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For They Know Not

They knew what they were doing.

They did.

If ever there was a euphemism in the Bible, it was here.

And now.

"They know not what they do?!"

How can someone drive a nail into tender flesh

and not know the grip of the hammer?

"They know not what they do?!"

How can the tauntings spill from their mouths like poisoned water

and they not taste the bitterness?

"They know not what they do?!"

How can the whip become limp after the snap

and the jockey not know it’s strap on the back of its mount?

"They know not what they do?!"

How can the saliva drip from their tongue after the spit hurls to His face

and they not taste it's acid?

"They know not what they do?!"

How can a man, a brother of sorts - a friend for years- not recognize his Master, his Christ, the Man who led him to walk across the water and drew him up in rescue?

They knew, Lord. As sure as the north is from the south, they knew.

As sure as the mountains are high, they knew.

Why would you say such a thing as this?

Why would you give such credit to their feigned ignorance?

Their fiend cruelty?

“Forgive them.

Forgive them.

Forgive them.”

But they knew, ...

“What is it to you?”

“Forgive them.

Forgive them.

Forgive them.”

But they knew,...

“Not your place, not from My View.”

“Forgive them.

Forgive them.

Forgive them.”

But they knew,...

“Be still, what is it to you?”

“I forgive from east,

To west.

I bury sins

In the deepest oceans.

I remember no more.

you rehearse,

Recount their sins—

you hoard.

But I, I tell you this Truth.

They don’t know what they do—

Killing the Christ-Child;

The perfect Lamb,

The Only Begotten

The Great I Am.

Father, this prayer I ask of You

Forgive them

For they know not what they do.”



Easter Eve

2:08 pm

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34

Holy Week is upon us. Spring has just arrived with echoes of birds, blooms and beauty bursting forth from the ground. Resurrection Sunday is four days away. Much like Advent looks forward to His birth, Lent looks forward to His death & resurrection.

We pray.

We give ‘alms’ (money or food to poor people).

We fast.

It might seem foreign to us if we didn’t grow up in faith traditions that highlighted these ancient practices but here we are— ‘tis the season.

One of my favorite books walking through the 7 last phrases of Jesus on the cross is

How to Live Through A Bad Day (Jack Hayford). I first pieced through that book in the late 90’s, in a multi-generational, co-ed Sunday School class taught by a dear friend, Jeweler.

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34

These were the first words of Jesus from the cross. This is our Holy Week meditation— what we are remembering about the Lord’s death until He comes. This is what we will celebrate in a few short days.

The context of that sentiment from Jesus is this: Luke 23:33-41

Just consider the violent verbs from this passage and the way Jesus nestles His Words within their gnarly and thorny branches.

Nailed (to a cross)

Hung (between 2 criminals)


Robbed (soldiers gambled for his clothes)

Naked (soldiers threw dice for his clothes— like it was a game)

Made a Spectacle (by the curious crowd)

Scoffed & Taunted (by leaders)

Mocked (by soldiers)

{this scoffing & taunting & mocking happened in numerous & various forms}

Scoffed again (by the criminal on the cross)

This was following a sham of a trial, betrayal and denial by close friends, a brutal beating; abuse and abandonment by nearly all his disciples.


How did Jesus even have the capacity to forgive? To pray? To ask His Father to forgive? More, why did He tack on “…for they don’t know what they are doing.”?!?

Yes, they did.

They knew.

People don’t just willy nilly betray one of their best friends, hammer nails into someone’s hands, gamble for a naked, dying man’s clothing, hang a sign above His head mocking His name, take the time to pour a drink of sour wine and climb the ladder to thrust it into His face and not know it. They knew.

I protest this verse every time I read it. Not so much for the forgiveness part as much as the ‘they don’t know what they are doing’ part.

Yet His words are probably the most descriptive truth about all human sin, lovelessness, rebellion, hurt, hate, anger, violence, and the thousand other evils that overflow our fallen race. Even when sin is calculated, planned thoroughly, conceived carefully, and executed efficiently, no one really understands the depth or dimension of sin's destructiveness or the degree of its horrible damage to people. In a very real sense, every sin is a sin of ignorance.
To learn the grace of forgiveness--to embrace the will to forgive anyone or everyone who seems to be ruining your life right now--you need to find a starting place, and Jesus points you to it: "They don't know what they're doing." But the fact of the matter is, that isn't the way you feel. You tend to see things from the viewpoint of your experience, and when bad things happen, it appears that whoever did you wrong knew exactly what he was doing and didn't really seem to care either.” *Jack Hayford
(How to Live Through a Bad Day, page 3).

No matter if I protest it or not— Jesus said this hanging there on the cross. He is our example. He is our High Priest; the One who has gone before us and has experienced this life of suffering ‘and yet without sin’.

His first act of love as He hung on the Cross was to ask the Father to forgive those who didn’t know what they were doing, as they did it.


May I fast every Lent; every Holy Week; every day from the unrest of unforgiveness. May I slow down and contemplate my life in light of Jesus’ journey to the cross and on the cross and look to Him that I become ‘like Him in His death.’

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10,11

I didn’t really give up any food this year for Lent. Or figure out any fancy formula of ancient Church history regarding prayers to pray, alms to give or rules of fasting.

That said, I am going to pray like Jesus — the Spotless Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world — I will pray as He teaches me to pray.

‘Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.’

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


*Jack Hayford also wrote the song, ‘Majesty’. He passed away last year (01.08.2023) so I am linking the song as an encouragement and reminder of our Lord's majesty. Unto Jesus, be all Glory and Honor and Praise. Click here to listen.

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