Geoff and Ellen were talking over breakfast one Sunday morning –
Ellen. I came across that verse in Luke 23:34 in this morning’s reading, you know, where Jesus said on the cross, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing.” To whom do you think He was referring?
Geoff. Let’s have a look at the context. . . Ah, yes, it seems as though it was very soon after He had been nailed on the cross. In that case, perhaps He was speaking to His Father about the Roman soldiers. Obviously they didn’t know what they were doing. They were merely obeying orders.
Ellen. Yes . . . . I suppose so. . . . . You don’t think He could have been referring to a wider group?
Geoff. Well, my marginal reference is to 1 Cor.2:8. Let’s have a look at that. . . . “None of the rulers of this age knew, for if they knew they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
Ellen. Wow! That suggests a wider group, doesn’t it? Who are the rulers of this age?
Geoff. My guess is Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. They were the ones chiefly responsible for the crime.
Ellen. But surely you don’t think the Lord could have been asking forgiveness for them? That takes a bit of believing.
Geoff. I get your point, but . . . I recall Jesus saying that we should love our enemies, that we may become sons of our heavenly Father.
Ellen. Yes, . . . you’re right. He went on to say that we should pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us. . . . Have you got something else?
Geoff. I was just looking up the other marginal reference . . . to Isaiah 53:12. Here it is . . . “He poured out His soul unto death and was numbered with the transgressors, yet He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” D’you realise what that means? Jesus was in fact fulfilling prophecy when He spoke those words.
Ellen. What is more to the point, He made intercession for the transgressors. Paul must have known that when he penned those lines about the rulers of this age. Then it looks as though our Lord was including others, not just the Roman soldiers.
Geoff. I think you must be right. . . . . What is the implication in that?
Ellen. I found the thought of forgiving Caiaphas rather difficult to take, but He must have been asking His Father for that. . . . Gosh, my mind is in a whirl. Surely there was no greater crime in all history than to be responsible for the crucifixion of the Lord of glory? . . . And yet Jesus asked His Father to forgive him . . . and the rest of the Sanhedrin.
Geoff. If you mention that in Church, you might get into trouble.
Geoff. Because I think you’ll find that in their minds they have already assigned a place in the lowest hell for Caiaphas, and expect him to be there eternally.
Ellen. Oh, . . . yes, I hadn’t thought of that. But how can God do that to someone He has forgiven?
Geoff. Exactly. I think we shall have to consider changing our ideas rather drastically. I don’t remember doing any study on hell. Perhaps it’s time we got our concordance out. . . . . Darling, you have tears in your eyes!
Ellen. Yes . . . I am completely demolished . . . . the sheer extent of our Lord’s forgiveness . . . . I feel as though I’ve been lifted onto a higher plane, and all I want to do is sit and drink in something of great beauty and worth . . . it overwhelms me.