Luke recorded for us three "words" that Jesus spoke while hanging on the Cross:
v. 34, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
v. 43, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
v. 46, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!"
It reveals the attitudes of Jesus towards the unrepentant sinners, the repentant sinner and God.
- Mercy for Unrepentant Sinners ("Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."): Jesus' attitude towards those who condemned him (Jews) and delivered him to be crucified (Romans) was mercy. Grace's attitude towards the guilty is not condemnation but mercy. For the woman who was caught in adultery he said: "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more" (John 8:11). Notice that mercy is not condemning the sinner ("Neither do I condemn you"); but mercy is also not condoning the act ("from now on sin no more"). So, Jesus asked his Father to "forgive them" (not condemning), for they "do not know what they do" (not condoning the act either).
- Acceptance for the Repentant Sinners ("Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise"): Grace also is eager to save and deliver once it finds repentance and faith in the sinner. So when one of the two criminals crucified together with him said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom," he was in the place of repentance ("Jesus, remember me") and faith ("when you come into your kingdom"). Grace always reward repentance and faith with salvation: "Today you will be with me in Paradise." While Christ's attitude towards the unrepentant is mercy, his attitude towards the repentant is acceptance. The moment we turn to Him, even at the last moment before death, He accepts us into His kingdom.
- Submission to God ("Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!"): At the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus struggled with God regarding the crucifixion. But when he finally yielded to God, he said, "Not my will. but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). So at the Cross, he remained obedient until death: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" Jesus surrenders his human spirit back to God and then died. Death was not extracted from him, but he willingly gave up his life to the Father. Jesus' attitude of submission to God was possible because he knew that the Father was totally in control. We would not surrender control of our lives to someone if we have no confidence that the other person knows what he or she is doing. Everytime we board a plane, we place our lives entirely into the hand of the pilots--we are totally submitted to their will.
These three attitudes of Jesus as demonstrated on the Cross are attitudes of a Christian who walks by the Holy Spirit: mercy (not condemnation) for the unrepentant, acceptance for the repentant and submission to God. These are Christ-like attitudes of His disciples who follow Jesus.
Father, teach us to be merciful to those who sin against us and accepting to those who repented even as we learn to surrender completely to Your will and Your agenda. Amen.