It is important to note that the people in general went to John's baptism confessing their sins:

Matthew 3:6 New International Version

Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

Mark 1:5 New International Version

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

John the Baptist testified that Jesus would come to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire:

Luke 3:16 New International Version

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Why don't we see people in the gospels asking Jesus for forgiveness?

5 Answers 5


How did David respond when confronted with his sin?

2 Samuel 12:13

So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

David did not ask for forgiveness, he admitted he sinned against the LORD and the LORD responded.

One does not ask for forgiveness. One admits they sin against the LORD and by making such an admission, they place themselves in the hands of the LORD.

No one asked John the Baptist for forgiveness. They simply confessed their sins to him. Confessing sin before the crucifixion and resurrection, that is, before the only sacrifice which had the efficacy to deal with sin, was just that. A confession. Perhaps those who made the confession hoped for forgiveness, but such hope is not stated.

Now Christ is at the right hand of God, and He is a believer's advocate (1 John 2:1).

1 John 1:

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Forgiveness comes only when confession is coupled with a right belief about Jesus.

John 8:24:

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

That fullness of belief in Jesus was not possible until He was crucified and resurrected. Only then could one have faith their confession was not dependent upon the Mosaic Law but the Christ, the Son of God.


This is a good question, and there is no easy answer to it. It's true that in the case of John's baptism people confessed, but we don't see this with the baptism that Jesus disciples performed. Also there are no explicit examples of people asking forgiveness from Jesus either. But if we look deeper, requests for forgiveness are implied.

  • In Matthew 9, Jesus healed a paralytic boy saying "child your sins are forgiven." We may infer that the boy silently expressed a desire for forgiveness.

  • In Luke 7:47-49 Jesus declares that the sinful woman of Capernaum is forgiven. Her body language just previous to this displays an attitude of complete humiliation, washing Jesus' feet with tears and drying them with her hair. A more eloquent expression of repentance is hard to imagine.

  • In the Lord's Prayer Jesus taught his disciples: "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12) and "if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you." (6:14) He also taught: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7) Asking for and giving forgiveness was a core teaching of Jesus. It was so basic that the gospel writers apparently did not feel the need to provide many everyday examples.

  • In the story of the Woman Taken in Adultery (John 8), the woman is assumed to have repented. She stands in complete humility before Jesus. He knows her inner thoughts and she does not need to express her need for forgiveness, which he readily grants.

  • The Parable of the Prodigal son is an allegory of humankind returned to God. In this story, the son begs his father for forgiveness and it is granted. (Luke 15:21)

  • Finally, Jesus emphasized the responsibility to forgive, even when people did not repent. Thus he told people they not only had to forgive their brothers but to love their enemies.

Conclusion: Forgiveness is a central theme of Jesus' teaching. There are several examples where Jesus understands people to have asked silently for forgiveness. His emphasis, however, is that his followers should forgive even when it does not seem justified. Neither of these facts is an entirely satisfying answer to the OP's question, but it may be the best we can do given what we have to work with.


It is worth noting that in Jewish tradition, only God can forgive sin. This is illustrated in the account "Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man" in Matthew 9:1-6. The quotes of Matthew 3:6 and Mark 1:5 are not evidence that people asked John the Baptist forgiveness of sin. It is a ritual to receive Baptism by confessing their sin.

Therefore, unless people recognize Jesus as God, they will not ask Jesus for forgiveness of sin. An account in Matthew 16:13-17 tells us that very few people in that time knew Jesus is God, unless the Father in heaven reveal it to them.

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. (NIV)

  • In Judaism, only God can forgive sins against God. But people forgive sins against people. Jan 21 at 21:15
  • @DanFefferman - Your statement is true. However, the OP question is not about forgiveness of sin of one man to another. Jan 21 at 21:37

Spiritual healing of various kinds is demonstrated by the variety of importunities which Jesus made whole. All kinds of inward ailments may be seen outwardly pictured by the physical conditions brought to him for cleansing, healing and restoring.

The coming of a soul to Christ for remission of sins is something that occurs secretly and privately. It happens when one is on one's knees, in prayer, in devotion, seeking union and communion with God.

In order to find that union and communion, sins must be dealt with, for God is holy.

And that process is experienced. And experienced internally. And experienced privately and personally between Christ and the longing soul.

It is typified by the miraculous healings of bodily ailments and psychological torments. But the reality happens personally and privately.

This is why we see the type demonstrated, but the reality is hidden away.

  • OK. His response suggests that the absence of explicit accounts of people asking Jesus for forgiveness in the Gospels can be attributed to the intimate and personal nature of this spiritual process.
    – Betho's
    Jan 20 at 1:45

Consider that their sin was against the Law (or the letter) yet Jesus is Love (or spirit).

John’s baptism is the ritual washing of dead. Only death could free Jews from the old covenant and that’s what they came to John for. They knew that their sins bound them to Hades forever and in old covenant there was no escape from „mortal sins“. That’s why they were confessing their sins before John, so the sins die with their old soul and are washed away in their baptism.

Because Jesus was also born into the mosaic law he too had to be freed through the baptism first even if he was sinless himself.

The ability of Jesus to forgive sins before his resurrection may actually be conditional on whether the sin is committed under mosaic law or not. So that’s why Jews didn’t ask Jesus to forgive their mosaic sins.

After Jesus death and resurrection the mosaic law is void and new covenant is made. Accepting the holy spit as a judge gives a chance for any and every sin to be forgiven. But obviously Jews of the old covenant were themselves judges of the law and so didn’t accept that. That’s another reason why they didn’t ask Jesus for forgiveness at or around the baptism of John.

  • "After Jesus death and resurrection the mosaic law is void and new covenant is made." The Jewish Church Fulfilled the Law Acts 21:20-26. What do you say?
    – Betho's
    Jan 20 at 16:48
  • Sorry, I’m not sure I understand your question here. If you refer to the people still following the Moses law after Jesus’s resurrection, then that’s on them (at least from the Christian point of view). e.g. re: do not kill and do not lie John 8:44 “You are of your father of the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies”
    – grammaplow
    Jan 21 at 1:38
  • Ok. Thank you. Tk
    – Betho's
    Jan 21 at 1:45
  • "The ability of Jesus to forgive sins before his resurrection may actually be conditional on whether the sin is committed under mosaic law or not." This confuses me, since even after Jesus died, the law is still in place and is what people will be judged by (Matt. 5:17–18). That is, until one accepts Jesus and is then brought under the new covenant (Rom. 10:4). Otherwise, there would be no need to accept Jesus—the law is what condemns us without Him (Rom. 7:5–6). Jan 21 at 16:23
  • 2
    @grammaplow Thanks for the reply! I'm still a bit confused about how to interpret your answer—is what you're saying that, before Jesus physically died, He only had the authority to forgive certain sins? And if so, what would be sins that He could not forgive (e.g. those pertaining to the ceremonial portions of the Mosaic Law)? Jan 22 at 0:40

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