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166. Father, Forgive Them
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34

LET US go to Calvary to learn how we may be forgiven; and then let us linger there to learn how we may forgive. There shall we see what sin is, as it murders the Lord of love; and see also how almighty mercy prevailed against it.

As we behold our Lord nailed to the cross, and hear his first words upon the tree, let us watch, and learn, and love.

I. WE SEE THE LOVE OF JESUS ENDURING.

  • To the closing act of human malice.

  • To the utmost endurance of shame (Phil. 2:8; Heb. 12:2).

  • To the extreme limit of personal suffering (Ps. 22:1-18).
We see not alone patience that bears without complaint, but love that labors to bestow benefits upon its enemies.

II. WE SEE THAT LOVE REVEALING ITSELF.

  • Love can use no better instrument than prayer.

  • Love, when in a death-agony, still prays.

  • Love thus brings heaven to the succor of those for whom it cares.

  • Love thus, to the highest, blesses its object.
To this present our Lord Jesus continues to bless the people of his choice by continually interceding for them (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25).

This is his daily prayer for us.

III. WE SEE FOR WHAT THAT LOVE PRAYS.

  • Forgiveness is the first, chief, and basis blessing.

  • Forgiveness from the Father can even go so far as to pardon the murder of his Son.

  • Forgiveness is the great petition of our Lord's sacrifice.
Love admits that pardon is needed, and it shudders at the thought of what must come to the guilty if pardon be not given.

WE SEE HOW THE LOVING JESUS PRAYS.

  • For his wanton murderers in the very act.

  • For their full and immediate forgiveness.

  • For no other reason except their ignorance; and this plea grace alone could suggest or accept.
Are there any so guilty that Jesus would refuse to intercede for them?

V. WE SEE HOW HIS PRAYER BOTH WARNS AND WOOS.

  • It warns, for it suggests that there is a limit to the possibility of pardon.

  • Men may so sin that there shall remain no plea of ignorance; nay, no plea whatever.

  • It woos, for it proves that if there be a plea, Jesus will find it.
Come and trust your ease in his hands; he will draw out his own brief, and invent his own arguments of love.

VI. WE SEE HOW HE INSTRUCTS FROM THE CROSS.

  • He teaches us to put the best construction on the deeds of our fellowmen, and to discover mitigating circumstances when they work us grievous ill.

  • He teaches us to forgive the utmost wrong (Mark 11:25).

  • He teaches us to pray for others to our last breath (Acts 7:59-60).
That glorious appeal to the divine Fatherhood, once made by the Lord Jesus, still prevails for us.
Let the chief of sinners come unto God with the music of "Father, forgive them," sounding in their ears.

Commendations and Recommendtions

It is well to suppose ignorance when we suffer wrong. A cruel letter came to me in my illness, but I hoped the writer did not know how depressed I was; a gossip repeated a silly slander, but I always believed that she thought it was the truth; an individual intentionally grossly insulted me, but I mistook it for a rough jest. In every case I have found it to my own comfort to believe that there must have been a mistake; besides, it makes it much easier to remove any unpleasant feeling if all along you have treated it as an error of judgment, or a blunder, occasioned by want of better information. —C. H. S.

There is something in this plea that at first confounds me, and that makes me ask with reverence in what sense Christ used it. Surely ignorance is not the gospel plea. Ignorance gives no man a claim on God We are not to say, "Being justified by ignorance, we have peace with God"—Ignorance is not innocence, it is often a sin; and one sin is no salvation from another. The ignorance of Christ's enemies of what is involved in their capital crime brings them within the pale of mercy, and allows their pardon to be a possibility—a possibility on the ground which his cross supplies. Perhaps no mere men really know what they do in repudiating Christ. Satan knew what he did, and nothing has been said in our hearing of any gospel for him; but human sinners cannot fully know; and their ignorance, though it does not make sin sinless, leaves it pardonable. —Charles Stanford

O Savior, thou couldst not but be heard! Those, who out of ignorance and simplicity thus persecuted thee, find the happy issue of thine intercession. Now I see whence it was that three thousand souls were converted soon after, at one sermon. It was not Peter's speech, it was thy prayer, that was thus effectual. Now they have grace to know and confess whence they have both forgiveness and salvation, and can recompense their blasphemies with thanksgiving. What sin is there, Lord, whereof I can despair of the remission? Or what offense can I be unwilling to remit, when thou prayest for the forgiveness of thy murderers and blasphemers? —Bishop Hall

To do him any wrong was to beget
A kindness from him; for his heart was rich,
Of such fine mould, that if you sow'd therein
The seed of Hate, it blossomed Charity.

It was a mark of true moral grandeur in the character of Phocion, that, as he was about to be put to death, when one asked him whether he had any commands to leave for his son, he exclaimed, "Yes, by all means, tell him from me to forget the ill-treatment I have received from the Athenians." Such a spirit of forgiveness, if it became a heathen, will much more become a disciple of the gentle and loving Christ, who, in his dying hour, prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." No one has a right to claim the Christian spirit who refuses to forgive a foe, and even cement his forgiveness by some act of self-denying love.

A great boy in a school was so abusive to the younger ones, that the teacher took the vote of the school whether he should be expelled. All the small boys voted to expel him except one, who was scarcely five years old. Yet he knew very well that the bad boy would continue to abuse him. "Why, then, did you vote for him to stay?" said the teacher. "Because, if he is expelled, perhaps he will not learn any more about God, and so he will become still more wicked." "Do you forgive him, then?" said the teacher. "Yes," said he, "father and mother forgive me when I do wrong; God forgives me too; and I must do the same."—The Biblical Treasury

Charles Hadden Spurgeon


167. A Divine Visitation
And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. Luke 24:36

FROM what a man has been it is usually safe to infer what he is.

This is eminently the case with our Lord Jesus, since he is unchangeable. What he was to his disciples in the days of his flesh, he will be to his followers at this present hour.

We gather that he loves to reveal himself to his saints when they are assembled on the Sabbath-day, for he did so when on earth.

Let us consider the visit described in the text.

Uninvited, unexpected, undeserved, but most welcome was that visit.

Jesus stood in the center to be near to them all, and that he might assume the place which a leader should take among his followers.

I. WHEN HE APPEARED.

1. When they had been acting unworthily by fleeing from him at his betrayal, and deserting him at his trial.
2. When they were unprepared, and unbelieving, doubting his express promise, and refusing the testimony of his messengers.
3. When they greatly needed his presence, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.
4. When they were exercising the little life they had by coming together in loving assembly. So far they were doing well, and acting in a way which was likely to bring blessing.
5. When they were lamenting his absence, and thus proving their desire after him. This is an admirable means of gaining his presence.
6. When certain among them were testifying concerning him.

Are not we in a similar condition?

May we not hopefully look for our Lord's manifestation of himself?.

II. WHAT HE SAID. "Peace be unto you."

1. It was a benediction: he wished them peace.
2. It was a declaration: they were at peace with God.
3. It was a fiat: he inspired them with peace.
4. It was an absolution: he blotted out all offenses which might have spoiled their peace.

The Lord by his Holy Spirit can calm our perturbed minds, relieve of all care, discharge from all sin, deliver from all spiritual conflict, and give to each one of us immediate and perfect peace.

III. WHAT CAME OF HIS APPEARING.

1. He banished their doubts. Even Thomas had to shake off his obstinate unbelief.
2. He revealed and sealed his love upon their hearts by showing them his hands and his feet.
3. He refreshed their memories. "These are the words which I spake unto you" (verse 44).
4. He opened their understandings (verse 45).
5. He showed them their position. "Ye are witnesses of these things" (verse 48).
6. He filled them with joy (John 22:20).

Has the Lord come into our midst during this service?
Has he breathed into our souls a special peace?

If so, let us wait a while, and further enjoy his company, and praise his condescending love.
If we do not feel that we have been thus favored, let us tarry behind, and further seek his face.
A special meeting for praise and prayer will be held during the next half-hour. O Lord Jesus, abide with us!

Ripples

The Master's greeting to the first company had been in the word "Rejoice!" (Matt. 28:9-10). His greeting to the second was in the phrase, "Peace be unto you!" And this he said twice over (John 20:19-21 ). We should keep in mind the difference between the first company and the second. The first was a small detachment of the general society, and consisted of women only. The second was the general society itself, including all the men; and all the men had in one moment of panic forsaken their Master. In that shameful moment even John had not been an exception. The women, when Christ met them, had been true, and were only conscious of grief; the men had not been true; and, besides their grief, were conscious of deep agitation and burning shame. He knew their thoughts. Like the young Hebrew in their national story, who, years after his brethren had cast him into a pit, then sold him for a slave, met them face to face again, he as their lord, they as his supplicants, but who, that they might not fall back blasted, gently discovered himself to them in the words, "I am Joseph, your brother," to the mention of his name eagerly adding the mention of his relation; so the Celestial Joseph, in discovering himself to those whom he had so grandly loved, but by whom he had been so basely forsaken, first sent forward by Mary the message, "Go tell my brethren;" then followed up the message by personally appearing with these words on his lips—"Peace to you?"—words meant to dispel their fear, to kindle their tenderness, and to still the tempest within them. Brothers in Christ, this message was meant for our one whole family. —Charles Stanford

There are depths in the ocean, I am told, which no tempest ever stirs; they are beyond the reach of all storms, which sweep and agitate the surface of the sea. And there are heights in the blue sky above to which no cloud ever ascends, where no tempest ever rages, where all is perpetual sunshine, and nought exists to disturb the deep serene. Each of these is an emblem of the soul which Jesus visits; to whom he speaks peace, whose fear he dispels, and whose lamp of hope he trims, — Tweedie

In the life of Dr. John Duncan there is a touching passage, which relates how much he suffered from religious melancholy. His mental struggles were often very distressing, casting a shadow over his whole life and work. On one occasion, he went to his college-class in a state of extreme dejection. During the opening prayer, however, the cloud passed away. His eye brightened, his features relaxed, and before beginning his lecture he said, with pathetic sympathy, "Dear young gentlemen, I have just got a glimpse of Jesus"

We are the soldiers of Jesus Christ. Now, that which nerves the soldier's arm, and strengthens his heart, as he goes forth to battle, is not so much the multitude of the army of which he forms a part, as the character of the chief whom he is following. It is related that, in one of the Duke of Wellington's battles, a portion of the army was giving way, under the charge of the enemy, when he rode into the midst of them. A soldier called out in ecstasy, "There's the Duke—God bless him! I'd rather see his face than a whole brigade;" and these words, turning all eyes to their chief, so reassured his comrades that they repulsed the foe; they felt, he is beside us who was never defeated yet, and who will not be defeated now. A military friend, with whom I con versed on this subject, said that, though he had never heard the anecdote, he could well conceive it to be true: the presence of the distinguished General, he added, was at any time worth five thousand men. — Tait on the Hebrews

Charles Hadden Spurgeon


168. Our Lord's Attitude in Ascension
And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. Luke 24:50

JESUS having spoiled the grave, and sanctified the earth, now purified the air as he passed through it on his way to heaven.

He arose to heaven in a manner worthy of special note. We will review a few points connected with his ascension.

1. The time he sojourned on earth after his resurrection, namely, forty days, sufficed to prove his identity, to remove doubts, to instruct his disciples, and to give them their commission.

2. The place from which he rose was a mountain, a mount where he afore-time had communed with them. This mount looked down on Bethany, his dearest earthly rest; and was near to Gethsemane, the place of his supreme agony.

3. The witnesses were enough in number to convince the candid, persons who had long been familiar with him, who could not be deceived as to his identity.

They were persons of character, of simplicity of nature, of ripe years, and of singularly cool temperament.

4. The scene itself was very remarkable.

  • So unlike what superstition would have devised.

  • So quiet—no chariot of fire and horses of fire.

  • So majestic—no angels, nor other agents to lend imaginary splendor; but the Lord's own power and Godhead in sublime simplicity working all.
Our chosen theme at this time shall be the last posture in which our ascending Lord was seen.

I. HIS HANDS WERE UPLIFTED TO BLESS.

l. This blessing was no unusual thing. To stretch out his hands in benediction was his customary attitude. In that attitude he departed, with a benediction still proceeding from his lips.
2. This blessing was with authority. He blessed them while his Father acknowledged him by receiving him to heaven.
3. This blessing was so full that, as it were, he emptied his hands. They saw those dear hands thus unladen of their benedictions.
4. The blessing was for those beneath him, and beyond the sound of his voice: he scattered benedictions upon them all.
5. The blessing was the fit finis of his sojourn here: nothing fitter, nothing better, could have been thought of.

II. THOSE HANDS WERE PIERCED.

This could be seen by them all as they gazed upward.

1. Thus they knew that they were Christ's hands.
2. Thus they saw the price of the blessing. His crucifixion has purchased continual blessing for all his redeemed.
3. Thus they saw the way of the blessing: it comes from those human hands, through those sacrificial wounds.
4. A sight of those hands is in itself a blessing. By that sight we see pardon and eternal life.
5. The entire action is an epitome of the gospel. This is the substance of the matter—"hands pierced distribute benedictions." Jesus, through suffering and death, has power to bless us out of the highest heaven.

This is the last that was seen of our Lord.
He has not changed his attitude of benediction.
He will not change it till he shall descend in his glory.

III. THOSE HANDS SWAY THE SCEPTER.

His hands are omnipotent. Those very hands, which blessed his disciples, now hold, on their behalf, the scepter—

1. Of providence: both in small affairs and greater matters.
2. Of the spiritual kingdom: the church and all its work.
3. Of the future judgment, and the eternal reign.

Let us worship him, for he has ascended on high.
Let us rejoice in all the fruit of his ascension, to him, and to us.
Let us continue praising him, and proclaiming his glory.

Glimpses

What spot did Jesus select as the place of his ascension? He selected, not Bethlehem, where angel-hosts had chanted his praises; nor Tabor, where celestial beings had hovered around him in homage; nor Calvary, where riven rocks and bursting graves had proclaimed his Deity; nor the Temple-court, in all its sumptuous glory, where, for ages, his own Shekinah had blazed in mystic splendor: but he hallows afresh the name of a lowly village, Bethany; he consecrates a Home of Love. Dr. Macduff£s "Memories of Bethany"

The manner of Christ's ascension into heaven may be said to have been an instance of divine simplicity and sublimity combined, which scarcely has a parallel. While in the act of blessing his disciples, he was parted from them, and was carried up, and disappeared behind a cloud. There was no pomp; nothing could have been more simple. How can the followers of this Lord and Master rely on pomp and ceremony to spread his religion, when he, its Founder, gave no countenance to such appeals to the senses of men? Had some good men been consulted about the manner of the ascension, we can imagine the result. N. Adams

This is no death-bed scene. "Nothing is here for tears." We are not at the close, but at the beginning of a life. There is no sign of mourning that a great career is over, that the lips of a great Teacher are for ever dumb; no ground for that melancholy question that twice rang in the ears of Elisha, "Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace." No; the scene before us is one of calm victory—

All the toil, the sorrow, done;
All the battle fought and won.

The earthly work of the Redeemer is over; the work which that short sojourn on earth was designed to inaugurate is now to begin. We are in the presence of One who said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth"; and again, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. " Dr. Butler, Head Master of Harrow

That wonderful hand of Christ! It was that same hand which had been so quickly stretched out to rescue Peter when sinking in Galilee's waves. It was that same hand which had been held in the sight of the questioning disciples on the third evening after they had seen it laid lifeless in the tomb. It was that same hand which incredulous Thomas must see before he would believe its risen power; it was that same hand which Was extended to him not only to see, but to touch the nail-prints in its palm. It was that same hand which the disciples last saw uplifted in a parting blessing when the cloud parted him from them. It was only after ten days that they realized the fullness of blessing which came from that extended, pierced hand of Christ. Peter at Pentecost must have preached with that last sight of it fresh in his memory, when he said, "God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." That hand, with its nail-prints, knocks at the heart's door for entrance. That hand, with its deep marks of love, beckons on the weary runner in the heavenly way. —F. B. Pullan

Charles Hadden Spurgeon

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