Father, Forgive Them

The Suffering Savior, Part 3
Luke 23:34

Luke 23:34, Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.


Imagine if we could look at Jesus on the cross from a distance, and we notice that He is saying something, yes, He is saying something over and over again. What could He possibly be saying? There, He said it again. What was that He said? And again? Did you hear it? So now we move closer to hear what His words are. He is talking to someone. Is He talking to the soldiers to take Him off the cross? Is He angry at the religious leaders for their continual mocking and deriding of Him? Is He asking for something to quench His thirst? Is He asking for something to deaden the pain? They had already tried to give him wine to drink mingled with myrrh or gall, but Jesus had refused it. Perhaps such a drink was given to anesthetize the victim and deaden the pain. Jesus refused anything that would ease the strength of his suffering. What is He saying? Is He bitter? Is He angry? Is He moaning? Is He complaining? Is He pleading His innocense?

There, I heard it again. Wait, He commanded someone. He is issuing a command! Who could He in this pain be commanding! A convicted criminal being crucified has no power to command anyone to do anything, does he? How could He command anyone from that position of weakness?

Oh, I heard it! He said, FATHER FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO. He is speaking to His Father in heaven, and He is pleading for sinners on earth. Here is Jesus, suspended between earth and heaven, interceeding for sinners on earth, pleading with His Father in heaven.

He is the LAMB, bearing our sins; He is our PRIEST, pleading our case and commanding His Father to forgive the sins of the world!

Father! What a relationship Jesus has with His Father. Jesus Himself taught us to pray, Our FATHER, who art in heaven. Why is Jesus praying for their salvation? He had power in Himself to forgive sins, as He did to the man let down through the roof before Him. Be of good cheer, son thy sins be forgiven thee, he had said. He is praying for the salvation of those around the cross now. He is praying for the Father to draw these cold sinners to Him, for “no man can come to Christ, except the Father which hath sent Him draw them.”

Forgive means to SEND AWAY, to CANCEL.

Out of His burning pain and fever of body, nailed in his hands and feet, with all his bones out of joint, He commands, Father Forgive them.

Surrounded by religious mockers, He face marred beyond any man, in the presence of their barbaric barbs, their words like arrows lodging in his broken heart, yet He commands, Father Forgive them.

His thorn crowned head dizzy, his stomach cramped, his mouth dried, He commands, Father, Forgive them.

When one was crucified, air could be drawn into the lungs but could not be easily exhaled. Therefore, speaking was a difficult task, but listen to His voice continually commanding, Father Forgive them!

His muscles are knotted and nearly paralyzed, yet he pushes himself up to exhale once again to command, Father Forgive them.

His spotless character publicly shamed, he still commands, Father Forgive them.

The soldiers could care less for Him as they part His garments and then cast lots for his seamless, yet He commands, Father Forgive them, for they know not what they do. Does this not show the utter disregard man has for their eternal salvation and to the saving of their soul? How carnal is man! How temporal! How petty! In the presence of God manifest in the flesh, they can do nothing more than bargain and barter, gamble for the garments of the Messiah. Can man be so vain? Yes. There they are, demonstrating depravity, deciding who will get the sandals, a headpiece, a belt, and the outer cloak. Since there were four soldiers and five pieces of clothing, they divided up the first four pieces of clothing and then cast lots for his outer, seamless cloak. What an indescribable act of selfishness and covetousness. It shows the carelessness and callousness of the soldiers; the heartless and hardened attitude of these insensitive to truth to give such savage treatment of the CREATOR of all things! Do you see how “past feeling” man is and “given (themselves) over unto lasciviousness (Unbridled, shameless, filthy lust), to work all uncleanness with greediness.” (Eph.4:19) These soldiers are spiritual lepers, they are without feeling, morally filthy, and greedy for petty gain.

Yet Jesus still commands, Father, Forgive THEM, for they know not what they do.

This was a fulfilled prophecy from Psalm 22:18. Psalm 22:18, They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

It is also mentioned in Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23, 24.

In all four Gospel accounts this fact is mentioned. Why? What is the significance of parting the garments of Jesus and then casting lots for his garment that was without seam?

He is issuing a command to HIS FATHER to FORGIVE those who have committed this infamous deed of malice. So, these words of prayer were uttered while Jesus hung suspended between heaven and earth.

While the soldiers coldly do their job, and the religious leaders cunningly and continually mock, Jesus hangs and bleeds for the sins of the world. While they are mocking, Jesus is saying, perhaps over and over again, because the verb tense is “Imperfect” which means it is something that did not just happen once, but it is ongoing. Jesus is saying, Father Forgive Them. Then He gives an IMPERATIVE, or a command to His Father

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the zenith of redemptive history, the focal point of God’s plan of salvation. God’s redeeming work culminated in the cross, where the Lord Jesus bore the sins of the world. But also in the crucifixion of Christ the wickedness of man reached its apex. The execution of the Savior was the vilest expression of evil in human history, the utter depth of man’s depravity. The death of Jesus Christ was therefore the supreme revelation of the gracious love of God while also being the ultimate expression of the sinfulness of man.

Spurgeon says this shows the "Unknown depths of sin, and the Unknown heights of mercy."

There is no consciousness of sin in those who stand by the cross. Their hearts are as hard as a Manhattan sidewalk. Listen to the clamor of that callused crowd. They deride mockingly and make a hardhearted noise. The soldiers put their affection upon the clothes of Christ.

Here is the false "tolerance" of the world on display. They will be tolerant for what they want. Will they not tolerate One who can forgive the sins of all or any man? I cannot believe that the liberal elites in our media lecture to Christians about TOLERANCE!

How could He say with such authority, to command His Father, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. He knows that He is the:

1. The SUBSTITUTION for our sins,

Christ is dying FOR us! He is our substitute. Christ’s death is VICARIOUS. There is none who can be a VICAR for Jesus Christ, for He alone is the substitute for our sins. Therefore He could say, FATHER, FORGIVE them. Many times in Scripture we see the preposition FOR in relation to Christ’s death. His death was FOR us!

Romans 5:6, Christ died FOR the ungodly.

Rom.5:8, While we were yet sinners, Christ died FOR us.

Hebrews 2:9, That he be the grace of God should taste death FOR every man.

Galatians 1:4, "Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world."

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.

1 Peter 2:24 "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed."

1 Peter 3:18 "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the fust for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit."

What intercession Jesus makes! We need no other mediator than Jesus!

1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

You need no other priest, no other saint to call upon.

Herein is the very key to our forgiveness. Why can we be forgiven? Because of Jesus Christ. Jesus, blessed Jesus!

Think of it; the very one you have sinned against offers forgiveness for all you have ever done, to all who have ever lived! Will you receive the forgiveness offered so freely, according to the riches of His grace?

Ephesians 4:32, God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Because He is our substitute, all our sins have been imputed to Him.

Impute means to credit or charge to someone. Our sins were charged to Christ. There are three kinds of imputation in the Bible.

A.  Adam’s sins were imputed directly to us. Because I was in Adam when he sinned, sin is directly imputed to me from Adam. Sin was not imputed to me from my father, but straight from Adam, Romans 5:12:

B.  Our sins were imputed to Christ.

**2 Corinthians 5:21, For he hath made him to be sin FOR us, who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

Notice the three people: For HE, that is, GOD. The eternal, gradious God. Hath made HIM, that is CHRIST, the eternal Son, for US, that is we who are sinners.

C. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us.

We are all sinners in Adam. Do you know that you were in Adam when he sinned? We all were in Adam when he transgressed. He was wounded for our transgressions, and he was bruised for our iniquities. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. Our sins were all place upon Jesus, and He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus could pray, Father Forgive them, because the sins of the world are being laid upon Jesus and He is bearing all our sins in his own body on the tree that He might bring us to God. Our sins were imputed to Him that His righteousness might be imputed to us.

2.  The SATISFACTION for our sins,

God, because He is holy, demands death for sin. This means that there must be the shedding of blood to cover our sins. The law demands death. Jesus Christ knows that He has always done all things well. He knows that He is offering Himself as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus knows that His death satisfies the holiness and justice of God. From the divine side, Jesus died to satisfy God.

Christ’s work on the cross met and answered all the demands of God’s law and justice against the sinner.

Isaiah 53:10,11, Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

The illustration here is we are sinners in debt. The debt we owe God is death. Jesus Christ paid the debt in full. God, the One to whom we owe death, is paid in full for the sins of THE ONE WHO BELIEVES.

I am in debt for my house. When I make the last payment in 23 years or so, the creditor will have no further claim upon my money. You see, my debtor must be satisfied with a certain amount of money.

God must be satisfied with the payment of death and He was with the perfect Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. The PROPITIATION for our Sins

1 John 2:2, And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10, Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Propitiation speaks of Christ’s death COVERING our sins. The word is similar to the mercy seat in the Old Testament Tabernacle. Do you remember that the mercy seat sat upon the Ark of the Covenant? Once each year the High Priest would sprinkle the blood of the lamb upon the mercy seat, and God would be propitiated.

Do you remember the parable Jesus gave of the Pharisee and Publican and the publican said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)

The Son becomes a LAMB and pleads as our PRIEST. O mighty intercession Jesus makes for all the world.

Notice the universal grace of Jesus. Father forgive THEM! Who is the them? The Roman soldiers? The Jewish rulers? Pilate or Herod? The Women of Jerusalem? THEM! That word is large enough for all to come to Jesus. “Them” is a chariot of mercy for all to come to the cross.

Have you included yourself in the THEM?


Let me say in closing:

1. There is forgiveness available for all your sins, whatever they have been.

That this is so, cannot we not say that God forgives:

Immediately and Abundantly; Freely and Lovingly; Continuously and Completely; Repeatedly and Perpetually!

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

If Christ’s grace could abound to those who were standing there at the cross, can he not also abundantly forgive you? Forgiveness is not through a priest, saint, or church, but through God alone.

Psalm 103:3, Who forgiveth all thine iniquities. Psalm 130:4, But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

2. If Christ has not forgiven you, you are yet in your sins.

3. If God has forgiven you, you ought to forgive others Col.3:13 Forbearing one another; and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Yes, forgiveness is a personal necessity, a priceless blessing, a perfect gift!