Father, Forgive Them

Hanging between heaven and earth Where the pain of the world is kissed by the love of God Criminals dying Soldiers gambling People watching Leaders sneering And Jesus… …Mark led a good discussion about “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34).

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Hanging between heaven and earth

Where the pain of the world is kissed by the love of God

Criminals dying

Soldiers gambling

People watching

Leaders sneering

And Jesus…

Jesus is forgiving

Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.

We began looking at the seven last statements Jesus made on the cross. Mark led a good discussion about “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34).

He brought out three things that really struck me. This is the first recorded statement of Jesus during this climactic moment in human history. At the cross, God’s plan reaches climax and completion. And the first word out of Jesus’ mouth is “Father.” He calls out to his Father.

The second thing Mark talked about is how the second thing Jesus says is “forgive.” For most humans, forgiveness, if it comes at all, usually comes after a time of processing the hurt and pain. We’ll come back six months after a hurt or insult or betrayal ready to forgive. But Jesus is able (that’s a key word) to forgive immediately up front, as they are killing him.

Third, this kind of forgiveness flows from Jesus’ humanity. As a human being, he is able to forgive immediately because of who he is inwardly. And we as human apprentices of Jesus can grow into the same kind of love and forgiveness that Jesus expressed.

This is reinforced by Stephen’s martyrdom several years later when he says virtually the same thing (Acts 7:60). And Paul tells Christians to “forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col 3:13) and to live a life of love modeled by Jesus sacrifice (Eph 5:1-2). And according to the Lord’s prayer, God is able to forgive us based on our ability to forgive others (Matthew 6:12). In other words, it seems that the first generation of Christians looked at Jesus’ expression of forgiveness on the cross not as an impossibly high bar to reach, but the norm of daily kingdom life.

Kerri brought up a statement by Father Thomas Hopko that at the crucifixion, everything ended. How true this is. This got me thinking about how evangelicals have flattened both the crucifixion and the resurrection. The crucifixion then comes to be simply the moment when “Jesus died for my sins” and the resurrection comes to be simply Jesus demonstrating that we will live forever like him.

Yet, Hopko (and Wright for that matter) is correct. The crucifixion is the climax of God’s plan for creation. In Jesus, everything God has been at work at since Genesis 1 is accomplished. And at the resurrection, the New Creation dawns in the midst of this present creation. The New Creation is fully realized in the resurrected Christ, who is vindicated as Lord of the world.

Now creation’s history shifts gears. Everything is the implementation of Jesus’ accomplishments. We are to live the New Creation and the resurrected life within our world. This is our part in cooperating with God in the transformation of our world. And Christlikeness is the New Creation in human form. It is the inward human realization of the New Creation, and therefore the first and essential step to being God’s new humanity. And ultimately the New Creation, the fullness of Jesus’ accomplishments, will be realized with the New Heavens and New Earth.

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