"SHINE: Embracing, Connecting, Engaging, Transforming"
Pastor John Montgomery's Weekly Sermons:
Sunday, March 14, 2021
Morning Worship Service 10:15 am
Dear Church Family,
Since the Governor of the State of Florida has removed many of the restrictions regarding the Covid-19 virus, for the safety of our members,
Cedar Creek Baptist Church will maintain the following guidelines:
1. Sit 6 feet apart from one another.
2. Refrain from the practice of handshaking and hugging.
3. No more than 2 people in the bathroom at a time.
4. Sanitize your hands as you enter the worship center.
Wearing a mask is optional.
Dr. John Montgomery, Pastor
April 4, 2021
“A Cry of Pardon”
Series, “Growing Together in the Resurrection”
John W. Montgomery, DD
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
John Button Salmon was the student body president, as well as the starting quarterback for the University of Arizona football team and the catcher for the Wildcat baseball team.
The day after the first game of the 1926 football season, Salmon and three friends were involved in an automobile accident and their vehicle flipped over a ravine. Although Salmon’s friends were not injured, Salmon suffered a severe spinal cord injury.
In the aftermath of the accident, football coach Pop McKale visited him in the hospital every day. During McKale’s last visit, shortly before he died, Salmon’s last message to his teammates was, "Tell them...tell the team to bear down." The following year, the words “bear down” became the official slogan of the Wildcat Athletic teams. Then, in 1952, as Jack Lee flew over Bear Down gym and saw the words “Bear Down” painted on the roof, he was inspired to write “Bear Down, Arizona”, which later that year became the official fight song of the school.
Today, we are still influenced by the last words of John Button Salmon. But he is not the only example of how important a person’s last words often are. Here are the last words of several well-known people:
• Leonardo da Vinci, artist, inventor: "I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have."
• George Appel, a gangster, about to be executed by electrocution: "Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel."
• James French, sentenced to death in the electric chair: "How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? ’French Fries’."
• John Sedgwick, Union Army General, was observing the lines at Spotsylvania when his men warned him to be wary of Confederate sharpshooters: "They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist..."
• Karl Marx, on his deathbed, to his housekeeper who had just asked if he had any last words: "Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!"
This morning, we are going to examine the last words of Jesus – His words as he hung on the cross. And unlike the opinion of Karl Marx, these are certainly not the words of a fool who has not said enough. In fact, these last words are some of the most important words ever spoken. They reveal to us the very heart of our Lord. We see His humanity as he suffers in agony on the cross. But we also see his incomparably great love for those he came to save.
Jesus said in Luke 23:34 - "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
As we look at this passage together this morning, I would like to share with you some observations about the heart of Jesus and consider what kind of implications that has for the way we live our lives.
Jesus’ Prayer for Forgiveness Reveals:
1. His Nature
From the very beginning of the Bible, we find that it is God’s nature to forgive His people. Adam and Eve sin and God promises in Genesis 3:15 to one day send a redeemer who will provide a way for their sin to be forgiven. Throughout the Old Testament, God is described as gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. And then, over 700 years before Jesus is even born, the prophet Isaiah reveals that one day, because it is His very nature, Jesus will pray for forgiveness for those who would put Him to death:
“Therefore, I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12 (NIV)
While he was here on this earth, Jesus ministered to people by forgiving their sins, because that was the disposition of His heart. And He commanded His followers to forgive others, even when they had been wronged. Forgiveness was at the very heart of who Jesus was. It was His very nature.
And so, as He is being nailed to the cross, why should we be surprised that Jesus’ first words from the cross dealt with forgiveness? Unfortunately, with our English translations, we cannot even begin to comprehend the extent of his forgiveness. In English, we read the words “Jesus said” and it makes it sound like this was a onetime prayer. But in Greek, Luke uses what is called the imperfect tense here. That construction indicates a continuing action. The NASB gets closest to translating the sense of what Jesus was doing here: But Jesus was saying…Luke 23:34 (NASB)
In other words, Jesus did not just pray this prayer once – he prayed it over and over. When he was brought before the Sanhedrin and several witnesses were paid to bring false testimony about Jesus, he prayed, “Father forgive them.” When he was taken before Pilate and Pilate sentenced Him to death even though he could find no cause to do so, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them.” When the Roman soldiers nailed Him to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.” When the cross was dropped into the hole in the ground with a big thud, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them.” When he was beaten and mocked, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them.”
Jesus intercedes on behalf of those who were putting Him to death because that was His very purpose in coming to this earth: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17
The first thing we see is that these words of Jesus on the cross allow us to see into His heart and marvel at his desire to forgive.
2. Our Sinfulness
During His ministry here on earth, Jesus had often forgiven the sins of others. He could do that because He was God. But notice that now, Jesus turns to His Father and asks His Father to do the work he had done previously. It was not that Jesus was no longer God. It was not that he was no longer capable of forgiving sins. But if Jesus was going to provide a permanent solution to deal with our sins, it meant that He was going to have to lay aside His divine rights. He asks His Father to forgive those people who were involved in putting Him to death.
And then, as Jesus is asking His Father to forgive, we come to a very interesting phrase at the end of this one sentence prayer: …for they do not know what they are doing."
If we are not careful, we can easily misinterpret what Jesus is saying here.
First, He is not saying that when people sin out of ignorance, that they are automatically forgiven. We have all heard the phrase that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” In fact, some of you that have run a red light, missed a stop sign or driven at a speed over the speed limit may have personal experience with that principle. But that principle is nothing new. Even in the Old Testament, God prescribed sacrifices that had to be made even if a person’s sin was unintentional (See Leviticus 4 and 5 and Numbers 15). In other words, even sins of ignorance are still sins that require forgiveness.
Secondly, Jesus is not saying here that everyone is automatically forgiven. As we will see more clearly in just a moment, Jesus provided the means for everyone to be forgiven, but not everyone chooses to accept that forgiveness.
The people who were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus were certainly not totally ignorant of their wrongdoing. Judas knew he had betrayed a friend. The Sanhedrin knew they had bribed witnesses. Pilate knew he had condemned and innocent man. I do not think they were ignorant of the facts of their crimes, but they certainly were not aware of the enormity of their depravity.
They were ignorant of:
• The person of Christ - The people mocked Jesus as the king – they gave him a robe and a scepter and a crown of thorns and placed a sign above His head that read “King of the Jews.” They mocked Him as Christ and challenged Him – “If you’re the Christ, why don’t you save yourself.”
It is easy to criticize the people who mocked Jesus and failed to recognize that He was in fact the King of kings, the Christ. We have God’s written Word and nearly 2,000 years of history that testifies to us that Jesus is indeed the Son of God who died on the cross so our sins could be forgiven. And yet today, we live in a world where people choose to remain ignorant about the person of Jesus Christ. In spite of all the evidence, they fail to recognize Him as the King of kings, the Christ, the Son of God.
• The extent of their depravity - Although these people were in a sense, unwilling participants in carrying out God’s plan for their own forgiveness, they did not even recognize their need for forgiveness. I think they were like many of us. They were so focused on the compassion of God that they failed to recognize that he is also a just and righteous God who holds us accountable for our sins.
“The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…” Numbers 14:18
We need to be a lot more like the prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah Chapter 6, Isaiah is allowed to see the glory of God. I think about what would happen if any of us ever were put in that position. What would we think about? What would our reaction be? For Isaiah, his immediate response was to recognize the extent of his depravity:
Then I said, "My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD Almighty!" Isaiah 6:5 (NLT)
In his book, Cries from the Cross, here is what Erwin Lutzer writes about the extent of our depravity: We have no idea of the greatness of our sin because we do not understand the greatness of God.
When Jesus prayed for His Father to forgive the people who put Him to death, He clearly demonstrated the extent of their depravity that required His death on the cross so that they could be forgiven.
3. The Opportunity for Forgiveness
If we are not careful, we will look at this prayer of Jesus and regard it as something that only applied to a handful of people nearly 2,000 years ago. After all, the “them” that He is praying for does not include me, does it? I was not there. I did not participate in His crucifixion.
But it was not just the Jewish religious rulers and the Roman authorities that put Jesus on the cross. In fact, they were just tools that God used to carry out His plan to deal with our sins. Because we are sinners, you and I are just as responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus as Pilate or Herod or the Roman soldiers that nailed Him to the cross. Listen to what the prophet Isaiah wrote about our responsibility for Jesus’ death:
“All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.” Isaiah 53:6
Notice the word “all”. Does that include every one of us in this room? Absolutely! When Jesus died on the cross, he made it possible for all of my sins and the sins of everyone else to be forgiven. Which leads us to a really important question: “Are everyone’s sins automatically forgiven because of what Jesus did for us on the cross?” When he prayed, “Father forgive them”, were all the people who were involved in his crucifixion immediately forgiven by God? How about the Sanhedrin, Pilate, the people who cried out “crucify him’, the Roman soldiers?
I think Jesus gives us the answer to that question. Just a short time before His crucifixion, Jesus went into the Garden with His disciples. In John 17, we find the prayer that Jesus prayed there recorded for us. And near the end of this prayer, we find these words:
“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:9, 20, 21 (NIV)
I think one could make a pretty good case that the prayer Jesus prayed on the cross is a continuation of this prayer that began in the Garden. And Jesus made it really clear that not everyone in the world was going to have their sins forgiven. You might want to underline the words “those you have given me” and “those who will believe in me”. I think those are the key phrases here. Jesus knew that not everyone would accept the forgiveness that he was offering on the cross. It was only those who would believe in Jesus that would receive that forgiveness.
I believe that some of the people who participated in the crucifixion that day came to believe in Jesus and had their sins forgiven. Certainly, the Roman centurion and the soldiers who were with Him recognized Jesus as the Son of God and believed in Him. I think we will see them in heaven someday. And there were probably others who received the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, too.
But it was not just the people at Golgotha that day that had to make a decision. When Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them”, he is calling all of us to a decision, too. This morning, if you have never made the decision to believe in Jesus Christ and make Him your Forgiver and your Master, then you have yet to receive the forgiveness that Jesus offers to you.
If you want to experience the forgiveness that Jesus offers to you, I am going to ask you to silently repeat a prayer after me in just a moment. The words of the prayer are not magic, but if they express the desire of your heart and you are willing to commit the leadership of your life to Jesus Christ, then right here this morning you can experience the forgiveness of Jesus.
I thank you for the forgiveness that Jesus purchased for me by his death on the cross. I confess to You that I am a sinner and that right now I am trusting in Jesus Christ alone as the only way my sins can be forgiven. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins and that he rose from the dead to prove His power over death. I ask Him to come into my life as my Forgiver and I commit to follow Him as the Master of my life. Amen.
Message Preached at
Cedar Creek Baptist Church
Jacksonville, Florida 32205
April 4, 2021
Sermon Notes is a Ministry of the Cedar Creek Baptist Church,
1372 Lane Avenue South, Jacksonville, Florida 32205,
904-781-9151 - Johnmontgomery@ccbaptist.org