Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father,forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing. – Luke 23:34
Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” Longfellow’s words are an important reminder that every person has a context—a story. There were events that contributed to shaping them into the people they’ve become and that impact our encounters with them. We know our own history of joy and pain, success and struggle. And we need to recognize that others have their own life-shaping history as well.
When Jesus hung on the cross, the events swirling around Him involved people who also had stories. Soldiers made brutal by years of combat, religionists hardened by years of trying to obey the law, crowds desperate for rescue but without real hope. None of that excused their hate-filled actions, but it may help to explain why Christ showed them mercy when He cried from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
While never condoning or excusing the pain that people inflict on one another, we can learn to appropriately show mercy when we understand that there’s a secret history behind the pain people cause. After all, as Jesus said, even our heavenly Father “is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked” (6:35).
How could you remind yourself to give people the benefit of the doubt? What difference would this make in the way you view or interact with them?
Father, thank You for the mercy You’ve shown me for all the wrongs of my life and the gift of forgiveness offered at the cross. Please give me a heart of forgiveness and mercy toward those who wrong me