Influencers Weekly Devotional
Thursday, April 05, 2012
God's Capacity to Forgive
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46
It is the Thursday before Easter as I write this devotional. While I write it, I ask for God’s insight about this week that occurred over 2,000 years ago when Jesus was crucified. That week began with His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We call the day “Palm Sunday.” It was a major build-up for those who suspected that the prophesied King of the Jews was about to take the throne and reject the Romans from their occupation of the land. They applauded Jesus and laid palm branches before Him as He rode a donkey through town. However, the applause stopped when this King was crucified. In fact, He had only a few of His followers around Him when He hung on the cross; John, His mother, and a few women. Have you ever gone through a living nightmare alone? You will remember how the time seems to slow down, and being alone in our pain and suffering compounds the nightmare. Jesus, for all practical purposes was alone in His struggle. Even His Father turned His back to Him and is why He cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? I’ve often asked this question, myself, of the Father as I re-read the account of the crucifixion each year. Why did the Father forsake Him?
As a father of one son who I love more than my own life, I think I have come to understand why Jesus’ Father turned His back to Him during that time. It would be like me watching my son suffer the agony Jesus did and the pain of this would cause me to either interrupt the process or turn my eyes from it. Could it be that God the Father's pain was so great that He had to turn His back on Jesus to keep from seeing it, or else He would stop the process? What if He had stopped it? What if He had said “Too Much!” and ended the crucifixion? It would also have ended our hope for redemption. Thank God, He suffered the agony of the cross along with His Son …. for our sake.
There are some of you who might fault me for trying to humanize God with such emotion as this. However, I would ask those who do, to consider that the Son and the Spirit have emotions, as clearly stated in scripture. They can be grieved and delighted. Jesus wept and showed anger. Why would the Father not have emotions as well, for Jesus and the Holy Spirit are perfect representatives of the Father and His characteristics? As you consider this, can you not in turn appreciate the complete sacrifice that God the Father made for us with the gift of His Son, and that it hurt Him deeply to offer His Son up? If not, you might need to check your heart and ask where you’ve lost it. As you go into this Easter, it would be good to look at it through the grid of a father and son's sacrifice together to get in touch with the reality of what occurred on Good Friday.
We know that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Therefore Thursday would have been the night of Passover when He shared it with His disciples. The events of the night are recorded in the Gospels, and we read about Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, His preparing the disciples for their future without Him, His prayer for them, and the betrayal by Judas. Thursday night and Friday seem to be seamless as the Last Supper on Thursday evening transitions from the Upper Room to Gethsemane to the cross on Friday. It was a runaway train once the process began, except for those who were there. For those who were in the drama, and Jesus, Who received the beating and crucifixion, the time had to seem agonizingly slow. Have you ever been in a real life nightmare when you felt like time was standing still for you, and your life was like a broken disk stuck on a repeating cycle of pain or some kind of hardship? Multiply your experience a thousand times over to understand what the disciples were going through. However, no matter what our experiences in our life have presented us, we can never know what Christ faced that day.
As far as Wednesday of that week, there is some interesting trivia to consider. Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches sometimes recognize this day before Easter as “Spy Wednesday.” It is believed it was the day that Judas Iscariotfirst conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for thirty silver coins, and it is recognized as such. This day would never be celebrated, for it was a despicable act by Judas, one that has been remembered long after his death. However, didn’t Peter and all the disciples except John desert Him at the cross, and leave Him to agonize alone, beginning at Gethsemane on Thursday night? Sure they did. Why do we not camp out on those acts around Easter along with Judas' betrayal? It is because their acts of desertion are overshadowed by the Cross, the Resurrection and Christ's forgiveness for the weakness of their courage. These men were forgiven by Christ and restored to their fellowship and purpose, as any repentant sinner would be if requested from Him.
I have been asked about God’s capacity to forgive. Some have even asked me if Judas Iscariot had waited until the resurrection instead of hanging himself at Blood Field, would Jesus have been capable of forgiving even him if he requested it? My personal conviction is yes. Like the disciples and even Judas, I’ve been loved by Christ and yet I’ve sold Him out by denying Him at times. I've turned a deaf ear to Him when He wanted to guide me, and I've been ashamed of the Gospel and not shared this “Good News” when it was the only answer for a troubled soul. Still, He has loved me and forgiven me and restored me to fellowship with Him when I've repented, for that is the way He is. Therefore, I cannot help but believe that if He can forgive me of such things, He can forgive anyone of any sin they confess, and His forgiveness completely restores us to Him, including a betrayer such as Judas. But, Judas was overwhelmed by his guilt and took matters in his own hands by taking his life, and the forgiveness that could have been his was missed. If this thought challenges you, consider this truth: The capacity God has to forgive is directly related to His capacity to give. He gave the greatest gift He had to offer when He gave His son to be the Sacrificial Lamb for our redemption. Could there be a greater gift as evidence of the Father's intensions? Could there ever be any gift that could match it, or any sin it would not be sufficient for? Absolutely not! This act alone, by God the Father shows His unfathomable capacity to forgive us our sins against Him, and that His provision through Christ the Son is complete.
As you consider the agony of the cross and the victory of the resurrection this Easter, also consider that there was a Father involved with His Son's struggle, and acknowledge the sacrifice He made for us as well. There is so much we do not understand about God. We have a glimpse into His character and heart by what has been revealed to us by Jesus. To me it is evident from this source and His word that the Father struggled for our redemption with the Son. He did not hang on the cross as the Son did. But, He struggled, as any loving Father would as He watched His Son carry out the purpose He was born for. In fact, He struggle so much He had to turn His eyes away from Him …. for our sake.
Happy Easter…He has risen!!
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Links & Resources
Influencers- Bakersfield, CA
Influencers-Bayside Church, Northern California
Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest"
Tulsa Men of Christ
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