All throughout my life I’ve loved the Easter holiday. Even when I strayed a bit from my evangelical Christian faith when I was younger, I still loved it. Each year I love the idea of going to pick out a pretty Easter dress and sitting in church listening to the same Easter message that I’ve heard every year since I can remember. It’s one of the most encouraging things I can think of. It is especially encouraging for me this year, because I’ve really seen my walk with God flourish since last Easter.
The most important thing to remember during Easter for me is how Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross for all the world’s sins — I am sure you know the story but if you don’t, you can read it in any of the four Gospels, which by the way are evidence-based — you should do some research about evidence that Jesus really did live and die on the cross. One thing that I would like to focus on however, is something that Jesus said while he was experiencing a horrible death on the cross.
The words, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” are found in Luke 23:34. Jesus said this because He looked down from where he was hanging and literally bleeding out on his cross and he saw Roman soldiers gambling for his clothing, both of the criminals on the crosses on both of His sides were reviling Him, the religious leaders were mocking Him, and the crowd that had gathered to watch His crucifixion was blaspheming Him.
I am sure this made Jesus really sad to watch and hear these things. Oftentimes, we don’t think that Jesus would have been able to feel sadness and emotional pain while he was here on Earth, because he was still fully God, but that’s not true. He actually felt way more sadness and emotional pain than we ever will. Surrounded by people who hated Him, Jesus turned to the Father saying, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
Arguably, these are some of the most beautiful words written in the Gospels, because even in His time of anguish and despair, He thought to ask His Father to forgive the people who beat and whipped him, the people who put Him to death, the people who stuck a crown of thorns on His head that probably caused bleeding in His brain, the people who screamed, “crucify Him!” and the very people who nailed Him to the cross.
Another thing to remember about these words is that even though Jesus asked His Father to forgive the people doing terrible things to Him, that doesn’t mean they were forgiven right then. It is important to note that if any of the people who did these vile things to Him asked God for forgiveness, they would have been forgiven immediately, because there is no sin that can’t be forgiven because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross. All they would have had to do is ask for forgiveness. 1st John 1:19 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Jesus’ prayer on the cross did not go unheard, because this prayer was answered in the live of many people. The Roman centurion at the foot of the cross after seeing the way Jesus died said, “Surely this man is the Son of God!” One of the two thieves on the cross put his faith in Jesus and was saved right there with no time to do anything about it. Also, a little over a month later, 3,000 people in Jerusalem were saved in one day as the new Christian church began. When we repent for our sins, turn from our sins, accept Jesus as our Savior, and promise to follow Him, we are an answer to His prayer, “Father, forgive them”.
Now, because Jesus forgave, it is important that we too forgive others. This Easter, while focusing on the resurrection, we should also focus on who we need to forgive and extend a little mercy to. Even if you aren’t religious or follow a different religion, it has been proven that forgiveness lowers the risk of heart attack, improves cholesterol levels and sleep, reduces pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety and depression. I think that’s pretty cool!
So, this Easter, think of that one person who you’re holding a grudge against — the one person you hold dislike or hatred in your heart for — and forgive them. It won’t be easy and the process may take a while, but it is worth it in the end.
Also, this Easter a beautiful thing we can do is accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us. Why not just take a chance on this whole Jesus thing? John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 10:9-10.