This is a bit confusing. In Luke Jesus asks the Father to forgive those
that murdered him, in Acts 2:23 Peter accuses these same people of murder,
then in Acts 2:38 Peter tells them to repent and be baptized for the
forgiveness of their sins. Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing.” Acts 2:23 This man was handed
over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help
of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. Acts 2:38
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of
Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

Out of compassion, Jesus asked his Father to forgive those in
the execution detail for the horrible way they had treated him. This is
certainly consistent with what we know about the heart of Jesus. He saw
these men as “sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). In fact, at least
one of the soldiers was convinced that Jesus was the Son of God by the
events they witnessed that day (Mark 15:39). It was on Jesus’ heart to
forgive the men for their actions, at least in part because he was
voluntarily letting himself being treated in this way. God had allowed
the events to lead up to this conclusion, and Jesus did not want even the
slightest hint of bitterness to enter his heart at this point.

The events of Acts chapter two are a very different thing.
First of all, you can assume that those in the crowd at Pentecost in Acts
two were not the same as those who were in the execution detail on the
hill of Golgotha. It is unlikely that any of the Roman soldiers were at
the temple on the day of Pentecost. When Peter said, “this Jesus whom you
crucified,” he is not placing blame on the actual individuals who carried
out the execution, or even those who plotted to have him arrested. Peter
is saying to the crowd, “All of you who are sinners are at least
indirectly responsible for Jesus being killed on the cross. As sinners,
Jesus died for you and you are therefore responsible for his death.”
Based on acceptance of this truth, many were cut to the heart that day and
willingly repented of their sins, were baptized, and “added to their
number” that day.

There is a very unfortunate history amongst some “Christian”
groups to try to lay the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus on the Jews.
It just so happens that the entire audience of Peter’s first gospel sermon
were Jews. That fact does not support anyone claiming that Peter was
saying that Jews alone are responsible for the death of Jesus. Jesus died
for everyone’s sins. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of
God, and are freely justified by the blood of Christ (to paraphrase Romans

Yes, it is true that Jesus asked his Father to forgive his
executioners on that day. Nevertheless, even these men would have to come
to grips with their sin in the end, repent and be baptized into Christ to
obtain salvation. One can only hope that some of them did. If so, they
will be in heaven some day.

John Oakes, PhD

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