Luke 23 – Jesus’ Trial, Death and Burial
A. Jesus on trial before Pilate and Herod.
1. (1-7) The first trial before Pilate.
Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered him and said, “It is as you say.” So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no fault in this Man.” But they were the more fierce, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.” When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
a. Led Him to Pilate: The Roman government did not allow the Jewish leaders the authority to execute a criminal. The religious leaders sent Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor over the region of Judea.
i. The Jewish leaders had reason to expect a favorable result when they went to Pilate. Secular history shows that he was a cruel, ruthless man, completely insensitive to the moral feelings of others. Surely, they thought, Pilate will put this Jesus to death.
ii. Philo, the ancient Jewish scholar from Alexandria, described Pilate: “His corruption, his acts of insolence, his rapine, his habit of insulting people, his cruelty, his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never-ending gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity.” (Barclay)
b. We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King: At the same time, the religious leaders knew Pilate would be unconcerned with the accusation of blasphemy before the religious council. Therefore they brought Pilate three false accusations:
· That Jesus was a revolutionary (perverting the nation).
· That Jesus incited the people not to pay their taxes (forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar).
· That Jesus claimed to be a king in opposition to Caesar (saying that He Himself is Christ, a King).
c. Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” We can only wonder what Pilate thought when he first saw Jesus, when he saw this beaten and bloodied Man before him. Jesus didn’t look especially regal or majestic as He stood before Pilate, so the Roman governor was probably sarcastic or ironic when he asked, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
i. “Pilate was evidently not alarmed by the charge brought against Jesus. Why? Apparently at first glance he saw that the man before him was not likely to be a pretender to royalty in any sense that he need trouble himself about…The [you] in an emphatic position in verse (Matthew 27:11) suggests this = You the King of the Jews!” (Bruce)
d. It is as you say: Jesus gave no majestic defense and performed no instant miracle to save His own life. Instead, Jesus gave Pilate the same simple reply He gave to the high priest (Matthew 26:64).
e. I find no fault in this Man: This was Pilate’s verdict. Though Pilate was a cruel, ruthless man he wasn’t stupid. He could see through the motives of the religious leaders and had no problem in estimating Jesus and the whole situation by the declaration, “I find no fault in this Man.”
f. But they were the more fierce: In response, the religious leaders became more fierce, and emphasized their accusation that Jesus was a leader of insurrection (He stirs up the people). This was a crime that any Roman governor would be concerned with.
g. And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod: Pilate remained perplexed and unwilling to stand behind his verdict that Jesus was not guilty. So he sent Jesus to Herod, because Jesus was from Galilee, the area where Herod ruled.
i. “The city of Nazareth, in which Christ had continued till he was thirty years of age, and that of Capernaum, in which he principally resided the last years of his life, were both in Lower Galilee, of which Herod Antipas was tetrarch. Pilate was probably glad of this opportunity to pay a little respect to Herod, whom it is likely he had irritated, and with whom he now wished to be friends.” (Clarke)
ii. “The word ‘sent off’ [sent Him to] (anepempsen) was a technical word for sending a prisoner from one authority to another (see Acts 25:21).” (Pate)
2. (8-12) The trial before Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great.
Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate. That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other.
a. When Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him: Herod had surely heard much about Jesus, but his only interest was a desire to be amused and entertained. This son of Herod the Great never took Jesus seriously.
i. “Certain of the old writers delight to remark that as there were four evangelists to do honor to our Lord, so were there four judges to do him shame. Annas and Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod.” (Spurgeon)
b. He hoped to see some miracle done by Him: Herod gave his attention to Jesus and was even exceedingly glad to see Him. He wanted to hear from Jesus (on Herod’s own terms) and wanted to see Jesus do a miracle. Yet for all this, Herod’s interest in Jesus was not sincere and was to his condemnation, not his praise.
i. At one time Herod Antipas had expressed some religious interest. He heard the Word of God from John the Baptist (Mark 6:20) yet intending to continue in his sin and hardened against God and His Word, Herod became dead to conscience.
ii. At this point Herod only wanted to hear from Jesus what he wanted to hear (he questioned Him with many words). He wanted Jesus to prove Himself, demanding a miracle. Many today also demand a miracle from Jesus as evidence and it may be true that Jesus thinks of them as He thought of Herod.
iii. “There was left to Herod no feeling towards Jesus but the craving after something new, the desire to be astonished, the wish to be amused…. There sits the cunning prince, divining what the wonder will be; regarding even displays of divine power as mere showman’s tricks, or magician’s illusions.” (Spurgeon)
c. Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing: Herod governed over Galilee, where Jesus spent most of His ministry. He had countless opportunities to hear Jesus again and again – Jesus did not speak in secret meetings in hidden places. All this led Jesus to understand the truth about Herod: he was not a sincere seeker.
i. Herod thought, “Let’s hear an answer from the Great Teacher! Let’s see a miracle from the Miracle Man!” Jesus may have thought in response, “I have nothing for you, the murderer of My cousin John the Baptist.” “He who answered blind beggars when they cried for mercy is silent to a prince who only seeks to gratify his own irreverent curiosity.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Jesus understood that Herod was a wretched, shallow man and had therefore nothing to say to Him. The same man who murdered John the Baptist now regarded Jesus as a miracle performer for his own entertainment. Even when others vehemently accused Him, Jesus had nothing to say to Herod.
d. Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him: The contempt and mockery showed what Herod really thought of Jesus. When Jesus refused to entertain him, Herod entertained himself by mistreating Jesus.
i. “The mockery made it plain that Herod did not take the charge seriously. That is the really frightening thing about the incident. With the Son of God before him Herod could only jest.” (Morris)
e. That very day Pilate and Herod became friends: Significantly, Herod and Pilate became friends that day. They found no common ground except their opposition to Jesus.
i. “I do hope if there are any here that are true-hearted Christians if they have had any ill-will towards one another they will think it a great shame that Herod and Pilate should be friends, and that any two followers of Jesus should not be friends at the sight of the suffering Master.” (Spurgeon)
ii. To this point Luke 23 shows three different groups who hated and rejected Jesus.
· Because of fear and envy the religious leaders hated Jesus.
· Pilate knew something of who Jesus was, but was unwilling to make an unpopular stand for Him.
· Herod didn’t even take Jesus seriously; he was only interested in amusement and entertainment.
3. (13-17) The second trial before Pilate.
Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, said to them, “You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” (for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast).
a. Having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man… indeed nothing worthy of death has been done by Him: Pilate clearly and eloquently declared Jesus innocent of any crime. This was the result of his careful examination of both Jesus and the evidence brought against Him.
b. I will therefore chastise Him and release Him: Pilate did not suggest a light punishment for Jesus. The Roman custom of scourging was a brutal whipping. The blows came from a whip with many leather strands, each having sharp pieces of bone or metal at the ends. It reduced the back to raw flesh, and it was not unusual for a criminal to die from a scourging, even before crucifixion.
i. This was not just. An innocent man does not deserve even a light punishment, much less the severe one suggested by the words, “I will therefore chastise Him.”
c. For it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast: Pilate believed he had a way for Jesus to escape death. He planned to release Him according to the custom of releasing a prisoner every Passover season.
i. Pilate perhaps thought, “If this Man claimed to be king and is even the slightest bit hostile to Rome, then the crowd will love him. These Jewish leaders don’t want Jesus to go free, but the crowd will sympathize with Him.”
4. (18-25) The crowd makes its choice.
And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas”; who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder. Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will.
a. Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas: The crowd, whom Pilate was convinced would release Jesus, instead condemned Him. Because of this, Pilate did not find the courage to oppose both the religious leaders and the crowd.
b. But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” This was a strange, almost insane scene: a cruel, ruthless Roman governor trying to win the life of a miracle-working Jewish teacher against the strenuous efforts of both the Jewish leaders and the crowd.
i. “Their loud cries give the impression that a riot was beginning to build up. It must have been obvious to Pilate that the situation was becoming increasingly ugly.” (Morris)
ii. We may imagine that many in this crowd had, just a few days before, cried out “Hosanna” to Jesus. Yet it is probable that most of these who cried, “Crucify Him!” were local residents of Jerusalem, not the pilgrims from Galilee and other places who welcomed Jesus on the day He entered Jerusalem.
c. And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will: The crowd rejected Jesus and embraced Barabbas, whose name means son of the father, and who was a terrorist and a murderer.
i. If anyone should be able to say, “Jesus died for me,” it was Barabbas. He knew what it was to have Jesus die on his behalf, the innocent for the guilty.
d. He delivered Jesus to their will: This was how Pilate perceived his actions, and was partly true. In a larger sense, Jesus was delivered to His Father’s will and the eternal purpose of God – predestined before the world was ever created – would certainly be accomplished.
B. Jesus dies and is buried.
1. (26) Simon carries Jesus’ cross.
Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.
a. As they led Him away: Even before Jesus was to be scourged, His physical condition was weak. It is reasonable to assume that Jesus was in good physical condition up until the night of His arrest.
i. “The rigors of Jesus’ ministry (that is, travelling by foot throughout Palestine) would have precluded any major physical illness or a weak general constitution.” (Dr. William Edwards in the article “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ” from the Journal of the American Medical Association, 3/21/86)
ii. Yet during the 12 hours between 9 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. Friday, Jesus suffered many things, both physically and in the high-stress challenges that took a toll on Him physically.
· Jesus suffered great emotional stress in the Garden of Gethsemane, as indicated when His sweat became like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). “Although this is a very rare phenomenon, bloody sweat (hematidrosis or hemohidrosis) may occur in highly emotional states or in persons with bleeding disorders. As a result of hemorrhage into the sweat glands, the skin becomes fragile and tender.” (Edwards)
· Jesus suffered the emotional stress of abandonment by His disciples.
· Jesus suffered a severe physical beating at the home of the high priest.
· Jesus suffered a sleepless night.
· Jesus suffered, being forced to walk more than two and a half miles.
· All of these factors made Jesus especially vulnerable to the effects of scourging.
iii. Before Jesus took the cross, He was whipped – scourged – as Pilate had earlier promised (I will therefore chastise Him, Luke 23:16). “Scourging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) were exempt.” (Edwards)
iv. The goal of the scourging was to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse and death. “As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive the cross.” (Edwards)
v. “The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a pre-shock state. Moreover, hematidrosis had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus’ physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical.” (Edwards)
b. As they led Him away: Before Jesus was led away, His clothes were stripped off. This was painful and opened wounds that had just begun to heal.
i. “When the soldiers tore the robe from Jesus’ back, they probably reopened the scourging wounds.” (Edwards)
c. As they led Him away: As Jesus was led to crucifixion, He was – like all victims of crucifixion – forced to carry the wood He would hang upon.
i. The weight of the entire cross was typically 300 pounds. The victim only carried the crossbar, which weighed anywhere from 75 to 125 pounds. When the victim carried the crossbar, he was usually stripped naked, and his hands were often tied to the wood.
ii. The upright beams of a cross were usually permanently fixed in a visible place outside of the city walls, beside a major road. It is likely that on many occasions, Jesus passed by the very upright He would later be crucified upon
d. They laid hold of a certain man: The weakened condition of Jesus required this. The man’s name was Simon, and he was from Cyrene in North Africa (modern day Libya).
i. No doubt, Simon was visiting Jerusalem as a Passover pilgrim from his native land (some 800 miles or 1300 kilometers away). He knew little if anything about this Jesus and had no desire to be associated with this Man who was condemned to die as a criminal.
ii. Yet, the Romans were the law, and Simon was not given a choice – they laid hold of him, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it. Perhaps he was chosen because he was an obvious foreigner and more conspicuous in the crowd.
iii. Wonderfully, we have reason to believe that Simon came to know what it really means to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus. There is some evidence to suggest that his sons became leaders among the early Christians (Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13).
2. (27-31) Jesus speaks to the Daughters of Jerusalem.
And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”
a. A great multitude of the people followed Him: It was customary for a great multitude to follow a condemned criminal on his way to crucifixion. It was intended to be a public event.
i. According to the customs of crucifixion, a Roman guard led with a sign that carried the man’s name and crime, calling out the name and the crime along the way to the place of crucifixion. They usually didn’t take the shortest way so as many people as possible could see how the Roman Empire treated its enemies.
b. Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children: With good reason, certain women mourned and lamented when they saw Jesus being treated in this fashion. Jesus essentially told them, “Don’t weep for Me, weep for those who reject Me.”
i. “As for the words themselves, they are especially noteworthy, because they constitute the last connected discourse of the Savior before he died. All that he said afterwards was fragmentary and mainly of the nature of prayer.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Blessed are the barren: “Normally, Jewish custom did just the opposite, praised motherhood and stigmatized the barren. But the days of the fall of Jerusalem would be so severe that women would far prefer not to have children, rather than have them go through the ordeal that awaited the city.” (Pate)
c. For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry? The idea is “If this is the fate of the innocent (Jesus referring to Himself), what will happen to the guilty?”
i. Jesus spoke this in a more immediate sense, knowing the fate to come upon Jerusalem. “With his calm, prophetic eye he looks beyond the intervening years and sees Jerusalem besieged and captured. He speaks as though he heard the awful shrieks which betokened the entrance of the Romans into the city, and the smiting down of young and old, and women and children.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Jesus spoke this in a greater sense, knowing the fate of all who reject Him. “Ye need not weep because Christ died one-tenth so much as because your sins rendered it necessary that he should die. You need not weep over the crucifixion, but weep over your transgression, for your sins nailed the Redeemer to the accursed tree. To weep over a dying Savior is to lament the remedy; it were wiser to bewail the disease.” (Spurgeon)
3. (32-33) Jesus is crucified.
There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.
a. When they had come to the place called Calvary: There was a specific place outside the city walls of Jerusalem yet still close, where people were crucified. At this place called Calvary Jesus died for our sins, and our salvation was accomplished. Calvary means, “place of a skull,” and it was the place where criminals were crucified.
i. “It is a telling criticism that Fitzmeyer, a Jesuit theologian, observes in an aside comment on v. 32 that the account of Jesus’ road to the cross says nothing about the fourteen stations of the cross, such as the falls of Jesus, the meeting with His mother or with Veronica (‘true image’). Such later traditions, though certainly sentimental in appeal, seem to have no historical basis.” (Pate)
b. There they crucified Him: In days the New Testament was first written, the practice of crucifixion needed no explanation. In the many generations since then, most people do not appreciate what a person experienced in the ordeal of execution by crucifixion.
i. “Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering.” (Edwards)
ii. The combination of scourging and crucifixion made death on the cross especially brutal. The victim’s back was first torn open by the scourging, then the clotting blood was ripped open again when the clothes were torn off before crucifixion. The victim was thrown on the ground to fix his hands to the crossbeam, and the wounds on the back were again torn open and contaminated with dirt. Then, as the victim hung on the cross each breath caused the painful wounds on the back to scrape against the rough wood of the upright beam.
iii. When the nail was driven through the wrists, it severed the large median nerve. This stimulated nerve produced excruciating bolts of fiery pain in both arms, and often gave the victim a claw-like grip in the hands.
iv. Beyond the extreme pain, the major effect of crucifixion was to restrict normal breathing. The weight of the body, pulling down on the arms and shoulders, tended to fix the respiratory muscles in an inhalation state and hinder exhalation. The lack of adequate respiration resulted in severe muscle cramps, which further hindered breathing. To get a good breath, the victim had to push against the feet, and flex the elbows, pulling from the shoulders. Putting the weight of the body on the feet produced searing pain, and flexing of the elbows twisted the hands hanging on the nails. Lifting the body for a breath also painfully scraped the back against the rough wooden post. Each effort to get a proper breath was agonizing, exhausting, and led to a sooner death.
v. “Not uncommonly, insects would light upon or burrow into the open wounds or the eyes, ears, and nose of the dying and helpless victim, and birds of prey would tear at these sites. Moreover, it was customary to leave the corpse on the cross to be devoured by predatory animals.” (Edwards)
vi. Death from crucifixion could come from many sources: acute shock from blood loss; being too exhausted to breathe any longer; dehydration; stress-induced heart attack, or congestive heart failure leading to a cardiac rupture. If the victim did not die quickly enough, the legs were broken, and the victim was soon unable to breathe because of the posture of the crucified person.
vii. How bad was crucifixion? We get our English word excruciating from the Roman word “out of the cross.” “Consider how heinous sin must be in the sight of God, when it requires such a sacrifice!” (Clarke)
c. There they crucified Him: The most significant thing about Jesus’ suffering was that He was not, in any sense, the victim of circumstances. He was in control. Jesus said of His life in John 10:18, no one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. It is terrible to be forced to endure such torture, but to freely choose it out of love is remarkable.
i. This was the most important act of this most important life, and this is reflected even in ancient secular histories. The existing mentions of Jesus in ancient extrabiblical literature each highlight His death on the cross.
· A letter written by Mara bar Serapion to his son (ca. A.D. 73).
· Josephus, the Jewish historian (ca. A.D. 90).
· Tacitus, the Roman historian (ca. A.D. 110-120).
· The Babylonian Talmud (ca. A.D. 200).
d. The criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left: In His death, Jesus was identified with sinners – He was crucified between two criminals.
4. (34-38) Jesus on the cross.
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
a. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do: The love of Jesus never fails. On the cross, He prayed even for His executioners, asking God the Father to not hold this sin against them.
i. Jesus probably prayed in this manner for His enemies all through His ministry. This prayer was heard and noted because He had no quiet place to pray.
ii. In this Jesus fulfilled His own command to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good for those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).
b. For they do not know what they do: In this, Jesus recognized the blindness of His enemies in His prayer. This did not excuse the guilt of those who put Jesus on the cross; but Jesus set His enemies in the best possible light in His prayer to the Father. We must pray with the same heart, after the same pattern.
i. “If ignorance do not excuse a crime, it at least diminishes the atrocity of it. However, these persons well knew that they were crucifying an innocent man; but they did not know that, by this act of theirs, they were bringing down on themselves and on their country the heaviest judgments of God. In the prayer, Father, forgive them! that word of prophecy was fulfilled, He made intercession for the transgressors, Isaiah 53:12.” (Clarke)
c. And they divided His garments and cast lots: On the cross, Jesus retained no material possessions. Even the clothes on his back were taken and divided by the roll of the dice. This shows that Jesus came all the way down the ladder to accomplish our salvation. He let go of absolutely everything – even His clothes – becoming completely poor for us, so we could become completely rich in Him.
i. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says it like this: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
d. Even the rulers with them sneered… The soldiers also mocked Him: Jesus was not honored or encouraged as He hung on the cross. Instead He was scorned and mocked. His religious enemies said, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” Yet it was precisely because He did not save Himself that He can save others. It could be rightly said that love kept Jesus on the cross, not nails.
e. An inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS: In John 19:21 we read that the religious leaders among the Jews objected to this title. They felt it was false, because they did not believe that Jesus was the King of the Jews. They also believed it was demeaning, because it showed Rome’s power to humiliate and torture even the “King of the Jews.” Yet Pilate would not alter this, and when asked to take down the inscription he answered, What I have written, I have written (John 19:22).
i. “The written charge (or titulus) was normally carried before a criminal on the way to execution, or hung around his neck, and would then be fixed to the cross, thus reinforcing the deterrent effect of the punishment.” (France)
ii. “This venerable eulogy and epitaph, set upon our Saviour’s cross, proclaimed him King of all religion, having reference to the Hebrews; of all wisdom, to the Greeks; of all power, to the Latins.” (Trapp)
5. (39-43) A criminal on a cross finds salvation.
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
a. One of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him: One of the criminals crucified with Jesus joined in the mockery and scorn. He reasoned that if Jesus were the Messiah, He should save those who are being crucified with Him (save Yourself and us).
b. But the other, answering, rebuked him: Both Matthew (Matthew 27:44) and Mark (Mark 15:32) indicate that both criminals mocked Jesus. Though at first they both mocked Jesus, in the hours spent on the cross, one of the criminals came to see things differently, and to actually put his trust in Jesus.
· This second criminal respected God (Do you not even fear God).
· He knew his own sin (under the same condemnation… we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds).
· He knew Jesus (this Man has done nothing wrong).
· He called out to Jesus (he said to Jesus).
· He called out to Jesus as Lord (he said to Jesus, “Lord”).
· He believed Jesus was who Jesus said He was (remember me when You come into Your kingdom).
· He believed the promise of everlasting life from Jesus.
i. “It is worthy of remark, that this man appears to have been the first who believed in the intercession of Christ.” (Clarke)
c. Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise: Jesus answered the trust of the second criminal, assuring him that his life after death would be with Jesus, and be in Paradise, not torment.
i. Here is something truly remarkable: a deathbed conversion, and may fairly be said to be the only Biblical example of a last-minute salvation. There is one deathbed conversion in the Bible, so that no one would despair; but only one, so that no one would presume.
ii. Significantly, this thief who trusted in Jesus at the last moment goes to the same heaven anyone else does. This may not seem fair, but in the larger picture it gives glory to the grace of God, not to human merit in salvation. In heaven, we will all be filled to the full with joy and reward; but the degree of our faithfulness now determines how big our container for joy and reward will be in heaven, though all will be filled to the fullest they can hold.
iii. In Paradise: “Paradise (paradeisos), a Persian word meaning ‘garden, park,’ was used in the Septuagint for the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8). It then became a type of the future bliss for God’s people in Isaiah 51:3…In the present passage it represents the state of bliss which Jesus promised to the criminal directly after death.” (Pate)
iv. This assurance was so important to Jesus that it cost Him something. It hurt Jesus to even say these words. “Since speech occurs during exhalation, these short, terse utterances must have been particularly difficult and painful.” (Edwards)
v. Jesus answered the second criminal far beyond his expectation.
· The thief on the cross had some distant time in mind; Jesus told him today.
· The thief on the cross asked only to be remembered; Jesus said “you will be with Me.”
· The thief on the cross looked only for a kingdom; Jesus promised him Paradise.
6. (44-46) Jesus dies on the cross.
Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last.
a. There was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour: The remarkable darkness all over the earth showed the agony of creation itself in the Creator’s suffering. “Origen (Contra Celsus, ii,33) and Eusebius (Chron.) quote words from Phlegon (a Roman historian) in which he makes mention of an extraordinary solar eclipse as well as of an earthquake about the time of the crucifixion.” (Geldenhuys)
i. A Roman historian named Phlegon wrote: “In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad, there was an extraordinary eclipse of the sun: at the sixth hour, the day turned into dark night, so that the stars in heaven were seen; and there was an earthquake.” (Cited in Clarke)
ii. The crucifixion took place during Passover season, and Passover is always held at a full moon. A natural eclipse of the sun is impossible during a full moon.
b. The veil of the temple was torn in two: The tearing of the temple veil signified at least two things. First, now man has free access to the throne of grace by the cross. Second, no one should ever think again that God dwells in temples made with hands.
i. Matthew 27:51 notes that the temple was torn from top to bottom. God tore it from heaven instead of man tearing it from earth.
c. When Jesus had cried out with a loud voice: Jesus cried out something with a loud voice, then He spoke to God the Father in the lines that follow. John 19:30 tells us what He said: it is finished, which is one word in the Greek (tetelestai – “paid in full”). This was the cry of a winner, because Jesus had paid in full the debt of sin we owed, and had finished the eternal purpose of the cross.
i. At some point before He died, before the veil was torn in two, before He cried out it is finished, an awesome spiritual transaction took place. The Father set upon Jesus all the guilt and wrath our sin deserved, and He bore it in Himself perfectly, totally satisfying the wrath of God for us.
ii. As horrible as the physical suffering of Jesus was, this spiritual suffering – the act of being judged for sin in our place – was what Jesus really dreaded about the cross. This was the cup – the cup of God’s righteous wrath – that He trembled at drinking (Luke 22:39-46, Psalm 75:8, Isaiah 51:17, Jeremiah 25:15). On the cross, Jesus became, as it were, an enemy of God who was judged and forced to drink the cup of the Father’s fury. He did it so we would not have to drink that cup.
iii. Isaiah 53:3-5 puts it powerfully: He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
iv. “Reader! one drop of this cup would bear down thy soul to endless ruin; and these agonies would annihilate the universe. He suffered alone: for the people there was none with him; because his sufferings were to make an atonement for the sins of the world: and in the work of redemption he had no helper.” (Clarke)
v. “The fact that He could raise His voice, when normally a crucified person could barely gasp for breath, indicates that Jesus was still in control of His destiny.” (Pate)
d. Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit: His work on the cross accomplished, with prayer Jesus yielded His living spirit to God the Father as He yielded His body to death on the cross. This shows that Jesus gave up His life when He wanted to and how He wanted to. No one took His life from Him; He gave it up when His work was finished. Jesus is not a victim we should pity, but a conqueror we should admire.
i. Save your pity for those who reject the complete work of Jesus on the cross at Calvary; for those preachers who do not have the heart of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:23, when he proclaimed the center of the Christian message: we preach Christ crucified.
ii. I commend My spirit: “Or, I will commit my spirit-I deposit my soul in thy hands. Another proof of the immateriality of the soul, and of its separate existence when the body is dead.” (Clarke)
e. Having said this, He breathed His last: Once the work of the cross was accomplished, Jesus felt no further need to endure the suffering. He yielded His living spirit to God the Father and He yielded His body to death on the cross and breathed His last.
i. “The words of v. 46, ‘Jesus expired’ (‘breathed out His life’), can be seen to echo Genesis 2:7. There it is said that God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and he became a living soul. The one God breathed into the breath of life – Adam; the other breathed out the breath of life – Jesus. The latter paid the consequences for the sin of the former in order to inaugurate a new creation.” (Pate)
7. (47-49) The reaction of bystanders at Jesus’ death.
So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!” And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
a. When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God: At the expiration of Jesus on the cross, the Gentile centurion immediately gave glory to God and understood Jesus for who He was (Certainly this was a righteous man).
i. Surely, this centurion had seen many people crucified before. Yet there was something so remarkable about Jesus that he said something about Him that he could say about no one else.
ii. This is a picture of all who come to Jesus through the cross, fulfilling Jesus’ promise if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself (John 12:32).
b. The whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned: Others went home sadly; they were too close to Jesus to see how remarkable His death was, and they forgot His promise to rise again.
8. (50-56) Jesus is buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near. And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.
a. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus: Customarily, the bodies of crucified criminals were left on their crosses to rot or be eaten by wild animals. But the Jews wanted no such horror displayed during the Passover season, and Romans were known to grant the corpses to friends or relatives for proper burial.
i. Joseph did not serve Jesus in many ways, but he did serve Him in ways no one else did or could. It was not possible for Peter, James, John, or even the many women who served Jesus to provide a tomb, but Joseph could and did. We must serve God in whatever way we can.
b. That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near: They were unable to properly prepare the body of Jesus for burial because of the coming Sabbath. So in hurried preparation, Jesus’ body was placed in a borrowed tomb.
i. “In the hours of crisis it is often the Peters who have sworn loyalty to Jesus with big gestures and fullness of self-confidence, that disappoint, and it is the secret and quiet followers of the Master (like Joseph, Nicodemus and the women) that do not hesitate to serve Him in love – at whatever the cost.” (Geldenhuys)
c. Laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before: Tombs like this were very expensive. It was quite a sacrifice for Joseph of Arimathea to give his tomb to Jesus, but Jesus would only use it for a few days.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission