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Bible Commentaries
Luke 23

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-56

Luke 23:12 . The same day Pilate and Herod were made friends. This occurrence is quoted in Acts 4:27, as an accomplishment of the prophecy in the second psalm.

Luke 23:22 . He said to them the third time I have found no cause of death in him. Then Pilate was thrice weak, and thrice wicked, to condemn him to the cross. He was unworthy of any comparison with Gallio, who drove away the jews, and would be no judge of their questions.

Luke 23:43 . To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise. “Hades,” according to the ancients, signifies the state of the dead. But in Hades, said they, there are two roads, the one for good men, and the other for bad men. Hence, when our Saviour entered Hades he entered paradise. But from the special grace conferred on the penitent thief, I would warn them against a false reliance on a protracted repentance. No man knows the case of this thief. “Perhaps,” says Saurin, “he had been engaged in this awful course but a short time. Perhaps, seduced by an unhappy ease, he was less guilty of theft than of compliance. Perhaps, the accomplice only of Barabbas in sedition, he had less design of disturbing society than of restricting the enormous tyranny of the Romans. Perhaps, surprised by weakness, or tempted by necessity, he had received sentence for his first offence. Perhaps, having languished a long time in prison, he had already repented of his sin. We do not affirm these things; they are merely conjectures, but all you can object are similar conjectures. And how many criminating circumstances occur in your life which were not in his? He had not received the education which you have. He had not received the torrent of grace with which you are inundated; and he was unacquainted with a thousand motives which operate on you. The moment he saw Christ he loved him, and believed on him. How was that? With what faith, and at what time? In a manner the most heroic in the world; with a faith not found in Israel. At a time when our Saviour was fixed on the cross, when he was pierced with the nails, when he was delivered to a frantic populace, when he was spit upon, mocked by the greeks, and rejected by the jews; when Judas betrayed him, when St. Peter denied him, when the disciples fled; when Jesus made himself of no reputation, and so took upon him the form of a servant the thief the thief seemed the only believer, and he alone to constitute the whole church.” See my translation of Saurin’s sermons, vol. 7. p. 72.

Luke 23:44-45 . It was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour: and the sun was darkened. It was proper that the heavens should go into mourning for the Lord, who in his divine nature was their Creator. This darkness is very clearly asserted by St. Matthew, and St. Mark. It is asserted also by Ignatius, and by Clement. It was not a natural eclipse, because it happened at the full moon; eclipses of the sun always occur at the change. Besides, a total eclipse of the sun can never exist above four minutes; the sun’s disk then begins to appear as a bright silver wire, and sheds abundance of light on the earth. Many of the fathers quote the annals of Phlegon, who records this darkness with surprise. Tertullian says in his apology, that “the same moment in which Christ was crucified, the solar orb was darkened at noon, and those who did not know that this event was predicted, Amos 8:9, thought it an eclipse:” chap. 21. Origen, Africanus, and others mention it with a view to convince the gentile world that nature sympathized with the God of nature in his passion, and frowned on the unparalleled wickedness of the jews. This darkness most assuredly is one of the first proofs of our redemption by the death of Christ. It cannot be denied, and on what other account could it occur?


Oh Calvary, most instructive scene! There hangs the Lord of glory, surrounded with the scoffs of foes, and the tears of friends. The chief priests and rulers are chief in the crime, and they instruct the rabble in satire of infernal malice. This is wickedness which was never exceeded, never equalled. Yet at the same moment, amidst all the malignity that was ascending from the infernal pit, the ineffable piety and submission of our blessed Lord shone forth with a splendour never before witnessed, crying with an agony of love, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. But mark how the termination of insult was the commencement of glory. The Son, having commended his spirit into the hands of his Sire, all nature honoured the exit of its Lord. The sun mourned in his passion, the earth trembled in his conflict, the spirits of just men made perfect arose from their tombs, having resumed their bodies, and the conscience of the guilty crowd formed the dark shades in the celestial portrait. They returned smiting their breasts, in anguish portentous of destruction.

Oh Calvary, most eventful Calvary! Thou art the theatre of redemption, the school of religion, and the mirror of the human heart. Here redeeming love displays its glory, here revelation unfolds its beauty, and discovers ten thousand wonders to our admiring view. Significantly was the veil of the temple rent from the top to the bottom, and its mystic symbols exposed to open vision. That sacred body, all covered with gore, and ghastly with wounds, reveals the shadowy import of oblations for sin. This Calvary without the gate, and that cross streaked with blood, illustrate the atoning figure of the heifer slain without the camp. Mysteries exist no more in the ritual law; they are all transferred to the person and glory of Christ. But ah, my sins have crucified the Lord. I have pierced that sacred body, and nailed it to the tree. I and my fellow-worms have merited the curse, the stripes, the anguish which he has borne. Oh, weep mine eyes, and grieve my heart. Oh my soul, enter, fully enter into thy Saviour’s passion, that thou mayest die with him to sin, and live with him to newness of life.

The circumstance of Joseph’s begging the Lord’s body, is highly worthy of remark. It was great faith for a nobleman so circumstanced to own his Lord. It baffled the malice of the council. It accomplished prophecy; “His grave was appointed with the wicked, but with the rich man was his tomb.” So Lowth reads Isaiah 53:9. It caused him to be interred in a new sepulchre, not yet used, which made the evidence of the Lord’s resurrection indisputably clear. Thus he confounded the malice of his foes, made death the gate of life, hallowed the grave as the bed of repose for his weary saints, and arose from the dead, the model and the pledge of all our future hopes.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 23". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/luke-23.html. 1835.
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