To all those who did not want Jesus to be their king, Jesus offered
the possibility of reconciliation. All he got in return were more
smears and jeers.


 

There were also two others, criminals, led with him to be
put to death. When they had come to the place called Calvary
[{Mark 15:23} they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink,
but He did not take it.] There they crucified Jesus, and the
criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.
Then Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they do not know 
what they do."

They divided His garments and cast lots, [{Matthew 27:35} that
it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet:
       "They divided My garments among them,
       And for My clothing they cast lots."]

People stood looking. The rulers with them sneered, saying,
"He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the
chosen of God."

                                                       Luke 23:32-35 NKJV, condensed


                                   Father Forgive Them

How suddenly disaster strikes. How quickly that which is whole
can be broken, health destroyed, beauty battered, peace and
hope shattered, youth turned into age. Yesterday Jesus moved
freely about his normal activities. Today he is surrounded by
armed guards, being led to his death. His strength gone, he is too
weak to carry his own cross. His submission during the trial was
misinterpreted as weakness. His attackers, feeling strong, beat
him mercilessly.

At no point since his prayer in Gethsemane did Jesus look for a
way out. As strange as it may seem to us, Jesus didn't need anyone
to lead him to Calvary. Of his own free will he chose to die to show
us how much God loves us. Getting to Golgotha was the problem.
A short walking distance for a healthy person, can be an eternity
to someone whose body is fractured.

Two others died with Jesus. They were criminals. Mark identified
them as thieves. Whatever their crime, it suggests they spent their
lives in stark contrast to how Jesus lived his. We do not know the
worst aspect of crucifixion, whether the anxiety beforehand, the
deed itself, or the drawn out process of dying. Probably each
stage is worse than the one before.

A drink was offered to those being crucified. Wine mixed with myrrh.
Was the drink an act of kindness in the midst of the brutality? Or
did it serve as a suppressant to make the job of the soldiers easier?
Jesus refused to drink it. He still had enough strength to determine
what went into his mouth.

It only takes four words to say they crucified Jesus. Matthew
required more space to say what happened to his clothing than
his suffering body! Crucifixion rips the body and bones apart, but
we learn none of that here. Events surrounding the demise of Jesus
will fill just a few more paragraphs. It was a slow and public passing.
Luke is the only Gospel writer to include the prayer of forgiveness.

Soldiers rolled dice to see who got the seamless robe and other
garments. Then they sat down to keep watch till their victims died.
God was silent, a no-show. God held back the armies of heaven and
allowed his son to suffer and die. Jesus' enemies claimed victory,
certain that God's silence proved them right. The followers of Jesus
were confused, shocked, unable to understand. Messiahs do not
die on Roman crosses.

While some people ponder the cross and see a grieving, gracious
God sacrificing his only son in an awesome act of love, other folks
disavow the scene before us. What kind of God, they ask, would
demand a human sacrifice in exchange for overlooking the sins of
mankind! They look at the cross and want to talk about what's
wrong with God, if God even exists.

However, it's more likely the crucifixion of Jesus was not for God's
sake, but for our sakes. The cross is about what's wrong with us.
It's our sins that are the problem; we are the ones who have
broken faith. God is the one whose greatest desire is to draw us
back and gather us up into his arms of love.

Restoration comes through forgiveness. It's such a simple truth,
one played out many times in our everyday lives with those we
love. We do things which betray another's trust and the tie that
binds is broken. Lack of forgiveness in any relationship spells
misery. The spirit crumbles, or strikes back with vengeance, 
when love is withheld.

How quickly life gives way to death. But just as quickly that
which was desolate and without hope can come to life again. The
symbolism of the cross illustrates this truth. We think the cross
of Christ is about death. But it's not; the cross is our invitation to
live in complete peace and harmony with God. Jesus alluded to
this when he said, "Father, forgive. . . ." Forgiveness brings the dead
back to life and turns our wasteland into fertile ground. Forgiveness
is a healing balm. Freely given, it need only be received. So soak it
up, rub it in, delight yourself in the costly, reconciling love which
God has lavished upon you.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

  

Icebreaker: How quickly disaster strikes! What dates or happenings
                      do you associate with those words.

 

In the Roman world, people went out to watch crucifixions just as in
the USA people used to watch hangings (& today we are entertained
by violence on TV).
            Why are people inclined to be spectators at such events?
            Would you watch a public execution if you had the chance?
                        Why or why not?

 

What words do you think best describe the presence and character
of Jesus in this text?
            What do you think his Father in heaven was experiencing?
            What were his followers thinking?
How is it possible to believe that in the midst of all the brutality,
God was working for good?

 

What do you say to people who look at the cross and see an angry,
blood-thirsty God, instead of a God of mercy, grace and love?
            What do you see as you gaze upon the cross of Jesus?

 

Most Christians believe that Jesus was both human and divine. He
knew the weakness and temptations of earthly life and the power
and glory of heaven.
            How would these two aspects come together during the crucifixion?

 

When we first read about the plans to destroy the life of Jesus, the
plotters feared a riot. But the Gospels mention no protest from the
public.
            How could it be that the masses didn't rally against this injustice?
            Had you been there, what do you think your reaction would
                    have been?

 

What do Jesus' words from the cross teach you about God's forgiveness?
             About how we are to forgive each other?
Were Jesus' words of forgiveness meant only for those who were
actively involved in putting him on the cross that day, or were they
prayed for all of us?
            What part have you and I played in nailing Jesus to the cross?

 

Our Savior died to bring life to us all. What more could God do to
bring his wandering children to their senses and begin the journey
back home to him!?

 

If you have a Christian hymnal available, read through some hymns
relating to the cross. Then choose one and discuss how it does,
or doesn't, express what you believe about the cross of Christ.

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