Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. –Luke 23:34 NIV
According to total dollars spent and attention given, Christmas is the biggest holiday in the American calendar. The holiday’s original name — Christ Mass — indicates it is designed as a celebration of Jesus’ birth. However, in terms of theological importance, the highlight of the year is Easter where we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and victory over sin and death. But before we get to Easter, we must pass Good Friday first.
Many ask, “Since it’s the day Jesus died a violent, unjust death on a cross, why is it called ‘Good’?” It’s called “Good” because Jesus obediently took our place on the cross and died in our place for our sins. And in case anyone thinks they’re “off the hook” by claiming “I’m a good person,” the Bible defines sin, not only all the bad things we’ve done, but also all the good things we knew we should do but didn’t. (James 4:17)
As fully both God and man, Jesus alone lived a sinless life. However, because it was God’s will, (and also because Jesus threatened the status quo), the religious leaders of His day engineered a series of middle-of-the-night, kangaroo courts to declare Him guilty and have Him executed by one of the most violent methods ever devised by man: crucifixion.
Crucifixions were public, humiliating, could last for days, and were so painful, it’s where we get the word “excruciating.” “Ex” means “from” and “cruc” means “cross.”
In this mind-blowing verse, Jesus was hanging on a cross, beaten and naked, yet as He looked upon His executioners He prayed “Father, forgive them.” Some have called these some of the most sublime words of the whole Bible.
As hard as it is by going against our fallen human nature, forgiveness is the way out of all the toxic anger we see around us, from hateful “social” media posts to road rage to mass shootings.
Also, forgiveness is like electricity. For one, we’ve got to be “plugged in.” In this case, in close communion with God. Also, just like AC current, forgiveness is a cycle. The light goes on when you turn on the switch, to open the circuit and let the electrons flow. Turn off the switch, and the power stops. Likewise, with forgiveness, the Bible tells us, in order to receive it, we must also be willing to give it to others.
This principle is so key, it’s even in the Lord’s Prayer: “and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. (Luke 11:4a NLT)
And another element of the cycle is: if we’re totally unwilling to forgive others, that may be a sign we’ve never personally experienced forgiveness ourselves!
Plus, science shows that holding on to a grudge and resentment can damage our physical and mental health. A famous line is, “Holding on to a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other guy gets sick.” When we extend forgiveness, the first person we free is ourselves.
Lastly, this verse provides more proof that the Bible is true. By stating the executioners divided up Jesus’ clothes by casting lots, that fulfilled the prophecy from Psalm 22:18. “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” (NIV) That verse from the Psalms was written hundreds of years before Christ. However, at the gruesome scene of the crucifixion, that prophecy was fulfilled, showing that God’s word is true and reliable.
As we approach this Easter, have you confessed your sins to God and personally experienced His forgiveness? Also, is there anyone you need to forgive?