Friday, March 29, 2013

Luke 23:26-56 - Jesus' Crucifixion

Joseph takes down Jesus' body for burial
Have you ever sat with someone, a loved one, who was dying? Remember all the flood of different emotions? The helplessness? The sinking as death came? That is what we must do today.

Jesus’ Crucifixion is the greatest paradox of all time. The justice of God came through the injustice of condemning an innocent Jesus. God’s most holy purposes were worked out through the cruel hands that whipped and nailed Him to the cross. The demonic plot to murder the Son of God became the way by which the world was delivered from Satan’s control. The brutal and fearful symbol of the cross became a beacon of hope for the world.

Everything was wrong with Jesus’ crucifixion – hatred, jealousy, greed. But out of all the wrong came everything that was right and eternal life to boot. As Jesus enters the Valley of the Shadow of Death, watch the Grace that marks every step He takes.

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 23:26-56 to teach people that Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial demonstrates that Jesus is a Man of Forgiveness, Righteousness, and Honor.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about Jesus in His Death.
Key Verse: Luke 23:43
Pray and Read:  Luke 23:26-56

Contextual Notes:
All of Luke’s Gospel has been building toward these climactic final hours in Jesus’ life. The first four chapters give a wide-angle shot at Jesus’ first 30 years. The next five chapters show snapshots of Jesus’ two-and-a-half-year ministry in Galilee. Chapters 10-19 give us Jesus’ 6 month travelogue as He ministered on His way to Jerusalem. With dramatic close-ups, Luke zooms in on Jesus’ final week in chapters 20-24. It is in these final photos that we see the reason for the rest of Luke’s book. The plot takes a terrible twist, but it is a role the main character has been preparing since the beginning of time.
Throughout his Gospel, Luke emphasizes the importance of walking in faith and avoiding unbelief. He has made it clear that every individual who meets Jesus Christ must make a decision about Him. Christ must be received or rejected. His claims must be believed or denied.[1] Once Jesus enters Jerusalem, Luke urges us to trust Jesus because He is worthy to be praised (Luke 19:28-40), and the only Hope for a doomed world (Luke 19:41-44). He stands by His Word (Luke 19:45-48), and He has ultimate authority (Luke 20:1-8). Luke calls Jesus our Inheritance (Luke 20:9-16), our Cornerstone (Luke 20:17-19), our Lord (Luke 20:20-26), our Resurrection (Luke 20:27-40), our Messiah (Luke 20:41-47), and our Provider (Luke 21:1-4) as we watch and pray until He returns (Luke 21:5-38). In the Last Supper, Luke identifies Jesus as our Passover Lamb (Luke 22:1-23) and Suffering Servant (Luke 22:24-38). Jesus models prayer in testing (Luke 22:39-46), grace in betrayal (Luke 22:47-53), and strength in trial (Luke 22:54-65). On trial, Jesus demonstrates His purpose in coming: Not to threaten us, but to assume His Throne; not to entertain us, but to take away our sin; and not to please us, but to save us. In our passage today, Jesus is crucified as friends, enemies, and bored soldiers watch (Luke 23:26-43). He dies and his body is hurriedly placed in a borrowed tomb (Luke 22:44-56). Jesus’ story seems, but only seems, to come to an end.

Sermon Points:
1.   Jesus’ Crucifixion shows He is a Man of Forgiveness (Luke 23:26-43)
2.   Jesus’ Death shows He is a Man of Righteousness (Luke 23:44-49)
3.   Jesus’ Burial shows He is a Man of Honor (Luke 23:50-56)

Exposition:   Note well,


a.   The Roman policy was to carry out execution immediately. Luke shows us a Jesus faithfully fulfilling his calling to suffer as the servant of God. Though a victim of injustice, Jesus is still in charge of His fate. Jesus continues dispensing grace, forgiving enemies and offering salvation to the repentant criminal.

b.   Luke 23:26 – Simon of Cyrene: Mark 15:15 tells us that Jesus was first flogged in a brutal beating. After that, with all He had endured since the Upper Room a few hours earlier, has weakened Him to such an extent that the Romans fear He might collapse and rob the cross of its victim. Therefore, they press into service Simon of Cyrene. The Romans make him carry the crossbeam, the patibulum, which is proving too much for the Lord. Cyrene was in north Africa (modern Lybia) where a large Jewish community was located. Simon was probably a Jewish pilgrim visiting Jerusalem during Passover.

c.   Luke 23:29-30 – Blessed are the barren women: In an incident recorded only by Luke, a sympathetic group of women follow Him with the death wail of funeral mourners. It was illegal to mourn the death of a condemned person, so people would gather to sympathize with a fellow Jew on his way to execution. Even carrying the cross He continues to act as a prophet with a heart not of concern for Himself, but for them. He tells them it will soon be they who will need comfort and calls on the grieving women to mourn for themselves and the coming devastation of Jerusalem (Luke 13:34-35; 19:41-44; 21:20-21). Jesus’ words are a shock in a culture where childlessness was a shame. The barren will not have to watch their children suffer and die before their eyes. The siege of Jerusalem was especially hard on women and children. They will say to the mountains, Fall on us: This is an allusion to Hosea 10:8 (cf. Rev 6:16), a prophecy of judgment against Israel. It indicates the desire for a swift death rather than prolonged judgment.

d.   Luke 23:31 – when the tree is green . . . when it is dry: Jesus gives a proverb. Green wood does not normally burn, nor are innocent men normally executed. But if these things do happen now, how much worse will it be for dry wood and evil men? Jesus probably means that if the Romans crucify an innocent man during relatively peaceful times (green wood), how much worse will they do during the coming days of Jerusalem’s fall (the dry). Josephus said that thousands were crucified during the Jewish Revolt. Soldiers nailed them in different postures and so many were executed that space could not be found for crosses nor enough crosses for bodies.

e.   Luke 23:33 – The Skull: With two condemned criminals, Jesus is taken to a place called the Skull, which received its name by the shape of the ground. The three are crucified, with Jesus in the middle. Luke only gives the Greek kranion. Matthew 27:33 and Mark 15:22 give the Aramaic for Skull, Golgotha. Calvary is Latin for skull. The location is today uncertain, but it was outside the city (Lev 24:14; Heb. 13:12) and along a main road as a public spectacle.

f.    They crucified Him: Phillip Keller in his book, Rabboni, says Jesus was stretched out on the ground on the cross beam. The hammer, iron on iron, sent nails into His sinews and flesh. Blood squirts from the wounds each time the spikes are pounded deeper into the wood. Then His feet are laid flat on the wood with His legs drawn up. Two more terrible spikes do their dreadful work. Just like the thousands of other lambskins stretched out in the midmorning sun that day, so also God’s Passover Lamb lay stretched out on Skull Hill, suspended between heaven and earth as a supreme substitute.[2]

g.   Luke 23:34 – Father forgive them: Luke alone records three statements of Jesus from the cross. This is the first of them. Jesus prays for His murderers, and this prayer evokes curiously different reactions in His hearers. He who is God is also still the perfect Man, still showing in these hours of bitter agony the same compassion and loving kindness as in the days of His active ministry.

h.   The insults: If all this were not enough, there are the constant insults. The Jewish rulers scoff at such an inglorious end to one who claimed to be a king (Luke 23:35; cf. Matt.27:46; Mark 15:34). The soldiers repeat the sneers of the rulers (Luke 23:37). The unrepentant thief beside Him even heaps insults on Jesus (Luke 23:39). “If you are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” Of course He can save Himself, but instead He chooses to save the world. Hour after hour, He will endure the pain, the insults, the abandonment of His own people.

i.    Luke 23:34-36 – They divided up his clothes: The execution squad is too intent on their gambling to pay attention to Him.The language points to Psalm 22:18. It was common Roman custom for executioners to divide their victims’ possessions. The taunting and mocking point to Psalm 22:7-8.

j.    Luke 23:36 – Wine vinegar: The soldiers offered him wine vinegar in fulfillment of Psalm 69:21. Sour wine (oxos) was a favorite beverage of the lower classes and especially soldiers. It was cheaper than wine and quenched the thirst better than water, and the alcohol killed microbes that local water had.

k.   Luke 23:38 – King of the Jews: A placard is nailed above His head. The Romans would normally place the charge against a victim on the cross. Jesus’ charge mocks His messiahship. One of the criminals, a violent mugger, hanging at His side vents all his bitterness on the one who claims to be the Messiah. One person, and only one it seems, can seem to see any further. The other criminal begs and receives and peace from the dying Lord Jesus.

l.    Luke 23:43 – Today you will be with me in paradise: Paradise is a Persian word meaning garden and when it is used in the LXX, it refers to the Garden of Eden (also used in 2 Cor 12:4; Rev 2:7). Jesus uses it as the presence of God experienced immediately after death (2 Cor 5:8; Luke 16:23).

m. APPLICATION: Notice here Jesus’ love for the sinner, even in horrible pain and exhaustion, He still has the same compassion as in His days of active ministry. Let’s remember that Jesus didn’t die just for the nice people of this world. Jesus paid the price for all humankind’s sins, that all who believe might be with Him in paradise.


a.   Luke 23:44 – Sixth hour until the ninth hour: In the OT, darkness relates to the judgment of God, and indeed the judgment of sin was being laid on His Son, His only Son. That is, from noon to 3:00pm. Mark says the crucifixion began at 9:00am. For six torturous hours, Jesus hangs on the cross. To breathe, He must stretch Himself upward, pushing against the spoke in his feet. Every movement shoots searing pain through His body. His leg muscles cramp into knots. His shoulders dislocate under His weight. His skin runs with sweat, the salt burning his open wounds from his flagellation. Amidst the cursing and the wailing, Jesus holds His sufferings to Himself.

b.   Luke 23:45 – Curtain torn: This is the veil which separated the holy place from the holy of holes. It kept sinful man at a distance from the presence of God’s glory, for only the high priest, on the annual Day of Atonement and bearing the blood of sacrifice, might enter (Lev 16; Heb 9:7; 10:19f).  Josephus says the curtain to the Holy Place was a magnificent Babylonian curtain of blue, scarlet, and purple, symbolically representing the universe. The symbolism is threefold: judgment against the nation, the end of temple sacrifices, and a new way open for all into the presence of God (Heb. 10:19-20). Now that the perfect sacrifice has been slain, the barrier is removed: God is fully revealed to man, and man has unhindered access to God.

c.   Luke 23:46 – I commit my spirit: Committing Himself to His Father, Jesus dies, and the manner of His dying opens many eyes. Jesus’ final words are quoted from Psalm 31:5, a psalm of a righteous sufferer crying out for deliverance from enemies who are persecuting him. The verse was often recited at the time of the evening sacrifice in the Temple, the time that Jesus died. Jesus is the righteous Sufferer of Psalm 31. The combined evil of all the world’s sin is laid on Jesus’ shoulders. Jesus drains the dregs of God’s judgment alone. The Father pours out the full measure of His wrath on His precious Lamb – the wrath that we deserve.

d.   APPLICATION: Notice Jesus’ unconquerable trust in His Father’s providential care. In the midst of deep gloom and despair, Jesus still had a tender relationship and close trust of His Father. We see here Jesus willing consent, His inmost, heartfelt union of His will with the will of Him who permits Him to be put to death. This last word that falls from His lips is the culmination of His life of constant communion with the Father in prayer.

e.   Luke 23:47 – centurion, “This was a righteous man”: The centurion is one whose eyes are opened. A centurion commanded a century of 100 soldiers. He was probably in charge of the crucifixion. The centurion affirms the righteous innocence of this Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:11).

f.    Luke 23:48 – The crowds leave beating their breasts. Beating the breast was a sign of grief, mourning, and sometimes repentance. The people recognize that a great injustice has been done. The women from Galilee are there, including Jesus’ own mother. They had heard Him teach, seen Him heal, watched His compassion for others. As Jesus’ mother stood there watching, did she remember Simeon’s prediction so long ago in the Temple when Jesus was a newborn, that one day a sword would pierce her own heart (Luke 2:35)? That day had come.

g.   ILLUSTRATION: In all four Gospels, two things above all stand out in the crucifixion story. First, there is the amazing restraint with which the most brutal and dastardly crime of all history is described. For example, none of the Gospels tell of the nails driven through hands and feet. We know about it only through the mention later of the wounds (John 20:25). There is no detailed description of the physical sufferings, and the full horror of the scene stands out more clearly because there is no attempt to stir up emotions. Second, throughout the dreadful hours of Jesus’ death, there is the unmistakable impression that in reality He is controlling the course of events. While the day turns dark, the curtain tears, and the people mourn, Jesus stays faithful to the end, committing his spirit to God. His innocence is affirmed again as the centurion declares him a righteous/innocent man. To the very end, what comes out of Jesus, the words from His lips, are words of mercy, hope, and trust. Jesus dies as the faithful and righteous Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 53:11).

h.   APPLICATION – The great question which comes to us when we meditate on Jesus’ death is “Why?” Why all this beating? Why all this blood? Why all this mocking? Is all this necessary? The answer is yes, because sin is that ugly. Charles Spurgeon helps us here: “The crucifixion of Christ was the crowning sin of our race. In his death we shall find all the sins of mankind uniting in foul conspiracy. Envy and pride and hate are there, with covetousness, falsehood, and blasphemy, eager to rush on to cruelty, revenge, and murder. As all the rivers run into the sea, and as all the couds empty themselves upon the earth, so did all the crimes of man gather to the slaying of the Son of God.”[3]


a.   Luke 23:50-52 - Joseph, a member of the Council: Joseph of Arimathea ‘was a disciple of Jesus but secretly, for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38). Now he comes out openly and requests Pilate’s permission to bury the body of Jesus in his own tomb, newly hewn out of rock. Here he fulfills the requirements of Deut 21 and distances himself from the Sanhedrin’s deed. John tells us that Nicodemus helped Joseph (John 19:38-42). On the basis of Deut 21:22-23, the Jews wanted to bury the body before nightfall before the Sabbath. The Romans often refused burial of victims. Joseph’s status as a member of the Sanhedrin prompted Pilate most probably to release Jesus’ body to him. The women take note where the tomb is, so that they can return later and embalm the remains.

b.   Arimathea is the birthplace of the prophet Samuel (1 Sam 1:1, 19; 2:11), 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Samuel’s mother was named Hannah. Here are a few comparisons which come to mind between these two Arimatheans.
                 i.        Hannah was an uneducated, poor, and powerless woman (1 Sam 1:1-3). Joseph of Arimathea was a highly educated, wealthy, and powerful man (Matt27:57).
             ii.        Hannah lived in the transition from the old tribal Israelite disunity to the monarchy. Joseph of Arimathea lived in the transition from Old Covenant to New Covenant.

               iii.        Hannah was not ashamed of her faith in God (1 Sam 1:8-10). Joseph of Arimathea was a secret believer in Jesus Christ (John 19:38).
               iv.        Hannah quietly prayed for the birth of a son (1 Sam 1:13). Joseph of Arimathea boldly interceded for the burial of the Son (Mark 15:43).
              v.        Hannah in great grief and sorrow sought new life, a son, from the Lord (1 Sam 1:10). Joseph of Arimathea in great grief and sorrow buried the Lord of Life (John 19:38; Zech 12:10).
               vi.        Hannah was involved in the birth of the first great prophet and last judge, Samuel (1 Sam 1:20). Joseph of Arimathea was involved in the burial of the last and greatest Prophet and Final Judge, Jesus Christ (John 19:41-42).
        vii.        Hannah's intercession was the prelude to the era of the Prophets who made intercession for the people before God. Joseph of Arimathea's intercession was the prelude for the Messiah who ever lives to make intercession for us before the Father (Heb. 7:25).

            viii.        Hannah’s Song prophesied a King (1 Sam 2:10). Joseph of Arimathea’s mourning care buried the King of Kings (John 19:41-42).

                 ix.        Hannah's son Samuel anointed David as king (1 Sam 16:1). Joseph of Arimathea's sepulchre was the place of anointing for the body of the Son of David, the King (John 19:39-40).

                   x.        From womb of Hannah was brought forth alive a son who would anoint David as King (1 Sam 16:1ff). From the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was brought forth alive the Son of David, the King of Kings (Matt 1:1; 22:42; Luke 1:32; 3:32; Rom 1:3 ).

c.   Luke 23:53 – a tomb cut in a rock: Family tombs were usually caves cared into the sides of hills. First century Jews practiced burial in two stages. At first the corpse would be laid lengthwise in a niche cut in the wall or on a shelf carved along the wall. After the flesh had decomposed, the bones would be gathered in a common pile with other family bones or placed in a small ossuary (bone box) about two feet long and one foot wide. In this way the tomb could be used for many family members over generations.

d.   Luke 23:54 – Preparation Day: The day before the Sabbath which began at sunset Friday. Preparations had to be finished by sundown because no work could be done on Sabbath.

e.   Luke 23:56 – Burial: They prepared spices and perfumes to honor the dead and keep down the stench of decomposition. They rested on Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

When we consider the price the Lord paid to ransom our captive souls, it makes us tremble. Such devotion. Such sacrifice. There really is only one response. Such an extreme price paid for our salvation calls for an extreme commitment. “See, from His head, His hands, His feet,/ Sorrow and love flow mingled down; Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,/ Or thorns compose so rich a crown?/ Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small;/ Love so amazing, so divine,/ Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

[1] When the Gospel shifts gears at Luke 9:51, Luke urges us to prioritize faith over unbelief (Luke 9:57-11:36) and warns us to trust the Lord rather than ourselves (Luke 11:37-12:59).Christ then calls us to a Kingdom marked by grace (Luke 13:1-21), repentance (Luke 13:22-35), provision (Luke 14), and redemption of the lost (Luke 15). Luke warns us to prepare for His Return by responding in repentance (Luke 16), obedience (Luke 17:1-19), faithfulness (Luke 17:20-37), and persevering prayer (Luke 18:1-8), and humility (Luke 18:9-14), and complete reliance on Christ (Luke 18:15-17). True faith is complete reliance on Christ’s provision (Luke 18:18-23), power (Luke 18:24-30), Person (Luke 18:31-34), and mercy (Luke 18:35-43). Therefore, Jesus draws us into His Presence (Luke 19:1-7) and purpose on the planet, “to seek and save the lost,” (Luke 19:8-10), assigning us a mission until He returns (Luke 19:11-27).
[2] W. Phillip Keller, Rabboni (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming Revell, 1977), 268-269.
[3] Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon at His Best, comp. Tom Carter (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 47.