Day 39: Friday, April 6
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
Perhaps the most confusing of all the tangled stories about Jesus are those that tell what happened after his death on the cross. All the stories about the few days after the crucifixion and burial of Jesus imply sadness, sorrow, and loss.
To nitpick over the differences in accounts told by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is to miss the point altogether; the Gospel writers emphasized the depth of sorrow and loss and hurt the friends and family of Jesus experienced after the awful Friday when they had seen him die.
All four of the Gospel writers raise a question for all of us who have loved the Jesus stories and have learned to love Jesus through those stories.
Photo of the eucalyptus tree outside his apartment by Jerral Miles. Used by permission.
What should be the response of family and friends when someone they have loved has been wronged? What should the response be if the friend has been murdered cruelly, especially when the killers are known? If a government has inflicted the hurt is a rebellion, a revolution, or a war an appropriate response? If it’s vengeance we want, then war against the perpetrators is the way to go.
But that’s not what Jesus taught us? When heinous crimes are committed against a friend or loved one or against ourselves, hitting back and getting even are understandable responses; but it’s clearly not what Jesus said we should do.
Striking back, if not with physical hammering at least with cleverly chosen words that shock and wound, seems fair ...even just. It seems only reasonable that an offensive person or group that has hurt us or someone we love “deserves” to pay for the damage done. Jesus taught us that it doesn’t help anybody, not the offender or the person offended. Unreserved forgiveness is probably the most difficult of all the responses Jesus asks us to make to a suffering world.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be a peacemaker, to forgive instead of get even, to reduce strife in the world rather than add to it. Amen.
Jerral Miles is a retired school teacher and administrator, celebrating with First United Methodist its commitment to inclusion of all people in its ministry.