Imagine the torture Jesus experienced at the trial, then at the cross. Multiple beatings by the religious leaders, who said mockingly, “Prophesy. Who struck you?” They laughed as they assaulted him. Pilate knew he was innocent. Then his wife sent a message to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, because I have suffered much because of him in a dream today” (Matthew 27:19). He is going to hear about his cowardice for years to come from that woman. Pilate ordered him scourged before sending him to the cross. Jesus probably no longer looked like a human being. Pilate to turn him over to killers and released a true murderer. Then he had to carry his cross, but he couldn’t manage it. Way too weak! 

Then they nailed him to the cross. People who passed by mocked. Same for the religious leaders. This was happening near a public thoroughfare. And Matthew says that the robbers on each side of him also reviled him. Non-stop ridicule for the man on the cross, the one said to be the King of the Jews. Jesus had prayed in the garden, “Is there any other way?” But he concluded, “Not my will but yours be done.” Hard to imagine this is the glorious Son of God. The prophet Isaiah had written accurately, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10).  The Father is allowing all this. Why? So you and I could be forgiven and be received into His family.

Then Jesus did something that no one anticipated. They were his first words from the cross. With all the bloodshed and beating, it was very hard to talk. But he prayed out loud, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” When most people would be full of bitter anguish, animosity toward the killers, a desire for revenge, Jesus forgives them, the rowdy religious leaders who are below him mocking him even as he prays, the thieves who deserve to die railing against him, one on each side of him, the soldiers making fun of the pretend king. How merciful can you get! He is dying of the torture, and yet he forgives his assailants as the first order of business on the cross. No one expected it, because no one would have done it. 

Then something happened to one of the thieves. When his partner on the other side continued the assault, he rebuked him and said, “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.” How did he know that? God chose to reveal it to him. The words, “Father, forgive them…” must have broken through. He was convicted of his own sin and of the man’s righteousness who was dying between them. He then says, “This man has done nothing wrong” (v. 41).  What revelation! Conviction of his own sin turns to understanding of the true character of Jesus. God is speaking to the dying thief.  A transaction is about to take place. (Part 2 coming).

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