If the men who were crucifying Jesus could have been suddenly stopped at the last moment, and if they could have been kept perfectly still for ten minutes and could have thought about it, some of them would have refused to go on with the crucifixion when the ten minutes were over. If they could have been stopped for twenty minutes, there would have been still more of them who would have refused to have gone on with it. They would have stolen away and wondered about The Man in their hearts. There were others who were there who would have needed twenty days of being still and of thinking. There were some who would have had to have twenty years to see what they really wanted, in all the circumstances, to do.
People crucified Christ because they were in a hurry.
They did what they wanted to do at the moment. So far as we know, there were only two men who did what they would have wished they had done in twenty years: there was the thief on the other cross, who showed The Man he knew who He was; and there was the disciple John, who kept as close as he could. John perhaps was thinking of the past—of all the things that Christ had said to him; and the man on the other cross was thinking what was going to happen next. The other people who had to do with the crucifixion were all thinking about the thing they were doing at the moment and the way they felt about it. But the Man was Thinking, not of His suffering, but of the men in front of Him, and of what they could be thinking about, and what they would be thinking about afterward—in ten minutes, in twenty minutes, in twenty days, or in twenty years; and suddenly His heart was flooded with pity at what they would be thinking about afterward, and in the midst of the pain in His arms and the pain in His feet He made that great cry to Heaven: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do!”
Except in our more joyous and free moments, we assume that when people do us a wrong, they know what they are about. They look at the right thing to do and they look at the wrong one, and they choose the wrong one because they like it better. Nine people out of ten one meets in the streets coming out of church on Sunday morning, if one asked them the question plainly, “Do you ever do wrong when you know it is wrong?” would say that they did. If you ask them what a sin is, they will tell you that it is something you do when you know you ought not to do it.
But The Man Himself, in speaking of the most colossal sin that has ever been committed, seemed to think that when men committed a sin, it was because they did not really see what it was that they were doing. They did what they wanted to do at the moment. They did not do what they would have wished they had done in twenty years.
– Gerald Stanley Lee, A Democratic Theory of Human Nature, Crowds: A Moving Picture of Democracy