23 September 2022 Anno Domini
the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“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. 35 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 (KJV)
This four-part series is not intended to fully cover the so-called ‘Seven Words from the Cross,’ but rather to focus on four profound statements by our Lord as He suffered.
It is, at the outset, conspicuous that our Lord did not rail against His tormenters at the cross despite the intense and excruciating pain. (by the way, the term excruciating comes from the Latin – ex, or from; and crucis – the cross).
There was an array of people around the brow of calvary to observe this merciless event – mostly those who hated Him. But there were some of the women disciples, and one John the Beloved disciple, who were compelled by exceptional love for Christ to risk the wrath of the Jewish rulers and remain to observe our Lord’s suffering in pity and love. Love instills courage above and beyond the mundane. But the wicked men who hated Christ reviled Him, spat at Him, and uttered unbelievable ridicule upon the One who was the only guiltless among them.
The heart of Jesus drew His Words from a depth of pity and not vitriol for those who uttered slanderous rebukes at Him. But His every utterance from the cross was primarily directed to those who knew Him. His first words, however, were words of sympathy for His oppressors. They were directed to the Father: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Throughout His ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ worked miracles and forgave sinners, but here He asks His Father to forgave the sins of those whose hands were bloodied by their murderous actions. Why did Christ not frankly forgive their sins instead of calling on the Father to do so?
There is more than one reason for this, I believe. First of all, the sins of a sinner are not forgiven without repentance. The sinful act was in progress and its end would only be fulfilled in the final murder of the King of Glory. Such deliberate sin is not forgiven without repentance and confession.
Secondly, this was one sin which our Lord was actually unable to forgive even if He so desired. Why not? Who suffered the greatest hurt at Calvary – the only Begotten Son, or the Father of our Lord? It was God who made the unreasonable sacrifice of His Son for the atonement of our sins. I say that it was unreasonable since it surely was in the mind of man – but God’s love is as expansive as the Universe. As the old hymn says
“Could we with ink the ocean fil
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky”
Our Lord could not forgive such an egregious offense against the Father – that role fail to the Father alone to forgive the crucifixion of His only Begotten Son. Though our Lord suffered unimaginable pain and humiliation, perhaps the greater pain was born by the Father who had to look away from the Cross in distress as darkness covered the land from noon until three in the afternoon at which time our Lord gave up the Ghost.
All other words of our Lord were directed to those whom He loved and to the repentant sinner on the cross – none to the evil men who created this horrendous sin.
His Words are still directed to those of faith and to the repentant sinner. He now speaks from the right hand of the Father through His Holy Spirit that abides with us ever and draws us, inextricably, to the Mercy Seat of God that is Christ our Lord.