Saturday, March 19
Luke 23: 26-56 — Crucifixion, Death & Burial
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then
“ ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!”’
31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?
41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.
49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
Points of Interest:
- (v.26) “made him carry it behind Jesus”—Simon Peter, who just last night talked of dying with Jesus, has run away; so Simon of Cyrene has to temporarily fill in for him. Cyrene, by the way, is in North Africa, in modern Libya (IVP Bible Background Commentary 254).
- (v.27) “including women who mourned and wailed for him”—it’s not quite true that all of Jesus’ followers have abandoned Him. The men among the disciples are hiding, but the women continue to follow Him to the very end.
- (v.34) “Father, forgive them”—Jesus continues to follow His own advice from the sermon on the plain: “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (6:28), and, “Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned” (6:37). To the very end, Jesus is giving generously to others, particularly to those who won’t or can’t give anything in return.
- (v.34) “they divided up his clothes by casting lots”—it was common practice for the executioners to get the personal effects of the prisoner (New Bible Commentary 1017), but this is also a reference to Psalm 22 (written by David, about 1000 years before Jesus).
- (v.42) “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”—Criminal though he is—and as far as we know a complete stranger to Jesus—he is the only person we’ve encountered who believes that this is not the end for Jesus. Even as Jesus hangs on a cross next to him, this criminal believes that Jesus will survive and triumph.
- (v.45) “the curtain of the temple was torn in two”—the curtain is the divider between the Holy Place (the priestly area of the temple) and the Most Holy Place (where only the chief priests could go, and only once a year). Perhaps this is the symbolic beginning of the destruction of the temple.
- (v.46) “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”—this is the first line of Psalm 31:5, which continues, “redeem me, Lord, my faithful God.”
- (v.53) “placed it in a tomb cut in the rock”—the fact that Jesus’ body is placed in a tomb bought by this influential councilman brings to mind an odd little detail in one of Isaiah’s prophecies of the suffering servant: “He was assigned a grave with the wicked,/and with the rich in his death” (Isaiah 53:9). Like Isaiah’s suffering servant, Jesus dies the death of a criminal (and would have simply been buried in a public burial ground with them except for Joseph’s intervention [New Bible Commentary 1018]) but is buried in a rich man’s grave. Even more than Psalm 22, Isaiah 53 (written about 800 years before Jesus) is startling in how accurately and vividly it portrays Jesus’ suffering—it might be worth finding a Bible and reading the entire chapter.
Taking it home:
- For you: Jesus’ death is undeniably a very powerful story, but it’s also one that can be very difficult to grasp. Pray that God would give you a new understanding today of the meaning of Jesus’ death.
- For your Six: Pray that like Simon of Cyrene your Six would be drawn into Jesus’ story in surprising ways.
- For our church/ILTJ: While their companions are sneering, the second criminal and the centurion find in Jesus’ death something compelling and faith-inspiring. Pray that many people in our community would also gain a new appreciation for Jesus during these few days when there is so much focus on him and his death. Pray that many would be curious enough to accept an invitation to church to hear more about it. Pray that our church would be bold in our invite factor and in tune with the Holy Spirit.
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