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Father, forgive them.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Who could truly understand what was happening? He wasn’t the savior they were expecting. He wasn’t saving them in the way they wanted. And, yet, even at that depth of evil, Jesus is eager to forgive, eager for us to return to his Father’s presence. He says, “Father, forgive” that we might boldly pray “Our Father who art in Heaven…”

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Gazing up at the cross, we see the folly of our ways. We focus so much on ourselves, our immediate wants and desires, that we don’t step back to see the larger picture. That day was a Roman crucifixion like any other. Just another “pagan prophet” and a few criminals causing ripples in the Roman “peace.” Rome must have order. Rome must be appeased. The Jewish authorities have found a balance for themselves and the people that they wish to maintain. And, yet, they miss the world-changing event unfurling right before their eyes. Even still, Jesus forgives.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

On the tree, in excruciating pain, tired and thirsty our God still thinks about us. Us, the very people who put him there. Us, the very ones who cause his pain. Us who say, “crucify him!” in our daily misdeeds and the many ways we hurt others. Us. You, me, everyone. He came that we might be forgiven. He came to intercede for us before the Father. He came to forever identify himself with our pitiful plight.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Not just those who pleaded with Pilot for his execution, not just the mocking soldiers, not just those who betrayed in thought, word, and deed. All of us. Jesus pleas for Eve. He pleas for Moses. He pleas for Paul. He sees the hate and evil that have come before and the atrocities that are still yet to come. He pities our shortsightedness and forgives all who turn to him.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Paul says, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Jesus knows our condition. He knows how little we understand. He knows how completely sin has mired God’s image in us. He knows how frequently we fall into sin. He knows how quickly things get out of control for us. He knows how one little white lie can turn into a very big problem with very real consequences. And, knowing this, he still loves us. He still seeks for our return to the Father.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

In the darkness of our blindness, Jesus still seeks to be our light and give us sight. In our confusion and stupidity, Jesus still seeks to be our shepherd and to teach us the Father’s ways. Jesus hangs on the cross, not out of duty, not because of cosmic powers outside of his control, not because of any weakness. He hangs there, freely and willingly, because of love.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Jesus’ love is deeper than we can imagine. From the cross, we see the true face of God. He is a God ready to save. A God ready to forgive. A God ready to go to the depths of hell to save even just one sinner who’s realized how stupid he’s been.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Look to the cross. What Rome meant for shame, God took for his glory. Do not look away. Behold the deep and awesome love of God. Behold how he understands us. Behold his care for us. Behold how even as we execute him he wants only to forgive.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Hear the Good News! Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. That proves God’s love toward us! In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

He suffered death on a cross to save us. He heard the cries of his captive people. He entered the depths of hell to save everyone who would come. From his first cries to his dying words on the cross, he is God with Us and for us.

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

There is no sin or shame that places us outside of Jesus’ love for us. The blood of Jesus once offered on the cross is sufficient to cover all sin: those sins we willingly and knowingly commit and those sins we don’t even understand.

Don’t look away from the cross. Don’t run away in shame. Stand at his feet. Weep for your sins and the sins of the world. With Mary, look at the weight of our sin and the disgusting reality of evil.

But know this, it is not the nails that stretch out his arms, but the deep love of God. His arms outstretched are ready to embrace you. His arms, outstretched, are ready to pull you into the Father’s embrace. Come to Jesus’ feet at the cross and hear the Good News for sinners:

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.