EASTER OCTAVE, DAY FIVE (Maundy Thursday): “Father, Forgive Them”

Apr 18, 2019 by

by Stephen Noll, Contending Anglican:

“Father, forgive them, for they know now what they do.”

The Apostles’ Creed concludes with a brief catalogue of the doctrines of the faith: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” Coming as it does after the Holy Spirit, the Church and the Communion of Saints, it seems likely that the “forgiveness of sins” is related to the sacraments of baptism and eucharist.

Forgiveness of sins has been partnered with repentance and baptism from the days of John the Baptist. On Easter night, the Risen Lord breathed on the apostles and promised: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:22b-23). Soon thereafter, Peter preached on Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Likewise, Jesus’ words of institution at the Last Supper – “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28) – establish the basis for the New Covenant: the shed blood of the Lamb.

It is no accident, then, that “Father, forgive them” is the first Word from the Cross. From that simple petition all the Work of Christ and His benefits follow.

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