Through the Bible in One Year

Day 117

Luke 23:13-43

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” [ ]

But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.—23:13-25

The sequence of trials comes to a climax here with Pilate’s repeated statements of Jesus’ innocence.  The Jewish leadership, now with the support of the people, oppose Pilate’s requests.  The reference to “the people” in verse 13 introduces a shift from the previous attitude of the people.  To appease the crowd, Pilate declares he will have Jesus punished before releasing him. The crowd demands Jesus to be crucified and Barabbas to be released instead.  Ironically, Barabbas had been thrown in prison for an insurrection and murder.  Barabbas is contrasted with the innocent one who is to be punished in his place.  In order to keep the peace and his job, Pilate gives in to the crowd’s desire.

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. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 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!’ Then

“‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”

and to the hills, “Cover us!”’

For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”—23:26-31

The crucifixion account is developed in three stages: the journey to the crucifixion (vv. 26-31), the mockery and crucifixion of Jesus (vv. 32-43), and events surrounding the death of Jesus (vv. 44-49).  Simon from Cyrene models in a physical way what Jesus said following him would entail.  Jesus, then addresses the women who are weeping and following him.  He indicates that they are representative of the people of the city, and thus they should weep not for him but for themselves.  They should cry to the mountains and hills because of the horror and scale of the judgement that is to come.

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 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. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

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.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”—23:32-43

The actual crucifixion is now told with a focus on the varying responses of the two criminals who are crucified with Jesus.  Also, included in a focus on the mockery of the leaders and the soldiers.  The place of crucifixion is called “the Skull,” which is “Golgotha” in Aramaic and “calvaria” in Latin—from which comes the English word “Calvary.”

The prayer of verse 34 is unique to Luke among the Gospels.  The taunt from the rulers for Jesus to save himself is ironic given that Jesus is accomplishing salvation in the very act of dying.  This taunt also begins a regular emphasis on salvation in this crucifixion scene as Jesus is crucified as Savior.

The language of kingship in the inscription is also ironic given that Jesus is ruling from the cross, as the following discussion with the criminals illustrates.  In contrast to blasphemous insults hurled at Jesus by one of the criminals, the other criminal recognizes that as condemned men they should fear God the Judge and not mock an innocent man.

The second criminal recognizes that justice of his condemnation given what he has done and then declares Jesus’ innocence.  Following his statement of his own guilt, the criminal address Jesus by name, recognizing Jesus’ kingship on the cross, and entrusts his future into Jesus’ hands as he entreats Jesus to remember him when Jesus rules beyond his crucifixion.  In response, Jesus assures the man that he will join Jesus in paradise.

The general time reference of “when you come” is matched with an emphatic and specific “today.”  The reference to “your kingdom” becomes personal: “with me in paradise.”  Thus, Jesus exercises his saving rule by his word from the cross.  And we will pick up the story from here tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Judges 8:18-9:21, Luke 23:44-24:12, Psalm 99:1-9 and Proverbs 14:9-10

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