“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34 CEB)
I don’t think it’s “Father, forgive them because they are not really to be held culpable, for they don’t rationally know what they are doing.”
I think it’s “father, forgive them, for among other things, they don’t know what they’re doing.” Of course, God will never get us except through forgiveness of our stupidity and cruelty. If God is going to wait until we know the wrong that we do, God will wait forever. If you are awaiting me to know, to admit, to confess my complicity, my sin, you will wait an eternity, and I am not eternal. Only God is that. If God’s going to wait to talk with me until I first admit that I’m a sinner, the conversation will never occur. I’ll be too defensive, to deceitful in my guilt. I’d rather die. …
What an interesting progression here. First, “Father forgive,” then second, “They don’t know what they’re doing.” Thank God our relationship with God this day is not predicated on our awareness of what we’re doing and who we are and what this all means and what are our motives. Our situation with God is determined by God. Preemptive forgiveness.
Reminds you of all those times when Jesus walked about Galilee on brighter days. He was forever walking up to folk and, without warning, saying to those whom he met, “your sins are forgiven,” and “go, sin no more, your sins are forgiven.” Almost nobody ever asked him to forgive them. Jesus knew that without forgiveness being the first word there would be no meeting of God and humanity.
William Willimon, Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words of the Cross, pp.8-9