A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Good Friday – “Father, Forgive Them…”

April 9th, 2009

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” According to the Gospel of Luke, these are the first words spoken by Jesus while on the cross.

For the Roman soldiers walking the perimeter, it’s all in a day’s work. Some people push pencils and keep records for a living. Others sell groceries in the market. For these men, keeping order during riots and overseeing ghoulish public spectacles is part of the job description.

They aren’t here by choice. They are part of an occupying force hundreds of miles from their home. They’d rather be back in Rome. Someday they’ll go home. And when they do they plan to march straight down to the recruiting office and have a hands-on conversation with that guy behind the desk who said joining the Roman army meant experiencing adventure and seeing the world. He didn’t tell them it meant pulling duty in a backwards place like Jerusalem.

And to them, it is backwards. Take this crucifixion, for example. Back in Rome, you’d need a very good reason to put a fellow Roman to death. There would be a trial. The testimonies of the witnesses would have to corroborate. To convict would require hard evidence. The judge and jury would be unbiased. The verdict would be fair. However it turned out, the process would be logical.

To these Roman soldiers, the Jews, at least some of them, aren’t logical at all. When given a choice, they begged and screamed for a convicted felon named Barrabas to be set free so they could put to death one of their own. That’s backwards. To execute a guy whose only crime it seemed was being too popular with the people. If this happened back in Rome, someone would be put to death all right. But it wouldn’t be this guy on the middle cross. It would be the ones who couldn’t get their story straight and gave a false witness.

But in the end, it’s not their problem. To the soldiers it’s just another day on the killing hill. Three criminals getting their just desserts. Supervising crucifixions is ugly business and gambling for a criminal’s clothing while He hangs dying just a few feet away seems morbid, but it’s a welcome distraction from the moans of pain and gasping sounds of death.

Maybe the next tour of duty will be easier.

After three years of earthly ministry, it ends here. Jesus nailed to a cross. It ends right here. Or does it? Say what you will about this man Jesus, that He was a troublemaker and a rabble rouser, a burr under the saddle of the religious establishment; or say that He was a good teacher sent by God. Either way, you had to admit that He was different. Really different.

How did they put it? “He was one teaching with as with authority.” That’s one way to put it.

“Backwards” is another way to put it.

He said we are to be kind to those who hurt us. To turn the other cheek toward those who would hit us. To not refuse those who want to borrow from us. He said the fastest way to become truly wealthy is to give away our worldly possessions. He said if our desire is to become great then we need to assume a humble position. And if we want God to smile on us we should do our fasting and our praying and our giving in secret.

Crazy as these ideas are, most backwards is Jesus’ idea that the best way to make peace with our enemies is to forgive them.

He said it that day on the side of the mountain while preaching to the crowds. “Love your enemies”, He said. It’s one thing to be magnanimous when you’re the center of attention. It’s easy to be bold when you’re free to walk about under the big blue sky. Yet, here is a man pinned to a piece of wood saying “Forgive them.”

“Forgive me, God”, now that’s a phrase I can understand. Forgive me, God because I’m a total screw up. Forgive me, God, because I fail. “Forgive me, God”, is a phrase that makes sense to me. Because I know me. But “forgive them”? Especially when the “them” are my enemies?

That’s backwards.

You’d think that being stripped naked and nailed to a cross when you’ve done nothing wrong would cause one to rethink their theology. Changing your position to one of revenge and retribution when you’ve been unjustly convicted of crimes you didn’t commit, well, who could hold that against you? Say what you will about this Jesus. He remains consistent, and backwards, even to the end.

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus is backwards even to the end. Asking forgiveness for short-sighted people who could no longer compete with His truth. Asking God the Father to forgive the ignorance of their actions. Nailed to a cross in excruciating pain Jesus doesn’t ask for His own deliverance.

He asks for ours.

Gambling for the clothing of one dying on a cross just a few feet away seems morbid. If I had been one of the soldiers that day I’d have probably taken my turn at tossing the dice. It would have been a welcome distraction from the moans of pain and gasping sounds of death coming from the backwards man on the middle cross.

The one asking His Father to forgive me because I didn’t know what I was doing.

Todd A. Thompson – www.ASliceOfLifeToGo.com