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A vehicle for venting on philosophy, religion, and the general state of things. Proprietor: C. W. Powell

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Father, Forgive Them, for They Know not what They Do.

Luke 23:34. And Jesus said, Father, forgive them. By this
expression Christ gave evidence that he was that mild and gentle lamb,
which was to be led out to be sacrificed, as Isaiah the prophet had foretold,
(53:7.) For not only does he abstain from revenge, but pleads with
God the Father for the salvation of those by whom he is most cruelly
tormented. It would have been a great matter not to think of rendering evil
for evil, (1 Peter 3:9;) as Peter, when he exhorts us to patience by
the example of Christ, says that he did not render curses for curses, and
did not revenge the injuries done to him, but was fully satisfied with
having God for his avenger (1 Peter 2:23.) But this is a far higher
and more excellent virtue, to pray that God would forgive his enemies.

If any one think that this does not agree well with Peter’s sentiment,
which I have just now quoted, the answer is easy. For when Christ was
moved by a feeling of compassion to ask forgiveness from God for his
persecutors, this did not hinder him from acquiescing in the righteous
judgment of God, which he knew to be ordained for reprobate and
obstinate men. Thus when Christ saw that both the Jewish people and the
soldiers raged against him with blind fury, though their ignorance was not
excusable, he had pity on them, and presented himself as their intercessor.

Yet knowing that God would be an avenger, he left to him the exercise of
judgment against the desperate. In this manner ought believers also to
restrain their feelings in enduring distresses, so as to desire the salvation of
their persecutors, and yet to rest assured that their life is under the
protection of God, and, relying on this consolation, that the licentiousness
of wicked men will not in the end remain unpunished, not to faint under
the burden of the cross.

Of this moderation Luke now presents an instance in our Leader and
Master; for though he might have denounced perdition against his
persecutors, he not only abstained from cursing, but even prayed for their
welfare. But it ought to be observed that, when the whole world rises
against us, and all unite in striving to crush us, the best remedy for overcoming
temptation is, to recall to our remembrance the blindness of those
who fight against God in our persons.

For the result will be, that the conspiracy of many persons against us, when
solitary and deserted, will not distress us beyond measure; as, on the other hand,
daily experience shows how powerfully it acts in shaking weak persons, when they see
themselves attacked by a great multitude. And, therefore, if we learn to
raise our minds to God, it will be easy for us to look down, as it were,
from above, and despise the ignorance of unbelievers; for whatever may be
their strength and resources, still they know not what they do.

It is probable, however, that Christ did not pray for all indiscriminately,
but only for the wretched multitude, who were carried away by
inconsiderate zeal, and not by premeditated wickedness. For since the
scribes and priests were persons in regard to whom no ground was left for
hope, it would have been in vain for him to pray for them. Nor can it be
doubted that this prayer was heard by the heavenly Father, and that this
was the cause why many of the people afterwards drank by faith the
blood which they had shed.    John Calvin, Commentary on Luke 23:34
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