Through the years of speaking many times about Jesus and his final moments, I have been mindful of what I would do with my final breaths here on earth. I certainly would not waste any words as every word is precious for the speaker and the listener. I wouldn’t waste a breath saying or attempting to say something that wasn’t important for me to pass onto those nearby. I have to believe Jesus is the same. I have to believe that the last seven phrases he spoke from the cross reveal to us what was really most important to him.
Even though Jesus was suffering from blood loss, dehydration, trauma and fatigue, He still had he presence of mind to offer up prayers and carry on a conversation concerning forgiveness. Forgiveness was obviously a huge motivation for Jesus dying on the cross for us. It was one of the main reasons he came to earth altogether. And here he is within the final few hours of his life making the request of God for us! From the cross he cries out: “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34. This prayer was not only for those who were guilty of driving the nails, or the religious Pharisees, or the Roman government, or the disciples who abandoned him…it was for us, all of us!
One of Jesus’ roles is intercessor (Isaiah 53:12, Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25) but the thought of him being caught in the moment , fresh from the beatings, the persecution, the rejection and abandonment of his friends and disciples, is really astonishing to consider. How could this guy do that? How can he plead for my forgiveness? Dr. F.B. said:
“in uttering this first cry from the Cross, our Lord entered that work of intercession which he ever lives to continue on our behalf. He thinks, not of himself, but of others; he is occupied, not with his own pain, but with their sins. He makes no threat but instead offers a tender prayer of pleading intercession.”
Jesus was fully coherent and present in that moment. Jesus knew who he was and that he was destined to be the intercessor for all of us. He also know he was destined to be the sacrifice for us and our sin. In this scenario when others could have justified their bitter and condemning responses, he still loves and offers a prayer of intercession and forgiveness. In this time, Jesus is not mumbling some trite prayer for people, he is fully engaged in his role and fulfilling the whole reason he came, securing our redemption and the forgiveness of our sin!
Jesus was fully aware of who we were in that moment.. We were ignorant. We were indifferent. We were enemies. And yet he prayed for us! He deliberately mentioned us in his final hours because he could not bring himself to do anything other than love us! It’s one thing to to love people who love you back but it’s quite another to love your enemies! However, this is exactly what Jesus preached and what He did (Matthew 6:12, Matthew 18:21-22, Matthew 26:27-28,Mark 2:5, John8:1-11,John 8:22-23). Jesus praying for our forgiveness reveals his heart to us and his willingness to love us to death! It shows that his love went way beyond words to the ultimate sacrifice of his own life.
This prayer was answered and we are the beneficiaries of it! About seven weeks after this prayer was uttered from the cross, thousands were accepting the fact that it was they who killed Christ, who were guilty of the atrocious sins against God and Christ and begging for his forgiveness.The Church was birthed and the blood of Christ cleansed people from their sins. He still makes intercession today, pleading for our forgiveness and desiring for all to receive the free gift of salvation. What an amazing Savior! What an amazing God!
George Lockhart is a missionary with Vision 2 Hear and serves as student pastor at New Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA