The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus--Luke 23:26-49
The account of the crucifixion and death of Jesus in Luke 23:26-49 is roughly parallel to Mark 15:21-41; Matthew 27:32-56; and John 19:16b-30. The details and order in each account are different because each evangelist is dealing with a different time and a different community of faith. John 21:24-25 emphasizes that a biblical composer "selects" certain events and concepts and sayings and parables, etc., out of a much larger body of material. Each evangelist addresses a different set of problems and needs in a different church, so Matthew differs from Mark, and Mark differs from Luke, etc. The account of the crucifixion and death of Jesus in Luke 23:26-49 naturally falls into FOUR parts.
I. Jesus warns people about the future as they walked to the cross. Luke 23:26-31.
a. The chief priests, leaders, and people ("they"--see Luke 23:4, 13, 18, 23) led Jesus away from Pontius Pilate to the place where Jesus would be crucified. A man named Simon of Cyrene was coming in from the country, and the authorities told him to carry the cross of Jesus because the weight was too heavy for Jesus. Simon walked behind Jesus, as a follower or disciple of Jesus would follow Jesus. Simon was probably a Jew, but at that time not a follower of Jesus. Ptolemy I Soter, son of Lagus, founded a Jewish colony in Cyrene on the coast of north Africa (modern Libya). Acts 2:10; 11:20 refer to Cyrenians. See also Acts 6:9. 23:26.
b. Many people from Jerusalem and visitors from elsewhere who had come to attend the annual Passover followed Jesus, and also women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. They were probably professional mourners. See this practice in 1 Samuel 31:11-13; Zechariah 12:10-14. 23:27.
c. As this was happening, Jesus turned to the women and called them "Daughters of Jerusalem." Then he warned them not to weep for Jesus, but to weep for themselves and their children. Because the days are surely coming when they will say that women who are barren are blessed because of the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 A. D. See Luke 21:23; Isaiah 54:1. Jesus then says that the people of Jerusalem will utter the cry of Hosea 10:8 to the mountains: "Fall on us," "Cover us," describing Israel's wailing for relief from Yahweh's punishment because of God's people's sins. The wood of Jesus' cross is green and thus flames of fire will not consume it, but in bold contrast the wood of Jerusalem is dry and thus flames will destroy this city. See Isaiah 10:16-19; Ezekiel 20:47; Proverbs 11:31; 1 Peter 4:17-18. 23:28-31.
II. Jewish Authorities and People Mock Jesus Three Times on the Cross. Luke 23:32-38.
a. The authorities led two criminals to be crucified with Jesus. When they came to the place called The Skull, apparently named because of the physical shape of the hill, those in charge crucified Jesus and the two criminals, one on the right of Jesus and one on the left. 23:32-33.
b. While hanging on the cross, Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." This is a tremendous demonstration of the power of returning good for evil. Ultimately, the purpose of Jesus' death on the cross was for the forgiveness of sins (see Acts 10:39-43; 13:38-39). Jesus' prayer is very similar to that of Stephen when his assailants stoned him to death in Acts 7:60. Alluding to Psalm 22:19, Luke tells his audience that the soldiers cast lots to see who would get Jesus' clothing. 23:34.
c. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, three groups of people mocked Jesus in different ways. First, the "leaders" of the Jews scoffed at Jesus, saying, "He saved others [very bitter sarcasm]; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one." Such mocking is an allusion to Psalm 22:8-9, 19. Second, the soldiers in charge mocked Jesus, mimicking the words of the "leaders": "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!" To make the situation worse, they offered Jesus "sour wine" to drink ["sour wine" is dry wine in contrast to sweet wine]. Third, someone under the direction of the Jewish authorities placed an inscription in derision over Jesus' cross: "This is the King of the Jews," to emphasize that this person is really no king at all and is helpless. This is the only inscription that has been preserved from Jesus' lifetime on earth. 23:35-38.
III. Jesus and the Two Criminals Engage in a Discussion on their Crosses. Luke 23:39-43.
a. One of the criminals beside Jesus joined in the leaders and soldiers and crowd to deride Jesus. He said to Jesus: "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" These are sneering, sarcastic words. The biblical text does not tell the hearer or reader whether these criminals were Jews or Gentiles. 23:39.
b. The other criminal rebuked the deriding criminal, giving two reasons: (1) The first criminal obviously has no fear of God, whether fear means terror or respect. After all, both criminals are justly condemned to be crucified. They are guilty and deserve to die. (2) Unlike them, Jesus has done nothing wrong. Even Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas had admitted this officially to the Jewish public. 23:40-41.
c. Then the second criminal said to Jesus: "Remember me when you come into your kingdom," openly acknowledging Jesus as KING. Jesus replied, "Today you will be with me in Paradise." The term "Paradise" actually comes from the Persian language and culture, meaning an enclosed park or garden. This calls to mind the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:8 and the Garden of God in Genesis 13:10. This would be a place of bliss--Ezekiel 31:8, the dwelling place of the righteous after death. Thus Paradise is another term for Heaven in the spiritual sense. 23:42-43.
IV. Jesus Dies on the Cross. Luke 23:44-49.
a. Luke tells his audience that this was on the "sixth hour" of the day, thus high noon, 12:00 noon. Suddenly darkness came over the whole land of Palestine and lasting until the "ninth hour," that is, 3:00 p. m. The sun became dark. Also, the curtain of the temple [the veil between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place] was torn in two. The tearing of the veil or curtain in the Jerusalem temple is a strong symbol of tearing down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles [and thus, obviously between all races] as Paul emphasizes in Ephesians 2:14-16. 23:44-45.
b. Jesus then cried out with a loud voice to his heaven Father: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," deliberately quoting Psalm 31:6. In this and similar contexts, "spirit" obviously means the whole person. See for example, Genesis 45:27; Psalm 51:10. Having said this, Jesus breathed his last. 23:46.
c. After realizing that Jesus was dead, three groups of people give different responses. First, the Gentile centurion at Jesus' execution "PRAISED GOD [the heavenly Father] and said, 'Certainly this man [Jesus] was innocent.'" Second, the crowds who had gathered at the cross returned home, "beating their breasts," a well-known gesture expressing woes on the people speaking and the people mistreated. Third, all of Jesus' acquaintances, including the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching all that was taken place. It is clear that the women meant here are the very same women who supported Jesus during his ministry as stated in Luke 8:2-3. The women were Mary called Magdalene, Joanna, wife of Chuza (Herod's steward), Susanna, and many others, probably including Mary, the mother of James--see Luke 24:10.
The crucifixion and death of Jesus is the most important event in human history. May all God's people rejoice in the great sacrifice that Jesus gave for each and every one of us.
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