Tenth Avenue North has a relatively new song out titled "Losing." One of the main refrains is "Father, Forgive them. They don't know what they've been doing." I really like the song and that one line led me to think about where those words come from, some of Jesus' last before He died on the cross. The phrase really got stuck in my head, and I decided I wanted to look into it deeper.
Interestingly enough, Luke offers the only account of Jesus' words and my Bible's footnote states that some early manuscripts do not contain the sentence at all. Then I looked into the situation, according to Luke, Jesus was on the cross at the time and from what I read, I assume he's talking to the very people who put him there. As an aside, Luke is also the only account of Jesus forgiving the criminal hanging to his side.
I've heard this phrase all my life, we even sang a song with it in chorus, but I don't think I've ever really thought about the implications. Yes, I was taught that Jesus forgave them, but it was almost too glossed over. Really think about it for a minute, Jesus asked for their forgiveness, even though he stated they didn't know what they were doing. There was no call for repentance. There was no baptism. There wasn't a prayer asking Jesus into their hearts. Just forgiveness.
I'm not even sure where I can lead with this, for now it's just blowing my mind that forgiveness was given without any hoops being jumped through.
At this point in my life as I read through the Bible as an adult and with fresh eyes, I see a Gospel of Grace and Love, not rules and burdens. If Jesus offered forgiveness to the very people who were killing him, how much moreso will he bless those acting in love towards their neighbors?
Obviously, I'm not saying this give us free reign to go and do as we please, just something to think about when we run across people who claim you have to do x, y and z to get into Heaven. We have to remember there is no doing on our part, it's a gift and when we truly appreciate the gift, then we can respond to others with the same love.