I want to share about Jesus today. Isn’t every Sunday sermon about Jesus? But if there was the real Jesus and a bunch of counterfeit Jesus in a room, could you pick out the real one?
Who is the real Jesus? This is the question I have been asking myself. Do I know the real Jesus? This is going to be my quest for the remainder of this year or longer, however long it takes — I am seeking out and searching for the real Jesus.
Who is Jesus to you? If you could sum up Jesus in one word or one sentence, what would it be?
There is a song that I like that I want to share with you and it is entitled, The Real Jesus, by a group named Downhere.
Jesus on the radio, Jesus on a late night show
Jesus in a dream, looking all serene
Jesus on a steeple, Jesus in the Gallup poll
Jesus has His very own brand of rock and roll
Watched Him on the silver screen
Bought the action figurine
But Jesus is the only name that makes you flinch
Oh, can anybody show me the real Jesus?
Oh, let Your love unveil the mystery of the real Jesus
Jesus started something new
Jesus coined a phrase or two
Jesus split the line at the turning point of time
Jesus sparked a controversy
Jesus, known for His mercy, gave a man his sight
Jesus isn’t white
Jesus loves the children, holds the lambs
Jesus prays a lot
Jesus has distinguishing marks on His hands
If anybody walks behind the Good Shepherd
If anybody holds the hands that heal lepers
And if you recognize the eyes that see forever, please…
Oh, can anybody show me Jesus
Oh, let Your love unveil the glory, the real Jesus
That song gives us many different popular snapshots of Jesus – he’s on the radio, he’s on the late night show (and I might add, he’s on the internet). There’s a brand of rock and roll named after him – Christian praise music. I never saw a Jesus action figurine but I am sure that exists somewhere, too.
He’s on the silver screen, many movies have been made about him – Ten Commandments, Prince of Egpyt. He sparked controversy wherever he went. Many people were offended by him if you think about it. He is known for his mercy, he healed people. He’s gentle – He loves children and they love him. He loves animals – he holds lambs over his shoulders. He prays a lot. And there are countless other images that we have of Jesus.
But the song writer’s frustration is that while being bombarded by so many different images of Jesus, he can longer discern the real Jesus.
So who is the real Jesus? I think every Sunday, we hope to get an answer to that question – we want to personally encounter the real Jesus.
To answer the question, who is the real Jesus, I think there is no better place to start than the end of his life — Jesus’ death on the cross. Easter is coming and what better way to prepare for Easter than to study the 7 sayings of Jesus on the cross.
Here is the list of the 7 sayings of Jesus on the cross:
1) Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing (Luke 23:34).
2) Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43). Read more.
3) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27). Read more.
4) Eli Eli lama sabachthani? (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”, Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). Read more.
5) I thirst (John 19:28). Read more.
6) It is finished (John 19:30). Read more.
7) Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46). Read more.
Today, I want to focus on the first saying of Jesus on the cross – Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
Of all the horrific ways that human beings invented to kill someone, crucifixion has to be one of the worst ways to die.
I used to think as a kid that if you are nailed to a cross, you die from a loss of blood. But that’s not actually what kills you. You die of suffocation. Just to get a breath of air, you have to lift your body up and that puts all the weight on your wrists and feet where the nails are and then you slump down again. It’s excruciating pain and this can go on for 2 days.
One of the ironies of the cross is that this most horrific event ushered in the fullness of life.
If you have ever been to a baptism where the person being baptized shares his or her testimony, it’s basically the same story shared over and over. Before I knew Christ, I was dead in my transgressions and sins, but now through the cross of Christ, I have received the fullness of life. You could be in Beverly Hills or in a jungle in Riwanda, it’s the same story.
I was dead in sin, now I am experiencing the abundance of life through the cross of Christ. That is one great irony of the cross.
From a theological perspective, God is pouring out his wrath on Jesus while he hung on that cross. God is gracious and loving, but he is also holy and a holy God cannot let sin slide unpunished. Justice had to take place because of sin. Justice had to be served. And that is why God is pouring out his wrath on Jesus.
Another irony of the cross is that while there is no greater display of wrath as shown on the cross, there is also no greater display of love as shown on the cross. The cross is the great collision course — it’s where wrath and love collide. And it is the person of Jesus where this wrath and love meet.
In Ephesians 2, Paul described what we looked like before we met Christ — we were dead in our transgressions and sins. And it said because of sin, we were objects of wrath. Wrath is coming our way. If the story ended there, we’d be in a heap of trouble.
Fortunately, the story continues and it says, But God. You were dead, but God. Because of his great love. The cross is where wrath and love collide. And through the cross, we were made alive with Christ.
That’s irony. You see it on the cross.
The third irony you see and this is what I want to focus on this morning is the first thing Jesus said as he was being crucified. He said, Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
From a human perspective, there has never been a greater display of injustice. The whole arrest and trial and crucifixion is an utter and complete farce. It’s just injustice, after injustice, after injustice.
Jesus, the man who has never sinned in his life, this man who is complete sinless and innocent is being nailed to a cross. Such injustice. And if anyone ever had a right to defend himself or be angry or silence his mockers, it was Jesus.
When he says Father, forgive them, who is he referring to? Obviously, he is forgiving the Romans, the Jewish leaders and everyone involved in the trial which led to his crucifixion.
I classify these people as those who don’t know any better. They don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. They are what Ephesians 2 describes as those dead in their transgressions and sins. They don’t know any better and Jesus’s words, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing seem very appropriate.
But I believe there is another group. His disciples. With the exception of the beloved disciple, they all fled, they deserted him in his time of greatest need. Peter, the numero uno disciple, just denied him 3 times. I classify these people as those who should have known better. These people lived with Jesus for 3 years. They had a personal relationship with Jesus. Yet they were in need of forgiveness just as much as the Roman soldier nailing Jesus’ hands and feet.
So I believe Jesus was forgiving both groups – those who didn’t know any better, and those who should have known better. Both groups utterly missed the point of who Jesus was and therefore the words, Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing applies to all of us, Christians and non-Christians. We need the forgiveness of God. We have all fallen short.
More than anything, I want us to remember that in the face of injustice after injustice after injustice, Jesus breathed out forgiveness.
We as humans are keenly aware when injustice comes into our lives. And we don’t like it. And we are keenly aware of this sense of injustice early on in life.
Come over to my house and it’s just a matter of time before you will hear 3 words coming out from one of my boys’ mouth — THAT’s NOT FAIR. Elijah — he’s only 9 months old and he can’t talk yet but he’ll give you the thats-not-fair look if you take away something he shouldn’t be grabbing onto.
It doesn’t matter if I am pouring out juice or dividing up a candy bar, you’ll hear, that’s not fair. Because they’ll want to pull out the tape measure or the measuring cup to make sure that everything has been evenly and fairly distributed.
Sometimes, I want to tell my second child, Jeremiah. Why do you demand fairness with your older brother? You are 4 and he is 6.5 and so if I were fair, I should give you far less than your brother.
And if I were to give his older brother a larger scoop of ice cream let’s say, I would expect Jeremiah to say, oh father, in your infinite wisdom, i see that you have determined in your sovereignty to parcel out a larger portion to my older brother who is far larger than I. But no, they cry, that’s not fair. We are keenly aware of injustice.
If you want to look at something that is not fair, look at the cross. It is not fair.
2 Cor 5:21 —
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus, the man who never sinned in his life, on the cross became sin and hence an object of God’s wrath, on our behalf, so that we could become the righteousness of God.
In the midst of this kind of unthinkable injustice and unfairness, Jesus breathed out forgiveness.
Out of this radical injustice was birthed radical forgiveness.
And the question that I would like to ask you and myself is — what would it look like if we began to model this to the world?
You know when it is that you and I really start looking like Jesus in this world? It’s when we start forgiving people the way Jesus forgave people.
I’d like to end with a story. It happened in Turkey in April 18, 2007. And I had never heard about it until this past week. It’s about a woman, Susanne Geske (german).
She and her husband Tilman and 2 others were missionaries in Turkey and they were leading a few Muslim seekers in a regular Bible study.
And the day began much like many other days. Tilman woke up and kissed his wife and 2 kids goodbye and went to meet with these Muslim seekers. But when they got there, things were not as they expected. Instead of bibles, these seekers had knives and guns and for the next 3 hours, they were tortured and eventually killed.
I have been reading about the details of their murder and it is too gruesome to share.
Shockwaves were sent throughout the small Christian community in Turkey, about 2000 of them at the time. And at her husband’s funeral, all the Turkish national news were there and they put a microphone in front of Susanne. And in that moment, she quoted scripture. I will give you one guess what that verse was.
It was Luke 23:34 – Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. And she told the murderer of her husband and the father of her 2 children, I am able to forgive you with the love of Jesus Christ. My prayer for them is that my Father in heaven would forgive them because they didn’t know what they are doing.
Turkey is an eye for an eye culture. You kill my family and I’m going to kill your family.
Yet, to those who took away her husband and made her children fatherless, she breathed out forgiveness.
Amazing. And one missionary in Turkey who heard Susanne’s statement said, Susanne’s forgiveness did more for the advancement of the gospel in Turkey than 1000 missionaries could do over 1000 years.
Jesus breathed out forgiveness. Susanne breathed out forgiveness.
You will never look more like Jesus than in the moment when you suffer injustice, you breathe out forgiveness.
If we claim the name of Christ, how can we not forgive people who wrong us, even those who do it unjustly or willfully? Maybe even Christians who should know better wrong us, but in the name of Christ, how can we not forgive them, too?
The greater the injustice, the harder it is to forgive. It is doubly hard to forgive other Christians who you believe should know better. But Jesus asks us to forgive all who sin and who don’t know what they are doing.
If this woman named Susanne can forgive those men over there, there is nothing that we shouldn’t be able to forgive today, right now. I know some of us have legitimate complaints, your hurts and abuse by others is real, and you hold onto your grudges and bitterness. And you still bear the scars of that injustice.
But when you are tempted to harbor unforgiveness in your heart, remember Jesus on the cross. Remember Susanne Geske.
Who is the the real Jesus? One central feature of Jesus is his radical forgiveness. You will never look more like Jesus than when radical forgiveness is birthed out of radical injustice.