Luke 23:34

ESV And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments.
NIV Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
NASB [ But Jesus was saying, 'Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.'] And they cast lots, dividing His garments among themselves.
CSB Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing." And they divided his clothes and cast lots.
NLT Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.' And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
KJV Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
NKJV Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.

What does Luke 23:34 mean?

Jesus hangs on the cross. His wrists are nailed to a removable crosspiece which is propped up on a standing beam not much taller than a typical person. Earlier, He was beaten, whipped, disrespected, betrayed, and denied.

Below Him, the abuse continues. A crowd watches, some joining the religious leaders in saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!" (Luke 23:35). The soldiers look at the sign above His head which reads "King of the Jews" and say, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" (Luke 23:36–37). They divide up His clothes. There's one extra garment, though. Instead of cutting it into pieces, they gamble for it (John 19:23–24). They unwittingly fulfill the prophecy "they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots" (Psalm 22:18).

Much earlier in Jesus' ministry, He had spoken about situations like this and how His followers should respond:
"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them." (Luke 6:27–31)
Jesus' forgiveness here is not an indication that the people, priests, scribes, elders, and soldiers receive salvation and reconciliation with God at this moment. They do receive a grace from Jesus. He does not block their way to God. He welcomes them further on. Even though the Romans know He is innocent, "they know not what they do." Even though the priests, scribes, and elders know He has fulfilled the prophecies describing the Messiah, "they know not what they do." Jesus gives permission for His sacrifice at this moment to be used to cover the sins of everyone involved. He "makes intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).

His words are effective. One of the thieves, who apparently joined in the mocking at first (Matthew 27:44), reconsiders and takes Jesus up on His offer (Luke 23:39–43). He's not the only one. After Jesus ascends to heaven and the Holy Spirit comes upon His followers, "a great many of the priests [become] obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7), asking forgiveness from the one they crucified.

Too often, we think we must follow Jesus' example only because it's the right thing to do: that it's a personal matter between us and God. But we follow God's word for many purposes. His word does not return empty; He says, "But it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11). Obeying God, including His command to forgive, matters to the world around us (Luke 17:3–4).
What is the Gospel?
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