Father, Forgive Them

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do

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John 19 Bible Study
John 19:6-18 Crucify Him
John 19:19-24 King of the Jews
John 19:25-27 His Mother

John 19:28-30 (A) Father, Forgive Them

John 19:28-30 (B) It Is Finished
John 19:28-30 (C) Sour Wine
John 19:31-35 Broken Legs
John 19:36-37 Fulfilled Prophecy
John 19:38-42 Joseph of Arimathea
JOHN 19:28-30  28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” 29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

Luke 23 and Matthew 27 shed a little more light on this account:

Luke 23:32-34, 44-47  32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. 44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last. 47 So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”

Matthew 27:45-50  45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 47 Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!” 48 Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. 49 The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

What are these passages describing?
While the six hours Jesus spent on the cross before "He gave up His Spirit" (John 19:30) may have seemed relatively uneventful to those standing around, much was happening in the spiritual realm. We will try to decipher as much as we can from the verses above.

Which of Jesus' quotes in these passages came first?
The first quote appears to be the one just after He was nailed to the cross and just before or during the division of His clothes by the soldiers: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:33-34)

Whom was Jesus asking the Father to forgive?
It could have been the two robbers, who may have been rebuking Him as discussed above, although that crime would have paled in comparison to what the others had just done to Him. It could have been the four Roman soldiers who nailed Him to the cross and were dividing or about to divide His clothes, or everyone involved in His arrest, torture and crucifixion. It also could have been a defense in response to prosecution; now that Jesus hung from the cross - since all that the Jews and the Romans had to do for their part were done - perhaps some among the twelve legions of angels may have started begging the Father to let them go and shred those who had trampled their Lord. Whatever the case, consider things from the Father’s perspective. He already had to send His only begotten, innocent Son to die. He had to decline when His Son asked Him while sweating blood to let the cup pass if there is another way. He watched His son get mangled into a bloody pulp. Now perhaps His angels are crying out to Him to let them unleash their fury on the Jews and Romans. But then, from the cross, Jesus - the Prince of Peace - asks Him, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." At that, maybe the angels crumbled to their knees and began to weep, the lips of the Father quivered and He whispered under His breath “My Son…” But here is the clincher: the Father then had to pour the sins of millions of sinners into that very Son, turning Him into sin itself ("For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." - 2 Corinthians 5:21) and hear His desperate cry, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46) as the Holy Spirit is withdrawn, and the death penalty is carried out. This is the ground zero of the Bible, where the justice of God - the need for sin to be punished - collided with the mercy of God - His desire to save us from that punishment. And the only one capable of bearing all of that sin and absorbing the force of that collision was His only begotten Son.

Why did He do this?
Because He loves us. The God of eternity, the Creator of the universe, loves us - specks of dust on a speck of dust in one corner of His universe - so much that He chose to go through this agony for us instead of just annihilating us. This is why God is called the God of love, because He loves us more than we can imagine, more than we love ourselves, far more than we deserve. And this is what Jesus meant when He said, ”For God SO loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

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