One of the most powerful things Jesus said from the Cross was, “Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” It is beautiful in its graciousness and loving in its leniency.
But it is also enigmatic. Did they not in fact, know exactly what they were doing? They had been plotting for several years to set up Jesus and trap him. They infiltrated his ranks and found a betrayer. They held a mock trial full of false and contradictory testimony and references to his teaching that were completely out of context (Mk 14:53). Even Pilate marveled at their obsession and rush to execute a seemingly harmless and unpretentious Galilean who spoke of a kingdom, “not of this world.” They jeered at him from beneath the Cross and walked away self-righteously to prepare the Sabbath which was a solemn one that year (Jn 19:31). Yes, it seems they knew exactly what they were doing.
And further, there is no evidence that they sought forgiveness. They were proud of what they had done and would continue to persecute the early Christians with the same bloody resolve.
“Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” An extravagant mercy to be sure but also a puzzling one that seems to jettison the accountability of which Jesus often spoke; that we would be accountable even for every idle word (Mat 12:36).
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