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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Holy Week Reflections - Forgiving Like Jesus

March 24, 2013 Sermon by Pastor Shim Habte
Luke 23:24, NIV: Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
Pilate examined Jesus and declared him not guilty three times, yet he condemned Him to death. Jesus was forced to carry His cross to Calvary.

The Romans forced Simon to carry Jesus’s cross to Golgatha. God had a plan for Simon: he became a disciple. Mark 15:21 mentions him and his two sons, Alexander and Rufus, and Paul includes Rufus in his greetings in Romans 16:13.

Now I want to share with you three points from Luke 23:27-43: Jesus’s response to weeping women, His prayer of forgiveness for His enemies, and His promise to a dying criminal. All Jesus’s responses are spoken with compassion and love.

Jesus’s compassion for the weeping women, Luke 23:27-31: A large number of people followed Him, including women who mourned and wailed for Him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me; weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Why did Jesus say “Don’t weep for me?” Because He is the remedy for sin. When we go to the doctor for physical exam and are told about a life treating sickness, do we cry for the doctor? Jesus knew that He was the redeemer and told the women to weep for all who rejected Him, because the day of destruction was coming to Jerusalem and its people.

The most amazing thing that Jesus did on the cross was to forgive and pray for those who hanged him on the cross. Let us remember that the highest of all graces is forgiveness, because it enables a sinner to reconcile with the Holy God. Sin separates us from God, our loving Father. Jesus’s death on the cross turns the wall of separation into a bridge between us and God.

Jesus’ amazing love for his enemies and us, Luke 23:32-34: Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 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. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” As amazing it might seem, this prayer was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12,And so I will give him a place of honor, a place among the great and powerful. He willingly gave his life and shared the fate of evil men. He took the place of many sinners and prayed that they might be forgiven.”

Jesus’ loving response to a man on the cross, 23:38-43: Jesus was hanged between two criminals. Both started out cursing Him, but one called on Jesus to save him. That one might have been influenced by the words on a plaque on His cross ordered by Pilate to identify Jesus’s crime: “This is the king of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" The other one, whose heart was open to the Spirit of God, tried to defend Jesus: “Don’t you fear God? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.
What changed the heart of this man to see Jesus as a king and to seek forgiveness from Him? I believe it was Jesus’ prayer for His enemies, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” These are the most amazing words ever uttered. Jesus was really full of love and grace. We are so blessed to call Him our Lord. Since Jesus is our Lord, we ought also to forgive like Him.

I want end this message with an illustration of forgiving grace. After World War II, a young American GI’s family went through his stuff and they found a note of instruction. Jacob DeShazer had written, “If I die, with my life insurance money establish a scholarship and invite a Japanese boy to come and study in one of our Universities.”
Pastor Shim Habte
First United Methodist Church
544 North Shasta
Willows, CA 95988

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