And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34
Father, forgive them. Who are they? A lot of different groups witnessed (and surprisingly didn’t witness) Jesus’ crucifixion. Today, let’s think about the soldiers.
They were soldiers
The Bible gives no definitive description of the deployment of Roman soldiers thought the arrest, trial, and burial of Jesus. We may safely assume that as Jesus passed through the process that a different detachment of soldiers took responsibility. If that was indeed the case, the soldiers around the cross were more than likely “crucifixion specialists.”
That day they were just doing their job — the cruelty of crucifixion. These soldiers had served this detail so many times, it had become to them just another part of the job. They mocked Jesus and made sport of His tragic death. All the while they knew “not what they did.”
What they thought was just another routine execution was the single climatic event to which all creation pointed. This was no ordinary day. This day would change the cosmos forever. What seemed to be another sap on a cross was the Lamb of God on the altar. The crucified was not paying for his crimes, the sinless Son of God was paying for the sin of all mankind. And all the while, they missed the significance of this crucifixion.
When ‘we’ become ‘they’
How easily we become jaded by the routine of life. How often we miss the spectacular because we only look for the familiar. But in this story, in the end something changed. Matthew’s account of the crucifixion accounts for a change of heart among the soldiers on Calvary that day.
When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).
Because of a popular movie, we might tend think of only one Centurion (played by John Wayne) having a heart change. But Matthew’s account shows us that like their leader, the soldiers were filled with awe and had a heart change. Jesus has a way of tenderizing even the hardest of hearts.
In what ways has the everyday give and take of life hardened your heart? Have you stopped looking for the miraculous? Have you stopped noticing God’s extraordinary activity around you? Ask God to open both your eyes and your heart to see and experience Him in new and fresh ways.