“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” -Luke 23:34
Here is the scene: Christ is on the cross, not for His sins, but for the sins of the guilty (Matthew 26:45; 1 Peter 3:18) in a demonstration of love (John 3:16) as the propitiation for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). The reason that He was being crucified was that He was accused by the guilty as the transgressor (Luke 22:37).
Before I share this short commentary, I want you all to remember that the biblical message was, and is, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).
Remember that forgiveness of sins is offered to those that repent for transgressing God’s moral law (Exodus 20), which then drives us to the foot of the cross to then be saved by Grace (Galatians 3:24; Acts 20:21).
Therefore, forgiveness is offered to those who are truly sorry for offending God; and we, as Christians, are to forgive those who offend us, even seven times over (Luke 17:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10-11). Again,forgiveness is to them that repent!
Let’s get to the topic.
When Christ was on the cross saying, “Forgive them for they know not what they do,” to whom was He speaking?
We can clearly see that those who had Him crucified (John 19:15), namely the self-righteous religious hypocrites, were guilty at every given turn in trying to incriminate the innocent Son of God (John 1:29) for crimes of which they were guilty.
In short, these wicked men knew exactly what they were doing.
Was it these to whom he was referring when He asked His Father to forgive those who didn’t know what they were doing? These are the ones that were responsible for giving the son of perdition “Judas” 30 pieces of silver to betray Him (Matthew 26:14-16).
Jesus said of Judas, “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24).
After all, there were others in that mob on the top of Golgotha that were not guilty for having Jesus crucified. Was Jesus speaking to them alone?
Look at how these religious hypocrites continued in their crimes toward the Son of God in their attempts of refusing his reign.
In John 11:48, after Jesus raised Lazarus out of the grave after 4 days being dead, the Pharisees had said:
“If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.”
What about the parable in Mark 12 where those who had been given the responsibility to bear fruit to the glory of God and had failed the test in rejecting the reign of the meek King of Glory?
Scripture tells us”
“those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.” -Mark 12:7
Have you taken the time to see in Scripture where Jesus continuously damned (Woe is exclamation of judgment on others) these devils in Matthew 23? He ended His condemnation with…
“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” -Matthew 23:33
Even when it came to the steps leading up to where they had Jesus delivered up to the governor, even Pilate knew of what the Pharisees were guilty.
“for envy they had delivered him.” -Matthew 27:18
Again, does this sound like those that the Lord was speaking to when praying for forgiveness?
Let’s read the whole of Jesus on the cross in scriptural context:
“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.” And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar. And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.” -Luke 23:33-37
Does this sound like those that the Lord was speaking to when praying for forgiveness?
Did they know what they were doing when crucifying Christ? Scripture tells us:
“But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.” -Luke 23:21
“They even went so far as to say His blood be on us and on our children.” -Matthew 27:25
The madness was unprecedented.
Did these criminals know what it was that they were bringing upon themselves. No, they did not.
Adam Clarke’s commentary on the subject brings in a proper balance.
They know not what they do – If ignorance does not excuse a crime, it at least diminishes the atrocity of it.
However, these persons well knew that they were crucifying an innocent man; but they did not know that, by this act of theirs, they were bringing down on themselves and on their country the heaviest judgments of God.
In the prayer, Father, forgive them! that word of prophecy was fulfilled, He made intercession for the transgressors, Isaiah 53:12.
In conclusion: Friends, the door is not shut for the vilest of sinners because that is why Christ came into the world (1 Timothy 1:15). He is a great Savior! The Lord said that He “will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion,” but also remember that He warned of the consequences of those that fail to repent before God and continue on in their sins (John 8:24). In the end, they brought judgment upon themselves and were cast into the fire that will never be quenched (Mark 9:48).
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