Let me illustrate by telling you about how my kids used to respond to me and Julie during discipline when they were very young. When they would disobey or do wrong, and the sin called for a spanking, I recall vividly the words, “Mercy, daddy, mercy!” Or, “Mercy, mommy, mercy!” What were they asking for? A release from immediate consequences! You see, when they disobeyed, often they weren’t fully aware of the full extent of their sin. It was still sin, and they were responsible, so punishment was in order. However, they simply didn’t understand the long-term consequences of their wrong behavior. But we did. And so to correct it, we would go to the root of the problem. And as we did, they would cry out for mercy. Essentially, they would intercede for themselves and ask for one more chance to “get it right” so to speak. They were begging for a delay in judgment so that they would have one more opportunity to repent. They were looking or compassion and promising to change. They were hoping for mercy and, in return, showing repentance.
That’s the gist of this phrase, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It’s an intercession on behalf of others who simply don’t understand the full extent of their sin; its compassion and forgiveness from us towards those entangled in unbelief and sin. And that is how the cross marks us – with compassionate forgiveness and mercy. It imprints us with a compelling love that looks beyond the offense and somehow finds the will to delay just one more time in hopes of repentance.