READ: Luke 23:32-34
One of the most powerful statements that were ever stated were said by Jesus Christ on the cross. After going through the most horrendous suffering in the hands of men who passionately pursued Jesus’ death, the Lord, bleeding to death on the cross, defied the status quo of a natural reaction. What He said was not because those who opposed Him deserved it. In fact, Jesus said something that was the exact opposite of what should have been said.
Then again, Jesus did not live by the world’s standard or by the earthly kingdom. He lived for and by the kingdom of God. The enemies of Jesus crucified Him, and as He was moments from death, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
The word forgive literally means to release. It is a word used to release or set a person free from the consequences of wrong actions. When Jesus was asking the Father to forgive those who beat Him, mocked Him, whipped Him, spit on Him, taunted Him, and crucified Him, He was saying, “Father, release them. Do not hold these actions against them.”
True forgiveness sets people free. It releases them from the obligation to pay back for what they did and get back what they deserve. Forgiveness comes from a heart of mercy and grace. Forgiveness in its purest form does not wait to be paid with kindness or for the recipient to shape up; forgiveness is based on the heart of the one hurt and offended. Forgiveness is free.
Besides Jesus being God, how in the world did He forgive people who did something that is so horrible, heartless, and evil? Jesus recognized that those who were crucifying Him did not know or see the big picture. He saw the heart of the people; He knew that sin blinded them and many needed Him to save and change their lives.
They were hardened by sin and blinded by the devil. This did not excuse the wrong they were doing, neither does forgiveness turn a blind eye to the evil being done. But understanding where someone is coming from helps you to gain a love and compassion for those who are wrong and hurtful. God remembers that we were made from the dust of the earth and are not holy by nature (Psalm 103:14).
Secondly, Jesus was able to forgive, or release those who did the unthinkable to Him, because He trusted in His loving Father and committed everything to Him. 1 Peter 2:23 says, “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when he suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Jesus did not strike back and give to His enemies what they gave to Him, but trusted His Father to take care of Him and the situation. This enabled Jesus to release them and free them from His responsibility, prayed for them, and trusted in His Father. He gave His enemies into God’s hands who is just and does everything in truth and grace.
What about you? During this Lenten season, is there someone who comes to mind that you need to release and set free? As hard as it may be, have you ever seen those who have hurt you by looking a little deeper and seeing why they hurt people? Have you ever seen them through eyes of compassion, knowing that they hurt because they themselves may be broken and hurt? Have you given them to your heavenly Father, surrendering your enemies into God’s hands knowing that He will do what is good and righteous?
Remember, it was your sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. He forgave you. You didn’t clean up first nor deserve it first, yet He forgave you because He loves you. Jesus calls you to do the same, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
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