And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." ... (Luke 23:34a).
Read Luke 23:32-34
Jesus is not going to die alone. Pilate ordered two criminals to die with Him. When they finally reach the execution site we read that Jesus is crucified between the two. In that one word "crucified," the Scriptures spare us the horrible details, and carry forward Jesus' charge: "Do not weep for Me."
Now, as the climax of Jesus' suffering is reached and incredible pain wracks His body, the soldiers are casting lots to divide His clothing. Jesus turns to His Father in prayer. But once again He is not praying for Himself, not seeking divine retribution on His foes, or even justice for Himself-He is pleading with His Father to forgive those who have put Him on this cross. They do not know what they are doing.
But Jesus is not only praying for the Roman soldiers, Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, the Jewish leaders, the temple guard, Peter and Judas-He is praying for all the people whose sins He is carrying, including yours and mine. So often we commit our sins without giving a second thought to the wrath we are incurring, or the sufferings Jesus endured to save us from them. We don't know what we are doing either.
But God the Father can't simply ignore His wrath at our sins. Nor can He pretend they never took place. His holiness demands that sinners be punished. For the Father to be able to forgive us, Jesus knows He must suffer the torment of hell in our place. He asks His Father to pour His fiery wrath on Him instead.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, in our sin we don't know what we are doing. Yet You willingly took on Yourself our guilt and Your Father's punishment. Make us aware of our culpability that we may repent and trust You alone as our Savior. Amen.