Luke 23:34, “And Yeshua said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ And they divided His garments and cast lots.”
Who was Yeshua talking about? The context of vs 32-34 suggests the Roman soldiers. It’s also possible He was referring to the Jewish leaders or the mob because about 50 days after Yeshua’s crucifixion, Kefa (Peter) confronts the crowd in the Temple, saying:
Acts 3:17, “And now, brothers, I know that you did it in ignorance, as your rulers did too.”
Whoever He was talking about, He asks the Father to forgive them. Surely, we cannot conclude that the Son of Elohim condones sin, the very problem for which He was laying down His life. Remember, it wasn’t long before this when He delivered a scathing message of woes against the religious scholars for their hardened hearts and their nullification of the Scriptures (Matt 23). Why does He ask the Father to forgive this time? The Savior qualifies His request, “…for they do not know what they do.” Do we recognize the graciousness in such a statement? Here is the Son of the Most High agonizing in the pain of death’s shadow. The hand which brought forth all that exists is nailed to a tree by those of His own creation. The one who had every right and, not to mention, sovereign power to squash any opposition asks forgiveness for these ones due to their lack of understanding. But should we be surprised by such a fatherly statement from the Good Shepherd? Wouldn’t a loving parent make the same plea for a handicapped child, even after some of the most grievous offenses? The question I would like us to consider is this: Do we who claim to be His followers really follow suit?
When a man or woman makes the decision to surrender their heart to Yehovah, they are committing to a drastic lifestyle change. The truths they held and the motivations which guided them are steadily replaced by the Truth of the Word of Elohim and living to love Him with all their being. This is a beautiful metamorphosis. We learn Elohim’s instruction and we incorporate it into our lives. We sacrifice the old and His newness pours in. We slowly become molded into His likeness and we begin to recognize that there is a noticeable difference between those who are being transformed versus those who aren’t. And it seems like it’s just a matter of time before a very common slip-up occurs: we forget the mercy which brought us to this point.
We begin to think everyone should have our level of understanding and they should have it right now. We don’t understand why others just don’t “get it” and we are quick to point out how wrong and ridiculous we believe their error to be. When they make decisions which seem to lack spiritual wisdom, we have a reputation of condescension rather than genuine concern. We tend to point our fingers a lot more than we bow our heads and lift our hands. Maybe it’s because we’re insecure in our own walk of faith. Maybe it’s simply our spiritual immaturity. Maybe it’s because we don’t realize that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against authorities, against the world-rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual matters of wickedness in the heavenlies” (Eph 6:12). But what is the example of our Savior to the shortcomings of those around Him?
Having wisdom from above, Yeshua knew His accusers were ignorant to the spiritual gravity of the actions in which they were participating, “for if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1Cor 2:8). After all, as the Savior of the world was making the sacrifice of eternity, some of these involved were preoccupied with gambling over a piece of cloth. Talk about ignorance and distraction! Should they have known better? Yes, for Mosheh and the prophets spoke of Him (Jn 5:46). But His persecutors couldn’t see or hear such things. Maybe the people were deceived. Maybe they were misled. How complex the web of history in each human’s body, mind and spirit which effects one’s ability to truly understand! Only the Righteous Judge can know such depths of the human heart.
But even in His mercy, Yeshua did not ignore their sin. He had to judge that sin was present in order to ask that they be forgiven for it. But does He lash out at these sinners? No, because He recognized the spiritual battle, that with powerful deception the enemy was holding in captivity these scoffers who were also in need of Yehovah’s salvation. He saw the spiritual reality of the situation, seeing past the external actions of hatred, and attacked the enemy’s kingdom with a weapon more powerful than any weapon of this world: sacrificial love. Did it free Him from the pains of the cross? No, but imagine all that these last words of His have accomplished in victory for the Kingdom over the last 2000 years as such selfless forgiveness becomes a reality in the lives of those who love Him enough to follow His example. This is the warfare of the King of Kings.
Reality check: Looking down from the cross our Savior judged the situation, recognized the enemy’s captive grip on the people, looked with compassion on these souls caught in deception, and asked that they be shown mercy. Do I treat the ignorant and the scoffers in my life this way? Is my first reaction to hope for punishment or is it to plead forgiveness for such ones? Do I want The Father to treat my ignorance and sinful mistakes the same way I treat those of others? To forgive me the same way I forgive others? Do I have eyes to see the spiritual battle being waged around me and do I respond to these situations according to the impulse of my flesh or by surrendering to the purposes of the Spirit?
Rom 5:8, “But Elohim proves His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us.”