Forgiveness that Rocks Your World
Forgiveness is the action or process of releasing anger and resentment towards someone for an offence of some kind, a flaw, or a mistake. It is the cancellation of a debt. It is the excusing of ignorance or impoliteness. At its core, forgiveness is releasing someone else for the guilt they deserve. Forgiveness involves the will, mercy, and grace.
Forgiveness is hard.
Forgiveness is a gift from God that rocks our world.
Luke 23:33-34 says, “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. 34 Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.” (NIV 1984)
There was quite a lot that Jesus endured before the passage we just read happened:
Jesus had people plotting how to kill Him (Luke 22:1-2)
One of Jesus’ closest friends betrayed Him for money (Luke 22:3-6)
Jesus was arrested by armed soldiers for no reason (Luke 22:47-54)
Peter denied even knowing Jesus (Luke 22:55-62)
Jesus was punched in the face and beaten (Luke 22:63-64)
Herod and his soldiers mocked and ridiculed Jesus (Luke 23:11)
The Jews pressed Jesus to be found guilty even though He was declared innocent (Luke 23:13-24)
Jesus was beaten, whipped, spit on, and they put a crown of thorns on Him (Luke 23:25, Matthew 27:26-31)
Jesus was nailed to wood and allowed to hang until dead (Luke 23:33)
After all that, Jesus actually said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
The words that Jesus says do not make any sense. Jesus had been betrayed and arrested and beaten and the words that come out of His mouth are about forgiveness?! The words should be words of anger perhaps in response to how He was unfairly treated. The words could be of righteous judgment that these folks had been part of something quite illegal and shameful and they were killing an innocent Man. The words should be warnings about killing the Son of God. Instead, Jesus prays about forgiveness.
GOD IS THE SOURCE OF FORGIVENESS
As Jesus is hanging on the cross, He prays to God the Father that God would forgive all those that had wronged Him. Why does He pray to God for that? He prays to God for that because God is the inventor and source of forgiveness.
The Bible is very clear that God is the one who invented forgiveness and dispenses it:
In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve had just sinned and done the opposite of what God said. He invented forgiveness in His mercy right then for them. Genesis 3:21 says, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”
Later in the Bible, we have the book of Leviticus which describes all the ways for people to ask for forgiveness from God and how to do so from each other. Specifically, in Leviticus 4-7 God sets up sacrifices for the People of Israel so they would know how to ask for forgiveness from God. There is even a whole day, called the Day of Atonement, set up for people to ask God for His forgiveness (Leviticus 23:26-28).
Jesus Christ walks onto the scene in the New Testament and declares folks forgiven. The people wonder about this and ask in Mark 2:7 and in Luke 5:21, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
You see God is the author, source, and the inventor of forgiveness. As such, God gets to decide how His invention is used. God still has all copyright, trademark, and registered rights on forgiveness and He tells us how forgiveness works based on His love and grace.
FIRST STEP OF FORGIVENESS
Jesus lets us in on how forgiveness actually works. On the cross, Jesus prays for forgiveness for those who were hurting Him. The first step in any act of forgiveness is praying to God for it. It could be asking forgiveness from you to God. It could be from you to a spouse or family member or a co-worker. Someone could be asking for your forgiveness for something they have done or said. It does not matter the situation! Whatever the situation, the first step in forgiveness is praying to God for it because He is the source. We cannot forgive on our own because we have human hearts that are plagued by the sinful nature. Forgiveness comes from God and we have to ask Him for it… to enable us to do it… to allow us to receive it. Most of the time we skip this part which is why it seems so hard to forgive at times.