The prayer of Jesus on the cross for his persecutors teaches us how to forgive our persecutors. In anguish and pain on the cross, Jesus prayed to the Father to forgive his persecutors, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” This prayer is the high water mark of all that Jesus lived for and taught about forgiveness.
Jesus’ prayer for his persecutors on the cross is a lesson to those of us who live in hatred, malice and retribution. It is a lesson for those of us who pray for vengeance for our enemies. How many of us are willing to forgive and pray for our killers while in pain?
While on the cross, Jesus had various options of how to deal with his persecutors. He could have called down fire from heaven to consume them. He could have struck his captors with blindness, but he did none of these. Rather, he forgave them and prayed for them. Jesus died without any baggage of guilt or malice. Unforgiveness is a baggage that is worst than cancer.
“NEITHER DO I CONDEMN YOU…”
What Jesus did at the cross was no different from what he had taught and how he had lived. Imagine for a moment how he treated the woman caught in adultery with dignity. In John 8:1-12, when the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Him expecting His condemnation, He simply stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger as though he did not hear them. When he eventually raised his head, he said to the Pharisees around, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” One after the other, the accusers left leaving Jesus alone with the woman. Then Jesus turned to the woman and said, “Woman, where are those accusers of your yours? Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Jesus then declared to the woman thus, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” How could Jesus treat a sinner with such esteem and dignity? This shows that Jesus hardly debases a sinner. Even in our sinful condition, Jesus cares.
A SINFUL WOMAN
Jesus’ dealing with the sinful woman in the house of Simon is no different. His attitude to sinners was never judgmental, but redemptive. This woman is believed to be a prostitute, yet Jesus did not prevent her from touching and anointing his feet with fragrant oil. That she was desperate to win the attention of Jesus was evident from the way she wept and wiped the feet of Jesus.
When Simon who invited Jesus saw the association of Jesus to the sinful lady, he began to condemn Him in his heart. Jesus was quick to read Simon’s mind and cautioned him against being critical. He rebuked Simon for his inhospitable attitude towards him in contrast to the woman’s affection. Jesus then said to Simon, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven her, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little. Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:47-48).
While all these played out, Jesus’ critics sat at the table watching. Their reaction was, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” The graciousness of Jesus towards sinners is amazing.
May we borrow a leaf from Jesus on how to relate with sinners and forgive our opponents!