Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. …

What LOVE Jesus had for the people! What a selfless, caring man He was, to have an attitude of forgiveness for the very people crucifying Him! What a HEART FOR THE PEOPLE our Savior had!

It’s kinda funny, it makes me a little nauseous just to write that, even though I’m about to rip it to shreds. It’s just so supercilious and over-the-top and, well, the only word I know that really describes it is “sickening”. Anyone who believes that first paragraph has a totally messed up concept of who God is, and what Christ was ACTUALLY feeling when He uttered those words!

Most people believe that Christ didn’t really NEED to say those words – He just did so that we could see that He didn’t hold any malice towards those people. To show how great was His unconditional love for mankind. HORSE FEATHERS! HOGWASH! POPPYCOCK!

It’s time you USED THE BIBLE to interpret itself! And it’s time you learned what Christ ACTUALLY was thinking, hanging there on the stake, about to be murdered for no reason! Did you know that the Bible actually has His thoughts leading up to that last “Father forgive them”, in great detail? Brace yourself, because the caring, loving, forgiving little baby-in-a-manger Jesus is about to be seriously redefined!

Psalms 69:1-3 Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.

But of course, that could describe anyone who has ever been suffering and cried out to God. So who was THIS person?

Verse 4 They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.

Now, that narrows it down somewhat. This scripture was actually a prophecy, referred to in…

John 15:25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

But, perhaps this isn’t the scripture that was referred to by Christ in John 15. Of course, Christ WAS the one who restored that which He didn’t take away (life). But still, let’s make absolutely sure this is Christ by reading a bit farther on…

Verse 7-9 Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.

We all remember the New Testament scripture that ties the “zeal of thine house” to Christ. But the last part is the most compelling bit – this was quoted in the New Testament as well, in…

Romans 15:3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.

So this brings into focus pretty well just WHO we are talking about… but still, let’s make absolutely certain…

Verses 13,19-21 But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation. … Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee. Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

If there remained any question as to whom this was referring, I think that settles it. No other being was forsaken by his friends and family, given vinegar and gall while suffering and praying to God, and restored the life which He had not taken away from mankind. It had to be Jesus Christ. I belabor this point because the next thing He says sounds totally unlike someone who “had a heart for the people”. And if JESUS didn’t have a heart for the people, then, who did?

Verses 22-24 Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them.

Wow! Sweet, LOVING, Jesus sounds downright bent! Could this be the same man? Would THAT Jesus want these people who were crucifying Him BLINDED, and TRAPPED, and PUNISHED by God in all His Divine FURY?? But wait, He is just getting started!

Verses 25-28 Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents. For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded. Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.

Incredible, isn’t it? That this selfless, caring and above all, FORGIVING man, should want these people blinded, killed, maimed and utterly destroyed?? But it’s right there in black and white. What’s that you say? How do I harmonize this attitude with Him asking “Father, forgive them”? Hey, I’m getting there, don’t rush me!

See, as we all know, that’s not the only Psalm that is referring to Christ. A LOT of them are devoted to prophecies about Him. Another good case in point, that is referring to the same time period, is…

Psalms 109:1-5 Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise; For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause. For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.

Again describing Christ hanging on the stake. The false witnesses, condemning him without a cause, rewarding evil for good and hatred for his love, can only refer to him. So again, let’s go on and read how He FEELS about these people killing him!

Verses 6-11 Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour.

Again, wow is the only word that says it! This forgiving man wanted these people to be CONDEMNED when they were judged, He wanted their prayers to be considered a sin and their lives to be ended while they were still young, orphaning their children and widowing their wives – but He doesn’t stop there! He wants their CHILDREN to have grief, and to be forced to beg for a living! But really, He’s just getting warmed up!

Verses 12-16 Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth. Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.

He’s really going all out with this cursing thing! He wants these men to NEVER be forgiven! He wants their orphans to not receive kindness! He wants their blood line to end with their children! But even more, He wants their PARENTS to be punished! He wants their MOTHER’S SINS TO NEVER BE FORGIVEN! All because they are persecuting Christ. Now, is that the Jesus that YOU know and love? I doubt it!

Now that we have put all this in perspective, we can examine what Christ said at the very last – after all of this – hanging on the stake, just before He died and restored that which He hadn’t taken away.

Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

ONLY NOW can you really see WHY Christ said that! Because if, instead of saying that, He had simply said “Amen”, after the things He had prayed earlier that we read in Psalms 69 and 109 (and there are more in other places), EVERY LIVING THING THAT WAS INVOLVED IN CRUCIFYING HIM WOULD HAVE BEEN KILLED AND NEVER FORGIVEN! And not only those involved, but their relatives, their ancestors, and their children!

As it was, there were earthquakes, the sun was darkened, and it was clear that God was very angry. But had Christ NOT asked His Father to forgive them, (instead of asking God NOT to forgive them, as He had just done), they would have been dead. And not only dead, but dead PERMANENTLY!

Remember, it would in no way have been wrong for Christ to say “Amen”, and to close his earlier prayer asking for their deaths. After all, hadn’t those same Jews screamed to Pilate “Let His blood be upon our heads, and our children’s heads!”? They DESERVED, by their own statement, everything Christ asked for them to get!

Still, God didn’t create man to kill him, and those men didn’t realize what they were doing. But wait a moment! DID God (or Christ) forgive them THEN? We might assume so, but WERE they forgiven there, on the spot?

Let’s stop and consider this for a moment. Christ asked that God forgive them. We know that God hears Christ, and so we know that He will. But forgive them … Why? When? Did Christ’s statement mean that God had to forgive everyone present of all their sins and put them in the first resurrection on the spot?

That clearly didn’t happen, so if He wasn’t asking God to forgive their sins and put them in the kingdom, and He WASN’T just showing “an attitude of forgiveness”, WHAT WAS HE ASKING FOR??

As I said, we can be sure that the Father answered Christ’s prayer. Therefore, all we have to do is follow the lives of these men who were killing Christ to see if, how, and WHEN He did!

Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom YE HAVE CRUCIFIED

This sets the context for who we are talking about. The setting was still Jerusalem, about 53 days after the crucifiction. Many of the same people were here, since the holy day seasons were commanded assemblies and all Israelite males HAD to appear before God in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16).

So to these men who had just a few weeks past screamed to Pilate “Let His blood be upon our heads and our children’s heads!”, and proceeded to string their savior up to a stake and murder him, Peter says that God made that same Jesus, whom YOU have crucified!

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

But wait a minute! Christ asked for them to be forgiven for THAT SIN on the stake ALREADY! If they had ALREADY BEEN FORGIVEN, THEY DIDN’T NEED TO DO ANYTHING!


Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, REPENT…

Again… IF they’d been forgiven, they didn’t need to repent of Killing their Creator!

… and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the REMISSION of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

They needed to REPENT of their sins, and be Baptised BEFORE their sins, including that of killing their God, COULD BE FORGIVEN! So you see – Christ asked God to forgive them! And God DID! AFTER THEY REPENTED, about 53 days later.

But if Christ HADN’T ASKED GOD TO FORGIVE THEM, they would have been like Esau, and NEVER able to receive forgiveness! Because remember, Christ specifically asked God NOT to forgive them, EVER!

Hebrews 12:17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

And so after killing their Creator, and after Christ Himself pronouncing a CURSE upon them, these men would have died, and could NEVER have found a place of repentance, even if they sought it by begging God, with tears, they could NEVER have been forgiven, because THAT WAS THE CURSE!

But instead, Christ got ahold of Himself, and RULED His spirit, looked at the situation objectively, and asked God to forgive them. He didn’t have to add WHEN THEY REPENT, because God, Christ, and any true Christian already knew that GOD NEVER FORGIVES WITHOUT REPENTANCE!

So to summarize those last few minutes of Christ, He was hung on a stake, with a crown of thorns and nails through His extremities, and he was angry. He was downright enraged. He didn’t DESERVE THIS! And He didn’t feel loving, or forgiving, and He certainly didn’t seem to have a HEART FOR THE PEOPLE KILLING HIM!

And so He prayed some things to His Father, which, if performed, would kill a great many people – people who had earned that penalty, granted, but people who, He finally realized, really had no idea what they were doing. Like being angry at a bee for stinging you, he is just doing his job, what he was made to do. He doesn’t mean it personally. So you wouldn’t kill every bee on earth if one stung you.

Likewise Christ realized that these men were deceived, and had no idea what they were really doing. They really DIDN’T deserve to never be forgiven. And so Christ took a deep breath, and got a grip on his anger, and (with implied meaning included) prayed to God…

“Father, forgive them, WHEN THEY REPENT, for they know not what they do!”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

If you enjoyed this article you need to check out our comprehensive Bible Study Course! Learn how to study your Bible and get the answers to life's most important questions directly from God's word!

Post navigation