Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His garments by casting lots. (Luke 23:34)

We need to remember that when Jesus said; “Father forgive them,” it was after He had experienced excruciating stress. The authorities had been looking for a way to kill Him. One of His followers had betrayed Him, and another one had denied he even knew Him. All the rest had fled when He was arrested, leaving Him completely alone. He had been beaten in the face so that He was unrecognizable and had been whipped with a cat-o-nine-tails until His back was a bloody mess. On the street of Jerusalem, He carried the timber that would be part of His cross guards drove spikes through His wrists and His feet and He was hoisted up as a spectacle to the world.

If anyone ever had reason to be bitter, Jesus did. And if anyone ever had the power to execute vengeance on those who hurt him, Jesus did. One account says that He could have called down legions of mighty angels to slay the entire human race- which we deserved.

But there He hung, between two common criminals, to be executed like a slave or traitor though He had done nothing deserving of this fate. As He looked at the scene- angry, self-righteous religious leaders, disinterested Roman guards, masses of people who had come for the spectacle of blood and death. He turned instinctively to the Father and prayed for all those people.

Forgiveness is a beautiful word until you have something to forgive.