Greetings! We have arrived at day 4 of our 40 day countdown to Easter 2019! When Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34), He raised the question ~ Who is the real victim here? What exactly did they think they were doing?
Crucifixion was generally reserved for only the worse crimes against society, displaying a public and gruesome execution that took several days for the criminal to die. It sent a chilling warning to any other potential criminals. In short, anarchy and victimizing law abiding citizens would not be tolerated. But Jesus asked God to forgive them for crucifying Him because they had it all wrong. If Jesus wasn't guilty of committing the crimes they accused Him of (We know He was innocent), didn't that make Him a victim of injustice?
The Bible clearly explains that the teachings of Jesus defied church custom during those times and it was Church leaders who plotted against him to have him crucified. In John 16, when Jesus speaks of his impending death, he warns the disciples in verse 2, "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." Can you imagine that? They thought killing the Savior of the world was doing God a service? Amazing! Not only did crucifying Jesus under false pretense make Him a victim, it also made His followers victims. So, who are the victims?
There was a young boy who worked as a houseboy for some American soldiers. The soldiers thought it was funny to play jokes on the boy. At times they would tie his shoe laces together, lock him out of the house and tease him. Eventually they realized that the boy didn't think their practical jokes were funny or harmless. So the soldiers apologized to him. Then the boy told them, "It's okay, I'll stop spitting in your soup now." You may be saying "revenge is sweet" or "they got what they deserved" but Jesus said, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.
Like those Church leaders, what the soldiers did was ignorant and wrong. While they were serving their own selfish needs at the expense of someone else, they didn't know they were also adding a new "spice" to their soup. Unlike the houseboy, Jesus didn't get an apology nor did He spit in our soup. Instead, he forgave them.
He knows we must forgive others because they are victims too. In the end, the houseboy realizes this and let go of his bitterness toward those soldiers. How about You? Is bitterness spitting in your soup? Are you consuming thoughts and memories of being a victim and in turn, victimizing others? In this life, both the offended and the offender are, on one level or another, victims. You forgive them because they are victims too.
Consider Ephesians 6:12 (NIV), which says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." We have a spiritual enemy who distracts us by pitting us against each other. All we do is lose time fighting or avoiding one another, instead of growing in the image of Christ.
This is why Jesus told us in Luke 6:27-28, "...do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." It is that level of wisdom and understanding, that empowers us to forgive, even if the offense (crucifixion) seems unforgivable. Humanly speaking, you can't do it but Philippians 4:13 tells us all things are possible through Jesus Christ, who gives us strength.
Your prayer today...
Heavenly Father, I understand that hurt people hurt people. This need to forgive is more needed in my life and difficult than I realized. I don't want bitterness spitting in my soup and I don't want to spit in anyone else's soup! So right now, I choose to forgive those who have sinned against me. But I also forgive others who will sin against me before it even happens. I release those who offend me and I pray that people I have offended, whether I realize it or not, will forgive me. Prop me up and prop them up, on every side. Set us free! Give us the strength, mutual respect, and Godly love to honor one another and not to hurt one another any more. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!
~Inspiring Hope and Seasoning Faith, Pastor Sean