In 1859 Thomas Austin brought 24 wild rabbits from England and released them on his property in southern Victoria, Australia. He wanted to establish the English sport of rabbit hunting. Seven years later, 14,253 rabbits were shot on his property.

In l850 a man was fined ten pounds for shooting a rabbit on John Robertson's property in Australia. A few years later, John Robertson's son spent 5000 pounds in just one year trying to control the rabbit population. In 1869 it was estimated that 2,033,000 rabbits had been destroyed on the Robertson property, and the rabbits remained as thick as ever.

Through various means, the rabbit population in Australia covered the entire continent in 40 years. There were so many rabbits that they were called "the gray blanket." Nowhere else on earth has any colonizing mammal spread so fast.

Thomas Austin did not know what he was doing when he released 24 wild rabbits on his property in southern Victoria, Australia.

When people do not know what they are doing, they often do devastating things.

  1. People throughout the world today consider God's incredible power demonstrated in Jesus' resurrection.
    1. Paul used Jesus' resurrection to explain why he made a complete turnaround to be a Christian.
      Philippians 3:8-10 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.
    2. However, no one properly appreciates God's power in the resurrection unless he or she also appreciates God's power and Jesus' heart in the crucifixion.
      1. Only because Jesus lived as the person he was could God elevate him to the position of Lord and Christ through resurrection.
      2. Had Jesus not been a sinless man of compassion, the resurrection would have been a "neat feat," but nothing more.
      3. We can be blessed by Jesus' resurrection when we accept the blessings of his compassion.

  2. Luke 23 draws a phenomenal contrast between those who saw what happened and those who were blind to what happened when Jesus died.
    1. After the Jewish leadership made determined efforts to convince Pilate to execute Jesus, Pilate called the priests who controlled the temple (chief priests) and the rulers of the Jews together.
      1. They had accused Jesus of offenses worthy of the worst form of the death penalty (verse 14).
      2. Pilate told them he had examined Jesus, and Jesus was not guilty of the accusations they made against him (verses 14, 15).
      3. Pilate attempted to appease their anger against Jesus by offering to punish him, and then release him (verse 16).
        1. Pilate found himself in a very difficult situation.
        2. He was responsible for keeping order among the Jewish people.
        3. The time of the Jewish Passover was the most difficult time to keep order in Palestine because so many Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the purpose of remembering the first time they were freed to become a nation.
        4. Jewish patriotism and emotions were so high that the smallest disturbance easily became a mass revolt that could be controlled only by the Roman soldiers stepping in and killing a lot of people.
        5. If that happened, Pilate was in major trouble in Rome.
      4. Pilate looked for a way out of a delicate, tense situation that would allow him to appease the Jewish leaders and let Jesus live.
        1. He offered to punish and release Jesus, and that did not work (verse 16).
        2. He offered to release Jesus or the criminal Barabbas, and that did not work (verses 17, 18).
        3. He again declared Jesus was innocent, but the situation just grew more tense, more emotional (verses 22, 23).
      5. Finally Pilate bowed to the pressure and condemned Jesus to crucifixion; it was the only expedient thing for Pilate to do (verses 24, 25).
    2. Luke focuses us on a very diverse group of people who witnessed Jesus' execution.
      1. A group of women were mourning and lamenting as Jesus began his march to his execution (verses 27-31).
        1. Some probably genuinely grieved.
        2. Some likely were "doing the right thing;" it was considered to be a righteous act to mourn a death.
        3. Jesus told them to cry for themselves, not for him.
          1. Soon Jerusalem would experience horrible suffering (which happened when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans).
          2. When that time came, women would regard not having children to be a blessing (married women regarded not having children to be a disgrace).
      2. Two criminals were executed beside Jesus as he was executed (verse 32).
      3. Curiosity seekers came to see the spectacle of Jesus' execution (verse 35).
      4. The rulers of the Jewish people sneered at Jesus saying, "If he is God's Christ, let him save himself" (verse 35).
      5. The soldiers in charge of the execution mocked Jesus saying, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself (verses 36, 37)!"
      6. One of the criminals who was executed by him said, "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us (verse 39)!"
    3. Please pay special attention to the contrast.
      1. The priests in charge of the temple, the rulers of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people themselves should have understood God's presence in Jesus.
        1. You would expect them to look at Jesus' life and works and see God at work.
        2. But they did not.
        3. They all cried, "Crucify him!" They all insisted that Pilate order Jesus' execution.
      2. But consider the unexpected witnesses.
        1. When one criminal criticized Jesus for not doing something, the other criminal regarded his criticism as totally inappropriate.
          1. "You are dying, and you have no reverence for God?"
          2. "We deserve to be executed; he did nothing wrong."
        2. When Jesus died, the officer in charge of the execution began to praise God (verse 47).
          1. He knew Jesus was innocent.
          2. He knew a great injustice had just occurred.
        3. As the crowd of spectators began to leave, their attitude had completely changed.
          1. They came as curiosity seekers.
          2. They left in grief aware that a great injustice had occurred.

  3. There is one specific statement Jesus made I want you to consider carefully: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."
    1. The Jewish leaders were so full of anger, resentment, and hate, they were blind to what they did.
      1. They did not realize they were executing God's own Son.
      2. They did not realize they were executing the Christ God promised Israel.
      3. The did not realize they were executing the world's Savior.
      4. They simply did not know what they were doing.
    2. Jesus' reaction was astounding.
      1. He did not say, "God, forgive them; they are not guilty."
        1. They were guilty of horrible injustice.
        2. There was enormous evil in what they did.
      2. He did not say, "God, forgive them; their knowledge is better than their actions."
        1. Their knowledge was as horrible as their actions.
        2. They had wrong expectations, and wrong expectations blinded them.
      3. Jesus said, "Forgive them because they do not know what they are doing."
        1. "They are guilty, but forgive them."
        2. "They are ignorant, but forgive them."
      4. That is not how we would react or what we would say.
        1. We would say, "Father, make them pay!"
        2. "Honor justice, and make them pay!"
    3. The only one we have to plead for us before God is Jesus.
      1 Timothy 2:3-5 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
      1. God wants to save each one of us.
      2. But the question is do we want to be saved?
      3. Wonder how many times every day Jesus says to God on our behalf, "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing."

[Sing a song of reflection.]

In the daily use of your life, do you know what you are doing? Will you let Jesus teach you what you should be doing?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 15 April 2001

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