How different is God’s government? Can we experience it now?
Let’s learn that only God’s government can truly bless humanity and how two of its best qualities of giving and forgiving are available to us now.
Let’s read Luke 23:33-43 and contrast human governments and Christ’s government.
Luke 23:33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”1
1. Forgiveness (vs. 34)
Jesus was born to die for all our sins, but also to forgive perhaps one of the hardest things imaginable, those who would murder him. One of the most remarkable sayings of Jesus is, “Father forgive them.” Why? They didn’t know what they were doing. It takes a strong person to apologize and ask forgiveness. Weak people don’t apologize. Many of us will forgive others only after they apologize. Weak people may never forgive even with an apology. Some Christians believe that forgiveness can only be granted by God after repentance. However, here Jesus teaches us a new level of forgiveness, before repentance, before a change of heart, forgiveness because of a deed done in ignorance. What a strange idea!
2. Unrealistic Expectations (vs. 34, 35, 39)
At the cross, human leadership failed: Romans, Jews, and the Disciples. Jesus said: Father forgive them. Why do intelligent, well-educated leaders continually disappoint? They/we do not know what they/we are doing. We say of the suffering Jesus, “Let him save himself.” Human governments are pictured as devouring beasts. Israel rejected God, wanting human leadership like other nations. 1 Samuel 8 says, “He will TAKE.” Human governments take, not give. A king “will TAKE your sons and MAKE them serve… TAKE your daughters… the best of YOUR fields… take for HIS own use… and you yourselves will become his slaves.”1 Luke 23 describes Christ’s government, giving and forgiving. He gave his life for the whole world and forgave sins.
3. Overconfidence (vs. 42)
We have all experienced the overconfidence of youthful zeal. We believe we could do better than our forebears or those currently in leadership. Every generation starts moving into adult life about the same way, thinking that they can create a better world and do a better job than their parents or national leaders. By the time we reach middle age, that optimism can turn to pessimism as we are forced to face life’s many failures. By the time we are old, we begin to see the reality of death. We learn that our generation too has not solved the world’s problems. We don’t need to fret or turn to pessimism and despair. We just need to pray, “Jesus, remember me”.
4. Kingdom Now (vs. 34, 35, 43)
Jesus conquered the gates of hell at his crucifixion and resurrection. He ushered in a new government, a forgiving government, forgiving those who planned his death. His government willingly sacrificed for all. His government forgave a criminal based on his attitude alone. We represent that eternal government whenever we forgive and sacrifice for others. Jesus government forgave persecutors before any change of heart, based on they did not know what they were doing. Jesus’ government sacrificed for everyone else. Where are today’s world leaders who are willing to sacrifice themselves? The head of God’s government forgave a criminal hanging on a cross beside him, based entirely upon his attitude. We live that government now by giving and forgiving, hallmarks of Christ’s government.
A truly happy society is not one that has perfect citizens and perfect leaders, but one that is learning to give and forgive. Jesus showed us the way by giving his life for us and forgiving all our sins. What are we going to do?
1 Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. (emphasis mine)