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Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Luke 23

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Verse 1

See the notes at Matthew 27:1-2.

Verse 2

This fellow - The word “fellow” is not in the original. It conveys a notion of “contempt,” which no doubt they “felt,” but which is not expressed in the “Greek,” and which it is not proper should be expressed in the translation. It might be translated, “We found this man.”

Perverting the nation - That is, exciting them to sedition and tumults. This was a mere wanton accusation, but it was plausible before a Roman magistrate; for,

  1. The Galileans, as Josephus testifies, were prone to seditions and tumults.
  2. Jesus drew multitudes after him, and they thought it was easy to show that this was itself promoting tumults and seditions.

Forbidding ... - About their charges they were very cautious and cunning. They did not say that he “taught” that people should not give tribute - that would have been too gross a charge, and would have been easily refuted; but it was an “inference” which they drew. They said it “followed” from his doctrine. He professed to be a king. They “inferred,” therefore, if “he” was “a king,” that he must hold that it was not right to acknowledge allegiance to any foreign prince; and if they could make “this” out, they supposed that Pilate “must” condemn him of course.

Tribute - Taxes.

Caesar - The Roman emperor, called also Tiberius. The name “Caesar” was common to the Roman emperors, as “Pharaoh” was to the Egyptian kings. “All” the kings of Egypt were called Pharaoh, or “the” Pharaoh; so all the Roman emperors were called “Caesar.”

Verse 3

See the notes at Matthew 27:11.

Verse 4

I find no fault - I see no evidence that he is guilty of what you charge him with. This was after Pilate had taken Jesus into the judgment-hall by himself and examined him “privately,” and had been satisfied in regard to the nature of his kingdom. See John 18:33-38. He was “then” satisfied that though he claimed to be “a king,” yet his kingdom was not of this world, and that “his” claims did not interfere with those of Caesar.

Verse 5

The more fierce - The more urgent and pressing. They saw that there was a prospect of losing their cause, and they attempted to press on Pilate the point that would be most likely now to affect him. Pilate had, in fact, acquitted him of the charge of being an enemy to Caesar, and they, therefore, urged the other point more vehemently.

Stirreth up the people - Excites them to tumult and sedition.

All Jewry - All Judea.

From Galilee to this place - To Jerusalem - that is, throughout the whole country. It is not merely in one place, but from one end of the land to the other.

Verse 6

Whether he were a Galilean - He asked this because, if he was, he properly belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, who reigned over Galilee.

Verse 7

Herod’s jurisdiction - Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great. This was the same Herod that put John the Baptist to death. Jesus had passed the most of his life in the part of the country where he ruled, and it was, therefore, considered that he belonged to his jurisdiction - that is, that it belonged to Herod, not to Pilate, to try this cause.

Verse 10

Vehemently accused him - Violently or unjustly accused him, endeavoring to make it appear that he had been guilty of sedition in Herod’s province.

Verse 11

Herod with his men of war - With his soldiers, or his body-guard. It is probable that in traveling he had “a guard” to attend him constantly.

Set him at nought - Treated him with contempt and ridicule.

A gorgeous robe - A white or shining robe, for this is the meaning of the original. The Roman princes wore “purple” robes, and “Pilate,” therefore, put such a robe on Jesus. The Jewish kings wore a “white” robe, which was often rendered very shining or gorgeous by much tinsel or silver interwoven. Josephus says that the robe which Agrippa wore was so bright with silver that when the sun shone on it, it so dazzled the eyes that it was difficult to look on it. The Jews and Romans, therefore, decked him in the manner appropriate to their own country, for purposes of mockery. All this was unlawful and malicious, as there was not the least evidence of his guilt.

Sent him to Pilate - It was by the interchange of these civilities that they were made friends. It would seem that Pilate sent him to Herod as a token of civility and respect, and with a design, perhaps, of putting an end to their quarrel. Herod returned the civility, and it resulted in their reconciliation.

Verse 12

Made friends together ... - What had been the cause of their quarrel is unknown. It is commonly supposed that it was Pilate’s slaying the Galileans in Jerusalem, as related in Luke 13:1-2. The occasion of their reconciliation seems to have been the civility and respect which Pilate showed to Herod in this case. It was not because they were united in “hating” Jesus, as is often the case with wicked people, for Pilate was certainly desirous of releasing him, and “both” considered him merely as an object of ridicule and sport. It is true, however, that wicked people, at variance in other things, are often united in opposing and ridiculing Christ and his followers; and that enmities of long standing are sometimes made up, and the most opposite characters brought together, simply to oppose religion. Compare Psalms 83:5-7.

Verse 15

Nothing worthy of death is done unto him - Deserving of death. The charges are not proved against him. They had had every opportunity of proving them, first before Pilate and then before Herod, unjustly subjecting him to trial before “two” men in succession, and thus giving them a double opportunity of condemning him, and yet, after all, he was declared by both to be innocent. There could be no better evidence that he “was” innocent.

Verse 16

I will therefore chastise him - The word “chastise” here means to “scourge or to whip.” This was usually done before capital punishment, to increase the sufferings of the man condemned. It is not easy to see the reason why, if Pilate supposed Jesus to be “innocent,” he should propose publicly to scourge him. It was as “really” unjust to do that as it was to crucify him. But probably he expected by this to conciliate the minds of his accusers; to show them that he was willing to gratify them if it “could” be done with propriety; and perhaps he expected that by seeing him whipped and disgraced, and condemned to ridicule, to contempt, and to suffering, they would be satisfied. It is farther remarked that among the Romans it was competent for a magistrate to inflict a “slight” punishment on a man when a charge of gross offence was not fully made out, or where there was not sufficient testimony to substantiate the precise charge alleged. All this shows,

  1. The palpable “injustice” of our Lord’s condemnation;
  2. The persevering malice and obstinacy of the Jews; and,
  3. The want of firmness in Pilate.

He should have released him at once; but the love of “popularity” led him to the murder of the Son of God. Man should do his duty in all situations; and he that, like Pilate, seeks only for public favor and popularity, will assuredly be led into crime.

Verse 17

See the notes at Matthew 27:15.

Verses 18-23

See the notes at Matthew 27:20-23.

Verses 24-25

See the notes at Matthew 27:26.

Verse 26

See the notes at Matthew 27:32.

After Jesus - Probably to bear one end of the cross. Jesus was feeble and unable to bear it alone, and they compelled Simon to help him.

Verse 28

Daughters of Jerusalem - Women of Jerusalem. This was a common mode of speaking among the Hebrews.

Weep for yourselves ... - This refers to the calamities that were about to come upon them in the desolation of their city by the Romans.

Verse 30

To the mountains, Fall on us ... - This is an image of great calamities and judgments. So great will be the calamities that they will seek for shelter from the storm, and will call on the hills to protect them. The same figure is used respecting the wicked in the day of judgment in Revelation 6:16-17. Compare also Isaiah 2:21.

Verse 31

For if they do these things in a green tree ... - This seems to be a proverbial expression. A “green” tree is not easily set on fire; a dry one is easily kindled and burns rapidly; and the meaning of the passage is - “If they, the Romans, do these things to me, who am innocent and blameless; if they punish me in this manner in the face of justice, what will they not do in relation to this guilty nation? What security have they that heavier judgments will not come upon them? What desolations and woes may not be expected when injustice and oppression have taken the place of justice, and have set up a rule over this wicked people?” Our Lord alludes, evidently, to the calamities that would come upon them by the Romans in the destruction of their city and temple. The passage may be applied, however, without impropriety, and with great beauty and force, to the punishment of the wicked in the future world.

Thus applied, it means that the sufferings of the Saviour, as compared with the sufferings of the guilty, were like the burning of a green tree as compared with the burning of one that is dry. A green tree is not adapted to burn; a dry one is. So the Saviour - innocent, pure, and holy - stood in relation to suffering. There were sufferings which an innocent being could not endure. There was remorse of conscience, the sense of guilt, punishment properly so called, and the eternity of woes. He had the consciousness of innocence, and he would not suffer forever. He had no passions to be enkindled that would rage and ruin the soul. The sinner is “adapted” to sufferings, like a dry tree to the fire. He is guilty, and will suffer all the horrors of remorse of conscience. He will be punished literally. He has raging and impetuous passions, and they will be enkindled in hell, and will rage forever and ever. The meaning is, that if the innocent Saviour suffered “so much,” the sufferings of the sinner forever in hell must be more unspeakably dreadful. Yet who could endure the sufferings of the Redeemer on the cross for a single day? Who could bear them forever and ever, aggravated by all the horrors of a guilty conscience, and all the terrors of unrestrained anger, and hate, and fear, and wrath? “Why will the wicked die?”

Verses 32-33

See the notes at Matthew 27:35, Matthew 27:38.

Verse 34

Father, forgive them - This is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:12; “He made intercession for the transgressors.” The prayer was offered for those who were guilty of putting him to death. It is not quite certain whether he referred to the “Jews” or “to the Roman soldiers.” Perhaps he referred to both. The Romans knew not what they did, as they were really ignorant that he was the Son of God, and as they were merely obeying the command of their rulers. The Jews knew, indeed, that he was “innocent,” and they had evidence, if they would have looked at it, that he was the Messiah; but they did not know what would be the effect of their guilt; they did not know what judgments and calamities they were bringing down upon their country. It may be added, also, that, though they had abundant evidence, if they would look at it, that he was the Messiah, and enough to leave then without excuse, yet they did not, “in fact,” believe that he was the Saviour promised by the prophets, and had not, “in fact,” any proper sense of his rank and dignity as “the Lord of glory.” If they had had, they would not have crucified him, as we cannot suppose that they would knowingly put to death their own Messiah, the hope of the nation, and him who had been so long promised to the fathers. See the notes at 1 Corinthians 2:8. We may learn from this prayer:

  1. The duty of praying for our enemies, even when they are endeavoring most to injure us.
  2. The thing for which we should pray for them is that “God” would pardon them and give them better minds.
  3. The power and excellence of the Christian religion. No other religion “teaches” people to pray for the forgiveness of enemies; no other “disposes” them to do it. Men of the world seek for “revenge;” the Christian bears reproaches and persecutions with patience, and prays that God would pardon those who injure them, and save them from their sins.
  4. The greatest sinners, through the intercession of Jesus, may obtain pardon. God heard him, and still hears him “always,” and there is no reason to doubt that many of his enemies and murderers obtained forgiveness and life. Compare Acts 2:37, Acts 2:42-43; Acts 6:7; Acts 14:1.

They know not what they do - It was done through ignorance, Acts 3:17. Paul says that, “had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory,” 1 Corinthians 2:8. Ignorance does not excuse altogether a crime if the ignorance be willful, but it diminishes its guilt. They “had” evidence; they “might” have learned his character; they “might” have known what they were doing, and they “might” be held answerable for all this. But Jesus here shows the compassion of his heart, and as they were “really” ignorant, whatever might have been the cause of their ignorance, he implores God to pardon them. He even urges it as a “reason” why they should be pardoned, that they were ignorant of what they were doing; and though people are often guilty for their ignorance, yet God often in compassion overlooks it, averts his anger, and grants them the blessings of pardon and life. So he forgave Paul, for he “did it in ignorance, in unbelief,” 1 Timothy 1:13. So God “winked” at the ignorance of the Gentiles, Acts 17:30. Yet this is no excuse, and no evidence of safety, for those who in our day contemptuously put away from them and their children the means of instruction.

Verses 35-39

See the notes at Matthew 27:41-44.

Luke 23:38

In letters of Greek ... - See the notes at Matthew 27:37.

Luke 23:39

One of the malefactors - Matthew Matthew 27:44 says “the thieves - cast the same in his teeth.” See the apparent contradiction in these statements reconciled in the notes at that place.

If thou be Christ - If thou art the Messiah; if thou art what thou dost pretend to be. This is a taunt or reproach of the same kind as that of the priests in Luke 23:35.

Save thyself and us - Save our lives. Deliver us from the cross. This man did not seek for salvation truly; he asked not to be delivered from his sins; if he had, Jesus would also have heard him. Men often, in sickness and affliction, call upon God. They are earnest in prayer. They ask of God to save them, but it is only to save them from “temporal” death. It is not to be saved from their sins, and the consequence is, that when God “does” raise them up, they forget their promises, and live as they did before, as this robber “would” have done if Jesus had heard his prayer and delivered him from the cross.

Verse 40

Dost not thou fear God ... - You are condemned to die as well as he. It is improper for you to rail on him as the rulers and Romans do. God is just, and you are hastening to his bar, and you should, therefore, fear him, and fear that he will punish you for railing on this innocent man.

Same condemnation - Condemnation to death; not death for the same thing, but the same “kind” of death.

Verse 41

Due reward of our deeds - The proper punishment for our crimes. They had been highwaymen, and it was just that they should die.

Verse 42

Remember me - This is a phrase praying for favor, or asking him to grant him an “interest” in his kingdom, or to acknowledge him as one of his followers. It implied that he believed that Jesus was what he claimed to be - the Messiah; that, though he was dying with them, yet he would set up his kingdom; and that he had full power to bless him, though about to expire. It is possible that this man might have heard him preach before his crucifixion, and have learned there the nature of his kingdom; or it may have been that while on the cross Jesus had taken occasion to acquaint them with the nature of his kingdom. While he might have been doing this, one of the malefactors may have continued to rail on him while the other became truly penitent. Such a result of preaching the gospel would not have been unlike what has often occurred since, where, while the gospel has been proclaimed, one has been “taken and another left;” one has been melted to repentance, another has been more hardened in guilt. The promise which follows shows that this prayer was answered. This was a case of repentance in the last hour, the trying hour of death; and it has been remarked that one was brought to repentance there, to show that no one should “despair” on a dying bed; and “but” one, that none should be presumptuous and delay repentance to that awful moment.

When thou comest ... - It is impossible now to fix the precise idea which this robber had of Christ’s coming. Whether it was that he expected that he would rise from the dead, as some of the Jews supposed the Messiah would; or whether he referred to the day of judgment; or whether to an immediate translation to his kingdom in the heavens, we cannot tell. All that we know is, that he fully believed him to be the Messiah, and that he desired to obtain an interest in that kingdom which he knew he would establish.

Verse 43

Today ... - It is not probable that the dying thief expected that his prayer would be so soon answered. It is rather to be supposed that he looked to some “future” period when the Messiah would rise or would return; but Jesus told him that his prayer would be answered that very day, implying, evidently, that it would be “immediately” at death. This is the more remarkable, as those who were crucified commonly lingered for several days on the cross before they died; but Jesus foresaw that measures would be taken to “hasten” their death, and assured him that “that” day he should receive an answer to his prayer and be with him in his kingdom.

Paradise - This is a word of “Persian” origin, and means “a garden,” particularly a garden of pleasure, filled with trees, and shrubs, and fountains, and flowers. In hot climates such gardens were especially pleasant, and hence, they were attached to the mansions of the rich and to the palaces of princes. The word came thus to denote any place of happiness, and was used particularly to denote the abodes of the blessed in another world. The Romans spoke of their Elysium, and the Greeks of the gardens of Hesperides, where the trees bore golden fruit. The garden of Eden means, also, the garden of “pleasure,” and in Genesis 2:8 the Septuagint renders the word “Eden by Paradise.” Hence, this name in the Scriptures comes to denote the abodes of the blessed in the other world. See the notes at 2 Corinthians 12:4. The Jews supposed that the souls of the righteous would be received into such a place, and those of the wicked cast down to Gehenna until the time of the judgment. They had many fables about this state which it is unnecessary to repeat. The plain meaning of the passage is, “Today thou shalt be made happy, or be received to a state of blessedness with me after death.” It is to be remarked that Christ says nothing about the “place where” it should be, nor of the condition of those there, excepting that it is a place of blessedness, and that its happiness is to commence immediately after death (see also Philippians 1:23); but from the narrative we may learn:

  1. That the soul will exist separately from the body; for, while the thief and the Saviour would be in Paradise, their “bodies” would be on the cross or in the grave.
  2. That immediately after death - the same day - the souls of the righteous will be made happy. They will feel that they are secure; they will be received among the just; and they will have the assurance of a glorious immortality.
  3. That state will differ from the condition of the wicked. The promise was made to but one on the cross, and there is no evidence whatever that the other entered there. See also the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31.
  4. It is the chief glory of this state and of heaven to be permitted to see Jesus Christ and to be with him: “Thou shalt be with me.” “I desire to depart and to be with Christ,” Philippians 1:23. See also Revelation 21:23; Revelation 5:9-14.

Verses 44-46

See the notes at Matthew 27:45-50.

Verses 47-49

See the notes at Matthew 27:52-55.

Luke 23:48

The things which were done - The earthquake, the darkness, and the sufferings of Jesus.

Smote their breasts - In token of alarm, fear, and anguish. They saw the judgments of God; they saw the guilt of the rulers; and they feared the farther displeasure of the Almighty.

Verses 50-56

See the Matthew 27:57-61 notes; Mark 15:42-47 notes.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 23". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/luke-23.html. 1870.
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