|Volume 18 Number 6 June 2016||
God the Father chose to provide four accounts of the life and death of His beloved Son. Mark records the time of the Lord’s crucifixion. “And it was the third hour, and they crucified him” (Mark 15:25). In our manner of time keeping that was 9:00 in the morning, on Friday. Luke provides the fact that from noon till 3:00 p.m. there was darkness over the land (Luke 23:44). During these six hours upon the cross, seven sayings Jesus spoke are recorded. Consider the first.
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Several points can be observed from this.
(1) Jesus practiced what He preached. He taught His disciples to “…pray for them that despitefully use you” (Luke 6:28). See also Matthew 5:43-48. Stephen admirably followed the Lord’s example (Acts 7:60). How do you and I treat our enemies?
(2) His murderers were still guilty of sin, even though they did it in ignorance. Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them,” and yet, where there is no sin, there is no need of forgiveness. He also said, “They know not what they do,” indicating their ignorance. “The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30). Don’t expect ignorance to be your ticket into heaven. No such ticket exists (Luke 12:48).
(3) How was His prayer answered? After His resurrection and Ascension, the apostles preached His message to the Jews. “Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus… ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay” (Acts 2:22-23). Even though Jesus had prayed for their forgiveness, these Jews were still guilty of killing the Christ. His prayer would be answered. Later in his sermon Peter said, “God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified” (Acts 2:36). Many accepted their responsibility for this murder, and called out with the question, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). “And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Forgiveness of sins was made available to them, and about 3,000 chose to receive it (Acts 2:41). Please note the role repentance plays in forgiveness of God toward man. Even between man and man, Jesus said, “If thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him” (Luke 17:3; cf., Acts 17:30).
I know that sometimes we get discouraged by what we read in the news, in posts online and even in brotherhood papers and ads. Anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian may very well be headed for persecution simply by holding to biblical principles. The attack is already on. It will likely get worse.
Within the body of Christ there is more and more of a push to denominationalize the church and to obscure and to obliterate the distinctive nature of the body for which Jesus died. Those who stand firmly for adherence to God’s Word and plan face attacks from outside and from inside the church. In the face of all this, listen to Jesus’ words to some of the seven churches of Asia (who faced those same types of problems that we do).
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations. (Revelation 2:25-26)
He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Revelation 3:5)
Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. (Revelation 3:11)