1st Last Cry of Jesus from the Cross
March 13, 2006 • By Ed Wrather
There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” - Luke 23:32-24.
For hundreds, if not thousands, of years prisoners who were to be executed have been allowed the right to utter verbally their last words.
Raymond Vasvari, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, in defending this right said, "Under the First Amendment, a prisoner has the right to utter his or her last words. We discovered in our research that this is one of the oldest free-speech rights in the Anglo-American tradition. This right predates basic free press rights by four centuries.”
Apparently, Ohio wanted to limit the right of inmates to only written last words. However, the ACLU of Ohio did successfully challenge and the prisoners are allowed to utter their last words verbally. Actually, the condemned have been verbally uttering their last words for almost 2,000 years (and no doubt many, many years before that) as we can see from the statement of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Luke.
If you look at the last words of famous people, some of those words are serious, some are humorous, and some are just crazy (many lists are available on the Internet). However, you would think that if you were condemned to die a horrific death via crucifixion that your last words would be of a serious nature. You would also think that if those words were the last words of the Son of God that they would be of great importance. I believe those words of Jesus are of vital importance to us all.
The 1st of the seven last cries of Jesus from the cross is, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
First, this prayer of Jesus reveals His nature, His character. It is His nature to forgive. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to provide a way for the lost to be reconciled to a holy and righteous God. This was not, however, a one time prayer. Jesus was continually forgiving because this was His nature.
Second, we see that Jesus knows that we are sinners and that we need a Savior. We may not recognize our own condition or our need but He does. We may not recognize the extent of our wickedness but He does. We may realize that we have sinned but do we realize that it was not only the people shouting, "Crucify” that were responsible for the death of Jesus, but us as well. We did not live 2,000 years ago but we are still sinners and Jesus died for our sins, just as surely as He did for the people back then.
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity (sins) of us all (Isaiah 53:6).”
Third, we see that this cry of Jesus from the cross requires our decision. When Jesus prayed for forgiveness, did that automatically include everyone? No. If you look back to the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see that it would not include everyone.
The prayer on the cross was a continuation of the same prayer of the Garden where Jesus prayed, "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours (John 17:9).” "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word (John 17:20).”
In the prayer of the Garden, it is clear that not all will have their sins forgiven but only those who believe in Him. Our salvation is not automatic - we must "believe” in Him.
The prayer of Jesus on the cross is an example for us to follow. We are to seek those who are lost - not just some but all that will believe whoever they may be. We too should be willing to extend forgiveness to all. It should be our nature to also be forgiving. Let us follow Him.