In our daily meditations, we are looking at the drama of the crucifixion of Christ. The last things a person speaks before he dies are usually important things that they want to convey. There are seven last sayings of Christ while He was on the cross. We will examine these sayings in order:
1) "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
Who did Jesus forgive because of their ignorance? The Lord directed this first saying to the soldiers guarding Him as they divided His clothing among themselves. John wrote that the four soldiers guarding Christ cast lots for his clothing to fulfill another prophecy spoken by King David (John 19:23-24; Psalm 22:8). Most pictures of Christ on the cross usually show an undergarment over his loins, but in reality, crucified criminals were hung naked for maximum humiliation and dissuading others from criminal paths. It seems that as soon as the cross had settled into its socket, the chief priest and elders mocked Him. He did not retaliate or curse or wail. Amid His pain, He did the opposite. Amazingly, He forgave the soldiers, even as they were casting lots for His clothing. It was not their business to question their leaders. They were given a job to do, and they were doing it in ignorance of Christ’s identity. They did not see the enormity of what they had just done, i.e., that God clothed in the flesh was the One they had just crucified. His critics and enemies were also gathered around His cross, breathing out their curses and scorn against Him.
39Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:39-43).
Again, this was something that God had foretold through the prophet, King David. The Lord had shown David that one of his descendants, the One who would one day become king and heir of all things, would be despised and scorned by men. This prophetic utterance is evidence of the Holy Scriptures' genuineness, foretold hundreds of years before they happened so that, when it did happen, we might realize the truth of the Scriptures and place our faith in God and His Messiah, Jesus. Here's David's prophecy as it relates to those who scorned Christ while He suffered:
7All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. 8“He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” 12Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. 16Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet (Psalm 22:7-8; 12-13; 16).
Just because he prayed for His Father to forgive the soldiers and those in ignorance does not mean they would be forgiven without repentance and faith in God. Forgiveness of sin was the very reason Christ was dying. What this passage shows us is that God is willing to forgive those who have sinned against Him, but this forgiveness is only received when one repents (changes their mind and direction towards God) and believes in the good news of the substitutionary blood covenant that was made for us and as us by Christ. Keith Thomas
Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, study 63: The Crucifixion of Christ.