“Father, Forgive Them . . . “

Session 1

“Father, Forgive Them . . .”

Session Goals

This session is intended to help participants . . .

  • Better grasp the importance of Jesus’ final words.
  • Understand that Jesus, the Lamb of God, bore the weight of all humanity’s sin so that we would be forgiven.
  • Realize that God’s mercy and grace are gifts.
  • Understand how to make the most of the study through personal reflection and growing closer to God.

Opening Prayer

Dear God, our merciful Father, thank you for forgiving us when we did not know what we were doing. Even as we remained sinners, you sacrificed your only son to suffer and die for us. You have shown us mercy and given us grace. As we begin this study of your son’s final words, open our ears, our hearts, and our minds so that we might learn more about you and your eternal love for us. Father, we praise your name.  Amen.

Biblical Foundation

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. . . . When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:26, 33-34a)


Opening Activity

Who was present and watched at Jesus was crucified?



Learning Together / Video Presentation

Play the video/DVD segment for Session 1.


Key Insights

Consider the following statements and insights and discuss them.

  • It is not surprising that the first words spoken by Jesus from the cross were a prayer.
  • Our need for forgiveness and God’s willingness to give it are two of the major themes of the Bible.
  • The central focus of the gospel is grace and God’s mercy— not sin.
  • On the cross, the sins of the world—all the hatred, unfaithfulness, bigotry, poverty, violence, and death—were placed upon the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29 NIV).


Leader Highlights

  • Read about Passover in Exodus 12. After the Israelites were freed from slavery, God instructed them to observe three annual festivals; the first was called the Feast of Unleavened Bread or Passover (Exodus 23:15). During this festival the Israelites showed their thankfulness to God for delivering them from slavery.
  • God commanded Moses to atone for the people’s sins every year by bringing two goats before the Lord. One would be slaughtered; the other sent away into the wilderness (see Leviticus 16).
  • Paul compared Jesus to the Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).


Group Discussion

  1. Why do you think the Roman soldiers chose the season of Passover to crucify Jesus? Refer participants to Leviticus 16 and lead them to explore the meaning of the word scapegoat.
  2. Discuss the act of crucifixion (see information in Final Words From the Cross, Chapter 1). Explain why speaking would be painful and require great effort from a person being crucified.
  3. List three reasons why Jesus’ statements from the cross are especially significant.
  4. Whom did Jesus pray for when he said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”?



Group Activity

Play a recording of the African-American spiritual, “Were You There?”


Who was present and watched at Jesus was crucified?

Rewrite the names here:


Write the names of each member of your group:


Wrapping Up


Taking It Home

  • Jesus spent much of his ministry teaching about the importance of forgiving others. Beginning with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:7), search your Bible to find examples of Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness.
  • Are you dealing with feelings of hurt or resentment because of another person’s actions? What steps could you take to follow in Jesus’ path and to be able to pray, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”?

Notable Quote

“On the cross Jesus’ first words demonstrate God’s willingness to forgive our sins, and they call us to become people who follow in his path—people who can pray, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ ” (Final Words From the Cross, Chapter 1)


Closing Prayer

Lord God, thank you for this time of learning and sharing.  We’re grateful for your Word and the ability to read and study about you and your mercy. Help us to consider the insights we’ve gained today and use them as we learn to forgive others as you have forgiven us. As we continue our study in the weeks ahead, enable us to understand more fully your plan for our lives and help us to follow in your path. Amen.