Prayers From the Cross
The First Prayer
forgive them; for they know not what they
The first word that
came from the cross was a prayer of Christ,
not for Himself, but for those who were
crucifying Him. It was addressed to the
Father and asked forgiveness on the ground
that they know not what they do.
circumstances, it would be expected that
Christs first prayer would be for
Himself and not for others, particularly
since at this time they were driving nails
through His hands. However, not a murmur is
heard, only a prayer; and that those who were
torturing Him! Pain, excruciating,
unbearable, racked His body, but calmly He
prays, Father, forgive them.
Behold, what love, what compassion!
Christs statement that they did not
know what they were doing; but we have to
accept it by faith. They may not have known
that they were crucifying the Prince of
life, but they certainly knew that they
were taking part in a supreme tragedy, the
torturing of an innocent victim of whom
Pilate had said that he found no fault in
Him. Acts 3:15; Luke 23:4.
included not only those who were doing the
actual crucifying but also those who
instigated it, the scribes and Pharisees, and
those who bore false testimony against the
Lord. However, this only makes Christs
prayer the more wonderful. How could Christ
pray for such men? How could He find an
excuse for them by saying they did not know
what they were doing? Only infinite love
could do this. We exclaim again, what amazing
love, incomprehensible, almost unbelievable!
up our sins in His body to the tree. 1
Peter 2:24 (American Revised Version,
margin). This included the sins of the
weak Pilate, hypocritical Caiaphas, cruel
Herod, timeserving Annas; all still had the
opportunity for repentance; their cup of
iniquity was not yet full. Christ prayed for
them; and this He could not have done had the
time of their salvation been past. However,
Christ prayed. Moreover, God waited.
A Mighty Incentive
should be a mighty incentive for the
Christian not to give up praying even for
such as seem beyond hope. This prayer from
the cross gives hope to the vilest sinner,
even for such whom at the time are reviling
and cursing Him.
This prayer holds
another lesson for the believing soul. If
Christ could pray for such men, are there any
conceivable circumstances under which we
should not pray for our enemies? They may
have spoken ill against us, they may have
borne false testimony, they may have reviled
and cursed us, they may even have spit upon
us and mistreated us, but they have not
nailed us to a cross. They did all this to
Christ. In place of retaliation, He prayed
for them. He could do no more. Pray for
them which despitefully use you, Christ
had said. Matthew 5:44. Christ lived this
prayer. So did Stephen. As they stoned him,
he cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay
not this sin to their charge. And when he had
said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:60.
If there be any
virtue, and if there be any praise, think on
these things. Philippians 4:8. We have
been trying to think of some virtue or some
good thing in those who crucified Christ. We
can excuse those who did not actual nailing,
for they were under orders. However, we can
find nothing good in those ordered the
execution. Christ did. He found enough to
justify asking His Father to forgive them.
Again, we stand amazed at the wonderful God
we are serving. He is not will that any
should perish. 2 Peter 3:9. Christ praying
for those who are crucifying Him! Wonder, ye
heavens, and be astonished, O earth! In death
agony, forgetful of self, He prays for
others, for poor, deluded, evil men.
The Second Prayer
At the ninth
hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying,
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? Which is, being
interpreted, My God, My god, why hast Thou
forsaken Me? Mark 15:34.
This cry was that of
an anguished soul in mortal agony. In it, we
get deeper insight into the cost of salvation
and a greater appreciation of the wonderful
plan of redemption. A sudden outburst under
tension, a suppressed cry of heart anguish,
an involuntary release of pent-up emotions,
is a better index of the struggle of a soul
that a ream of words. Christs outcry is
an awe-inspiring revelation of the inmost
heart of God.
Much has been written
on the question of whether the Father had
actually forsaken Christ or Christ merely thought
He had. This we will not discuss. In either
case, Christs suffering would have been
Christ was to tread
the wine press alone, and of the people,
there was none with Him. See Isaiah 63:3.
This was literally fulfilled when all the
disciples fled and left Him alone. Mark
14:50. As men had forsaken Him, would
God also? His cry clearly indicates that the
Fathers sustaining presence had been
The plan of
redemption included the death of Christ in
the sinners place. He must feel the
wrath of God against sin, die in the place of
those who should accept Him, die as the
sinner dies, forsaken of God. Moreover, if
God is to justify depriving sinners of life,
He must by personal experience know the
severity of the punishment that He inflicts
on His creatures. He must taste of death, and
He must also suffer the punishment. The
greatest punishment of the sinner is not the
final destruction, but the sense of loss that
will come to him as he finds himself left out
of the kingdom. There will be weeping
and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see
Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the
prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you
yourselves thrust out. Luke 13:28.
When Christ cried
out, My God, My God, why hast Thou
forsaken Me? It must have wrung the
heart of God as He was unable to say, must
not say, Son, I am right here to help
You; I have not forsaken You. Be of good
courage. However, God did not speak
these words. Christ must die alone. Not a ray
of light must penetrate the deep darkness.
Had He at that time been conscious of the
Fathers love, had He known that His
sacrifice would be accepted and that by His
death many would be saved, He would have been
upheld by triumphant joy, and no despairing
cry would have escaped Him. However, every
ray of hope must be removed.
In yielding up
His precious life, Christ was not upheld by
triumphant joy. All was oppressive
. The wrath of God against sin,
the terrible manifestation of His displeasure
because of iniquity, filled the soul of His
Son with consternation
. He cannot see
the Fathers reconciling face
Savior could not see through the portals of
the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His
coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or
tell Him of the Fathers acceptance of
the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so
offensive to God that Their separation was to
be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the
sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer
plead for the guilty race. The
Desire of Ages, pages 752, 753.
There are those who
hold that Christ only suffered and not the
Father, but this is not supported by
Scripture nor by reason. Christ suffered, but
the Father no less. To stand helpless and see
the Son spat upon, scourged, reviled, and
nailed to the tree must have been supreme
torture. No, as the Son suffered, so did the
Father. Let no one measure either the
suffering or sacrifice of Father and Son and
attempt to compare or contrast them. They are
beyond human comprehension.
The Third Prayer
Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said,
Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit:
and having said thus, He gave up the
ghost. Luke 23:46.
In Gethsemane Jesus
said, Thy will be done. Here He
says, Into Thy hands I commend My
spirit. Both statements mean the same.
He leaves His case with God. After
Christs experience in Gethsemane He had
been betrayed, arrested, beaten, scourged,
reviled, spat upon, forsaken by all, judged
by His own creatures, condemned and now He
was at the point of death, being nailed to
the cross. This is what it meant for Him to
say, Thy will be done. He had
suffered extreme agony and both physical and
spiritual torture. However, the worst was the
hiding of the Fathers face and the
blotting out of all hope. What more suffering
was in store for Him, He did not know; He
could not know. He had drained the dregs of
the cup offered Him, and He might be expected
to say, it is enough; I can go no
further. However, He does not say this.
With the last ounce of strength, He commits
Himself to God; the God who had permitted Him
to suffer as no man has ever suffered, with
not a murmur of complaint.
In committing Himself
to God, Christ approves all that has been
done and leaves to God His future. He does
not for a moment withdraw Himself from what
further suffering God may have in store for
Him, but confidently commits Himself to God.
Then He gives up the ghost and dies. With Job
He says, Though He slay me, yet will I
trust in Him. Job 13:15. Into Thy
hands I commend My spirit, is the
greatest tribute ever paid God.
Those Three Hours
And when the
sixth hour was come, there was darkness over
the whole land until the ninth hour.
Moreover, at the ninth hour Jesus cried with
a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama
sabachthani? Which is, being interpreted, My
God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?
Once more Jesus cried with a loud
voice. Mark 15:33,34,37. Mark does not
tell us what Jesus said at this time, but
John informs us that He said, It is
finished: and bowed His head, and gave up the
ghost. John 19:30.
What happened in
those last three hours we are not told. It is
clear that it had to do with the new
relationship between Father and Son as Christ
took upon Himself the punishment for the sins
of the world, took the sinners place,
and thus exposed Himself to the wrath of God
against sin. They were now in the same place
where Abraham and Isaac stood as they arrived
at the altar and Abraham took the knife to
slay his son. Genesis 22. Abraham
rejoiced to see My day, Jesus
said, and he saw it, and was
glad. John 8:56.
Christ had looked
forward with some apprehension to this hour.
Now is my soul troubled, He had
said, and what shall I say? Father,
save Me from this hour: but for this cause
came I unto this hour. John 12:27.
Again He had said, I have a baptism to
be baptized with; and how am I straitened
till it be accomplished! Luke 12:50.
This weighed so heavily upon His mind that
God had sent two men from heaven to talk the
matter over with Him, who had gone through
death, and one who had been translated.
Christ had gone up into the mountain to pray,
as he prayed, the fashion of His
countenance was altered, and His raiment was
white and glistering. And, behold, there
talked with Him two men, which were Moses and
Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of
His decease which He should accomplish at
Jerusalem. Luke 9:29-31.
We are not told what
was aid, but we know they spake of His
decease which He should accomplish at
Jerusalem. That is, they talked of His
death, that which was on His mind and caused
Him concern. However, in Christs mind
the matter was settled. Should He say,
Father, save me from this hour?
That could not be; because for this
cause came I unto this hour. John
Father and Son had
always been close to each other. Christ says,
I was by Him, as one brought up with
Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing
always before Him. Proverbs 8:30. He
could truthfully say, He that sent Me
is with Me: the Father hath not left Me
alone; for I do always those things that
please Him. I and My Father are
one. John 8:29; 10:30.
However, in the
closing hours at the cross Christ could say
this no more. The Father was withdrawing
Himself. While Christ had been prepared for
this, the actual experience was overwhelming.
In Gethsemane the preliminary test had come,
the test that would demonstrate if Christ
could endure the ordeal. There was yet time
for Him to turn back. Christ might even
now refuse to drink the cup apportioned to
guilty men. It was not yet too late.
The Desire of Ages, page 690. At the cross,
it would be too late.
Thy will be
done. Three times has He uttered that
prayer. Three times has humanity shrunk from
the last, crowning sacrifice. At last,
His decision is made. He will save man
at any cost to Himself. He accepts His
baptism of blood, that through Him perishing
millions may gain everlasting life.
Ibid., pp. 690,693.
Having made this
decision, Christ must face the actual test of
His ability to endure the reality of the
ordeal. He fell dying to the ground
from which He had partially risen
Angels beheld the Saviors agony. They
saw their Lord enclosed by legions of satanic
forces, His nature weighed down with a
shuddering, mysterious dread. There was
silence in heaven. No harp was touched. Could
mortals have viewed the amazement of the
angelic host as in silent grief they watched
the Father separating His beams of light,
love, and glory from His beloved Son, they
would better understand how offensive in His
sight is sin. Ibid., p. 693.
In this awful
crisis, when everything was at stake, when
the mysterious cup trembled in the hand of
the sufferer, the heavens opened. Help
was at hand. The angel came not to take
the cup from Christs hand, but to
strengthen Him to drink it, with the
assurance of the Fathers love
He told Him that He would see of the travail
of His soul, and be satisfied. Ibid.,
Christ had stood the
test. He had demonstrated that He could come
to the point of death and not yield. This was
not the final test. That would come at the
cross. Here He is given the assurance
of the Fathers love. There at the
cross, there would be no such assurance.
Concerning those dreadful three hours, it is
written: Amid the awful darkness,
apparently forsaken of God, Christ drained
the last dregs in the cup of human woe. In
those dreadful hours, He had relied upon the
evidence of His fathers acceptance
heretofore given Him. He was acquainted with
the character of His Father; He understood
His justice, His mercy, and His great love.
By faith He rested in Him whom it had ever
been His joy to obey. An as in submission He
committed Himself to God, the sense of the
loss of His Fathers favor was
withdrawn. By Faith, Christ was victor.
Ibid., p. 756.
who has given them to me, is greater than
all; no one can snatch them out of my
Fathers hand. I and the Father are one.
reading this lesson, can you see the
incomprehensible love God has for His
you learned to forgive your enemies like
Christ did His. Explain.