Father, Forgive Them, For They Know Not What They Do

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JUDGES 7:1-8:17 | LUKE 23:13-43 | PSALM 97:1-98:9 | PROVERBS 14:7-8

Gideon is the man of the hour, and in these two chapters we learn of how Gideon leads a small band of men—no more than three hundred—to defeat the Midianites, the dominant peoples in that region.  Although Gideon might have taken with him a much larger army of people and weaponry, in the end, based on God’s guidance, he dismisses several thousand of his men save the three hundred, and his primary weapons are a torch in the right hand, and a trumpet and a jar in the right. 

The scene is somewhat reminiscent of Joshua and his men taking the city of Jericho.  A cry of jubilation and praise to the Lord, the blowing of trumpets, the breaking of the earthen jars to the ground, and holding up their torches—this was the style of warfare that Gideon employed.  And he was victorious in routing the Midianites.

And he wasn’t one to forget an insult easily, either.  When Gideon approaches some others along the way and asks for succor, he is turned away, and Gideon does to them what he promises he will do:  to come back after he has finished the job of finding the two absconding enemy kings, and to punish those who dismissed him with a scourging of thorn briers.

Turning to our reading in Luke, we find a most curious set of events: Jesus is shipped off to Herod, who taunts him for a while, and then sends him right back to Pilate who then tries to talk the people into letting him release Jesus.  And so, here’s the big question:  since when did the ruthless Roman administration show so much consideration to the will of the people?  Not since Pilate in his review and treatment of Jesus! 

And so the story goes as Luke recounts what happens next:  Pilate attempts to persuade the people to release Jesus for the annual pardon-one-prisoner program, but the mob is crazed, and instead demands that not Jesus, but Barabbas—a hardened criminal—be let go.  Pilate does just that, and the die has been cast once and for all.  Jesus is executed like a common criminal, in fact, he has for company two other criminals who had already been on death-row, and perhaps in the name of efficiencies of scale, all three accused are now crucified on the same day.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  These are Jesus’ words even as he lies bleeding a slow death.  Words that will forever set the bar for what true forgiveness really is.  Forgiving the sinner even before the sinner has sought forgiveness. What a concept!

Some time back, I had wondered about the concept of forgiveness whilst pondering the passage in which Jesus says that we must forgive seventy-times-seven.  I was wondering at that time if forgiveness was available only for the asking, or if was to be made available even if before it was asked for, or worse still, if it wasn’t asked for at all.  I think I might have found my answer here in these words of Jesus who is clearly offering a forgiveness to those who haven’t asked for it yet, and possibly don’t even realize their need for it.

The rest of the passage tells of the very gruesome nature of the crucifixion, and even as I ponder the physical agony of such an execution, I am drawn to the story of the one criminal who engages Jesus in conversation.  This is one smart criminal.  Smart and humble.  He says simply to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  And Jesus immediately says to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Our two Psalms for the day are psalms of praise.  In Psalm 98, we see David exhorting and urging all to sing and shout praises unto the Lord.  Both man and nature is to sing and shout praises.  Do not remain silent when you can sing and shout praises. 

This is reminiscent of Gideon in that he and his men took down the cities of the Midianites by virtues of their shouts of praise.  The sound of praise is an extraordinary one; let us use the voices that we have been given to sing and shout the praises of God.  David says this:

4 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
5 make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.

7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
9 let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity.

Finally, from the book of Proverbs, we have yet again a couple of verses that compare and contrast the ways of the wise and the foolish.  Solomon, the wise king of Israel offers this admonition to his people:

7 Stay away from a fool,
for you will not find knowledge on their lips.

8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
   but the folly of fools is deception.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

4 thoughts on “Father, Forgive Them, For They Know Not What They Do

  1. We understand that these words of Jesus from the cross about forgiveness were specifically to the people who sent Him to be cricified.The scriptures are very clear that each individual should believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and confess their sins like 1John 1:9, John 3:3, John 3:15-18.Every person has to ask God for forgiveness through Lord Jesus Christ.

  2. Thank you, dearest Mom and Dad, for these insights. We are indeed personally responsible to seek God’s forgiveness; my thoughts were toward our fellowmen to whom *we* might offer forgiveness whether or not it is sought of us.

  3. Wonderful reflection on forgiveness. TFS. Interesting to see Gideon and Jesus in juxtaposition here in back to back readings. It helps us to understand how the people of Jesus’ time were expecting a Gideon-like ‘savior’, making the example of radical forgiveness something very difficult for them to accept. I also like the 300 reference – nice connection.

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