The Last Words of Jesus
Father Forgive Them
Matthew 9:1-8, Luke 23:32-34a
March 3, 2019
Intro: The first lasts words of Jesus is “Father forgive
them, for they know not what they do.”
Before we hear the words of Jesus from the cross let’s look
at similar words from another encounter with Jesus. The
scene is recorded in Matthew 9:1-8 as Jesus has been
followed by crowds of people. The crowds were growing
because of His authoritative teaching and word of His
powerful miracles He was performing that was spreading
among the masses. Jesus found himself down by the
water’s edge of the Sea of Galilee as we read the opening
from Matthew 9.
Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came
to His own city. 2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed.
Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? 6 But so that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He *said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he got up and went home. 8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck,
and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
The of miracle of forgiveness changes the world.
It changes the world because it changes lives. Do you need
to experience the miracle of forgiveness?
Imagine what it must have been like to be part of the crowd
that was present on the day Jesus spoke the words and
healed that paralyzed man on the mat. The friends of the
paralyzed man loved him enough to do whatever it took to
get him before Jesus. The words Jesus spoke and what
happened as a result made a life-changing impact on all
the people present that day. It was an especially significant
moment for the man who was brought to Jesus while he
was still on his bed. Jesus told him to get up and walk
home; he also told him that his sins were forgiven. Those
words surely would linger in his heart and mind.
The man on the mat never forgot what happened to him
that day. He got up and went on his way because Jesus
spoke healing words over his paralyzed condition. Jesus
had authority and power in His words which changed that
man’s life. And how could he ever forget the other words
Jesus spoke to him? “Your sins are forgiven.”
Fast forward from this miraculous moment of healing to a final scene in Jesus’ life before He died on the cross. It was a Friday morning outside the city gates of Jerusalem during the approaching festival of Passover. Passover was a significant Jewish holiday that every Jewish person was
expected to attend in their life. Even the man who was
paralyzed on the mat that Jesus healed could now travel to
Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Imagine what he might
have been thinking if he happened to be passing by Jesus
and the other two men being crucified as the scene from
Luke 23:32-38 was unfolding.
“Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put
to death with him. 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.” Luke 23:32-34a
Imagine what it might have been like if the man Jesus healed was one of the people who stood by watching this unfold? What must he have been thinking about if he heard Jesus say those words recorded in verse 34?
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus had said words dealing with forgiveness when the
man who once dealt with paralysis was healed in days gone
by with life-altering impact. The words of Jesus on the
cross must have echoed in this man’s heart and mind if he
happened to be present to hear them again but in a
The gospel writers record seven final words and phrases
that Jesus said as He was dying on the cross. The last
words someone speaks are a thing of significance. The last
words may be the literal, final words from a person’s life, or
they might just be the last thing someone says to you
before you depart from one another.
Maybe the last words you hear from people you know, are:
I love you.
Be sure and say, “Yes, ma’am and No ma’am…please and
Be safe and use good judgment.
The first of the magnificent seven last words Jesus cries
out from the cross is a powerful one.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
As we begin to listen to and think about what Jesus is
saying in this first word He speaks, it’s worth noticing with
whom Jesus is speaking. Jesus is speaking to God and not
to the people at the cross on that day. God the Son is
speaking to God the Father.
Part of the nature and character of God is that He is
relational. John 1:1, 14 says:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God…. And
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
These verses state that Jesus is the Word made flesh.
When it says the Word “…was with God…,” that phrase in
the original language is “pros ton theon.” The word picture
being described in this phrase is of two personal beings
facing one another and engaging in relational, intelligent
discourse. Think of two people not just talking on the
phone but using FACETIME to talk to one another in a
Face to Face kind of way with facial recognition and facial
expressions rather than only words being heard by one
Why is all that important to consider? It is important
because the first word from the cross is a prayer from God
the Son to God the Father as they have some FACETIME
with one another. Jesus leans into His relationship with
the Father during His darkest hour.
Through those seasons when it feels like our life is being
whipped, battered, bruised and hung up by three nails, it
serves us well to remember the first two syllables that came
forth from Jesus’ lips when He was in the same situation.
“FATHER.” ABBA. DADDY. As we try to imagine ourselves
standing at the foot of the cross and listening to the first
word of the seven words Jesus spoke, we get to eavesdrop
on a deep, heart conversation between God the Father and
God the Son; and what we see is that their conversation
does relate to us in some respects!
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Forgive them. Why should they be forgiven? They should be
forgiven because they don’t even know
what they are doing. Let’s look closer at this truth.
Have you ever stopped to consider that much of our lives
are spent trying to figure out what we are going to do?
What am I going to wear today?
Where am I going to eat after church today?
What am I going to major in at college?
How much insurance should I buy?
What do we need to invest in so we don’t have to work until
we are 100?
What are we supposed to be doing in our marriage?
What are we doing as parents?
What are we doing in algebra or with our kid’s algebra
homework? We didn’t know then; we sure
don’t know now!
So much of life is trying to figure out what we are doing. So
much of our lives can be summed up in
three words: I DON’T KNOW.
I don’t know what I’m doing.
If you are like me, there are lots of times in life when you
don’t know what you are doing as a husband…or as a father…or as a son…or as a student…or
as a leader…or as neighbor…or as a pastor.
And you do things or say things or react to situations in
ways that seem to scream out:
I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING HERE BEYOND MAKING
Nobody gives you an instruction manual on how to handle
every situation and relationship in life.
However, what we do get is found in that first magnificent
word from the cross.
“Father, forgive them…”
We get forgiveness. Why do we get this incredible gift of
forgiveness from Jesus? Because Jesus
knows us, and He knows we don’t know what we are doing
half the time. From the cross, Jesus’ words remind us of
“…for they know not what they are doing.”
God will provide you with what you need, when you
stop being afraid of letting go of what you want.
This is a great statement about what moves us to not trust
God. We don’t think God can provide for our needs. We
don’t think God wants us to have something. As a result we
go after it on our own.
God took action in our lives with His forgiveness and we
greatly needed it. We think that we are doing one thing in
reality we are acting against our commitment or acting a way
that leads us away from what God has for us.
Think about person who wants to be loved and ends up
marrying someone who doesn’t share their values or worse
is abusive. Rather than trusting God they make a very
wrong choice. Father forgive them they just wanted to be
What about the person who is trying to provide for their
family through a great job. They take the promotion
that means they have to travel more. When they are
home, they have to go with their associates for golf or
have to catch up at the office. Pretty soon their family
and their commitment to the Lord falls by the wayside.
“Father forgive them they don’t know what they do.”
We can run this story out in a hundred different scenarios.
But most or the time the intent was not to run from the
Lord. We just wanted it in the wrong way or place.
This kind of ignorance and cluelessness is what leads to
God taking the initiative regarding forgiveness. God knows
we cannot be good enough because we do not know what
we are doing when we are being good and doing right or
being bad and doing wrong. Much of the time we do not
know why we are doing what we are doing. And because
God knows exactly what He is doing, He sends His one and
only, one of a kind, sinless Son to the cross to die a
horrendous death with a magnificent result. 2 Corinthians
5:19 tells us what God was doing:
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself not
counting their sins against them.”
Part of the nature and character of God is that He is a God
who is full of forgiveness; especially from people who do not
know what they are doing, but who need to be reconciled to
William Willimon speaks about this phenomenon that he
calls “the pre-emptive strike of God.” A pre-emptive strike is
when somebody else makes the first move before you even
have a chance to do anything. On the cross, before we ever
had an opportunity to confess our sins, acknowledge our
sins and take responsibility for our sins, God made a preemptive
strike loaded with forgiveness.
What is present in the nature and character of God is One
who is overflowing with forgiveness even when we did not
know what we were doing. On the cross, Jesus unites
God’s forgiveness with our ignorance.
“Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they
That is good news! And it’s interesting because many have
been conditioned to think primarily about forgiveness
coming in response to our confession and our ownership of
knowing we did wrong.
Let me explain.
The first place many people run to in the Bible when they
think about forgiveness has been 1 John 1:9 where it says,
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Don’t call on this verse until you understand that Jesus
asked God to forgive us before we sin. So confess your
sins when the Holy Spirit moves you because you will
Do you realize that almost nobody in the Gospels initiated
and asked for forgiveness from Jesus?
Jesus is the initiator by telling people something they were
not even asking about when He says,
“Your sins are forgiven.”
Nobody stood at the cross and asked Jesus to forgive them
of their sins. The text says they stood around. Some cast
lots for his clothes. Some mocked. Some scoffed, but
nobody “prayed a sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus to be
their Lord.” Instead, Jesus makes a pre-emptive strike and
prays for them a prayer that echoes over our lives. “Father,
forgive them.” Jesus knew that without forgiveness being
the first word from the cross, there would be no
FACETIME between God and humanity.
In a sense, those initial last words we hear from the cross
are first: “Hey, you’re forgiven.” Then, “Can we talk?”
If you’ve ever heard the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke
15 where the son blows the family
inheritance on loose living, wild parties and then decides to
come back home to Dad, before the son
even can say a word, the Dad hugs him in a way that says,
“Hey, you’re forgiven.” Even before his son confesses. We
don’t know but this is when the real relationship began.
We know we need forgiveness and in Jesus we know
complete forgiveness that will change our future.
The best thing “knowing” brings us is how utterly
dependent we are on God for covering because we
are so exposed and vulnerable in our sin scribbled lives
before a holy and magnificent God.
A great definition of forgiveness that is: “Forgiveness is
giving up all hope of ever having a better past.”
Challenge: What Jesus wants us to understand from that
first magnificent word from the cross is that we never-ever
are going to have a better past. It is hopeless to waste time
wanting such a thing.
However, what we can have is forgiveness and hope for a
new present and better future.
We can walk right into forgiveness knowing that we are
accepted by God because of what Jesus did and said on
that cross to pay the price of your sins and mine. The
words Jesus spoke can change our lives inside and out,
just like the paralyzed man Jesus healed.
If you feel lost and life is about to swallow you up let your
heart hear what Jesus is saying to you today, “Father
forgive them”, they just want to meet you. Bring your
friends to Jesus even though they may not know what they
are doing Jesus knows exactly what they are doing and
how to bring them into forgiveness that will “rock” or
change their world!
My prayer is that all of our lives would be changed by the
forgiveness that Jesus offers us today.
Sermon from the Skit Guys, modified and preached by
Steve Lawrence. Pastor at Vandover Baptist Church