Our sort of Lent Message for all of us. The following is “lifted” from John Stott’s “Through the Bible, Through the Year” (256) sent by the Fellowship of Langham Scholars. There are now four from A/G Phils. who obtained scholarship from John Stott’s Scholarship Foundation (Langham) namely; Nelson Estrada, Roli dela Cruz, Enrico Villanueva, and Joseph Suico.
His Prayer for His Executioners
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'”
The first three words from the cross portray Jesus the example. They express the love he showed to others. “Do not weep for me,” he had said earlier (v.28). Nor did he weep for himself. He did not dwell in self-pity on his pain and loneliness nor on the gross injustice that was being done to him. Indeed, he had no thought for himself, only for others. He had nothing left now to give away; even his clothes had been taken from him. But he was still able to give people his love. The cross is the epitome of his self-giving–as he showed his concern for the men who crucified him, the mother who bore him, and the penitent thief who was dying at his side.
His first word was his prayer for the forgiveness of his executioners. Think how remarkable this was. His physical and emotional sufferings had already been almost intolerable. But now he had been stripped and laid on his back, and the rough hands of the soldiers had wielded their hammers clumsily. Surely now he will think of himself? Surely now he will complain against God like Job, or plead with God to avenge him, or exhibit a little self-pity? But no, he thinks only of others. He may well have cried out in pain, but his first word is a prayer for his enemies. The two criminals beside him curse and swear. But not Jesus. He practices what he has preached in the Sermon on the Mount: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
For whom, then, was he praying? No doubt especially for the Jewish leaders who had rejected their Messiah. In answer to Jesus’s prayer, they were granted a forty-year reprieve, during which many thousands repented and believed in Jesus. Only in AD 70 did the judgement of God fall on the nation, when Jerusalem was taken and its temple destroyed.
Text: John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year, 256. Painting: Peter Paul Ruben’s Christ on the Cross, 1619-1620)