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Good Friday 2004 - Father Forgive Them ::

Like Christmas, Easter is just a great opportunity to talk about the gospel when your church plays host to all the extra people who visit.
Source: Perspective Online © Perspective 2005

Text of the talk given at Easter 2004 by Bryson Smith at Dubbo Presbyterian Church, NSW, Australia

What do you reckon would be the most astonishing verse in the Bible? Of all the amazing things written in the Bible, which sentence do you think is the MOST amzing, the one that leaves you the most flabbergasted.

A friend of mine reckons that good old, John 3:16 was perhaps the most astonishing verse in the Bible. FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD… Ian reckons that phrase is amazing, 1stly becuase of the smallness of the world in this universe, that we’re nothing more than a 3rd rate little planet spinning around a 2nd rate little star. In terms of size, we are a nothing in the biggness of this universe. And yet, GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD. But its not just the smallness of the world, its also the sinfulness of this world. That every night on the news you see the ugliness and mess of the world. And yet… GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD.

My friend, had a good point, John 3:16 may be familar, but if you stop to think about it, its also pretty surprising in what it says. But what about you? What’s your most amazing verse in the bible?

For me, I’m thinking that Luke 23:34 would have to be right up there. Let me pick it up at v32: Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. (and here it comes you see) Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Friends, its that 1st phrase of Jesus’ that I’d like to camp down in this morning. FATHER FORGIVE THEM. They are astonishing words. Quite simply becuase of who it is who says them, and what it is thats happening to him as he says them.

I mean think about it, if anyone deserved to get revenge at this point it’s Jesus. Indeed one of Luke’s great themes in the way he records the crucification, one of Luke’s big points is that Jesus is an innocent man. Three times during the trial, Luke records that Pilate himself keeps saying that there is no basis of any of the charges against this man. One of the criminals hanging on one of the other crosses beside Jesus, he declares that “this man has done nothing wrong.” The Roman centurion, seeing what had happened, he does NOT say: surely this man was the son of God, as in the other gospels. No, no Luke instead goes for: surely this was a righteous man, an innocent man. As Luke really hammers the point that Jesus simply has not done anything to deserve whats happening to him.

He has been falsely arrested. He has been set up for crimes he’d never committed. He has endured a mockery of a trial, which is rushed thru in the one night. He has stood and listened to complete strangers making up lies about him. He has been flogged to an inch of his life, for no good reason. A crown of thorns had been pressed into his head, for no good reason. He has had nails driven thru his arms and legs, for no good reason. He had been housted into the air on a wooden cross, for no good
reason. And while all this was been happening people are mocking him and abusing him…. And for what? All he’s ever done is try and help people!

And in all of that, how does Jesus respond? Well think about other people in history who’ve been wrongly accussed of things. How have they reacted – usually they might it there life ambition to clear their name.
Did you ever see that movie, The Hurricane, starring Densel Washinton, all about the boxer … who was wrongly imprisoned for murder. He just kept at it didnt he? Protesting and protesting and protesting until eventuately justice was done. Well, man, if every anyone had been wronged it was Jesus/ deserved to lodge a protest and get some justice it was Jesus. Yet what did he do? FATHER FORGIVE THEM. That is not what you’re expecting a innocent man who’s been falsely accused/him to say!

Indeed the whole thing is amplified all the more, when you start to think thru exactly who it is saying this. And at this point its interesting to compare Luke’s depiction of the crucification with that of Mel Gibson’s movie THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Which by the way, I though was just extraordinarily powerful. But if you’ve seen it, you’ll know, that the PASSION, it is relentlessly brutal – the beatings, the blood, the thorns, the nails, the spear. You dont miss a thing.

But not with Luke. Unlike Mark or Matthew or John, Luke doesnt even mention the Roman flogging, or the crown of thorns. With Luke you just get v33: when they came to the place of the Skull, there they crucified him.
For you see Luke doesnt want us to feel sorry for Jesus, he wants us to submit to Jesus. He doesnt want us to see Jesus as a victim, he wants us to see Jesus as a victor.

And so during his trial, Jesus makes prouncements of great authority. Identitifing himself as the Son of Man. And then on the way to the cross, Jesus makes prouncements of judgement. DAUGHTERS OF JERUALEM, DO NOT WEEP FOR ME, WEEP FOR YOURSELVES AND FOR YOUR CHILDREN. And then even hanging on the cross, Jesus majestically makes pronouncements of salvation. I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.

You see in Luke, Jesus is an awesome, imposing figure of huge importance. And you see HE’S THE ONE who is being treated so badly here. It only excentuates the offensiveness of the whole thing.

It was interesting wasnt it, all the outcry that occurred earlier this year, over the death of David Hookes. I mean it was tragic enough that anyone would die that way. But the fact that it was someone with a public profile/ someone of some importance. It made it all the more tragic. And so how tragic is the crucification! Its bad enough that anyone would be treated with such injustice, but to treat the Son of Man, the Christ in such a way! That is simply obscene. And yet what did the Son of Man do, what did the King of all the universe do? Did he abuse the crowd back like you or I might have? Did he scream back in anger at them, “I’ll get you mate, just wait til after the ress buddy, then we’ll see you laughing!” Did he demand an apology/stand on his rights. What did the King of the universe say to that angry, seething mob – that mob of pipsqueeks, who do they think they are. And yet what did he say to them? as they executed him. FATHER FORGIVE THEM.

Astonishing isnt it? It’s beyond my comprehension that Jesus could say that. Never have I seen that much love. And it stuns me, surprises me.

Mind you of course, at another level, for those with eyes to see, its not a surprising thing for Jesus to say at all. Especially in Luke’s gospel. Becuase words like forgiveness, forgive, forgiving -those sorts of words are found in greater number in Lukes gospel than in any other.

Right from chapter 1 with Zechariah singing of the tender mercy of God, about his son John the Baptist being the prophet of the Most High, and going on before the LORD to prepare the way for him, giving his people the knowledge of salvation thru the forgiveness of sins.

And right thru to the very last chapter with the risen Christ opening the minds of his disciples to understand that the scriptures taught that the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentence and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name.

You see from go to woe Luke’s gospel is on about sins being forgiven thru Jesus. And therefore really it shouldnt be a surprise at all, when at THE CLIMATIC moment of the gospel, at that point to which everything had been moving. What does Jesus say? FATHER FORGIVE THEM. Of course he’d say that, what else would he say.

For with those words we are taken to the very heart and soul of Luke’s good news. The news that the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost/ Jesus’ whole purpose was to die on the cross so as to take a punishment we deserve/ that God is amazingly gracious. And no matter what you do to him. Forgiveness can be found in him.

The story is told of the famous Greek Emperor, Alexander the Great, who one day as he was travelling in royal procession, and a beggar by the roadside held out a grubby hand pleading for help. The beggar was poor and wretched and had no claim on Alexander, no right even to hold out his hand. And yet the Emperor threw him, not just a copper coin BUT several gold coins. A courtier was astonished at this generosity and commented, “My Lord, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar’s need.
Why give him gold?” Alexander the Great responded in royal fashion, “Cooper coins would suit the beggar’s need, but gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.”

Friends, thats the sort of Jesus we meet on Good friday. A Son of Man with an astonishing depth of geneoristy/ with a love that defies description/ who looked thru the pain and the abuse he was suffering and he looked out into a death hungry mob calling for his death. And thru the blood that crusted his eyes he saw them not so much as murders but as victoms. He saw past their hatred and saw their confusion. He saw them not so much as an angry mob but as sheep without a shepherd. And so When they came to the place called the Skull, and they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.

They are amazing words. And out of them comes amazing comfort doesnt it.
The comfort of course being, that it is with the same extraordinary love, that Jesus looks into our lives, past our lying and laziness/gossiping and empire building/ bad temper and fanasties/play acting and selfishness. And he sees that we are lost in sin. And so he offers up his life to satisfy God’s anger and justice so that you and I can be forgiven. No matter what we’ve done. No matter how many times we’ve done it.

Before they were fixed, our blue car used to have 2 types of doors on it. One type of door, the front passenger, side door. You could hardly ever get it open. You’d have to jiggle the key in the lock, at the same time as working the handle up and down, and if you got lucky, it if was your lucky day, if you jiggled things just right, you could get the door open. The boot door however is the exact reverse. Go over any little bump and the boot door flies opens. I’m sure if you just blew on it, it’ll come up.

Now friends, some people think that God’s love is like the first door. God’s love is something you really got to work on, you virtualy have to wrestle love out of him. But if its your lucky day, if you get things just right, he’ll eventually give love.

But friends thats not it all. At the risk of sounding disrespectful, God’s love is like our car boot door. Good friday is screaming out to us, that God’s love has a hair trigger on it. His love will pour over you at the drop of a hat. And even when you’re a long way away he’ll run to you and he’ll throw his arms around you.

You do know that dont you? Becuase maybe some of you are sitting there thinking, that this couldnt possibly include you. “That if only he knew some of the things you’d done he would be saying all this stuff about forgiveness.’ But freinds, God does know all the things you’ve done.
And he does still want to talk to you about forgiveness. Its why Jesus went to cross. Its why, even when they were driving nails thru hands, and yelling out obuse at him, Jesus would still plead for their forgiveness.
Its becuase they/ we/ you matter enormously to God. And there is amazing comfort to be had in that.

Let me try and help you feel that comfort, by a reading from Max Lucado’s book “Six hours one Friday.” Maybe it’ll resonate a bit with you.

“How do you live with the things you’ve done wrong/ How do you cope with a guilty conscience over those times that you know you havent done the right thing? What do you do with your failures?

Our mistakes come to us as pebbles; small stones that serve as souvenirs of our stumbles. we carry them in our hands, and soon our hands are full. We put them in our pockets and soon our pockets bulge. We place them in a sack and put in over our shoulder; the load scratches and chaps. And soon the bag of yesterdays failures is so heavy, we drag.

Her are some failures that have been dragged into my office:
Unfaithfulness, homesexuality, division, gossip, immorality, envy,
lying, greed, dishonesty, violence.

Nothing drags more stubbornly than a sack of failures.

Could you do it all over again you’d do it differently. You’d be a different person. You’d be more patient. You’d control your tongue.
You’d finsih what you started. You’d turn the other cheek. You’d get married first. You wouldnt marry at all. You’d be honest. You’d resist the temptation. You’d run around with a different crowd.

But you cant. And as many times as you tell yourself, “Whats done is done,” what you did cant be undone.

Your therapists tells you to talk about it. So you do. You pull the
sack into his office and pour the rocks out on his floor and analyze each one. And its helpful. It feels good to talk and he’s nice. But when the hour is up, you still have to carry the sack out with you. Your friends tell you not to feel so bad. Everyone slumps a bit in this world, they say. Not very comforting, you say. Legalists tell you to work the weight off. A candle for every rock. A prayer for every pebble. Sounds logical, but what if I run out of time, Or what if I dont count correctly? TV and magazine tell you to ignore the thing and be happy. Go out and buy something. Which works – until you wipe the mist off your mirror and take an honest look. And you see the sacks still there. What do you do with the stones from lifes stubbles?”

Friends, would you like to leave the stones behind this morning? Are you tired of dragging around that bag of failings. Because you could let God take it of you completely. He’d love to do that. Thats why its called GOOD friday.

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.

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