Luke 23:34 - Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
For me, Luke 23:34 is the greatest picture of forgiveness. Jesus is up on the cross. Luke has just described the people doing the following:
1. The crowd accused Jesus of subverting the nation (23:1)
2. The crowd accused Jesus of opposing paying taxes to Caesar (23:1)
3. The crowd twisted Jesus' claim of Messiah to make it sound as a threat against Caesar (23:1)
4. The crowd accused him of being one who stirs up dissension through his teaching (23:5)
5. Herod mockingly questioned Jesus for his own entertainment (23:9)
6. The chief priests and teachers vehemently accused him (23:10)
7. Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him (23:11)
8. Pilate punished him for no reason (23:14-16)
9. Pilate ordered Jesus to be crucified in order to please the crowd (23:23-24)
10. The people crucified Jesus alongside of criminals (23:33)
The sins of the people were numerous and atrocious. In Matthew's account of the crucifixion, the soldiers strip Jesus, place a scarlet robe around him and a crown of thorns upon his head. They then give him a staff and mock him. Afterwards, they spit on him, take the staff and strike him with it. (Matthew 27:27-31). Reading the grievances is hard enough, let alone imagining having them done to you. Yet, Jesus not only endured them without retaliation, but He forgave those who were tormenting him while they were in the midst of their brutality. This exemplifies his lifestyle of forgiveness. One of the most important things to notice is that the sinners did not ask Him for forgiveness before it was granted. He forgave while they were in the midst of their horrific behavior.
Jesus' request to the Father is made in the Greek aorist imperative. In essence, this gives the force of the command as a whole and complete action, rather than focusing on duration or repetition (Wallace. Exegetical Syntax, 485). This means that Jesus is asking for complete and total forgiveness of everyone involved in the process of his crucifixion. His request has lasting effects for us as well, for Jesus is the Suffering Servant for all transgressors (Isaiah 53). Therefore, we can enjoy the abiding effects of complete forgiveness that was put into effect on the cross.
In His darkest hours where the entire world had turned against him, Jesus did not respond in bitterness, anger, or hate. Rather he responded with love. Our greatest tendency is to throw up walls of defense when people hurt us. Our desire is to at least guard against further hurt or to allow those who have hurt us to feel a portion of our pain until they cry for mercy. Yet this is not a portrayal of our Savior.
The Challenge for today is to recognize the need for forgiveness. In what areas of you life do you need to be forgiven? In what areas of you life do you need to forgive? Who is on your list?
We will continue the discussion on forgiveness....it's a great and freeing lifestyle!