No. Jesus didn’t ask for forgiveness. He prayed that God would forgive those who crucified Him.
Forgiveness is hard. Hard to understand. Even harder to give. And yet here was Jesus. The most monstrous deed of mankind was done. No less than the Son of God hang on the Cross like some raw meat in display. Beaten. Bloodied. Spat upon. Stripped naked. Humiliated. Derided. A grisly death watch began as Jesus’s life slowly ebbed away. Yet amazingly, incredibly, He did not hurl curses or judgment. He asked God to forgive the very people who had done these things to Him.
I have always marvelled at the depth of Jesus’s compassion for sinners. The hurting, the seeking and the repentant can always find refuge in Him. At the Cross, we see another glimmer of that compassion. Compassion that made Him cry out, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
I am not saying that ignorance is the basis of forgiveness of sins. Neither am I saying that we need not pay the consequences of our action. But when Jesus gazed at the crowd: the leering soldiers, the mocking Pharisees, the weeping women (His own mother, included), the distressed disciples, He saw them through a different lens. He saw people who were lost. People who were manipulated to scream, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” People who were blinded by the evil one. People who were imprisoned by their own envy, fear and prejudice. People who faced terrible judgment in the end. “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Is this also the way Jesus prays for me? Elsewhere in the New Testament says that He always lives to intercede for those who come to God through Him. There are some sins I commit that cause me to exclaim, “What was I thinking? I should have known better!” Does that qualify? What about the insecurities, the heartache, the regrets that I tell no one that makes it so tempting to stray? Does Jesus take that into account, too?
Yes, Jesus understands me much more than I understand myself. He sees me: a poor, wretched man who so desperately yearns to love, follow and please Him in every way. Yet when inevitably I fall short, saying or doing something that breaks His heart, He prays for me, “Father, forgive Nelson, for he does not know what he is doing.”
But it doesn’t end with me. I look around. That person who had betrayed my trust. That person who had ripped my spirit to shreds. That person who had stolen my goods. I must see them through the eyes of my Savior. They must have been so terribly wounded themselves and this is the only way they know how to cope. They do not know better. They do not know Jesus.
So I go back to the Cross and lift up my eyes on this amazing Savior. Amidst the grossest injustice is the purest of love. Love that looks beyond the crime and offers pardon. After all, He had made it possible on the Cross. Have you received this kind of forgiveness? Put your trust on Jesus Christ and His prayer for your forgiveness will indeed be granted.
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