Luke 23:34
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
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(34) Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.—Again, the silence is broken, not by the cry of anguish or sigh of passionate complaint, but by words of tenderest pity and intercession. It is well, however, that we should remember who were the primary direct objects of that prayer. Not Pilate, for he knew that he had condemned the innocent; not the chief priests and scribes, for their sin, too, was against light and knowledge. Those for whom our Lord then prayed were clearly the soldiers who nailed Him to the cross, to whom the work was but that which they were, as they deemed, bound to do as part of their duty. It is, however, legitimate to think of His intercession as including, in its ultimate extension, all who in any measure sin against God as not knowing what they do, who speak or act against the Son of Man without being guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost. (See Note on Acts 3:17.)

23:32-43 As soon as Christ was fastened to the cross, he prayed for those who crucified him. The great thing he died to purchase and procure for us, is the forgiveness of sin. This he prays for. Jesus was crucified between two thieves; in them were shown the different effects the cross of Christ would have upon the children of men in the preaching the gospel. One malefactor was hardened to the last. No troubles of themselves will change a wicked heart. The other was softened at the last: he was snatched as a brand out of the burning, and made a monument of Divine mercy. This gives no encouragement to any to put off repentance to their death-beds, or to hope that they shall then find mercy. It is certain that true repentance is never too late; but it is as certain that late repentance is seldom true. None can be sure they shall have time to repent at death, but every man may be sure he cannot have the advantages this penitent thief had. We shall see the case to be singular, if we observe the uncommon effects of God's grace upon this man. He reproved the other for railing on Christ. He owned that he deserved what was done to him. He believed Jesus to have suffered wrongfully. Observe his faith in this prayer. Christ was in the depth of disgrace, suffering as a deceiver, and not delivered by his Father. He made this profession before the wonders were displayed which put honour on Christ's sufferings, and startled the centurion. He believed in a life to come, and desired to be happy in that life; not like the other thief, to be only saved from the cross. Observe his humility in this prayer. All his request is, Lord, remember me; quite referring it to Jesus in what way to remember him. Thus he was humbled in true repentance, and he brought forth all the fruits for repentance his circumstances would admit. Christ upon the cross, is gracious like Christ upon the throne. Though he was in the greatest struggle and agony, yet he had pity for a poor penitent. By this act of grace we are to understand that Jesus Christ died to open the kingdom of heaven to all penitent, obedient believers. It is a single instance in Scripture; it should teach us to despair of none, and that none should despair of themselves; but lest it should be abused, it is contrasted with the awful state of the other thief, who died hardened in unbelief, though a crucified Saviour was so near him. Be sure that in general men die as they live.Father, forgive them - This is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 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 then 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 the notes at 1 Corinthians 2:8. We may learn from this prayer:

1. The duty of praying for our enemies, even when they are endeavoring most to injure us.

2. The thing for which we should pray for them is that "God" would pardon them and give them better minds.

3. The power and excellence of the Christian religion. No other religion "teaches" people 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.

4. 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. Compare Acts 2:37, Acts 2:42-43; Acts 6:7; Acts 14:1.

They know not what they do - It was done through ignorance, Acts 3:17. Paul says that, "had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory," 1 Corinthians 2:8. Ignorance does not excuse altogether a crime if the ignorance be willful, 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 people 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 Timothy 1:13. So God "winked" at the ignorance of the Gentiles, Acts 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.

Lu 23:32-38, 44-46. Crucifixion and Death of the Lord Jesus.

(See on [1738]Joh 19:17-30).

Ver. 34-46. See Poole on "Matthew 27:35", and following verses to Matthew 27:50. See Poole on "Mark 14:24", and following verses to Mark 14:37. This part also of the history of our Saviour’s passion is best understood by a comparing together what all the evangelists say, which we have before done in our notes on Matthew, so as we shall only observe some few things from it as here recited.

And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, Luke 23:35. Matthew saith, Matthew 27:41, the chief priests, scribes, and elders were there mocking. So saith Mark, Mark 15:31. How doth malice and hatred for religion’s sake, not only out show men’s reason, but also all their moral virtue! And make nothing accounted uncharitable, unjust, or indecent to them, into whom this devil hath once entered. To say nothing of the injustice and indecencies obvious to every eye, which these men showed upon our Saviour’s examination and trial: it was now the first day of the feast of unleavened broad, the day following the passover night; or, as some think, the preparation both for the weekly sabbath and for the passover, though the most judicious interpreters be of the first opinion: one of them it was, be it which it would. If atheism and irreligion had not been at the height amongst this people, had it been possible that the high priest, and the chief of the priests, and the rulers of the Jews, should have spent this day, the whole time, from break of the day till noon, in accusing or condemning Christ; and then have spent the afternoon in mocking and deriding him on the cross as he was dying, breaking all laws of humanity and decency, as well as religion? Admitting Annas and Caiaphas were not there, yet some of the chief of the priests, the scribes, and the elders were certainly there; and betraying themselves there more rudely and indecently than the common people.

The people were there beholding him. These were there mocking and deriding a dying person. But as we say in philosophy, corruptio optimi est pessima; so we shall find it true, that men who are employed in sacred things, if the true fear of God be not in them, to make them the best, they are certainly the vilest and worst of men. We read of no rudenesses offered to our Saviour dying, but from the scribes, chief priests, rulers, and soldiers. These verses also afford us great proof of the immortality of the soul; otherwise the penitent thief could not that day have been with Christ in paradise, as Christ promised, Luke 23:43. Nor would Christ have committed his soul into his Father’s hand, if it had been to have expired with the body, and have vanished into air. For other things which concern this part of the history of our Saviour’s passion, See Poole on "Matthew 27:35", and following verses to Matthew 27:50.

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them,.... When he was crucified between the two thieves, and as he hung upon the cross, and while insulted and abused by all sorts of men, and put to the greatest pain and torture, he addressed himself to God his Father: the Arabic version reads, "my Father", who was so to him, not as he was man; for as such he had no father; but as he was God, being as a divine person, his beloved, and only begotten Son: and this he uses, whilst, as man, he is praying to him; partly to express his faith of relation to him; his confidence of being heard; and partly to set believers an example of praying, as he has directed, saying, "our Father", &c. and the petition put up by him is for forgiveness; which is with God, and with him only; and that for his enemies, his crucifiers: not for those who sinned the sin unto death, the sin against the Holy Ghost, who knowing him to be the Messiah, maliciously crucified him, for whom prayer is not to be made; but for those who were ignorantly concerned in it, as the next clause shows, even for his own elect, whom the Father had given him out of the world, which were among his crucifiers; for those, and not the world, he prays: and the fruit of this his prayer quickly appeared, in the conversion of three thousand of them under Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, next following, in six weeks time. Though such might be his affection, as man, in general, as to wish for, and desire, as such, was it consistent with the divine will, forgiveness for all of them; adding,

for they know not what they do, or "are doing", meaning, in crucifying him, which was the case of many of them, and of their rulers; they did not know that Jesus was the Messiah, nor the prophecies concerning him, nor the evil they were committing in putting him to death: not that their ignorance excused their sin; nor was it without sin; nor does Christ use it as a plea for pardon, or found his intercession upon it, which is always done upon his own propitiatory sacrifice; but this is mentioned as descriptive of the persons Christ prays for, and points out a branch of his priestly office he exercises, in having compassion on the ignorant, and them that are out of the way;

and they parted his raiment, and cast lots: that is, upon his vesture, or seamless coat, and so fulfilled the prophecy in Psalm 22:18. See Gill on Matthew 27:35. See Gill on John 19:23. See Gill on John 19:24.

{10} Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

(10) Christ, in praying for his enemies, shows that he is both the Sacrifice and the Priest.

Luke 23:34. Πάτερ, etc.: a prayer altogether true to the spirit of Jesus, therefore, though reported by Lk. alone, intrinsically credible. It is with sincere regret that one is compelled, by its omission in important MSS., to regard its genuineness as subject to a certain amount of doubt. In favour of it is its conformity with the whole aim of Lk. in his Gospel, which is to exhibit the graciousness of Jesus.—διαμεριζόμενοι, etc., and parting His garments they cast lots = they divided His garments by casting lots.

34. Father, forgive them] Isaiah 53:12, “He bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” These words were probably uttered at the terrible moment when the Sufferer was outstretched upon the Cross and the nails were being driven through the palms of the hands. They are certainly genuine, though strangely omitted by B, D. We must surely suppose that the prayer was uttered not only for the Roman soldiers, who were the mere instruments of the executors, but for all His enemies. It was in accordance with His own teaching (Matthew 5:44), and His children have learnt it from Him (Acts 7:59-60; Euseb. H.E. ii. 29). They were the first of the seven words from the Cross, of which three (Luke 23:34; Luke 23:43; Luke 23:46) are recorded by St Luke only, and three’(John 19:27-28; John 19:30) by St John only. The last cry also began with the word “Father.” The seven words are

Luke 23:34. The Prayer for the Murderers.

Luke 23:43. The Promise to the Penitent.

John 19:26. The provision for the Mother.

Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

John 19:28. The sole expression of human agony.

John 19:30. “It is finished.”

Luke 23:46. “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.”

Thus they refer to His enemies, to penitents, to His mother and disciple, to the agony of His soul, to the anguish of His body, to His work, and to His Heavenly Father. St Luke here omits our Lord’s refusal of the sopor—the medicated draught, or myrrh-mingled wine (Mark 15:23; Matthew 27:34), which, if it would have deadened His pains, would also have beclouded His faculties.

forgive them] aphes; Christ died “for the remission (aphesin) of sins,” Matthew 26:28.

they know not what they do] Rather, are doing. “Through ignorance ye did it,” Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:8. “Judaei clamant Crucifige; Christus clamat Ignosce. Magna illorum iniquitas sed major tua, O Domine, pietas.” St Bernard.

they parted his raiment] For the fuller details see John 19:23-24.

Luke 23:34. Ἔλεγε, said) This is the first utterance of Jesus Christ on the cross. There are in all seven such utterances to be drawn from the four Evangelists, no single one of whom has recorded them all. From this it is evident, that their four records are as it were four voices, which, joined together, form one symphony; and at one time single voices sound (solos), at another, two voices (duets), at another, three (trios), at another, all the voices together. The Saviour went through most of the ordeal on the cross in silence; but His seven utterances contain a recapitulation of the doctrine calculated to be of profit to us in our last hours. [It would not be unattended with profit to comp. with this the German hymn of the Author, composed on a particular occasion, beginning thus:—“Mittler! alle Kraft der Worte,” etc. It may be found in “Sen. Urlspergeri Unterricht für Kranke und Sterbende,” Aug. Vind., 1756, p. 408, and in “S. R. J. C. Storrii Gottgeheiligten Flämmlein, etc., Stuttg. 1755, p. 315.—E. B.” For in these utterances He hag regard to both His enemies and a converted sinner, and His mother with His disciple, and His heavenly Father. These seven utterances may also be compared with the seven petitions in the Lord’s prayer. Even in the very order of the utterances, mysteries are hidden; and from it maybe illustrated the successive steps of every persecution, affliction, and conflict (agonis) of the Christian.—Πάτερ, Father) At the beginning, and at the close of His suffering on the cross, He calls upon God by the appellation, Father.—ἄφες, forgive) Had He not uttered this prayer, the penalty might have begun at once, whilst this most atrocious crime was in the act of perpetration, as often happened in like cases in the time of Moses. The prayers of the Long-suffering One (or simply, the Sufferer) prevent the immediate execution of wrath, and obtain a full ‘forgiveness’ for the time to come, as well as ‘repentance’ [Acts 5:31] for those who were about (i. e. willing) to accept it. [Who knows but that forgiveness and repentance were vouchsafed to the few soldiers who took charge of the crucifixion?—Harm., p. 563.]—αὐτοῖς, them) viz. those who were crucifying Him.—[τί ποιοῦσι, what they do) They knew certainly that they were in the act of crucifying, but Who it was that they were crucifying, they knew not. And truly it was awful ignorance on their part; but if that ignorance had been removed, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; nevertheless, even heavier guilt was incurred by him who sinned knowingly.—V. g.]

Verse 34. - Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. These words are missing in some of the oldest authorities. They are found, however, in the majority of the most ancient manuscripts and in the most trustworthy of the old versions, and are undoubtedly genuine. These first of the seven words from the cross seem, from their position in the record, to have been spoken very early in the awful scene, probably while the nails were being driven into the hands and feet. Different from other holy dying men, he had no need to say, "Forgive me." Then, as always, thinking of others, he utters this prayer, uttering it, too, as Stier well observes, with the same consciousness which had been formerly expressed, "Father, I know that thou hearest me always." "His intercession has this for its ground, though in meekness it is not expressed: 'Father, I will that thou forgive them." In the same sublime consciousness who he was, he speaks shortly after to the penitent thief hanging by his side. These words of the crucified Jesus were heard by the poor sufferer close to him; they - with other things he had noticed in the One crucified in the midst - moved him to that piteous prayer which was answered at once so quickly and so royally. St. Bernard comments thus on this first word from the cross: "Judaei clamant, 'Crucifige! 'Christus clamat,' Ignosce!' Magna illorum iniquitas. seal major tun, O Domine, pietas!" And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. The rough soldiers were treating the Master as already dead, and were disposing of his raiment, of which they had stripped him before fastening him to the cross. He was hanging there naked, exposed to sun and wind. Part of this raiment was torn asunder, part they drew lots for to see who was to wear it. The garments of the crucified became the property of the soldiers who carried out the sentence. Every cross was guarded by a guard of four soldiers. The coat, for which they cast lots, was, St. John tells us, without seam. "Chrysostom," who may have written from personal knowledge, thinks that the detail is added to show "the poorness of the Lord's garments, and that in dress, as in all other things, he followed a simple fashion." Luke 23:34
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