What happens when we forgive someone? We believe that we are releasing them from our debt. We’re saying, “It’s all OK now.” The only reason we feel the need to forgive is that we have been wronged and we want others to know that we are at peace with them again. And what is it like to want forgiveness? To long for a sense of peace with someone whom we have harmed?
In the midst of unbearable suffering, Jesus turns not to himself, to his own plight, to the injustice done to him, and he asks for pardon for them even if they do not know the wrong they have done. As in life, think of the paralyzed man to whom Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven,” or the adulterous woman to whom he said, “neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more,” Jesus reaches out in suffering and death to offer forgiveness. And the alienation of sin is broken as he, with arms outstretched, invites us to his heart – forgiven. If you believe you have done the unforgivable – and say, “how could God ever forgive me?” Just hear the words Jesus says “Father, forgive them.” How frequently our experience is that to withhold forgiveness somehow leaves us in control. We control the peace – we think. The fact is we are held prisoner by our grudges. they hold us, we don’t hold them. If you stand in self-righteous judgment over someone else, hear Jesus’ word: “Father, forgive them.”
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing,” he says. Dying words –word for living.