He Forgives Them All
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
[He] made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)
A popular Christian writer accepted an invitation to dinner at the home of a new acquaintance. He found himself disarmed by the boy with Down syndrome who met him at his car, the sweet-natured child who took him by the hand and led him inside. As they sat side by side at the cozy table, the man turned suddenly at the sound of a crash in the kitchen, not realizing that the boy was leaning in for a hug. His elbow caught the child square in the mouth.
The boy howled in pain. Not anger. Just pain. Then an astonishing thing. With tears in his eyes and blood on his teeth, he crawled right up into the man’s lap and kissed him full on the mouth. At forgiveness so open-hearted, so sudden, and so free, the man was, in a word, undone.
Why? One reason. The boy was an “imitator of God” (Ephesians 5:1).
We can only imagine the things the Roman centurion had heard at the crucifixions over which he had presided: pathetic begging and whimpering, screams of rage and profanity.
But this? With back flayed and arms pulled out of joint, with punctured brow, with pierced hands and feet, yes, with tears in his eyes and blood on his teeth, humanity’s lone innocent cried to the sky, “Father, forgive them!”
“Surely, this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54)
Yesterday was Good Friday. With eyes of faith, we saw our Savior die the death we owe. But we lit a candle in hope, like lighting a fuse three days long.
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. We the baptized, the reconciled to God, will see our Jesus rise. We will release our pent-up “Alleluias” in a bright explosion of praise.
Today, on Holy Saturday, Father, disarm us and undo us by the heights of your Son’s innocence and by the depths of his love. By your Spirit and by the words that reveal the Savior to his core, may we be led by the hand into warmest mystery—that the Mighty Maker of Worlds should be so “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29), his forgiveness so open-hearted, so sudden, so free.
What language shall I borrow to thank you, dearest Friend, for this, your dying sorrow, your pity without end? Oh, make me yours forever, and keep me strong and true; Lord, let me never, never outlive my love for you. (428:3)
Rev. Dr. Mark Paustian serves Martin Luther College as a professor of English and Hebrew