Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." And the soldiers gambled for His clothes by throwing dice. Luke 23:34
Forgiveness can be very difficult to offer the moment someone has offended you, can't it? I often have to process the situation for at least a small amount of time and think about it before I forgive someone. I usually also expect an apology before I consider extending forgiveness. Can you relate? We learn in Luke 23 that Jesus shows us a better way. He was always quick to forgive, even if His offender did not even seek forgiveness from Him.
Luke 23 recounts the story of Jesus' death. His death on a cross was painful, humiliating, and grueling. While He must have been in agonizing pain, verse 34 in this chapter tells us that right as He was being nailed to a cross, Jesus prayed to God, asking for Him to forgive the men who had nailed Him to that cross. Can you imagine praying for the very people brutally torturing you? Can you imagine being in agonizing pain yet still so concerned for those who have wronged you to forgive them? This is exactly what Jesus did. He could have harbored anger or wanted retaliation, yet instead, He prayed to God the Father to forgive His enemies.
As those observing Jesus heard Him ask God the Father to forgive his torturers, perhaps they remembered something He had said earlier to a crowd of people that is recorded in Matthew 5. Starting in Matthew 5:38, Jesus begins speaking about revenge and forgiveness. In these verses, He writes that there is a better way then seeking revenge: forgiveness. He told those listening that although they have been taught to hate their enemies, they were to love their enemies. He certainly modeled this on the cross, when He asked God the Father to forgive the men who had crucified them. In doing this, He not only taught about forgiveness, but He also modeled it.
There are many people today in need of forgiveness who do not know that God freely offers it if they will turn to Him and turn away from their sins. Find one of your friends or family members today who does not know Jesus and share with them that Jesus offers them forgiveness if they will turn to Him. Share the Bridge Diagram or your two-minute story of how God changed your life and offered you forgiveness. Praise Him for offering us forgiveness when we were far from Him.
Read Matthew 5:38-48 (NLT)
“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.