The Seven Words from the Savior on the Cross: Forgiveness 3
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.
Where forgiveness is obtained it is something to be received with gratitude and regarded with awe and wonder. Sin merits punishment. Pardon is astounding grace. ‘There is forgiveness with thee, ’says the Psalmist, and then (perhaps surprisingly to us) he adds, ‘that thou may be feared’ (Ps. 130:4).
Dr. William Hendrickson writes that Jesus must have meant, ‘Father hold back your wrath; do not immediately pour out the full measure of your fury.”
Who are the immediate ones for which Jesus strongly asks the Father to forgive? Jesus identifies these as “them.” Who are the “them?” Those who led Him away. It would also include those who tortured Him. Those who tried Him. Those who mocked Him. Those who scorned and spit upon Him. Those who beat Him. Those who rejected Him. These are they who not excusable but are forgivable. They are us!
“Be not silent, O God of my praise! For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer. So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. (Psalm 109:1-5 ESV)
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:22-23 ESV)
“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, (Acts 3:17-19 ESV)
“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, (Acts 13:26-30 ESV)
“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:6-8 ESV)
“…though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:13-14 ESV).