Subject: Jesus Christ: The Secret of God’s Forgiveness of Your Sins
John 13:8 “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
We in the west look at the word ‘forgive’ quite simply, as someone saying to us that they are sorry for something they did, and we accept their apology.
But Max Lucado, in his book ‘A Gentle Thunder’, gives us a much deeper understanding of God’s forgiveness by the illustration of Christ’s servant act of physically washing the disciples’ feet. He explains it as a picture of His servant act of washing away my sins – the act of forgiving me for my sins because I simply allow Him to be who He is: a God willing to cleanse me out of His love for me.
Listen to Lucado’s explanation: “I don’t understand how God can be so kind to us, but He is. He kneels before us, takes our feet in His hands, and washes them. That’s us being cleansed, not from our dirt, but from our sins. And the cleansing is not just a gesture; it is a necessity. Listen to what Jesus said: “If I don’t wash your feet, you have no part with Me. Jesus did not say, ‘If you don’t wash your feet.’ Why not? Because we cannot. We cannot cleanse our own filth. We cannot remove our own sin. Our feet must be in His hands. Don’t miss the meaning here. To place our feet in the basin of Jesus is to place the filthiest parts of our lives into His hands.”
But we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of God’s forgiveness. There are four unique New Testament words that magnify the heart of Jesus Christ as One who wants to forgive you. The depth of each of these is so rich, we need to take a moment and appreciate the extent to which He extends His kindness to us.
The first word for ‘forgive’ is “aphiēmi”, which means “to send away or cancel”. It is mainly used in
forgiving debts and sins, and has two elements: the first is to release from, and completely cancel, the punishment due the sin. The second element is to then to remove the cause of the sin (the sin itself is never again brought up). It’s the word used in Matthew 9:2-8, when Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic lowered through the roof of the house.
The second word for ‘forgive’ is “charizomai” which means to “bestow unconditional favor by forgiveness”. The offender has no obligation to do anything to gain that offer of forgiveness. It’s the word used in Luke 7:39-47, when Jesus forgives the sins of the prostitute who barges into Simon’s house and anoints Christ’s feet with oil.
The third word for ‘forgive’ is remission, or “aphesis”, which means to dismiss or release, to “pass by or over” sin. It’s the word used in Matthew 26:27-28, when Jesus explains that it is His shed blood that provides forgiveness for sin by passing over our sin by His payment for it.
And finally, the fourth word for ‘forgive’ is atonement, or “hilasmos”, which means to provide a covering for sin. It’s the word Paul used in Romans 4:6-8, where he explains the blessedness of a man who has his sins forgiven by being covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Now, let’s hear again from Max Lucado, as he explains the secret behind how to apply God’s free offer of forgiveness to your life: “We tend to be proud like Peter and resist. ‘I’m not that dirty, Jesus. Just sprinkle a few drops on me and I’ll be fine.’ What a lie! ‘If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth of God is not in us.’ (1John 1:8). We will never be cleansed until we confess we are dirty. We will never be pure until we admit we are filthy. And we will never be able to wash the feet of those who have hurt us until we allow Jesus, the One we have hurt, to wash ours. That’s the secret of forgiveness. You will never forgive anyone more than God has already forgiven you. Only by letting Him wash your feet can you have strength to wash those of another.”
The secret to forgiveness? Ask Christ personally to forgive you, and trust Him that He can, as your Savior and Lord. He is in the business of forgiving.