February 25, 2018
By Ed Young
The words we hear and the words we speak are an undeniable force in our lives. They have the ability to lift us up, carry us through, and empower us to make a lasting difference. But some words carry more weight than others. In this message, Pastor Ed Young unpacks how first phrase Jesus spoke at during his own crucifixion, “Forgive them,” can help us overcome a life of pain and enable us to experience something greater—freedom.
ILLUS: You know, the last words that someone utters are really significant. So often they summarize the totality of the person’s life. Just about a week ago I visited a local hospital and talked to a friend of mine who was facing surgery. And the doctors and surgeons met and they pretty much told him there was a strong chance he wouldn’t survive. We spoke together, I prayed with him, and then he smiled at me and said,
“God’s got this. God’s got this.” He died several days ago and yesterday I had the opportunity to conduct his funeral right here at Fellowship. His last words, “God’s got this, Ed.” He’s got it. He’s got it.
What were the last words of Jesus? Have you ever just thought about that? The Son of God, fully God and fully man, what were his final thoughts? What was going through his mind? What was heavy on his heart? The last words of Jesus. Just for a second I want you to use your imagination and picture Jerusalem outside of the Damascus gate. And in fact, we will be traveling to the Holy Land. Lisa and I are leading a trip this Thanksgiving. You can talk about cruises, you can talk about if you have a yacht or somewhere going to the Greek isles, no trip… no trip compares to going to the Holy Land. And I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot. There is no trip like it. So I would implore you to go to the Holy Land with us. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Outside of the Damascus gate there is a flat area where the prophet Jeremiah was buried, and right near that is Golgotha. They call it Skull Hill. And it literally from a distance looks like a skull. So again, think about the Roman soldiers 2,000 years ago. Basically they were foreigners and they were a part of the death squad. That’s just what they did. They executed people and they were really proficient at it. They were scrolling through their calendar. It was early in the morning on a Friday and they probably looked at each other and said,
“Hey, it’s going to be a light day. Got a couple of common criminals. Then yeah, we have this preacher from up north, this itinerant evangelist. And I hear he’s pretty popular but it’s going to be easy today.” They had it down cold. They knew what nails to choose, how many times to strike the nails. They knew where to position the ropes, they knew how to put the cross in the ground without it ripping the body off it. They knew everything and they didn’t get too involved. It’s almost like the surgeons to tried to save my friend’s life. I mean, yeah, they were sad but if they got too involved it would mess them up. And these Roman soldiers, I mean they didn’t get too into the deal. I’m sure they pictured Jesus looking one way, and then they probably commented,
“Whoa! Look at that crowd! Look at the mob coming this way.” And carrying the cross was a muscular black man, Simon Cyrene. He had the cross on his back and the crowd was yelling and cheering and in all stages of excitement and depression. And behind the cross was a sole, solitary figure walking, sometimes crawling, barely hanging onto life. His face was swollen where they’d plucked out his beard and beaten him. He was bleeding profusely. The crown of thorns, literally nails, they were like nails 6” thick. His skin was laid bare because of the whip and the whip back during this day had stones in it. He was beaten to an inch of his life. It was Jesus, that preacher from the north. And the Bible says that the Roman guards crucified him. Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified.
What did Jesus say? Again, what was he thinking? What was going through his mind? Here’s what Jesus said. Doctor Luke, in the gospel of Luke (Luke, of course, was a physician) recorded these words in Luke 23:34. Here’s what Jesus said. Are you ready for this? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
I mean, are you ready for that? Jesus is talking about forgiveness? Unbelievable! I mean, if anybody had the right to be bitter and angry it was Jesus. Jesus could have said, “You know what? Yeah, you can kill me but I’m gonna come back from the grave and I’m gonna make your life like Hell. In fact, I’m going to hurl you to Hell!” He could have said that. He could have said, “You know what? I’m not gonna hurl you to hell. When I come back to life I’m gonna make your life miserable. I’m gonna send a legion of angels just to rain on your parade in this life and the next.” He could have said that, but he didn’t. He was thinking about others. He looked at those Roman soldiers, who were pounding the nails in his hands and feet and said, “Father…” What a prayer. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
If you’re taking notes you might want to write this down. Notice the sin that is exposed, the sin that’s exposed. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. Do you think those Roman soldiers really knew what they were doing? No, they didn’t. I mean they knew what they were doing to a certain extent. They didn’t know the enormity of the situation. The sin was exposed and Jesus said forgive them. Forgive them. Well, I’m a questioner. Who are ‘them’ ? OK, Jesus, forgive them. OK, forgive – the word forgive means to hurl, to release, to let go. That’s what it means. Maybe you’re in a rift with your spouse. I doubt it but you could be. Maybe on the way to church. Lisa and I have gotten into a little bit of arguments before, some big arguments, on the way to church. Yes, release, forgive. Maybe your son is just driving you absolutely crazy. Forgiveness. Maybe someone hurt you. Forgiveness. So forgiveness, it means to hurl, to release.
But let’s go deeper. He said, “Father, forgive them.” The disciples, who abandoned him, Judas, who betrayed him, the high priest, who tried him, Herod, who mocked him, the guards who beat him, and you and me, who sinned against him. That’s the ‘them.’ Father, forgive them. Forgive Ed, for he doesn’t know what he’s doing. On one hand, yeah, I know what I’m doing when I sin. But I don’t know the essence, the depth of what I’m doing. Oh, I would never, ever crucify Jesus! I would never hold the nails! I would never pound with the hammer! I would never tie his arms and feet with ropes! Not me, I would never do that!
Please. Our sins nailed our sinless, sovereign Savior to the cross. So when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them” we’re all included. We don’t realize the enormity of sin. Yeah, we know what we’re doing but we don’t really know the depth of it. So the cross is all about exposure, is it not? Jesus is exposed. The cards are on the table. This is the Son of God, fully God and fully man, as I said earlier. You feel the holy tension and he says, “Father, forgive them.” It exposes our greatest need. It reveals my greatest desire… forgiveness. That’s it. My biggest struggle, your biggest struggle, the real F-word, forgiveness. Forgiveness! That’s our biggest issue, and the tissue of the issue is what Jesus went after. Father, forgive them. Forgive them. Forgive the sin of the world. He took that upon himself. So, notice the sin that’s exposed.
Also, secondly, notice the empathy that is expressed, the empathy that is expressed. Father, forgive them. OK, he said that. We know who ‘them’ is, right? Then he said, “for they don’t know.”
Clueless, self-unaware. They don’t know what they’re doing. Wait a minute, Ed. You just described the death squad. You just described the disciple and Judas and the high priest and the religious leaders. You telling me they didn’t know what they were doing? Not really. I mean, they did but they didn’t, not the true enormity of the situation. Ow! That hurts! Because are you insinuating? I mean, God, are you kind of hinting around that the coach who stabbed me in the back… that client that robbed me… that spouse who walked out on me… that boy that’s been bullying my child… that person that posted that stuff about me… Ed, is God saying they don’t really know what they’re doing? Yes. It’s hard for me to admit it, but they don’t really know. They don’t really know the enormity of the situation. They don’t really know how that hurt your heart. They don’t really know how it messed you around. They don’t really know how it freaked me out. They don’t really know about the sleepless nights. They don’t know. What did Jesus say? “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
That’s why from cover to cover God challenges us to forgive. It’s the guts of the gospel. It’s the most difficult thing that I deal with and that you deal with. Because when we harbor unforgiveness we’re saying, “You control me.” And the moment we release someone we realize, wow, whether they know it or not they needed and they need forgiveness, and I need it. I need to walk in freedom. I need to walk in liberation. So Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. The sin is exposed and the empathy expressed.
The gospel of Matthew 6:14-15 says this, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.”
Ephesians 4:26-27, and this is a pretty difficult verse because this definitely, definitely tells us what our situation is. It says, “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you’re still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.”
The devil doesn’t take it, but you see when I’m unforgiving, when I don’t release them, when I say, “Oh man, they knew exactly what they were doing to me! She knew exactly what she was doing! He knew exactly what he was doing!” No. When we release them, wow, we’re walking in strength. Yet if we still harbor that hurt and resentment and bitterness what are we doing? We’re giving the devil a foothold. We give the devil a foothold. The foothold can become a stronghold and the stronghold can become a <boxing bell sound effect> chokehold.
ILLUS: There’s a guy who attends Fellowship Church who is a former professional wrestler and the other day he was showing me some of the techniques that they use. I’m talking about professional wrestling, you know? You know what I’m talking about? Hulk Hogan, nature boy Ric Flair, The Rock, people like that. So he was showing me these chokeholds and I’m telling you, this guy… this guy could hurt you. I said, “Man, don’t be doing that to me. Do not hurt me!” You know?
So whenever I say I’m not gonna forgive that person, I’m not going to release that person until I feel it, I’m saying OK devil, just choke me out. And too many times we hear the ding-ding-ding, the bell, as we end our lives and we’ve missed so many opportunities because of bitterness and anger and resentment. Romans 12:18 says “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
And then, the fruit of the spirit… I did a series years ago, it was about 20 years ago. I know that’s hard to believe because I’m only 27, but 20 years ago I did a series on the fruit of the Spirit. You see, what happens is when we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit comes inside of our lives and he works from the inside, out, to produce supernatural fruit in our lives. And I said this: we either produce plastic fruit, peels, or produce.
The plastic is fake fruit. How many hypocrites do we know? And I mean, in essence I’m a hypocrite and so are you, but you know, people who really fake it. And you’re like, that’s a real apple! That’s a real orange! No, it’s plastic. Man, you’re plastic, dude.
Or peels, we produce the fruit of the Spirit and we think it’s for self consumption. No, it’s not. It’s for others. The Holy Spirit produces fruit, we’re to share this organic fruit with others. And listen to this list, Galatians 5:22-23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love (OK, will you say it with me? It’s what?)… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, feelings, self-control, against such things there is no law.”
That’s the Ed Young version. There’s one word I added that’s not in the Bible, but I want it in the Bible, but it’s not in the Bible, it’s not in the Bible. Have you ever been reading the Bible and then go, “Man, I wish that was in the Bible. I’ll just interpret the Bible the way I want.” No, mm-mmm… sorry! Aaaaank!!!
Feelings aren’t there. Let’s throw feelings out. Here we go, let’s do it again. Are you ready? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law.”
If you don’t feel like forgiving, that probably means you need to forgive. “Oh, but I’m waiting to feel it! Once I feel it…” Ding! Ding! Ding! Your life will be over! You’ll tap out waiting for that feeling! The feeling will follow. We have to release, release.
ILLUS: One time, I’ve told you this before, but one time I went to see this basketball team play. They were the #1 high school basketball team in the country and they were blowing this other team out by like 40 points. And the cheerleaders for this team were chanting this cheer over and over: You’ve got it, now use it. You’ve got it, now use it. You’ve got it, now use it. You’ve got it, now use it.
Simple question: If you’ve got forgiveness, use it. But see, if you ain’t got it, you can’t use it! Do you got it? Pardon my English. Now use it. That’s what one of the meanings of the cross is about. You’ve got it, now use it. It’s what separates Christianity from all the other faith systems, this foundation of forgiveness. Father, forgive them. Who are them? All of us. For they don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t know what I’m doing, really, when I sin. You don’t know what you’re doing. And definitely the people who sin against us don’t know. Ultimately, though, they’re sinning against God.
Well, how do we live this out? I call this 4D forgiveness. #1 – Decide. Decide to do it. Don’t wait for feelings. Just make the decision. Do you think Jesus felt it here? Do you read any emotion, any feelings? Well go back to the garden before he was arrested. Father! I mean, if this can pass from me, go ahead on and do it! He didn’t feel it. He made the decision. He said, “It’s not my will, Father, but yours.” This is God’s will for you to make this decision. I can’t make it for you, you can’t make it for me.
Depend on God. Now sometimes, and I deal with this, boom! Someone will come back up in my life who has hurt me – Boom! Someone will come back who has betrayed me and I’m just thinking about ways to get them back. As a believer, though, I need to say God, I’ve forgiven them. I’ve released them so your memory and mine can become a memorial to the grace and the mercy of God. Because on the cross – watch this now – the mercy of God and the justice of God collided and the result of it is the grace of God!
So disengage, #3, with your emotions. Disengage. Your emotions one day will follow and you’ll feel forgiven, and you’ll even feel forgiveness toward that perpetrator but just do it.
And then just deliver the whole thing. Deliver the whole thing to God. You’ve got it, now… use it.
ILLUS: You were given this Last Words card when you walked in. This is going to be fun because this will be an object lesson for me and everyone here. But it’s going to be very tough at first, but then it’s going to be tremendous in about, you know, a couple of minutes. So the first part, I’m just gonna warn you right now, it’s gonna be difficult. Tough sledding, yet it’s going to end up being awesome. Are you ready? All right, this is the card. Am I clear? You see that? Just wave the card here. In Dallas, in Miami, in South Lake, in Keller, in Prosper, in Celina, in Fort Worth, and all the other places I’ve forgotten but they’re there. All our different prison campuses, all of that, online. This will be seen on television. OK, I think… OK,
In the left-hand column, and do not cheat or look on someone else’s paper for suggestions, write down the people in the left column who have hurt you that you need to forgive. You can just write their initials out. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m not writing the name, I’m just gonna write the initials, OK? God knows, believe me. Write the initials. I told you this is not fun. I wish you could stand where I’m standing and look at your expressions. It’s tough, I know. It’s painful. There were some tears, and I understand. I get it. Mine’s a pretty long list. I’m still writing. I need some more blanks but this is the real F-word. That’s what we’re talking about. OK, now, that’s the left column. In the right column write “forgiven.” Forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, forgiven. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? Forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, forgiven.
Now take the card and we’re going to rip it into at least six pieces. Grip it, and rip it. Now, watch me very closely. We’re going to make it rain. Just wait. We’re gonna make it rain. Here and at all of our campuses. On the count of 3, we’re going to throw this in the air. It’s confession confetti. It’s the fragments of forgiveness. We’re going to throw it in the air and we’re going to make it rain. Because once we do that, on the count of 3, you know what we’re saying? We’re saying what my friend said during his last words. God’s got this. Say it with me. God’s got this. 1 – are you ready to throw it? 2 – 3! God’s got this!
Is that awesome? The people, the names, the faces are forgiven. I don’t care if that person passed away 10 years ago. I don’t care what they have done to you. You might not have told anybody the situation. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
I know of no better way to conclude this time than with a word of prayer and then our team is going to come up and sing a song of worship. And I want this song to be your song, called Forgiven. And then we’ll be dismissed, OK?
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]