The Seven Words from the Savior on the Cross: Forgiveness 2

Luke 23:34. A Prayer of Forgiveness in the Midst of the Pain.

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."  Luke 23:34. 

What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is a term signifying in the Old Testament to ‘send away,’ ‘cover,’ ‘remove,’ and ‘wipe away.’ In the New Testament the phrase ‘send away’ is primarily used. Forgiveness also means to ‘loose’ (Luke 6:37), ‘be gracious to’ (Luke 7:43; 2 Corinthians 2:7), and to ‘pass over’ (Romans 3:25). The Bible speaks of human sinfulness, God’s eagerness to forgive, the many calls by the prophets, Jesus, and Jesus’ followers for sinners to repent from sin and return to God.

The Old Testament system of worship provides sacrifices for removing the guilt of those who have sinned unwittingly or repented of their sins (Leviticus 4-5). However, a sacrifice must always be accompanied by a proper attitude (1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6). The prophets testify repeatedly that God desires to forgive human sins and asks for repentance (Isaiah 1:18-19; Hosea 12:2-3; Joel 2:13) as a prerequisite for a renewed relationship between God and Israel.

The New Testament continues the belief in God’s mercy shown in His forgiveness of sins. God initiates contact with humans (Galatians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 9:23-26) and forgives sins through the substitutionary, atoning death of Jesus (Romans 3:21-26; 4:25; Mark 10:45; Galatians 1:4; Acts 13:38).

God’s forgiveness is described as justification, salvation, redemption and reconciliation. It is remembered with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:28). In some passages in the Gospels, Jesus himself forgives sins (Mark 2:5-6).

Members of the Christian community also have a role in the forgiveness of each other’s sins (John 20:23; James 5:13-16). Harmonious relations depend on members forgiving one another (Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 17:1-3). The Lord’s Prayer makes God’s forgiveness dependent on the believer’s forgiveness of others (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Luke 11:4). The Gospels also record early Christians to be reconciled to one another before offering a sacrifice to God (Matthew 5:23-24; Mark 11:25).

As one witnesses the importance God places on forgiveness, it should stand to reason that Jesus’ first words from the cross would address the subject of forgiveness.