Ah, forgiveness. Forgiveness is such a stunning term in an abyss of senseless suffering and needless pain.
Perhaps you have been on the receiving end of another’s intentional destruction in your life, and your experience has been a root of bitterness and downright hatred toward your aggressor. With laser focus you, at times, find yourself longing to get even — level the playing field, you know, and give your offender a taste of his own medicine.
As Christians celebrate Good Friday and Resurrection Day, euphemistically known as “Easter,” my thoughts ricochet away from the cross to Jesus’ astounding prayer of forgiveness for those in the very act of bringing Him to His last breath (Luke 23:34).
Jesus Himself admits He can give His killers a taste of their own medicine — He admits He can obliterate them with His army of more than twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:50–54), yet He refrains from doing so.
The mayhem Jesus endured at the hands of His killers was the culmination of a thirty-three year vendetta against Him. Even at the outset of His birth, Jesus was a threat to the king.
After King Herod’s failed strategy to murder baby Jesus (Matthew 2:16), it appears that no further attempts on His life occur until He heals a paralytic thirty-eight years in his illness. Immediately, the winds of hatred begin to blow against the Lord (John 5).
This amazing miracle leads to the second recorded incident of persecution in the New Testament (John 5:1–17). Of course, it isn’t healing that draws indignation. The crime: Jesus heals on the Sabbath. Their anger stems from Jesus’ instructions to the man, “Take up your pallet and walk.” These mere words brought them to a fit of rage against the Lord. The religious leaders are livid that Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath (see Matthew 12:1–8 for Jesus’ thoughts about the Sabbath) and because He has the audacity to make “Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
Sacrifice and Salvation
Jesus is figuratively beaten, battered and bruised for the next three years until those who despise Him physically deliver Him to the cross (Acts 2:22–36), where He is humbly “obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:8). Herein, we observe that God’s grace and forgiveness is much greater than the sins of those who crucify His unique Son.
The same throng who perpetrated this crime came to fully understand that they had crucified their long-awaited Messiah. Doctor Luke records one of the most important questions framed in human history, “they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles,
‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37).
Peter’s answer, though simple, is profound. He doesn’t tell the “men of Israel” (Acts 2:22) to “invite Jesus into their hearts,” nor does he instruct them to busy themselves with social activities void of the gospel message of belief and repentance.
Peter simply says, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
This is an amazing answer because these are the same people in Matthew 27:25 screaming the words, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”
God’s forgiveness is so immense that even the children of Jesus’ killers are without their parent’s curse. Their children could be redeemed by Jesus just like anyone else who repents of their sin and embraces Him as their Lord.
Peter’s Answer to the Men of Israel
“For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself’ (Acts 2:39).
“FORGIVENESS” is such a stunning term in the abyss of senseless suffering and needless pain.
True, you don’t have twelve legions angels at your beck and call. Sure, you could get your “just deserts” on the one who causes you more pain than any other man or woman could possibly comprehend. But, before you proceed with your retribution — consider Jesus, the One who has been maltreated, maligned, tortured and crucified more shamelessly by aggressors than anyone in the history of the world.
If you have turned from your sin and are proclaiming Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you must lay down your sword and extend forgiveness in the Name of the One who forgives you.
Jesus forgives and calls His killers to Himself for eternal salvation; His grace applied in their lives is indeed truly amazing! The Bible says that “Salvation is by grace through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8–10).
Therefore, the question the men of Israel ask Peter is the same question everyone, including you, must be asking:
“What Shall We Do?”
The answer is simple: “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:37–38; Acts 16:30–31; Romans 10:8–13).