At the crucifixion, Jesus prayed:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
This prayer was given on behalf of those who were guilty of the act of crucifixion. It is not certain whether Jesus prayed to the “Jews” or “to the Roman soldiers.” Perhaps He prayed to both. In a broader sense, the prayer was offered for all sinners till the end of time. Jesus’ prayer would not, in itself, however, remove the guilt of people but make forgiveness possible for all that repent of it.
Degrees of Ignorance
The Romans didn’t realize what they did, as they were really ignorant that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. They were merely carrying out the commands of their superiors. On the other hand, the Jewish leaders had made their premeditated stand against the Messiah, though God’s truth had been revealed to them. As for the common people, as a whole, they had little idea of what was taking place, and their insults were made in ignorance. They blindly followed their leaders (Matthew 23:16). In a general sense, the crucifixion was done through ignorance (Acts 3:17). Paul says that, “had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8).
Ignorance Not an Excuse
Ignorance is not an excuse for a crime if ignorance is willful. The Jews “had” all the evidence that proves the identity of the Messiah. They had proof from: the supernatural works of Jesus, His divine teachings, sinless life, fulfilled prophecies and the testimony of the Scriptures. They could have used this knowledge to their advantage and been part of God’s saving plan to the world. But they didn’t want to accept the light. So, their willful ignorance doesn’t excuse them from the guilt.
God’s Willingness to Forgive
In this prayer, Jesus showed his compassionate heart, and as the people were ignorant, whatever might have been the cause of their ignorance, he asked God to pardon them. God often, in compassion, overlooks people’s ignorance, grants them the blessings of pardon and life. So, he forgave Paul, for he “did it in ignorance, in unbelief,” (1 Timothy 1:13). And so God “winked” at the ignorance of the Gentiles, (Acts 17:30). Yet, this is no excuse, and no evidence of safety, for those who scornfully put away from them the truths of the Bible and willfully ignore to study them.
In His service,