The Seventh Last Word From The Cross

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  • December 27, 2013

                The Seventh Last Word From The Cross:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ . . . ” (Luke 23:34)

Forgiveness

 

Leader: Use the following questions to zero in on the fact that many things in life are open to interpretation but the fact that we are all perishing as John 3:16 says is the fact that none of us can escape.

  • Who do you believe is the most talented female singer today?
  • Who do you believe is the best male singer?
  • Which pizza do you think is the tastiest?
  • Which sport do you think is the best to play?
  • Which pet do you believe is the most fun?
  • Who believes the Hobbit was a great movie?
  • Who believes that they will one day die?

It’s amazing how many uncertainties there is in life, how we all carry different opinions on many subjects yet the one thing we all agree on is that eventually we will die.

Use the two following scenarios to generate a discussion on “last words”

Scenario 1:

You have been walking home from school, listening and singer to your favourite band on the iPod when all of a sudden the sky grows dark and it begins to rain and rain hard. Then it gets harder and harder until you can barely see in front of you. You come to the gently flowing creek which you cross every day but this time it is flowing rapidly, lashing over the top of the walkway threatening to wash the bridge away. You begin to walk slowly through the raging water as your feet are feeling for the walkway with each tentative step. As you inch toward the middle of the bridge you here a loud crack and the bridge begins to collapse into the violent waters. You are swept downstream desperately attempting to cling to any passing tree root jutting out from the bank. One after another slips through your hands until finally you grab one and hold on for dear life. As you drag yourself toward the bank and begin to stand the ground beneath you gives way and a giant hole appears where your feet once stood, falling away 100 feet below. You hold agonisingly to the tree root, your feet dangling in the air, your hands slipping due to the moisture on the tree root as you slowly lose your grip on the last hope you have to survive this unfolding nightmare. Your hands are slipping, slipping. You realise that this is it; you cannot hold on and shall shortly plummet to a certain death.

What would be your last words? What would be the last thing you would say before you die? (Allow time to answer)

Scenario 2:

OK, the time has come for you to depart this Earth. The curtain is closing and the past deeds of your life have been well considered as you sit in your last hour before the inevitable conclusion to all of our lives arrives, your death.

Just earlier that year you had been planning, planning what you would do this year in school and outside of school. The friends you would make, maybe even a boyfriend or girlfriend.

You have been having headaches for the last couple of months and as they get worse you decide to go to the doctor. The doctor sends you for a scan and you wait for the results. A week later the doctor calls. “Can you come in and see me today” he says. I am a bit busy today you tell him but he insists you must come in today. You begin to worry.

You go to the doctors and he sits you down. “It’s a brain tumour” he says. Your heart sinks, your silent. You ask the question, how bad is it? It’s a bad one, it’s deep inside and wrapped around the brain stem. Then he adds “we can’t operate” How long? you say, 12 months he replies.

12 months passes quickly, you condition worsens to the point where you are now bedridden, only the medication keeps the pain at bay as you struggle to come to terms with the fact that your life will soon end. You have an opportunity to express your last words to the ones you love the most. What would you say, your last sentence, what would it be?

What would be your last words? What would be the last thing you would say before you die?(Allow time to answer)

How much can we learn from the last things that people say? I think we can learn a lot about what they believe

Over the next 7 weeks we will be taking a look at last 7 phrases of Christ, the last 7 statements that are recorded for us in the scriptures as Christ hung on the cross, as He faced his impending death.

Each one of these statements can be summed up in a single word.

Luke 23:34 is the first of the seventh last words of Christ, and this is what I want to study today.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ . . . ” (Luke 23:34)

Prayer

The first thing we notice about this saying is that it is a prayer. Christ first words from the cross are to pray. What does this tell us about Jesus and His priorities in time of distress or trouble? His first port of call is to pray.

Who does Jesus call out to? His father – I love the way Christ says “father” and not God or Lord but the more personal name of Father. This is a term that shows a relationship with God.

This is consistent in how Christ asks us to pray. Can anyone recite the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13?)

We are also to pray in the name of Christ. Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to always give “thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

Some religions pray too many gods, whilst other denominations pray to Mary and a host of saints. Yet this is not in the bible.

Perhaps the best way to understand the role of the Trinity in prayer is that we pray to the Father, through (or in the name of) the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. All three are active participants in the believer’s prayer.

The question for us is “When trouble strikes in your life, where do you go?” To your mobile phone, to Facebook, to your friend’s house or to God?

Forgiveness

What is the second thing you notice about this verse? Jesus asks something of the Father, what is it?

To forgive! This is the word that I think sums up this phrase of Jesus best. Forgiveness (Write on board and maintain the list over the 7 weeks of teaching, returning to it as a reminder of the previous weeks teaching)

One might have expected Jesus to pray, “Father, curse them.” Or, “Father, strike them.” But Jesus doesn’t pray that. No, Jesus asked God to forgive his executioners for their heinous act. The specific request is for forgiveness.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have been attacked by your enemy? How did you respond?

How difficult do you think it would be to instead ask God to forgive your enemy rather than ask Him to strike them dead?

The question for us is “Is our first response to hate those who want to hurt us or to pray for them?

Who are “they”?

Who is Jesus asking for forgiveness for? Those who are killing Him. The amazing thing about this is that Jesus is not praying for himself, he is praying for others, Even as he hung on the cross, dying, he’s concern is for others.  Even at this time his love is for others.

Did those who Christ was praying for deserve His prayer? No – why not?

So who are “they” who Jesus asks for forgiveness for?

Soldiers – Luke 23:34b – These were men that routinely put men to death by nailing them to a cross. If you remember the soldiers mocked Jesus, they beat him with their fists, they pull out parts of his beard, and they forced a crown of thorns onto his head. He was praying for the soldiers.

Pilate – He signed the death warrant and then publically washed his hands (Matthew 27:24) even though he knew that Christ was innocent of all the allegations against him. Perhaps Jesus was asking for forgiveness for Pilate for the weakness of his character.

Chief priests and scribes were the prime force behind the crucifixion. Once Jesus had cleansed the temple of their greedy trade in animals and money changing at outrageous exchange rates, they were determined to kill him (Matthew 21:15, 23, 45-46; 26:3-4). Behind the scenes they had paid off Judas for his insider betrayal (Matthew 26:14-16), sent temple soldiers to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47), and stirred up the crowd to demand that Jesus be crucified (Matthew 27:20-23). It may have been the chief priests and scribes that Jesus was asking for forgiveness for.

Pharisees and Sadducees were his early enemies. They were the first to actively plot Jesus’ death (Matthew 12:14). I would guess that if Jesus came to our churches today, many of our leaders would oppose him openly. Some might plot to destroy him. The real Jesus is just too threatening to established religious power that resists change. It might be the Pharisees and Sadducees who were the recipients of his plea for mercy.

You and I – But when you think about it, we are the real ones that sent Jesus to the cross — our sins, our disobedience, our refusal to accept that Jesus is the son of God, sent to save us from the sins which we so eagerly commit.

Jesus said “The gate to eternal life is exceedingly narrow, he tells us — so narrow that few find it on their own (Matthew 7:13-14). Without Jesus’ action to bear our sins upon himself none of us could be forgiven.

Jesus understood fully why he had come to earth. He explains it clearly to his disciples:

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

You and I made the cross necessary. We are the ones he prays to forgive.

Jesus said to forgive them because they “do not know what they were doing”, they do not understand.

The difference between us and the other people we have mentioned is that we do know, we have heard and we do understand – we understand that Christ died on the cross so that we could have forgiveness for our sins.

Tonight you might think this lesson from the cross is mainly about forgiving others, do we forgive others as we should. Well, that is part of it but its more about those who are forgiven much. Luke 7:36-44. You see when we finally understand the work of the cross and the undeserving yet complete forgiveness Christ has given us, even when we were not following Him we will not even need to ask “will I forgive”. Instead we will just do it knowing that Christ has forgiven us without us even asking for it.

The question for you today is “What are you going to do in response? How are you going to live knowing that Christ’s plea to the Father to forgive you, to cancel your debt was answered on the cross?

Close in Prayer

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