“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:39).
I don’t believe we can truly begin to understand forgiveness until we hear these words Jesus speaks from the cross. His own people have rejected him. The crowds called for his crucifixion. Spikes are driven through his hands and feet. He will not be going anywhere until he has died.
In that moment Jesus practiced what he preached. He prayed for those who were hurting him (Matthew 5:44). He interceded for those who executed him, just as Isaiah said he would (Isaiah 53:12). He forgave them.
When I hurt, forgiveness is rarely on my mind. Sometimes prayer is, but I am usually praying for myself. “Make the hurt go away!” Pain takes over my thoughts, words and actions. It blinds me to everything else.
Jesus reacts so differently. His pain shifts his attention outside of himself. His pain opens his eyes to those who have no idea what they have just done. He pleads for mercy – for those who are killing him.
I probably have no idea how many people I’ve hurt. Something I said. Something I didn’t say. Someone I laughed at. Someone I ignored. Some were friends. Some I didn’t even know. Do you think Jesus would pray for me? Or for you?
The bible says that Jesus is interceding for us at the right hand of God. He’s advocating for you and me. He’s working out a deal with God, mediating a new covenant, so that we are forgiven for unknown as well as known sins.
I’ll bet our unknown sins far outnumber the ones we’re aware of. We like to think we’re doing pretty well, while we leave behind a trail of hurt feelings. We may not have hurt anyone, but how many did we fail to help? Far too often we were the problem rather than the solution, and someone had to clean up after us. We’re a mess and most of the time we don’t even know it. Like something caught in our front teeth or a stain on the back of our shirt.
Jesus knows. He’s heard the prayers of the many we’ve hurt and comforted them. He’s had pity on the one’s we’ve ignored. He’s prayed for us. He pleads for mercy – for us.
I didn’t know, Lord. Pray for me.