(April 04, 2022) Richard Winter challenges…

We’ve all been in a discussion when we wanted to get the last word… but sometimes that’s the wrong thing to aim at.

For example… Guys, you may say when asked: ‘Yes, Honey, those jeans do make you look fat.’ But they may be your famous last words!

Let’s look at Jesus’ last words.

The context is that Jesus is on a cross and Luke 23: 32-33 tell us that ‘Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on His right, the other on His left.’ 

What had led Jesus to this point?

John 3:16  clearly tells us that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but would inherit eternal life.’

Jesus loved with an unconditional love, even those that society rejected, crossing social distances.

1. Jesus’ words changed lives 
He touched many lives, teaching, healing, and working miracles. He…

  • Spoke to people with blind eyes – and their eyes would be opened. They would see.
  • Touched deaf ears – and they would hear.
  • Had the ability to speak to those who had died – and they would come back to life.

He did all these things physically… but they also apply to spiritually blind, deaf, dead people as well – and we know some such people today who need His help!

But… He was betrayed by one of His own, taken before a mock trial, even though He had done nothing wrong. Beaten over and over and over again, He was so whipped that His back would have ripped completely open.

After other mockeries, Jesus had been forced to carry a cross to His execution point at Calvary. There they had driven ugly spikes through His wrists and into His feet, lifted him up off the earth, and suspended Him between heaven and earth.

But… He was in complete control the whole time! Amazingly, Jesus never retaliated, never spoke a word of evil against those who were torturing Him, in fact didn’t even speak up to this point. It was  when hanging there on the cross, suffering for our sins, Jesus’ lips started to move.

Had I been there, I’d be leaning in! I’d want to know what is it that this man is about to say? Is He going to curse those who were abusing Him? Is He going to pray to God for relief from His physical pain? No, He did nothing like that! Instead He uttered the first of His famous last words and they were a prayer!

2. Jesus’ last words were caring ones
Luke 23:34 tells us that He prayed, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’

Amazing… after all He’d been through! Twelve famous last words from the cross!

But then, Jesus was a person of prayer and even on Calvary’s cross He modeled the importance of prayer. When He’d been asked by His disciples one time how they should pray, He gave them – and consequently each of us – what became known as the Lord’s prayer.

And now, as He’s dying, He prays for the most unlikely people… His enemies! It models the fact that we should never, ever stop praying for someone to come to know God in a personal way.

Every single one of us can do follow His model today, that is to pray as Jesus prayed.

3. Jesus’ prayer reveals everyone’s greatest need 
He revealed every human’s greatest need. Yes there are important prayers to be prayed… for healings, blessings, and other miracles – but Jesus didn’t pray for those things, but for forgiveness of individuals’ sins.

Forgiveness of sin is everyone’s greatest need! That’s why He came… so that we humans could be forgiven and have life, eternal life!

Remember what Jesus said at the Last Supper?

Sitting around a table with His closest friends, He held up a glass of wine and announced, ‘This is my blood of the covenant’ (We call it the new covenant) ‘which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:28).

4. Jesus’ Calvary words are revelatory!
Ignorance does not equal innocence. Jesus’ mockers didn’t know they needed forgiveness, and yet, they still did!

Question: What do you do when you’ve been wronged?When you’ve been hurt, you possibly pray, ‘God help me here please.’

What do we learn here from Jesus’ prayer of ‘Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing’ that we can apply to our lives…

5. Jesus’ teaches us to pray wisely
When you’ve been hurt, as Jesus’ model teaches us, you should pray for those who hurt you. But pray for good things, not bad. After all, Jesus taught that we should ‘Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you’ (Luke 6:28).

Think of Jesus and His horrific last days experiences… Who was mistreating Him? Religious leaders, misguided people, and Roman soldiers. And what did He do? He prayed something good for them all.

Of course the flesh can take over and you could pray harm on those who have hurt you and want God to act like a rabid dog… ‘Go get them God, get them back.’

Oh we can oftentimes think when people wronged us, ‘I’ll elevate myself above them. I’ll say, “Oh, they’re no good.” Or “Oooh, I would never do that.” Or “Oh, now I’ve got the right to be bitter.” Even “Oh, yeah, I may do the spiritual thing, which is to forgive, but I’ll never forget, and I’ll hold this against you.”’

Wow! How self-righteous it’s possible to become in an instant! Wrong attitudes can be…

And that’s the way a lot of people live today… feeling wounded, angry, bitter, full of unforgiveness as the heart grows harder and harder.

But not Jesus! What an example, especially as He’d been born into an environment known for its ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth kind of revenge. Yet, despite how He had been mockingly treated before His crucifixion and now on Calvary’s hill, He never once did spoke a word of retaliation. Never once did He act in a way to get back at anyone.

Instead, what did He do? The same thing that God wants us all to do… pray! To pray, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t even know what they’re doing.’

Now this has helped me a lot. Now my prayer when I pray for others may or may not change them, but it certainly always changes me!

I encourage you to pray like Jesus prayed. Pray for those who hurt you.

6. Jesus’ prayer is our model!
Jesus’ praying teaches that we should pray for restoration.

Paul would give gave similar directions… see Romans 12:17-18:

  • Don’t be revengeful.
  • Don’t repay anyone evil for evil.
  • If it is possible, as far as it depends on you live at peace with everyone.

The reason this is so powerful is because it shows me that without God’s help, it may not be possible…

As far as it depends on me, I must live at peace with everyone. If it’s possible, do your part. Do what God calls you to do… today. If there is a broken relationship in your life, seek restoration today. Do not wait until tomorrow.

7. Jesus’s attitude is my model
Some of you would say, ‘Well, how in the world do I forgive, how can I do so practically, when I hurt like I do?’ Well, I don’t know what works for you, but this works for me… 

This is how I forgive when I don’t feel like it. Colossians 3:13 tells us to ‘Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.’ 

But you ask, ‘How do I forgive when I don’t feel like it?’  Just like this…the Bible tells me to forgive as the Lord has forgiven me. So I take all the wrongs that someone, anyone, has done against me, and I add them all up, multiply them by one hundred and… I acknowledge that they do not come close to the ways that I’ve wronged God and yet He forgives me freely!

As the Lord has forgiven me… so  too must I forgive others!

Why is this so important? Well, Jesus said it this way in Matthew 6:14-15, ‘For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

When humanity was at its worst, God’s Son was at His best! There on the cross, I remind us again, we find the famous twelve last words of Jesus:  Father, forgive them, for they don’t even know what they are doing.’

8. Jesus’ attitude should be shared by every Christian!
Father, take a hard heart and to make it soft. Remind us that we are to forgive because we have been forgiven.

How have people hurt me, God? I have a list and I know you know exactly what happened. But I know how I have hurt others. Just as Jesus prayed for the miracle of forgiveness for those who wickedly abused Him, our Saviour sought the best for the worst.

Our greatest need, my greatest need, is to be forgiven. Jesus died so we could be forgiven.

If we didn’t need a Saviour, there would have been no reason for Him to come.

Easter reminds us of your mission, Lord: To redeem lost humankind. Many people don’t understand, or care… so help me to share your love, to forgive and go on mission locally.

Indeed, Lord, help every Christian share the good news of Easter. After all – someone we know needs God’s love and forgiveness. Share Jesus’ famous last words!

Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California

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