Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 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. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
We now begin to consider the seven words that Jesus spoke while on the cross. He begins by asking the Father to forgive his persecutors and tormentors, his crucifiers. In the midst of his physical agony and humiliation, he actually prays out loud for their forgiveness. Incredible! Notice, first, that Jesus is not excusing them for their sin; they are still responsible and guilty. But, they truly do not understand that they are not crucifying a mere man but the eternal Son of God, the Savior, the Messiah.
Second, Jesus is exemplifying exactly what he told others to do: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. Jesus didn’t just talk the talk: he walked the walk. Third, see how Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy, how on the cross he is making intercession for the transgressors, praying on their behalf to the Father for forgiveness. How could the Father possibly forgive these vile crucifiers? Because Jesus is bearing the sins of many – the guilty, vile, and helpless.
Jesus could pray this prayer because he was taking the place of sinners. God could answer this prayer because he was punishing his beloved Son in the place of sinners. If by grace you are a believer in Jesus, God has answered this prayer for you. If you are not trusting in Jesus alone for salvation, come to him today in repentance and faith. “If you are seeking any encouragement to repent and believe in Christ, this prayer provides it.” (James Montgomery Boice) Fall on your knees in praise and worship of the forgiving Father and the suffering Son.
Who was the guilty who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee. (Johann Heermann)