Gospel of Luke
Day 23 0f 24
Any reading of Luke 23 should be accompanied by a reading of two major prophetic scripture passages from the Old Testament. Please read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 as a part of this day’s study.
After His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday evening after supper, Jesus was kept awake all night. He willingly submitted Himself to an illegal “mock trial” and case review conducted by the high priest and all his “yes” men. Sleep depravation alone is a brutal mistreatment. Loss of sleep would be the least of His worries…not that He ever had any worries at all…
Judas had betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Peter had denied Jesus with an oath. The crowing rooster had announced the dawn of that fateful Friday. Events were progressing exactly as Jesus had told them on their journey to Jerusalem.
After receiving a small foretaste of mocking and torture, Jesus was taken to the headquarters of Pilate, the Roman governor stationed in Jerusalem. No less than five times that day, Pilate would declare Jesus guilt-less. Pilate’s wife even dreamed that Jesus was innocent. The Jews accused Jesus of treason, hoping to gain the support of Pilate.
Pilate sent Jesus to stand before Herod who was in town for the Passover festivities. Herod’s jurisdictional rule was over Galilee which included the town of Nazareth, the home of Joseph and Mary. The chief priests followed Jesus to Herod and continued to accuse Him falsely. Herod treated Jesus with contempt and then dressed Him in a beautiful robe and sent Him back to Pilate.
Pilate desired to use a “get out of jail free” card to make certain that Jesus was released. The Passover feast was a time when one prisoner was set free. A notorious prisoner named “Barabbas” was guilty of murder and insurrection against the government. The crowds refused to allow Jesus to be set free. They cried out demanding the release of Barabbas.
One amazing thought fits here. The name Barabbas means “son of father.” This son of his father was set free while The Son of The Father was sent to the cross. One who took life was freed. The One Who came to give His life was crucified.
The Matthew, Mark and John accounts of these awful events relate that Pilate had Jesus scourged. Just that word alone breaks my heart. Many men never even survived the effects of being scourged. Jesus did. He was still on His journey to the cross. Matthew 27 records that Jesus was stripped and then clothed in a scarlet robe, tearing open the wounds from the scourge.
They placed a crown of thorns on His head. They put a reed in His hand representing the scepter of a king and they mockingly railed at Him as the King of the Jews. With the crown of thorns in place, they struck Him on the head with the reed. Then, degradingly, they spit on Him. Once again, they removed the robe, re-opening the wounds.
It is no wonder then that on the way to the Hill of Golgotha (the place of the skull) that Jesus needed help carrying His cross. A man named Simon of Cyrene (a city in Northern Africa) was forced to carry the cross of Jesus. When Simon reached the top of that hill and handed the cross over to Jesus, I’m certain that he disappeared quickly into the crowd. At that moment, Simon and Barabbas became the first two people in a long line of those who would be freed and spared by the death of Jesus.
Some in the moving crowd were celebrating the imminent death of Jesus. Others in the multitude were grieving. Women who had traveled with Jesus and the disciples were openly mourning such great loss. Somehow, Jesus gathered His quickly fading strength so that He could encourage them with a word.
Two other men who were criminals were crucified with Jesus. All four gospels record that Jesus was on the center cross with one criminal on His right and another criminal on His left. The whole time they were driving nails into His hands and feet, Jesus was saying to His Father, “…forgive them, for they do not realize what they are doing.”
Many people say that gambling is not wrong. I disagree. Right there at the foot of the cross of Jesus, Roman soldiers were gambling for the garments of Jesus. What part of “gambling is not wrong” do we not understand?
The soldiers and the crowd shouted and jeered and mocked Jesus. The criminals on each side of Jesus give us a picture of the two groups of people in our world: those who receive Jesus and those who reject Jesus. One thief mocked Him. The other thief asked to be remembered by Jesus at his death. The most poignant part of that scene is the fact that the arms of Jesus were reaching out to BOTH men. One of them would be named “Remember Me.” The other would be named “Could Have Been Forgiven.”
I remember my dad preaching a sermon on this passage. His words are written in the margin of my bible. “When the repentant thief was nailed to his cross, he was physically alive but spiritually dead. When he was removed from his cross, he was physically dead but spiritually alive.” I look forward one day to meeting Mister Remember Me.
From Mark 15, we learn that the crucifixion began at 9AM, the “third hour” of the day. At noon, the “sixth hour” of the day, the sun reaches its apex, yielding no shadows. At that exact moment, by a miracle of the hand of The SunMaker, the sun was darkened. This deep, impenetrable, God-designed darkness lasted three hours. At 3PM, the “ninth hour” of the day, Jesus refused to take His next breath. He presented, delivered, yielded His Spirit into the hands of His Father. Jesus was not murdered. Jesus was not killed. No one took the life of Jesus. Jesus gave His life willingly.
As the three hour darkness lifted, the Roman centurion near the cross gave praise to God and declared the innocence of Jesus. The crowd of friends and acquaintances realized that Jesus was dead and grieved openly.
The reading of Isaiah 53 revealed that Jesus would be with a “rich man” in His death. This man was Joseph of Arimathea. He was a member of the Jewish ruling council called the Sanhedrin. He had refused to vote in support of the death of Jesus. With boldness, he came to Pilate in person and asked for the body of Jesus. With him was Nicodemus who had come to speak with Jesus at night as recorded in John 3. Nicodemus was the first person to hear John 3:16 from the lips of Jesus.
Joseph took Jesus down from the cross. Read that again and try to picture that moment in your mind.
Joseph wrapped the body of Jesus with linen cloths and placed Him in a new tomb. The women came and witnessed the burial. They went away and prepared spices and perfumes to complete the preparation of His body. It was nearing sunset on Friday, the beginning of the Sabbath of Passover. They would rest on the Sabbath. Their plan was to be ready to return to anoint the body of Jesus on Sunday morning…the first day of the week.