“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34
Man’s worst moment had arrived. Roman spikes had been driven through the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, pinning Him to terrible timbers. A naked spectacle hung before human eyes that ranged from the raging to the reverent, the Lamb of God was being slain. All around our Lord were the hot, vicious words which penetrated as deeply as the thorns and nails that drew His blood. Two thieves who hung nearby railed upon Him. Religious leaders with curled lips spat venom in His direction while blind, pagan soldiers laughed in their ignorance as they prepared to roll dice for His clothing. It was all in a day’s work for them, and they had no comprehension of what they were doing. The cup of wrath had been poured and it would be consumed by the Savior. The wage of sin was revealed to be death – death in a manner like never before experienced on earth. God was dying for man.
It is in the context of unspeakable suffering that the Lord Jesus Christ continues His ministry for those He came to save. As the blood poured out from Him, so did His ministry as our Great High Priest. He not only lives to make intercession for us, He did so in the hours of His death, never capitulating in His commitment of prayer that characterized His earthly life. What He saw from His suspended view, above earth and below the heavens, were men who operated in ignorance concerning the enormity of what they were doing. They comprehended their actions, but were pathetically blind to the ensuing consequences. The religious leaders should have known better, but in their minds they were killing a trouble-making maverick – a heretic and blasphemer – who dishonored the traditions of their fathers and meddled with their system of faith. The rabble among the crowd were more foolish than they were vicious; these were swept up in the passion of the mob and cried aloud for His death as their minds denied them the ability to recall all that Christ had done for them. The soldiers were nothing more than blind dullards who earned their money by executing criminals. This one named Jesus was little more than a beaten and bloodied man who had obviously crossed the line with Rome and had to pay the price. They pounded in the spikes with little more than a grunt and a growl, waiting to clock out for the day to go home and embrace their wives and children. Jesus Christ looked upon all of these and allowed for the moment to be shrouded in mercy rather than vengeance. He prayed for their forgiveness.
It should be no wonder that the Lord Jesus spoke this statement first upon the cross. He had taught those who pursued Him to pray for their enemies, and now He reveals that this had been no spiritual quip. He had washed the feet of Judas, tolerated the intentions of the Pharisees and poured oil and wine into the deep wounds of notorious sinners. His whole ministry had been shaped for this hour and there was not a trace of thought that He would draw back now. This was the hour for which the incarnation had been provided. Each spotless day before the eyes of His Father had been lived so that this hour’s sacrifice would be sufficient. It was no mere formality that Christ endured the cross, despising the shame…there was great joy set before Him, and a portion of that joy was tethered to His desire to provide for forgiveness on behalf of those who would believe. What He spoke on the cross echoes for all of eternity in the recesses of the souls of the redeemed – forgive them, forgive them, forgive them. It cannot even be said of us that we have sinned in ignorance, for we fully know what we do when we do it. We are not as these in Luke 23 who failed to comprehend the magnitude of their transgressions. Our sins and consequent guilt are heightened because we are an informed people. We are enlightened to the depths of our departure from God, yet we transgress still the same. Even if we were ignorant, we could never claim to be innocent. The whole of humanity has populated the abyss of sin, and we require Heaven’s royal reach of grace to bring us forth alive. The fingers of forgiveness secure us as the arm of omnipotence lifts us upward, until the threat is left far below and cannot touch us any further. His eyes as a flame of fire look upon us and declare our comprehensive forgiveness to last for eternity. He justifies us and frees us. Jesus Christ was spiked so that we might be saved. Jesus Christ was pierced in order that you might be pardoned. Jesus Christ died that I would be delivered.
“Father, forgive them…” is the first cry from Calvary, and I have heard it deep within my own soul. His mercy and grace have refashioned me from pitiful ignorance to positional innocence. It is not that I have never had the guilt…it is that my record has been expunged by the Judge himself. There is nobody higher than He who can bring lasting charges. Through the blood of Jesus Christ the payment has been granted and the prisoner is now a son. This is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and it has not diminished in its ability to save. I’m going to abide in this joyful thought because there is not another place which brings greater rest to our souls. Forgiven! Forgiven! Forgiven!
In this is all my rest.