Mr Clive Chan, Headmaster

Mr Chan has extensive experience in teaching English to people of all ages and abilities. He returned to Hong Kong after spending years studying and working in Australia. He has taught English in different secondary schools and Business English at a university in Hong Kong.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” 

– Luke 23:34

Dear parents,

We have just celebrated Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the most important dates for most Christians, during which I always ponder on some of the last words spoken by Jesus while suffering his excruciating death on the Cross.

Among Jesus’s last words, I have been most bewildered by his saying  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  And for all these years, I have had difficulty reconciling what Jesus said about his tormentors.  Jesus was surely forgiving, but did these people really not know what they were doing?  Were they truly innocent of their evil acts? 

First, did Jesus deserve punishment by death? Crucifixion was one of the most cruel methods of death penalty of the Romans and was generally executed on notorious criminals who had committed inexcusable crimes like murder and manslaughter.  The convicted would be tied or nailed to a big wooden beam left hanging for as long as several days until the victim died of exhaustion or lack of oxygen supply. The slow and humiliating death served as a warning to other potential offenders of serious crimes. 

Apparently, however, Jesus did not kill or hurt anyone.  Even Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, couldn’t charge any offences against Jesus and resolved to wash himself of the Jews’ resolution to crucify him.  When Jesus was crucified, above his head the Roman soldiers placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

So, why was being ‘the king of the Jews’ a crime punishable by death?  In fact, when Jesus was arrested, he was tried by the chief priests who found Jesus blasphemous by claiming himself to be the Messiah, the Son of God.  The Jewish conception of the Messiah was a powerful king who could deliver them from their subservience to Roman rule, so they could hardly believe the meek son of a modest carpenter could be their liberator though Jesus seemed to have miraculous powers to cast out demons and heal the sick during this three and a half year ministry.

In modern-day terms, Jesus posed an acute threat to ‘national security’ as he had stirred up a political storm while he was not leading a revolution against the Romans who could easily clamp it down as seen in the total destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in 70 A.D. during the First Jewish-Roman War that occurred less than 40 years after Jesus’s death.

Did these culprits responsible for Jesus’s death really not know what they were doing?  In a way, they didn’t.  They didn’t know Jesus was the Messiah, the King of kings or the Son of God.  Neither did they know the kingdom Jesus was going to build through his death and resurrection wasn’t earthly but heavenly.  Yet, they would have known they were killing an innocent man as proclaimed by Pilate, the Roman governor.  They would have known they were framing and killing a man of exemplary character.  They would have known they were murdering a great teacher whose teachings pierced right into their dark hearts which simply wanted to protect their self-serving interests. 

Unfortunately, the unfair trial and death of Jesus seems to be repeating even to this day with the perpetrators fully aware of what they are doing is immoral and criminal.  I rest assured, however, that these villains will be rightly judged and punished, in this life or after death.

Yours sincerely,

Clive Chan