You can learn a lot about someone by looking at their last words. Have you ever done a study of the last words of famous people in history before their death? In someone’s last words you can find out what was important to them as well as key insights into their character. This is certainly true concerning the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We receive a marvelous glimpse into His heart when we explore the seven last sayings He uttered with His final breaths while hanging on the cross.
The first of these statements was Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. Take a moment and let this sink in. Jesus here is asking God to forgive the ones who hated Him. Those who mocked Him. Who flogged His back. Who spit upon Him. Who placed the crown of thorns forcefully on His head. Those who nailed Him to the cross. Who were responsible for the agonizing pain that He is experiencing.
The Lord of glory is asking God to do for the greatest act of sin in all of history what we struggle to do for small offenses towards us. We have a hard time letting go of the hurts caused to us by others, don’t we? To forgive those who wrong us. Yet, that is exactly what Jesus prays that God the Father would do for His tormentors here. Jesus is doing what He has called us to do when He instructed us in the Sermon on the Mount to forgive those who wrong us and to pray for our enemies. This should serve as an encouragement for us to follow His leading.
Notice that Jesus states they do not know what they are doing. He is not saying that they were completely ignorant that what they were doing was wrong. Just that they did not understand how great of a crime they were guilty of. That they were murdering the very Son of God. A sinner needs the Holy Spirit to open their blind eyes to recognize the enormity of their sins against God.
At this very moment on the cross, Jesus is ensuring that God will answer this prayer for forgiveness as He experiences the full weight of God’s wrath for the sins of those who will look to Him alone for their salvation. That the holy God will be able to forgive them as Jesus takes the punishment for their sins. He will no longer hold their sins against them as Jesus has turned away God’s wrath their sins brought upon them.
We find Jesus’ prayer answered with the thief on the cross as well as the Roman Centurion I believe that Brother Bob will be speaking about later as both received the forgiveness that Jesus requests here. We see the prayer answered in the book of Acts in the great number who have God’s forgiveness on the day of Pentecost as they respond in repentance to Peter’s sermon. Many among that crowd were held responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion. Who may have called for Him to be crucified. Who joined in the taunts and ridicule that day.
And let me point out to you that this is a limited prayer. It is only for those who are in Christ by God’s grace alone through faith alone. It is not for those who remain in their sins without repentance. We learn in John 17 that Jesus only prays for the ones that the Father gives to Him. Not for those of the world. This is the great High Priest praying for His people as He is offering Himself up as their sacrifice. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 who poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.
If you are a sinner who is looking to Jesus alone to reconcile you to God, take heart. You have forgiveness because of Jesus’ prayer for you based on His sacrificial death. It doesn’t matter how great of a sinner you are or what type of a sinner you are. As the hymn rightly says, “Jesus is merciful. Jesus will save.” And if you don’t know Jesus personally as your Lord and Savior, why not come to Him today to experience the forgiveness that He prays for and that He laid down His life for. This prayer can be for you if you just look to Him.
Soli Deo Gloria!!!