These last 5 Wednesday night of Lent have been filled with these three words for me. As I have led mid-week Lenten Services around the Barossa, focusses on the Seven last Words of jesus From the Cross, I have reflected on these simple, direct and pure gospel words of Jesus, said to people who had no idea of what they were doing as they shamed and maimed the Son of God. Below is the homily I have been reflecting in these Lenten moments……
“Father, forgive them”
When they came to the place called “The Skull”, they nailed Jesus to the cross there, and the two criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said “Forgive them, Father! They do not know what they are doing.”
Friends, I am not sure there is any greater word in the whole of the Bible that reveals the true character and intention of God for human beings.
In the point of greatest pain and suffering at human hands, Jesus, the very Son of God himself asks his Father in heaven to forgive this act of total demeaning and shameful abuse at the hands of people just like us whom he says don’t know what they are really doing.
This is always the way it is with abuse and shaming behavior. People don’t know what they are doing. Yes, they know in one sense – they know they are causing pain and grief and even death in their violent acts against another human being, but they don’t know that they are hurting more than the person at the moment—they are hurting them for lifeand also that person’s family, a person’s name, sometimes a whole community when they inflict violence on an individual.
When people enter into malicious talk or gossip or physical violence against another person, they are actually disrespecting and trampling on the One who created life and human relationships. All sin is against God in the end.
Our sin disrespects the Lord and continues the great rift between humanity and the Creator of all things.
These Roman soldiers are doing the worst thinga human being could do – they are abusing the very Son of God himself. They are shaming God’s great name, disrespecting his work in the world and disrespecting a whole peoples’ story of life with God. In the blow of the hammer the call of abusive names, they throw mud in God’s face and deny who God is and what he is about in this man Jesus – but they do not know what they are doing.
Same today. We may not use swiords and cat of 9 tails, but we know how to use words or keep silent. Stick and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”; rubbish! names hurt more than sticks and tones or swords. they cut the deepest and last the longest. We criticize people unfairly. We ignore people at ouir choosing. We unfairly judge God’s church. We ignore God’s call, we seek everything else for our well being but him and don’t realize that we are rejecting the very One who give his Son for us as a ransom payment for our wrongs.
But what does our God say to our abuse of his name, his church and his creation?……………………. “Father, forgive them”.
I am not sure that I as a sinner have ever heard sweeter words. “Father, forgive them”. These are pure good news – no strings attached. Jesus in his bloody agony just prays for me. I deserve his wrath and his revenge. I get his compassion and forgiveness. I deserve to be shamed and called to account. I am protected and let free.
This is the staggering graceof Jesus Christ on pure display. This is the Jesus we cling to and we share with a world of adults, children and grandchildren who don’t know what they doing when they curse his name and go their merry way.
This is the word we pray for each other when we wrong each other and hurt each other. We resist the reaction to shame and pay back and let it go and hand over the person to our Father in heaven who knows who we are and what we need as his baptized people.
Father, forgive them”. Pure gospel for ‘gospeless’ hearts and times. Pray it well, friends. Pray it often this Lent – for yourselves and for others – especially your enemies.
By this word sinners like you and me are set free to forgive and love and belong to the community of the Resurrected Jesus. Amen