Good Friday I (Seven Last Words)

“The First Word: What Do You Know?”

Luke 23:34


            In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The first word: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, ESV).  His cross carried by another.  Multitudes mourning and lamenting Him, to whom Jesus says, “[D]o not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children…For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry” (Luke 23:28, 31, ESV)?  Thieves on either side of Him; as promised, He is numbered among the transgressors.  Naked and alone, while soldiers throw dice for His clothing and the insults of the people fall on His holy head.  And in the midst of this chaotic and appalling scene of human blasphemy, Jesus speaks: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  And they didn’t.  They could not see God bloodied and gasping for breath.  They could not see their sin weighing Him down.  But that is precisely the monstrous crime of sin-filled men and women: they could not and would not see God, because seeing might lead to believing.  “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:10-11, ESV).

And what do you know?  Do you know what you are doing?  Do you know what your little biting remarks do to that person for whom Christ died?  Do you know how your lustful glance degrades that daughter of Christ?  Do you know that your bitterness over that perceived slight poisons every word you speak?  Do you know how your lack of forgiveness mocks Christ’s death every bit as much as those crowds gathered before the spectacle of another crucifixion?  And Christ speaks: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  And we don’t.  We do not see others as blood-bought children of the living God.  We do not behold Christ in them.  We treat them as unworthy of the forgiveness which, just as undeservedly, God has freely bestowed upon us.  The wood is dry, and we do things of which those crowds could not have conceived.  And so it is all necessary.  The betraying and the denying.  The handing over and the sentence of death.  The bearing of the cross and the falling.  The carrying of the cross by Simon, stained and soaked by the Savior’s blood.  The weeping and lamenting, the crucifying, the gambling, the mocking, and the dying.  All necessary, because you and I have no idea what we are doing.  We have done it so long that it is our nature, and even when we know, we still do it.  And the one who says, “Father, forgive them” provides the way by which that forgiveness is given.  Nothing but the blood of Jesus can save people who don’t know what they are doing.

So, today watch and see and know.  Listen to His words from the cross.  Know that it is your sin on the shoulders of the crucified one.  Know that His blood pools in the dust of this old world and flows in a saving stream to all corners of the earth.  Know that He is God in flesh, dying for everything you have done and everything you are.  And know that His first word from the cross will be His last word for you on the day when you stand before His Father: “Father, forgive them.”  Because He knows what He is doing, and He does it for you.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/13/08

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