Who exactly did Jesus forgive while he hung on the cross?

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Who is “them”? The gentile Roman soldiers who were just following orders? I guess it’s easy to make an excuse for them. They’ll hear the gospel later.

Was he forgiving the mob then? The mob caught up in volent mimetic contagion (as Girard would put it)? They really didn’t know what they were doing either. They were out of control, imitating the thrower of the first stone. We’ll give them a pass too.

Was he forgiving the religious leaders and murderous plotters as well? The guy who really DID throw the first stone? Better to have a millstone tied around one’s neck and thrown into the sea than to cause the mob to sin. (Luke 17:2) Is he forgiving the model too? The arch-hater of God? If THAT guy was included in Jesus’ intercession with the Father while he hung on the cross, then who on earth does that leave out?

I’m not trying to advocate including them or leaving them out. I’m just asking, how hard are we going to work to make sure that someone gets excluded from God’s statement here?

Earlier, he told the same plotters, to their face, “You are of your father, the devil!” (John 8:44) But that’s the point, right? That’s why He was there, to reconcile even these sons of Satan.

By the way, this is good news for those of us who are sons of Satan. I think the good news stands. It is not just for the ears of the righteous, or (as Luke 23:34 implies) for the ignorant, but also for the rebellious.