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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE - Chapter 23 - Verse 34
Verse 34. Father, forgive them. This is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isa 53:12: He made intercession for the transgressors. The prayer was offered for those who were guilty of putting him to death. It is not quite certain whether he referred to the Jews or to the Roman soldiers. Perhaps he referred to both. The Romans knew not what they did, as they were really ignorant that he was the Son of God, and as they were merely obeying the command of their rulers. The Jews knew, indeed, that he was innocent, and they had evidence, if they would have looked at it, that he was the Messiah; but they did not know what would be the effect of their guilt; they did not know what judgments and calamities they were bringing down upon their country. It may be added, also, that, though they had abundant evidence, if they would look at it, that he was the Messiah, and enough to leave them without excuse, yet they did not, in fact, believe that he was the Saviour promised by the prophets, and had not, in fact, any proper sense of his rank and dignity as "the Lord of glory." If they had had, they would not have crucified him, as we cannot suppose that they would knowingly put to death their own Messiah, the hope of the nation, and him who had been so long promised to the fathers. See Barnes "1 Co 2:8".
We may learn from this prayer—
1st. The duty of praying for our enemies, even when they are endeavouring most to injure us.
2nd. The thing for which we should pray for them is that God would pardon them and give them better minds.
3rd. The power and excellence of the Christian religion. No other religion teaches men to pray for the forgiveness of enemies; no other disposes them to do it. Men of the world seek for revenge; the Christian bears reproaches and persecutions with patience, and prays that God would pardon those who injure them, and save them from their sins.
4th. The greatest sinners, through the intercession of Jesus, may obtain pardon. God heard him, and still hears him always, and there is no reason to doubt that many of his enemies and murderers obtained forgiveness and life. Comp. Ac 2:37,42-43; 7:7; 14:1.
They know not what they do. It was done through ignorance, Ac 3:17. Paul says that,
"had they known it, they would not have crucified
the Lord of glory,"
1 Co 2:8. Ignorance does not excuse altogether a crime if the ignorance be wilful, but it diminishes its guilt. They had evidence; they might have learned his character; they might have known what they were doing, and they might be held answerable for all this. But Jesus here shows the compassion of his heart, and as they were really ignorant, whatever might have been the cause of their ignorance, he implores God to pardon them. He even urges it as a reason why they should be pardoned, that they were ignorant of what they were doing; and though men are often guilty for their ignorance, yet God often in compassion overlooks it, averts his anger, and grants them the blessings of pardon and life. So he forgave Paul, for he
"did it in ignorance, in unbelief,"
1 Ti 1:13. So God winked at the ignorance of the Gentiles, Ac 17:30. Yet this is no excuse, and no evidence of safety, for those who in our day contemptuously put away from them and their children the means of instruction.
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