Updated: Apr 12, 2020
Series 1 of 3
By Pastor Jarrel S. Sena
In COCM we commemorate our Lord’s crucifixion by studying His seven last words or sayings as He was hanging on the cross. Jesus' dying words are recorded in the four gospel accounts we have in the New Testament namely – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These sayings reflect Jesus’ character as the promised Savior of the Old Testament. The words on the cross of our Lord remind us of His suffering on behalf of those who would believe in Him. We could say that Jesus’ crucifixion is the climax of His earthly ministry because on Calvary He redeemed those whom God has chosen to be His before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-4).
1. A Word of Forgiveness
"Father forgive them for them; for they do not know what they are doing."
(Luke 23:34 NASB)
The initial saying is Jesus' prayer of forgiveness for those who are clueless of the sin they are committing. Remarkable here is the fact that Jesus began His ministry with a prayer (Luke 3:21) and concluded it with a prayer, as well. Let every Christian understand the critical role of prayer in doing the Lord's ministry which was entrusted to us.
The people who crucified our Lord are ignorant of the full scope of their action because they were not aware of His character as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament "for they do not know what they are doing."
Does this mean that those who cooperate in Jesus' crucifixion are absolved from their sins even though they will not repent? Such teaching is foreign in the Bible. God grants forgiveness to those who ask for it.
In the Old Testament there is a provision for sins committed in ignorance (Numbers 15:22-31; Leviticus 4:2; 5:17-18; 22:14). These sins are not excused from sin offerings which means God stills holds accountable those who are guilty of them. Jesus is mentioning the sin committed in ignorance when He uttered the first saying.
a. The soldiers who were dividing up His garments for themselves did not know who Jesus really is. For them crucifying Him is part of their task to the Roman Empire.
b. The people who are mocking Jesus are clueless of His true nature as the promised Messiah because they have just been swayed by the religious leaders to cry for His death.
c. The religious leaders (Acts 3:17) were ignorant as well of their crime because they have been blinded by the Enemy about Jesus' true nature (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The forgiveness mentioned by Jesus will only apply if these people will repent of their sins and believe in Him for their salvation. God will never forgive those who stubbornly resist His gift of salvation.
In the Lord Jesus alone can a sinner find complete forgiveness of sins. His power to forgive can be made available to repentant sinners, then and now. The Apostle Peter repeatedly mentioned this in his preaching to the people (Acts 2:38; 5:31; 8:22; 10:43). Failure to be forgiven by God in the person of our Lord will result to everlasting punishment in the fiery fires of Hell.
2. A Word of Salvation
“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NASB)
The second saying underscores Jesus’ power to save a repentant sinner. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, two guilty thieves (Matthew 27:38) were crucified alongside Him. According to Luke one of them insults our Lord by saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39) However, he was rebuked by his fellow robber by saying, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:41-41). Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” Upon saying those words, our Lord uttered His 2nd saying which guarantees the salvation of that repentant thief.
The Bible is consistent, especially in the New Testament, that the only way to be saved from our sins is by coming to Jesus in repentance and faith. Since the thief recognized that he is deserving of his punishment we can detect the presence of repentance. Afterwards, He asked Jesus to remember him once He has come into His kingdom and this demonstrates faith in our Lord.
Today, the same principle applies to everyone. For us to be saved there must be a recognition that we are guilty sinners before the living God (repentance) and this is accompanied by recognizing Jesus power to save us from our sins (faith). No amount of good works can save us. Like the repentant thief, we are all guilty criminals before God.
We are unable to save ourselves. Only Jesus saves. This truth is buttressed on many New Testament passages but let me just quote, John 3:14-16, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Allow me to emphasize as well that the salvation granted to that repentant criminal was instantaneous. Salvation is not a process. It is never gained by fulfilling certain good deeds as if these will progress to obtaining eternal life. Repentance and faith in Jesus alone can save a sinner in an instant. At the moment of our belief in Jesus we are saved. Again, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you TODAY you shall be with Me in paradise.”