By Brooke Holt
“And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments.” (Luke 23:33–34)
As you start this devotion, take a moment to remember a time when you were on the highway and someone cut you off. What thoughts crossed your mind? My guess (based on my own experience) is that your first words were not, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Now picture the Son of God, perfect in every way, hanging on a cross to die a criminal’s death. Jesus did not assert himself. He did not tell his mockers what crime they were committing or what would happen in three days. He did not seek to prove himself, protect himself, or relieve his agony. Instead, Jesus stayed in the physical pain and humiliation. In that place of suffering, Jesus prayed to his Father the most unimaginable prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus knew what these people had done to get him to the cross. They had lied, conjured up false evidence against him, set a true criminal free, and denied his identity. Jesus knew what they had done, and they knew what they had done. These people did not understand the implications of what they were doing. But in his infinite wisdom, Jesus understood all of it. Though rejected and despised, Jesus offered these betrayers what they needed most—the opportunity for divine redemption.
Only through his death and resurrection could people be forgiven and saved from the condemnation they deserved. Jesus took the condemnation to make way for redemption. Would those standing at the cross receive this redemption? Even the Jewish authorities, the Roman soldiers, and the bystanders? Scripture answers that question just fourteen verses later as one of the centurions watching the crucifixion declared the true identity of Jesus: “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). In Luke’s Gospel, the centurion is recorded as saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47).
Many more people understood the mission and message of Jesus after that day. In Acts 2, it is recorded that about three thousand people were converted on the day of Pentecost. That number continued to increase as the disciples went about spreading the Gospel and building the kingdom (Acts 2:41, 47). This redemption and building of the church came through Jesus’s willingness to endure that cross and to offer forgiveness even to those who condemned him.
Jesus offered divine redemption to everyone who would hear his Gospel and put their trust in him. If you have received such a great redemption, you can offer forgiveness to those who have hurt you, betrayed you, or sinned against you—even the person who cut you off on the interstate.
What is most shocking to you about these words of Jesus? How does the divine redemption you have received impact how you extend forgiveness to others?
We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Christmas is the festival of rejoicing at Christ’s first coming—the beautiful, unlikely start of our salvation! As the season ends each year, we pack up the decorations. Advent, on the other hand, is a bigger celebration—one we can’t box up and store in the attic. It celebrates the grace of Christ’s first coming, and then it reaches with restless anticipation for the fuller grace of his second appearing and the completion of our salvation! For 28 days, celebrate Advent. In Prepare the Way, join with St. Paul, King David the Psalmist, Zechariah, Gabriel, Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, along with the crowds as they rejoiced in the good news of Christmas, and then look beyond it for the holiday that never ends!
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