Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

Father Forgive Them

by Alfred J. Chompff

Text: Luke 23:32-38
Date: 9/29/2002
Fulfillment of Prophecy: Isaiah 53:12

#1. Father (Luke 23:34, Mark 2:5, Luke 7:48)

#2. Forgive (Luke 23:34, Matt 26:24)

#3. Them (Matt 5:48, John 17:24-26)

Please open your Bibles to the Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 23, and we will begin at verse 32. Luke 23, beginning at verse 32. The title of our sermon today is taken from verse 34, where Jesus said: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." "Father Forgive Them". Today we will focus on the first of these seven sayings of Jesus on the cross. The first point that I want you to see today is the remarkable:

Luke 23:32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.

Luke 23:33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

Luke 23:35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.

Luke 23:36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,

Luke 23:37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.

Luke 23:38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

There were several prophecies fulfilled in this passage. Keep one finger in Luke 23 and please turn to the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 53, verse 12 (2X). God dictated this prophecy to the prophet Isaiah more than 700 years before the Lord Jesus Christ was actually crucified. Let me point out two of the prophecies fulfilled in the passage we just have read in Luke 23. The first is that Christ was crucified together with two criminals, or He was numbered with transgressors, and the second is that Christ prayed for criminals, or He interceded for the transgressors. We read in Isa 53:12,

Isaiah 53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

You see the two prophecies that were mentioned in Luke 23: Two times the word "transgressors" is used. Even though it is the same Hebrew word, it is not the same group of transgressors. When we read, "He was numbered with the transgressors", this refers to the two thieves. And when we read, "He made intercession for the transgressors", that refers to Christ praying for those who were responsible for nailing Him to the cross. Who were those responsible for that? Put a sticker in Isa 53, because I will get back to that chapter during the Lord's Supper service. Please turn back to the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 23. Let us see what this means. We read in verse 34,

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

#1. Father (Luke 23:34, Mark 2:5, Luke 7:48)

Why did He ask the Father to forgive us? Is it not normally Jesus who will to forgive sins? In fact, never before did Jesus ask the Father to forgive sins. Up until this time Jesus Himself forgave sins. For example, in Mark 2 is the story of the men who brought a paralyzed friend to Jesus. But they could not come to Jesus through the door, because of the crowd, and so they broke up the roof and let their friend down through the roof in front of Jesus. Then we read in Mark 2:5,

Mrk 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.

At another occasion, in Luke chapter 7, when Jesus was invited for dinner in the house of Simon the Pharisee, there was a woman who washed his feet with her tears and she anointed His feet with expensive ointment. Then Jesus said to her in Luke 7:48,

Luke 7:48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

You see, up until the time that Jesus hung on the cross, He Himself forgave sins. Why then should He now in Luke 23 ask the Father to forgive sins, instead of directly forgiving those who were responsible for nailing Him to the cross? The answer is that Jesus was acting as our Substitute. "The Just was about to die for the unjust". He was hanging there as our representative, and we have to say again that, "He was numbered with the transgressors". We were those transgressors. We were responsible for crucifying our Lord Jesus Christ. If we had not loved our sins so much, then Christ would not have to come down to earth to die such a painful death on the cross. Yes! We were the ones responsible for nailing Him to the cross. But we were also the ones for whom He interceded. When Jesus cried: "Father, forgive them", Jesus demonstrated that He had totally identified with us. "He came to save His people from their sins" by taking the guilt of all their sins upon Himself, and be counted as one of those transgressors. That is why He had to be fully man, so that He could take our sins upon Himself. At the same time He had to be fully God, so that He could endure the wrath of God for those sins in our place. No longer was He in the position of authority, forgiving the sins of those on whom He bestowed His favor. Now He was representing these sinners before the throne of God. Therefore Jesus pleaded as one of us, and in our place, "Father, forgive them". What a stupendous mercy for all those sinners who hated Him in the first place. That is right! We all were born as haters of God. And it was for unworthy sinners like us He laid down His life. He sacrificed both His body and His soul as a sacrifice for unworthy sinners. But now the question is:

How do we know that the sacrifice Christ made for our sins was acceptable to God? How can we be sure that our sins are blotted out? We know it indirectly because Jesus was the Son of God. Anything the Son would ask the Father will be granted, because the mind of Jesus was in perfect harmony with the mind of His Father. Jesus said: "I and the Father are One". But we also have direct evidence of the fact that the sacrifice Christ made for our sins was acceptable to God. This direct evidence is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please turn in your Bibles to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 15, beginning at verse 12 (2X). On Friday at about 3:00 in the afternoon the Lord Jesus said with a loud voice, "Father into Thy hands I commend My Spirit"; then He died. His Soul or His Spirit went back to heaven, and His body was put into the grave of Joseph of Arimathaea. On Sunday morning His Soul was reunited with His body and Jesus bodily arose from the grave. To prove that He had bodily risen from the grave, Jesus showed Himself repeatedly to the disciples during a period of 40 days. The entire chapter of I Corinthians 15 speaks about the resurrection of the body. If any verse in this chapter causes difficulty, then remember the context: It speaks about the resurrection of the body. Now, let us begin to read from verse 12,

1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

1 Corinthians 15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

1 Corinthians 15:15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

1 Corinthians 15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:

1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

1 Corinthians 15:18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

1 Cor 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

Why does our entire structure of faith fall to the ground IF Christ had not risen from the dead? Because that would be the sign that Christ bodily was consumed in the process of paying for our sins. The penalty for our sins has to be paid. What is the penalty for sin? God said in His Law that "the wages of sin is death", and the death that God had in view is the second death, which is the suffering of dying in body and soul in the lake of fire, but this suffering of dying is lasting for an eternity. This is what Christ had to pay in our place. Nothing less would satisfy the righteousness of God.

But since Christ bodily rose from the grave, it proved that He both in Soul and in body had come out of the other end of Hell. Therefore, it proved that the Lord Jesus Christ was entirely successful in paying for the sins of those He came to save, and that He paid the equivalent of an eternity in Hell.

Let us now look at the second word in the title of our sermon:

#2. Forgive (Luke 23:34, Matt 26:24)

Jesus said: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". What does it take to forgive? Is it enough to say: "I am sorry"? No! Is it enough to say, "Please forgive me" and then say, "I forgive you"? Is that enough? No! If an injustice has been done we must realize what it is: It is Sin! Any shortcoming, or any idle word, or any hurtful thing we do unto others, or any evil thought that arises in our minds is Sin. Can what we do unto others be forgiven if we plead for forgiveness, and the other person says, "I forgive you"? No! That sin remains. Nothing that we say or do can give us forgiveness. That sin must be atoned for, and none of us has the capacity to atone for even one sin. How many ways are there to forgive sin? Only One! The Lord Jesus Christ has to suffer on the cross for that sin the equivalent of an eternity in Hell, so that the righteousness of God is satisfied for that sin. Think of that the next time you say something hurtful to another person. Even the Lord Jesus could not forgive any single sin by some hand waving, or by the power of His will. The righteousness of God must be satisfied for every sin, or else God is no longer righteous. The word righteous means, "Just". If God, the righteous Judge, would let one sin slip by, He would no longer be righteous.

But our God also delights in mercy. The only possible way by which the righteous Judge can both enforce the requirements of the Law, and yet show mercy to an offender of the Law, is by a third party offering to pay the penalty which the convicted one deserves. That is what Christ did on the cross. And when we became saved, which is the same as when we became "Born Again", all our past sins, and all our future sins were blotted out. Remember, Jesus paid also for all our future sins, because at the time He paid for our sins, almost 2000 years ago, all our sins were future sins.

When Jesus said, "Father, forgive them", was Jesus praying for the four Roman soldiers that were nailing Him to the cross? Was Jesus praying for the Scribes and Pharisees who were instigating His crucifixion? Was Jesus praying for Pontius Pilate, or for king Herod, or was He praying for Judas Iscariot? To this last one we can definitely say, "NO!" The Lord Jesus Himself said of Judas Iscariot,

Matthew 26:24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born.

This means that Judas has to pay for his own sins in Hell. Christ did not pray for forgiveness, or spend the equivalent of an eternity in Hell for any of those persons who themselves go to Hell. When Jesus said, "Father, forgive them", Jesus was praying for all those whom He came to save, because it was their sins that caused Him to be crucified. And what we see here is that:

Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 5, and verse 43 (2X). You recognize this as part of the Sermon on the Mount. This is the 6th time in this chapter that Jesus said: "Ye have heard that it has been said", which is an expression which Jesus uses to introduce the correct interpretation of the Mosaic Law. In Verse 17 Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets". And then Jesus gave six examples of the Law they have heard from the Scribes and Pharisees, and how the Law had to be interpreted. Here in Matt 5:43 Jesus said:

Matt 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

Matthew 5:44 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;

Matthew 5:45 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.

Matthew 5:46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?

Matthew 5:47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?

Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Paraphrased, the Lord Jesus said: You have heard from your teachers of the Law: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy". But that is altogether wrong. I say to you that you must love your enemies, and pray for them, which maliciously use you and persecute you. Pray for them. The Lord Jesus Christ practiced what He preached. On the cross He prayed for us, who were the cause of His crucifixion and we were His enemies at that time. He not only taught the truth, but He also left us an example in all things. Did you notice that the Lord Jesus does not tell us to personally forgive our enemies? He says: "Pray for them". That is also what He did on the cross. In other words, we must leave it up to our heavenly Father to forgive them. And when we pray for our enemies, God does a remarkable thing in our hearts: God takes away the grudges we harbor against our enemies. We bear them no more grudges and we begin to pray for their salvation.

Keep in mind that this is not a recipe for good works. There are no recipes for good works in the Bible. God calls us to be saved by grace, through the hearing of the Word of God. And when we have become saved we have become a new creation and we have received a new nature, and then we do those things that are pleasing in God's sight. Those are the things that we do naturally, because now "it is God which worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure".

#3. Them (Matt 5:48, John 17:24-26)

The Lord Jesus said: "Father, forgive them". Who is He referring to? Who are "Them"? Let me tie the answer to the last verse we have read in Matt 5:48. The Lord Jesus said in Matt 5:48,

Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

This is a command to the whole human race. But this is an impossible command! Jesus says that we must be as perfect as God Himself is perfect. Only then can we be children of the heavenly Father. How can we do this? You find similar commands laced through the Bible. For example in Deut 10 we read that we must circumcise the foreskin of our hearts. Again, this is an impossible command! How can we do this? In John chapter 3 we find that we must be "Born Again", or literally be born from above. How can we do this? The answer to all of these is found in Ephesians chapters 1 and 2, where God explained that our salvation is entirely by grace. God must do this for us, and we may not contribute anything to help God in this action, because that would be robbing God of His glory. God says in Eph 2 that we all are by nature children of wrath. Ever since Adam's sin, that is how the whole human race came into the world, including those cute little babies. We all deserve to go to Hell for the sins we have committed, and for the sins we have not committed but we desire to commit. "But God, who is rich in mercy", will not allow the whole human race to go to Hell. God saved a people for Himself, whom He chose from before the foundation of the world, and God gave these people to the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ must be our stand-in. Please turn to the Gospel according to John, chapter 17:24 (2X). John chapter 17 is known as the High Priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus, which He prayed just before He went into the Garden of Gethsemane. In this prayer the Lord Jesus says clearly that He does not pray for everyone in the world, but only for those whom the Father has given Him. We find clear statements in the Bible, which tell us that the Lord Jesus did not die on the cross for the sins of everyone in the world. For example, watch the pronouns we find in John 17:24,

J 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

John 17:25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. (Look at the contrast between "the world" and "these")

John 17:26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Who are "them"? They are those whom the Father has given to Jesus, and Jesus has revealed Himself and has revealed the Father to them, and to them only. Therefore, when the Lord Jesus said: "Father, forgive them", we see here:

When Adam and Eve sinned, God, the righteous Judge, had to condemn Adam and Eve for their sin and God, the righteous Judge, had to condemn all mankind who were in the loins of Adam, because they were born in bondage to Sin and Satan. But God, in His love for fallen man decided to save a people for Himself, whom He would present to His Son as the Bride of Christ. But to save just one person of the human race required that God the Son would have to come to earth, take on a human body, take up all the sins of this one person, and suffer for this person in body and in Soul what this one person would have to suffer in body and in soul for the sins he or she has committed. This was such a risky undertaking; even Satan did not believe that Christ could do this successfully. That is why Satan entered Judas Iscariot to betray the whereabouts of Jesus to the Sanhedrin.

After a mock trial the Sanhedrin condemned the Lord Jesus. But that was not sufficient. The Roman government also had to condemn Him, and Herod, the king of Galilee, also had to condemn Him. But both Herod and Pontius Pilate could not find any fault in Him. Any other person would have been released after that. But God, in His great love for that one person, orchestrated the events so that Christ was crucified, and Christ suffered in body and in Soul for that one person the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. Christ suffered as the representative of that one person, and that one person was released from his or her bondage to Sin and Satan. That would have been a great victory for God.

Would God be unrighteous in bypassing the entire human race and only bestowing His mercy and grace on this one person? No! Would this one person be very grateful for this great deliverance? Absolutely! Who is this fortunate person whom God chose out of the entire human race? This fortunate person could be you, or it could be me. But God, in His great love for His creatures, decided to save many persons. In fact, God chose "a great multitude, which no man can number, of all nations and kindreds, and people and tongues", who will eternally be praising God for His great redemption. That God would pour His love on so many whom He has chosen, and that God would be willing to sacrifice His only begotten Son to redeem, or buy back, those people from bondage to Sin and Satan is the great wonder of God's love for creatures who at that time were in rebellion against Him. But the Bible also says: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation". Christ gave everything He had, even to the second death. If we now ignore all that, we prove thereby that Christ has not suffered for our sins, and therefore we shall not escape the wrath of God for all our sins. The question is not: Why did God pass by so many? It is already a great wonder if one person is saved.

How grateful will we be? How will we remember His great love? Today we remember this great wonder of God's redeeming love in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and we marvel that Almighty God would condescend to our level and show us His great love for us.


Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.


Pastor Chompff was born on October 26, 1930 in Malang, Indonesia. He has been married for 57 years with the same wife and they have 2 children, 8 grandchildren, 1 great-grandchild. He holds a B.S. / PHD in Chemical Engineering which he received from the Technische Hogeschool in Delft, the Netherlands. Pastor Chompff was officially ordained as Pastor of Christian Reformed Church on 1/25/1998 and has been studying the Scriptures for more than 35 years.

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