Jesus can forgive you, even if you struggle to forgive yourself

The events leading up to Christ's crucifixion evoke emotion when we read about them in the gospels. When we observe the kindness Jesus showed people, and read about His compassion, healing, teaching, and miracles, we struggle to understand why anyone would have wanted to harm Him, let alone put Him to death.

But along with those who loved Jesus, there were many people during that era who despised Him. They hated the attention He was getting. They resented the ways in which He would challenge their false teaching or expose their hypocrisy. And some, whose hearts were hardened, were adamantly opposed to Him being recognized as the Messiah since He didn't fit with their preconceived notions of what the Messiah would look like.

The ways in which Jesus was treated, not only in His crucifixion, but also in the actions that led up to that event, are despicable, yet amazingly, forgivable. There was nothing that happened to Jesus that surprised Him. He knew these things were going to take place, and for the sake of the good He knew would come out of His suffering and death, He willingly endured this disrespect and torment, even for the good of those who directly participated in it.

On the cross, Jesus atoned for our sin with the goal that we would be forgiven and cleansed of it. As we pause right now to think about His crucifixion, take a look at how He was treated in the hours leading up to that experience, and consider the fact that Jesus was willing to forgive his tormentors of it all.

I. Jesus can forgive those who mocked Him

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him.  They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”  And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.
— Luke 22:63-65, ESV

Mockery is not a pleasant thing to experience. Each of us can probably remember the feeling of being mocked when we were children. It tends to be one of the primary activities children engage in. It also tends to be one of Satan's go-to tactics to use against followers of Christ in his effort to depress or discourage them. As he regularly mocks the Lord, he also makes a point to mock the family of God.

Leading up to His crucifixion, we're told that Jesus was beaten by the men who were holding Him in custody. As they inflicted physical pain on Him, they also made a point to attempt to hurt Him emotionally through mockery. To be honest, I'm glad that most of what they said isn't recorded in Scripture. I wouldn't even want to read some of the vile things I'm sure they said about Him. We're told here that they said many other things against Him, and blasphemed Him by speaking in a profane way about Him.

Related to this, let me also say that the things we're entertained by tend to reveal a lot about our character. Sadly, one of the biggest indicators that our hearts are enmeshed with sin is the fact that there's a part of us that can find the suffering of others amusing. Those who were holding Jesus in custody were clearly amused by His suffering. They even added to the humiliation of it by blindfolding Him, hitting him, then asking Him to prophesy which of them had done the striking.

But amazingly, this mockery and despicable treatment isn't beyond Christ's ability to forgive. Consider for a moment some of the counsel Jesus has given us related to when we endure the same treatment because of our association with Him.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
— Matthew 5:11-12, ESV

Jesus taught us to rejoice when people mock us or speak evil against us because of our relationship with Him. As He was treated, so too can we expect to be treated, particularly if we're open about our faith and take the risk to speak of Him publicly, or make Christ-like lifestyle choices that contrast the cultural norms of the day.

When you read of these events, what comes to your mind? Do you feel compassion for Christ? Do you struggle to forgive those who may have mocked you because of your love for Him? Do you feel a twinge of regret over times when you may have personally mocked Him?

Jesus can forgive those who have mocked Him, and He offers us His power to be able to forgive those who have mocked us as well.

II. Jesus can forgive those who once failed to believe Him

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said,  “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. 
— Luke 22:66-68, ESV

The events being described in this passage, starting with Luke 22:66, took place on Friday, the day Jesus was crucified. We're told here that at daybreak, the assembly of the elders gathered together. This assembly was known as the Sanhedrin, and it was the supreme council of the Jews that was led by the High Priest. It wasn't considered lawful to hold a trial at night, so they waited until the day to facilitate their plans to condemn Jesus.

Even before looking at the details of these verses, let me mention something that I find interesting in this passage that is still common during our day. In the era described in these verses and in our era, there are people who like to be considered religious or holy, but their hearts are quite far from the Lord. It can be quite easy for us to focus on our external appearance, and the keeping of customs or traditions, without examining whether or not our hearts are actually sensitive to listening to the voice of God when He speaks to us.

That's the kind of dilemma I see here in this passage. The people who had been entrusted with important roles of spiritual leadership had more faith in the work of their hands than they did in the Lord who created them (and was attempting to speak to them). Their ears were not in tune with the voice of God. Their spiritual eyes were blind to the reality that the Lord of all creation was literally right in front of them in bodily form.

But instead of believing in Jesus, they questioned Him. They asked Him to tell them if He was indeed the Christ. Keep in mind that their goal wasn't to learn if His claim was valid. All they wanted to do was attempt to trap Jesus in something He might say so they could use it against Him in a legal sense.

One of the most fascinating things to me about Jesus was the manner in which He would respond to those who hated Him. In response to the question of the council as to whether or not He was the Christ, Jesus said, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer." What do you suppose He meant by that?

Jesus was stating an obvious fact that displayed that He knew exactly what was going on in their hearts. He knew that if He claimed that He was the Christ, they wouldn't believe. And, based on the ways He had questioned them in previous encounters, He knew they wouldn't bother to answer Him if He asked them probing questions about their beliefs in this context either.

But amazingly, this level of hard-hearted disbelief is also something that can be forgiven. As the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see that Jesus is who He says He is, and our hard hearts melt within us, we can repent of our unbelief, and lay hold of Christ's offer to be our Savior, our Rescuer, and our Redeemer. How would you answer if He asked you what you believed?

III. Jesus can forgive those who condemned Him

But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.”  Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
— Luke 22:69-71, ESV

I read a story about a man named John the other day.

John was driving home late one night when he picked up a hitchhiker. As they rode along, he began to be suspicious of his passenger. John checked to see if his wallet was safe in the pocket of his coat that was on the seat between them, but it wasn’t there! So he slammed on the brakes, ordered the hitchhiker out, and said, “Hand over the wallet immediately!”

The frightened hitchhiker handed over a billfold, and John drove off. When he arrived home, he started to tell his wife about the experience, but she interrupted him, saying, “Before I forget, John, do you know that you left your wallet at home this morning?”
— Our Daily Bread, October 2, 1992

The accusation and condemnation Jesus received was undeserved. He was sinless. He had done nothing wrong. The entire case the Sanhedrin made against Him was based on Him telling them the truth about His identity, and them denying the truth of His claim.

Not only did Jesus confirm to them that He was the Christ, but He also referred to Himself as "the Son of Man" who would be seated at the right hand of the power of God and "the Son of God." Jesus was pointing out to them that He was indeed the fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14.

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
— Daniel 7:13-14, ESV

But of course, instead of rejoicing over His appearing, the Sanhedrin rejoiced in an opportunity to condemn Him. At this point, they considered their case all wrapped up because now they had the ammunition to be able to accuse Jesus of the capitol offense of blasphemy. He clearly equated Himself with God, and in their understanding, that was deserving of death. Yet even condemnation is something Jesus is more than capable to forgive. But because they didn't believe He was who He said He was, they also didn't seem even remotely interested in experiencing the forgiveness Christ offers.

Those who are conscious of their mockery, or disbelief, or condemnation of Christ, are also those who tend to be the most appreciative of His offer to forgive their sin. There's an interesting account given in Luke 7 that shows us what it's like to appreciate the depth of Christ's forgiveness.

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”  And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
— Luke 7:47-50, ESV

If Jesus can forgive mockery, disbelief, and condemnation, as well as the many sins of this woman who had lived a life mired in immorality, is there anything we've endured that we cannot also forgive when we rely on the power He gives us to do so?

Is there anything too great in your life for Him to forgive?

Is there anything we cannot forgive ourselves of when we come to a mature understanding of the fact that He's washed all our sins away, and has taken our condemnation upon Himself?

Allow yourself to fully experience the forgiveness of Christ. Don't deny yourself this kind of blessing because Christ was mocked, denied, condemned, and crucified in order to offer this gift to you.

© John Stange, 2019