Father Forgive Them

Bible Book: Luke  23 : 34
Subject: Forgiveness; Christlike Living; Christian Living
[Editor's Note: Dr. Hefner was assigned this passage for a Holy Week Service sermon in Cherryville, N.C. The message emphasizes the nature of Jesus to forgive, and the call for those of us who are saved to act like our Redeemer.]

Luke 23:34

I was in Army Chaplain’s school at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey years ago. One morning I walked into the cafeteria for breakfast and someone yelled, “Attention.” They did that because I was an officer entering the room. I hadn’t yet learned what I was to say, so I backed out of the door. The Drill Instructor yelled, “Go back in.” So, I went back in and once more I heard someone say, “Attention.” I backed out once more and waited a few minutes. I told another Chaplain what happened, and he said, “Follow me.” He stepped in the door and someone yelled, “Attention!” The Chaplain with me said, “As you were.” That’s all it took. Everyone calmed down and I learned what to say in a moment like that.

It is important how we react to certain words. Say a police officer says, “Put you’re your hands up over your head!” What will you do? Well, you better put your hands where he can see them.

It is also essential that we understand words. If we misunderstand what a person is saying, we can get into trouble. I’m sure you can think of a time when you thought a person said one thing, when it fact they said something else altogether.

Today I want us to listen to the first words Jesus said when He was on the cross. How do we react to them? Who actually heard them? What were His first words from the cross meant to convey?

Here is what Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”

Now, who heard those words that day?

I. God the Father Heard Those Words

God the Father, the One who had sent Jesus on the salvation mission to this earth, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, was the One being addressed with these words. In essence this was a prayer from the lips of Christ.

The first recorded words of God are found in Genesis 1:3, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” We serve a God that gets things done, where His every word has weight, where His every thought has meaning, and for every action there is a purpose, and where every teardrop is saved! God can reap where He doesn’t sow because everything belongs to Him! The place where Jesus was praying was on the Cross, at Calvary!

Calvary is the place where man did his worst, but God did His best!
Calvary is the place where hell unleashed all her fury and God released all of heaven’s forgiveness
Calvary is the place where Satan rejoiced in death and the Savior rejoiced in offering His life that we might escape death
God the Father heard this prayer! Aren’t you glad!!!

II. The Soldiers Heard the Prayer

They were not used to hearing prayers of forgiveness, because more than often they heard cursing and hatred from those who were dying at their hands Here they heard Jesus speak words of forgiveness and surely it shocked them.

At the foot of the cross, the soldiers actually divided the garments. It is interesting that they did this. You see, Satan does his best to divide and spearate. He separates people in so many ways, but he is actually best at separating people from God. His desire it so keep you from Christ, for he actually desires to be the god of your life. Yet, Jesus on the cross prays for your forgiveness, because He is Master of unity and blessing.

Note that one soldier said something important at the beginning of the crucifixion: “Roll the dice!” Then something changed him because he later said, “Certainly this was a righteous man!” When the soldier heard the prayer of Jesus – a prayer to forgive those crucifying Him, the soldier said, “Certainly this was a righteous man.” You see, prayer can change things. And, more importantly, when Jesus speaks and we listen, it changes us!

III. The Thieves on the Cross Heard the Prayer

At the cross were two thieves, each crucified on either side of Jesus. One of them blasphemed Jesus, but the other asked to be remembered by Jesus when He as Lord entered his Kingdom.

One thief was untouched by Jesus – even by the loving, remarkable prayer of Jesus. But the other man was moved beyond words by the heart of Christ. One man remained lost and undone – still in his sins. The other man turned in faith and acknowledged that Jesus was “Lord.” That second man was granted what all are granted when they turn from sin, through faith, to trust in Christ as Lord and Savior.

The prayer of Jesus changed the heart of the dying thief, and the prayer of the thief to Jesus changed the dying man’s eternity.

We can learn a great lesson in this passage. You see, prayer changes things. You and I need to forgive others as well, and we need to do it by talking to God about it. Our prayer must be like that of Jesus. He forgave and we must do the same. We cannot be forgivers unless we are aware of all the forgiveness we have received from our Lord.

IV. The World Hears this Prayer

No other religion on earth is based on the forgiveness of God through a sacrifice like that which took place at Calvary! In fact, no government, no economy, no philosophy, no ideology, no human idea is based on the the practice and principle Christ displayed on the cross. You see, what happened at Calvary came from the heart of God! There is no hope for sin and death in any other name under heaven other than the name of Jesus.

The world hears the mention of this prayer, but do they understand it? Look at society. Look at social media. Look at the actions of our world. No! The world doesn’t understand it and neither can you unless you come to Christ who gave Himself of you on the cross of Calvary.

V. Do You Hear the Words of this Prayer

Now here is the ultimate question: What will you do with this prayer?

You and I can accept God’s forgiveness. If we do accept it, we ought to then share it with others. One way is to act in love and forgiveness toward others. That is what Jesus did for us, and His followers ought to do likewise. If we do, people will likely say something akin to that which the soldier said beneath the cross. They will likely say of us, “Surely this is a true follower of Jesus.”


A story is told of famous Christian songwriter. She had friend visit her, and they spoke about a mutual friend. The songwriter reached into drawer and pulled out a stack of notes the friend had signed because he had borrowed money from the songwriter, but the songwriter had never been repaid. While the songwriter held the worthless pieces of paper, she told her friend that she had forgiven the man. The friend the songwriter was speaking to responded with the question, “Then why are you still holding on to the notes?” The songwriter thought about the question for a moment and then she tossed the promissory notes into the fireplace nearby!

That is what Jesus does with our sins when we accept His forgiveness. Also, that is how are to answer the prayer of forgiveness! We are never to carry a grudge but to live like Jesus and forgive.

What is your answer to the first words of Jesus on the cross? The right answer is to accept Him as Lord, as the thief on his right did. The right attitude is to be a person of forgiveness and live in the joy Jesus provides.