32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”
36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine
37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” ”
“They don’t know what they’re doing” is the confession we all need.
When I was the pastor at the Rescue Mission, just about every person I encountered had regrets. At some point they did something that led to a catastrophe, but at the time they didn’t know what they were doing.
I talked to a guy one day on the street that was out of a long prison-stay. He’d almost killed a man with a pipe. When he told me the story, through tears, he said “I was just so angry.” I think it’s easy to say he didn’t know what he was doing at the time.
Ask anybody in a scandal, a broken marriage, a decades-long bitterness, or scars that bring questions and they’ll tell you some form of “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
And that is the statement Jesus makes after Jesus asks the Father to forgive them. It’s not that Jesus said “When they realize what they’ve done and confess it in explicit detail, forgive them.” *
The guys with the hammers and nails didn’t know what they were doing. The thieves that mocked Him didn’t know what they were doing. The rulers that scoffed at Him didn’t know what they were doing.
Even there on the cross, Jesus was giving them a chance to repent and believe. Even after He died, the curtain in the Temple would be torn in half, giving those rulers another chance to believe that He was the Son of God.
One of those Romans would say in a little bit “Surely He was the Son of God.” He took the chance that Jesus gave him and believed!
We don’t know the impact of our sin and our efforts to solve our problems without God’s help. If we knew, we’d run to Him so much sooner!
What a great confession that would be, to identify as those people that Jesus forgave. To identify as people who “don’t know what they are doing.” And then as that forgiving, merciful Holy Spirit that is the same God that said “forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing” fills us, what do we do?
We begin to forgive others.
We forgive because we don’t know what we’re doing, and they don’t know what they’re doing, but Jesus asked for our forgiveness anyway – because He was the only One that ever really knew what He was doing.
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* We can talk elsewhere about the heresy of universalism. From the full context of the scriptures we know that this forgiveness is for all who believe, not in general for all who have simply existed.