The Seven Words from the Savior on the Cross: Forgiveness 4

Luke 23:34. A Prayer of Forgiveness in the Midst of the Pain.

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."  Luke 23:34.

Within Jesus’ statement, we initially see that forgiveness is from God. “And Jesus said, Father,” (Luke 23:34a ESV). Jesus actively prayed. Jesus kept on praying. Jesus actively and continually prayed even in light of His circumstances.  

It was Jesus who invoked the name of His Father. The word for Father, from which we derive the word patriarch, means one who nourishes, provides, and protects. It means one who can be totally trusted. It means one who forgives. Throughout the Scriptures, God is referred to as one who alone can forgive sins and who alone can be trusted.

We see that forgiveness is not only from God, but it is also by God’s grace. “Forgive them” (Luke 23:34b ESV).  The word “forgive” is a strongly worded statement. It is a command. Jesus would have the Father pardon and bring atonement to these individuals who are crucifying Him. Jesus would have the Father blot out completely their transgressions.

Finally, forgiveness is by God’s grace through the intercession of the Son. “…for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34d ESV). “For” means because or showing cause or the reason something is done. “They know not” means to understand and to perceive. The usage of the absolute negative “not” indicates that Jesus affirms that these to whom he refers truly do not understand the implications of their actions.

“They know not what they do.” “What” refers to the behavior and action of the crucifiers. They do not understand what they are accomplishing. They have no cognizance or knowledge of their actions.

Dr. William Hendrickson comments, “It was true that the soldiers certainly did not know. But even the members of the Sanhedrin, though they must have known that what they were doing was wicked did not comprehend the extent of that wickedness” (Hendrickson 1028). What they also did not know is that God the Father used them to fulfill His Word and Will.

“Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12 ESV).

“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12 ESV).

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1Timothy 2:5-6 ESV).

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:21-25 ESV)

Are you in need of God’s forgiveness? Who isn’t? But what kind of forgiveness are you in need of? Are you a sinner in need of a Savior? Are you a wayward child of God, no matter the age, in need of the Father’s cleansing and subsequent restoration of intimate fellowship with Him? Are you guilt ridden and in need of knowing that God can wipe the slate clean as it were, even in the midst of ongoing circumstances that won’t immediately, if ever, go away?

God can, and does, forgive.