The Price Of Redemption
April 8, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross
Good Friday THE PRICE OF FORGIVENESS Luke 23:34
We have become used to calling Jesus the Friend of sinners, so we forget how offensive that description would be to His contemporaries. Jesus took that role seriously. He spent time with fishermen, who were not considered nice. He invited tax collectors into His house, stopped to talk to bimbos, and even went out of His way for lepers. Jesus did not hold Himself back from sinners. Even in death we see Him in the middle of a pair of bandits. Most of those Jesus befriended could do little or nothing for Him in return. But Jesus gave them all that He could, especially the great gift of forgiveness.
As He spoke that famous First Word, whom was Jesus forgiving? "Forgive them," yes, but who is the antecedent of "them"? Was it the soldiers? Jesus did not have any long-term associations with them, but He forgave them. Was it the leaders? Priests? Pharisees? That's harder to say. Jesus claims the people He wanted to forgive were ignorant of their deed, while the priests and their lay counterparts, the Pharisees, knew why Jesus was on the cross, having heard His claims and assessed them. They certainly did not know that He was God Incarnate. Could it be that was what He meant? Did he mean the weeping women who were watching Him die? Or the fleeing disciples who could no longer hear Him. Did He mean Judas? None of them could hear Him. Only the soldiers were in ear-shot. His pardon meant nothing to them - although His clothes were another matter.
How easy for us to blame people we never met! Can any of us say we would not have done the very same thing? In fact, don't we do it now? Perhaps we are more tolerant than the Pharisees, more polite than the soldiers, less easily led than the crowd. But don't we need the Friend of sinners every day? Think back to the story of the paralytic in Matthew 8, whose friends let him down through the roof. Jesus told him, "Cheer up, your sins are forgiven." At that time the scribes questioned His authority to say that. Now He is saying it again on the cross. Do we question it? Which is easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven," or "Arise and walk"? To say both with the same authority required the shedding of blood, the wounding of flesh, the rejection of God Himself. He has purchased the right to forgive us by the cross. He can cancel our debts because He has paid them. All the dirty jobs you think you have to do, all the evil desires you think you can hide, all the days you chose to love Mammon and hate God, all the vanity, the presumption, the irritation given and received, that's what Jesus was forgiving. There isn't anyone present who is not included in "them."
Are we tempted to reject the Lamb's forgiveness? We have a problem with it because God has written His Law on our hearts. It is good if it calls us to recognize our depravity, if it cuts away our irresponsibly high opinion of ourselves. But Law is Law, not Gospel. The Gospel is offensive to every human heart. Unless we can clearly see that without forgiveness we are damned, we don't want to be forgiven. We want leniency, we want permission to sin, we want extensions, but forgiveness is so humiliating! Be thankful that the Holy Spirit wants our salvation even more then we do; that He turns us to Him who may not look like a King, but is indeed the Prince of Peace. The Holy Spirit creates faith by the Gospel, either as it is preached, or as it is connected with the washing of regeneration. If you can say, I am redeemed," then you are really saying, "I am forgiven," which involves being a sinner in the first place. Yet, being forgiven also means having peace with God, comfort in every trouble, and hope beyond death.
Is it hard to say these things? Are we so offended at the idea that we need to be forgiven? That's the devil, who doesn't want us to be forgiven, who would throw the Lord's gracious words back at Him if he could. He wants to ram our sins down our throats for all eternity. He was trying to do that with Jesus, and failed miserably. He had his little moment of gloating, but Jesus rose again, permanently. Jesus said, "On this rock I will build my church, and gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Jesus has ascended into heaven, but the authority to forgive is still here, the keys of the kingdom which the Lord gave to the Twelve. We must not doubt that even though Jesus is not here in the flesh as He once was, we can be sure that the dwelling of God is with men, that even today the pastor's pardon comes from the Crucified, reinforced on Easter evening with a measure of the Holy Spirit. This all comes from God Himself. God in Christ has redeemed you. He says, "Father forgive them," because He was righteous and blameless, He was the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. The Father forgives you because the price has been paid. God forgives you; the authority is His. AMEN.