How can we forgive people who have done us wrong? What does that look like and why should we? As I live out the Gospel, I recognize the examples set forth by my Lord. He modeled the "right" Christian behavior He expects of His disciples even today. He did this all of the way to the cross and up to His last breath.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at Him. They said, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked Him. They offered Him wine vinegar and said, “If You are the king of the Jews, save Yourself.” There was a written notice above Him, which read: this is the king of the Jews. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” — Luke 23:34-43
Jesus had been betrayed by one of His own disciples for thirty pieces of silver. He was arrested, interrogated, and tried with made-up evidence by the Jewish ruling council. Peter had denied Him 3 times, and Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas had questioned Him. He had been whipped profusely, mocked, struck and spat upon; and, He was paraded around for the amusement of those onlookers. A crown of thorns was put upon His head. Not only that, but He had to carry the instrument of His own execution on his back. The cross. If we imagine ourselves in Jesus’ position, looking down at the crowd whose schemes and strategies had put us there, what would our first words be? Would they be words of mercy and grace? Probably not.
The words that fell from Jesus’ lips were: “Father, forgive them.” Imagine that. Instead of asking God to give His killers what they deserved, Jesus asked Him to give complete forgiveness. Jesus did not condone their actions and He did not deny their guilt. What He did do was recognize that they didn’t understand the gravity of what they were doing. The Jews thought Jesus was a blasphemer; the Romans thought they were punishing yet another criminal. No one understood that they were committing the vilest crime in the history of the world: they were crucifying the Son of God. But what did Jesus do? Jesus interceded on behalf of the people who were torturing Him, and at Golgotha He modeled the words He had shared again and again that we are to
demonstrate as followers of Jesus:
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. — Matthew 5:44
And that’s what He continues to do endlessly from His thrown. Jesus is not accusing us but is standing as our advocate and interceding on our behalf. All other priests, past and present who would intercede for man, have and will die. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain — our Great High Priest who could atone for our sins, once and for all. That’s why the writer of Hebrews said, "The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.'" Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself." — Hebrews 7:18-27
1 John 1:9 — tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
Jesus has a permanent priesthood because He is eternal and He also lives to intercede for His children. It is comforting knowing that Jesus intercedes for me and has the power to forgive me. How can I therefore withhold forgiveness to another? The simple answer is, I can't.
God bless you.