A friend brought to my attention the following article from the religion section of the Huff Post. First I would say that if you get your religion ideas from the Huff Post you are probably in trouble. But since it gets wide readership I thought I would reply to one of the sections of the article. The article is entitled 5 Myths About Forgiveness in the Bible by Maria Mayo M. Div., M.A.
In my response to my friend I think I disagreed with all but one of her 5 points. The one I agreed with was point 5 Forgiveness sets you free. Which I don't even think is a widely held view by anyone, but I would like to focus on her third point for this article:
3. Jesus forgives his attackers from the cross.
Luke's depiction of Jesus on the cross is often cited as the quintessential example of unconditional forgiveness. As he is being crucified, Jesus cries out, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). Readers often take this to mean that Jesus forgives those who are attacking him. However, a closer look at the syntax reveals that Jesus is not, in fact, forgiving his attackers; rather, he is praying that God might do so.
It is possible that the lack of repentance from his attackers prevents Jesus from forgiving the men directly, since he has taught his followers that repentance is a requirement for forgiveness. Also, earlier in the Gospel of Luke Jesus instructs his disciples to "pray for those who abuse you" (Luke 6:38). While his prayer from the cross is a perfect model of this teaching, it is not an explicit act of forgiveness.
This is troubling because of its confusion about who Jesus Christ is. Most readers of the New Testament have recognized that Jesus not only claimed to be the son of God, but that He was One with God, such as:
John 8:58-59 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. (KJV)
This equality with God was it seems a heavy emphasis in the Gospel of John. He began the gospel with:
John 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. n him was life, and that life was the light of men. (NIV)John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)
It was of course not just the writer of John that felt this way the author of the book of Matthew seems to be of the same opinion with his use of Emmanuel, God with us. There are very clearly strong biblical reasons why Jesus is considered to be God, it is why the early church derived the doctrine of the Trinity as a way to explain God who was in fact at multiple places at one time. It seems people have no problem with the idea of God as omnipresent but they get a little bogged down when physicality is involved. As if such a thing as a human body should stop God from being God. You can imagine the confusion if Jesus had said I am God right here and now pray to me. The physicality of God would become the issue and they would be even more confused when the physical God was no longer around, where did He go and where was He before He was born on earth. There are ideas that take time to develop and that explains why Jesus prayed to God the Father, as an example of how man should pray to God, but not in a way that was for Himself or separate from God. Even when troubled by impending horrors the concern for His physical comfort took second place to the will of God which was also His will. Not only did Jesus say to pray for those who abuse you but to forgive them.
Matt 6:14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (NIV)
The book of Matthew also points out that Jesus demonstrated His ability to forgive sins:
Matt 9:6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." (NIV)
What Jesus did on the cross was far more then to ask God to forgive sins but to demonstrate that through love sins were forgiven even to the extent as Peter preached:
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see."Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you-- even Jesus. (NIV)
The forgiveness was there offered for all, but forgiveness is of little value if you still are an enemy of God, if you don't accept the forgiveness you remain in a state of animosity of your part. There is no renewal, no refreshing just our anger and rebellion, no healing. At the cross Jesus is not asking God to forgive, it is God showing us what forgiveness is like, that love reaches out even to those who reject God even while they reject God with cruelty and hatred. God was reaching out, He is still reaching out.