Status: Forgive. A word of healing (Luke 23:34)



For every person there will eventually come a last day, a last meal, a last conversation, and last breath. A person’s last words can be meaningful. Some offer empty words before entering eternity, while others last words are a dying declaration. Some famous last words remind us dying and death can be life’s greatest teachers.

  • Difficulty of dying: Benjamin Franklin “ A dying man can do nothing easy.”
  • Vainness of dying: Winston Churchill “I’m bored with it all.”
  • Price of dying: Bob Marley “Money can’t buy life.”
  • Mystery of dying: Emily Dickinson “I must go in. The fog is rising.”
  • Patriotic of dying: American Revolutionary War Hero Nathan Hale “I only regret that I have but one life to give to my country.”
  • Inspiring of death: Todd Beamer on 9/11/2001 flight 93 “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!”
  • Spiritually profound of death: William Carey missionary to India “When I am gone, speak less of Dr. Carey, and more of Dr. Carey’s Savior.”


The next several weeks we will reflect together on the 7 last words/phrases of Jesus.

  • Status: a statement of one’s condition.
  • Today’s message: Status: Forgive. A word of healing.


Luke 23:32-34 (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…


EXAMINE           Luke 23:34     forgiveness: a word of healing

2 principles of forgiveness

Only offenders can receive forgiveness.

Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals and for those whom Rome wanted to make a point for others not to challenge their authority. So, why was Jesus being crucified?

  • Jesus was not a political leader. He wasn’t born or raised in a place of power but had humble beginnings. Yet, the secular leaders viewed Jesus as a troubler to their agenda.
  • Jesus was not a religious leader. He wasn’t born or raised as a priest but was instead a carpenter’s son. Yet, the religious leaders viewed Jesus as a threat to their authority.
  • Jesus was not a military messiah. He wasn’t training fighters but servants. And at times the disciples viewed Jesus as a distraction to their aspirations.

Jesus is crucified with two criminals. The people surrounding Him were enemies and evil-doers. And Jesus is in the middle of two criminals. Isn’t that Jesus: always in the middle of sinner’s lives?

  • We don’t know who these criminals were… maybe part of Barabbas’ crew.
  • We do know the fate of these three… death.
    • Luke’s Gospel earlier notes Jesus prophesying his death among transgressors (Lk22:37; cf.Isa53:12).
    • The law-giver is identified with law-breakers.
    • The righteous one is exchanging life with the unrighteous.

Luke locates the place of crucifixion as called “The Skull.” Other Gospels note the Aramaic name “Golgotha.” Golgotha was a well-known place that people referred to this name. Other writers tell us it was outside the city gate, where numerous passersbys traveled in and out of the city (Heb 13:12). The hill called Calvary was known more for suffering and scary executions than sweet piano playing with off key singing in a temperature controlled room with padded pews. Golgotha reminds us following Jesus takes grit and grace. And Luke is reminding us about the criminals to show us these are the people for why Jesus came into our world; only sinners need forgiveness.

You see, the perfect don’t need forgiveness. People who push off asking God to forgive them are either perfect, or they are too prideful to appear less than what they really are – and what we all are. The prideful have the same fate of all sinners, but they miss out on the mercy of God because they feared humanity more than God.

  • Jesus prays for and offers forgiveness to offenders.
    • No matter what past action you have committed against God.

[lady this week at MD March For Life 2019 shared story of aborting baby and she felt shame and dirty… until she experienced a retreat weekend encountering God’s grace that washed her soul]

  • No matter what future action you will commit.
    This is difficult bc it causes some to think they can sin frequently and ask forgiveness in future. God’s promise of future forgiveness has a way of humbling to holiness more than freeing to depravity.
  • Forgiveness is for real… Friend K says humanity doesn’t need forgiveness, it’s just an emotional support to make people feel better about themselves. If this is true… then
    1) Why is a moral code universal cross cultures and historic? Why do we have boundaries?
    2) How can you explain how grace results not just in freeing souls but forming servants? (Saul-Paul)


  • Jesus prays for forgiveness, “for they know not what they do.”
    What does Jesus mean? If a person does not know their actions are wrong, do they really need forgiveness? Why is Jesus drawing attention to their ignorance, and if ignorance implies innocence, why doesn’t Jesus instead pray, “Father, help them to never be aware of my identity so they will not be guilty of sin and condemned to hell?”
    The theological point of the Gospels and the rest of Scripture is that ignorance does not remove responsibility.

    • If person falls on handicap ramp bc a board is loose and church never knew, we are still responsible bc we should have known.
    • Likewise, the Jews – and us – are still responsible for the murder of Jesus and worthy of condemnation, because we should realize the evidence
      • God’s creation glory makes us without excuse (Romans 1)
      • God revealed through Son (John 1:14-17; Heb 1:1-3)
      • Jesus displayed divinity through power of nature, over demons, over disease/sickness, unique teachings and unbias toward wealth or human opinion, and His willingness to serve and sacrifice for others, in concert with His claims as the Son of God.


  • God will not heal what you conceal… – – – > Get alone with God
    Don’t conceal your sin / Don’t celebrate your sin – – – > crucify your sin with Jesus.
    Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now lives in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
    Psalm 32:1-3
    1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
    2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
    3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.


  • Also: Church is place for sinners… the broken, the defeated, the mistake-prone, the rejected… Jesus will take you. Our vision is to be the type of church where Jesus is a friend of sinners.


Only forgiven persons can forgive others.

Jesus responds to his enemies and evil criminals with a prayer for forgiveness. In a moment of hardship and hell, our initial response is usually to retaliate and defend ourselves. For those who study the life of Jesus, it does not surprise us to find Jesus praying, but for most of us it still surprises us what He’s praying. Can you imagine Jesus saying, “Father, un-nail me from this cruel cross and crush the heads of this callous crowd”? Or maybe we’d expect Jesus to pray, “Father, give me strength to persevere in my pain and persecutions.” Instead, Jesus does not pray reactively but proactive in asking the Father to forgive the wrongful and wicked actions of his enemies. He lived the life that He preached.

Before we look at how Jesus wants us to live, let us remember the context of the crowd around Jesus prior to crucifixion.

  • Jesus spent an entire night in intense prayer while His disciples slept (Lk 22:44).
  • Jesus betrayed by a friend for money and arrested in middle of night (Lk 22:48).
  • Jesus blindfolded and beat by temple guards (Lk 22:63-65).
  • Jesus bullied by religious leaders in unfair trials and unjust condemnation (Lk 23:1-25)
  • Jesus battered with a crown of thorns piercing His head, ears, eyebrows, and face.
  • Jesus scourged by Roman soldiers who perfected the art of torture.
  • Jesus’ bruised and bloody body was nailed to wooden crossbeams.
  • Jesus ridiculed with crowds spitting and yelling profanities while He’s gasping for air – not to mention catching glimpses of deserted friends and a devoted mother in emotional pain watching her son’s agony.

This Jesus does not just teach us to forgive our enemies (Matthew 6:43-48), and tell us to love those who hurt us (Lk 10:25-37; 15:11-32), but He puts forgiveness on display at the cross.

Jesus-God was offended, but He forgives.

  • Micah 7:8-9 “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
  • Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
  • Psalm 103:12 “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
  • Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”
  • Colossians 2:13-14 “God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” 

Since, God forgives us, we should and can forgive others (Matt 6:14-15; 18:21-35; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13). When we are wronged, God is too and still responds with grace. Unfortunately, when we are offended we too often take pleasure in punishing the wrongdoer.

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity says, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.”

  • We forgive by relying on the Father. Jesus prayed to the Father. Start your journey towards forgiveness by praying to God
    1) venting your hurt, frustration, and anger,
    2) praying for God’s wisdom on how to respond,
    3) praying for God’s strength and compassion to respond appropriately.
    4) praying they respond with humility and reconciliation.
    5) praying trusting the Lord with vengeance. (Rom 12)
  • We forgive by recognizing our wrongs. Remember, Jesus prayed “for them” and let us not forget we are them. We are sinners first and sinned against second.[1] Jesus tells us to own our issues before we begin to list the issues of others (Mat 7:1-5).
  • We forgive by relating to Jesus.
    • John 20:19-23
      19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
      20  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
      21  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
      22  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
      23  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus was able to forgive because He knew death will fail. Jesus knew all the wrongs, all the sins of the world would not win, and death would be conquered through His resurrection. When Jesus appears to the disciples, His proof that sin was forgiven was His hands and His side. What were in the hands and side of Jesus? Scars. The scar marks from the piercing nails revealed the power of the resurrection to heal wounds. The nails no longer held Jesus under the power of death; He was free to live.

Only gospel hope can fuel us to view the world with eyes of eternity and learn to extend forgiveness to others. The power of satan’s death nails no longer have power over us and the gospel frees us to live in a new way.

Yet, still realize 2 truths:

1) Forgiveness is not easy. It comes at high cost and great sacrifice. And so does walking with Jesus. We will not be able to live a life of grace to others because forgiveness is counterintuitive. Our natural tendency will be to self-defend and take revenge. Therefore, the only way we can consistently grow to forgive the faults of others on a daily basis is through an intimate and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.

  • A person struggling and stuck with unforgiveness is often a person struggling and stuck with prayer, meaningful Bible devotion & study, and varying in the ways they relate to the church.
  • It’s why church participation and attendance should be taken seriously.


  • Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Forgiveness removes the person from deserved punishment, But forgiveness is not forgetting. While forgiveness is an event, reconciliation is a process of rebuilding trust and former intimacy in the relationship.
  • What death nails have power over you?
    Today… put them in the cross and rise to newness of life.
    Don’t live hurt, live healed.


IN 1829, a man named George Wilson and James Porter robbed a mail carrier and killed him. Wilson and Porter were found guilty of several charges and sentenced to the death penalty. Porter was executed on schedule, but Wilson was delayed because he had influential friends asking the President for a pardon. Over three years would go by before eventually, President Andrew Jackson issued a pardon to George Wilson.
However, George Wilson refused the pardon. The case was confusing as to whether an individual could reject the authority and pardon power of the POTUS. The case went to the Supreme Court, who ruled essentially that a pardon rejected cannot be forced upon the person.

On the cross of Jesus Christ, a pardon is offered: Father, forgive them. Forgiveness is available, but it still must be applied to your life. If you do not accept the pardon, then it goes unused and the sentence of judgment must take effect.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

[1] Phrase from J.D. Greear, one of many sources:

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