Give Freely

by Chris Allen

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Luke 23:34 (ESV)

He who never needed it gave it freely. Why won’t you?

When you hear this utterance from the mouth of Jesus, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” our natural minds immediately say, “There is no way I would forgive them, while they’re hanging me on a cross.” The people knew exactly what they were doing, or yet, they should’ve known; they knew the scriptures. The scriptures foretold of the Messiah — the Messiah they had been earnestly praying for, waiting and anticipating for years while under cruel Roman rule. How could Jesus make this decision, how could He extend this kind of compassion when the people had absolutely no compassion for Him? They knew He was innocent, yet they were screaming, and advocating for His demise. The One who never needed forgiveness was willing to give it freely to those who didn’t deserve it.  How could He make this decision that we find so difficult to do or are unwilling to do? I want to share with you what I examined in the scriptures that will help us to make the decision that Jesus made.

  1. Jesus prayed and decided. The Word says that prayer was His daily practice. I believe when Jesus was in the garden, praying to His Father, He knew what He was about to face at the hands of man. He also knew that forgiveness is a command and unforgiveness is a sin. I know this because He taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Knowing that He was going to die for sins, He couldn’t then choose to sin in unforgiveness. You do realize that He and the Father are One and that Jesus is Lord. So when He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” He was talking to Himself.  Because Jesus prayed beforehand, He was able to decide that He was going to forgive every offense that would be lodged against Him. And if we follow His example and develop the practice of prayer, especially because we don’t always know what we are going to face, we can decide beforehand there is no offense that we are not willing to forgive.
  2. Give your feelings to God.  Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. If it were based on feelings, Jesus’s journey to the cross would’ve ended at the garden of Gethsemane where His feelings were so overwhelming that His sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:24). But in the garden He said, “Nevertheless, Father, let your will be done, not my feelings” (see Matthew 26:39).
  3. We need to remember. If we are tempted to make the decision that we cannot and will not forgive others because of what they did to us, remember Jesus and what the people did to Him:

they conspired against Him

they betrayed Him

they sold Him out

they maligned Him

they defamed Him

they embarrassed Him

they abused Him

they lied on Him

they slandered Him

they accused Him

they beat Him

they spat on Him

they ridiculed Him

they scourged Him

they tormented Him

they judged Him

they condemned Him

they punished Him

they sentenced Him

they insulted Him

they denied Him

they mocked Him

they arrested Him

they rejected Him

they stripped Him.

And all this happened on the way to the cross (see Luke 22-23). Yet, He did not withhold forgiveness from them. How dare we!

I pray that this examination of the scriptures has helped you to understand how Jesus was able to forgive others: by praying and deciding and by giving His feelings to God. We must remember what the people did to Jesus, the One who never needed forgiveness, and that in spite of what they did Jesus gave forgiveness freely.

Why won’t you?

 

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