If you’ve been a regular attendee of the faith communities commonly known as ‘churches’ for any period of time you’ll have heard plenty of sermons, talks, exhortations, homilies, addresses from the teaching pastor, minister, priest, lay preacher regarding the Christian faith.
My pastor used to go on for an hour or so perhaps twice a week so I guess that over the 16 years or so that I listened to him I’d absorbed 1664 hours of ‘bible exposition’ between the ages of 15 and 31, when I decided to move on.
Folk now wonder why I can’t drift along to a ‘church’ each Sunday morning, sing a few songs, observe a few necks, hand in my money and listen to a little inspirational message from a professional preacher. Now you know.
Anyway, over those years I’ve never once heard a preacher teach or expound the following series of Yeshua sayings that we’re going to revisit. If you can figure out why send me your thoughts.
‘Father, forgive them, for they are not being aware of anything they are doing’
What an amazing statement from the Galilean prophet as he suffers the horrendous experience of Roman execution. The whole ‘Kingdom of God’ thing now seems to be another religious fad that’s proven to be just wishful thinking; no big spiritual, religious or political changes that many had forecasted; just a tortured body painfully hanging on a bizarre execution device.
No wonder the Divine appeared to have deserted Him; the embarrassment for the Jewish God Yahweh would have been too much for Him to bear. Rather than a messenger of God, those pietistic Jews, who could be bothered to stay around, believe the Nazarene to cursed by the judging Jewish Divinity. Another false Messiah, another dead-end.
The most radical of sayings to come out of Yeshua’s mouth, are uttered in the midst of the darkest experience of His now dwindling life. Desolation and despair are knocking at the door of His battered psyche, hoping to gain entrance. Three aspects of Yeshua’s words blow me away. I now wish to look at each of them in turn.
Yeshua’s form of address to the Divine in such circumstances seems like the word of a simpleton or madman. ‘Come on now Yeshua’ we reply.’Your Abba God seems to have been a monster all along. So much for your sparrows and flowers of the field stories. I wonder if He knows how many ferocious military lashes you’ve suffered, as well as the number of hairs on your blood stained head?’
And yet the intimacy of the bond between prophet and Divine commissioner remains. The trust of a Son remains despite the approaching end of the religious road. Refusing the judgement of humanity, Yeshua clings to His Divinity’s love for one last request.
What an unbelievable request from an innocent victim. It must have been unique in the history of crucifixion. The hardened execution squad must have been shocked by the Galilean’s words. The remaining religious dignitaries probably didn’t even hear them.
The Jewish Torah’s cry of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ was superseded by the dying Yeshua. The days of the Law were over. Loving one’s neighbour as oneself had been fleshed out in this final dramatic request. Yeshua seemed to believe His own teaching to the bitter end. Why should his military executioners and their political and religious handlers receive such an outrageous forgiveness?
‘For they are not aware of anything that they are doing’
Yeshua answers this deeply disturbing question for us in the above words.He claims that all involved directly or indirectly in His violent end are unaware of what they are doing. What a seemingly preposterous statement from the Nazarene holy man.
Didn’t these hardened Roman soldiers know exactly what they were doing in carrying out their orders? They’d done it often enough in occupied Palestine. Did the Temple High Priest and his academic religious advisors not know what they’d initiated with Yeshua’s arrest? Didn’t Pilate as Roman Governor know how to stop a rebellion by taking out a populous charismatic leader ?
According to Yeshua they were all mistaken, indeed radically asleep regarding their role in His death. Like sleepwalking actors they stumbled through their roles in the unfolding drama. On the basis of such a lack of awareness Yeshua requested the Divine Father to forgive or dismiss their barbarous actions as He Himself had done.
What a revelation of the Divine nature in a dying man’s last words. Followers of Yeshua were to later claim that the actions and words of Yeshua corresponded exactly to the actions and words of the Divine. If true then the words of this saying are truely shocking, turning on its head our concept of Divine justice.
Are we asleep and unaware of our ‘sinful’ or ‘broken’ actions as Yeshua seemed to suggest? Does our free will only operate within the realm of such a dreamlike state? Is personal responsibility a phantasm of our unaware consciousness?
If so, then the answer to mankind’s predicament is an internal awakening,when dark scales fall from our dimmed eyes, enabling us to see the true nature of the Divine, as an unconditionally loving Presence and our own level of dysfunction in need of healing. Such an awakening, often following a transpersonal crisis, is the gift of Divine Breath or Spirit and the beginning of the spiritual journey.
As followers of Yeshua we too can forgive our enemies, knowing that they dwell in a demonic sleep from which we ourselves been graciously awoken. Thankfully Spirit within provides the power for such a seismic shift in our dualistic mindset. Resigning from our self-appointed role of judge is the key to our continuing freedom.