And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on His right and one on His left. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." ... One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And He said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise." (Luke 23:33-34a, 39-43)
I wonder if it haunted the soldiers—those words of Jesus, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." They must have been used to screams and curses. They could probably tune those out. But having your victim pray for you? That's a recipe for a sleepless night.
But Jesus was right, wasn't He? They truly didn't know what they were doing. They didn't know this was the Son of God. They probably didn't even realize it was an innocent man. And so Jesus seizes on the one thing that could be held in their favor—their ignorance—and appeals to God on their behalf.
He does this later with the criminals who had been yelling at Him. One of the men had a change of heart and asked Jesus to remember him. Such a small thing—especially since his behavior at first had been so awful. And yet, here is Jesus, seizing on the small good thing—and returning a blessing that he could never dream of. "Today you will be with Me in paradise."
Jesus is like that—slow to judgment, quick to forgive, always ready to give us twisted, broken people gifts that are far, far better than anything we could ever deserve or even dream of. It's why He went to the cross in the first place—so that He could forgive us, rescue us, heal us, and bring us into His Father's kingdom of freedom and joy.
THE PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for giving us so much better than we deserve. Amen.
* Do you find it hard or easy to give people better than they deserve?
* When did someone in your life give you something better than you really deserved?
* Is there someone right now to whom you could show this kind of mercy? (Don't identify the person if it should stay confidential.)
Lenten Devotions were written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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