33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33–34, NKJV)
Crucifixion was a gruesome form of execution. Suspended between heaven and earth, Jesus hung in anguish for hours before death came. The innocent Son of God was tortured to death between two criminals who, admittedly, deserved their death sentence (Lk. 23:40-41). The merciful heart of Jesus is fully displayed even while He was being treated mercilessly. The Son of God is always ready to forgive our sins against Him. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” including those who murdered the Son of God (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Were they saved the moment Jesus said this prayer? No. Those who killed Jesus had the gospel preached to them on Pentecost, and many of them believed it (Acts 2:22-36). They asked the apostles what they should do for having crucified the Lord and Christ, and were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:37-38). About 3,000 of them were forgiven when they received and obeyed that gospel message of salvation (Acts 2:41). It takes more to be forgiven than God wanting us to be saved. It takes more to be forgiven than wishing God to forgive us. It is when we believe, repent, and are baptized in the name Jesus Christ that God forgives our sins against Him and His Son.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? (Galatians 3:1, NKJV)
It is not enough to believe Jesus Christ died for our sins in order to be saved. His crucifixion has been posted like a billboard for all to see through preaching “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23). Yet, to be saved from our sins and kept in Christ’s blessed care Christians must faithfully run the race and “obey the truth” (see Gal. 5:7). The Christians in Galatia had fallen under an evil influence that convinced them they could be true to Christ yet not obey the truth. Many continue to be bewitched with the evil influence of salvation by a faith that fails to obey the truth. Genuine faith in Christ calls for our obedience, for He is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). “Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” and by faith obey His truth (Eph. 5:17).
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness… (1 Corinthians 1:21–23, NKJV)
The message of a crucified king who saves the world continues to be viewed by an unbelieving world as foolish fables. That is not at all how men would write the script. The first-century Jews envisioned their mighty king riding in on a great steed, trampling over their enemies and vanquishing their foes by the sword in mighty battle. But, God’s king and His kingdom is not so inclined. God’s Anointed One rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, humble and lowly. It was not long before they cried out, “crucify him”. Those who elevate human wisdom count the message of the cross to be foolish. Belief in the gospel demands humility. Those who put stock in human wisdom become hardened by pride – an obvious barrier to humble faith. God still saves those believe the gospel. Therefore, we must continue to preach Christ regardless of faithless refusals.