“Father, forgive them” – Particular & Universal – Brad Jersak

Father, forgive them.”

  • When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on His right and the other on His left.
  • Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His garments by casting lots.
  • The people stood watching, and the rulers sneered at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him and came up to offer Him sour wine. “If You are the King of the Jews,” they said, “save Yourself!”
  • Above Him was posted an inscription: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
  • One of the criminals who hung there heaped abuse on Him. “Are You not the Christ?” he said. “Save Yourself and us!”
  • But the other one rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same judgment? We are punished justly, for we are receiving what our actions deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
  • And Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
  • It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the land until the ninth hour. The sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.
  • Then Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands, I commit my Spirit.”
  • And when he said this, he breathed his last.
  • When the centurion saw what had happened, he gave glory to God, saying, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
  • (Luke 23:33-47).

I begin hearing Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness from the Cross in all its scandalous specificity: “Father, forgive them. They have no idea. Forgive these soldiers, these mockers, these bandits, this mob. Forgive Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod, and poor tragic Judas. Forgive all those disciples who fled in fear. Forgive this centurion beneath my feet.”

And the Father responds, “For you, my beloved Son, anything you ask!”

For I know that the Father’s heart was always to show mercy. And I know the Son both reveals God’s mercy and is the agent of the mercy through perfect surrender to his Father’s heart. As some ancient theologian, insisted, All the operations of Trinity in this world are always undivided.” That is, the Father, Son, and Spirit always act in concert … and that includes their will to show mercy, extend forgiveness, and restore all things.

In this particular, specific forgiveness of those individuals who surround and even perpertrate the Passion of Christ, this forgiveness also becomes universal. As Jesus said, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. He said this to indicate the kind of death He was going to die” (John 12:32-33).

Thus, Christ draws every sin and offense, every act of violence and abuse, and every failure to overcome evil with good up onto the Cross and into himself. From that Cross, forgiveness and healing flow from his wounds into the whole cosmos, for all people, across all time. The particular becomes universal.

Intrinsic to such forgiveness is a two-fold invitation and/or challenge: “Freely you have received, freely give” Matthew 10:8). I.e., Open your hands to receive this mercy. Open your hands to extend this mercy. So simple. And such a good place for Jesus-followers who feel the confusion of our times to reboot their faith. A faith worth trying.

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