And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” ♦The Gospel According to Luke
In reference to his bestselling tome, “Killing Jesus,” Bill O’Reilly told 60 Minutes that on the Cross, Jesus could not have said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He based his claim on the sense that, because of asphyxiation, such a statement would have been impossible. Or, if it was spoken, it couldn’t have been heard.
Yet, in the same book, O’Reilly allows the possibility that at the very end, Jesus declared, “It is finished.”
Naturally, sound logic makes it likely that if someone at the end of an excruciatingly painful ordeal could speak, they should well be able to make intelligible utterance earlier on. That’s not a religious wish, it’s just blatantly obvious.
What’s more elusive is the fact and faith that someone, anyone, under any circumstances, could extend mercy while nails were being mashed through their skin. Yet, this “someone” wasn’t just anyone. He was, and is, the Son of God.
Therefore, we must ask, if Jesus, the innocent victim, unjustly undergoing the most extreme emotional, physical and spiritual duress, was able to offer forgiveness for his direct tormentors, why is this salve for sin so difficult for many Christians to render apart from themselves? Why do we still sometimes have trouble hearing and imparting the Lord’s words, even now?
Is it because we give assent to our Creeds, but can’t believe the affection? Is the reason behind this that we retain some joy in being saved by holding onto the assumption that some others must be damned? Perhaps, because we were sometimes scared toward Heaven, we are clung to in conscience by dusty, medieval notions of Hell.
Regardless of the root cause, while the Scripture clearly says God has “not counted their trespasses against them,” we commonly insist on keeping score.
In the end, as at the beginning, from a forensic/theology standpoint, the petition of forgiveness offered by the One paying for all sin wasn’t based in an ability to breathe. It was always founded in an eternal and miraculous power to love.
Good Friday and Easter tell everyone that this Divine embrace, alive before the beginning of the world, cannot be killed. The only question left behind for those who know and believe this Good News is whether or not it will be shared.
For if it is freely affirmed, it may then be fully heard.