Updated: May 5, 2021
Luke 23:33-37 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." And they divided His garments and cast lots. 35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, "He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God." 36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, "If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself."
From the human standpoint this is an utterly tragic scene. The gentle, sinless Savior is suffering terribly at the hands of violent and hateful people. The rulers, who were plotting and planning for this day for a very long time, are gloating and celebrating His painful ordeal. It is bad enough to endure terrible suffering; it is even worse to endure verbal abuse and mocking. Anyone who has seen Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ has a good idea of the kind of suffering and pain our Savior underwent in those horrific hours.
On the other hand, from the divine standpoint, this event had been decreed by the Triune God from eternity past to redeem fallen mankind. Peter realizes this later: "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it." (Acts 2:23-24). The Son of God was willing to experience this in order to save us, and this had been part of the divine plan from ages past!
It is utterly appalling to us to consider what the creation did to its own Creator! It was God Himself who experienced this hostility. Yet, through all of it, the Son of God offers this incredible prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Luke is the only Gospel writer to record this. All those who took an active part in this wicked conspiracy were actually clueless regarding its significance. Reflecting back on this event, Paul writes, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:8).
Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus exhorted His disciples to forgive others. And now here, in this account, we see Him putting His very own words into practice under the most terrible of ordeals. What a Savior! Let us be grateful to God for a loving and forgiving Savior who gave Himself as the sacrifice for our sins and also set an example for His disciples of the way they are to live!