Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lessons in Forgiveness

Mark 14:53

"They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together..."

   So began the journey of condemnation that Jesus endured until his death; being accused and abused by the very High Priest that he was to become for all of man. Let's take a closer look at the events that unfolded just prior to the barbaric death of our Lord as written in the gospels.  What stands out to me the most,  is not just that Jesus was handed over and beat and later crucified, but how he responded ultimately to the atrocities that were being unjustly delivered to His physical body.  In this we see, the amazing and endless, grace of our Lord.

  "...They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.  Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him.  They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. “Crucify him!” they shouted. Why? What crime has he committed” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”  Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days. In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him..."

"...And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

  Note that Jesus did not say, 'Father forgive them, for they know not who they are doing this to...' In His agony and pain, after being beat and mocked and spit upon and led to a walk of certain death; while hanging there before his final moments, what was the response of our Savior?  He wanted them to be forgiven, despite their ignorance. This is the love and loving concern of our Lord.  Suffering as a criminal, dying like an animal - His offering of grace was extended to the very hands who saw to His unnatural death. This is the will of our God, that all can come to a knowledge that leads to repentance, and eternal life. Christ did not just die for you...He died for your enemies too.

   Is there someone in your life, in your past or in your present that you are finding it hard,  if not impossible to forgive?  Pray for them. Pray for their forgiveness.  Love them all the more. Even to the greatest of sinners; even to the hands that shed the innocent blood of the greatest example of love that has ever touched this Earth,  He wanted not,  for His life and death to be in vain.  Not for one single solitary soul. The intercession of Jesus is offered to the most despised person in your life. Even to those who may have taken a life, His life is offered as a sacrifice. His grace and undeserved mercy is equally offered to those who believe. (John 3:16)  It is available to all. This is, the love of our God.  "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."  (2 Peter 3:9)  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44)

  Sometimes, we need more than our sinful, human resources to forgive and love others this way.  The demand for love and grace in our lives has no limits - but we do.  If we are to allow God to love others through us, we must also forgive others with the power and spirit and will that God will provide for us to do so.  Understand this:  An unforgiving spirit against those who do us wrong is to live our life as a victim, and not as a victor.  We are to forgive others, not just for our own good, or to fulfill a righteous requirement, but for the promised realization of eternal life for ourselves, and our enemies. Forgiving the otherwise unforgivable has led the forgiven to the feet of Christ Jesus. Though we may never forget the pain caused by those who have sinned egregiously against us, they will never forget...our forgiveness.