And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Surely the soldiers responsible for carrying out the Crucifixion of Jesus that day had never heard words like these before. They were probably accustomed to hearing curse words, protests of innocence and screams of agony but not words like these. Just after the nails had been placed in His hands and feet and as the Cross is placed in the ground, Jesus finally speaks.
Look at His words. “Jesus said” – that’s just another way of saying “the Savior said” or “the Word spoke” (Matt. 1:21- 25; John 1:1-18). This deals with the matter of Identity. The next word is “Father” and it deals with the matter of Relationship. It has to do with the unique and wondrous relationship of the Son and the Father (John 10:30). “Forgive them” has to do with the Plea. The One Who hangs on that Cross is the One whose sacrifice makes forgiveness possible (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:20). The last part of the Lord’s statement deals with the Reason – “they know not what they do.” Ignorance of the Person, will and ways of God had created a barrier between God and man. It was an insurmountable problem – that is, for man. Thankfully God did something greater that we ever could imagine. He sent Jesus to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). What does this scene and what do these words really mean?
It means that our sin is greater than we ever imagined. Our sin was so ugly, hideous and damning that it took the son of God coming to earth to provide the sacrifice necessary for our cleansing. Jesus is not praying for our pardon apart from repentance or our pardon apart from His sacrifice.
It means that God’s grace is greater than we ever imagined. Although we were guilty and ill-deserving, God shows His love, kindness and mercy in Jesus (Eph 2:4-7; Rom. 5:15-21). If we desire forgiveness, we must appropriately respond to Him.
It means that our need to forgive and to pray for others is greater than we ever imagined. We cannot as God’s people really appreciate what Jesus is saying and doing at the Cross by harboring bitterness, resentment and lacking any desire at all to forgive and pray for others who wrong us (Luke 6:27-28; Eph. 4:32).
It means that our need to trust God in times of trial is greater than we ever imagined. Jesus immediately went to the Father in prayer. In fact, He had invested considerable time with the Father in prayer before the crisis actually came (Luke 22:29-46). Jesus concludes His life with prayer too (Luke 23:46). How about us? If the Son of God relied on His Father through prayer during such times, shouldn’t we?
It means that the One on that Cross is greater than we ever imagined. It was God in the flesh hanging from the Cross, the King of kings and the Lord of lords (1 Tim. 3:16; Rev. 19:16). It was the long-awaited Messiah. It was the suffering servant of the Lord (Luke 24:26-27; Isaiah 53). It is Jesus who makes possible a salvation and deliverance greater than we ever could have imagined.