Last Words of Christ, part 1: “Father forgive them. . .” (sermon text)

Posted on August 24, 2012

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Sorry, this is text only, since I forgot to record the message. This sermon was delivered at Hillcrest Baptist Church on the evening of August 19, 2012.

Last words, everybody has them at some point. The last words of a person are very important, because they give us great insight as to what is most important to them. Consider the last words from the following famous people.

Carl Marx: His housekeeper said “tell me your last words.” Marx replied “Go on, Get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!”

P.T. Barnum: “What were today’s receipts?”

Napoleon: “Chief of the Army!”

Charles Spurgeon: “Jesus died for me.”

John Wesley: “The best of all is, God is with us.”

This study will consider the last words of Jesus Christ. These statements are very important to us, not only because of the person who spoke them, but also because of the place where they were spoken. When Jesus was doing His greatest work on earth He was uttering some of His greatest words, and these words enable us to see the heart of God.

 Luke 23:33–34 (NKJV)

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. 

34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.

Sometimes it can be very difficult for us to forgive people, yet is very easy to harbor an unforgiving spirit. Someone does something bad to us, and in our heart we cannot forgive them. But when we harbor un-forgiveness, it is like a cancer that grows inside of us. It is slowly eating away at us, breeding hatred, and destroying our relationship with God. When you decide to forgive, it is like a miraculous healing. A great weight will be lifted from you, and you will have a renewed relationship with God.

What a prayer this was that Jesus made, “Father forgive them. . .” If we can grasp the wonders of this statement, it will enable us to forgive, and to experience the joy that comes with that forgiveness.

THE ADDRESS:

Jesus Addressed God the Father three times while He was on the cross:

 Luke 23:34 (NKJV)

34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.

Matthew 27:46 (NKJV)

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Luke 23:46 (NKJV)

46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last.

THESE ADDRESSES WERE MADE WHEN:

  • He entered into His suffering.
  • He was enduring suffering.
  • He emerged victoriously from His suffering

Nothing threatened Jesus’ relationship with His Father, this should be our model, as well. He is waiting for you to come to Him. If you are hurting or in trouble, call on your Father!

WHY DID JESUS CALL ON THE FATHER?

First, He was fulfilling prophecy.

 Isaiah 53:12 (NKJV)

12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

Second, He was setting an example, that we are to call on the Father in times of trouble.

 1 Peter 5:6–7 (NKJV)

6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 

7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Third, He was practicing the message that He preached, forgiveness. Jesus set the example, and we are to be forgiving.

 Matthew 6:12–15 (NKJV)

12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 

13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. 

14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 

15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Just to be clear, in the text above, Jesus is not addressing forgiveness in terms of salvation, but in terms of the believer’s relationship with the Father. That is forgiveness back into God’s fellowship when when His child has sinned. Scripture is clear that salvation is a gift of grace, not a product of works.

Ephesians 2:8–9 (NKJV)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 

9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

The plan of salvation is simple.

Romans 10:9 (NKJV)

9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

The context of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 6:14-15 falls in line with the teaching of 1 John 1:9.

1 John 1:9 (NKJV)

9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

That was written to those who are already believers, and it deals with our daily sin that affects our relationship with God. It is not addressing salvation. Even after one is saved, there will still be times of sin. Salvation will not be withdrawn from one who is already a child of God, but their relationship with God will suffer until they reconcile that sin. You may be saved, but you won’t be able to have the proper relationship with God if you don’t forgive others. Furthermore, your ability to forgive others is based on God’s forgiveness of you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)

32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

THE APPEAL:

He could have prayed “Father judge them” but He didn’t.

He could have called for legions of angels to deliver Him, but He didn’t.

Our LORD prayed from a heart of love, “Father forgive them.” This, of course was the purpose for His death, He was on the cross because God DOES forgive sinners.

Jesus said to the paralytic

Luke 5:20 (NKJV)

20 When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

To the woman who was brought to Him on the street:

Luke 7:48–50 (NKJV)

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 

49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 

50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

We will have no problem forgiving others, if we are right in our relationship with our Father, and if we will obey the Word of God. Now. . . you may say that I have no idea how people have treated you. You’re right, but I know how they treated Christ, and He was able to say “Father forgive them. . .” Have you been treated worse than Him?

DID JESUS FORGIVE THEM DUE TO IGNORANCE?

“they know not what they do”:

This statement is not a blanket pardon, it doesn’t mean that everyone is automatically saved. Ignorance does not bring forgiveness, ignorance is no excuse. The Bible is very specific that Christ is the only way of salvation.

John 14:6 (NKJV)

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Therefore, if you are ignorant of Jesus, you won’t be saved! (For more on this topic, see “Ignorance is no excuse”)

WHAT WERE THEY IGNORANT OF?

They were ignorant of His person, they mocked Him as a prophet:

 Luke 22:64 (NKJV)

64 And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?”

Luke 23:37 (NKJV)

37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”

They were ignorant of their own actions:

They didn’t realize that what they were doing was a fulfillment of the Word of God

They parted His garments:

Luke 23:34 (NKJV)

34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.

This was prophesied in:

Psalm 22:18 (NKJV)

18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

They gave Him vinegar to drink:

Luke 23:36 (NKJV)

36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine,

This was prophesied in:

Psalm 69:21 (NKJV)

21 They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

He was crucified with the transgressors:

Luke 23:33 (NKJV)

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.

This was prophesied in:

Isaiah 53:12 (NKJV)

12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

They were ignorant of their sin:

They didn’t realize what great sinners they were. The sin offering inLeviticus 4 was for sins of ignorance that had been discovered. But sins of ignorance are still sins, that’s why the offering was made. Jesus basically said “Father, My people don’t understand; they are ignorant. I am dying for them. They don’t know what they are doing; I know what I am doing – I am dying on their behalf. Now, forgive them.”

THE ANSWER:

God’s answer to this prayer was that judgment did not fall. In fact, God does not always judge sin immediately. God in His mercy postponed His judgment, because His Son prayed, “Father forgive them. . .” We are living in an age of grace, not judgment – a day when God is seeking to reconcile lost sinners to Himself. Eventually, God’s grace period will end, and judgment will begin. You need to accept His forgiveness before that happens.

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