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Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do

The first sentence Jesus said at his crucifixion in Luke 23:34 was: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

Why did Jesus say that? And to whom? In fact, there is a deeper background to this that some may not have known yet. The following explanation provides information.

Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and pray for them

Basically, Jesus did exactly what every good teacher does. He did exactly what he taught his disciples. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples that, contrary to the law of Jews, they should not hate their enemies, but forgive them and pray for them. Even when he faced his death and mockery he remained faithful to his word, justifying himself as the Son of God.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:44-50)

“Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing” was addressed to the Jewish people

Isaiah had already prophesied that the Jewish people would not believe Jesus. They would hear and yet not hear and see and yet not see. And so Jesus fulfilled this prophecy when he was crucified. Because his people did not recognize him.

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. (Isaiah 6:10)

Jesus himself refers to this passage in Isaiah. You can also see here that Jesus did not include his disciples in this word. Because he said of them that they can see and hear.

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

(Matthew 13:13-17)

I hope the explanation about the phrase “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” was enlightening. A detailed article about forgiveness follows later and will be linked here.

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