Father, Forgive Them

Seven Words of Jesus from the Cross (sermon 1)

Today I will begin sharing about Jesus’ Words from the Cross. These are seven statements that Jesus made while he was being crucified.

Certainly every word Jesus said was important, but let me share with you how difficult it was to speak from the cross.

People who were crucified died slowly. While they hung on a cross, their lungs would slowly fill up with fluid. They were effectively drowning. Breathing would be difficult, and it would be necessary for the crucified person to press with his legs in order to get air into his lungs.

People sometimes were on crosses for a few days, but at the death of Jesus, Pontius Pilate didn’t want the bodies to be hung during the Passover weekend, so he ordered that the legs would be broken of the people who were crucified. This was so that they would not be able to push with their legs in order to breathe, and it would bring death faster. The soldiers found that Jesus was already dead at that point, so rather than breaking his legs, a soldier ripped open Jesus’ side, and blood and water flowed out.

This was the water that was filling his lungs.

I give these details in order to help us understand the state that Jesus was in when he spoke from the cross: he was truly suffering.

Each time he spoke he would have had to first press with his nailed legs and gulp air. He was constantly in pain, but with each word, his pain would increase.

He could have just died silently, without speaking, but he chose to speak.

Jesus was not speaking hatred or judgment from the cross, as most crucified people would have cried. But he was speaking important words that we should consider, remember and learn from. Even from the cross, Jesus was teaching!

Crucifixions still occur. I read that about 90 years ago, people were crucified in this country during the Greco-Turkish War. And now, in Iraq, the Islamic State, aka ISIS is crucifying people.

When we watch the news, and read reports in the papers and online, we gasp for air, hearing the horrible details of the Middle Ages coming alive across our borders and bring death like the Black Plague.

People respond in various ways, with words of fatalism or words of hatred or words of fear and dismay.

What are the dying words of Assyrians and Yazidi people who are being tortured to death, crucified and beheaded?

They are cries for help.

We cry out for them, too, in prayer.

We are collecting finances to assist these people who have fled into our nation of Turkey.

It is an appropriate time for us to look at the words that Jesus spoke from the cross. Especially when he asked Our Heavenly Father to FORGIVE those who were abusing, torturing and killing him.

Now, let’s look at the passage of Scripture that we will consider today:

[32] Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. [33] 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. [34] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. [35] The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” [36] The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar [37] and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” [38] There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.

Luke 23:32-38




  1. Similarities to Psalm 22

As Jesus was being crucified, he saw many things happening that had already been mentioned, prophetically in Scripture (what we call the Old Testament, but it was what Jesus called the “Word of God.”).

Last week we looked at Psalm 22 and I mentioned that of all of the psalms, it was referred to on at least five different occasions in the Gospels, by all four writers. It is a psalm that described what David was going through at his time, but also prophetically described Jesus’ ministry on the cross.

Here are some of the parallel moments:

18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

Psalm 22:18

And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Luke 23:34

As well,

All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.

Psalm 22:7, 8

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

Luke 23:35

These are not only similarities, but it shows us some of what had happened to Jesus on that day.

We know that in a 24 hour period, Jesus was betrayed; arrested; unfairly charged with a crime; beaten and whipped (almost dying in the whipping); he was mocked by the soldiers (and the Scripture doesn’t tell us everything that the soldiers did, but we can imagine that those men humiliated Jesus terribly); when the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate offered to set him free, people demanded that a murderer be freed instead of Jesus; he heard the people of the city cry “crucify him;” he was forced to carry his cross (and when he couldn’t carry it, someone was forced to carry it for him); He was stripped naked; he was nailed to the cross and people mocked him.

What is our reaction when someone is sarcastic to us, acts selfishly against us, takes our parking space, gives us a bad hand gesture, calls us a name?

Often we want to repay evil for evil, but the Scriptures teach us a better way:

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

I Peter 3:9

The Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write those words, but where did Peter first learn this? He learned it from Jesus.

  1. Jesus’ Words of Forgiveness
  1. Prior to the Cross

Jesus is the one who taught us to pray, “forgive as we forgive”

[12] Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. [13] And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’ [14] For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. [15] But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:12-15 (NIV)

Forgiveness is to be received and given. God’s forgiveness changes us so that we can forgive, but if we don’t forgive others, then God will not forgive us.

That is heavy.

We are not created to carry unforgiveness around with us…it will kill us….make us bitter and hard.

It makes us ugly, and it is an easy thing that creeps into our lives.

This is why we are told to examine ourselves before we take the Lord’s Supper, for we need to prevent ourselves from harboring unforgiveness in our lives.

Let us take a few minutes, now, to ask the Holy Spirit to show us what needs to be confessed to him, before we take communion, today.

[a few moments of silence]

PRAY: “Heavenly Father, we thank you for showing us in our hearts by Your Holy Spirit, what we need to confess to you.”

[let people confess in their hearts]

Notice that right after Jesus teaches us to pray…forgive as we forgive… He also teaches us to pray…about temptation and deliverance from the evil one.

This should remind us that if we don’t forgive, we will fall into temptation.

If we don’t forgive we won’t fully live.

Jesus taught us to forgive and to love our enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-47

Jesus taught us to forgive and to pray for those who persecute us.

Jesus lived forgiveness.

The African-American Preacher and Civil Rights Leader, Martin Luther King, jr. said this about forgiveness:

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let us make forgiveness our constant attitude as Jesus showed us.

Let’s take a few moments before I go further and pray.

PRAY: Father, please help us to forgive as You have forgiven us in Jesus.

From the Cross

From the Cross, Jesus taught us by his actions.

He didn’t say, “hi students, I have a lesson today,” instead, while he pressed his nailed feet in order to take a breath, and stabbing pain shot through his legs…and while his side would cramp up and his lungs were filling with water.

While he hung on the cross, naked and abused, covered in sweat, tears, spit, blood and dust, he used his strength to utter these words.

These were not just merely words, but they were a prayer.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:34

Jesus forgave, and he asked his Heavenly Father to forgive them.

He acknowledged several things in this prayer:

  1. We have the power to bless even when we have been abused (Jesus was praying for Jews and Romans on this occasion, Pharisees and ordinary people).
  2. We can call upon our Heavenly Father at all times
  3. We need to recognize that people do not always know what they are doing…sometimes they think that their violence against us is justified.
  4. As well, Jesus’ death was foretold in Scripture, so these who were abusing him and gambling with his clothing were fulfilling what had been spoken before.

As the prophet Isaiah said,

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,

Isaiah 53:10

The truth is that Jesus could have called this to end, and walked away, but he stayed on that cross in spite of the abuse and pain because he was not only someone who would ask His Heavenly Father to forgive these people, but by His death, he would bring the solution to all sin, and provide the only real means of forgiveness that anyone can have.

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

We see Jesus forgiving

Practicing what he preached

Showing us how to treat those who persecute us

He told us to pray for those who persecute us…what are we to say when we pray?

“Father forgive them.”

Jesus lived and died to bring forgiveness to man, and he had forgiveness on his lips and in his heart when he was living and dying

We can, too

He is with us

His Spirit is helping us

Let us decide to love and forgive

**** ****

As we approach the Lord’s Table today, let us approach remembering the words of Jesus’

“Father, Forgive them.”

As we approach the Lord’s Table today, let us remember the following:

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 12:23-26

The Lord’s Supper is ONLY for those who follow the Lord Jesus the Messiah, not as a prophet, but as God, as Savior, as King.

This table is not my table but it is Jesus’ table, on loan to us, so to speak.

Before we take the communion, today, let us stand and declare our faith in Jesus by reciting the Apostles’ Creed, together in English and in Turkish.

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, Our Lord.

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.

The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

From where He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy worldwide Church, the communion of Saints,

the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen

Göğün ve yerin Yaratanı, her şeye gücü yeten Baba, Tek Tanrı’ya ve O’nun biricik Oğlu Rabbimiz Mesih İsa’ya inanıyorum. O, Kutsal Ruh’tan vücut buldu ve bakire Meryem’den doğdu. Pontius Platus zamanında acı çekerek çarmıha gerildi; öldü ve gömüldü; ölüler diyarına indi, üçüncü gün ölüler arasından dirildi, göğe çıktı, her şeye gücü yeten Baba’nın sağında oturdu; oradan dirileri ve ölüleri yargılamak için tekrar gelecektir. Kutsal Ruh’a, Kutsal evrensel kiliseye, kutsalların birliğine, günahların affına, ölülerin dirilişine ve sonsuz yaşama inanıyorum. Amin.

Let us come to the Table and take the bread and the cup.

Then, go back to your places and we will take it together.

[let people take the elements]

if you have a prayer need, or if you are ready to receive Jesus as your Lord and your Savior, come to the people here in the front who will pray with you.

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