Jesus’ words on the cross were profound. I believe each of the seven phrases he spoke while on the cross had a specific purpose. This whole event had purpose. To take our sins away and declare us righteous before God. For God’s glory. For our salvation. To do this, Jesus took our sins to the cross and paid for them, being forsaken (see previous post) and betrayed and mocked. He endured all of this for us so that we may be forgiven.
And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
And they divided His garments and cast lots. And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”
I think this statement is two-fold. Of course He is referring to those who are crucifying Him, and those who were shouting, “crucify Him!” Jesus wants everyone to be forgiven. Even those that torture and beat and killed Him. They didn’t comprehend what they were doing and who they were doing it to. This was the Son of God that they were doing this to. The religious leaders should have known. It was laid out in the scriptures through the prophets. He fulfilled every prophecy about Him. (See the post: Jesus in Psalm 22 ) Even the events mentioned here, casting lots for His garments and mocking him by saying, “save yourself” were prophesied many years earlier. But they had blinders on.
And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
Here, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 35. These are a few of many prophecies fulfilled by Jesus.
He also was saying, “forgive them” because that was His purpose…so that the world, everyone, would be forgiven of every sin if they believe. He said this for those standing in front of Him and for you and me.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
He was also being an example for each of us. To forgive others. How great a gift has He given to us? When we have been forgiven for so much, shouldn’t we do the same? Shouldn’t we forgive others who have wronged us? Jesus told a parable of this very thing:
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Notice it is not just about forgiveness. It is what is in your heart. That is what Jesus cares about. Your actions will follow but belief comes from the heart. You are saved by trusting in Him, not through your deeds.