“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34
As the soldiers drove nails through his hands and feet to the cross, Jesus did not pray to his heavenly Father for help to bear the immense pain. Nor did he ask his Father to avenge his enemies for all his innocent suffering. Instead, with his first statement from the cross, we see the true heart of our Savior. “Father, forgive them,” Jesus said. He prayed that his Father would show mercy to those who were inflicting death on him. He prayed for their forgiveness because he was dying to take away the guilt of their sin.
Jesus’ prayer is for us, too. He knows our sins: the times we have let other things in this world and in our lives come before God, the times we have misused his name and neglected his Word, the times we have disobeyed our parents and been disrespectful to those in authority, the times we have hurt somebody by what we have said or done, the times we have belittled God’s gifts of sex and marriage, the times we have stolen or lied or gossiped or coveted something that didn’t belong to us. Jesus had all of that in mind—all of those things for which we deserve God’s disdain and destruction, and our Savior pleads, “Father, forgive them!”
Not only do we hear Jesus pray for our forgiveness, but we also see him pay for our forgiveness. Hanging on the cross that day, he accepted all the wrath of God directed against all the sins of the world. He was the sacrificial Lamb of God who took away your sins, my sins, the sins of everyone. Because of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, God does not count our sins against us. Fully and freely he forgives us through Jesus. Oh, how that leads us to love God our Savior!
Prayer: Dearest Jesus, it was my sin too that led you to sacrifice yourself on the cross. Assure me that all my sins are taken away by your death for me. Stir up my love for you and fill my heart with the peace of God’s forgiveness. Amen.