The Days & Nights of His Passion, vol. 2
FATHER, FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY DO
Intro: For about three years the Lord Jesus had ministered by word and deed to the spiritual needs of the Jewish people in order to bring them to believe in Him for eternal life. He had healed thousands of their physical infirmities and had delivered the same from the powers of darkness. Some in Israel rejoiced in His light, while the majority showed they loved the darkness more. At last, the time came for the Savior to die. The betrayer had given his lethal kiss. The priests had staged their midnight trial. The governor had rendered his unjust verdict. The soldiers had beaten their innocent prisoner. When they were finished with their bloody work, Jesus began to take His final, slow steps on the road to His crucifixion.
WHAT IS GOD ASKING?
QUESTIONS THE CRUCIFIXION POSES…
Luke 23:26 Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.
It was customary in those days for a condemned criminal to carry his own cross – it was a final indignity before the fatal event.
We know from other gospel accounts that Jesus must have been close to total physical collapse. Otherwise, why would the soldiers make someone else carry His cross, if not for the cruel mercy of making sure He lived long enough to be crucified?
As He struggled His way up Calvary under the weight of His heavy cross beam, the obvious physical exhaustion must have made the soldiers wonder whether He would die before they had the satisfaction of killing Him.
So they seized a bystander and compelled him to assist the condemned with dragging the cross up the hill.
He was likely a Jewish man from North Africa – Simon of Cyrene (Cyrene is modern Libya). Since there was little use in arguing with the Roman soldiers, Simon did as he was told.
Many instantly see this moment as an example of Christian discipleship. Like Simon, we too are called to take up the cross and follow in the pathway of Jesus.
Be grateful for Simon helping our Lord but be careful not to lionize him. He was in the wrong place at the right time. He did not volunteer to carry the cross; he was compelled to do it by the sword of the Roman soldier.
While I don’t want to take away from that responsibility we all have, I think something deeper is going on here.
It is better for us to see Simon’s carrying the cross as a symbol of our condemnation. We are the ones who deserve to die for sin, not Jesus.
As we watch Simon carry the cross up Calvary, we should see the heavy burden of our own guilt before God. It was not inappropriate for Simon or any other person to carry the cross for Jesus – because the sins Christ was bearing were our own.
And when we see Jesus nailed to the cross, we should know that He is dying in our place, for the sins we deserve to carry.
Luke 23:27 And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him.
Luke 23:28 But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.
Luke 23:29 For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’
Luke 23:30 Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’
Luke 23:31 For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”
How sad it is to see this innocent man – the perfect Son of God – taking His final footsteps to the cross. The scene is even more mournful by the intense emotional response of the women who went with Jesus up to Calvary that day.
Their tears flowed out of sympathy for the Man of Sorrows – out of pity for someone they rightly perceived to be an innocent victim.
Most of the women who followed Jesus and supported His ministry came from Galilee rather than Jerusalem. So it is unlikely that many of these mourners had made a personal faith commitment to Christ.
Yet, they prove to be kind and sympathetic. They recognized an injustice when they saw one.
We might have expected Jesus to thank these ladies for their kindhearted sympathies. Instead, to our surprise, Jesus told them that their pity was misplaced. They were shedding tears for the wrong person. “Do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves/children.”
Typically, barrenness was considered a curse, but when judgment came it would be counted a blessing. Better to not have children at all than to see them suffer famine/sword, as mothers did in the siege and fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
They cried out for the mountains around the city to crush them so they would be delivered once and for all from the misery of their distress.
Their tears of sympathy were not wrong, but they were missing the point. If anyone needed to be pitied it was the people of Jerusalem, not the man they were putting to death.
Referring to them as the “Daughters of Jerusalem” was a phrase that meant the whole nation – either gender would have indicated the same thing. The women who wept for Jesus represented the people of God.
Many Christians believe that Good Friday is a day when they should feel sad that Jesus died, and therefore try to get themselves into the right emotional state to grieve His crucifixion. But Jesus does not need our sympathies!
He did not need them when He was going to die, and He does not need them now that His sufferings are over.
If we weep over the cross, therefore, is should be with sorrow for our sin and gratitude for our salvation, but never with sadness for Christ.
People should pray that the Lord would have mercy on their souls which is infinitely more important than feeling sorry for Jesus.
Likewise, anyone not ready for the final judgment will prefer annihilation over a continued existence when the wrath of the Lamb comes. They will call upon the mountains to crush them and bury them forever – but no outlet will be found.
Rev 6:15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,
Rev 6:16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
Rev 6:17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
To whom does the cross belong?
Answer: every sinner
Luke 23:32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death.
Luke 23:33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.
Two other men were led to the place of execution with the Lord Jesus. Luke calls them “criminals” but does not list their crimes. The word translated “criminal” is also “evildoers” or “good-for-nothings.”
These verses fulfill a prophecy from Isaiah…
Isaiah 53:12 …And He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
What clearer way to number Jesus with transgressors than to hang Him between two criminals?
Luke does not dwell on the horrific suffering that came with being crucified, yet this matter-of-fact report refers to a form of torture that has been considered the most agonizing and disgraceful form of public execution ever devised.
Jesus was nailed to a rugged piece of wood with heavy spikes through his hands/feet, and then left to dangle there until he died of exposure, asphyxia, and loss of blood.
Who does the cross consume?
Answer: the guilty and their substitute
Luke 23:34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.
There are two kinds of ignorance: (1) lack of opportunity (2) closing of the eyes (“they do not know what they do” is #2)
Jesus lived what He preached.
Luke 6:27 But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Luke 6:28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.
J.C. Ryle – As soon as the blood of the Great Sacrifice began to flow, the Great High Priest began to intercede.
At the time of His most extreme agony, Jesus still found the courage to pray – not for Himself, but for those who were killing Him.
C.H. Spurgeon – Our blessed Redeemer persevered in prayer even when the cruel iron rent His tender nerves, and blow after blow of the hammer jarred His whole frame with anguish; and this perseverance may be accounted for by the fact that He was so in the habit of prayer that He could not cease from it; He had acquired a mighty velocity of intercession which forbade Him to pause.
Who was Jesus praying for? At the very least, the ones who were nailing Him to a cross beam. They were guilty of murder even though they were only following orders and did not know that they were killing the Son of God.
If Jesus was willing for the Father to forgive the very men who murdered Him, then what sinner is beyond the reach of His grace?
Surely anyone who repents will be saved!
When His enemies said, “Crucify!” Jesus said, “Forgive.” And a man who says that is willing to forgive anyone – even people like us, no matter what we have done, as long as we come to Him by faith.
“Father, forgive them” – Jesus leaves His prayer open-ended. He was giving the hope of grace to every lost sinner who would ever approach Him with a prayer to be forgiven.
C.H. Spurgeon said, “…into that pronoun [little] ‘them’ I feel I can crawl.’”
Who does the cross set free?
Answer: the ignorant who receive the truth
During this most dreadful experience, Jesus remains true to His own vision: God is still His Father, and love for His enemies is still His practice.
Luke 23:35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”
Luke 23:36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine,
Luke 23:37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”
Luke 23:38 And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS
“What sort of king gets killed?” they wondered. “What kind of Messiah gets crucified?” If Jesus could not rescue Himself from this shameful death, they reasoned, how could He save anyone at all?
But, of course, it was just because he was the Christ that Jesus refused to save Himself. And because He did not save Himself, He is able to save sinners.
IT WAS BY NOT SAVING HIMSELF THAT JESUS SAVED SINNERS.
This section is also a direct fulfillment of a centuries-old prophecy from the OT…
Psalm 22:7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
Psalm 22:8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
It is ironic that this psalm on which their actions/words are modeled recognizes God as the one who delivers and not the person in distress.
Who does the cross condemn?
Answer: the unbelieving who scoff at the truth
Cecil Alexander wrote a famous hymn, “Green Hill.”
We may not know,
We cannot tell,
What pains He had to bear
But we believe
It was for us
He hung and suffered there.