Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” — Luke 23:34a
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!”
― Isaac Watts
I will never forget the day I gave my life to Christ. It was a sweltering Sunday morning in June—Children’s Day—and our little Baptist church was packed. I sat fidgeting on the front pew next to my father. I was eight years old and I had made up my mind. This was the day.
And so when Pastor Lewis offered the invitation to discipleship as he had so many other Sundays before, I leaned over and whispered in Daddy’s ear, “I want to be saved.” He smiled and nodded, and I nervously stepped forward. Pastor Lewis knelt down, cradled me in his arms and, after a series of questions, welcomed me into the family of God.
I was saved!
That was the first of many “salvation” moments. My seeming inability to “get it right” made me think that perhaps it hadn’t taken the first time. And over the years I’d rededicate my life to Christ and then rededicate my rededication. (I attended college in the 70s. Need I say more?)
I spent time these days leading up to Resurrection Sunday reflecting on the greatest event in all of history—the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and I thought about those days. All my start-to-stop-to-start all over again years. Struggling to get it right, followed by failure, tears and repentance—only to repeat the cycle all over again. I am grateful that all Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection covered those years. That from the Cross He saw every failure, saw every tear, heard every plea for forgiveness. I am overwhelmed by His love for me and the grace that never let me go.
The Cross reminds me that He’s always loved me. That love never diminished because of my sinful choices or inability to live fully the life He died and rose again for me to access. The Cross reminds me that before the first “Let there be…” before sun, moon, stars, before Eden, before Adam, God had purposed to bring me into the incredible, eternal love relationship that exists between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I stand at the foot of the Cross of Christ and hear Him utter, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” But I hear Him speak beyond the Jewish crowd who had gone from shouting “Hosanna” to clamoring “Crucify Him” in a few short days; beyond Roman soldiers casting lots for His garments, driving nails into His hands and spikes into His feet, beyond thieves to His left and to His right, beyond Herod and Pilate, beyond Caiaphas and Pharisees, beyond Peter’s denial and Judas’ betrayal. He spoke through history and prayed for a baby girl who’d be born one Spring day in 1954.
In that moment on that cross, Jesus saw me! I was the joy set before Him. I can hear Him as He speaks from the Cross:
Father, forgive her. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.
She doesn’t know what she’s doing because she doesn’t know who she is. Because of sin, she has lost all sense of her truest identity in Us. Sin has caused a disconnect from Life Himself and all that defines and gives her identity. That disconnect from Us will cause her to act in ways that are against her true, God-breathed nature. Will cause her to seek identity and purpose in people and in things that will never satisfy. Will cause her to act in fear and often run from Us rather than run in to Us.
She doesn’t know what she’s doing because she doesn’t know who she is. But one day she will know. One day she will respond to Love.
So, Father, forgive her here at the Cross and throughout her life. Woo her. Pursue her. Reveal to her in myriad of ways how much We love her. Show her at every turn that she is forgiven, and her life need not remain in a perpetual state of disconnect, a perpetual state of searching, a perpetual state of striving. Holy Spirit, draw her until she awakens to Our Love and surrenders to it. She will awaken, recognize and believe that this moment at the Cross—the bruises, the nails, the ridicule, the pierced side, the Blood—is for her. She will awaken to the truth that she can only find life—authentic, purposeful, free, eternal—in Oneness with Us.
Forgive her now and forgive her when she has lapses in memory that cause her to think and behave in ways that are not in alignment with all I AM and all We’ve created her to be. I will continue to intercede for her until she becomes fully aware of Our truest intentions for her. Until she is aware that Our love never fails, Our grace has no limits. Until she is fully aware that life in Us brings her into a new reality—one of freedom from striving, one of rest in My finished work so she can live from all that has been accomplished in this moment.
This moment of sacrifice, Father, is Our love and grace stretching into her every moment, reconciling her by My death, saving her by My Resurrection Life in her (Romans 5:10).
God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’ – Billy Graham