As we are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family and our close friends, I really realized something this morning that I want to encourage all of us to be so so thankful for! It’s not the best Turkey EVER! Not the pretty place mats or color-matched cloth napkins. It’s not even all the precious smiles we may see gathered around our table (which we definitely should and I can’t imagine NOT being thankful for our loved ones!), ….but after my Bible reading, it’s this –
It’s the prayer of Jesus as He hung on the cross.
But before we look at that prayer, let’s remember…
the Bible says that Jesus was rejected, mistreated, lied about, despised, spit upon, and hated. Throughout His earthly ministry, He loved God the Father and longed to please Him. To fulfill His assignment. Yet, Satan (the great accuser and adversary) made sure that all His attempts faced obstacle after obstacle.
On some of these occasions when He was being confronted “just for being Jesus”, He responded by asserting a name on His accusers, “You hypocrites!” He actually called them a name that He knew described their motives and intentions in how and why they rejected Him.
He faced so much heartache, so many trials … yet, He pressed on. He kept on serving, He kept on loving and He kept on making the will of God and the gift of salvation known. He said, “I didn’t come to be served, but to serve.” Matthew 20:28.
As I just give some thought to not only the miracles, the love, the washing of His friends feet, the teachings, the healings, the feedings, the praying…so much of His earthly life was DEEPLY invested into the lives of others. Either calling out the deceivers, or calling to Himself the desolate. Either pointing out the blind guides, or pursuing those who sat in blindness…and He restored SIGHT! WHY? Because it was the will of God that people SEE TRUTH. To see as HE SEES, and not spiritually walk around blind as bats to Him, the truth of His nature and the truth of His Word.
But let’s get back to that prayer … that prayer Jesus prayed while suffering on a wooden cross.
Jesus hung on the cross, breathing His last breaths, wanting nothing more than to DO the will of His Father – to complete the mission upon which He was sent to the earth to fulfill — yet, as He hung on a cross for your sins and mine, He prays this:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” Luke 23:34.
He literally prayed for those who were crucifying Him … crucifying Him with their words, with their actions.
They FIRST crucified Him with their own personal beliefs of who THEY say He was. They didn’t see Truth. They didn’t recognize Truth. They didn’t see LIFE! They didn’t believe. Their minds were decided to believe a lie, and from that lie …. they crucified Him in their heart.
Now, as born again believers, we have been crucified with Christ, buried to walk in newness of life, that means we WILL EXPERIENCE THE BELIEFS of those who did the crucifying. We will experience folks not seeing the truth in us. Not seeing the LIFE of Jesus in us. They will choose to believe a lie about us, and from that lie…they will reject us, too, in their heart.
This is why James 1:2-3 says,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Consider it PURE JOY! Literally, this verse is telling us…be JOYFUL when trials come because here is why — They are being allowed by God who will allow the trials to test our faith. But the allowed testing is for one purpose…to make our faith STRONGER!! To make our walk of faith firmer. To make our life of obedience more victorious!!
One commentators expounds on James 1:2-3 and says:
“When he writes about “trials,” he means hardships and sufferings that Christians encounter even as they are following the Lord. This would include tragedies unrelated to their public stance as Christians, such as young Jim’s death in the automobile accident. James will explicitly include poverty as one of the trials of many kinds. But he most particularly has in mind the trials of being persecuted, the trials that come as a consequence of one’s faith in Christ.Pure Joy (1:2)
You who follow Christ have experienced this: your painful surprise at realizing you are misunderstood, criticized or held at a distance by people to whom you had hoped to draw near. You must understand this separation that divides you from non-Christians so that you can be prepared to consider it pure joy when you encounter the rejection.
The course of the separation was traced by Jesus in the Beatitudes. It begins so promptly after your conversion because it is rooted in the very starting point of faith–your honest acceptance of your spiritual need as one who is “poor in spirit.” That starting point sets you on a path that diverges more and more radically from the path of those who continue to rely on their own sufficiency. The difference between you and ones who do not seek after God widens when you “mourn” over your sin, for this seems mentally and emotionally unhealthy to them.
Your repentance for sin makes you “meek,” but this humility is foolishness to people who are driving to get ahead by their self-sufficiency. For you, the outgrowth is that you begin to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” to replace your sin, but this hunger is not shared or welcomed by many others. This direction for your life, traced in the Beatitudes, brings you increasingly into conflict with people who are on a different course, because your course entails a thorough reversal of your values.
Jesus lovingly warned you to be prepared for it: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Mt 5:11-12). James now, with his mind saturated with these teachings of Jesus, will tell his readers about the rejoicing and about the reward.”
God KNOWS we are living in a world where Christians, (people who TRULY want to obey Him out of their love for Him), people who long to be saturated with His Word, they want their very life to be a mirror reflection of Jesus, they want to spend their days with worn out knees from prayer, and they want callouses on their hands from serving … those kinds of folks WILL FACE TRIALS OF MANY KINDS!! MANY KINDS!!
So, how do we respond in our prayer life to those who Satan is using in the trials coming our way?
We respond just like Jesus —- He prayed.
He prayed for His accusers.
He prayed on the cross while in the fiercest of trials.
He prayed for those who were against Him with these words:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” Luke 22:34.
He prayed that God would forgive them. Read that sentence again. Read it 2, 3, 4 more times until the TRUTH of that one sentence begins to permeate into your own mind. Jesus prayed acknowledging to God their ignorance and asking God to not count their ignorance against them.
This brings to mind a quote from E.M. Bounds – one of the greatest prayer warriors who ever lived:
“Prayer is an absolute necessity to the proper carrying on of God’s work.”
For the work of the Cross to carry on, Jesus’ prayer, that one critical and planned and purposed prayer was absolutely necessary. Therefore, He prayed it. He finished the work the Father sent Him to do, down to His final prayer as the sent Savior of the world.
Y’all, this Thanksgiving…let’s make our requests known to God, WITH THANKSGIVING, for those who do not know what they are doing.
Could this possibly be a way we can commune with Jesus in such sweet fellowship? Could this be a possible way that we can be experience His love to a degree like we have never experienced it before? And could this possibly be a way we can honor Him with our longing for obedience, by showing forgiveness FIRST through a real heartfelt prayer?
I believe it is.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all, and it’s such a JOY to be doing LIFE with you!!