On Sunday we are looking at one of the most well-known of all of Jesus’ sayings. And the saying we are looking at is this:
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:43
And sometimes things that become well-known, also become shallowly known. Since we are familiar with a thought or a saying, we think we deeply understand a thought or a saying. Sometimes the biggest enemy of understanding, is familiarity.
So I want to make this saying a little less – familiar to you. To bring up some questions to intrigue you, and some dissonance to help us to dive deeper.
First question, “who is the “them” in this last request of Jesus? Who is the “them” that should be forgiven?” Because in the Scripture itself the “them” isn’t clear. Is it the Roman guards crucifying him? Is it the rulers and authorities? Or might it even be…us he is forgiving? I think it’s n important question to dive into
Second question, “what does “For they know not what they are doing” mean?” I mean honestly, the Romans knew they were killing someone. They knew they were killing someone probably innocent (look at the interaction with Pilate). It’s not like they didn’t know they were killing someone. They also knew they were killing an emissary of God, or someone who claimed to be the Son of God. That’s the whole reason he is being killed anyway. They knew of the miracles and all that Jesus is stirring up so they kill him. So what does “for they know not what they are doing” actually mean?
Third question, “who is the statement addressed to?” We like to think it’s about us, and how God will forgive us. But that’s just our self-centeredness talking because the prayer is not addressed to us at all. It’s addressed to the Father. So how does that change how we interpret this verse? Well I’ll give you a clue, if it’s not addressed to us, it can’t be primarily about us.
But those are just some of the initial questions I have with this verse I want to pursue on Sunday. Because as familiar as this verse is, I don’t actually think it’s that well understood, and it has a lot to teach us.