Why Did Jesus Say "Father Forgive Them for They Know Not What They Do?"

Jesus on this cross said this amazing thing.  Why might He have said it?

Jesus Christ, almost 2,000 years ago, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus was without sin Himself, but He willingly gave Himself for the sins of the world.  

One of the amazing things He said as He was dying on the cross was "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." This is amazing because He was praying to God His Father for the very people who were killing Him! Why might He have said this?

It shows the enormous love and compassion and forgiveness and grace of God and of His Son Jesus Christ. The people were not just crucifying Jesus Christ, they were rejecting God Who had sent His Son to them. These people -- as well as all of us -- surely deserve the judgment of God.  And yet, even in the midst of His darkest hour, Jesus extends the mercy of God.

If Jesus could forgive even those who were crucifying Him -- just like He forgave the apostle Paul who was helping kill Christians -- then surely there is good news for us! For us to receive God's forgiveness, we need to repent and receive His grace, so there is a part we have to play as well. But God extends His love to us even on the cross so that all of us might know that even we could be forgiven!