Why did Jesus say, "Father forgive them?"

Jesus had authority on earth to forgive sins. So why did he say, “Father forgive them…” when he was on the cross? Could he not have forgiven them himself?

The verse that says that is:

Luke 23:34 RSV And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Here is what my Catholic Commentary for E-Sword says about it:

34a. Proper to Lk; its authenticity is disputed on account of omission by many good MSS, but the weight of probability is in its favour; cf.Act_7:59. Of whom is Jesus thinking? The Romans? The soldiers, who are Gentiles? The Jews? If the Jews, it would seem that the leaders of the people could not be included, in view of 35 where Lk clearly distinguishes ‘the people’ and ‘the rulers’ (omit ‘with them’ after rulers). The people stand beholding; the rulers stand mocking. Lk here omits the detailed insults relative to the temple, having omitted all reference to accusations about the destruction of the temple during the trial. He joins Mt and Mk in recording the mocking invitation to our Lord to save himself ‘if he be the Christ, the chosen one of God’; in Mk ‘the Christ, the King of Israel’; in Mt ‘King of Israel’.

I don’t know if this will be much help or not but I hope it will be. :slight_smile: God bless.

Perhaps it was to show His humanity - there was a man suffering too as well as the divine Son of God. The words “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” are a model - from one man (Christ) to another (us) - for how a Christian should act even in the face of persecution. Christ also prayed to God the Father in Gethsemenae: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass…”. Again the humanity of Jesus is presented alongside His divinity, because as any man would, Christ the man longs to avoid a horrific death. However, being the Son of God and knowing that His death will redeem man, he submits to the will of the Father - providing us with a model for prayer and how people should place their trust in God. The Catechism says a bit about Christ becoming man, but it probably doesn’t really answer the question either (a bit like me then!) - but I think it is important that we remember that Christ existed as God and man, and the human and divine natures are evident at different times.

NPCs answer has partly satisfied me, but I need a more satisfactory explanation. Someone, please help.

You DO ask questions and they’re apparently very insightful ones. Good question!

Here’s what came to me as I was reading through the thread - In Trinitarian theology we speak of all things (even all things divine) “coming from” the Father. (Not that Jesus and the Holy Spirit was “created by” the Father, of course, but that* relationally *the buck, as it were, stops there with Him.) Yet, at the same time, it is only because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, etc. that “enabled” the Father to forgive in the first place.

Thus, on the cross Jesus follows “protocol” and asks the Father to forgive, while maintaining earlier in the gospels that he is able to forgive sins. He is, in the sense that he is one in Being with the Father from whom all things (including forgiveness) come.

How’s that?



Jesus was both perfect God and perfect Man. He exemplified both the heights of divine and human nature at all times. By calling upon God to forgive his enemies, he was exemplifying the Christian forgiveness we are all to display.

For if Christ could forgive us for crucifying him, how can we not forgive one another?

Ok, satisfactory!

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