Speaking of the crucifixion of Jesus, J.C. Ryle said, "It is worthy of remark that as soon as the blood of the great sacrifice began to flow, the great high priest began to intercede." He was referring to Jesus' first words from the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).
Why did Jesus pray this? Because forgiveness is our greatest need in life. It was the first on His list because it is of the utmost importance.
I have a hunch that most of us know of our deep need to be forgiven. When I offend someone close to me, and especially the Lord, I want to get it taken care of quickly. I want forgiveness, because relationship requires forgiveness. It's our greatest need, because we are sinful.
The second part of Jesus' statement, "for they do not know what they do," is very misunderstood. People infer from this that ignorance equals innocence. Of course, it doesn't. If you think it does, take it to the human level. Try speeding and then pleading innocence to the police officer. You won't be acquitted, believe me!
So it wasn't ignorance of the reality of their sin. It was ignorance of the identity of Jesus, and of the enormity of their sin. They didn't know who they were putting on the cross. They refused to believe He was the Son of God. When Jesus asked the disciples who men said He was, all of the answers were wrong. And Paul said, in Acts 13:27, that the people of Jerusalem and their rulers didn't recognize Jesus.
They were also ignorant of the enormity of their sin. They didn't realize how bad it was to put God's only Son, Deity incarnate, on the cross. Paul wrote, "None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8).
It's a mistake that's still repeated today. By and large, this world is ignorant of who Jesus really is. They use His name as profanity. And they're ignorant of how bad it is to reject Him. It's the worst possible thing they could do, to reject the only hope of everlasting life.
How about you? If your contingency plan is that when you stand before God you're going to plead, "I didn't know"...well, you do now! You've heard it.
So here's the question for you: Will you let this prayer of Jesus Christ be answered in your life? Will you receive forgiveness? Insert your name in the statement in Luke 23:34: "Father forgive..." and put your name right there. Because that's what the cross was all about, and that is Jesus' greatest desire, to bring forgiveness.
Jesus' words from the cross demonstrate His ultimate love. He draws everyone to Himself: "Father, forgive this person as they notice their sin and admit it, as they turn to Me and trust Me."
Love God – Love People