Date: April, 2011
Searching the Scriptures
“Search the Scriptures…they are they which testify of Me. “John 5:39”
Author: Bob Moses
The Seven Utterances of Jesus from the Cross
First: The word of Forgiveness. Coming from our Lord, what else could possibly come first? He is first to forgive, for without grace we have nothing. (Luke 23:34) “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”.
In this first, of the utterances of Jesus from the Cross, we find Him praying, just as He had when He began His public ministry. Upon being baptized by John the Baptist (the beginning of His public ministry), we are told in Luke 3:21 & 22; “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son: in thee I am well pleased.” What a marvelous revelation, how significant, how instructive, and now we see Him closing His ministry “in prayer”. Surely, He has left us an example! His hands cannot now minister to the sick, for they are nailed to the cross, His feet cannot carry Him on errands of mercy, for they are fastened to the tree, He can no longer engage in instructing the apostles, for they have forsaken Him and fled; so how then does He occupy Himself in His suffering? In prayer! What a lesson for us. Even though you may be physically defective, or are bed ridden, you are still on this earth and can pray. Christ in His last hours chose not to come down from the cross, but to pray and for His enemies. How blessed! The message to our Christian reader is to never lose hope, look not upon any as beyond the reach of prayer. Keep in mind that Christ prayed for you and me long before we believed in Him. (John 17:20); “Neither pray I for these (the apostles) alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word”. Muchas His declaration to Thomas in the upper room; “Thomas you believe because you have seen, blessed are those who believe yet who have not seen”.
I find it very hard not to quote the entire chapter of Isaiah 53 at this juncture. This chapter of the word of God was prophesied over 700 hundred years before Jesus was ever born, yet it indicated to the letter, what our Lord was to fulfill. Please take the time to read it. For the sake of brevity, I shall capsulate into ten things about the humiliation and suffering of the Redeemer. To quote Mr. Pink: “It declared that He should be despised and rejected of men; that He should be a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; that He should be wounded, bruised and chastised; that He should be led, unresistingly, to slaughter; that He should be dumb before His shearers; that He should not only suffer at the hands of man but also be bruised by the Lord; that He should pour out His soul unto death; that He should be buried in a rich man’s tomb; and then it was added, that He would be numbered with the transgressors; and finally, that He should make intercession for the transgressors. Here then was the prophecy “and made intercession for the transgressors;” was the fulfillment of it; when He uttered, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He thought of His murderers. He pleaded for His crucifiers; He made intercession for their forgiveness.” “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
“Father, forgive them.” On no previous occasion did Christ make such a request of the Father. Hitherto He forgave Himself. To the sick of palsy He said, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matt. 9:2). To the woman who washed His feet with her tears in the house of Simon, He said, “Thy sins are forgiven”, (Luke 7:48). Why then should He now ask the Father to forgive, instead of directly pronouncing forgiveness Himself?
Forgiveness of sin is a Divine prerogative. The Jewish scribes were right when they reasoned, “Who can forgive sins but God only?” (Mark 2:7). But you say; Christ was God. Truly; but Man also—the God-man. He was the Son of God that had become the Son of Man, with the express purpose of offering Himself as a Sacrifice for sin. And when the Lord Jesus cried “Father forgive them” He was on the Cross, and there He might not exercise His Divine prerogatives. Mark carefully His own words, and then behold the marvelous accuracy of Scripture. He had said “The Son of Man hath power “on earth” to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:6). But He was no longer on the earth! He had been “lifted up from the earth” (John 12:32)! He was suspended between heaven and earth upon the Cross. Moreover, on the Cross He was acting as our Substitute; the Just was about to die for the unjust. Hence, it was that hanging there, as our Representative, He was no longer in the place of authority where He might exercise His own Divine prerogatives, therefore takes He the position of a suppliant before the Father. Thus we say that when the blessed Lord Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them,” we see Him absolutely identified with His people. No longer was He in the position “on earth” where He had the “power or right” to forgive sins; instead, He then interceded for sinners, by prayer!
Observe the latter portion of our Lord’s first utterance; “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. This couples with my opening statement. The fact remains that we are ignorant of many things, but the fault and blame are ours. This does not minimize the enormity of our guilt. Sins of ignorance need the Divine forgiveness as our Lord’s prayer upon the Cross here plainly shows. Learn then how high is God’s standard, how great is our need, and praise Him for an Atonement of infinite sufficiency, which cleanses us from all sin.
Let us dig yet, a little deeper, into this first utterance. “They know not “what they do”. Did they not know of the fact of His crucifixion? They had cried out “Crucify Him”. They knew full well that their vile request had been granted. Full well that He had been nailed to the Tree, for they were eye-witnesses of the event. So what did our Lord mean when He said, “They know not what they do?” He meant that they were ignorant of the “enormity” of their crime. They “knew not” that it was the Lord of Glory they were crucifying. The emphasis is not on, “They know not.” but on “they know not what they do.”
And yet again back to the above; they “ought” to have known. Their blindness was inexcusable. The Old Testament prophecies had received their fulfillment in Him sufficient enough to identify Him as the Holy One of God, the Messiah. His teaching was unique, for His very critics were forced to admit “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). And what of His perfect life! He had lived before men a life which had never been lived on earth before. He pleased not Himself. He went about doing good. He was ever at the disposal of others. There was no self-seeking about Him. His was a life of self-sacrifice from beginning to end. His was a life ever lived to the glory of God. His was a life on which was stamped Heaven’s approval, for the Father’s voice testified audibly “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” No, there was no excuse for their ignorance. It only demonstrated the blindness of their hearts. Their rejection of the Son of God bore full witness once for all, that the carnal mind is indeed “enmity against God” (A.W. Pink).
Another example of or our Lord’s perfect Grace; He said; “Father, forgive them.” He had said; “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matt: 5:44) Above all others, Christ practiced what He preached. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. He not only taught the truth, but was Himself the truth incarnate. Said He: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) Here on the cross He perfectly exemplified His teaching. In all things He has left us an example.
Take note that Christ did not “personally” forgive His enemies. This leads us unto an arena which is much misunderstood today in our world of political correctness.
If our “brother”, meaning our fellow Christians, seek forgiveness, we are commanded to forgive seven times seven should they “repent” of their sins or error. However, our enemies, should they not repent, nor respond, or even acknowledge their transgression, we are not required to forgive; but rather, to pray for them. Nevertheless, allow us not to condemn an enemy. Should one person, or an organization, or any cause-worthy event interrupt our liberty, freedom, and communion with God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. We must stand united, statuary and solid in our determination to resist evil. The message we are plainly taught is that a condition must be met by the offender before we may pronounce forgiveness. The one who has wronged us must first “repent”. Should he or she, or a nation not respond then forgiveness is not required. Our response is to “forgive” and “pray”. That, not withstanding, when nations or evil forces embark upon us, we must maintain our faith and resist with all our might against our enemy and place our faith and prayers upon God the Father, and Jesus our Saviour.
I wish to cover very briefly the “Completeness” of Divine forgiveness. Many Christians are confused upon this doctrine. They are comfortable with the knowledge that all their past sins are forgiven, once they have received Christ. But then they worry about present and future sins. How are they forgiven? Dear Christian brothers and sisters, when Christ was nailed to the tree as the Sacrifice for our sins, were not all our sins at that time “future sins”? You were not even born yet. Therefore, we see that Christ bore your future sins as well, as He most assuredly has your past sins. The Word of God teaches us that the unbelieving soul is brought out of the place of unforgiveness, and into the place of forgiveness, at the death of Christ. Christians are a forgiven people! The Holy Spirit says: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin: (Romans: 4:8). (Col. 2:13), “And you being dead in your sins…hath He (God) quickened together with Him (Christ), having forgiven you all trespasses”. Notice what God has joined together here. He has joined Him (Christ) with you (the believer). And what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder). Our union with a risen Christ is connected with my forgiveness. Therefore if my life is “hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3) then I am forever out of the place where imputation of sin applies. Hence it is written, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1); how could there be if “all trespasses” have been forgiven? None can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect (Rom. 8:33). “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth”. Christian reader, join the writer in praising God because we are eternally forgiven everything!
We must rest here, before our journey into Part 3, The Second Utterance of our Saviour from upon the Cross. The Word of Salvation! It is my prayer that you will remain with me throughout this “Study”. I know that it is long and somewhat belabored, nevertheless, I feel it necessary to convey to my readers, at the minimum, the basic extent of the message as presented in the Holy Canon. God Bless you and yours!