Father Forgive...

This week on both Downtown Radio's "Just a Moment" at the unearthly hour of 6.55am and in my own church in Dundonald at a breakfast prayer meeting at the barely better hour of 8am, I'm reflecting on the 7 final words of Jesus from the cross. In the 17th century the Jesuit Missionaries to Peru devised a special 3 hour service for Good Friday, focused on theses 7 words of Christ from the Cross… it has since spread across the Catholic and wider Christian world… The words are drawn from all 4 gospels, because no one account contains all of them… each gospel has its own emphasis… But we begin with the first one in Luke’s gospel....

'When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."'

Luke 23:33-34 (ANIV)

This word is as good a place to start as any when considering the events at Calvary, because throughout history we have taught that the cross is central to our understanding of how our forgiveness is achieved. I won't get into the spiritual mechanics or economics of the cross here, but key to our understanding of what God in Jesus was doing on the cross is the concept of forgiveness.

But the question is, how can you forgive the unforgiveable? Cruelty to children or to the elderly… Acts of genocide… Callous acts terrorism in our own local past where the innocent have been killed or injured… Or unjustified things that have been done to us and ours. We don’t want the perpetrators to be forgiven… We want justice… Indeed we want more than that… we want the book thrown at the them… a very big book…we want vengeance…
On Friday we remeber what some have called the greatest injustice in history… the crucifixion of the only truly innocent person who ever lived… Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus spoke frequently about the need to forgive… He taught us to pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”… He told us not simply to forgive our brother 7 times, but 70 times seven… But its all very well speaking about it… its something else to practice it in the face of such cruel injustice… but he did when he said

"Father, forgive them..."
Yet if you look in many modern translations of the Bible you’ll find a note there that says that some early manuscripts of Luke’s Gospel do not include these words of Jesus on the cross. However, most Biblical scholars agree (and its hard to get them to agree on anything) that they are almost definitely authentic words of Jesus, largely because they ring true with everything else we read about him. Some of those same scholars suggest, that some early copyists perhaps left out these words because they believed that those who did such a dreadful thing to Jesus shouldn’t be forgiven…
But its not for us to put limits on Christ’s forgiveness… What he went through on the cross was for everyone… because we’ve all done wrong, whether we know it or not… And we can all know his forgiveness if only we will accept it… and having accepted it, we need the help of his Spirit to share it… To forgive as we have been forgiven…

A Psalm of Response

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his blessings—
He forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
he redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
he satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger for ever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

From Psalm 103:1-13


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