Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I don’t think I will ever forget the destruction of the two buildings in New York, September 11, 2001.
I was at work that morning and like so many others, watched in horror at the destruction and death on that morning. The twin towers collapsed, as you know, with the enormous loss of life. It was a horrible moment in history.
I was intrigued to learn that in 2009, American authorities released the details of phone messages that came from those people who were trapped in the twin towers, as well as from passengers caught on planes. They had been taken hostage hours earlier.
What Would You Say?
One worker named Melissa Hughes on floor 101 rang Sean, “I just wanted to let you know I love you and I’m stuck in this building…there’s lots of smoke”.
Mark Bingham was 31 and a passenger on Flight 93. He rang his mother and told her that he loved her.
Jim Gartenberg, a real-estate broker, aged 35 was on the 86th floor. He didn’t make it out alive. He phoned his wife and said, “I love you. You’re my best friend. You have to take care of everybody for me”.
You see, no-one called to get even or complain. They called to express love and gratitude. It leads to an intriguing question: if you only had one conversation left for you, who would it be with, and what would you say? My guess is you would want to express your love to a family member or close friend.
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What Jesus Said
I’m thinking also of Jesus on the cross. He did say seven things—his last words, and among them are the inspiring words: “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing”. It was his final prayer in Luke 23:34.
What is Jesus saying? In his last hour, Jesus is saying a prayer, a request to God Almighty. It is remarkable, however, that Jesus isn’t asking for himself! I would be terrified and overwhelmed, trying desperately to retain my composure. My prayer would probably be God help me!—if I could utter any sounds at all.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
But Jesus’ prayer is one of complete unselfishness. Jesus’ first saying on the cross was a prayer. He was going through the hardest and most painful thing he’s ever had to endure. Yet he was praying. What’s even more impressive is what he was praying for, our forgiveness. We could understand if he was praying, Father, they nailed me to a piece of wood. I came to save them and now they’re trying to kill me! Father, strike them dead and let’s start all over.
That would be understandable, but very unlike Jesus. Or maybe, Father, I know I have to endure the cross for the salvation of your people, but it’s so difficult and painful, so please help me to endure it. That would be a really understandable prayer. But he doesn’t pray that either.
He is concerned for the people who are responsible for crucifying him and is asking God to forgive them. Instead of thinking of himself and his own needs, he is thinking of those whose souls are in much greater peril than his own. The first thing I learn from this word is love. At his last extremity, Jesus loves.
(To be continued in The Last Conversation – Part 2)