Holy Week! I have such a myriad of feelings during this week as I imagine what it was like for Jesus; not just the physical abuse which is so far beyond what any of us could endure but the spiritual abandonment and the emotional trauma as He was mocked, spit on, sneered at, humiliated, and blasphemed. I know we can’t come close to knowing just how much He went through for us but I like to try, to remember, to grieve so that I can truly glory in His resurrection!
When Jesus arrived at Calvary where He was crucified after being severely beaten and treated worse than a common criminal, His clothes were ripped off His body, divided and taken as the people just stood by and watched the humiliation continue. The rulers sneered and looked at the people saying to them “…He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” (Luke 23:35) If those rulers knew what they were doing they would not have challenged Jesus with that “IF”! And if the people knew what they were doing they would not have stood by as mere spectators! And if the soldiers knew what they were doing they would not have blurted out their big “IF” as they taunted and mocked Jesus, insulting Him even further by offering sour wine. “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” (Luke 23:37) If Jesus had taken them up on their “if’s” and saved Himself where would we be? And if we know Who He is, what are we going to do about it?
Jesus ignored their “if’s” and obeyed His Father, fulfilling His will instead of saving Himself, and in the process saved all of us! After Jesus’ own people, the soldiers, and the rulers had falsely accused and condemned Him who was innocent, doing everything to annihilate Him, Jesus did the unthinkable! He talked to His Dad on their behalf! “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’…” (Luke 23:34)
Those two words, “Jesus said…” are found repeatedly in the Gospels and they should make us stop and listen up! There is much power packed in them because everything Jesus said serves as a pattern for us to follow today! With this in mind we do not have the liberty to ignore anything He said, make light of it, put it off, or come against it! In fact, the only wise and prudent response when Jesus says something is to do it! When we see “Jesus said…” in the Bible we ought to look carefully at what follows, knowing it is a Word for us today!
In this verse, Jesus establishes the pattern of forgiveness! Part of unfolding this pattern is taking note of why Jesus asked His Father to forgive these people. After all, Jesus is God and Father knew the people did not know what they were doing and since Jesus did not sin He was not in need of Father’s forgiveness. However, we do sin and there are many who sin against us who are in need of our Father’s forgiveness which is why we must note the “pattern” Jesus demonstrated here. We are commanded to pray for and love our enemies! Jesus prayed for His enemies in the midst of pain and suffering. We must do the same! The one thing our enemies need is forgiveness! Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…”
Likewise, what are we continually in need of? Forgiveness! Mark 11:25-26 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” We need to forgive so that we can be forgiven! We must not put it off until we’re ready, confess it is too hard, or determine our enemies do not deserve it. Father God is very serious about forgiveness – He must be since He sent His One and Only Son to forgive so that we would understand the gravity of our sin! Jesus shed His blood that we would be forgiven and forgive! Think on that!
Jesus said…Father forgive them! If Jesus said, then we must say it as well! And we must say it out loud like Jesus did! That is the pattern which He set! Oh, I know it doesn’t specifically state “out loud” prayers of forgiveness here in Mark 11 but the phrase “stand praying” suggests speaking out prayers to God. Standing was the typical position the Jewish people took when praying for others because it showed how they held the world up in prayer, in other words, the world was held up by their “standings” (prayers). And we cannot pray sincerely for God to do good for our enemies if we have not forgiven from the heart – so we forgive in our heart and express it with our words.
This pattern Jesus established is also crucial to our understanding of communicating with God. Even though Father already knows what is necessary in each situation we are still instructed to ask Him but we are not to “pray” vain repetitions thinking we will be heard but pray from our heart! Matthew 6:8 “Therefore do not be like them (heathen). For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” So why ask Him to forgive the people who have wronged us if He already knows? We do it because we need to get real with ourselves and talk to Father personally, intimately, and specifically. Notice it isn’t a “general” prayer by Jesus! He details exactly why they need forgiveness “because they do not know what they do”. It is important to be specific in forgiving people who have wronged us for our sake,for their sake, and most of all, for Jesus’ sake!
You see Jesus had already forgiven the people and then He prayed FOR them. This pattern gives the perfect opportunity for us to clean house, forgive people, and then ask Father in Jesus’ Name! John 16:23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” By asking Father to forgive in Jesus’ Name we are completely surrendering to Him the people who wronged us! We relinquish our right to hold on to un-forgiveness along with its effects; hurt, disappointment, resentment, bitterness, anger, and desire for retribution.
Even though people sin against us, we are still not blameless or without sin in our lives yet Jesus forgives us when we confess and repent! I know! There are people who sin against us who don’t confess their sin or even acknowledge they are in sin – but still – Look at the pattern – None of the people persecuting Jesus were repentant yet He forgave them and asked Father to do the same!
Let’s face it – Jesus knew He was going to die! When He was nailed to the cross He knew it was only a matter of time. He set the pattern for forgiveness which is prompt! NOW is the time! And forgiveness is perpetual as we stay in a constant mode of forgiving and being forgiven. Let’s be like Jesus – forgive while the hurt is on! Waiting only risks our own freedom!
Look in the newspaper or online today and see all the tragic endings to life! I’m sure the people who were sightseeing wildfires didn’t expect to crash within thirty minutes of take-off and have their lives ended. I’m sure the two people killed in a head-on collision on an interstate highway had no clue when they got in their cars to go home it would be their last drive. I’m certain the young person killed in a drive-by shooting didn’t know it was their last night on earth! The same is true for all those who die as a result of tsunami’s, earthquake’s, fires, tornadoes, flash floods, and the like!
Jesus knew He was dying and why so left a pattern for us to follow as He was going through! None of us know the day or hour of our departure from this life to the next but we all should be keenly aware that we are dying because of sin so we better take care of those things Jesus said to take care of, forgiveness being at the top of His list. He shed His blood to forgive us our sin and redeem us that we might inherit eternal life!
Listen to the words Jesus said! Luke 6:45-49 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”
Today, dig deep! Lay a firm foundation on the Rock! Call Him Lord, and then let’s do what He says! Let forgiveness reign abundantly in our hearts so that it easily comes forth from our mouths! Don’t let this Easter pass by without doing what Jesus said to do! Forgive and ask Father to forgive those who have wronged you, whether they know what they are doing or not! We can’t afford not to! Jesus suffered, died, and rose again so we could live in a state of forgiveness. Let’s not hang on to our baggage or anyone else’s! Jesus left it all at the cross – He gave it all up! Let’s follow His pattern and live in the power of His resurrection!