“A man…had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later changed his mind and went. Then, the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he...
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NIV)
Had anyone ever prayed for these men? It is possible that not a single prayer had ever been said for even one of these Roman soldiers at any time in their lives. But Christ prayed for them. And Christ prays for you too when nobody else will.
They needed this prayer because ignorance of the law is no defense against breaking it. If you break the speed limit and get pulled over, telling the police officer, “But I didn’t see the sign,” does not automatically free you from the constraints of the law.
Christ does not say, “Father, forget it, because they do not know what they are doing,” he says, “Father, forgive them.” He makes it clear that they must be forgiven, even though they do not know what they are doing.
Christ prays for their forgiveness before they have any interest in being forgiven. They feel no need of forgiveness. As a matter of fact, they are not repentant, nor do they have faith. Did you know that Christ’s love is not a response to your turning?
These men are on a path to hell, and they’re so dead in their sins that they do not even know what they are doing, but Christ prays for them. And Christ prays for us long before we ever pray to him.
What does it mean to you to know that Jesus prayed for you long before you ever prayed to him?