Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” – Luke 23:34
The first of the seven utterances of our LORD Jesus Christ, when He was on the Cross. We are told to forgive others, because Jesus forgave those who crucified Him. But, Jesus did not forgive them, He prayed for their forgiveness.
On numerous accounts, we see in the Gospels, Jesus forgiving the sins of many sinners. When the Scribes questioned His authority to forgive sins, Jesus clearly tells them that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6). So, why didn’t He forgive the sins of those who crucified Him? Jesus could have simply said, “I forgive you, for you do not know what you do.” Instead, He prays to Father to forgive them.
There could be many reasons for this. But one of the reasons, IMHO, could be that Jesus is setting an example for what He preached in Matthew 5:44-45.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”
In His infinite wisdom, our Lord knows that there will be certain offenses against us, that no matter how much we want to forgive those who offended us, we will not be able to. There will be certain bitterness remaining in our hearts. So, Jesus instructs us to pray for their forgiveness. As a Man, it would have been very difficult for Jesus to forgive those who were crucifying Him. So, He prays to His Father to forgive them. Yes, He is a High Priest Who understands our weaknesses.
Dear friend, there may be some who have hurt you so much, that your life has become bitter. You have tried your best to forgive them, but it is of no use. So, now is the example that the Saviour has set before us. Let us pray for them. Let us ask the Father our God to forgive them. If He forgives them, then He will surely pour His abundant grace into our hearts, that we will be able to forgive too.