only by Luke. As the soldiers nailed our Lord to that cross he was heard to say, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." In his death, Jesus died the way he lived: Loving others, ministering to their needs and forgiving sin.
I. "FATHER FORGIVE" WAS A PRAYING WORD
- Luke wrote these words with grammatical significance that is not obvious in the English and focuses on a verb
- the phrase Jesus said in verse 34 seems so insignificant and yet it is full of meaning/*
- the verb is in the imperfect tense (which I'm sure you were all dying to know)
- the significance of the imperfect tense is that it represents continual or repetitious action/*
- repeatedly our Lord is heard to say Father forgive them . . . Father forgive them . . . Father forgive them
- with each stroke of the hammer upon the nail in his hand, Jesus whispers "Father, forgive them”
- with each curse that is directed at him he is heard to say, "Father, forgive them"
- every time a religious leader spits in his face he mouths the words "Father, forgive them"
- every jeer and insult from the crowd is with "Father, forgive them"
A. JESUS WAS NAILED TO THE CROSS ASKING THE FATHER TO BLOT OUR THEIR TRANSGRESSIONS COMPLETELY
- forgive them means exactly that
- Jesus is asking His heavenly Father that by His sovereign grace, those who are responsible for his death be brought to a state of true repentance so that they can be and will be fully pardoned
- Jesus had taught His disciples to pray:
- Luke 11:4 “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us ..." NIV
- and in doing so, He fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah
- Isaiah 53:12 “ ... he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” NIV
- because he was a man of prayer he had victory when great temptations came his way
- and I believe the cross was one of the greatest temptations Jesus faced
- the temptation was coming down off of the cross
- Matthew 27:39-43 “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” KJV
- and He could have sicced 72,000 angels on them if he had so desired
- if you remember, it was when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane that He told Peter to put away his sword.
- Matthew 26:53-54 “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? “ KJV
- and friends, your sin and my sin were part of it
B. FORGIVENESS IS MAN'S DEEPEST NEED
- the greatest need in any man’s life is forgiveness. God stands ready to freely offer it
- the great tragedy of the human condition is that too many are too proud or too stubborn or too unconcerned or too preoccupied to receive it
- the more basic problem in our society today is that too many people do not believe in sin any more
- ILLUS. In the early seventies Karl Menninger, a noted psychiatrist, wrote a book entitled, Whatever Became of Sin? In it Menninger rightly lamented the disappearance of sin from the vocabulary of the nation. He even deplored its absence from the teaching and preaching of the church. What has been the result? Most Americans see little relationship between their belief about God and faith in Christ and their behavior with their body. The Scriptures tell us that without a personal faith relationship with Christ that we are the enemies of God. We are enemies by choice. We are enemies because of sin.
- it is a wall that man, try as he might, cannot scale, find a way around, or tunnel under
- it is a wall that separates man and his exceedingly sinfulness from God and His awesome holiness
- it because of his open hostility toward God, the spiritually lost man has no standing before a holy God—he is morally, ethically, and spiritually bankrupt
- Romans 1:18 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,” NIV
- Matthew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” NIV
- the birth of Christ was God’s great expression of love for sinners
- even His name was special
- in the Hebrew it is Iesous (ee-ay-sooce’)
- it means Jehovah saves
- Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” NIV
- the most marvelous ingredient in the forgiveness of God is that he also forgets, the one thing a human being can never do
- forgetting with God is a divine attribute; God's forgiveness forgets
II. "FATHER FORGIVE" WAS AN ABSOLVING WORD
- many people pray when they believe they are dying
- but how many pray for God to forgive the ones who are taking their life?
- this was not new to Jesus
- three years before his crucifixion Jesus inaugurated his ministry with what we have come to call The Sermon on the Mount
- in that discourse Jesus had taught His followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them
- His words, "Father, forgive them" as he was nailed to the cross were the ultimate fulfillment of a life that openly forgave sinners
A. FORGIVENESS IS OUR HIGHEST ACHIEVEMENT
- the greatest achievement in the believer’s life is the ability to forgive those who have wronged you
- day-by-day we need to seek God’s forgiveness and each day we need to forgive those who have sinned against us
- a great deal of our problems within the church today centers around this arena of forgiveness
- too many of God’s people have made themselves useless to the Kingdom because they suffer from the pangs of self-imposed guilt in an effort to atone for sins that God readily forgives
- God has forgiven them in Christ, but they have never allowed themselves to experience that forgiveness
- another sizable group of God’s people have made themselves equally useless to the Kingdom because they are harboring grudges and hatreds and animosities that they refuse to release by forgiving those who have wronged them in some way
- we all see to agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it
- I think that Matthew’s gospel gives us an interesting commentary to our Lord’s concept of grace
- in that gospel, Jesus indicates that our willingness and ability to forgive others is a key indicator that we ourselves have truly experienced God’s forgiving grace in our own lives
- Matthew 6:14-15 “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” KJV
- ILLUS. Chuck Swindoll writes that, in the Christian school of life, “Forgiveness is a required course.” Forgiveness ought to be like a canceled note of debt – torn in two and burned up
B. FORGIVENESS MUST BE THE ATTITUDE OF OUR HEART AND THE PRAYER ON OUR LIPS
- remember the question the apostle Peter put to our Lord at one time?
- Jesus had been teaching the crowds about what to do when a brother sins against you
- to which Peter responds, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
- his question, even though attended by a seemingly benevolent answer, reveals that the time comes when we want to start keeping score
- how easy it is to file away all those real and even imagined offenses committed against us to use as ammunition at some future date
- Jesus answered Peter's question by saying, I tell you the truth, seven times is not enough, but seventy times seven
- no, that doesn’t mean that when you reach 490 you can stop forgiving
- Jesus was teaching that forgiveness is should be unlimited
C. BECAUSE GOD HAS FORGIVEN US WE MUST FORGIVE OTHERS
- Matthew 6:14-15 "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
- Luke recorded in his gospel the words of Jesus, praying fom the cross, Father, forgive them
- He died as he lived – praying and forgiving
On February 9, 1960, Adolph Coors III was kidnapped and held for ransom. Seven months later his body was found on a remote hillside. He had been shot to death. Adolph Coors IV, then fifteen years old, lost not only his father but his best friend. For years young Coors hated Joseph Corbett, the man who was sentenced to life for the slaying. Then in 1975 Adolph Coors IV became a Christian. While he divested himself of his interest in the family beer business, he could not ‘divest himself of the hatred that consumed him. Resentment seethed within him and blighted his growth in faith. He prayed to God for help because he realized how his hatred for Corbett was alienating him from God and other persons. The day came, however, when claiming the Spirit's presence, Adolph Coors visited the maximum security unit of Colorado's Canon City penitentiary and tried to talk with Corbett. Corbett refused to see him. But Coors left a Bible inscribed with this message: I'm here to see you today and I'm sorry that we could not meet. As a Christian I am summoned by our Lord and Savior, Jesus for you. "I do forgive you, and I ask you to forgive me for the hatred I've held in my heart for you."