Reflections on the Cross – part 3. “Father, Forgive Them, For They Do Not Know What They Are Doing.” Luke23:34.

When we read these words we ask ourselves at whom were they directed, everybody who witnessed the crucifixion, including those who were baying for his blood, or just the execution party? The general concensus among Bible scholars is that they are primarily concerned with the execution squad of four men who drove the nails into the Saviour. The question arose in my mind as to what provision God would have made so that these men might not die in ignorance? In Part 2 I suggested that Luke had a source closer to the cross than the other synoptic Gospel writers. Could this source have been one of the execution squad itself? Let’s look at the evidence. Would any of the Jews, who were hurling insults at Him, who were at the front of the crowd, and might have been able to understand the words Jesus was speaking, have thought that the souls of the men of the execution squad were worth saving? On the contrary they probably thought that Hell was made for Roman soldiers and would have not thought that Jesus’ words were worthy of note to recall at a later date.
Some might propose that the centurion who stated after Jesus died that he was the Son of God was the source. Though I think this is unlikely because Luke usually quotes the name of any centurion he met in person. Though have you ever considered what the impact of those words on the men who had executed Christ? To them came the realisation that they were responsible for the death of [a] god. What retribution did they fear in the afterlife? You can imagine this preying on their minds in the years to come. There is, however, one incident concerning the death of Jesus which Luke omits to tell but which John includes in his Gospel; namely that of the soldier piercing Jesus’ side and with a spear and blood and water flowed out. This observation is important as this is now recognised medically as a sign of death. But in Luke’s time it was unknown or ignored. Even so there are those who like to hold on to the idea of the “swoon theory” in which Jesus did not die on the cross but swooned only to consciousness in the cool of the grave. Are there any recorded cases of a Roman crucifixion similarly botched where the victim got up and walked away without ill-effect? The damage inflicted by the nailed would mean that even if a living person was taken down from a cross they would not be able to use their hands and feet again. Never mind rolling a heavy stone from over the grave to escape. It could be easily be argued that the swoon theory requires a greater miracle than the Biblical death and resurrection of Christ. Trying to explain one miracle away rationally often requires an even greater improbability.
Originally I thought that source did not mention the piercing of the spear because he was ashamed of his actions that day and did not want include this further indignity to the Christ, however, I now suspect Luke ignored it because it conflicted with current medical opinion. One might also ask why Luke did not name his source? The reason might have been for his personal safety because it is likely that any member of the execution squad would not just have been involved in these executions but also a great many other Jewish zealot types. The idea that Christ died not just for the Jews but also not just friendly gentiles but their enemies, was something Jewish church could not comprehend. But, then, are we any better when it comes to sharing the faith with the social pariahs of our own day? (To be continued.)
David G. Rose, 2012.

About davidgrose

I am a Bible believing Christian, brought up in the Brethren Movement, and now find myself associating with charismatics even though I do not always agree with them. I am in full-time employment. I have interests in history and photography amongst others.
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