Forgive - a free Lent devotion
By Jeff Cloeter
In a family with children, two words often echo across the house: “Not me!”
“Who left their dirty clothes in the bathroom?” A chorus of voices replies, “Not me!”
“Who tracked mud through the house with size 8 sneakers?” “Not me!”
“Who emptied the milk carton and put it back in the refrigerator?” “Not me!”
“Who dropped these French fries in the back seat of the van? They’re fossils.” “Not me!”
This is a universal syndrome, one that is not limited to families with children. Adults say “Not me” as well, only in more subtle or sophisticated ways. We have an aversion to accepting blame and responsibility. We regularly cover up, hide, blame others, fake, and deny. “Not me” has a long heritage in human history, one going all the way back to the first man and woman.
God walked through the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve disobeyed him. The man said, “The woman made me do it.” The woman said, “The serpent made me do it.” It was the world’s first case of “Not me.”
At Jesus’ passion, a parade of people denied their guilt. The Chief Priests wanted Jesus punished and disposed of. But they didn’t want blood on their hands, so they passed Jesus’ case on to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. They said, “Jesus is disturbing the peace. It’s not us. He’s to blame!” A classic case of “Not me.”
On the night Jesus was arrested, someone said to Peter, “You know the man from Nazareth, don’t you? You were with him, one of his disciples!” Peter denied it, saying, “I don’t know the man.” “Not me.”
Pontius Pilate was reluctant to kill Jesus, knowing he was innocent. But rather than risk a riot, and to please the religious leaders, he allowed the execution. He took a bowl of water, dipped his hands in it, and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” “Not me.”
We must admit that we all have joined the chorus, “Not me.” The truth about our guilt is painful. If I’m at fault, then I have to bear the consequences of my fault. And that hurts. Guilt and shame burden our hearts, so we say, “Not me.” But Good Friday is about truth, honesty, and being real. You can’t look at the cross and say, “Not me.” Standing before our Lord, there is no hiding, no passing blame, no self-righteousness, no faking, no cover-up.
The cross compels us to say, “It’s me.” I ignored someone I love. It’s me. I spoke those nasty words. It’s me. I broke my promise. I lied. I started the fight. I acted like a self-righteous hypocrite. I looked at what I shouldn’t have. I loved my job and money more than God and people. I have avoided God and his will. I have been stuck in selfish ways. It’s me.
As he died a very public, very painful death, our Lord Jesus said something remarkable to his heavenly Father about his murderers: “Father, forgive them,” Jesus prayed, “for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ESV
). Jesus did not say, “Damn them.” He said, “Forgive them.” Jesus did didn’t say, “Not me.” Instead he said, “It’s me. I’ll take the blame. I’ll take the hit. I’ll bear the fault and pay for the offense. Forgive them.”
There’s a leadership saying that goes like this: “True leadership is taking responsibility for things that aren’t your fault.” Jesus took full responsibility when it was your fault. Jesus said, “It’s me,” when you said, “Not me.” Jesus took the blame when you denied it. At the cross, Jesus said, “It’s me. Put it on my back.”
The cross convicts you today. It’s compels you to say, “It’s me.” No more covering up or passing blame. It’s your sin. It’s your mess. It’s your fault. We all must look at the cross and say, “It’s me.” What sins must you confess this day? What failings have you been hiding? What mistakes must you take ownership of?
But at the same time, we must hear Jesus say, “It’s me. I stand in your place, assuming the punishment for your sins.” Jesus bears the sins of the whole world on his back. And there’s even enough room on his back for you. For your sin, fault, and offense. Jesus said, “It’s me” so he could say to you, “You’re free.” Consider the freedom from guilt and shame Jesus graciously won for you at the cross. Consider the height and depth, the length and breadth of God’s love, love that would take your guilt upon himself.
Editor’s note: Today’s devotion comes from the sermon outlines that accompany CTA’s new Easter preparation theme, It Is Finished. Use these downloadable sermons and the included discussion questions to enhance your worship and Bible time in the weeks leading up to Easter!
You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2020 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.