By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
Easter will come later this year than most, and I’ve started a series of thoughts using the words spoken from the cross. Seven times he uttered phrases which have been preserved in Scripture. Listening intently to them, we’re able to look deep into the heart of Jesus.
Many have attempted to describe the agony of crucifixion, where death comes as a result of suffocation. The only way to get a breath was for the person to pull himself up, and for one whose hands and feet were pierced with nails, the effort required to breathe was extraordinary. If the crucified person also tried to speak, it’s obvious the words he said deserved special attention.
Jesus was led with two criminals to Golgotha, the place of the Skull. There he was nailed to the cross and lifted up. The burden, not just of his own weight, but of the world’s sin he bore, was crushing. The first Words from the Cross were, “’Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’” (Luke 23:34).
Looking around, there may have been many to whom the words applied: Pontius Pilate, desperate to keep his political position, publicly trying to wash away the blood of an innocent man.
The soldiers, accustomed to torturing and executing; they had grown so insensitive that they sat around gambling for his robe.
The onlookers perhaps were not exactly the same people who’d waved palm branches the week before, but no doubt some were the same who cried, “Crucify him!”
Jesus’ words may have also included the religious leaders who lived their lives according to rules of right and wrong, yet violated their own Law when they could produce no credible witnesses.
Beyond those who were present, Jesus’ words echo down through history to countless others, including us. The apostle Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The long-term impact of sin is seldom understood at the time; relationships through generations are affected by the consequences of sin. Few of us wake up one day thinking we want to go out and do something evil. Afterward, we may try to excuse the deed but ultimately guilt and shame find us.
God understands not only the extent of our sin, but also offers His plan. Our own death wouldn’t suffice, but the perfect sacrifice of Jesus does.
God’s grace demonstrated on the cross is not stingy, but generous beyond measure. The most familiar verse in John is followed by the words, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).
Though we were not standing at the foot of the cross, the phrase of Jesus, “’Father, forgive ____’” contains our name. For all the sins, mistakes, failures burdening us, there’s a moral and spiritual reality of forgiveness. Claim his gift of mercy and be set free.