HOW MANY TIMES?
Read: Luke 23:20-37
20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 22 For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” 23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand.25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ 31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” 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, they crucified him there, 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 God’s Messiah, 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.” (NIV Luke 23:20-37)
Study: Enduring betrayal by his friends and his nation, Jesus suffered the agony of crucifixion and a sense of separation from God. Through it all, he lived what he taught in the Lord’s Prayer, that we “forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.” On the cross, Jesus did what might seem impossible, as he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34). Think of a time when someone wronged you in a major way. Remember how the situation came to be, what feelings it triggered in you, and what you did about them. Have you been able to forgive and let go of the hurt, or has this wrong continued to haunt you? What would it take (and what kind of help might you need, divine or human) for you to set yourself free from the past by forgiving? As Jesus was dying on the cross, he taught us that God is willing to forgive even the worst possible sin. Do you need to ask God to forgive you for things you’ve done? If so, do that now, and trust that God will indeed forgive you. Do you need help forgiving yourself? Ask God to guide you in that process, and consider speaking confidentially with a Christian counselor or pastor to help you work through the issue.
Pray: Compassionate God, you suffered so much, yet prayed, “Father, forgive them …” As you forge a new identity in me, may I see myself and others through your eyes, and forgive as you forgave. Amen.