Forgiving Others - Luke 23:33-34

Pastor Tom
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Sermon Series: What God Says About… 

Forgiving Others 

Luke 23:33-34 

CBC Bishop, 1/18/04

In a nutshell: Followers of Jesus must follow Jesus' example and leadership when it comes to forgiveness. Jesus' forgiveness didn't depend on remorse; and it led to prayer for those who did Him wrong.

I. Introduction

A. Two jokes

1. The bikers and the trucker

It happened late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska. It seems that a weary truck driver pulled his big rig into an all-night truck stop along the highway. He sat down at the counter and ordered a late dinner.

Just as the waitress served him, three mean-looking, scruffy, leather jacketed motorcyclists that were sitting in the corner, decided to give him a hard time. They began to verbally abuse him, calling him all kinds of derogatory names. Then they came over to the counter and surrounded him. One of the bikers grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his French fries, and the third picked up his Coca Cola and began to drink it.

How would you respond? Well, this trucker didn't respond as you might expect. Instead, he let the bikers have their fun. When they got tired of harassing him, the trucker calmly got up off the stool, took his check to the cash register, paid his bill, and walked out the door.

The waitress felt sorry for him, so after she finished taking another order, she decided to follow him outside to say she was sorry for the way he had been treated by the bikers But before she could get outside, the trucker had gotten in his truck and was in the process of driving his big rig off down the highway.

When she walked back into the restaurant, one of the bikers said to her, "Well, he's not much of a man, is he?" She replied, "I don't know about that, but he sure ain't much of a truck driver. He just ran over the top of three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot."

2. The woman who found religion

Then maybe you heard about the woman in a church who stood up and testified to the congregation that she had found faith in God and it had transformed her life. She said, "I'm so glad I got religion. I have an uncle I used to hate so much that I vowed that I'd never go to his funeral. But now, I'd be happy to go!"

B. Transition

Illustration: When my mom was dying of Lou Gehrig's disease, about 18 years ago, I traveled from Scottsdale, AZ, where we were living, back to our farm in Illinois to be with her for a week.. She was 55 years old, and the disease had made it so that she could barely talk, she was in a wheel chair, and very weak. We spent a lot of good family time together during the week I was out there. But on our last night together, she made it a point to spend some time alone with me so she could tell me some things that she wanted me to know-important things from her heart-important things that a dying woman wanted to tell her son..

Hearing the words of a dying person-the last words that they feel are important-is a pretty significant thing. The things that are said are like jewels-small things that are very precious!

Well, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was agonizing-about the most agonizing torture a human being could ever go through. But in His agony He gave us some jewels that can make the quality and effectiveness of our lives much, much better. I want to look at one of those jewels with you this morning.

If you have your Bibles please turn to…

Luke 23:33-34 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals-one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

What an incredible thing to say, considering what the Jews and Romans had just put Him through. Forgive them! Friends, I don't know if you realize this, but if we call ourselves followers of Jesus, we are called to do the same thing…

Ephesians 5:1-2 Follow God's example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. (NLT)

This morning, as we continue this series on "What God Says About…" we're going to look at what God says about… forgiving others. And as we do, I want to look at the example of Jesus, and unpack for you two important things that characterized His forgiveness of the Jews and Romans while He hung on Calvary's cross. Because if we really are followers of Jesus, then you and I must have those same things in our lives.

II. Two Important Things About Christ's Forgiveness

A. Doesn't depend on remorse

The first thing I want you to see about Jesus' forgiveness is that it didn't depend on remorse.

In Max Lucado's powerful book, He Chose the Nail, we are given a brief glimpse into the steps in a crucifixion in the first century AD. Max writes:

Those sentenced to death on a cross in the Roman period were usually beaten with leather lashes--a procedure that often resulted in severe loss of blood.

Victims were then generally forced to carry the upper crossbeam to the execution site, where the central stake was already set up.

After being fastened to the crossbeam on the ground with nails through the wrists--the naked victim was then hoisted with the crossbeam against the standing vertical stake. A block or peg was sometimes fastened to the stake as a crude seat.

The feet were then tied or nailed to the stake…Death by suffocation or exhaustion normally followed only after a long period of agonizing pain."

And as we read the scriptures we find out that what I just read for you, was just a part of what was done to Jesus. Before being nailed to the cross, Matthew 27 tells us that they -stripped him of His clothes and put a scarlet robe on Him and twisted together a crown of thorns and pushed it on His head. -they put a staff in his right hand and mockingly knelt in front of Him and said, "Hail, king of the Jews." -they spit on Him and took a staff and struck Him on the head again and again. -and they hurled insults at Him and mocked Him almost the entire time He was hanging on that cross.

Friends, the fact that Jesus could forgive the men who were responsible for beating Him and torturing Him and nailing Him to a cross is truly incredible!

But what I want you to notice is something that's not there. Nowhere do we read of anyone involved in this horrible torture being sorry for what they were doing. Jesus' forgiveness wasn't dependant on the remorse of those who mistreated Him. Not one single one of his accusers or torturers said, "Hey, I'm really sorry for putting you through all this. I know you're an innocent man."

Yet Jesus made the decision to forgive them even though they obviously weren't sorry. The kind of forgiveness that God has called us to show to others who wrong us, does not depend on the person who wronged us, being sorry for what they did.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard Christians say, "How can I forgive them, when they aren't even sorry." Or, "I can't forgive them because they haven't repented."

Friends, remorse and repentance is between them and God. But as far as you and I are concerned, that's not the issue. We have to forgive, because if we don't, our inability to forgive will stop us from being the people that God has called us to be.

If you don't forgive…, the hurt and resentment you harbor will only eat away at you like acid.

Keith Smith in his book, Seven Sayings from the Cross: A Theology of Forgiveness tells of a man who had to make that decision.

Chris Carrier of Coral Gables, Florida, was abducted when he was 10 years old. His kidnapper, angry with the boy's family, burned him with cigarettes, stabbed him numerous times with an ice pick, then shot him in the head and left him to die in the Everglades. Remarkably, the boy survived, though he lost sight in one eye. No one was ever arrested.

Recently, a man confessed to the crime. Carrier, now a youth minister went to see him. He found David McAllister, a 77 year-old ex-convict, frail and blind, living in a North Miami Beach nursing home. Carrier began visiting often, reading to McAllister from the Bible and praying with him. His ministry opened the door for McAllister to make a profession of faith.

No arrest is forthcoming; after twenty-two years, the statute of limitations on the crime is long past. In the Christian Reader magazine (Jan/Feb 98), Carrier says, 'While many people can't understand how I could forgive David McAllister, from my point of view I couldn't not forgive him. If I'd chosen to hate him all these years, or spent my life looking for revenge, then I wouldn't be the man I am today, the man my wife and children love, the man God has helped me to be."

Chris Carrier was a man by the time he met his attacker. But in his heart he had already forgiven the man long before that. And his forgiveness of his attacker, enabled Chris Carrier to lead the life that God had called him to and prepared him for.

Now hopefully none of you have had to go through something so dramatic or traumatic, but I know that almost everyone of us have had someone who has hurt us, or greatly disappointed us, or demonstrated a lack of integrity toward us or a family member or even toward the people of this community.

And more than likely that person wasn't remorseful at all for the pain, disappointment or lack of trust they caused.. But, you know friends, if we're going to be like Jesus (and by the way, that's not an option-you can't pick and choose the Lordship of your life depending on how you feel or how hurt you've been)…, then we must forgive as Jesus Christ forgave on the cross, that day at Calvary. Our forgiveness can't depend on anyone's remorse.

B. It leads us to prayer

But let me show you a second thing about Jesus' forgiveness. His forgiveness led Him to pray for the ones who did Him wrong.

Folks, if you and I are going to follow Jesus' example, then our forgiveness must also lead us to pray for the person or persons who have wronged us.

While on the cross, with nails in his hands, slowly suffocating, and in excruciating pain, Jesus prayed for the people who were literally torturing Him. It reminds me so much of what Jesus had said earlier in His ministry.

Matthew 5:43-44 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

-Pray for those who persecute you. -Pray for those who don't treat you the way that you deserve to be treated. -Pray for those who trample your feelings and don't care if they did.

That's hard! But no one ever said it would be easy. Jesus said to pray for our enemies at the beginning of His ministry; and at the end of His ministry, He carried through with it. He's not just giving us an empty command…He backed it up with His own action.

Jesus' concern was for the very people who were inflicting the intense pain on His body. That goes way beyond personal forgiveness. Jesus demonstrated that He cared about the condition of His torturers' souls. "Father don't hold this against them, they don't know what they are doing."

The example is to pray for those who wrong you.

-But don't pray, "Lord, help them to see what they have done to me and how wrong it is. Help them to be sorry for what they have done." -Rather, the example is to direct our prayers at the salvation of their very souls. Our concern should be that when it is all said and done, even the people who have wronged us are in good standing with God.

And guess what, when God comes in and creates a new creation in them, they will probably realize that the way they treated you was wrong. But then again, even if they don't, so what? What matters is where they spend eternity, not your emotional wound. It's not about me and it's not about now!

But what about a fellow believer who tramples on your feelings or does something offensive to you. Same principle…just a different prayer. You still pray on their behalf, but you pray that they would come back to a right relationship with God. It's God, the Holy Spirit's job to convict them of sin-not yours.

Now, you may be thinking, but you don't know how badly I've been hurt by this particular person! And you're right, I don't know. But God does. Just like He knows how much you've hurt Him by the disobedience and sin at various times in your life. And guess what…He still died for you. In fact, the Bible says…

Romans 5:8 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He didn't wait for you to be good enough. He died for you just the way you are. The forgiveness of Jesus Christ looked beyond the pain that came to Him through the people who mistreated Him, and that forgiveness went to bat for them with His Father. Thank goodness Jesus is still the Great Intercessor and goes to bat for us with the Father.

When I think about someone in scripture who failed in this area my mind right away goes to Jonah.

Illustration: Jonah had a hatred for the people of Nineveh that was intense. Nineveh was a wicked city that was known for their atrocities against helpless people, and for war crimes against prisoners. They were a city-state that was full of idolatry, homosexuality, and prostitution. When it came to sin, you name it and Nineveh had it. Many of Jonah's country men and women had experienced the atrocities of these ruthless people. But God had called Jonah to go preach to the Ninevites.

Well, most of us know that Jonah didn't want to preach to the Ninevites, and ran away. He got caught in a storm and was thrown overboard by his sailing buddies. Then he spent three nights and days in the belly of a big fish. When the fish vomited him up near shore, Jonah went to Nineveh, and preached repentance like God told him to.

And when the people of Nineveh repented of their sins, after hearing Jonah's message, God spared their lives. But instead of rejoicing at their repentance, Jonah was ticked off that God had spared them.

You see, even though Jonah had obeyed God and went back to Nineveh and preached to those people, he never had forgiven them for their past acts. In fact, the truth of the matter was that he really didn't want them to repent and turn to God. He didn't think they deserved the God's forgiveness.

Jonah's lack of forgiveness and his lack of compassion for those who had mistreated his people brought anger and a scolding from God.

Friends, the example of Jesus that He expects us to follow is to pray for our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. But to do this, you must forgive. And when you forgive with the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, who forgave you, whether that person is sorry or not, it will lead to prayer on your part for them.

III. Conclusion

A. The power to do this comes from Jesus' leadership in our lives

Some of you may be thinking this morning…, …Tom, how can I forgive someone whose not even sorry for what they've done to me? …How can I pray for someone's soul that I am so angry at?

Listen, friends, I believe there is only one way for you and me to be able to forgive like Jesus did. It was only possible for Jesus, because God the Father was in His Son, Jesus. In other words, Jesus was following the leadership of His Father in Heaven.

And it's only possible for us if Jesus is in us-In other words, the power to forgive comes from Jesus' leadership in our lives.

Jesus took His direction from the Father and received power to do what He needed to do. And in turn, we take our direction from Jesus to do what we need to do…all through the power of God, which God gave to Jesus, and He in turn gives to us.

In our own strength there is no way that we could show this kind of forgiveness to someone who has wronged us. In our own strength there is no way that any of us could forgive someone for hurting us or our family-especially when they aren't even sorry for it.

-It's only through Jesus Christ dwelling in me, and me selling out to His leadership in my life, that I can forgive someone who doesn't deserve my forgiveness. -It's only with Jesus leading me that I can forgive someone who isn't even sorry. -It's only with Jesus leading me that I can pray for someone who has hurt me, -It's only with Jesus leading me that I can go to bat for them before God, and pray for their salvation and forgiveness.

I put a key scripture verse on the front of your worship folders this morning, that you must always keep at the forefront of your brain if you're going to follow Jesus in this arena of your life…

Philippians 4:13 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

-Our strength to forgive comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ. -Our desire to forgive comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ. -Our model to forgive comes from our relationship with Jesus.

B. We're just like the one who hurt us

You see friends, when Jesus Christ is leading our lives, He helps us see that when it's all said and done, we are no different than the person that we need to forgive. When He's leading our lives, He will help us see that He forgave us when we didn't deserve it. A relationship with Him helps us see ourselves, in those we need to forgive.

Illustration: Probably the most famous set of trials in modern history were known as the Nuremberg Trials. At these trials, the Nazi war criminals of World War II stood trial for their crimes against humanity.

One of the masterminds of what was considered by many, the worst of all concentration camps-Auschwitz-was a man by the name of Rudolph Hess. His trial was broadcast all over the world. During the trial, witness after witness after witness came forward to the stand and recounted the worst atrocities ever known to modern human beings.

Witness after witness told of the brutality and the killings, the fear, the gas chambers, the crematorium, and of Rudolph Hess orchestrating it all.

As the trial came to a close, the day of justice came. On the day that the verdict was read, Rudolph Hess entered the room, awaiting his fate. The crowd and media grew silent. The verdict was handed down: GUILTY!

As the verdict was read, weeping could be heard from different locations in the court room. Some were silently crying, others openly weeping and wailing.

But after the trial, as the courtroom emptied, a reporter stopped one of the witnesses. He asked, "I can understand the emotion you must be feeling at this moment. Is it because justice has finally been served? Is it because now there is finally an end to the horror and pain? Why is it that you are filled with so much emotion?"

The man stopped and looked long into the eyes of the reporter, and as he wiped his face he replied, "It has nothing to do with any of those. I weep because as I stood there looking into his eyes, I saw myself."

Friends, that's what having the leadership of Jesus Christ in our lives helps us to do. It helps us to see ourselves in others. It helps us to see what Christ did for us even though we didn't deserve His forgiveness.

C. Closing prayer

At the close of our time here, this morning, let me ask you… Is there someone in your life, in your past or your present that you have been able to forgive?

Regardless if they deserve it; Regardless if they've asked for your forgiveness; Regardless if they are a fellow Christian or not… …based on the example of Jesus Christ in the cross of Calvary, you know what you have to do. Let's bow our heads, and I would encourage you to do what your Lord…Jesus Christ wants you to do right now.


This page was last updated on Sunday, October 31, 2004 03:39 PM