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Pilate's Perplexity -- Luke 23:1-42.23.25
“And the whole multitude of them arose, and led Him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ a King. And Pilate asked Him, saying, Art Thou the King of the Jews? And He answered him and said, Thou sayest it. Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this Man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the Man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that He belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see Him of a long season, because he had heard many things of Him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him. Then he questioned with Him in many words; but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. And Herod with his men of war set Him at nought, and mocked Him, and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him again to Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves. And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, Ye have brought this Man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined Him before you, have found no fault in this Man touching those things whereof ye accuse Him: no, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto Him. I will therefore chastise Him, and release Him. (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this Man, and release unto us Barabas: (who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him. And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath He done? I have found no cause of death in Him: I will therefore chastise Him, and let Him go. And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that He might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will”- Luke 23:1-42.23.25.
As we consider the inspired account of the condemnation and crucifixion of our blessed Lord, we may well approach the subject with repentant hearts and broken spirits while we remind ourselves afresh that it was for our sins that He went to the cross. Apart from this solemn fact there was no power on earth or in hell that could have forced Jesus Christ to die as He did. He need not have died at all: He was the sinless Son of God. But He chose to die as our substitute. He voluntarily became our Surety and undertook in grace to pay the debt we owed. The pitiable thing is that men, led on by Satan, should have raised wicked hands against Him and heaped such shame and ignominy upon Him. But it only told out the vileness of the sinful heart of man and the malignity of Satan. As we follow our Lord in His mock trials before Pilate and Herod, and from Pilate’s judgment-hall to Calvary with its bitter cross, it should surely break down our pride and subdue us as we reflect upon what sin really is, when we see the lengths to which men like ourselves could go when under its power.
We have four references to Pontius Pilate in other parts of the New Testament outside the Gospels. Of course, we read of the trial of Jesus in all the Gospels, and of Pilate’s failure to stand for righteousness at a time when he knew the Prisoner before him was guiltless of the charges brought against Him. When the apostle Peter was addressing the people of Israel after Pentecost (Acts 3:13-44.3.14), he said, “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you.” In Acts 4:27 we hear Peter speaking in prayer to God, saying, “For of a truth against Thy holy Child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together.” Then in Acts 13:28, when Paul was preaching in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia, he said, “And though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain.” In writing to his own convert, the young preacher Timothy, Paul reminds him, in 1 Timothy, of the faithful testimony of our Lord on the occasion of His trial. In 1 Timothy 6:13, he said, “I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Pontius Pilate’s name stands out in the Word of God and on the pages of history for eternal infamy. I suppose there is no other mortal man whose name is mentioned as frequently as the name of Pontius Pilate. Every Lord’s Day and often on many other occasions, hundreds of thousands of professed Christians gathered together in various places, repeat the words found in the Apostles’ Creed; “crucified under Pontius Pilate,” and so Pilate’s name is repeated and has been repeated all down through the centuries as the one who condemned the innocent Christ to death. And Pilate has not heard the last of it yet. When he stands finally at the great white throne he will see sitting on that throne the One who once stood as a Prisoner before him; the One whom he pronounced to be innocent of the charges against Him, and yet whom he delivered up to be crucified. The trouble with Pontius Pilate was this: he was so filled with selfish ambition, a desire to win the favor of the powers above him and even of the people whom he ruled, that he did not have the manhood, the conscientious principle, to stand up for what he knew to be right.
When Jesus Christ was brought before Pilate, He was not a stranger to him. Pilate had heard of Jesus before; he knew of His ministry in Israel; and he knew it was because of envy that the chief priests had delivered Jesus to be tried. Pilate should have dealt with Him as One who was falsely accused, but he was fearful he might be censured and so lose his position which he held by Caesar’s favor.
The whole multitude were gathered together and led Jesus to Pontius Pilate to be charged with sedition against the Roman Government. They began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ a King.” Notice there was a certain element of truth in their charges, and yet the charges as a whole were false, for a half-truth is often a whole lie. It is true the Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed Himself to be a King, but He never declared Himself to be King over Israel at that time. He came in full accord with prophecy and knew He was to be rejected, and that His kingdom was yet to come. On the other hand, their charge of sedition was utterly false, because when He was asked, “Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?” Jesus replied by requesting them to show Him a penny, and He asked, “Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s. And He said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s” (Luke 20:24-42.20.25). They heard Him say this; therefore, they lied when they came before Pilate and said He had forbidden them to give tribute to Caesar.
Pilate put the question definitely, “Art Thou the King of the Jews?” The Lord answered, “Thou sayest it.” This may seem to be ambiguous, but it was as though He said, “You have said it; you said that by right, by divine title, I am King of the Jews.” He had not stressed that as He went about ministering among the people, but the question was put to Him, and He confessed that He was indeed the One whom God had sent to rule Israel. Pilate turned to the chief priests and to the people and said, “I find no fault in this Man. And they were the more fierce.” They would not listen to anything that could be said in behalf of Christ. They cried, “He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.” When Pilate heard the word “Galilee,” he thought he had found a loophole through which he might escape responsibility; so he asked whether the Man were a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus came from Galilee, he saw an opportunity to turn the judgment of Christ over to someone else. Herod was tetrarch, or governor of Galilee, who had come down to Jerusalem in order to keep the feast of the passover, and as soon as Pilate knew that Jesus belonged to that jurisdiction he sent Him to Herod, who, when he saw Jesus, was glad. He was delighted to see Him; he had heard so much of Him. He was always interested in wonder-workers and those whom the people lauded. He had been interested in John the Baptist until John faithfully said to him, as he pointed to another man’s wife who was sitting by his side, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). In indignation Herod put John the Baptist in prison, and, later to satisfy that woman’s desire for vengeance, Herod decapitated him.
Now here was a Man who was reported to have wrought great miracles, and Herod was glad to see Him, and hoped to see some wonder done by Him. “Then he questioned with Him in many words: but He answered him nothing.” As always the Lord Jesus had nothing to say to those who were curious but who had no desire to know the truth. “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. And Herod with his men of war set Him at nought, and mocked Him, and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe.” It was evidently a robe of something like what we call changeable silk. One Gospel writer says it was purple; another says it was scarlet. The warp may have been of one color and the woof of another, so that it was indeed a gorgeous robe. They put it on Him; they bowed their knees, and put a reed in His hand, and mocked Him, crying, “Hail, King of the Jews/’ In the other Gospels we learn that the Roman soldiers platted a crown of thorns and pressed it upon His head, causing intense and bitter suffering.
We read in the next verse, “The same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.” Here were two crafty politicians who hated and distrusted each other, but they could agree in rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ.
Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. “And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, Ye have brought this Man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined Him before you, have found no fault in this Man touching those things whereof ye accuse Him: no, nor yet Herod for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto Him. I will therefore chastise Him, and release Him.”
This was the second session in Pilate’s courtroom. It took place after Jesus had returned from Herod, where He had been set at nought, but no charge sustained against Him. “I, having examined Him before you, have found no fault in this Man.” Pilate’s declaration should have meant the acquittal of Jesus, but that would not satisfy his relentless enemies, who were determined that He must die, little realizing that His death was predetermined by God for our salvation (Acts 2:23). “No, nor yet Herod.” This godless king had not dared to condemn Jesus to death, for he well knew he was not guilty of the charges, either of blasphemy or sedition, which were brought against Him. Pilate said, “I will therefore chastise Him, and release Him.” To inflict chastisement on an innocent man was preposterous, but Pilate evidently thought by this to placate the Jewish leaders and so he could release Jesus from any greater condemnation.
It had been the custom for some time, that a notable prisoner would be set free at the passover, and Pilate grasped at the thought that he might act upon that and release Jesus. There was a prisoner named Barabbas awaiting execution, and so he proposed, as recorded in another Gospel, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas” (Matthew 27:21). Barabbas was a notable rebel. He was in prison for sedition and murder. But the people cried all at once, “Away with this Man, and release unto us Barabbas.” With one voice they chose for release this famous champion of Jewish nationalism who was condemned to die. They demanded instead the death of Jesus, the innocent One. It is written (Matthew 27:22) that Pilate put the solemn question, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” This is the question which has come ringing down the ages to every man. “And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this Man… Crucify Him, crucify Him.” Pilate felt he was helpless before the multitude if he was going to save his own reputation, for he was afraid that the Jews would bring a charge against him. “And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath He done? I have found no cause of death in Him: I will therefore chastise Him, and let Him go. And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that He might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.” Pilate went against his own conscience; he went against his own best judgment; he went against the pleadings of his wife, who sent a message to him, saying, “Have thou nothing to do with that Just Man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him” (Matthew 27:19). And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. “And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.”
In the choice that was made that day between Jesus and Barabbas, we find the choice not only of Israel, but also the choice that the nations have been making all down through the centuries. They have chosen a murderer, a malefactor, instead of the Lord of glory. If Christ had been received He would have brought peace and righteousness to the world; but because He was not chosen the nations have been dominated by men of the spirit of Barabbas, in a large measure, ever since that fatal day. The world, itself, has been soaked with the blood of millions of people who have died because of the awful conditions which have ensued through the rejection of the Prince of Peace.
The question comes to every one of us as individuals: “What shall I do then with Jesus?” You who have heard the story of Jesus all your lives, do you still vacillate just as Pilate vacillated? Though you know you should receive Christ, are you afraid as Pilate was afraid? Do you fear what man will say more than what God would say? If you have never yet trusted Christ Jesus, I plead with you to answer, “Not Barabbas, but this Man!” for “through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-44.13.39).
"With Me In Paradise" -- Luke 23:26-42.23.43
“And as they led Him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. And there followed Him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented Him. But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? And there were also two other, malefactors, led with Him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted His raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided Him, saying, He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He be Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar, and saying, If Thou be the King of the Jews, save Thyself. And a superscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with Me in paradise”- Luke 23:26-42.23.43.
We have followed our Saviour to Pilate’s judgment-hall and witnessed His trial; we observed Pilate’s cowardly conduct, and saw our Lord scourged cruelly and turned over to the soldiers to be put to death. Now we read that they led Him from the judgment-hall to the place which is called Calvary, and then we have the account of His crucifixion. Connected with that is wondrous grace in saving a poor, condemned sinner who hung by His side on one of the other crosses. Notice what is written concerning the journey to Calvary: “They led Him away.” We are told-not in the Bible but in church tradition-that He staggered and fell beneath the weight of His cross. We do not read that in the Scripture; it may be true, but we have no positive evidence of it. At any rate, it is clear that the soldiers must have observed that the cross seemed heavy for Him to carry after all He had suffered the night before and because of the cruel scourgings He had endured; for we are told that “They laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.” What a privilege this black man had! Simon was from Cyrene, a city of North Africa, and therefore he was undoubtedly a man of dark complexion. How honored was this colored man to be permitted to bear the cross of Jesus! There is another church tradition that Simon became one of Jesus’ immediate disciples, and that the Rufus, mentioned in Romans 16:13 is the same as the brother of Alexander, Simon’s son, referred to in Mark 15:21. It seems to me that every colored person should feel grateful that one of his race had the opportunity of helping the blessed Lord as He went out to die upon that cross of shame.
As they pursued their way, there followed Him a great multitude of people: some in sympathy with Him, and others who were ridiculing and reviling Him. Of the sympathetic group there were a number ,of women who bewailed and lamented Him, but Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” With prophetic eye He beheld Jerusalem surrounded with the Roman army and undergoing awful horrors, when conditions should become so terrible on account of famine that even tender women would devour their own children. This awful cannibalism had been predicted by Moses (Deuteronomy 28:53-5.28.57). Our Lord foresaw that all this would come because the people had turned away from God and knew not the time of their visitation. This had been before His mind when He looked upon the city of Jerusalem, saying, “0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:34-42.13.35). It was all this that led Him to say to these women, “Weep not for Me.” He was only carrying out the will of God. This was the express purpose for which He came into the world. “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). “Weep for yourselves, and for your children,” because of the judgment which they will have to undergo; for “the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.” This would be far better than seeing their children torn from them in death. He added, “Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.” He was speaking of Jerusalem. But these same words are used in the Book of Revelation regarding the great day of the wrath of the Lamb yet to come on them that know not God, when “the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, (shall hide) themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; (and say) to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:15-66.6.17.) If men and women refuse the salvation that God offers in Jesus Christ, then they must endure His wrath. And so our Lord warned these people of judgment soon to come upon Jerusalem. He referred to a passage in the Old Testament as He said, “For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” In Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20:47) the prophet was told to prophesy against the forest of the south, “Hear the word of the Lord; thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. And all flesh shall see that I the Lord have kindled it: it shall not be quenched.” The blessed Lord Himself was pictured as the green tree: “In Him was life; and the Life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Rejecting Jesus and turning away from God, formal, religious Israel was represented by the dry tree. If they refused the only perfectly holy, sinless Man in all Israel and condemned Him to suffer upon the cross, what would be the doom of those who spurned Him, who were living in their sins and ignoring the salvation that He came to bring?
“And there were also two other, malefactors, led with Him to be put to death.” These were two who, like Barabbas, had been cast into prison for evil. These men were to be crucified with the Lord Jesus: “He was numbered with the transgressors.” “And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.” We have to go to each of the four Gospels to get the full account of what took place on Calvary; in fact, I probably should not have used that expression, “full account,” for we will never know exactly what took place there until we stand in His presence and look upon His blessed face, and then we shall begin to understand what it really meant for Him, the holy One, to put away our sins. But we have to consult each of the four Gospels to get fuller details of what took place. One writer tells some things; another gives additional details, and if we take them all we have a very comprehensive and graphic account. Here we are told of the prayer of the Lord Jesus as He hung on the cross. Think of Him extended there upon the tree: nails driven into His hands; the thorn-crown pressed upon His brow; the soldiers keeping guard around the cross; the multitude reviling and mocking Him, and blaspheming His name, crying out in ridicule, “If Thou be the King of the Jews, save Thyself.” Matthew also tells us they cried out, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.” They did not realize the truth of that statement; if He was to save others He could not save Himself; He must endure the suffering in order that we might be delivered from the judgment that our sins deserved. So as He heard them, instead of any resentment in His heart, we hear Him praying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” In the Old Testament if a man slew his neighbor without intending to kill him, he was to flee to the city of refuge, and there he would be safe from the avenger of blood. For the actual murderer there was to be no escape from death. God said, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Genesis 9:6). But He made a distinction between a wilful murderer and one who slew in ignorance. So Jesus by this prayer, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” put them on the ground of manslaughter rather than of deliberate murder. After Pentecost Peter declared that “through ignorance ye did it” (Acts 3:17). In speaking of the rulers of the Gentiles, Paul said, “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). They did not understand; they did not know who Jesus was; they did not know what they were doing in delivering Him up to death on the cross. The Lord said, as it were, “Father, open the door to the City of Refuge, and let them flee from the avenger of blood.” And, thank God, all who have fled to Jesus-who is Himself the City of Refuge-have found security from the judgment which sin deserves. Some say the prayer of our Lord was not answered. Yes, it was answered, in this way: God did not treat them as murderers, but He opened up the way of salvation for them. If men deliberately and wilfully spurn the offer of mercy which is through our Lord Jesus Christ, then they put Him to an open shame and crucify the Son of God afresh, and there is no hope for those who persist in rejecting Christ. They are adjudged guilty of the murder of the Son of God. If I am addressing any unsaved ones, any who do not know the Lord Jesus, I plead with you to come now to God through Christ; flee to the City of Refuge which God has provided. Receive Him as your Saviour and thus be assured of a glorious welcome.
The soldiers below the cross “parted His raiment, and cast lots.” This had been prophesied many years before. In Psalms 22:18 we read, “They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture.” That scripture was fulfilled that day when Jesus died in our stead on Calvary. We read, “The people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided Him, saying, He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He be Christ, the chosen of God.” The Roman soldiers joined with His own people in ridiculing and mocking Him, “coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar, and saying, If Thou be the King of the Jews, save Thyself.”
We are told that Pilate caused a superscription to be written and put over His head. In those days when a man was crucified it was customary to write his sentence on a tablet and nail it to his cross. This superscription was written in Greek, the language of culture; in Latin, the language of authority; and Hebrew, the language of religion: “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” All passing might see that He was crucified as an insurrectionist, which Pilate knew was not true. The rulers came to Pilate and said, “Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am King of the Jews” (John 19:21). By this time Pilate was out of patience with them, and he said, “What I have written I have written;” and he let the tablet stand. The last that those men saw of Jesus was as He hung on the cross with the superscription above Him, proclaiming Him to be King of the Jews: He was God’s King, and God has said in Psalms 2:6, “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.” And in time the Jews will gladly own Him as Lord of lords and King of kings.
We read that “one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him.” Both of them railed on Him at first and said, “If Thou be the Christ, save Thyself and us.” But suddenly divine conviction laid hold of one of those men. As he gazed upon the holy Sufferer on that central cross, possibly as he heard Him pray for His enemies, he seemed to realize who it was who was there being crucified. He rebuked his fellow-malefactor saying, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done nothing amiss.” He seemed to sense the perfect holiness of Jesus, and in vivid contrast he saw the sinfulness and wickedness of his own life and that of his companion. “But this Man hath done nothing amiss!” What a declaration at such a time! Years before Isaiah asked the question, “Who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8). Someone has translated that question, “Who shall declare His manner of life?” Think of the declaration coming from a dying thief, hanging by His side: “This Man hath done nothing amiss!” He then turned to Jesus as he recognized in that thorn-crowned Sufferer, the One who is the King of glory, and he said, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” It was real faith coupled with genuine repentance. So this man hanging there upon that cross was saved. Jesus said, as it were, “You will not have to wait till I come into My kingdom”: “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” I know there are some who would like to make us believe that what Jesus said was, “Today (not yesterday nor tomorrow) I say unto thee that some day shait thou be with Me in Paradise.” That does violence to the text as we have it both in the original and in the English Bible, and it would imply that our Lord did that thing which He condemns in us-used idle words. No; what He said was, “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” And He was; for ere that day closed-according to Jewish reckoning of a day, from sunset to sunset-the Lord Jesus had dismissed His spirit to the Father, and the spirit of the thief had gone to be with Christ in Paradise: the firstfruit of His glorious redemptive work. An old writer has suggested that there is great danger in putting off our salvation until the end of life. In the Bible there is one man who was saved at the last moment. There is one, that none might despair; only one, that none might presume. During a series of meetings years ago, an evangelist saw a young man who looked somewhat concerned. The evangelist went to him and asked if he were ready to die, and the lad replied, “No; I am not ready; I hope to come some day. Remember the dying thief?” The evangelist asked, “Which thief?” The young man looked up startled and said, “Oh, I had forgotten; there were two, weren’t there?” “Yes,” replied the evangelist; “and one went out, so far as we have any record, into eternity closing his heart to the Saviour and was lost forever. The other trusted Him and was saved forever. Which thief are you going to be like?” The young man said, “I’d better come now.” And he closed with Christ that evening. Think of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to a dying thief, and remember that salvation is for you if you will fully trust Him.
Christ Crucified And The Veil Rent -- Luke 23:44-42.23.56
“And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous Man. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. And all His acquaintance, and the women that followed Him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things. And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with Him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how His body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment”- Luke 23:44-42.23.56.
Those who have followed carefully the various accounts of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, know that there are certain details omitted in each of the Gospels which are given in the others, but all are in perfect agreement. You will have noticed that our blessed Lord hung for six awful hours on Calvary. He was nailed to the cross at the third hour: that is what we call nine o’clock in the morning; He was taken down from the cross after the ninth hour: that is, after three o’clock in the afternoon. During those first three hours the sun was shining; all nature seemed bright, as though utterly indifferent to what was taking place: the Creator of all things was dying upon a felon’s gibbet, rejected by those whom He had not only brought into being but also come to bless and to save. At the sixth hour-this answers to our twelve noon-the sun was, as it were, blotted out of the heaven. This was not an eclipse. It was the passover time, and it was impossible that there should be an eclipse when the moon was at the full. It was a supernatural darkness that spread over all the scene, not only over the land of Judaea, but possibly, at the same time, over all parts of the known world. The early Christians tell us (whether on reliable authority or not I cannot say, but it is interesting that the story has come down from early times) that a Greek philosopher was giving a lecture in the city of Alexandria of Egypt at the very hour the darkness spread over the land, and he stopped in the midst of his discourse and exclaimed, “Either a god is dying or the universe is going into dissolution.” He who is both God and Man was dying! He was dying at that awful hour for our sins. From the sixth to the ninth hour the darkness continued, and after it passed away the Lord bowed His head and died.
It is instructive to observe that during the first three hours Jesus never exhibited concern for Himself. He was perfectly calm, and though He was suffering excruciatingly He gave no evidence whatever of self-pity. He saw His blessed mother standing near the foot of the cross and John the beloved disciple near her; and He said to His mother, “Behold thy son!” and to John, “Behold thy mother!” And John led her away from the scene of her holy Son’s dying agony; and, we are told in other records, cared for her for the rest of her life here on earth. Then our Lord looked upon the multitude, blaspheming, mocking, and ridiculing Him; and He recognized the wickedness of their hearts; yet He opened up for them a City of Refuge into which they might flee, as we have seen already, when He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” He heard the plea of the penitent thief and assured him of a place in Paradise. Thus in those first three hours He exhibited no perturbation of spirit, no concern for Himself but only tender consideration for others.
From the time that the darkness overspread the scene no sound escaped the lips of Jesus, according to the record, until the three hours were drawing to a close; and then, we are told in two other Gospels, He cried out in agony, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” In those first three hours of darkness He was suffering at the hands of man: He endured without a murmur all the shame and ignominy that man could heap upon Him. But during the last three hours of darkness He was suffering at the hand of God-the God who made His soul an offering for sin. There He drank the bitter cup of judgment that our sins had filled- the cup from which He shrank in Gethsemane, which if we had to drink could not be exhausted throughout eternity. God “hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In the first three hours He addressed God as “Father”: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” But in these last three hours He did not use the term “Father,” until the darkness had passed. He address Him as God: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34.) For it was God as Judge who was there dealing with His holy Son on our behalf as Christ took the sinner’s place. We read, “And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.” One critic tells us that Luke links up the rending of the veil with the darkness rather than with the death of Jesus, and that he was in too much of a hurry to get to the climactic scene and announce Christ’s victory, because the other Gospels record the veil as having been rent after Jesus gave up His spirit. Well, we do not blame Luke for being in a hurry to record the rending of the veil; but it was the Holy Spirit who was desirous to let us know that the veil has been rent! Throughout Old Testament times God had said, “I will dwell in the thick darkness.” The veil of the temple signified that no man could pass into the presence of God except as in the case of the high priest on the day of atonement, and that, “not without blood.” But when Christ died as the propitiation for sin the way was opened up into the Holy of holies. Now God can come out in unhindered love to man, and man can go into God’s presence, accepted in Christ. The rent veil speaks of redemption accomplished. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). One of our hymn-writers has written:
“Through Thy precious body broken-
Inside the veil.
Oh, what words to sinners spoken-
Inside the veil.
Precious as the blood that bought us;
Perfect as the love that sought us;
Holy as the Lamb that brought us-
Inside the veil!
“Lamb of God, through Thee we enter-
Inside the veil;
Cleansed by blood we boldly venture-
Inside the veil.
Not a stain; a new creation;
Ours is such a full salvation:
Low we bow in adoration-
Inside the veil!
“Soon Thy saints shall all be gathered-
Inside the veil;
All at home-no more be scattered-
Inside the veil.
Nought from Thee our souls shall sever;
We shall see Thee, grieve Thee never;
‘Praise the Lamb,’ shall sound forever-
Inside the veil!”
At the last Jesus prayed, saying, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit: and having said this, He gave up the ghost.” He dismissed His spirit. The work was done, and He went home to be with the Father. Our attention is next directed to the scene before the cross. We are told, “When the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous Man.” He was a Roman; he was in charge of the soldiers who were there on guard; he saw and heard all that took place, and his heart was stirred. According to other Gospels he added also, “Truly this was the Son of God.” Then we are told that, “All the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” A great throng was gathered there, not only enemies but also friends; but these last were powerless to interfere as they stood looking on in grief and sorrow. It must have been hard for them to believe that Jesus had actually died. They thought it was He who should have redeemed Israel, but now their hopes were blasted, and they turned away and went to their homes sorrowing and bewailing. All His acquaintance stood afar off, beholding these things. They had been watching Jehovah’s Anointed die like a felon upon a cross of shame; but oh, the joy that awaited them when they were to learn of His glorious resurrection!
You will notice that as long as the Lord Jesus was standing in the sinner’s stead God allowed every kind of indignity to be heaped upon His blessed Son: they spat in His face; they slapped Him with the palms of their hands, a most insulting gesture; they flogged Him until His flesh was torn from His back and blood poured from every wound; they pressed a thorn-crown upon His head; and they put a gorgeous robe upon Him and knelt before Him, mocking Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews;” they took Him out to Calvary and nailed Him to the cross; and lastly, one of the soldiers pierced His side, but that was the final act ,of indignity that God permitted. “The very spear that pierced His side drew forth the blood to save.” After that it was as though God said, “I gave My Son into your hands; you have shown all the hatred and bitterness of your hearts by the way you have treated Him. Now not another unclean hand shall touch Him.” From that time on no enemy touched that sacred body.
“And, behold, there was a man name Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: (the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.” He and his servants tenderly and reverently took that body from the cross, washed away the blood-stains, wrapped the body in linen, and carried it to Joseph’s new tomb and left it there, intending, after the sabbath had passed, to embalm it according to the Jewish custom. “And the women also, which came with Him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how His body was laid.” They then turned sadly away, intending to return and perform the last sacred rites after the sabbath. They “prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” The Christ-who was born of a virgin; who had grown up as a tender plant in the garden of the Lord, and had gone forth, anointed of Jehovah, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom-had died at last on the cross for sinners; and now His body-lay in the tomb, and no one on earth knew whether or not redemption was an accomplished fact. If He had not come forth from that tomb then there would have been no evidence that the sin question had been settled. But His resurrected body was to be the proof of ^he efficacy of His work. Now, thank God, “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Luke 23". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent