Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
What thrills us is that this first word of prayer that Jesus offered was not for himself. He did not ask for his own deliverance. He did not pray in that black hour for his loved ones, nor for his friends. He prayed for his enemies. He prayed for the soldiers and for the far more cruel churchmen who, having nailed him to the cross, were even then howling about him. It was around the bloody shoulders of these murderers that he flung the folds of this prayer.
As a man, he retains nothing but forgiveness and love. His whole life was an expression of love, and his death set the seal. This word points to his atoning and interceding love. Observe he does not pray for any forgiveness for himself. A fact impossible to account for, save on the ground that he was the Holy One of God.
That is humanity at its greatest. Men have their conceptions of human nature, and of what things make for greatness therein. These conceptions are very many and very varied. I submit that humanity has never been seen greater than in the Man Jesus, when he said, “Father, forgive them.” In the soul of Jesus there was no resentment, no anger, no lurking desire for punishment upon the men who were maltreating him.
As in numerous other instances, each of the Gospels gives only a few details from the story of the crucifixion and of Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Thus no Gospel gives all the words spoken by him on the cross and we have to take the accounts of all the four Gospels together in order to get a sufficiently full picture. Luke was the only one to record the prayer of the Crucified One for his enemies. It is in perfect agreement with Luke’s predilection throughout his Gospel ...1
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