Luke 23.32-43 | “Father, FORGIVE THEM!” | Being forgiven…and forgiving
The name Victoria Ruvolo probably won’t mean anything to you, but in Suffolk County NY, she has become the model and minister of FORGIVENESS.
Late one evening in November 2004, she was on her way home – just one block away from her own home – when a 20-lb frozen turkey came crashing through her windshield.
Some teenagers had stolen a credit card – and one of the items they bought with the credit card was a 20-lb frozen turkey. They thought it would be a fun prank to throw it through someone’s windshield. So, one of them, a young man by the name of Ryan Cushing, heaved it out of the car window as they were passing her.
The weight and force of the impact bent her steering wheel and then smashed her full in the face. It pulverized all the bones in her face and nearly killed her.
She didn’t wake up for more than a month. She remained in a medically-induced coma while they completely re-constructed her face with titanium plates – and multiple surgeries after that.
When the time came for Ryan’s trial, Victoria had had a change of heart. She wanted to forgive Ryan.
She asked for permission to meet with him – said she just wanted to find out who he was. She said she found out he was just a kid – he was not an ogre or monster.
He had just been out on a stupid prank and it went horribly wrong.
Ryan could have faced 25 years. Victoria lobbied with the district attorney to cut a plea deal – give him the minimum amount of time in jail. Ryan pled guilty to the crime, and Victoria pleaded with the judge to go light on him. Ryan got six months in jail and five years probation.
She said she wanted to forgive him and publicly hugged him at his sentencing – and said she wanted him to make something good out of the rest of his life.
She went on to write a book, published in 2011. She titled it No Room for Vengeance and talks about the power of forgiveness.
She still goes once a month to the County Prosecutor’s office for probation meetings and gives talks and counsels teens and young adults to reform their lives – and gives her testimony about FORGIVENESS.
And her compassion and willingness to forgive Ryan has inspired and influenced many to get over their bitterness and forgive those who have violated them. And not seek for payback and revenge.
She has even learned to laugh about her painful experiences. She came to be known as “The Turkey Lady.” So, she laughs and says, “Well, at least it was a turkey and not a ham. I could have been ‘Miss Piggy!’ ”
I want to probe your conscience right now with two questions about forgiveness:
 What is the worst wrong that has ever been done to you or committed against you?
- What is the most painful injury that you have suffered that made forgiveness most difficult for you?
 What is the worst wrong you have every committed?
- Out of all the regrets that haunt you and plague you, what is the regret that haunts you the most?
- You may even know that you have been forgiven for that wrong you have committed, but it still plagues you and haunts your memories?
I was counseling with a member of our church just a few weeks ago, and we were talking about forgiveness – and how we can know we have been forgiven. We were rejoicing that we can be forgiven.
But, we both shared with each other how both of us are regretful and still haunted by the memories of our past sins.
We talked about the freeness, and the absoluteness, and the completeness of God’s forgiveness, but we are still plagued by the memories and regrets of those sins and violations we have committed.
I have Good News from THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST for everyone of us who would like to have assurance that we have been forgiven.
I’m going to open up this message about FORGIVENESS from the Cross of Jesus Christ here – to make two life-lessons on FORGIVENESS AND FORGIVING
 FORGIVENESS – HOW CAN WE BE FORGIVEN OF ALL OUR SINS?
- “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
 FORGIVING – HOW CAN WE FORGIVE ALL THE WRONGS DONE AGAINST US AND ALL THE INJURIES THAT MAY HAVE BEEN INFLICTED UPON US?
- Colossians 3.13 – “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive”
1 – CHRIST’S FIRST MESSAGE ON FORGIVENESS FROM HIS CROSS – HOW CAN WE BE FORGIVEN OF ALL OUR SINS?
Remember that question I just asked you: “What is the worst wrong you have every committed?”
I want to ask you a couple more questions to follow up on that one:  Do you know that you need to be forgiven of your sins? Romans 3.23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.”  Do you want to be forgiven of your sins? Colossians 2.13 – “[God has] forgiven you all trespasses…”
WHAT IS FORGIVENESS?
Keep in mind that being ‘forgiven’ means that
- you are not being held responsible or accountable for making something whole again – something you owe or something you have broken
- your guilt for sinning has been removed and taken away
- you are no longer guilty for committing that sin or those sins
- for example: if you owe a debt, and you are forgiven for that debt, you don’t have to pay it – it is canceled – it is considered paid in full – you don’t even owe it any more – no one can charge you with it and require you to pay for it
- if you have wronged someone – or God – and they forgive you, that means that your relationship has been restored and made whole again – you were in debt to them for some violation – but you don’t have to ‘pay them back’ any more
- if someone has wronged you or violated you, and you have truly forgiven that person, he/she doesn’t have to ‘pay you back’
Here is what Jesus is praying even as they are nailing Him to His Cross: verse 34 – “And Jesus was saying, “Father, FORGIVE THEM!…Father, FORGIVE THEM!…Father, FORGIVEN THEM!”
The reason I am repeating “Father, FORGIVE THEM!” is because Jesus was repeating it. He didn’t ask the Father just one time to forgive them for what they were doing.
I know it says here in our English text “And Jesus said…”Father, FORGIVE THEM!” – but if we could read this verb the way it is written here, it would be: “And Jesus was saying…“Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
In other words, He was saying “Father, FORGIVE THEM!” over and over again. It was an action being repeated.
LISTEN TO HIS PLEA FOR FORGIVENESS!
WHAT IS JESUS ASKING THE FATHER TO FORGIVE THEM FOR? “Father, forgive them for they really don’t understand what they are doing.”
SO, WHAT WERE THEY DOING? – THEY WERE CRUCIFYING HIM!
Not just putting Him to death, but they were killing Him and putting Him to death ON A CROSS!
Read it again – verse 33 – And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.
And so, all the while – all throughout the torturous experiences of BEING CRUCIFIED, Jesus was praying to the Father: “Father, FORGIVE THEM!… Father, FORGIVE THEM!…Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
He prayed “FATHER, FORGIVE THEM…FOR CRUCIFYING ME!” – repeatedly, even as they were doing everything they were doing to Him while crucifying Him!
So, here is just a little of what they were doing to Jesus – and what He was praying that the Father would forgive them for!
- He has already been up all night since He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane last night
- He has already endured over 14 hours of beatings and physical abuse – without sleep or rest – without food or water
- they have dragged Him from one place to another all over Jerusalem throughout the night for six mock hearings and trials
- they have not only verbally mocked Him – but they have beaten Him without mercy with their fists and wooden sticks or canes
- they have already mocked His Kingship with a crown of thorns – and have beaten the spikes of the thorns into His skull with their wooden canes
- they have tied Him to a post and have scourged Him with whips [later came to be known as “cat-o-nine-tails”] that had shards of glass and metal braided into the multiple strands of leather – until they had literally shredded the flesh and tissue on His back and sides – until they had even exposed His internal organs [Psalm 129.3 – “The plowers plowed upon My back; they made their furrows long!”]
- He is losing blood and going into shock
- and then, at daybreak, they prepare the procession through the city to march Him to the place of crucifixion – called Calvary/Golgotha/”The Skull”
- around 9am, they arrive at Calvary
- they strip Him naked – to humiliate Him, and expose Him to shame and indecency – “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
- He has carried His crossbeam on His own back until He had been overcome by exhaustion – they had conscripted a man named Simon to carry it the rest of the way to Calvary
- they jerk Him backward and throw Him to the ground onto the crossbeam – “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
- they grab His arms and stretch Him out on the crossbeam – “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
- they search for the soft spots on His wrists between the bones and the arteries [He knows what is coming…] – “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
- the soldiers assigned to His execution take the spike-nails they have brought with them, and they pound the nails through His wrists to impale Him to the crossbeam – “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
- after they have impaled His arms to the crossbeam, they then place His feet one over the other and drive the spike-nails into His feet – “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
- then they raise the cross and drop it into the hole they have dug to stand it in – and His flesh begins to tear and rip apart – “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
- all the while, every nerve in His whole body is screaming with the pain, the cramps, and the dehydration of His body – “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
- and with every other act of torture and abuse, Jesus keeps praying to the Father: “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
We really can’t do justice to even begin to describe just His physical agonies and pain…but over and over, Jesus keeps crying out – not for His own deliverance from the horrors and tortures of His own crucifixion [He had settled that last night in Gethsemane] – but He is praying to the Father for their deliverance…from the guilt of the sins they are committing against Him! “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
And then, with utter disregard for Who He is or what they are doing to Him – they take the clothes they had stripped off of Him and begin to gamble for which one of them would get which few articles of clothing He had worn – “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
This is just a little of what Jesus was praying that the Father would forgive them for!
BUT, WAIT! – WHY IS HE PRAYING TO THE FATHER TO FORGIVE THEM? WHY DOESN’T HE JUST FORGIVE THEM HIMSELF?
You will remember that during His own lifetime, Jesus Himself had forgiven the sins of many sinners!
- Luke 5.20 – “Son, your sins are forgiven you!”
- Luke 7.48 – “Your sins [which are many] are forgiven!”
- John 8.11 – “Neither do I condemn you [“I forgive you!”] – go and sin no more!”
But, here, He prays to the Father to forgive them! – WHY?
The reason Jesus is praying to the Father to forgive them is because:
 He knew the Father would forgive them because He knew this is the very reason why the Father had sent Him into our world…to die this very death He is dying – so the Father could forgive us and reconcile us back to Himself!
Of course, the Father would forgive them!
 Another reason He is praying to the Father to forgive them is because Jesus Himself is taking the place of these sinners – AND US!
Jesus is praying to the Father to not only forgive them – but also to forgive US of all our sins!
THE FORGIVE-ER IS NOW TAKING THE PLACE OF THE SIN-NER!
Jesus was sinless! Jesus Himself is God, the Son! Jesus had never sinned! Jesus had never committed even one sin!
But, He was dying there…this way…because He Himself was taking the blame and being punished for all of OUR sins!
Isaiah 53.4-6 – Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement [punishment] that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
God, the Father, made Him, God-the Son, to become sin for us! God, the Father, was charging all the blame and all the guilt of all our sins on His Son, Jesus Christ! – so WE can be forgiven of ALL our sins! [2 Corinthians 5.17-21]
BUT, NOT ONLY LISTEN TO HIS PLEA FOR OUR FORGIVENESS – BUT ALSO LOOK AT THAT PLACARD OVER HIS HEAD!
They had written a placard and nailed it to His Cross over His head. verse 38 – “And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: ‘This is the king of the Jews’.”
That was the custom. When a criminal was executed, they would publish his crimes and indictments on a placard and nail it to his cross, so everybody could know what their crimes were. The other two criminals who were crucified with Christ also had placards. Theirs might have read their crimes like: “MURDER – ROBBERY – INSURRECTION – INCITING RIOTS” or whatever other capital crimes they may have committed.
But, Jesus had committed no crimes worthy of death. Even Pilate had protested to the Jewish leaders: “Why should I crucify Him? I find no death-worthy fault in Him!”
But the Jewish leaders had persuaded the Roman authorities that this Jesus of Nazareth had proclaimed Himself to be the King of the Jews – and therefore, He was committing and inciting TREASON against the Roman Caesar – which, of course, was a capital offense.
So, His only crime they could accuse Him of committing was “This is Jesus of Nazareth – King of the Jews!”
But, what was really on that placard were YOUR sins – and MY sins!
Jesus was dying under the charge of all OUR sins! Jesus was being punished with death because of all OUR sins!
And so – you can be forgiven because Jesus was being punished for the sins you and I have committed against Him and the Father!
Here’s what the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2.13-14: And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, HAVING FORGIVEN US ALL OUR TRESPASSES, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.
Jesus died on His Cross to be punished for the sins we have committed! And, when He died, He was canceling [forgiving] all the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands…and He set it aside – He canceled it – He paid it in full! He took all our sins and put them away – He paid for them all.
And so, God’s grand and resounding verdict is: “HAVING FORGIVEN US ALL OUR TRESPASSES!”
So, right now, think of all the sins you have committed against the Holiness and the Love of God – I know you can’t even remember or think about them all [but God knows them all!] – but GOD FORGIVES ALL OUR TRESPASSES!
Yes, you – ALL YOUR TRESPASSES!
Yes – even that sin!
Yes – even all those sins!
All of our sins were blamed to Jesus – and all our trespasses were nailed to the Cross in Jesus Christ as He died there for us!
YOU CAN BE FORGIVEN OF ALL YOUR TRESPASSES!
And so, I ask you again: do you know that you need to be forgiven? Do you want to be forgiven of all your sins!
You can be forgiven of all your sins – because Jesus Christ died on His Cross under the charges and the blame of all the sins we have committed!
II – and now, JESUS’ SECOND MESSAGE ON FORGIVENESS FROM HIS CROSS – HOW CAN WE FORGIVE ALL THE WRONGS DONE AGAINST US AND ALL THE INJURIES THAT MAY HAVE BEEN INFLICTED UPON US?
That was the other question I asked you at the beginning of this story: to think of the most painful wrong you have ever suffered from someone else – the deepest pain anyone else may have inflicted upon you…
WE MUST FORGIVE! WE CAN FORGIVE!
“But,” you say, “I can’t forgive that! I won’t forgive that!”
Jesus Himself commanded us to pray this very same prayer He Himself is praying – and to pray it like He Himself is praying it! We must do that!
Jesus taught and commanded us in Matthew 6.12 – “Pray like this…forgive us our trespasses…as we forgive those who trespass against us!”
And then He went on to say [Matthew 6.14-15]: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
So easy to say – so easy to recite – so hard to do! But, we must do that!
Here, again, is what the apostle Paul taught the church at Colosse – and all of us churches – how and why we should forgive one another: [Colossians 3.12-13] Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
And, again, in Ephesians 4.31-32 – Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
We must forgive one another – and we can forgive one another – because God has forgiven us in the Cross of Christ.
If we are Christians – if we are followers of Jesus Christ – if we are saved and forgiven of our sins – if we are raised with Christ in new life – then CHRIST HIMSELF LIVES IN US AND PRAYS IN US!
And this is what He continues to pray: “Father, FORGIVE THEM!”
And by the power of the new birth – and the very Holy Spirit of Christ Himself who lives in us when we are born again through faith in Him – we can forgive any and all wrongs that are done against us by the same Grace and Love that has forgiven us!
No other person has ever done anything against us that even comes close to what everyone of us has done to God – and to Jesus Christ!
Remember: it was my sin – and your sin – that nailed Jesus Christ to His Cross!
And, all of those sins that you and I have been reviewing – that you have been remembering – that still haunt you and torment your memories – Christ died to be punished by the wrath of God in your place – JESUS PAID IT ALL!
Remember these words: “HAVING FORGIVEN US ALL OUR TRESPASSES!”