was not a prayer for those who had wronged him years before, but for those who were in the very act of murdering him. Jesus did not pray for them long after the event, when time had a chance to heal. No. He prayed for them while his blood was still spurting from his veins. He prayed for them while his blood was still fresh on their hands and clothes. While they were still standing at the foot of the cross and looking at him, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

The people murdering Jesus did not deserve his prayer. On the contrary, they deserved his curse. They did not ask him to pray for them. In fact, they probably scoffed and laughed when they heard Jesus praying. Yet, this text teaches us that Jesus prays for those who neither deserved his prayer nor asked for it.

You know, there are none on earth who deserve this petition of Jesus. He prays for no one on the supposition that they deserve his petition. But, in great mercy, he prays for his guilty, undeserving enemies.

Jesus still prays for the undeserving today. Jesus still prays for those who do not ask him to pray. Jesus’ elect, while yet dead in transgression and sin, are the objects of his compassionate prayer, and even while they scoff at the Gospel, his heart of love is entreating the favor of heaven on their behalf.

Some of you think that only deserving people are the objects of God’s love and grace. The truth is that none of us are deserving of God’s love and grace. And the beauty of the Gospel is that it is the undeserving who are the objects of God’s love and grace. Do you see that? Jesus loves the undeserving. Jesus prays for the undeserving.

D. Jesus’ Petition Is for Forgiveness

Fourth, Jesus’ petition is for forgiveness. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.”

One might have expected Jesus to pray, “Father, curse them.” Or, “Father, strike them.” But Jesus doesn’t pray that. No, Jesus asked God to forgive his executioners for their heinous act. The specific request is for forgiveness.

Charles Spurgeon says that if we had no other description of Jesus, this text alone should convince of his deity. Moreover, it should evoke adoration and worship within us for a Savior who asks the Father to forgive sinners.

But on what basis does Jesus ask for the forgiveness of sinners? What is the ground or argument or plea on which his petition is based?

II. The Plea (23:34b)

The second part of Jesus’ prayer is a plea: “for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34b).

As Jesus looked at his executioners, what did he see in them to commend to the Father as the ground for his petition of forgiveness? Jesus saw their ignorance as a ground for his petition. If they had known who he really was, they would not have acted in ignorance.

The rulers did not understand God’s word and so they had not taught the people God’s word accurately. The people walked in darkness. They thought they were doing God a service in their
Ron Hay
September 28, 2006
Very feeling of understanding the forgiveness in Christ. Good thought, explanation & presentation.