Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. Luke 23:34 (NRSV)
In the span of a few hours, Jesus had been arrested and abused by the religious leaders, shuffled between two Roman governors, though found innocent by both still beaten then sentenced to die based on mob pressure. From Pilot's court, he is taken with two thieves to be crucified. Instead of being lashed to the cross with ropes, they used nails. Imagine the cross, lying flat on the ground, Jesus' beaten and bloody back on the rough wood. First one outstretched hand -- BANG! Then the other hand -- BANG! Finally, one foot crossed over the other -- BANG! The soldiers’ ropes attached to the cross hoist it upright into place, hung between the two thieves upon a hill in the heat of the day.
Gathered there that day were those who cared for Jesus; Mary, his mother, and some of his followers. Although not mentioned, there must have been some of the religious leaders and angry mob desiring to witness the death. The callus Roman soldiers that mocked him and later gambled for his clothing. There must have been some casually interested onlookers out for a day's "entertainment."
The first of the seven words spoken by Christ, early in the six hours of suffering, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” To whom was Jesus referring? Was it the religious officials? The angry mob? The thieves hanging with him? The Romans; Pilot, Herod, and the soldiers? The answer, all of them. But there is one group we haven't mentioned yet -- you and me. While not physically there that day, Christ forgives us too. Our sins are forgiven for the asking, from the day of crucifixion to the day of Christ's return.
God, we give thanks to you for Christ's sacrifice and the forgiveness extended to us on that day. We confess we are unworthy, but through your grace, you make us worthy. No matter our sin, you offer forgiveness and purify us. Please help us to live like Jesus, and teach us to forgive like Jesus. We offer you our praise and worship. Amen.