34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.Luke 23:34
As Jesus hung on the cross He suffered an extreme of violence that few of us can really understand, and almost certainly with never experience.
The Romans had made crucifixion an art. They had discovered the most efficient ways to injure and torment, but to hold off death for as long as possible.
Before the act of being hung from nails on a tree, the condemned would face beatings, whippings, and humiliation. As the whip struck his back skin and flesh would come away. Soldiers whose strength and cruelty had been honed by war would beat the helpless prisoner.
Then, having carried the instrument of his own suffering to his place of death the prisoner was laid with his torn back to the rough beams of the cross. Nails would be driven through his ankles and wrists, puncturing nerves which would send bolts of pain through his body.
Then, raising the cross and dropping it into the hole prepared the nails would tear into his flesh even more.
Now the internal pain would increase.
With hands extended breathing would become a difficult task. A small board at the base of his feet would allow him, from time to time, to push upwards and breathe a little more deeply. But for the most part breaths were shallow. Lungs could possibly be filling with blood from the wounds inflicted. Liquid would build up around the heart because of the position of the arms and body.
Death sometimes came by way of a heart attack, other times blood loss, suffocation, or complete exhaustion, shock, and collapse.
On top of all this Jesus suffered in an even deeper way.
As Jesus hung there, the Father took all the collected sin, shame, and guilt of every human being in existence, and placed them on His Son.
In those few hours on the cross, Jesus suffered an eternity of pain for countless billions. For the first time in eternity Jesus experienced separation from His Father. Angels could not comfort Him, Friends had abandoned Him.
And it was in this moment that Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.”
You and I were not there, but our sins were. And those words Jesus spoke we did not hear, but they apply to us.
A hymn from the 90’s expresses this truth well,
Behold the man upon a cross,“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” – Stuart Townsend
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.
The beauty of Christianity to some, is seen as a perverse injustice by others. It is this, the worst of sinners and the best of humanity are equally guilty and equally forgivable.
Put this in an immediate context. Those who murdered the children, women, and men in Sri Lanka as they gathered for Easter today, Jesus died for just as much as He died for you.
The violence done upon the followers of Christ was first committed against Christ! He promised it would be the case.
We cannot comprehend this. But understand, it was my sin, it was your sin, that held Him there.
May the truth of Easter be personal to you this year, by you repenting of your sin and receiving Christ as your Savior!