Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." ... (Luke 23:34a).
Read Luke 23:32-34.
In a procession with two condemned criminals, Jesus is led to the place of execution. The locals know it as "The Skull" (see Luke 23:33)-possibly because of its shape, possibly because it is the grisly place of execution and death.
And right away Jesus utters His first words from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Of all the people who should be pleading for forgiveness-Judas, the high priest, Pontius Pilate, his soldiers-the one who asks on their behalf is Jesus, the sinless Son of God.
How amazing that even in this hour where His agony reaches its climax Jesus doesn't turn inside Himself. He could pray for justice-for vindication-for punishment on those who have done this to Him. Instead, He pleads with His Father to forgive them.
Jesus' prayer is not restricted to Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers who abused and nailed Him to the cross, nor to the Jewish high priest and high court, or even to Judas, Peter and the other disciples, who abandoned Him. He prays for you and me, for all people of all time whose sins He has carried to this dismal place.
But forgiveness isn't easy, or cheap. God the Father can't set aside His holiness and justice-not when humans are doing this to His pure and innocent Son. For the Father to be able to forgive us, Jesus must step into our place and bear the divine punishment we all deserve. That makes this one of the most incredible prayers ever uttered in human history. "Father, forgive them"-by punishing Me instead.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, break through our ignorance and give us knowledge of our sin. That we may repent of that sin and receive full and free forgiveness for Your sake. Amen.