January 20, 2020 – Monday
Luke 23:33-34 NIV
33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals—one on His right, the other on His left.
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Comments – Part 2
As noted in Comments – Part 1, these were not Jesus’ last words, but His first known words after being crucified. We have little cultural or factual working knowledge today of what crucifixion truly consists of other than the hands and feet are nailed to a cross. While that is brutal in and of itself, it does not convey what happened prior, during, and after the crucifixion which makes Jesus’ request to His Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing all the more amazing.
Before the actual crucifixion there was the scourging where Jesus was whipped with a special whip known as scourge. The Roman scourge, had multiple thongs, each with a lead balls at its end with sharp bone and metal embedded in the lead for the purpose of ripping the flesh open. According to David Guzik, the victim’s back was first torn open by the scourging, then the clotting blood was ripped open again when the clothes were torn off before crucifixion. The victim was thrown on the ground to fix his hands to the crossbeam, and the wounds on the back were again torn open and contaminated with dirt. Then, as the victim hung on the cross each breath caused the painful wounds on the back to scrape against the rough wood of the upright beam. But what happened during the crucifixion made all this even worse. Turning once again to David Guizk, when the nail was driven through the wrists, it severed the large median nerve. This stimulated nerve produced excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms, and often gave the victim a claw-like grip in the hands. Beyond the extreme pain, the major effect of crucifixion was to restrict normal breathing. The weight of the body, pulling down on the arms and shoulders, tended to fix the respiratory muscles in an inhalation state and hinder exhalation. The lack of adequate respiration resulted in severe muscle cramps, which further hindered breathing. To get a good breath, the victim had to push against the feet, and flex the elbows, pulling from the shoulders. Putting the weight of the body on the feet produced searing pain, and flexing of the elbows twisted the hands hanging on the nails. Lifting the body for a breath also painfully scraped the back against the rough wooden post. Each effort to get a proper breath was agonizing, exhausting, and led to a sooner death.
Why you might ask is all of this ugliness being presented? It is so you and I can never again simply say Jesus was crucified without the real knowledge of just how terrible it was. Hopefully this knowledge will make us shudder that He had to suffer so greatly and yet His first words would be Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. And He chose this death to pay the ransom for our sins as He said He would in John 10 17: 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.
Then there is the question of Who was He asking God to forgive when He said Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing? There are many answers. This first is ‘the Roman soldiers who performed the actual crucifixion and scourged Him. The second is those who caused Him to be crucified, the Pharisees and their supporters. The third is all of have sinned and needed His act of sacrifice so the gift of grace would be available to them. The third answer would obviously include us. The most correct answer would be all three answers for I know of no sinner who when he or she sinned knew what they were doing was the cause of Jesus being crucified. Paul makes this clear along with God’s love for us when he writes in Romans 5:
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
What an ugly and painful death it was. And it was for us While we were still sinners! Let us never consider His crucifixion lightly or forget the incredible depth of His and His Father’s love for us.