"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by Von, Aug 11, 2018.

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  1. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    When Jesus said "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.", I'm assuming that those intended were forgiven. Who was the "them", then?
  2. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Jut to get started, this is from William Hendriksen:

    34a. Then Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
    In all probability what we have here is the first of
    The Seven Words of the Cross:

    a. From 9 o’clock until noon:
    (1) “Father, forgive them: for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
    (2) “I solemnly declare to you, Today you shall be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
    (3) “Woman, look, your son!… Look, your mother!” (John 19:27).

    b. The three hours of darkness: from noon until 3 o’clock; no words reported.

    c. About 3 o’clock:
    (4) “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).
    (5) “I am thirsty” (John 19:28).
    (6) “It is finished” (John 19:30).
    (7) “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

    It is certainly in keeping with the spirit of Luke’s Gospel that the three “words” in which the love of God as reflected in the Son is most emphatically set forth are found here (words 1, 2, and 7).
    It is deplorable that so much opposition has arisen against this first saying. Some would exclude it entirely, and others try to tone it down.
    The reasoning of some is as follows: those who killed Jesus were reprobates. God does not in any sense bless reprobates. Therefore Jesus cannot have asked that they be forgiven. Besides, the verb here used has a very wide meaning (this, by the way, is true). Conclusion: Jesus must have meant, “Father, hold back thy wrath; do not immediately pour out the full measure of thy fury.”
    The true meaning of the earnest supplication is probably as follows:

    a. “Forgive them” means exactly that. It means “Blot out their transgression completely. In thy sovereign grace cause them to repent truly, so that they can be and will be pardoned fully.”

    b. That this is the meaning is clear from the fact that the grammatical construction is exactly the same as in 11:4, “And forgive us our sins,” and as in 17:3, “If he repents, forgive him.”

    c. Is it even conceivable that he who insists so strongly that his followers must forgive every debtor, and that they must even love their enemies, should not exemplify this virtue himself?

    d. When Stephen, at death’s portal, clearly in imitation of the dying Christ, prayed, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” was he not giving us the truest interpretation of Christ’s supplication, “Father, forgive them”?

    e. Take special note of the word Father. What trust, what love! We are reminded of “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15, A.V.).

    f. Is it not marvelous beyond words that Jesus, in his earnest intercession for his torturers, even presents to the Father a special plea, an argument, as it were, for the granting of his petition, namely, “for they do not know what they are doing”?
    It was true: the soldiers certainly did not know. But even the members of the Sanhedrin, though they must have known that what they were doing was wicked, did not comprehend the extent of that wickedness.

    Did the Father hear and answer this prayer? Part of the answer may well be the fact that Jerusalem’s fall did not occur immediately. For a period of about forty years the gospel of salvation full and free was still being proclaimed to the Jews. Not only that but also: many were actually led to the Lord. On the day of Pentecost three thousand were converted (Acts 2:31, 42); a little later thousands more (Acts 4:4). Even “a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). Not the people as a whole, but many families and individuals were converted.
    g. By offering this prayer Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isa. 53: “Yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” See also on Luke 22:37.

    Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke (Vol. 11, pp. 1027–1028). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.​
  3. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior


    "Luke 23:34. And Jesus said, Father, forgive them. By this expression Christ gave evidence that he was that mild and gentle lamb, which was to be led out to be sacrificed, as Isaiah the prophet had foretold, (53:7.) For not only does he abstain from revenge, but pleads with God the Father for the salvation of those by whom he is most cruelly tormented. It would have been a great matter not to think of rendering evil for evil, (1 Peter 3:9) as Peter, when he exhorts us to patience by the example of Christ, says that he did not render curses for curses, and did not revenge the injuries done to him, but was fully satisfied with having God for his avenger (1 Peter 2:23.) But this is a far higher and more excellent virtue, to pray that God would forgive his enemies. If any one think that this does not agree well with Peter's sentiment, which I have just now quoted, the answer is easy. For when Christ was moved by a feeling of compassion to ask forgiveness from God for his persecutors, this did not hinder him from acquiescing in the righteous judgment of God, which he knew to be ordained for reprobate and obstinate men. Thus when Christ saw that both the Jewish people and the soldiers raged against him with blind fury, though their ignorance was not excusable, he had pity on them, and presented himself as their intercessor. Yet knowing that God would be an avenger, he left to him the exercise of judgment against the desperate. In this manner ought believers also to restrain their feelings in enduring distresses, so as to desire the salvation of their persecutors, and yet to rest assured that their life is under the protection of God, and, relying on this consolation, that the licentiousness of wicked men will not in the end remain unpunished, not to faint under the burden of the cross. Of this moderation Luke now presents an instance in our Leader and Master; for though he might have denounced perdition against his persecutors, he not only abstained from cursing, but even prayed for their welfare. But it ought to be observed that, when the whole world rises against us, and all unite in striving to crush us, the best remedy for over-coming temptation is, to recall to our remembrance the blindness of those who fight against God in our persons. For the result will be, that the conspiracy of many persons against us, when solitary and deserted, will not distress us beyond measure; as, on the other hand, daily experience shows how powerfully it acts in shaking weak persons, when they see themselves attacked by a great multitude. And, therefore, if we learn to raise our minds to God, it will be easy for us to look down, as it were, from above, and despise the ignorance of unbelievers; for whatever may be their strength and resources, still they know not what they do. It is probable, however, that Christ did not pray for all indiscriminately, but only for the wretched multitude, who were carried away by inconsiderate zeal, and not by premeditated wickedness. For since the scribes and priests were persons in regard to whom no ground was left for hope, it would have been in vain for him to pray for them. Nor can it be doubted that this prayer was heard by the heavenly Father, and that this was the cause why many of the people afterwards drank by faith the blood which they had shed."

    One thing to realize in this is that as Christ merited righteousness for us, we have an example of intercessory prayer for the ignorant regardless as to their election. I don't think it's necessary to reduce Christ's prayer in this passage to the intercessory prayer He makes for His elect alone (John 17:9). Rather, He is leaving us an example of how we should intercede for our persecutors, a righteous sentiment that Stephen demonstrated as he was being martyred.

    This may pose a problem for some, but it is consistent with the righteous desire we are to have for the salvation of the lost generally. If Christ merited righteousness for us, is it a stretch to believe that this prayer was offered on behalf of a greater number than were in the end forgiven?
  4. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Sorry that I haven't come back to you. Since posting, I've been swamped with work... Thank you for the replies of you both. I'll get to reading it later this week.
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