Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. – Luke 23:34.
Two malefactors were also led away with Jesus to be executed. And they brought Jesus to a place called “Calvary,” in Hebrew, “Golgotha,” which, being interpreted, is, “The Place of a Skull.” That was the place of execution, a hill near Jerusalem.
And they gave Him vinegar to drink, or wine mingled with myrrh, mixed with gall, to partly benumb His senses. But when He tasted thereof He would not drink it. And they crucified Him, and the two malefactors with Him, one on the right hand and the other on the left, and Jesus in the midst. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says: “And He was numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12; Mark 15:27‒28).
According to the Jewish way of reckoning time, it was the third hour when they crucified Him, approximately nine o’clock in the morning. Then said Jesus: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” This was Jesus’ first thought, His first word, His prayer on the cross: “Father, forgive them!” For this was the reason why He so willingly died the death of the cross; He was obtaining the forgiveness of sins for all sinful mankind.
This prayer has application for all of us, for whose sins Jesus was dying; even though Jesus is specifically referring to His unbelieving tormentors. And being the true Advocate with the Father, He kindly added: “For they know not what they do.” The soldiers, blind heathen, knew Him not, and realized not what terrible sin they were committing. Likewise the multitude of the people, and even many of the elders, were not yet hardened, but did all this in ignorance, in the ignorance of unbelief—which, of course, did not excuse their sin in the least bit.
Ah, Father, forgive them; do not visit them with swift punishment; convert them; draw them to Me, that My death may give life to them too! Behold, they are blind; open their eyes unto saving knowledge! Such was Jesus’ prayer. – But whosoever turns away from Jesus in unbelief, forfeits the grace of this intercessory prayer, and will be eternally lost.
PRAYER. – O Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I give thanks to Thee for Thy suffering upon the cross, whereby I have been redeemed. I thank Thee for Thine intercession, by virtue of which I have been forgiven before Thee and the heavenly Father. I thank Thee for the love in which Thou so dearly lovest me, a sinner, and hast drawn me to Thee in faith. I thank Thee that Thou hast merited forgiveness of sin for me, and didst pray that it would be granted unto me. Continue to intercede on my behalf, dear Savior, that I may continue in the faith and be saved by Thy merits. Amen; Thou wilt assuredly do this. Amen.
Lamb of God, pure and holy, Who on the cross dist suffer,
Ever patient and lowly, Thyself to scorn didst offer.
All sins Thou borest for us, Else had despair reigned o’er us:
Have mercy on us, O Jesus! O Jesus!
Hymn 146, 1. [TLH]