Today those of us who have embarked on a project to read some Christian classics together are going to be looking at the first chapter of A.W. Pink’s The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross. You can read more about this effort here: Reading the Classics Together. Last week we began our eight-week study of this book by looking at the Introduction to the book. This week we move on to the first chapter.
The first of the Savior’s words from the cross is the one we most need to hear. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is Jesus’ word of forgiveness, offered to the Father on behalf of those who had fastened Him to that cross. In these first words we see Jesus, even in His deepest agony, in an attitude of prayer, interceding for those whom He loves.
In this chapter Pink unravels all that Jesus meant in these few words. Here we see…
- …fulfillment of the prophetic word.
- …Christ identified with His people.
- …the Divine estimate of sin and its consequent guilt.
- …the blindness of the human heart.
- …an exemplification of Jesus’ own teaching.
- …man’s great and primary need.
- …the triumph of redeeming love.
I had read only the first sentence before I needed to stop. “Man had done his worst.” I guess I knew this already—that what man did to Jesus was the worst thing he had ever done or could ever do. In fact, I mentioned this in a sermon just a few short weeks ago. But somehow this simple sentence just made me stop and consider that there really is nothing man could ever do, ever, in any situation, ever!, that could be worse than this. All of the horrible crimes we read about in the news and all of the disgusting events we read about in history, pale in comparison to this act of slaughtering the Son of God. No evil scheme any man could dream up could be worse than this. It is the most awful event in all of history and the most awful event that ever could be. How could man even scheme something so evil as to put to death the very Creator of the world? And what kind of God would humble Himself to suffer such humiliation and to face such pain?
I paused again on the next page when I read this, Pink’s reflection on Jesus being in prayer upon the cross: “No longer might those hands minister to the sick, for they are nailed to the cross; no longer may those feet carry Him on errands of mercy, for they are fastened to the cruel tree; no longer may He engage in instructing the apostles, for they have forsaken Him and fled—how then does He occupy Himself? In the Ministry of Prayer! What a lesson for us.” From here he encourages Christians who may be overcome by age and sickness and who may feel that their years of ministry are over. He encourages them to use these times to engage in this ministry of prayer. Who knows, but you may “perhaps accomplish more by this than by all your past active service. If you are tempted to disparage such a ministry, remember your Savior. He prayed, prayed for others, prayed for sinners, even in His last hours.” And what an encouragement this must be—and what a challenge it is—for us. Even when we feel like we have nothing to offer, we can go to our knees and plead for others before the throne. This “invisible” ministry is one that is far more powerful than we know and one whose results we may only know in eternity. But what a blessing it was that Jesus prayed even while on that cross.
And all this before even getting to the heart of the chapter. I suppose I will stop here and leave it to others to reflect on the seven points laid out by Pink. But first I’ll say just one thing. On a couple of occasions I’ve expressed my view that forgiveness is conditional—that God only expects us to forgive those who have repented of their sin. It would seem from this chapter that Pink would agree. Perhaps ironically, I am a bit less sure now than I used to be that this is always the case, but I did enjoy reading Pink’s rationale for such an understanding.
We will continue next Thursday with the second chapter of the book and look at Jesus’ word of salvation.
As always, I am eager to know what you gained from even just the Introduction to the book (click here to read some comments from readers about the Introduction). Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you can only say anything if you are going to say something that will wow us all. Just add a comment with some of the things you gained from the chapter.