I can hardly imagine a person praying during his torture and execution. I find it even more difficult to imagine that person praying for his executors. But Jesus was no ordinary person.

He loved people to the end, and he prayed that his Father would forgive the people who killed him.

What an extraordinary accomplishment!

I have a hard time forgiving my “enemies,” and I’ve never experienced anything close to the agony of crucifixion. Maybe you have a hard time forgiving, too. But Jesus hung there on the cross–his life ebbing with every gasping breath, soldiers throwing dice for his clothes beneath him–and prayed,

Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)

The Bible records seven statements Jesus made on the cross (known as the “Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross”). This is one of them. It has been lauded in stories, songs,180px-Cristo_crucificado.jpg and sermons ever since. It stands as a great challenge to us that we, too, would forgive those who persecute and execute us, whether they’re after our bodies or our spirits.

Forgiveness and reconciliation, as I’ve mentioned before, are at the heart of the
message Jesus proclaimed. We can assume that God did, indeed, forgive those responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion.

Sadly, the church wasn’t so forgiving. For centuries, Christians persecuted Jews as the murderers of Christ. We are starting to undo that great sin, and we still hope to fully follow Christ’s ultimate example of forgiveness.

Why is it so hard to forgive people? When was the last time you were forgiven? What did you do to need forgiveness? Who do you need to forgive? Are you ready to forgive that person? If your answer is yes, stop now to pray. If you’re not ready, how about praying that God would help you get ready? Spend time thinking about how Jesus forgave you. (And remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean the wrong wasn’t wrong. Forgiveness means you give up your right to revenge.)

If you like this and you’d like to read more, check out my book, Ask Seek Knock. Thanks.

Copyright Tony Jones, 2008. Used by permission of NavPress. www.navpress.com

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