Jesus forgiving

Today, a video was brought to my attention where Seth Dahl speaks about Jesus asking him for forgiveness. As per usual, when I see an outrageous headline on Facebook, I figured that there has to be more to the story than just what the thumbnail seems to be saying. Intrigued, though, I clicked through.

Dahl speaks about how he was hurt by a pastor of a church. He doesn’t go into details, but then he speaks about a vision that he had while lying on the floor of the chapel that they’re currently in.

Jesus picks me up and holds me so close that I can’t see anything. And he holds me so close. And Jesus starts to weep, and he says, “Please forgive me. Please forgive me.”

I said, “What are you talking about? Please forgive you?”

He said, “When that pastor hurt you, it’s as if I hurt you, cause he’s a member of my body. Please forgive me.”

Quick. Everyone suck in a breath.

Before we start erecting a stake, though, and call for torches. I wanted to check something that’s always important, especially on the Internet. Context.

So I signed up to Bethel.TV and found the whole sermon, and listened to it. It’s called An Unexpected Route to Joy, and in it Dahl is speaking about the role that sadness has in giving us joy. He spends about half the sermon retelling the whole story of the movie Inside Out, but the point he’s making, is that we can’t experience joy while we’re holding on to pain.

Then, right at the end, he starts telling the story of how he was really hurt by the words a pastor used against him some time in his life, and how he’d had this vision of Jesus picking him up and asking him for forgiveness.

Now I’m not here to make any judgment over the validity or honesty of Dahl’s vision. What I want to do is discuss forgiveness.

Forgiveness: Stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offence, flaw or mistake. ~ Oxford Dictionary of English

Why do we forgive?

jesus forgiving

Question: Why does Jesus tell us to forgive those around us?

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. ~ Matthew 6:14-15

I want to make something clear, because it seems to get confused in a lot of our minds – including, for a long time, my own. When you forgive someone, it’s got nothing to do with them. Forgiveness isn’t a transaction. It’s not something that you give to someone because they apologise. Forgiveness is a gift.

Forgiveness is about you

Forgiveness is also about the state of your heart, not the person who hurt you.

That dictionary definition speaks a lot. Forgiveness is where we stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone because they hurt us. Forgiveness isn’t saying that what someone did was right; it’s not even about absolving them from the consequences of their actions. Forgiveness is about releasing the negativity in your own heart, so that you can go on living without letting that hurt, pain and sadness control and define you.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8

Do you realize that Jesus had already forgiven you, even before you asked him to? Jesus wasn’t waiting for you to say the sinner’s prayer before he would forgive you; he was waiting for you to go through that process of accepting his forgiveness. Whatever that moment was for you, when Jesus came into your life, it wasn’t about you earning or deserving God’s forgiveness. That was already set in place. That moment was about your heart being opened.

Forgiveness opens the door to joy

jesus forgiving

Jesus doesn’t ask us to forgive others for their benefit, he asks us to forgive others so that our heart can be pure, so that we can live a joy-filled life that isn’t held back by hurt and unforgiveness.

But Forgiving Jesus?

I too, like Seth Dahl, have had experiences where a church pastor has said some really hurtful things to me, and I can testify to the idea of holding that resentment not only against the person, but, because of their position in the Church, holding it against God as well.

It’s easy, from our human point of view, to hold resentment against God, especially when it comes down to hurts committed by leaders of the church. I know more than my share of people who have turned their backs on God because of the actions of people, and it breaks my heart.

So when I hear Seth Dahl saying that Jesus said, “Please forgive me,” I don’t hear Jesus asking for forgiveness because Jesus committed a hurtful act and needs forgiveness. Jesus doesn’t need forgiveness. Jesus didn’t commit that hurtful act or say those harmful words. He has not sinned, obviously.

What I see Jesus saying, when he says, “Please forgive me,” is, “Please stop feeling angry and resentful toward me for the perceived offence in your heart.” I see Jesus cradling this young man in his arms, telling him to forgive, because that hurt is something that he needs to let go of.

jesus forgiving

Jesus doesn’t need our forgiveness, but if we have perceived hurts that we’re holding against him, then we need to forgive. We need to release any resentment, any hurt, any anger that we’re feeling, not because Jesus needs it, but because we do.

It’s only in forgiveness that we can truly begin to experience Christ’s joy.

Q. Did Jesus forgive Judas, or was he damned to hell?

There’s no question in my mind that Jesus forgave Judas.  On the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  This applied to everyone who was responsible for his crucifixion—not just the squad of Roman soldiers who actually put him on the cross, but also the crowds who shouted “Crucify him!”, the religious and political leaders who conspired against him, and yes, even Judas who betrayed him. Indeed, Jesus’ words also apply to all of us, whose sins put him on the cross.

The real question is whether Judas accepted the forgiveness of Jesus and so was saved.  I’d like to argue that he might have been.  I realize this is not the majority view among Christians. (In the Inferno, for example, Dante put Judas in the very mouth of Satan, in the lowest circle of hell!)  But hear me out.

The Bible tells us that once Jesus had been condemned to death, “When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’” This, to me, sounds like genuine repentance.  There is open and specific confession of sin, and there is restitution—what John the Baptist once called “fruit worthy of repentance.”  If Judas had not been genuinely repentant, I don’t think he would have returned the money he got for betraying Jesus. But apparently Judas had not expected that the Jewish leaders would attempt, successfully in the end, to have Jesus put to death. He had only thought he was delivering him to arrest and detention. When he saw where his actions had led, he repented.

This, at least is the reading of many English translations—that Judas “repented.” (The KJV, ASV, RSV, NRSV, Good News Translation, and several others have this reading.)  But other English Bibles suggest instead that while Judas “was seized with remorse” (NIV) or “changed his mind” (ESV), he didn’t actually repent, he just felt regret.

The Greek term is metamelomai, and it does seem to mean something like “regret” or “change one’s mind” when it is used in 2 Corinthians (“if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it”) and Hebrews (“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind”).  However, it clearly means “repent” when it is used a little earlier in the gospel of Matthew. Shortly before the passage about Judas, Matthew quotes Jesus as telling the chief priests and elders, “John came to you to show you the way of righteousness,” but “you did not repent and believe him.”  (This is the NIV’s translation of the term there.)  So a good case can be made that Judas did repent of his sin of betraying Jesus, that he confessed it, and that he sought to make what restitution he could.

Unfortunately, the chief priests and elders, whose appointed role was to help shepherd repentant sinners like him back into the fold, turned him away, saying, “So what? That’s your problem.” In order to accept Judas’s confession, they would have had to admit that it was just as wrong for them to have conspired to put Jesus to death, but their pride and vested interests did not allow them to do this. When Judas did not receive the spiritual counsel and restoration that he was seeking and desperately needed, in despair he went out and hanged himself.  But we should be very careful not to conclude that his suicide proves he went to hell in the end.  People tragically commit suicide when they lose all hope–not when they lose all faith.

And so I believe there is enough in the gospel narratives about Judas to conclude that he may have been a sincerely repentant sinner whom the religious leaders of his day unfortunately failed.  But God knows what was ultimately in his heart, and He will judge him on that basis.  One vital lesson for us is never to become so compromised by sin and pride ourselves that we cannot show the way to someone who, whether genuinely repentant or merely remorseful to begin with, might be led back to God through wise and compassionate counsel.

Some may read this post and wonder, “But didn’t Jesus and the apostles say it was predicted in Scripture that Judas would betray Jesus and be lost? Doesn’t that settle the question?”  I’ll take up that concern in my next post. jesus forgiving

Rembrandt, Judas Returning the Thirty Silver Pieces

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School. View all posts by Christopher R Smith

LUKE 7:36-50



Depending on their heart condition, people respond differently to what Jesus says and does. That becomes clear at a house in Galilee. A Pharisee named Simon invites Jesus to a meal, perhaps to get a closer look at the one performing such remarkable works. Likely viewing this as an opportunity to minister to those present, Jesus accepts, even as he has on other occasions accepted invitations to eat with tax collectors and sinners.

However, Jesus does not receive the cordial attention usually given to guests. On dusty roads in Palestine, sandal-clad feet become hot and dirty, so it is a customary act of hospitality to wash a guest’s feet with cool water. That is not done for Jesus. Neither does he receive a welcoming kiss, as is common. Another custom is to pour some oil on a guest’s hair out of kindness and hospitality. This too is not done for Jesus. So how welcome is he really?

The meal begins, with the guests reclining at the table. As they eat, a woman quietly enters the room uninvited. She is “known in the city to be a sinner.” (Luke 7:37) All imperfect humans are sinners, yet this woman seems to be living an immoral life, perhaps as a prostitute. She may have heard Jesus’ teachings, including his invitation for ‘all those who are loaded down to come to him for refreshment.’ (Matthew 11:28, 29) Apparently moved by Jesus’ words and deeds, she has now sought him out.

She comes up behind Jesus at the table and kneels at his feet. Tears fall from her eyes onto his feet, and she wipes them with her hair. She tenderly kisses his feet and pours on them some fragrant oil that she has brought. Simon watches with disapproval, saying to himself: “If this man were really a prophet, he would know who and what kind of woman it is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”​—Luke 7:39.

Perceiving Simon’s thinking, Jesus says: “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He replies: “Teacher, say it!” Jesus continues: “Two men were debtors to a certain lender; the one was in debt for 500 denarii, but the other for 50. When they did not have anything to pay him back with, he freely forgave them both. Therefore, which one of them will love him more?” Perhaps with an air of indifference, Simon answers: “I suppose it is the one whom he forgave more.”​—Luke 7:40-43.

Jesus agrees. Then looking at the woman, he says to Simon: “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet. But this woman wet my feet with her tears and wiped them off with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but this woman, from the hour that I came in, did not stop tenderly kissing my feet. You did not pour oil on my head, but this woman poured perfumed oil on my feet.” Jesus could see that this woman was giving evidence of heartfelt repentance for her immoral life. So he concludes: “I tell you, her sins, many though they are, are forgiven, because she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.”​—Luke 7:44-47.

Jesus is not excusing immorality. Rather, he is manifesting compassionate understanding of people who commit serious sins but who then show that they are sorry and turn to Christ for relief. And what relief this woman feels when Jesus says: “Your sins are forgiven. . . . Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”​—Luke 7:48, 50.

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