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What Does God Say When People Pray? (Part 10)
Luke 23:34 

"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots."
 

Why would God become man, suffer the inhumane treatment of his peers, and die on the cross for my sins? If it was for my sins, He died, am I guilty of His blood? Was it my fault He died? Is the cross then, a symbol of shame?

Billy Joel, a popular musician said: "I wasn't raised Catholic, but I used to go to mass with my friends, and I viewed the whole business as a lot of very enthralling hocus-pocus. There's a guy... nailed to a cross and dripping blood, and everyone's blaming themselves for that man's torment, but I said to myself, 'Forget it. I had no hand in that evil. I have no original sin. There's no blood of any sacred martyr on my hands. I pass on all of this."(Fresh Illustrations:  http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Is Joel right not to blame himself for the cross? Or is Jesus' blood on his hands-and mine?

How do you view the cross? Is it a source of shame to you? Or is it a symbol of victory?

Jesus did not go to the cross without serious forethought. Just a few weeks ago, we explored the prayer He prayed in Gethesemane. In that prayer, He agonized over His future and our destiny.

Persistently, Jesus prayed, " . . .if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt." For over an hour, He agonized in the garden, pouring out His soul to His Father.

What happened? What did God say in response to Jesus' prayer in the Garden? He said "no," I can't take this cup from you, but "yes" My will will be done. 

Jesus walked from the garden into the hands of the enemy, who beat Him, mocked Him, and hung Him on the cross. He drank of the cup-it did not pass from Him. He experienced His worst nightmare, and when He did, He defeated sin, death, and the grave and made new life possible to all who believe.

No one forced Him to the cross. He went willingly.

John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." When you hear that verse, do you picture the Father making a decision that the Son didn't participate in, or do you see the unity of the triune God making a decision?

Jesus went willingly. He wasn't forced. He chose to go.

But do you think He ever regretted His decision to go to the cross?

In 1996, Surrey British Columbia teen Kerry-Jo Klingbeil was awarded the Medal of Bravery by Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc for pushing a friend out of the path of a tow-truck.

Kerry-Jo was 11, in 1995, when she pushed Amanda Horne, 7, out of the truck's path in Arthur, near Kitchener, Ontario. However, during the rescue attempt, Kerry-Jo was caught under the tractor-trailer's rear wheels and received serious head injuries. 

The accident left Kerry-Jo seriously disfigured and mentally and physically disabled. Six years later, the 17-year-old's family sued the friend and her parents for millions of dollars. 

The lawsuit, claimed the Hornes family failed to supervise Amanda properly, or to instruct her on how to cross a road safely. Further, the claim said Kerry-Jo was "compelled" to "rescue" Amanda. But Amanda's family disagree. They say Kerry-Jo was injured because of her own negligence and that she did not have to rescue Amanda.

Allen Wynperle, the lawyer representing the Klingbeil family, said"What anyone would say is: 'Look, there are significant implications for this girl, for her future,' Sometime she's going to have to take care of things in the future. I'm not sure she'll be able to do it without help."

(Fresh Illustrations: http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Did Jesus regret His decision? I don't think so. Two things lead me to this conclusion. One is a conversation He had with a man hanging next to Him, another is a prayer He prayed while hanging on the cross.

Even while suffering and dying for our sins, Jesus took time to reach out to one more. Here's the conversation He had with the thief on the cross: "Then he [the thief] said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:42-43 NIV)

Jesus knew full well why He was hanging on the cross. It wasn't to teach a lesson or show His love; it was to save His people from their sins. In Matthew's Christmas narrative, the angel of the Lord said, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21 NIV) After telling the story of Jesus speaking to Zacchaeus, Luke wrote, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10 NASB)

If there was another way to save the people from their sin, Jesus would not have had to go to the cross. But there wasn't another way. The scripture says, "the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22 NIV)

When Jesus shed His blood, He paid the price for our sin. The scripture says, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23 KJV) In one act, Jesus paid the debt for our sin and provided the way for us to experience eternal life.

The second reason I know that Jesus didn't regret His decision to go to the cross was this prayer He prayed while hanging on the cross. "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots." (Luke 23:34 NIV)

Even with the fresh wounds from the crown that the soldiers thrust on His head and the cat of nine tails that the soldier wrapped around His body, Jesus looked down upon those who mocked him and were gambling for his clothes and breathed this prayer.

Billy Joel was right for not blaming himself for Jesus' torment. With this prayer, Jesus forgave that blame. The cross doesn't need to be a symbol of shame for us.

Instead, it is a symbol of forgiveness.

In the 1970s, Khmer Rouge soldiers forced residents to dig their own graves before they were executed. As one woman cowered on the ground, waiting to be shot, a vision of a cross came, with a voice saying, "None but I can save you." As villagers called in desperation to various gods, this woman prayed to "the god who hung on a cross." When the villagers opened their eyes, the soldiers were gone. 

For twenty years the villagers worshiped "the god who hung on a cross," not knowing the name of Jesus, until an evangelist visited them recently. The Commission, Southern Baptist's Magazine about world missions, reports that when these villagers heard the good news of salvation in Jesus, they readily accepted Christ and started a church. 

(Fresh Illustrations: http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

What did God say when people pray? This time He said, "yes, I'll forgive them for what they've done to you, and I'll use the cross to save their souls, all they have to do is ask."

Paul wrote: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20 KJV)

When Jesus died on the cross, he paid the penalty for our sins, and when we confess Him as our Lord, our old self is crucified and He empowers us to live in Christ.

Has there been a time in your life when you've confessed Jesus as your Lord? If so, are you living in the power of the resurrected Lord? 

If you've never confessed Him as your Lord, is there any good reason why you can't do so today?

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