As we prepare for Easter, past and present Pepperdiners contribute reflections on Jesus’ journey to the cross. Today’s is from Dr. Caroline Cicero, currently serving our students in Pepperdine’s Shanghai program with husband Craig Detweiler and their family.
Luke 23:33-34 Jesus is crucified
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. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. – Luke 23:33-34 (NIV)
Jesus prays to His Father that God will forgive those who demanded and carried out His crucifixion. The prayer in itself is powerful. Read it in context of the whole 23rd chapter, and the setting in which He prayed make His words stronger still. We usually think of the Lenten season and redemption of Easter in personal terms, but what about a more communal or corporate approach?
Earlier verses tell us it wasn’t evil political leaders–Pilate or Herod–that demanded Jesus be sentenced to death. It was the religious leaders, the holy ones. They tried to convince Herod and Pilate that Jesus posed a threat to the political stability in the land, but they were also threatened by his miracles and claims to be the Son of God. They figured getting rid of him would put an end to the threat of his teachings.
Instead, extraordinary results came out of Jesus’ death sentence!
It is a miracle that Jesus, with nails through His hands and feet, a slice across His front, thorn holes in His head, could love people so much that he would ask God to forgive them—to save them from their hatred, bullying, mob rule, and righteous, murderous hearts.
In addition, God performs a miracle in resurrecting His son Jesus three days after the crucifixion. However, even if you personally doubt or cannot believe that Jesus rose again on Easter, you have to admit that his death spawned a 2000+ year, worldwide social movement. And you have to consider some other miracles too, real life miracles of forgiveness that are even more shocking than Jesus’ powerful prayer.
Since January, I have been traveling throughout Asia. I have been humbled by amazing examples of the miracle of forgiveness in “non-Christian” countries. A visit to Hiroshima, Japan, where the US-made Atomic Bomb exploded in 1945, is a testimony. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were killed by the fiery bomb. The Peace Museum there recounts the horrors. However, nearly 70 years later, the Japanese offer peace, hope, and pleas for nations to disarm their nuclear weapons. That’s a miracle.
The spirit of the Vietnamese people, which harbors no grudges or ill will towards Americans, is a miracle too. The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, like the Hiroshima Peace Museum, is not the most comfortable place for Americans to visit. It documents the Vietnam War’s detrimental impacts on innocent civilians, due to bombing but also chemicals such as Agent Orange and napalm. However, my family and I found Vietnam to be one of the most hospitable and joyful places we have visited. The miracle of forgiveness lives there too.
Have you seen the personal or communal miracle of forgiveness in action this Lenten season? Can you usher it in?
Caroline Cicero teaches for the School of Public Policy. Her research focuses on the intersection of aging, urban planning, and public health. She is the Director of the Southern California Health and Aging Public Policy Institute and the Center for Visual Gerontology, and contributes regularly for The Huffington Post.