Sermon: Father Forgive My Enemies (Luke 23:32-43)

Father, Forgive My Enemies

Luke 23:32-43 (ESV)

Primary Claim

Jesus prayed for His enemies to be forgiven and God forgave.

Luke 23:32-43 (ESV)
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.” 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 wine
37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

1.  Father, Forgive My Enemies

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.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
Immediately, Luke introduces the two others who were being led away with Jesus to be crucified.  He does this as a way to cause us to anticipate something.  In this case, Luke will show us a contrast between these two thieves.  It is important to catch this up front.

In one sentence, Luke shows us that they…the Romans and the Jews crucified Jesus.  They were taken to the historic spot, Golgotha, “the place of the skull”.

The beginning contrast is between Jesus the innocent and the two criminals.  All three will meet the same fate, all three will be put to death by crucifixion.  All three will die of horrific torture.

Next, I want us to see that Jesus’ response is so different from the response of all the others.  No one would show Jesus the least bit of mercy or kindness.  In fact, all they did was to mock Him and beat Him.  Jesus, on the other hand calls out to His Father and makes a request from the cross…

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do

I want us to stop and think about this request for a minute.  Jesus asks that God would forgive the Jews who lied and manipulated and relentlessly sought His death and the Roman soldiers who beat Him, mocked Him and crucified Him.

The other part of this is if they were ignorant, if they didn’t know what they were doing, why was Jesus asking God to forgive them?  If they were ignorant of their actions would they still be guilty?  The Roman soldiers were just doing what Roman soldiers did.  What were they guilty of?

In essence, they were guilty of not knowing.  They were guilty of being ignorant.  Jesus was attested to them by God.  He taught and healed the sick raised the dead and forgave sin and they refused to believe.  They did not know who they were crucifying.  They all thought that Jesus was crazy.  That’s why they mocked Him as a king.

Jesus taught on this very thing.

Luke 12:47-48 (ESV)
47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.
48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

So, the point I want to make here is that even with the severe beating and mistreatment Jesus received by the Jews and the Romans, He still loved them and was concerned about the judgment or as in His parable, the beating they would receive.

Some say, they knew what they were doing.  But, Jesus says they didn’t know.  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Also, we see our Lord living out His own commands…

Luke 6:27-28 (ESV)
27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Before we start pointing our fingers at these people who were responsible for Christ’s death, we must look at ourselves and our sin.  They sinned out of ignorance.  What about us?  Could Jesus rightly say about us, Father forgive them they know exactly what they’re doing?  Is knowing something is sin and doing it anyway worse than not knowing?
Luke 12:
47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.
Luke also wants us to understand that all that was taking place was to fulfill OT prophecy concerning Jesus and His death…

Psalm 22:14-18 (ESV)
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
Do you see the amazing accuracy this Psalm portrays the crucifixion of Jesus?  It’s completely accurate even to the point of the soldiers casting lots for His tunic.
What does mean that they cast lots for Jesus’ clothing?  It means that our Lord hung on cross, naked?  This was another way in which they humiliated Him.
Notice, even in this humiliation, God was working.  It had been predicted from before time began all the details written down even these details.
I think there is something significant about this.  Before sin entered into the picture, the Bible tells us that Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed.
Genesis 2:25 (ESV)
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
For the Israelite, to be stripped of clothing signified gross indignity and even loss of all human identity.  In every way, Jesus became sin for us.  Even to the point of identifying with Adam and Eve and the original sin.  His sacrifice went back to the very beginning and washed away even the sin of Adam and Eve.

His death reaches back to those in the OT and forward to the called way into the future.  All God’s people have been saved because of the death of Christ.

2.  He Will Not Save Himself
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 wine
37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
Four times in this section the word save occurs.  Those who are scoffing, mocking, and railing are some of the ones He prays for.  He will not save Himself.  It wasn’t that He couldn’t save Himself.  Jesus had the power to do so.  It was for their sakes and our He didn’t save Himself.
Again, Luke is writing theological history.  He reports that the rulers scoffed.  This Greek word is very rare in New Testament writings, so Luke uses it to key us in on something…
Psalm 22:7 (ESV)
7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
Luke uses the Greek equivalent to what is translated in Psalm 22 as “mocked” or scoffed to clue us in on the fact that even the scoffing of the rulers was in God’s foreordained plan.  Luke loves Psalm 22 and he is busy showing us that this Psalm is all about Jesus.

To the religious leaders, Romans, and the soldiers, Jesus was a joke.  They humiliated and beat Him.  They insulted Him made fun of Him.  What Pilate meant for a joke, in God’s providence, really ended up speaking the truth.
Historically, in Roman executions, the victim’s crime was written on a placard and placed either around his neck or nailed to the upright above his head.  Since Jesus was not condemned to death for any crime, Pilate wanted to get back at the Jewish leadership for putting him in a very awkward position, so he wrote on a plaque “This is the King of the Jews”
John’s Gospel tells us that it was Pilate who wrote it.  The Jews didn’t like it at all and went to Pilate to have him change the sign to say…
John 19:19-22 (ESV)
19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.
21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”
22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
3.  He Will Save Others

40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Understand that in Luke’s amazing Gospel we see still another contrast.  We see the contrast of these two thieves.  The first thief was mocking Jesus right along with everyone else.  He joined the Jews, the Romans, Pilate, Herod, and the people and the second thief.

I want you to see something with me, namely, both thieves were mocking Jesus when the day began…

Matthew 27:42-44 (ESV)
42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Mark 15:27-32
27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.
29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!”
31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.
32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. 

At some point while they hung on the cross, God answered Jesus’ prayer…Father forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.   The Father heard our Lord’s prayer and immediately opened the heart of the thief and he believed.  What a picture of sovereign grace!  Salvation is not of works.  Both criminals were wailing and mocking and then one was visited by God and was converted.

4. Evidence of Biblical Repentance

We have studied the doctrine of repentance in the past.  We’ve defined it and analyzed it.  We mentioned that it is a turning away from sin and turning to God.  We’ve looked at the fact that repentance is a change of mind about sin.  What was once alluring and tempting is not longer a problem.

Here, hanging on a cross next to Jesus is an example of one who repents.  Let’s see what it looks like…

J C Ryle mentions 6 evidences that this thief has repented and has changed.

A. His concern for others

Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
B.  Full acknowledgement of his own sin

41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds

C.  Confession of Jesus’ innocence

but this man has done nothing wrong.”
D. Faith in Jesus to save him

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

E. He prayed for Jesus to care for his soul

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

F. He shows humility and dependence

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Ryle goes on to say that we should all be Leary of supposed repentance without evidence.

I would add to these six that somehow this dying thief recognized that Jesus is in fact a King…“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

How did this man know all this?  Somehow God showed him the truth and opened his heart to believe.

In the account of the dying thief, we see other amazing truths.  Jesus is extremely willing to save sinners.  This very man earlier was insulting and mocking Jesus and now he becomes a follower, even on the cross.

Next, let’s notice our Lord’s response, Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

He doesn’t say that in the last day or at the end of time or at the final judgment…but out Lord says, today!  Everyone here who has lost a loved one who was a believer, they are all with Jesus.  When they closed their eyes and breathed their last breath here, they opened their eyes and saw Jesus Christ.  Beloved, when our turn comes we do not need to fear death because when we close our eyes we will, in a slit second later, open them in the presence of Jesus our Lord!

Jesus is the God of the living and not the dead.  He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…and all others who went to sleep in the Lord.

Finally, He is King and Lord even over His enemies…

God the Father always answered Jesus’ prayers.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…

The people that Peter preaches to in Acts 2, his sermon at Pentecost were many of those mocking Jesus at His crucifixion.  His enemies were prayed for that day…

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…

Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know–

23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it…

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus not only prayed for the people but even for the wicked priests who turned Him over to Pilate and had Him beaten and killed…

Acts 6:7

7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Even some of the Roman soldiers were prayed for…

Mt 27:54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
I hope we can see just how eager Jesus is to save.  The writer of Hebrews has it right,

Hebrews 7:25 (ESV)
25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Primary Claim

Jesus prayed for His enemies to be forgiven and God forgave.

Jesus prayed for them, God forgave them and Jesus died the death that made it possible for God to forgive.

Lk 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

Jesus prayed for His enemies to be forgiven and God forgave.

 

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