This month of April, Christians all over the world, particularly in the Philippines, will be observing the Season of Lent. On April 18-21, Filipinos at home and abroad will observe the
“Semana Santa” or “Holy Week.” In our home country, particularly in Pampanga, some will have their bodies literary nailed to the cross as atonement for their sins.
Way back home, I still remember how the “Siete Palabras” or “Seven Words of Jesus” while he was crucified on the cross, were reenacted in various churches or denominations. I would like to focus on the prayer of Jesus while he was nailed on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a) As evangelist and member of the WE CARE Ministries Team, I would like to share excerpts to our readers and the general public the timely message last Sunday morning of James Quitoriano, minister of the GOLDEN GATE CHURCH OF CHRIST in San Francisco, California, entitled “The Meaning of Forgiveness.”
“In this prayer, Jesus asked God’s forgiveness for the ones who had orchestrated His crucifixion. He may have prayed the prayer over and over again, for the verb translated ‘was saying’ in Luke 23:34 is an imperfect verb (elegen), which conveys past tense continuation.
In other words, it was the continual desire and action of Jesus during the early part of the crucifixion to pray for the forgiveness of those who were afflicting Him with terrible pain. It not only gives us a definition of forgiveness by implication, but it also gives us the beautiful dimensions of forgiveness by His example.
During his ministry, Jesus had often discussed forgiveness (see Matthew 6:14-15). To Jesus, a forgiving spirit was an essential attitude for spiritual living. More than any other character trait, this quality of the heart reveals the heart of God. True forgiveness occurs when the injured person resolves that he will no longer hold the sinful word, wicked deed, or sinister thought against the person who committed it.
FIRST, notice the INWARD dimension of forgiveness. Jesus’ prayer shows that forgiveness, in its human dimension, must begin in one’s heart before it can move out to the one who has committed the wrong. The prayer indicates that what really matters is not what people do to us but the kind of attitude we have about them.
Jesus had been mistreated in every conceivable way. He had been falsely accused, underhandedly condemned and brutally crucified. In spite of these, thinking of those who had sinned against Him, Jesus lifted His voice to God, asking the Father to forgive them. He prayed for them in a spirit of forgiveness. He covered their dark crimes and their wicked hearts with compassion.
SECOND, notice the OUTWARD dimension of forgiveness. Jesus’ prayer shows that forgiveness, in its relational dimension, goes across to the one who has sinned and challenges him by making him look at the beauty of forgiveness. It goes out from our hearts to the hearts of those who have wronged us. When you respond to the person who has wronged you with love and compassion, you are addressing his deepest problem. Responding to him with love is the supreme act of grace that you can extend to him. This is the way Jesus handled mistreatment, and this is the way we should deal with it.
Forgiveness is one of the most beautiful attitudes one person can have toward another. It is one of the finest gifts you can give to another human being.
Stephen was misjudged and unfairly condemned. He was stoned for his righteous living. As they threw the stones and he fell to his knees under their blows, he prayed for them, saying, “Lord, do not lay this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60). By dying with such a noble spirit, he gave the world a view of God’s heart that it can never forget. Stephen’s spirit of forgiveness released into the world a beautiful aroma that will linger until the end of time.
THIRD, observe the UPWARD element of forgiveness. The prayer shows that forgiveness, in its divine dimension, must be sent up to God. Jesus began His prayer with the word “Father.”
Forgiveness is something that can only take place in the heart of God.
When we sinned, we sinned against God. Until our record is cleared with Him, we stand guilty and condemned before Him – regardless of the forgiving attitude others may have manifested toward us. We can forgive others of what they have done to us, but we cannot remove their sins. Only God can do that.
FORGIVENESS OF SINS – THE GREATEST OF ALL FORGIVENESS: Did you know that the prayer of Jesus was not fully answered until the Day of Pentecost? Peter first preached the gospel – Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:22-47) The gospel is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)
On that day, three thousand people – some of whom must have cried “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” as Jesus stood before Pilate (Luke 23:21), had total and complete FORGIVENESS OF SINS and were added to the church (body of Christ), those who were being saved (Acts 2:37-38, 41, 47, NKJV)
FORGIVENESS OF SIN is available to every precious soul today, not by literally nailing our bodies on the cross during the Season of Lent as practiced by some in the Philippines, but by obeying the gospel in baptism – a symbolic re-enactment of the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ ( Romans 6:3-6, 1 Peter 3:21 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, Acts 22:16, NKJV) If you want to know more about the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to obey it, just write or contact: WE CARE MINISTRIES, 701-8th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94118. Tel: (650)438-3531 or (415)584-7095 or email:[email protected]
*ART GABOT MADLAING is a commissioned Notary Public and licensed Real Estate Broker (BRE # 00635976) in California since 1981. He is accredited Notary Public by the Philippine Consul General in San Francisco He is active Evangelist with the GOLDEN GATE CHURCH OF CHRIST in San Francisco, California.