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They Know Not What They Do: Jesus’ Crucifixion

In what sense did those who crucified Jesus not know what they did?Jesus said that those who crucified Him did not know what they were doing. Surely they knew some things about Him, so what did they not know? Was ignorance an excuse?

Luke 23:34 – On the cross Jesus said regarding the people who crucified Him, “ Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” In what sense did they not know what they were doing? (Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:8)

Some Things They Did Know

They knew they were killing a man.

Luke 23:21 – They shouted, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

They knew Jesus was a religious teacher.

Luke 23:5 – They said, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee…”

They knew Jesus did miracles.

John 11:47 – The chief priests and the Pharisees said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.”

Honesty should have led them to realize that Jesus’ miracles proved that His teaching was from God. So there was no excuse for their ignorance. Yet there were things they did not know.

Things They Did Not Know

They did not know that the Christ must die.

Acts 3:17,18 – Peter said, “I know that you did it in ignorance …. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.”

The Jews thought their Messiah would be a great earthly ruler. It made no sense to them for him to die, yet that was exactly what the Scriptures had prophesied.

They did not know that killing Jesus fulfilled prophecy.

1 Corinthians 2:7,8 – We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

By crucifying Jesus they unknowingly fulfilled their own Scriptures.

They did not know that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

Matthew 16:13-17 – When Jesus asked who people thought He was, His disciples said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

So the people did not knowingly kill the Christ. They may have thought Jesus was a great religious teacher, but unknowingly they crucified their Messiah for whom they had waited for generations. Not only was He the Christ, He was the son of God.


Contrary to the belief of some, ignorance is no excuse. Though the people killed Jesus in ignorance, yet they were held guilty and in need of conversion and forgiveness (Acts 2,3).

Likewise, there is no excuse for our sins. What we need is forgiveness through the blood of the One who was crucified as the sacrifice for our sins. It is this sacrifice that we commemorate in the Lord’s Supper.

(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2020;

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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.

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