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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Five - The Fourth Initiation - The Crucifixion
IV.
  1. "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (St. Luke, XXIII, 34.)
  2. "To day thou shalt be with me in paradise." (St. Luke XXIII, 43.)
  3. "Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother!" (St. John, XIX, 26.)
  4. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (St. Matt., XXVII, 46.) [214]
  5. "I thirst." (St. John, XIX, 28.)
  6. "It is finished." (St. John, XIX, 30.)
  7. "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." (St. Luke, XXIII, 46.)

The thought of the kingdom colored all that He said upon the Cross. The Word of Power which emanated from the Cross was spoken by Jesus Christ Himself and not, this time, by the Father. Christ spoke a sevenfold word, and in that word summed up for us the Word that inaugurated the kingdom of God. Each of His utterances had relation to that kingdom, and not the usual small, individual or selfish relation which we have so often ascribed to them. What were those seven words? Let us consider them, realizing while doing so that the causes which gave rise to them produced the manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth.

In every case the seven words have been interpreted as having either an individual application in connection with the person to whom they were supposedly spoken, or as having a personal significance to Christ Himself. We have always read the Bible in this manner, with the personal significance in our minds. But these words of Christ are of too great importance to be thus interpreted. They have a meaning far wider than those usually given. The wonder of all He said (as it is the wonder of all the world scriptures) is that the words are capable of various meanings. The time has come when the meaning that Christ gave should be more generally understood by us in the light of the kingdom of God, and with a wider connotation than the individual one. His words were Words of Power, evoking and invoking, potent and dynamic.

One of the first things which emerge in one's consciousness as one studies the first word from the Cross was the fact that Jesus requested His Father to forgive the people who crucified Him; He evidently, then, did not regard His death upon the Cross as adequate to that need. There was [215] no remission of sins through the shedding of blood; but there was the need to ask God's pardon for the sin committed. The two facts which come to the fore in this word are the Fatherhood of God, and the fact that ignorance, if productive of wrongdoing, does not make a man guilty and therefore punishable. Sin and ignorance are frequently synonymous terms, but the sin is recognized as such by those who know and who are not ignorant. Where there is ignorance there is no sin. In this word from the Cross Christ tells us two things:

  1. That God is our Father, and that we approach Him through Christ. It is the inner hidden man of the heart, the unrealized Christ who can approach the Father. Christ had earned this right because of His proven divinity and because He had passed through the third initiation, the Transfiguration; when we too are transfigured (for only the transfigured Christ can be crucified) then we too can invoke the Father and call on the spirit, which is God, the life of all forms, to adjust relationships, and to bring about that forgiveness which is the very essence of life itself.
  2. That forgiveness is the result of life. This is a hard truth for the Western believer to accept. He is so used to resting back upon the activity of the Christ in the distant past. Forgiveness is, however, a result of living processes which bring adjustment, cause restitution, and produce that attitude wherein a man is no longer ignorant and therefore not in need of forgiveness. Life and experience do this for us, and nothing can arrest the process. It is not a theological belief that puts us right with God, but an attitude to life and an attitude to the Christ dwelling in the human heart. We learn through pain and suffering (that is, through experience) not to sin. We pay the price of our sins and mistakes, and cease to make them. We arrive eventually at the point, where we no longer make our earlier errors or commit our former sins. For we suffer and agonize, and learn that sin brings retribution and causes suffering. But suffering [216] has its uses, as Christ knew. In His Person He was not only the historical Jesus Whom we know and love, but He was also the symbol to us of the cosmic Christ, God suffering through the sufferings of His created beings.

Justice can be forgiveness when the facts of the case are rightly understood, and in this demand of the crucified Savior we have the recognition of the Law of justice, and not that of Retribution, in an act at which the whole world stands aghast. This work of forgiveness is the agelong work of the soul in matter or form. The Oriental believer calls this karma. The Western believer talks of the Law of Cause and Effect. Both, however, are dealing with the working out by a man of his soul's salvation, and the constant paying of the price which the ignorant pay for mistakes made and so-called sins committed. A man who deliberately sins against light and knowledge is rare. Most "sinners" are simply ignorant. "They know not what they do."

Then Christ turned to a sinner, to a man who had been convicted of wrong doing in the eyes of the world - and who himself recognized the correctness of the judgment and of his punishment. He stated that he received the due reward of his sins, but at the same time there was something in the quality of Jesus which arrested his attention and forced from him the admission that this third Malefactor had "done nothing amiss." The factor which accorded him admission into paradise was a two-fold one. He recognized the divinity of Christ. "Lord," he said. And he also had a realization of what Christ's mission was - to found a kingdom. "Remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." The significance of his words is eternal and universal, for the man who recognizes divinity, and who at the same time is sensible of the kingdom, is ready to take advantage of the words, "To day, thou shalt be with me in paradise."

In the first word from the Cross, Jesus considered the ignorance and the feebleness of man. He was as helpless as a little child, and in His words He testified to the reality of the first initiation and to the time when He was a "babe in [217] Christ." The parallels between the two episodes are significant. The ignorance, helplessness and consequent maladjustment of human beings evoked from Jesus the demand that forgiveness be accorded. But when life experience has played its part, we have again the "babe in Christ," ignorant of the laws of the spiritual kingdom, yet released from the darkness and ignorance of the human kingdom.

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