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Bible Commentaries
Luke 23

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-12

155. Before Pilate and Herod (Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15:2-5; Luke 23:1-12; John 18:28-38)

Pilate, the governor of the area, usually lived in the provincial capital Caesarea, but he came to Jerusalem during Jewish festivals to help maintain order. His official residence and administration centre in Jerusalem was called the praetorium. The Jewish leaders, wanting to have Jesus dealt with and out of the way before the festival started, took him to Pilate early in the morning (Luke 23:1; John 18:28-29).

The Jews had charged Jesus with blasphemy for calling himself the Son of God, but when they took him to Pilate they twisted the charge. They emphasized not that he claimed to be God but that he claimed to be above Caesar. They suggested he was a political rebel trying to lead a messianic uprising that would overthrow Roman rule and set up an independent Jewish state (Luke 23:2). Pilate tried to dismiss the case, but the Jews would not drop their charges (John 18:30-32).

Jesus then gave Pilate the true picture. He explained that his kingdom was not concerned with political power, and had nothing to do with national uprisings. It was a spiritual kingdom and it was based on truth. Pilate did not grasp the full meaning of Jesus’ explanation, but he understood enough to be convinced that Jesus was not a political rebel. He suspected that the Jews had handed him over for judgment because they were jealous of his religious following (Matthew 27:11-14,Matthew 27:18; Luke 23:3-5; John 18:33-38).

When Pilate learnt that Jesus was from Galilee, which was not under his control, he tried to avoid the issue by sending Jesus to the Galilean governor Herod, who also was in Jerusalem for the festival (Luke 23:6-7). But Jesus refused to speak to Herod, and made no attempt to defend himself against the false accusations the Jewish leaders made against him. After mocking him cruelly, Herod sent him back to Pilate (Luke 23:8-12).

Verses 13-25

156. Jesus before the people (Matthew 27:15-31; Mark 15:6-20; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-16)

Although assured that Jesus was innocent, Pilate felt it wise to give the Jews some satisfaction; for by this time a crowd had gathered and he did not want a riot to break out. He therefore offered to punish Jesus by flogging, and consider the matter finished (Luke 23:13-16).

But the people yelled for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate did not want the situation to get out of control, so made another offer. He agreed to accept the Jews’ accusation of Jesus’ guilt, but he offered to give Jesus the special pardon reserved for one criminal each Passover season (Matthew 27:15-18).

By this time the priests scattered throughout the crowd had the people under their power. They quickly spread the word that the prisoner they wanted released was not Jesus, but Barabbas, a rebel who had once taken a leading part in a local anti-Rome uprising (see Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19). Pilate, unaware of the influence of the priests in the crowd and thinking that Jesus had widespread support, agreed to allow the crowd to choose between the two, no doubt thinking they would choose Jesus. As he waited for them to make their choice, his wife sent him a warning not to condemn Jesus (Matthew 27:19-20).

If supporters of Jesus were in the crowd, they were a minority. People in general were more likely to support a nationalist like Barabbas. Finally, they succeeded in having Barabbas released and Jesus condemned to be crucified. They accepted responsibility for this decision and called down God’s judgment upon them and their children if they were wrong (a judgment that possibly fell on them with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70). Jesus was then taken and flogged as the first step towards crucifixion (Matthew 27:21-26; Luke 23:18-25; John 18:39-40; John 19:1).

While some soldiers were preparing for the execution, those in Pilate’s palace cruelly made fun of Jesus. They mocked him as ‘king’ by putting some old soldiers clothes on him for a royal robe and thorns on his head for a crown. They hit him over the head with a stick that was supposed to be his sceptre, and spat in his face and punched him as mock signs of homage (Matthew 27:27-31; John 19:2-3).

Pilate showed this pitiful figure to the crowd, apparently hoping it might make them feel ashamed and change their minds; but it only increased their hatred (John 19:4-6). Pilate became more uneasy when he heard that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Maybe, thought Pilate, this man was one of the gods. He became even more anxious to set Jesus free when Jesus told him that God would hold him responsible for the way he used his authority. Pilate was guilty for condemning a man he knew was innocent, but Caiaphas and the other Jews who handed Jesus over to him were more guilty (John 19:7-11).

Again Pilate tried to release Jesus, but the Jews reminded him that he himself could be in danger if he released a person guilty of treason. This disturbed Pilate further, and after a final offer that the Jews rejected, he handed Jesus over to be crucified. The Jews’ declaration of loyalty to Caesar demonstrated their hypocrisy and confirmed their rejection of God (John 19:12-16).

Verses 26-31

157. Journey to Golgotha (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26-31; John 19:17)

As the prisoners set out for the place of execution, Jesus was made to carry his cross (John 19:17). He must have been weak from the brutal flogging, and when it appeared he was about to collapse, a passer-by was forced to carry it for him. This man, Simon, was from northern Africa and had apparently come to Jerusalem for the Passover (Luke 23:26).

Among the crowd that followed Jesus were some women who wept and wailed at the dreadful sight. Jesus told them not to weep because of what they saw happening to him. One day they also would suffer. When the Romans later attacked Jerusalem, women now sad because they had no children would be better off than others, for they would not have to witness their children being slaughtered. If Rome crucified an innocent man such as Jesus, how brutal would they be in dealing with people guilty of open rebellion (Luke 23:27-31).

Verses 32-43

158. The crucifixion (Matthew 27:33-44; Mark 15:22-32; Luke 23:32-43; John 19:18-24)

Golgotha, the place of Jesus’ crucifixion, was a hill beside a main road just outside Jerusalem. The procession arrived there about 9 a.m. (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:25). (It is difficult to calculate the exact times of all the incidents that took place on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. People in those days did not carry clocks, and the times given in the Gospels are only approximate. In some cases the writers may have estimated their times at different stages of the same event. Also, they may have used different methods of reckoning. Matthew, Mark and Luke usually count the hours from 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., but John seems to reckon differently.)

Great though Jesus’ suffering was, his agony of spirit was greater. He was bearing the burden of human sin, and thereby was conquering Satan and releasing people from the power of sin and death. He was determined to face death at its worst, fully conscious of what he was going through. Therefore, he refused the offer of drugged wine intended to deaden the pain and dull the mind (Matthew 27:34).

Meanwhile, the four soldiers who carried out the crucifixion threw dice to decide how they would divide Jesus’ personal possessions. Above his head they attached a sign announcing the charge for which he was condemned, so that those who passed by could read it. As he hung there, Jesus had insults thrown at him by the common people, by members of the Sanhedrin (who came to see their sentence carried out), and by the two criminals crucified with him. All mocked with the same theme - he claimed to save others but he could not save himself. This was true, though not in the sense the mockers intended; for only by willingly sacrificing himself could he save guilty sinners (Matthew 27:35-44; Luke 23:32-39; John 19:18-24). One of the criminals, realizing this, repented and experienced the saving power of Jesus that very day (Luke 23:40-43).

Verses 44-49

159. The death (Matthew 27:45-56; Mark 15:33-41; Luke 23:44-49; John 19:25-37)

Jesus’ mother, Mary, had followed him to the cross and stayed by him during his ordeal. Among those who comforted her were John and three women: Mary’s sister Salome, who was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the apostles James and John; another Mary, who was the wife of Clopas and the mother of James and Joses; and another Mary, who came from the town of Magdala in Galilee and was known as Mary Magdalene. These women had at first stood away from the cross, but later came and stood nearby (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:49; John 19:25-27).

From the time the soldiers began the crucifixion to the time Jesus died was about six hours (cf Mark 15:25,Mark 15:33). During the last three hours (from noon to 3 p.m.) a strange darkness covered the land, as the wrath of God against sin fell upon Jesus. For this reason he was separated, for the only time, from the Father with whom he had enjoyed unbroken fellowship from all eternity. Sin separates from God, and in bearing the penalty of sin, Jesus experienced that desolation (Matthew 27:45-49; Luke 23:44-45).

Nevertheless, at the very time he suffered such desolation, Jesus was in harmony with his Father’s will. He wanted his final words to his Father to be loud enough for all to hear, and therefore he asked for something to moisten his dry mouth. The words he spoke made known to all that he was placing his spirit in his Father’s hands. His final cry of triumph, ‘It is finished’, confirmed that even in his death he was still in control. No one took his life from him; he gave it up in a voluntary, unique act. He had completed the work that his Father sent him to do (Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:28-30).

At the moment of Jesus’ death (about 3 p.m.) there was an earthquake in the Jerusalem area. In the temple the curtain that blocked entrance into the symbolic presence of God was torn in two. It was a striking demonstration that Jesus had brought the Jewish religious system to an end and opened the way for all into God’s presence. The earthquake also caused graves to break open, and certain believers of the old era were raised to life, indicating dramatically that Jesus’ death was the way to final triumph over death itself (Matthew 27:51-53; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Hebrews 2:14-15).

Another truth illustrated by the remarkable events connected with Jesus’ death was that he was the true Passover lamb. He died on the afternoon of Passover day, at the same time as the Jews back in Jerusalem were killing their lambs in preparation for the meal that night. And because he was the true Passover lamb, not a bone in his body was broken. Normally, the soldiers broke the victims’ legs to hasten their death, but they had no need to do this to Jesus, because he was already dead. Instead, one of the soldiers plunged his spear deep into Jesus’ body (John 19:31-37).

In contrast to the lack of feeling shown by most of the soldiers, the centurion in charge of the execution was filled with wonder at what he saw. He was convinced that Jesus was all he claimed to be (Matthew 27:54; Luke 23:47).

Others also changed their attitudes to Jesus because of the events at Golgotha. Many who had come from Jerusalem as spectators returned in sorrow and fear, wondering what it all meant (Luke 23:48).

Verses 50-56

160. The burial (Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)

Two members of the Sanhedrin did not agree with the decision to crucify Jesus. They were Nicodemus (cf. John 3:1-12; John 7:45-52) and Joseph, the latter being a man from the Judean town of Arimathea. Joseph, like many rich people, had built a fine tomb to be used one day for himself, but he sacrificed it so that Jesus could have an honourable burial. The two men took the body down from the cross late on the Friday afternoon (cf. Deuteronomy 21:22-23), and prepared it for burial by wrapping it in cloth with spices. They then laid it in Joseph’s tomb. The women who went to the tomb with Joseph and Nicodemus hurried home to prepare more spices and ointments before the Sabbath day of rest (Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42).

At the request of the Jewish leaders, Pilate set a guard of Roman soldiers at the tomb to ensure that no one could remove Jesus’ body. In view of Jesus’ predictions of resurrection, the Jews wanted to make sure that the tomb was closed securely and sealed against any interference (Matthew 27:62-66).

Bibliographical Information
Fleming, Donald C. "Commentary on Luke 23". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/luke-23.html. 2005.
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