(This is part of an Easter series The Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross. To view all posts in this series, click here.)
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. ~Matthew 4:4
I want to look closely at the words Jesus spoke from the cross as He was dying – literally the words that proceeded out of the mouth of God. As Christians, we are called to die to ourselves, and so I believe that if we look at our example, Jesus Christ, and study what He said and did as He was dying, it will bring abundant life, the kind of life that comes when we truly do live by God’s Word.
As we look at his words from the cross, I am going to consider them from several perspectives:
1) as coming from God
2) as pertaining to others
3) as an example for us to follow
As I studied these precious words, the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross, I found His words can be divided into three sections which directly parallel the call to “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow.” (see previous post)
His first three words express SELFLESSNESS – Denying ourselves.
The next two things he says express ENDURANCE – taking up the cross.
His final words express SURRENDER – following Him.
The first thing Jesus said from the cross is found in Luke 23:33-35
And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. ~Luke 23:33-35
A PRAYER FOR HIS PERSECUTORS – Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.
The first thing I notice about this utterance is that Jesus PRAYS. During the darkest day in His life and the darkest day in history He calls out to God as Father. His relationship with God was of foremost importance.
Jesus Prays FOR THE PERSECUTORS
The next thing I notice is that he prayed for THE PEOPLE– not for himself. This is in the midst of torture that we cannot even begin to imagine. We CAN imagine ourselves praying in really bad situations, but can we even consider praying for the VERY people who are inflicting pain on us at that moment?
Jesus prays FOR FORGIVENESS for His persecutors
These were not people who have stopped and apologized, but people who are currently tormenting him, yet He didn’t pray that they might stop what they were doing, but prayed to God, the Father on their behalf, for their forgiveness!!
His punishment & torture was 100% undeserved. Even in any spat we’ve been in, we can never say we were 100% right and the others were 100% wrong. But Jesus could, and yet He spent His breath to pray that God would forgive them.
Since Jesus prayed that God would forgive them, I believe this again shows His humanity at this point of His suffering. There were numerous other places in the Bible where He, acting as God, directly forgave people of their sins. But here, He is acting as our complete human propitiation, and thus must ask that the Father remit their sins.
The other thing that really stands out is the importance of forgiveness. The FIRST word that Jesus spoke from the cross was a word of forgiveness. Forgiveness is valuable to God!! If unforgiveness becomes a stronghold in our lives, if we are unable to pray for others, if we always want to PROVE WE ARE RIGHT – then we are WRONG!
In the midst of dying, we must be willing to forgive and to pray for people NO MATTER WHAT. And when they continue, we are not to lose our sense of mercy and forgiveness to them; we are to continue to pray and continue to forgive.
In total selflessness, in denying Himself, Jesus forgave. In denying yourself, are you willing to forgive?
I’m a Believer!