In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The hour had finally come. Jesus was beaten, spit upon, his head pierced with a crown of thorns, and he was nailed to a cross. The hour had come when Jesus would suffer and die. It was time when his blood would be shed as the single acceptable sacrifice for all sins.
Certainly Jesus is “the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.” The suffering of the thorns driven into his head and the nails hammered into his hands and feet was for sinners. Adam and Eve were guilt. Cain too was a sinner. King David was an adulterer and murderer. The Israelites practiced idolatry. Yes, Jesus came for them.
The prophet Isaiah saw this horrible day coming when he wrote, “he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” Isaiah did not single out individual sinners, rather with his words he placed all of us there at the cross, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
We like to think that our thoughts are pure, our words are wholesome, and our deeds are good. We put out of our minds that we deserve temporal and eternal punishment. We are eager to condemn Judas for his betrayal, Peter for his denial, and the other disciples for deserting Jesus.
Today of all days though, we must be truthful. The time of Christ’s suffering was because you are a sinner. The thorns and nails pierced his flesh because of your sins. Being forsaken by the heavenly Father happened because of your trespasses. The hour of Jesus death was because your sins were placed on him.
Pilate was right when he spoke to the high priests and the crowds saying, “I find no fault in this man.” The thief at the side of Jesus was right when he said, “This man has done no wrong.” The centurion who watched Jesus die, was right when he said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”
Saint Paul looked at this horrible day and wrote these words, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Yes, the Word became flesh so that he might lay down his life for the sheep.
So we come today, sheep who have gone astray, to hear the words of Jesus. He was lifted up for all to see. Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus was not making excuses for the Jewish leaders, for Pilate, or for the mob who cried “Crucify him.” He was not making excuses for you. Since the fall everyone is born spiritually blind. In your blindness, you do not know what you do. You do not see the truth.
You trust in yourself. You justify in your mind what is right and wrong. In your blindness you do not see your sins as deserving God’s wrath. You do not see your need for a savior outside of yourself.
Jesus sees you as you are lost and condemned. And so Jesus prays for you, “Forgive them.” He prays that the heavenly Father would be gracious and merciful to you. Jesus prays that you might be given faith so that your eyes are opened to your sins and your need for him as your savior.
He prays that you might see with faith his suffering and death on the cross as the sacrifice that takes away your sin. Jesus prays for you, for the forgiveness of your sins that comes through faith in him. He prayed then and he intercedes for you now.
Each day he shows the heavenly Father the scars on his hands, feet, and side. They are the reminder that Jesus paid in full the price for your sins. His prayer then and know is answered. You are forgiven.
By God’s grace you have been given the gift of faith. In Holy Baptism your sins were washed away. In the Lord’s Supper your sins are forgiven and your faith is strengthened. In the Word of God the story of salvation is told to you so that you might believe in the One who suffered and died on the cross for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.
Jesus brought forgiveness to the cross and has given it to each of us. He brought it to a man named Stephen. Stephen was an early Christian living in Jerusalem. Because he shared the good news of Jesus with others, he was stoned to death.
While they were stoning him, Stephen called out “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Acts 7:60 The power of Jesus’ words on the cross gave Stephen the power to forgive those who were putting him to death.
The power of the Jesus’ words on the cross, give us the power to forgive those who sin against us. The gift of God’s forgiveness for us includes with it the gift of forgiving others.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20).
These words of Saint Paul remind us why we not only ask for and receive God’s forgiveness, but why we are able to say about those who sin against us, “Father, forgive them.”
Hear the words of Jesus, “Go in peace your sins are forgiven.”
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria