"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
These are stunning words. The ancient text suggests that Jesus might have uttered these words several times. Imagine him asking the Father to forgive evil men each time they drove another nail into his hands and feet.
If that isn't amazing enough, these words also fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. Isaiah 53:12 makes the following Messianic prediction, "For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
Centuries before cruel malefactors drove nails into the hands and feet of Jesus and hoisted him upon a cross between earth and heaven, their forgiveness was foretold. Amazingly, the scribes and Pharisees were too busy scheming and plotting against Jesus to read the Isaiah scroll and make the connection between him and the Messianic prophecies.
The fact that Jesus forgives us is one thing. The extent of God's forgiveness is even more amazing. Psalm 103:12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."
The mix of geography and theology is powerful. Unlike when we travel north or south and bump into either pole, there's no limit to how far we can travel either east or west. Therefore, the distance between east and west is infinite. When God forgives, he separates us from our sins so that we'll never bump into them again.
He also doesn't remember our sins.
"I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more" (Isa. 43:25; Heb. 8:12, 10:17).
How can God who knows all things not remember our sins? He chooses not to remember. He won't bring them up again. This is why, when you read about great people of faith in Hebrews 11 like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and others, there's no mention of their sins, even though they were great sinners.
It's impossible to forgive and forget. But, like God, we can do better than that. We, too, can choose not to remember the wrongs people have done to us.
Now here's how all of this can change your life. Because God forgives us so completely, we don't have to wallow in the past. No more beating ourselves up about the mistakes we've made. We have permission to forget what God has forgotten. Does that mean we shouldn't take sin seriously? On the contrary, because God has gone to such great lengths to purchase our redemption and forgive us, we should show our gratitude by our obedience to his word.