Luke 23:34. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23:43. And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Why did Jesus die on the cross? Do you know the answer? Can you explain Christ’s death?
Luke explains it by recording two statements of Jesus from the cross. Two declarations that embody the reason he died. The first is the offer of forgiveness from sin – Father, forgive them. The second is the promise of eternal life with him – today you will be with me in paradise. Scholar Michael Wilcock calls these two sayings of Christ the “nails that held him to the cross.”
Forgiveness from sins
Clearly Jesus is the one person who could have prayed, “Father, destroy them. Open up the earth and swallow them up. Send a flood. Send a hailstorm. Send a lightning bolt. Smite them O mighty Smiter!”
But instead Jesus is asking the Father to remove their sin – his own murder – from their charge. Blot out their transgression. Throw it into the sea of forgetfulness. Remove it as far as east is from west. Do not count it against them.
What kind of love is this? If these were his family, his friends, or his disciples he was forgiving for abandoning him we would call it great love. But what do we call it when you forgive the very ones that are nailing you to a cross? What sort of glory is needed for this? What overwhelming internal peace? Truly this is love beyond understanding.
Christian, how forgiven do you think you are? One way to answer this question is to look at how well you forgive yourself and others. How burned out are you on performance? How much guilt are you carrying? What past mistake haunts you? How many grudges are you keeping right now? How much score keeping are you doing? How much judgment are you hurling at the other side?
Do you believe that God has forgiven you of all your sin?
This is the hope of union with Christ – full and free forgiveness from the Father. How forgiven are you? Completely and irreversibly. Do you believe this? God wants you to be free from guilt. He wants nothing more than for you to be free to stop living as if you are a debtor paying him back, and start living like you are his child who simply loves and trusts your dad.
Eternal life with him
The thief on the cross had asked Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And then Jesus responded with far more than he could ask or imagine. The thief asked for mercy at the judgment. But Jesus declares much more grace – TODAY you will be with me. Not only will I remember you, I’ll be with you.
Our union with Christ takes us beyond the doorway of forgiveness and into the house of God’s eternal presence forever. Did the thief hear Jesus’ cry for forgiveness? Did it melt his heart? The sinner who had mocked him moments earlier, now turns to him receiving his eternal life. Life in the garden paradise of God. No aisle walked. No commitments made. No works performed. No good deeds done. No offerings. No sacraments. Just a plea for mercy with the fullest and freest response of unconditional love the world has ever seen. A man who has done not a single thing for Jesus walking into the presence of God arm in arm with Christ. Is this the grace your living in?
“To live is Christ” is to enjoy the forgiveness and presence of God that our Savior paid for so dearly. How? Maybe start by forgiving someone. Or maybe forgive yourself. Or maybe stop trying to perform for Jesus today, and just be with him in paradise.
Do you know why Jesus died? What his death offers you?
You in Christ
In Christ you are forgiven and in the presence of God’s love. Did you earn these blessings or did you receive them?
Christ in you
What is a specific way you can enjoy the presence of God today?
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