Luke 23:34 — Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His clothes by casting lots (NIV).
Before we further explore this verse, let’s rewind a few chapters to Luke 17. If you’ll recall, Jesus was teaching the disciples about forgiveness. He told them that if someone was to sin against them and come back later to repent, they were to forgive him each time (vs. 4). But what if someone sins against us, and doesn’t ask for forgiveness? What if they are unaware they’ve even offended us? What is our responsibility to those people as believers?
Jesus answered these questions in the above verse. As He suffered the most horrible death ever devised by sinful man, He looked at those crucifying Him and prayed for their forgiveness. The Jewish leaders, Roman politicians, soldiers, and bystanders really believed they were killing a worthy criminal. They were not playing a sick joke or trying to get away with something they knew was wrong. They truly believed in their cause. Jesus even said so Himself, “For they know not what they do.”
Even though they were unaware of what they were doing, Jesus chose to forgive them. They didn’t ask for mercy, and they didn’t tell Him they were sorry. They didn’t try to make restitution. They murdered Him, but before Jesus took His last breath, He understood the importance of letting go of offense.
I believe if He had not forgiven them from the cross, He would have nullified the purpose of His death. How could Jesus have made restitution for the sins of mankind if He had taken unforgiveness to the grave with Him?
Maybe today there are people who have offended you unknowingly. Some people refuse to forgive because they’re waiting on an apology. What if your apology never comes? Will you still forgive? I encourage you to do so because if you don’t, you’re only hurting yourself. We must choose to forgive whether our offenders ask for it or not.
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