v 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
We find it painful to try to imagine Jesus in this picture. He had been whipped to within an inch of death, forced to carry a heavy wooden cross (Until the soldiers co-opted a passer-by to help Him), and then He was laid out and nailed to that cross. The Roman soldiers had probably done this often and might have expected their victim to curse them as they endured this barbaric torture and death. But Jesus … well, here was a different kind of victim. No cursing, no arguing, no struggling, and it certainly left its mark on the centurion in charge. Luke records in v 47 ‘The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man. ‘
But there was more, Jesus prayed for the soldiers who were carrying out the orders they had been given, in fact He prayed for their forgiveness. Little did those soldiers know that they were a part of God’s great plan for redeeming the whole of creation.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus himself had prayed to bypass this awful scene, but willingly submitted to the Father’s plan and will for him. It is under such intense pressure that a person’s character really shines through. We see Jesus here living out the message he preached.
It is this integrity of character that should be evident in our own lives as we face any difficulties or genuine persecution at the hands of others. Prayer is not a last resort – it is the only resort for those who suffer at the hands of others. We can leave our case with a Father who loves us.