1st Word: "Father, Forgive Them, for They Know Not What They Do"

Each day of Holy Week, we will post a devotional reflection on the seven last words of Christ from the cross. 

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

It is fitting that the first words of Jesus from the cross speak of forgiveness. After all, that’s why He hangs. The cross has been domesticated by many into merely a great example of self-sacrificial love, but that’s not why He bleeds.

He is not an example; He is a Savior. Jesus has ascended Calvary because sinners need atonement, and He himself is that atoning sacrifice.

Asking God to forgive is empty sentimentality unless there is actually a way for God to forgive. He can passionately plead “Father forgive,” but that will not change the realities of justice.

Sin is treason against God, and that cannot be taken lightly.

The crowds that cried out for His execution, the authorities who consented to His execution, and the soldiers who carried out His execution, are all meant to be vivid portrayals of the fundamental nature of sin. All sin is against God. It is, first and foremost, an assault against His glory.

Therefore our transgressions are no different than the sins against Jesus that day. We ourselves have beaten, bloodied, and crucified the Son of God. In fact, it could be argued that our sins are worse. “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Well we know what we’re doing, and yet still we do it.

Even still, the offended One pleads forgiveness on behalf of His offenders. But unfortunately it’s not that simple. You can’t expect a judge to merely absolve such deep offenses, even if the offended party begs Him to do so. However this plea is different. The One crying for God to forgive is simultaneously the One making it possible for God to answer that cry.

He will be a Holocaust on behalf of His sinful people. He will receive the blow of divine justice that forgiveness of sin might actually become a reality. And indeed it is. What was once impossible and wholly unavailable has now become possible and readily available.

Sins cannot be absolved by pleading words, but His pleading words have been made effectual by His cross.

Every single time Jesus now asks His Father to forgive, His Father is glad to do so. And that is why He is indeed our great High Priest, perfectly interceding on our behalf. The penitent beg for forgiveness in Jesus’ name, and Jesus likewise offers up those requests to God.

His first words on the cross have been repeated countless times over, “Father, forgive them.” And every single time the Father has been glad to do just that.

The pleads of Jesus will never be ignored because the One pleading bears the scars of His request.