Father, Forgive Them

Father, forgive them. By Mandy Edwards

Today I attended a Good Friday Meditation at my church. I'd had a very bad nights sleep and grumbled as I fought the urge to stay in bed an extra hour. I managed, somewhat irritably, to drive to collect my mum (now 86) and slipped into church with moments to spare. I fussed about for a while setting down my canine partner, myself (hot water bottles and cushions in place to manage spinal pain) before finally becoming fully open to the service. I looked up and drew in a sharp breath. The tall plain wooden cross at the front of the church was very moving, its starkness and solitude echoing the loneliness of the crucifixion.

"Father Forgive them. They do not know what they are doing" Luke 23; 32-34

As I listened something strange began to happen. I felt myself transported there watching as Jesus, naked and humiliated, hung high on the cross, bloodied and torn, his tongue swollen with thirst and his dry lips cracked and peeling. His mother, at the foot of the cross, was visibly shaking with grief, her heaving sobs unheard amongst he ripping sounds of the solders drawing lots for his clothes. Jesus, mockingly named "King of the Jews" opened his swollen eyelids; his eyes blurred by the river of blood pouring from his thorny crown. In his deepest agony he turned his head to the first criminal whose stinging mockery reflected the taunts shouted from below by soldiers and civilians alike. As he heaved his broken body up in order to breathe the second criminal rebuked the taunts of his compatriot. Jesus's lips barely moved as he whispered.

"Today, you will be with me in paradise" Luke 23; 41-43

Then his wearied head sagged as he watched his mother stagger to her knees, supported by her sister and Mary Magdalene, who also struggled vainly to control her overwhelming grief,

"Mother, there is your sonů" John 19.27

Who was this man? An innocent man murdered for us who, at his moment of unbearable suffering, were able to reach out and comfort another?

Death by crucifixion meant that death by slow suffocation. The only way to breath was to lift the body upwards for each tortured breath. Eventually the overworked chest muscles would spasm and breathing would become impossible.

Who was this man? A man who professed to be the son of God, who offered us a clean slate from sin and, more than that, who then died for us in the most horrific barbaric and public way. Even during his agonising death throes he showed us a supernatural compassion for others, including a convicted criminal.

Who was this man? One thing I knew as I could barely watch the horror unfolding before me was that he was in human form and prone to all the fragilities and vulnerabilities of the human body.

'My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?" Mathew 27; 45-46

His chest began to cramp and the thoracic muscle screamed in agony each time he tried to raise his battered body. His breathing became ragged and agonisingly shallow; the blood matted in his hair and eyelashes. His tongue swollen and dry, scrapped painfully against his sun scorched lips. All he could hear was the heaving sobs of his mother, amidst the taunts and mocking laughs of watching spectators. All his disciples bar John had fled; too frightened to stand up to the rabble and face the threats on their own lives. How alone he must have felt. His physical symptoms screamed at him and for a moment it became unbearable.

"I am thirsty." John 19.28

He was offered acrid wine, which burned as it seeped into his parched cracked lips. The sun scorched his face and he was almost blinded by the glare. His body began to fail and he knew he was close to the end.

"It is finished"

John 19.29-30

The smouldering sun disappeared behind a rush of rolling black clouds and darkness fell upon the scene in front of me. In that instant I was enfolded in darkness, the silence all embracing and strangely peaceful. I sensed rather than saw Jesus as he raised his battered countenance towards the rolling clouds of thunder

"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" Luke 23:46

Who was this Man? Suddenly the darkness lifted and it all became clear to me. A bible quote came into my head

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurances about things we cannot see." Hebrews 11; 1-2

I had not been there 2000 years ago but the evidence was clear. All I had to do was truly accept that Christ was indeed the Son of God and his offer of a new pure life in him was real. How many times had I said I believed in Jesus but then the very next moment castigated myself? Blamed myself for things I had done in the past, hadn't done in the present or believed would not be able to achieve in the future? All my life I had suffered from low self-esteem, guilt and self-judgement and subsequently had leads a life full of anxiety and fear. If I truly believed that Jesus was the Son of God and had died for me on that day then the answer was clear. All I had to do was place that fear and anxiety at the base of the cross and walk away in the certain knowledge that they belonged to a life no longer mine. That day in church I did just that .I placed my pebble at the base of the cross and walked away. Jesus had died for me so that I could be finally being free.

Today I finally understand and finally accept, in all its wonder, the gift of a life in Jesus offered to each and every one of us.

Let go of those self-doubts.

Let go of the guilt and shame.

Your burdens have been carried by another.

A man from Galilee.

Jesus Christ. The Son of God.

Are you ready to accept His gift to you?

Completely accept His gift to you?

Are you?

Mandy Edwards

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