The Forgiveness of Jesus
When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:33-43
Luke 23:33-43 Summarized
This passage shows the Crucifixion. At the beginning of the passage, Jesus exclaims, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Following this, we see several incidents:
- The soldiers divide up his clothing by casting lots
- The people mock him
- The soldiers mock him
- One of the criminals mock him
- The other criminal stands up for him
Following these events, Jesus closes this section of scripture by telling the second criminal, “I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The Big Question
Notice what Jesus prayed. The Future Judge and King asked God to forgive them “for they do not know what they are doing.”
Do we assume that God forgave them? Obviously, those for whom Jesus is pleading to God for forgiveness are those who crucified him, stole his clothes and mocked him. So…Are they all in heaven now because the Future Judge and King offered forgiveness?
Determining the Answer
It would be unjust if God simply forgave everyone. God is Just and so He must punish those who deserve punishment.
In the case of the criminal on the cross who asked to be with Jesus in Paradise, he obviously recognized who Jesus was. He repented of his words and deeds. Certainly, he had a heart of repentance. Jesus’ offer of forgiveness was accepted by this man and Jesus tells him, “today you will be with me in paradise.”
But what about those who mocked him, crucified him, and left him to die. They did not repent. They went home and told the story of what they did with smiles on their faces and pride in their hearts. Are they also in heaven? Did God forgive them?
Remember this when we hear messages this Easter about Jesus’ Seven Sayings.