A Word of Forgiveness and Salvation – Luke 23:34-43

Jesus’ final words as He died on the cross were brief and few. The agony and pain were such that death by crucifixion was really death by suffocation. Yet, as painful as it was to push up from the spike in his feet to utter a word, Scripture records seven last sayings of Jesus. We will look at the first two today. The first was a word of forgiveness. Luke 23:32-34 says, “There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 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. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’”

Forgiveness is Prayerful
Jesus’ first word spoken was a prayer. He prays to the Father. God is creator of all, but He is only Father to His children. No amount of suffering in this life can break our relationship with the Father. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. In order to be able to forgive others, we have to start with prayer. Yielding to the will of the Father will enable us to forgive. If you live long enough, you will be hurt and need to forgive. When it is hardest to pray, pray hardest! You say, “But I will never be able to trust them again.” Forgiveness is instant. Trust takes time.

Forgiveness is Painful
It is hard, even painful, to forgive. It is a lot easier to seek revenge and harbor resentment. How much of your prayer life is for yourself? How much do you pray for others? Crucifixion was excruciating torture. As He suffered, bled, and died, His first prayer was not for Himself but for others. “Father forgive them” included Judas who betrayed him, Peter who denied him, Pilate who condemned him, the priests and crowd who cried crucify Him, the Pharisees and Sadducees who plotted to trap Him, the soldiers who struck him and spit in His face. If Jesus can forgive them, He will forgive us. Jesus practiced what He preached. Pray for your enemies. Jesus prayed for His. He was willing to forgive those who did not deserve it or ask for it. The root of bitterness and unforgiveness will eat at you like a cancer. Let it go! Don’t let past hurts get in the way of future happiness.

Forgiveness is Powerful
Jesus’ second statement from the cross was the answer to His prayer. It was a word of salvation. Look at Luke 23:39-43. Both men being crucified with Jesus were guilty. Both had heard Jesus repeatedly pray “Father forgive.” They could see written above His head “The King of the Jews.” Both had made some bad choices in the past, and both were given the same choice that day. One of them feared God which is the beginning of wisdom. If a person was lost and had but a few hours to live, this would be the passage I would read to them. A person can be saved on their deathbed. This man’s last opportunity was also his first opportunity. The Holy Spirit convicted him, and he confessed his guilt. He was not afraid of what others thought. He confessed his sin and called on Jesus to save him. That one right choice offset all the wrong choices. That is the gospel. The prayers of Jesus are always answered. The thief was saved. It was so powerful that it became the pattern and practice of all believers. When Stephen was being stoned, he prayed, “Do not charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:60). Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

All of us use calculators. There is a wonderful little button with the letter C on it. No matter how many mistakes you make you can push that little “C” button and all the errors are instantly and totally erased. It enables you to start all over. There is no record of it. It is forgiven. When you trust Jesus, all of your mistakes, all of your past, present, and future sins are all cleared and forgiven. Jesus gave the thief forgiveness and assurance of salvation. “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He can do the same for you if you turn to Him and confess Him as Lord.

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