Chapter 23 gives us the all too familiar account of the crucifixion. It picks up exactly where Chapter 22 left off. After being questioned by the religious leaders, Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor over Palestine. The leaders lay out their charges against Jesus for Pilate, many of them false and complete contradictions of Jesus’ own words. Interestingly, the only seeming truth they could share was that he was the King of the Jews, and that is not something that Jesus appears to have ever actually said. In fact, Pilate asks him flat out if he is, and all Jesus responds with is, “It is as you say.” (v 3, NASB)
Pilate is satisfied that Jesus has done nothing wrong, but the religious leaders are adamant. Upon learning that Jesus is a Galilean, Pilate believes he has his out. He sends him to Herod since he happens to be in town, who is the “appointed king” over that region. Herod’s response is different than Pilate’s. He is excited about the opportunity to meet Jesus because he has heard the stories of the miracles and wanted to see one for himself. Jesus, however, will not play along. He is not going to do a miracle just because Herod wants to see one. No matter what Herod asks, Jesus simply just stands there. Herod has had enough. After mocking Jesus for a while, he dresses him in a fancy robe and sends him back to Pilate.
Pilate finds himself back where he started, He needs a new plan for dealing with Jesus. He summons the religious leaders and tells them, “having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” It looks like he thought this would appease them, and it was keeping with the law because he was allowed to release one prisoner during the Passover feast.
They had nothing to do with it. They instead asked him to release a man named Barabbas, who was a murderer and an insurrectionist. Pilate still wanted to release Jesus, but they began to call for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate finally caved to the pressure by releasing Barabbas and ordering Jesus taken away to be crucified,
I have to stop here for a moment and look at Pilate. Pilate by no means is said to be a righteous man or a good man, but apparently, he is also not a man of convictions. Rather than standing his ground for what he knew was right he gave in to the desires of the crowd for the sake of peace and quiet. I can not help but think of the phrase, “All that is needed for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.”
So Jesus is taken away to be crucified. Luke tells us that Roman soldiers grabbed a man named Simon to carry Jesus Cross for him. While Luke is not clear on the reason, we know from the other accounts that Jesus is weak from everything he has gone through, including brutal beatings,
As they travel along the way, they are followed by a large crowd, including “women who were mourning and lamenting Him.” (v 27) Jesus spoke to them, telling them to not lament for him but to lament for the days that are going to be coming. He tells them, “For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” I think what he is telling them is that as horrible as this is, they need to remember that he has been there with them. God himself has been physically present in Israel and yet look what has happened. Now consider how terrible it will be when Israel is cut off from God’s presence completely.
As they come to the site of the crucifixion, called the place of the skull, they removed Jesus’ outer garments, and the soldiers gambled for them. They lifted him up on the cross and placed a sign above him that read, King of the Jews. Those around, including the religious leaders, mocked him, telling him to save himself. Yet through all of this, Luke tells us that Jesus uttered the words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (v 34)
Luke also tells us that Jesus was not crucified alone. Two criminals were crucified at the same time. One on each side of him. One of the criminals joined in with the crowd mocking and scoffing at Jesus, but the other did not. Instead, he called for the other criminal to be quiet. He was saying that they deserved what they were getting, but Jesus had done nothing. He then asked Jesus to remember him. Jesus responded, “Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (v 43) I think the message is clear. This man was truly repentant for what he had done. And even in his last hours, Jesus forgave him of his sins because he had shown faith.
Luke now recounts the final few hours of Jesus’ life and the miraculous events that occurred then. He tells that darkness fell on the land for three hours, and the veil in the temple was torn in two. At the end, Luke tells us that Jesus cried “out with a loud voice, saying, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” (v 46) and then gave his last breath.
Upon seeing all of this, the centurion who was present declared, “Certainly this man was innocent.” (v 47) I think we are safe in assuming that this centurion was the one overseeing the executions. What is more, this was probably not his first. He had probably seen many men die, but this was like nothing he had ever seen. It was obvious to him that there was something different about Jesus,
After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council who had had not agreed to everything, went to Pilate for permission to bury Jesus. Having received permission, he took the body down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and laid him in a brand new grave that was cut into the stone. As it was preparation day for the Sabbath, they did not have time to do everything beforehand. Luke is very sure, however, to tell us that the women who had followed Jesus were there and saw exactly how and where the body was laid. Luke concludes this chapter by telling us that the women when to prepare the spices that would be used on Jesus’ body, as was standard practice when the Sabbath was over.
My takeaways from this chapter are 1) We need to stand firm in the truth, even when it means standing alone against the crowd. 2) There is nothing so wrong done to us that it can not be forgiven with God’s help. And 3) It is never too late to be forgiven.