About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 23:26 to end of chapter 23

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ch. 23:26-44   ch. 23:44-49   ch. 23:50-56

The Crucifixion (ch. 23:26 -44)

Criminals were normally executed outside of Jerusalem in a very public place, usually where two highways might meet. Crucifixion of criminals was a public matter, and Jesus was now in the process of being executed as a criminal.

Luke tells us that a man named Simon of Cyrene "was seized", meaning, "was forced" to carry Jesusí cross. It appears that Jesus could no longer carry the cross due to its weight and the abuse that He had taken. Mark mentions Simonís two sons which we note in Paulís writing, or at least appears to note. It has been suggested with good evidence that these two sons became Christians, thus we conclude that Simon himself became a Christian after he carried Jesusí cross. Thatís not surprising to me. This must have been some experience for Simon.

In verse 27 Luke tells us that a large number of women were in the crowd crying because of what was happening to Jesus. But Jesus responded to their tears by saying, "daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, weep for yourself and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, "blessed are the barren womenÖ" I believe these words are spoken concerning the destruction and judgement of Jerusalem. You might remember Jesus saying earlier that He felt sorry for women with children when the day came when Rome would totally destroy Jerusalem.

Even in His days of great sorrow Jesus was thinking of others. He was thinking of the women who would be caught in the cross fire between Jews and Romans a few decades later. This was typical Jesus. He was a servant. He did not put Himself first. He constantly thought of others, even at this critical point in His life.

Jesus quotes from Hosea 10:8 when the prophet says that people will tell the mountains and hills to fall on them and cover them. This prophecy was directed towards Samaria at the time, but Jesus uses it as if it was directed towards the residents of Jerusalem. Both the Samaritan and those in Jerusalem would rather have the mountains fall on them and bury them than go through the disaster of their enemies attacking them.

The specific time that Jesus is speaking of here is the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D..  When Jesus said that the women who had no children would be blessed in that day was because Jews actually ate their own children.  Thins got that bad.  Jesus said these things while He was on the cross because what the Jews were doing at that moment to Him would result in severe judgment in 70 AD.  The very generation that killed Jesus paid for it within forty years.   That's why Jesus wept over Jerusalem the night before He was killed.    

In verse 31 Jesus said, "if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry"? In my thinking the "green tree" represents Jerusalem (and the Jews in general) at the time when Jesus spoke these words. Yes, the Jews were not living as they should when Jesus was on earth, but in thirty years things were even worse. They became very dry. Judgement would surely come when Jerusalem fell to great depth of sin.

Luke tells us that two criminals were also in the procession on their way to death at the place called Golgotha. This was a hill in the shape of a skull. "Golgothat" means, skull or cranium. Our English word "Calvary" comes from the Latin word for "cranium".

While on the cross Jesus prayed to His Father. He prayed, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing". First of all who is Jesus praying for? We can at least be assured that He is praying for the Romans soldiers who actually hung Him on the cross. Is He praying for men like Pilate, Herod, and even the Jewish leaders? That might be debatable. If Jerusalem is judged a few decades later and its leaders killed, then I donít see Jesus praying that God would forgive the Jews for persuading Pilate to have Him put to death.

The word "forgive" means to "dismiss". Jesus is asking God not to hold this particular sin against these Roman soldiers. He is not asking God to dismiss any other sin that these men would have committed Ė just this one.

The question is asked, "did God actually answer Jesusí prayer and dismiss this sin without the soldiers repenting? If so, this would go against the entire concept of forgiveness based on repentance that the New Testament teaches.

We thus could conclude that God indeed did lay aside this particular sin without repentance, or else He led these men into repentance at some point during or after the crucifixion. I would suggest the second way of reasoning.

Jesus had to ask God to forgive His killers, but He forgave the criminal on the cross beside Him. Why did He have to ask God to forgive the soldiers while He on His own could forgive the criminal It is clear that the criminal repented, thatís why he was forgiven by Jesus. The soldiers did not repent, and therefore needed intercession on the behalf of Jesus. Jesus could not forgive them. He needed to pray to God to bring about repentance.

So there is another aspect of forgiveness to learn here. When one repents, we can forgive him on the behalf of God. If the sinner doesnít repent, we cannot forgive him. We need to intercede on his behalf, praying that God would show him his need to repent. One cannot be forgiven if he doesnít repent.

Luke tells us that the soldiers divided Jesusí clothes by casting lots. They most likely did the same for the two criminals with Jesus. This was not an uncommon practice.

In verse 35 we see the crowd of Jews including the leaders "sneering" at Jesus. They made fun of Him saying, "He saved others but cannot save Himself". They did not understand that He did not want to save Himself. That was not Godís plan. Jesusí life was one of a servant. He humbled Himself greatly by becoming a human being. He further humbled Himself by the way He lived, that is, serving others instead of Himself. Paul, in Phil 2 says that He "humbled Himself unto death, even the death on the cross". The humbling process of Jesus began at birth and ended on the cross, being killed as a common criminal.

When speaking of the "crowd" that mocked Jesus at this point, we need to understand that most of them were from the Sanhidren. Possibly some of the larger crowd that was on Jesus side might have been swayed over to the other side, but for the most part those mocking Him were Jewish leaders and their supporters.

The soldiers followed the behaviour of the Jewish leaders and they joined in mocking Jesus. While on the cross, they offered Jesus some very cheep wine. This wine, almost vinegar like, would have been the common drink on the street, maybe even like our soft drinks. But Jesus was hanging on the cross. How could He reach out and take this drink? This was another jester of cruelty.

Like the Jewish leaders, the soldiers demand that if Jesus was really the King of the Jews He should save Himself. But once again they did not understand that Jesus could not save Himself because His death was the means by which the soldiers, and the rest of mankind, would be saved. Jesus would not be saved, but we would be saved.

In verse 38 Luke tells us that there was a sign posted on the cross above Jesus. It read, "the king of the Jews". We know from John that Pilate had this sign posted. Signs such as this were not uncommon. Often a sign would be placed on the cross to tell the people the crime the person had committed. The charge the Jews brought to Pilate was that Jesus was the King of the Jews. Pilate did not believe this was a legitimate offense. He wanted to set Jesus free. It appears that Pilate had this sign posted because this was the charge laid against Jesus by the Jews, but in fact wasnít really a real crime according to Roman Law. The sign was a real irritant to the Jewish leaders. They did not like this sign, but Iím sure that Pilate felt good irritating the Jews as he did. He knew what he was doing by placing these words above Jesus.

It is very ironic. Jesus was charged by the Jews as being the King of the Jews. The charge was written above His head. The Jews didnít really believe He was the King of the Jews, but in fact He was. The sign was absolutely correct and true.

In verse 39 we see one of the criminals on the cross mocking Jesus as well, joining in with the Jews and the soldiers saying, "if you are the King of the Jews, save yourselfí. The sign says that Jesus is the King of the Jews. The Jewish leaders, the soldiers, and one criminal mock Jesus as being a king who had no power. The truth is that Jesus was a king and had great power, but reserved not to use His power.

In verse 40 we learn about the second criminal on the cross beside Jesus. He was upset with the first criminal who mocked Jesus. The second criminal said that they were being treated justly. They had committed crimes worthy of death, but Jesus had done nothing worthy of such a sentence.

Then in verse 42 the second criminal said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom". We donít see actual words stating this man repented, but from what He does say, we can safely conclude that he had a heart of repentance and believed Jesus to be who He really was. This man repented and also put his trust in Jesus. This is certain or else he would not of asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered His kingdom. Youíd almost think that this criminal understood that the Kingdom that Jesus was going to was not an earthly kingdom. I think He did.

Jesus answered by saying, "today you will be with me in paradise". The two important words are "today" and "paradise". I believe Paradise is Heaven, where God and the angels are. I believe that "today" meant that very day in which Jesus and the criminal died.

Jesusí Death (ch. 23:44 - 49)

Verse 44 says that it was about the sixth hour, twelve noon our time when darkness came over the whole earth. This darkness lasted until the ninth hour, 3 PM our time. How this darkness came about can only be guessed at . I believe it was a miraculous darkness, maybe having no possible natural explanation. Remember, Jesus told the soldiers when they arrested Him that this was the hour when darkness reigned. While Jesus was on the cross was the darkest hour in both a spiritual and natural sense.

Then at some point the curtain in the Temple that separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place was torn in half, from top to bottom as Matthew tells us. It is easy to figure this one out. No longer was there a special place where man could meat with God. No longer could only a priest meet with God. The way to God was completely open to all men through Jesus. In one sense of the word, Jesus Himself took the place of the curtain.

Luke records the last words of Jesus while hanging on the cross. Jesus said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit". The earthly body of Jesus died at this point and His spirit went to be with the Father. This is the ultimate in making God Lord of oneís life. We should be able to say at the end of our life, if we have the mental capabilities to do so, "Jesus, into your hands I commit my spirit". Or in other words, "Jesus I give you myself. Here I am. I am completely yours, both in life and in death".

Those who stood close to the cross, mainly the soldiers, when seeing all that happened, and hearing Jesusí last words "beat their breasts". They knew that Jesus was a special man. He was not the criminal as He was charged to be. Those who mocked Him were now terrified, knowing that they had participated in a great injustice. It might be quite possible that Jesusí prayer to His Father, "forgive them because they donít know what they are doingí was beginning to be answered. The beating of their breasts symbolizes the sorrow they had as they saw what was happening. It is quite possible that these soldiers were In the process of repenting, and if so, the Heavenly Father was also in the process of forgiving them, answering Jesusí prayer.

Verse 49 tells us that "all who knew" Jesus, including the women, stood from a distance and watched what was happening. Thereís probably a legitimate reason why they stood at a distance. It is quite possible that the soldiers would not let them get closer and that there was a viewing area for the general public to watch such an execution These followers of Jesus must have been deeply disturbed and full of sorrow and confusion.

Jesusí Burial (ch. 23 :50 - 56)

Jesus was now hanging dead on the cross. What would happen now to His body? Most likely His body would have been taken down from the cross and thrown into a pit. But there was a man named Joseph, from a town called Arimathea. Joseph was a Jewish leader, a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council over the Jews. Luke says that he was waiting for the Kingdom of God. This tells us that he was a good man, a man who most likely sought God the best way he knew how. Joseph did not think like the others in the Sanhedrin. He was opposed to killing Jesus. He therefore went to Pilate to get authority from him to take the body of Jesus and give Him a proper burial.

The action taken by Joseph fulfilled prophecy in Is. 53:9 that said that Jesus would be buried with the rich. Luke doesnít tell us that Joseph was rich, but no poor man could be a member of such an elite group as the Sandedrin.

Joseph wrapped the body of Jesus as he would any other person who died in those days. He put Him in a tomb cut out of rocks. This tomb was a new tomb. It had never been used before.

Luke tells us that these things happened on "Preparation Day". This was Friday, the day before the Sabbath when all the preparing would be done so no work would actually be done on the Sabbath.

Luke tells us that the women followed Joseph. They were the ones who wanted to know where the body of Jesus was going to be buried. They went home and spent a quiet Sabbath day as the Law required then returned to the tomb the next day with special spices and perfumes to anoint the body of Jesus. This is a womanly type of thing to do I suppose. Where the men were, we donít know for sure, but it appears that the women were more interested in the body of Jesus than the men.

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