How often do we truly reveal our hearts to other people? Most of us find it difficult to be ourselves because we would rather be popular and successful than risk the rejection of our true selves. We focus on impressing our friends, outperforming our co-workers and outdoing our neighbors. We try to become the person we think others want us to be, rather than being our genuine selves. We say the things we think others want to hear, rather than speaking frankly from our hearts.
In our culture, real self-disclosure is rare; when we encounter genuine sincerity, we take notice. This rarity is evident in the significance we place on a person’s last words. We expect that when facing death, a person will say something profoundly real and sincere. Jesus’ final words hold even greater power for us because He spoke them from the cross.
Jesus made seven statements from the cross, each one revealing something powerful about His grace, love for us and perfect fulfillment of Scripture. In the first statement, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). This remarkable display of the grace of Jesus should encourage us in three ways.
First, because of Jesus’ first statement, we know that our sins can be completely forgiven. If Jesus can pray for the forgiveness of those men who cursed Him, spat upon Him, beat Him and ultimately crucified Him, how can we be arrogant enough to think His forgiveness is not big enough or strong enough for us?
God’s forgiveness is based on His limitless love, immeasurable grace, and unwavering faithfulness. He promised us that whosoever would come to Him, confess their sins, and repent would find forgiveness. God always keeps His promises.
Second, Jesus’ prayer for their forgiveness shows us that the cross alone can end the vicious cycle of hate and sin. In essence, when Jesus was suspended between heaven and earth, He was acting as a magnet, drawing all hatred, anger and viciousness to Himself. In doing so, He not only accomplished our forgiveness, but He also gave us the power to forgive others when they have wronged us.
When we are wronged, we take our hurts to God and declare our forgiveness for the offense and offender, and we trust God to heal our hearts. When we determine to forgive others through the power of the Cross, God will break the power of sin and hate in our lives.
Third, this first statement from the cross shows us that our Savior practiced what He preached. He told us to deny ourselves, and He refused to summon the legions of angels who stood ready to rescue Him. He told us to turn the other cheek, knowing that His would be struck repeatedly by His jailers. He told us to forgive, and we watch Him, with love and compassion, intercede for the forgiveness of those whose scorn had brought Him to Calvary. Jesus certainly practiced what He preached.
As we read through the last words of Jesus on the cross and gain tremendous insight into His heart, His character and His love for each of us — how are we to be changed? First, be encouraged to approach Him in bold assurance that His grace is sufficient to cover and forgive your sins. There is no debt you could owe that Jesus, the once for all sacrifice, has not paid in full. Second, do not wait to “feel” like forgiving others when you have been wronged. Forgiveness is a decision of the will. Honor God with your will, and He will bring your emotions into line accordingly.
Finally, the Bible teaches us that to whom much is given, much is required. We have received forgiveness from God, and He requires us to forgive others.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. —Colossians 3:13
Begin to become a more forgiving person by worshiping God for the forgiveness that He has shown you.
When we appreciate our great need for forgiveness, we will be able to offer it more freely to others. When we refuse to forgive, we reveal a heart that has not begun to grasp the depths of God’s grace. Where do you stand in light of Jesus’ first statement from the cross?