Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Power & Grace of Jesus' Final Prayer For Us

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Luke 23:34

In all my years as a Christian, I've always marveled at the grace and forgiveness in this prayer of the crucified Jesus.  A couple of Sundays ago, however, a question from one of my fellow Sunday Schoolers caused me to pause and wonder at the power in that prayer. And, the layers have continued to unfold.

Brother Wayne asked, after we had read this passage, "Did God honor this prayer of Jesus?"

The immediate "church" answer, of course, is "Yes. It was a prayer from Jesus, who was dying on the cross for our sins. Of course He honored Jesus request."

I also say yes, but I propose it was a conditional yes. And, my brothers and sisters, contemplating the results had He refused Jesus request helps you understand the power of the prayer.

Jesus, being of the legitimate lineage of Abraham, was in full possession of God's promises to the Patriarch of God's chosen people. We might also say that Jesus, with this prayer, was moving towards his fulfillment of those same promises.

First,  let's look at the promise of retribution against Abraham's enemies and the enemies of his people. God said to Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you....." Genesis 12:3 If we can picture Jesus hanging on that cross, it's hard to imagine Him being any more cursed. Without this prayer of our Savior, the culmination of His sacrifice for our sins, one can only guess at the curse we had coming!

Now, the last of the third verse in chapter 12 of Genesis: "....And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Thank you, Jesus! As we celebrate Easter Sunday, we celebrate the grace, forgiveness and power of Jesus prayer as His resurrection was the fulfillment of the faithful promises of God. Easter Sunday celebrates our adoption into God's family, God's chosen people.

Given what we have just seen in these last few paragraphs, doesn't it also make you more understanding of God's stand on forgiveness? If you cannot forgive those who mistreat you, then I cannot forgive you, God explains in His word and I hear in my ears, 'after all, look what I have forgiven for my Son.'

This brings me to the conditional part of God's honoring of Jesus' prayer. I say, yes, God has forgiven as Jesus asked, but on the condition that those seeking the forgiveness accept His Son as Who He is and not what He appeared to be to some. If we take Jesus, fully, as our Lord and Savior, Christ's prayer for us is answered and we are forgiven. If we reject Jesus, we are not forgiven and are cursed by God as promised to Abraham in the beginning. I don't know about you, but I'm happy to spend eternity in forgiveness and Bless the name of Jesus for the opportunity.

One final confirmation of God's honoring Jesus prayer came today, on Easter Sunday. A very young man in our congregation came to the altar and gave his life to Christ. Do you need any more than that?