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Father Forgive Them

by Ron Bartanen

bartenen3     If you had been mocked, spat upon, beaten, lashed mercilessly with whips that tore flesh from your body, and then been nailed to a cross, what would be the first words from your mouth?  Some would utter curses upon the perpetrators of such torture.  Some might cry out for mercy.  But the first words Jesus spoke from the cross were not even directed at His tormentors, but to the Father, praying in their behalf, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).    Without a doubt, the Roman soldiers who had put Him on the cross, and the crowd of spectators on the occasion would have been accustomed to hearing torrents of curses from the lips of criminals who were crucified, and few, if any prayers—and especially they would have heard no prayers in the behalf of those responsible for their fate.  But this was what this particular cross was all about—forgiveness.

Jesus had come to earth for this very purpose.  He declared that His coming was “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).  For all who would receive Him He paid the price for redeeming us from our sins, and from the consequences of our sins.  It is no wonder that the apostle Paul would declare, “God forbid that I should glory  save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14).  When the mocking crowd taunted Him, saying, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross….  If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him” (Matthew 27:40, 42).    Had He come down, we would have no Savior, and all would be totally lost.

Was the prayer of Jesus answered? For some it was, but not as they stood there, unbelieving and unrepentant.  Three days later Jesus would arise from the grave, and later ascend into Heaven, having instructed His disciples to go into Jerusalem and await the coming of the Holy Spirit, which occurred on the following Jewish Feast of Pentecost.  With the coming of the Spirit, the Gospel was then preached—the message of the crucified and risen Savior.  Many were convicted of sin and brought to faith, crying out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”   The apostolic response was, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:36-38).  Three thousand that same day were baptized and were forgiven their sins (Acts 2:41).  The sinless, precious blood of Christ shed at Calvary effectively cleansed even the sins of Jesus’ tormentors who believed, repented and were baptized, accepting salvation through the grace of God.

Christ’s prayer is as much for us as it was for that tumultuous crowd.  Indeed, he is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  His prayer is answered as souls respond to Him in obedient faith.


                                        Ronald Bartanen is the minister of the Arthur (IL) Church of Christ

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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10