Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
I was reading about this verse over at doctrinesofgrace, and I suddenly remembered how this verse had troubled me in the past, in the sense that Jesus is here praying upon the cross, and He is praying for all
of His enemies, every single one of them.
Now some would say, should we really expect anything less from our Savior, who had instructed us to love our enemies and to do them good etc?
But is this some kind of sentiment or mere emotional cry from the Son of God, or really a prayer for all of their forgiveness?
It just did not really sit well with me, and mainly for one big reason.
If Jesus asks the Father anything, then I know that the Father shall honor the Son and answer Him, and one would think especially at this moment of all moments?
If the Father answered this prayer of Jesus, then the obvious outcome would lead us to believe that everyone who was involved in this dastardly crime, would end up forgiven and hence saved.
There is not really any other option, and it makes no sense to try and generalise this prayer from our Savior or put some other spin upon it.
But what if this verse was not in the Bible at all?
What if we find out it was a later addition not found in any of the widest and Ancient and earliest manuscripts?
Well, we already know the answer to that.
This portion of Luke 23:34 does not occur in the oldest papyrus manuscript of Luke and in other early Greek manuscripts and ancient versions of wide geographical distribution.
When I thought about this verse a few years ago, and the tension the passage created, I was actually relieved to discover the omission, and have not been bothered by it since.
God gets all of His desires, and He shows mercy to whomever He shows mercy, but their is always justice demanded, and many shall suffer under His justice.
I am sure, even if that prayer did not fall from our Saviors lips, that many of His enemies were converted in God's plan, but I am equally as sure, that many of these people perished under His justice, and both happened for His glory.
To this day I am amazed at the many passioned sermons that are preached by Pastors and teachers regarding this verse, and the range of opinions that are out there.
Most of them have their hearts in the right place for sure, even if their heads have not yet studied the manuscript evidence.
Of course, the more general atonement pushers among us, and those who embrace paradox, milk this verse toward their own theology, which should not be surprising either!