Do you suppose that Jesus’ prayer on the cross exonerated His murderers, and like the thief that they ended up in Paradise when they died? Do you suppose that without their knowledge that they possessed a golden “Get out of Hell Free” card because Christ had said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”? Perhaps those who Stephen and later Paul prayed for escaped from the consequences of their evil choices and deeds too? If so, is there some frail hope for us to do anything we want and many things absolutely contrary to God and His Word and still somehow be saved?
I know that Jesus never said what he did not mean, and never did what he did not intend. So his petition could not have been insincere.
The plan of salvation was literally nailed down that day and published in detail beginning not many days beyond this noted point. And I know from every word that Moses and the prophets wrote, and which my Savior and his apostles spoke, that those who may in time repent of having been participants in his death and who may become his disciples had nothing at all to fear of God. But if you were to plant your feet and stand against God, unflinching in your irreverence and insolence, you could have no advocacy from God. And if I thought that his prayer offered unrepentant killers blanket clemency, or some distinct dispensation from their very open rebellion and sin against God, simply because it was offered by and to God – then there is in his words a completely different plea than I find here and understand. It would constitute a solace from sin that I cannot find taught anywhere. While it is surely God’s business as to who is to be saved, and certainly not mine, the instructions are everywhere plainly put. And if this premise were somehow true, then God would be very much so a respecter of persons.
So that leaves only two possibilities. It was a prayer that these ungodly people might come to their senses and seek forgiveness – that the path might remain marked and the door remain still opened before their consciences and the way might remain lit even for such as these to seek and save themselves from the everlasting consequences of their dark and contrary deeds. Then again, and more likely, perhaps all the Father did was not to respond with the affirmative to His dying Son, as he did later with Paul and often does to all of His children. In any case (as Momma said, “no matter how you slice it”), there is no proclamation of pardon without action. If we reject God and His Will, we might as well have been a participant that day in driving those nails and spitting in Jesus’ face.
Do you suppose God will somehow allow an out for you or me and we can be contrary or simply do nothing while here? That His Son or an apostle, or even just some godly person might pray the same things before we approach near the bar of judgment? After all, we are not as bad by half as those folks. But I know that if we think any such thing we will surely end up in the same place where these unrepentant souls long ago had been thrown.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.