And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. (Luke 23:33, 34 ESV)
That Jesus would say these words as he is being crucified is astounding. Even as these men mock him, put nails in his hands and his feet, hang him up naked before the world to see his humiliation, he has compassion on them. Will these men be counted among those in heaven because of Jesus’ prayer? Is this where the seeds of saving faith are planted in them? When Jesus dies we hear them say, “surely he was the Son of God.” We also know that Jesus’ prayers are always answered. His will and the Father’s will are in tune. So, it is conceivable.
For us, they show the reaches of Jesus’ saving work. He died for those who were his enemies. He died for those who were openly hostile toward him. And his compassion in the midst of their hostility is instrumental in his saving work. It wasn’t just these men who were openly hostile toward Jesus. They represent all of us. The Bible says that “there is no one is righteous”, and that we are like sheep, each of us going our own way. We inherit the depraved sinful nature of our forefathers. And yet, in the midst of our rebellion against God, His compassion breaks through and plants seeds of faith.
Now it is our turn to follow in Jesus’ steps to show compassion on our enemies; to love them as Jesus so astoundingly demonstrated, praying for them even as they offend us. Only as we cling to Jesus can we do this. And in so doing we too plant seeds of faith in Jesus as they take note of our good works and give praise one day to our Father in heaven.
Lord, thank you for your compassion for us even in the midst of our rebellion! Would you grant is grace to show compassion to our enemies that we might bring others to praise your great name.