March 27, 2017
From the desk of A.J. Higgins
Cries from Calvary -1
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”
The Silence Broken
Aside from the account which John gives us of the replies to Pilate’s attempts at bullying Christ into speaking, the Gospel records depict a silent and majestic Christ before His accusers. So remarkable was the silence of the Savior, that Pilate, a seasoned interrogator, marveled (Mark 15:5). But now the lips that have been silent, refusing to answer in self-defense or to counter the charges of his enemies, those same lips are opened and the silence is broken.
The Significance of the Time
“When … then …” The “when” and the “then” are remarkable in the grace they reveal. It was when men were nailing Him to the tree and lifting the tree into place; when the awful initial searing pain of crucifixion was being felt by His body, it was “then” that He spoke. It was when the awful deed was actually done, when the guilt of man rose to its high-water mark and filled up the cup of man’s rebellion against God. Ruin came in the Garden of Eden; the law showed man to be a rebel against God; now the cross revealed that against the blazing light of God’s revelation, man was also a rejecter of God’s love. “Then” He said, “Father forgive them … “
It was not when He viewed the poor and helpless, or when He wept over the condition of the nation in light of the soon to be felt sword of the Roman legions. It was when hatred and malice were buffeting Him like a great tsunami at Calvary. It was “then” that He said, “Father forgive.”
The Sympathy of His Heart
The worst that men could do was met by the tenderness and sympathy of the Lord Jesus. His selflessness is displayed against the background of our hard and impenitent hearts, hearts that were so hard that not even divine love was able to penetrate. He is not thinking of Himself even on a cross. He is not occupied with His own suffering. No words of self-pity, threatening (1 Peter 2:23), or vindication escape His lips. He is thinking of others. So inherent is His servant character (Phil 2:3, 4), that even the floods of our hatred sweeping over Him at Calvary could not divert Him from thinking of others.
The Statement and its Import
“Forgive them, they know not what they do.” What was the Lord Jesus saying? Did God immediately forgive the soldiers, the leaders of the nation, Pilate, and others for the crucifixion of Christ? Peter would later charge the nation with the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 2:23) as would Paul (1Thess. 2:15). Could it be that the Lord Jesus was “reducing the sentence” from premeditated murder for which there was no refuge, to an act of murder done in ignorance, and thus opening to the nation the City of Refuge? Could it be that He was He was making Himself available to be the Savior of the very ones nailing Him to the cross?
Peter would preach, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17). And Paul would also say, “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory” (1 Cor 2:8). Both depict the cross as a deed done out of ignorance.
His first words on the cross flung open the gates of the ultimate City of Refuge to make salvation possible to all who would flee for refuge.
1. Search for other instances of the impeccable timing of the words of the Lord Jesus in His dealings with men. For example, in Luke 7:24, “When the messengers of John were departed … “
2. Can you see other links with the teaching about the Cities of Refuge?