Say what? Forgive them? (Luke 23:26-38)

Last Sunday, on a snowy/slushy type of morning we gathered round the table as we do. We opened in prayer — as we do. We started checking-in with the homework/lifework (as we do)…and last Sunday that assignment was to either (or both) imagine ourselves as the paralytic who had been taken to Jesus & received forgiveness & healing; or to imagine ourselves as the unnamed folks who brought someone needing Jesus right to him.

As I try and consider what to offer of our conversation here, I recall that (unless I’m mistaken, and indeed that does and can happen) we did not stay in this conversation for too long. In imagining ourselves as those who bring others to God some were able to articulate how we can do this through prayer and others noticed (or named…) frustration or an inability to really bring people to God (just not practical perhaps…and also there were situations named & details as to how it is & can be challenging to bring folks, especially if they might be doing things that we think get in the way of said forgiveness/healing). And I think there was only a brief comment (though met with agreement) that there are times when it is absolutely the faith of others that allows us to continue on — that there are times when we cannot pray ourselves and that lifts each of us. We are prayerfully both those who carry others to God and also those who are willing to be lifted when we cannot make it on our own.

Then, on the first Sunday in Lent (last Sunday) we turned to Scripture, Luke 23:26-38:


26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[a] And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him,[b] “This is the King of the Jews.”

English Standard Version

We listened three times, with silence in between. Then we allowed the Holy Spirit to guide us as we mentioned what we noticed. Simone, this person minding their own business (and a foreigner) being grabbed and forced to carry the cross of Christ. This emphasis on different seasons, green versus dry — and what will happen. That Jesus was not executed alone, he was with two criminals. That there was a great crowd watching. The image of the inscription over Christ, “This is the King of the Jews.”

And the language from Christ on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It’s odd, it’s comforting (sort of), it’s so unexpected to hear the man – Jesus – who was not able to carry his own cross – to be nailed to it, in pain, broken and to offer this prayer, this cry. Meditating on it is our homework:

  • 1: What exactly is Jesus saying when he says, “Father, forgive them, (for they know not what they do).” **some translations just have Father, forgive them & others include, for they know not what they do.**
  • 2: What is Jesus asking of us (if anything) — when he says this?

In Christ ~

Rev. Sabrina Slater

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