A Devotional Thought for Lent

Detail from Salvador Dali's "Christ of St. John of the Cross" (1951)

Luke’s account of the Passion records that Jesus prayed from the cross,

 “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Well, did he?  Did God the Father forgive them?  The answer is yes.  How do we know?  Because Luke wrote a sequel, the Book of Acts.  And Acts 2 records what happened on the first Pentecost in Jerusalem.  Peter addressed the “men of Israel,”

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.  God raised him up . . . (Acts 2:23-24)

Luke’s account continues:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” . . . So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:37-41)

That was not the end of their story.  They continued as the Lord’s church by devoting themselves to the apostolic teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayers.

So, because of Christ’s atoning death (yes, there is atonement theology in Luke-Acts), God the Father forgave them on Good Friday and through baptism delivered that forgiveness to them 52 days later.  Christ’s sacrifice was for all sinners, for the sinners on that first Friday in Jerusalem, and for sinners today like us.  “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5).

Lord Jesus, through it all help us hear in Your prayer the single purpose for which You endured pain and death:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Amen. (Lutheran Book of Prayer [CPH, 1970] 63)

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