Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Think about all of the people who were there that day, particularly the Roman soldiers who were such an intimate part of the crucifixion of Jesus, this tough band of men mocking a prisoner, beating Him, torturing Him, obeying their orders to nail His hands and feet to a cross. They certainly wouldn’t be gentle. They spit, they mocked, they hurt, and then they stood back to watch, maybe even with glee and enjoyment.
Then there were the chief priests and Pharisees who had gotten Jesus to this point. They had set this whole chain of events in motion. They had plotted and planned, they’d conspired with Judas, and then they’d gone out in the cover of night to get Him. They lied, they condemned, they swayed the crowd to go along with them. That crowd had joined in with the cries of “Crucify!” Perhaps caught up in the moment, perhaps not even knowing what was really going on, they lent their voices to the cause.
What had they done? All of these people played a part in the very Son of God, God incarnate, the Word become flesh, dying on a cruel cross. He could have called down fire from heaven to consume every one of them. He could have struck them dead with just one word. But from the cross, as He is fulfilling His purpose, as He is securing our salvation, as He is surrendering all, bearing the weight of sin, He reveals the true heart of God. It is mercy that dwells so fully in Him. It is grace that radiates from His very presence. It is unquestionable, incomprehensible love that flowed in His veins and which He poured out for each one.
How ignorant we all are. How often we do things hardly knowing what we’re even doing. Perhaps our intentions are good. Perhaps we think we’re doing the right and proper thing. Maybe we even think we’re doing what God wants us to do. But then we find out we were a little mixed up. We had the wrong idea. We messed up. And then Jesus is there not with a word of condemnation, not with fire and brimstone, but with a simple prayer for us: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”