Small Voice Calling > The Call > Forgive

“They too have their cross to bear.”

In his song ‘Father Forgive Them’, Ralph McTell touches the very heart of the Bible’s story. Jesus, naked and tortured, bereft of all human dignity, looks down from his execution stake and forgives his killers. This moment provides a vantage point from which the whole of Scripture may be interpreted:

The Bible is an enormous and often difficult book. The Bible is an inspired and sacred text that has to be interpreted, and the interpretive options are myriad. We need to find a way to center our reading of Scripture — we need to find the interpretive center and read the rest of Scripture from that vantage point. Where do I center my reading of Scripture? In the New Testament. In the Gospels. In the words of Jesus. At the cross. My interpretive center of the Bible is right here:

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

There is nothing more central to my understanding of God than this: God is like Jesus. God has always been like Jesus. There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus. We have not always known what God is like. But now we do.”

(Brian Zahnd on Word of Life Church video podcast Unvarnished Jesus, Day 35 – Luke 23: 33 – 3810th Station of the Cross: Jesus is crucified.)

What is God like? God is like Jesus, who, as St Paul understood years later, “Though he was God, did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11)

On the cross, Jesus shows us what God is like by refusing to bow to the crowd’s mocking taunts to save himself, preferring instead to pray to his Father for them…

In your love please let them share

From ‘Father Forgive Them’ by Ralph McTell
Full lyrics in ‘Time’s Poems’, p 310