The first saying of Jesus on the Cross is commonly referred to as the word of Forgiveness and has been expanded upon in many good Friday sermons. It has several hidden treasures that can be missed if careful attention is not given.
When Jesus said “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”, he was establishing three facts –
1. The character of God the Father
2. The character of God the Son
3. The character of man
He was establishing the fact that the God of heaven is first a Father who would listen to the intercessory requests of His Son [and to that of his sons and daughter]. He was establishing the fact that God the Father was a forgiving God. This shows us the character of God the Father, as Father and as a Forgiving God.
But have you wondered, why Jesus did not forgive the ones he prayed for himself, but instead asked God the Father to forgive? Did he not have the right to forgive? From the gospel according to Matthew, from the account of the man with palsy being healed (not just physically, but spiritually as well, with the forgiveness of his sins), we learn that Jesus had the power (authority/right) to forgive sins on earth. Jesus had the right to forgive but he did not want to grab on to his rights as God, but instead He humbled himself as a servant, totally surrendering unto the plan of God the Father, unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2). This shows us the character of God the Son (Jesus) as a humble servant, accomplishing the work of God the Father.
Finally, Jesus’ first saying on the Cross, shows us the character of man. That man does not know. But what is it that man does not know? Many do not know of God’s righteousness, and try hard to establish their own righteousness, without totally submitting to God (Romans 10:3). Many are still ignorant that the only means to salvation is by believing in God the son, for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to all who believe (Romans 10:4) and it is the knowledge of this Truth that sets one free (John 8:32) from the penalty of sin (because God the Father forgives) and the power of death (which Jesus conquered by his humility and total surrender). Him/her whom the Son of God sets free, is free indeed (John 8:36).
Points to ponder:
1. Are you willing to totally submit to God?
2. Are you willing to be freed from the wages of sin, which is death? If so, believe in Jesus.
Luke 23:33-34 (KJV)
33 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.
34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Matthew 9:6 (KJV)
6 But that ye may know that the Son of man [Jesus] hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.
Romans 10: 1-4 (KJV)
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.