“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.“Luke 23:34
Who are they and what don’t they know?
Jesus certainly forgave the men who hammered in the nails; read Hemingway’s Today is Friday for their story. But there would be no Easter if Jesus just forgave some Roman soldiers.
In the Gospel of Mark, a hungry Jesus enters Jerusalem and finds a fruitless fig tree, an illustration of the fruitless temple he is about to ransack. When the disciples are amazed at the tree’s withered condition later he promises those who have faith in God can ask for anything, and “it will be done for them.”
He adds, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says to the Samaritan woman, “ You Samaritans worship what you do not know.” She goes on to say she’s heard of a savior, a messiah, Jesus says, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Jesus’ identity, from John’s statements, to the disciple’s doubts, to Pilate’s question is always in dispute. On the crucifix can be seen the mocking acronym, INRI, Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum.
The First Word has Jesus begin his final suffering doing what he asked us to do, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is central to Christ’s message, the reciprocity of forgiveness for salvation.
And they, and we, know not what we do because we often can’t accept that he is who he says he is. “I am he.” To get the benefit of the redemptive suffering on the cross, we must forgive others and acknowledge that no one comes to the Father except through him. Forgiveness, faith, and acknowledgement of that are the three-fold path to our redemption.
Choral Response, Cujus animam gementem, Stabat Mater, Pergolessi