Jesus suffered on the cross as a result of the ignorance of the people. It was as said by Goethe: “There is no more terrible sight than ignorance in action.” Those who crucified Jesus really did not believe that He was the incarnation of God. It is the same problem that exists throughout the world today. In His final moments on the cross, Jesus requested of the Father on behalf of those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34).
When antagonistic persecutors were picking up stones to martyr Stephen, Stephen said almost the same words: “Lord, do not lay this sin to their charge” (At 7:60). It was a time again when, because of ignorance, people were opposing the way of righteousness. If those who drove the nails into the hands of Jesus, or lifted stones to hurl against Stephen, actually knew that Jesus was the Son of God, things would have been different. They would have been different, but not for our benefit. And thus, God used the ignorance of religiously misguided people to bring about the redemption of those who would later understand.
Not long after the cross and resurrection, Peter was apologetic for the people who crucified Jesus. “And now, brethren, I know that through ignorance you did it, as did also your rulers” (At 3:17). In his former years, Paul (Saul) was one of those rulers who reacted out of ignorance to persecute all those who believed that Jesus was the Son of God. However, this changed when Jesus finally slapped him off his horse on his way to Damascus to imprison Christians. Paul wrote many years later of his former behavior, “I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious. But I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tm 1:13).
Under the Sinai law there was a provision for those who sinned “unintentionally” (Nm 15:27-29). But those who nailed Jesus to the cross intentionally crucified Him because of their willful ignorance. They were as their forefathers against whom God pronounced destruction because they willfully forgot the word of God (Hs 4:6). By the time Jesus arrived, all the prophecies concerning the Messiah had already been made. They had been fulfilled by the time of His ascension (See Lk 24:44). But because of the hardness of the hearts of many of the religious leaders of the day, most could not connect all the dots of prophecy with fulfillment in order to conclude that Jesus was the One for whom the Jews had hoped for centuries.
And then we consider those today who willfully remain in ignorance of Jesus as the Son of God. They are without excuse, for they not only have all the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus as the Redeemer, but they also have the New Testament that is a record of the fulfillment of the prophecies. John’s record of the gospel alone is enough to produce the belief that is necessary to accept Jesus as the Christ. John wrote,
And Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and Son of God, and that believing you might have life through His name (Jn 20:30,31).
The Holy Spirit has given all the proof necessary that is required to move one unto obedience of the gospel. It is today similar to the situation about which the Hebrew writer wrote concerning some in the first century: “For if we sin willfully after we have receive the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hb 10:26). There are some who willfully forget (2 Pt 3:5). There are others who have no love for the truth of the gospel (2 Th 2:10-12). But it is now as Paul said to his audience in Athens, “And the times of this ignorance God has overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent” (At 17:30).
We must not allow ignorance to lure us into complacency. If we do, then Peter’s exhortation of 2 Peter 3:5,7 is a warning of coming things that will come upon us as a thief in the night:
For this they willfully forget …. But the heavens and the earth that are now, are reserved by the same word, reserved for the fire until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
[See you tomorrow.]