'Father, forgive them!' A reflection on Luke 23:34

William Loader



The prodigal FatherThe war crimes tribunal was assembled. Caiaphas and his cohorts, Pilate and his, were marched in. There were other charges against Pilate. For this session all stood accused of conspiracy to murder an innocent man, Jesus from Nazareth.

The judge read the charges.

Immediately from the gallery a voice cried out, ‘But he said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."’

The judge responded: ‘Forgiveness is only possible when people realise what they have done. Until then their guilt remains and failing to appreciate the dimensions of their act they cannot forgive themselves and cannot receive forgiveness from others.’

‘Crucify them! Crucify them!’ others shouted.

The judge replied: ‘Why answer violence with violence? Why mourn love with hate?’

‘Let us beat them, whip them, punish them,’ cried others.

‘Punishment,’ replied the judge, ‘is an admission of failure, a strategy of despair.’

‘What, then, are we to do with these who killed the Christ?’ the crowd retorted.

The judge stood to his feet, looking left and right, then turning to the accused, he said: ‘Your sentence is to hear the story again and again every year, until you recognise your part in the drama, see yourselves in the scene.’

The crowd was silent. One by one they rose from their places and made their way sheepishly to the door, until only the judge, the attendants and the accused remained. ‘Take them away,’ he said. ‘Place them in the garden beyond the flaming sword and let the story begin afresh.’

Text used with permission.

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