Reading: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
If the Christian precept of forgiveness be estimated by the magnitude of the injury forgiven, then these words of Jesus present to our view a forgiveness of an inconceivable and unparalleled injury. The greatest crime man ever committed was the crucifixion of the Son of God; and yet, for the forgiveness of that crime, the Saviour prays at the very moment of its perpetration, fully persuaded of the sovereign efficacy of the blood His enemies were now shedding, to blot out the enormous guilt of the sin of shedding it.
This interceding prayer of Jesus for His murderers was in the sweetest harmony with all He had previously taught. On no gospel precept did He seem to lay greater stress than the precept of forgiveness of injury. Where shall we find any Christian precept enjoined in our Lord’s teaching so lucidly explained, so frequently enforced, or so impressively illustrated, as the forgiveness of injury? Thus, what Jesus taught in His preaching, He embodied in His example.
In addition to this prayer for His murderers we see Him healing the ear of one of the band sent to arrest Him; we see Him turning a look of forgiving love upon the penitent dying at His side. Oh, was ever forgiveness of injury like Christ’s? My soul, sit down at His feet and learn the lesson now so solemnly taught, and so touchingly enforced, even the lesson of forgiving and praying for your enemies and for all who despitefully use you: ”Father, forgive them!”
We cannot pass through an ungodly world, nor even mingle with the saints, and not be often unjustly misrepresented, strangely misunderstood, and unkindly wounded. And yet it is the saddest thought of all that our deepest wounds are those which we receive in the house of our friends. There are no injuries so unexpectedly inflicted, or so keenly felt, as those which we receive from our fellow-saints.
But, oh, the blessedness of writing as Christ did, those injuries upon the sands, which the next flood-tide of forgiving love shall instantly and utterly efface! Standing before this marvelous spectacle of forgiveness—Christ on the cross—what true believer in Jesus can think of the wrong done to himself, the injustice inflicted, the pain produced, and yet harbor in his heart a revengeful, unforgiving spirit? My soul, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bear with each other and forgive grievances and forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:12–13).
This prayer of Jesus was answered. On the Day of Pentecost among the three thousand converts were many of His murderers, who, pierced in their heart, washed in the fountain their own hands had opened, and were forgiven. So soon did God answer the prayer of His Son! Let us, like Jesus, “pray for those who despitefully use us.” Who can tell how soon God may answer, turn their hearts, convert and save them?
Taken from Consider Jesus: Thoughts for Daily Duty, Service, and Suffering by Octavius Winslow, 1870 (public domain).