Are you familiar with the 7 last sayings by Jesus on the cross?
The first word is the word of Forgiveness!
That's amazing! Think about it!
Crucifixion was chosen and perfected by the Romans to torture and humiliate its enemies! It was designed to bring great shame and fear. And it was very effective.
It was reserved for the worst of the worst criminals to make a statement: "This is what happens to the enemies of Rome!" It was so horrifying that one of the benefits of Roman citizenship was exemption from crucifixion. The pain was unbearable, unimaginable. In fact, the word "excruciating" is from Latin and literally means, "out of the cross".
A person dying on a cross experienced pain beyond belief and died with the knowledge that they had failed; Rome had conquered them. What an incredible feeling of powerlessness!
Add to that the taunting and jeering. When Jesus was crucified, people spit on Him and mocked: “You saved others. Why don’t You save Yourself? Hail, King of the Jews!”
People were rejecting Him and doing their best to humiliate Him. But at that moment on the cross, when people were at their worse, Jesus spoke His first word. It was spoken to His Father and is an amazing prayer.
He said, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:32-34).
Incredible! Jesus is forgiving something that seems absolutely unforgivable. And the forgiveness He gave was not just for those who are crucifying Him but for all of us. It wasn't just the Jews and the Romans who put Jesus on the cross. We all put Jesus on the Cross!
700 years before Christ's crucifixion, the prophet Isaiah declared (53:4-6):
"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (emphasis added).
In spite of our rebellion, in spite of the fact that we are responsible for causing all the excruciating pain and suffering He experienced on the cross, Jesus forgave us - freely and completely!
Let's think about Forgiveness, both what we receive and what we are called to give.
1. Jesus forgives Us.
This is our need to Receive forgiveness.
The Bible is very clear: We were ruined by sin, separated from the Father and destined for eternity in hell.
Paul declares in Romans 3 that we were born in sin (v23) and there is none righteous, not even one (v10-12). Thankfully, there is Hope (v24-26)!
When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, your sins are washed away by His marvelous grace. They are completely cleansed by His shed blood.
No matter what you have done or how bad your life has been, His infinite grace can cleanse every sin. You can’t buy it and could never afford it but He offers His grace freely to all.
Your sins are forgiven and forgotten. You don’t have to carry the guilt and shame anymore. God has removed your transgressions from you as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:11-12). Your sin is buried in the "Sea of Forgetfulness" (Micah 7:18-19) and God puts up a sign that says: "No Fishing!"
2. We must forgive Others.
This is our need to Give forgiveness.
People desperately need to receive forgiveness.
They can try to ignore that need. They can try to avoid or escape it. They might even blame responsibility for their guilt and shame on others. They can try to sweep it under the carpet or run away and hide. Yet people continue to need and long for forgiveness.
We desperately need to give forgiveness.
The Good News of the Gospel is that, in spite of being a sinner and enemy of God, He offers you forgiveness because of Christ's death on the cross. Jesus took the place of punishment that you and I deserve. He is our Great Substitute.
If you have accepted this wonderful offer of forgiveness, it is now time to pass the great news on to someone that doesn't know about it.
One of the principles of the Christian life is this: What God does To you, He wants to do Through you.
In other words, He heals you so that you might bring healing to others.
He blesses you so that you might bring blessing to others.
He forgives you so that you might bring forgiveness to others.
As forgiven people, we are called to be forgivers to others.
Sadly, as Christians and the church, too often we are known for what we are against. It's time to let people know we are For Jesus. We are for hurting and broken people. We offer to all the the Good News of Forgiveness that Jesus gave to us. He has given each of us the ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).