Colin Smith

Colin Smith is Senior Pastor of The Orchard in northwest suburban Chicago.

They Do Not Know What They're Doing

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

The men who nailed Jesus to the cross didn’t feel that they were doing anything wrong.  They didn’t have a bad conscience.  They didn’t feel that they needed to ask for forgiveness.  They were committing the most terrible sin in the history of mankind and they did not know what they were doing.

That tells us something important—you cannot know what sin is from your own feelings about right and wrong.  If you trust your intuition, you’ll sin and go on sinning without knowing it.

We need God to tell us what sin is and He does that through His law.  That’s why we need God’s Word, “I would not have known what sin was except through the law” (Romans 7:7).

What were they doing?

Shutting themselves out of a glorious heaven

“They do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Here are men with a few short years on earth, and then they will enter eternity.  They are face-to-face with the Son of God, who owns heaven.  Sin shuts people out from heaven.  If you could see the joy that you are spurning, you would not sin.

A thief was crucified with Jesus, and he seized his opportunity and reached out to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:43).  But the soldiers are nailing the Savior to the cross.  They were spurning grace.  But they did not know what they were doing.

Preparing for themselves an eternal hell

“They do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Sin brings sorrow in this life and judgment in the life to come.  If you knew the sorrow and the judgment a sin would bring, you would not do it.

God’s judges in perfect justice.  God’s justice means that nobody will be judged for a sin that they did not commit.  The judgment for each sin will be in proportion to its own weight, not in your eyes, but in the eyes of God.  Every sin will be so punished.

A person in hell would give anything to have committed just one less sin.  What kind of hell is prepared by nailing the flesh of the Son of God?  No wonder Jesus said, “They do not know what they are doing.”

Crucifying the Son of God

“If they had known that they were nailing the flesh of God incarnate, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 1:8

When the soldiers were nailing Jesus to the cross, they did not know who He was.  You may not ever stand up and say, “I defy God,” but every time you curse or lie or swear or break God’s law—in any way—that is what you do.

You don’t understand sin until you see Who you sin against.  Sin is much more serious than breaking a moral code.  It’s an offense, an affront, an insult against God.  That’s what makes it so serious. 

Jesus Knows Exactly What We Are Doing

“Father, forgive them…” Luke 23:34

Thank God Jesus does not look down from the cross on them, and on us, and say, “They do not know what they are doing!”  Christ has compassion because He knows exactly what we’re doing. 

Human sin reached its full horror and its most awful expression on the cross.  God’s judgment had to fall on the world that day, but when Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” He was isolating Himself under the judgment of God.

He knew that judgment would come, but He cries out to the Father, “Don’t let it fall on them, let it fall on Me, and on Me alone.  Let Me be the lightning rod for Your judgment on their sin.”  And it did.  It fell on Jesus and it fell on Him alone. 

This is the heart of the Gospel.  Christ asks the Father to divert the punishment away from His enemies, and He absorbs it in Himself.  That is how forgiveness is released.  That’s how Jesus builds the bridge across which you can come and receive the forgiveness of God, even today.

 This LifeKey is based on the message “Praying For the Person Who Causes You Pain,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, on April 10, 2011, from the series “The Full Extent of His Love.

You can receive our daily devotional booklet by mail by visiting UnlockingtheBible.org/LifeKEYS and subscribing to the LifeKEYS Daily Bible Devotional BookletYou can also follow Colin Smith and Unlocking the Bible on Facebook and Twitter.  

Colin currently serves as Senior Pastor of the The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He is committed to preaching the Bible in a way that nourishes the soul by directing attention to Jesus Christ.

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About Colin Smith

Colin Smith is Senior Pastor of The Orchard in northwest suburban Chicago. Before coming to the United States in 1996, Colin served as Senior Pastor of the Enfield Evangelical Free Church in London for 16 years. He is heard daily on the radio broadcast Unlocking the Bible, speaks regularly at preaching conferences, and is the author of more than two dozen books and booklets. Follow Pastor Colin on Twitter @PastorColinS, and Unlocking the Bible @UnlckngtheBible.

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