When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Yesterday we saw Jesus’ love for His friends. Today, in contrast, we take a look at Jesus’ love for His enemies.
Just imagine what Jesus saw as He was suffering in pain upon the cross after being tortured and humiliated: soldiers casting lots for His belongings, leaders mocking Him, and an angry mob screaming hurtful and unkind remarks at Him. All of these horrific scenes while hanging between two criminals who were arguing about who He was and if He deserved to be there.
As Jesus surveyed the happenings around Him, he prayed the ultimate prayer of mercy and love. Jesus asked God to forgive them because they didn’t know the spiritual significance of what they were doing. I must agree with Kit, this IS, perhaps, the most amazing and powerful prayer in the Bible.
Let’s break it down in to the two parts:
#1 - Jesus asks God to forgive them, all of them. There’s no hint of revenge, there’s no one He is blaming. He simply asks God to wipe their slate clean – to forgive them. The irony in this merciful prayer is that they could be, and many of them would be forgiven of their sins BECAUSE of their hand in His crucifixion. Jesus made it possible.
# 2 - Jesus recognizes that these people don’t realize what they are doing. Jesus’ perpetrators have no way of knowing the spiritual significance of their acts. It almost seems like Jesus is saying “Bless their hearts!” (the genuine kind, not the sarcastic southern kind.)
Jesus’ prayer from the cross is a beautiful illustration of what He taught in the Sermon on the Mount, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5: 43-44). Sister, do you have a hard time praying for your enemies, those people who have hurt you or someone you love? Can you even comprehend loving them or forgiving them? I once heard it said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. I challenge you today to follow the lead of our Savior. Pray for your enemies. Love them. Forgive them. Don’t think about it…just do it. Our feelings rarely lead us into action, but our actions always lead into feelings. So, take action - Pray for them today. Love them today. Forgive them today; and let the healing begin. If we truly want a heart like Jesus, if we truly want to see Him reveal Himself to us in BIG ways, we must call upon the power of His name to pray for those who seem unlovable and unforgivable. We can’t do it alone, but we can do it with Him.
For Further Reading: Colossians 2:9-15, Colossians 3: 2-17, I Corinthians 2:8-13, Ephesians 2:6-10.
Precious Lord, thank You for the sacrifice You made for us on Calvary. Thank You for the forgiveness of all our sins through Christ. Help us, Father, to be more like You - being kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving one another. (Eph 4:32) Lord, let my mind and heart be aligned with Your Word so that my actions and reactions will help others experience You. May every one of us reading these words lay down our hearts and forgive someone today and love them just as You have forgiven and love us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.