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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Luke 23

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-4

3. Pilate and Herod


1And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. 2And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the1 nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cesar, saying that he himself is Christ a king. 3And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. 4Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people [crowds, ὄχλους], I find no fault in this man.


Luke 23:1. And led Him.—The solemn leading away of our Lord to Pilate, and His delivery to him, is one of the particulars of the history of the Passion which all the Evangelists visibly emphasize. No wonder, for the process herewith enters upon an entirely new stadium, and passes now from the spiritual to the secular sphere. As to the time and manner of the leading away, as to the sequence of events and the character of the judge, see Lange on Matthew 27:1. As respects this whole trial, compare, moreover, besides the writers whom inter alios, Hase, Leben Jesu, § 3, gives, the Dissertatio, by the Dutch divine, P. J. J. Mounier, De Pilati in causa servatoris agendi ratione, L. B. 1825. As respects the source from which we draw our knowledge of what here took place, the gospel of Nicodemus, it is true, contains some traits, which, on internal grounds, appear credible, but, on the whole, it has only this value, that we know from it how, in the fifth and sixth century, they represented to themselves this process. In the Acts, and in the epistles also, there are not wanting descriptive allusions to that which took place under the Roman Procurator (Acts 3:13-14; Acts 4:27; 1 Timothy 6:13). But here, also, the four gospels remain the chief source, belying here in no way their respective peculiarities. While the Synoptics, namely, delineate to us especially the public side of the trial, John alone makes known to us what passed between our Lord and the Procurator in private. Matthew, who more than the others, even in the beginning of his gospel, speaks of dreams and visions, is the only one who gives account of the remarkable dream of Pilate’s wife, as well, too, as of the genuinely Israelitish ceremony of the washing of Pilate’s hands. Mark describes, in his way, briefly, vigorously, rapidly, how the Lion of the tribe of Judah hurries over the field of conflict to His complete triumph. Luke has enriched the delineation of this trial with a new particular, with the appearance before Herod, but at the same time condenses the occurrences more closely, takes more account of arranging the facts than of the sequence of time, and even passes over in almost entire silence the scourging and mocking by the Roman soldiers. The actual commencement of the trial John alone describes, Luke 18:28-32. On the other hand, we owe to Luke, Luke 23:2, the very precise statement of the actual ground of accusation with which the chief priests open the series of their charges.

Unto Pilate.—The question whether we, by the πραιτώριον, have to understand the well-known tower Antonia, or the palace of Herod, we believe that we must answer in the former sense; for it was in the tower Antonia that the Roman garrison lay, and the Procurator, therefore, during his temporary abode in the capital, might best lodge there. Tradition does not permit us to identify the places named, and it is entirely arbitrary to consider the palace of Herod as the established and ordinary residence of the Procurators in their visits to Jerusalem. Josephus, De Bell. Judges 2:14; Judges 2:8; Philo, De Legatione Judœorum, p. 1034, to whom appeal is commonly made in favor of Herod’s palace, leave it entirely undecided whether this palace was always, and also at the time of Jesus, the residence of the governor. The above tower Antonia we are to look for on the northeast side of the temple mountain, while the place “Gabbatha,” according to Josephus, also lay between the tower Antonia and the western corner of the temple, immediately before the judgment-hall.

Luke 23:2. And they began.—It is not easy for them so to introduce the case as to make from the very beginning a favorable impression upon Pilate. The substance as well as the tone of their address betrays plainly enough that they intend this. Τοῦτον, first, δεικτικῶς, without statement of name, with visible contempt: εὕρομεν, with affected gravity, with which the subsequent declaration of Pilate that he had found no fault in Him, he, as little as Herod, Luke 23:14, singularly contrasts: τὸ ἕθνος ἡμῶν, with the full warmth of genuine friends of the people, who cannot endure that their true interests should be set at stake. Comp. John 7:49. The accusation itself is threefold. First, He perverts the people, διαστρέφοντα. Properly, He “gives them a false direction,” He brings them from the good way on which they themselves and the Romans with them would be so glad to see them walk. Moreover, He forbids to give tribute to the Emperor, since He—and this is the ground as well of the one as of the other offence—finally declares concerning Himself that He is Christ a King. Not without ground do they as yet intentionally avoid speaking of a king of the Jews, although it at once appears that Pilate interprets their indefinite expression in no less significance. With noticeable tact they place first not the religious but the political side of their imputations, and then, before making the attempt to prove, at least in some measure, their false accusation, they wait until Pilate himself shall inquire for the grounds of their assertion. He, however, already knows the Jews well enough, and therefore appeals as quickly as possible from the accusers to the Accused.

Luke 23:3. Art thou the King of the Jews?—Pilate, not unacquainted with the prevailing Messianic hope, formulates his question very precisely, and seeks to find out whether Jesus is really the promised and long-sighed-for King of Israel. To this question our Lord cannot possibly answer otherwise than, without delay and without the least equivocalness, with Yes. By denial or silence He would have come into contradiction with Himself. And if it is alleged that our Lord would have had to define more particularly the sense in which He called Himself so, since otherwise a misunderstanding on the part of the heathen ruler would have been possible, we may confidently assume that the tone as well as the manner in which He uttered His answer was fully calculated to excite the Procurator to a more particular investigation. And indeed He attains this purpose, inasmuch as Pilate takes Him apart with himself, that He may now more particularly explain and give the reason for His affirmative answer.

Luke 23:4. I find no fault in this man.—According to Meyer, Pilate finds in the confession itself the token of innocence.—“It is, in his view, the expression of the fixed idea of an enthusiast.” Possible, certainly, although for this opinion not a single proof can be given, but the question would still remain whether such an instantaneous and merely subjective impression would have entitled the Procurator, without further investigation, to declare the Accused at once innocent, and, secondly, if his declaration had been accepted, to relieve him immediately of any further prosecution. We are much more disposed to assume that Pilate, after the first public audience, which all the Synoptics give, ordered then the private hearing, which John alone has preserved, and only in consequence of this uttered the declaration of innocence which Luke, Luke 23:4; John 18:38, relate. In the private interview of Pilate with Jesus, the charge preferred Luke 23:2, it is manifest, is tacitly presupposed. Here, also, Luke remains really unintelligible if he is not complemented from John.


1. The leading away of Jesus is one of the most remarkable turning points in the history of the Passion. It serves not only to fulfil our Lord’s declaration that He should be delivered over to the Gentiles, Luke 18:32, but it also brings the Passion of our Lord into direct connection with the history of the world, the reins of which, at that time, God had, as it were, placed in the hands of the Romans. It becomes the means of bringing to Him, again according to His own declaration, the death on the cross, but previously prepares, through the declaration of Pilate which it elicits, the revelation of His innocence and majesty. The Jews’ rejection of the Messiah is here already, in principle, decided, and with it, at the same time, also, the destruction of the City and of the Temple. While the Sanhedrim, therefore, is leading Him away, it declares therewith that it will not have this Messiah, and gives the promised salvation out of its own hands into the impure hands of heathens. From this hour Israel’s Passover becomes an empty echo, and Israel itself, like an impure leaven, is purged out of the house of God, the church of Christ. But thus do they, at the same time, help to fulfil God’s everlasting counsel, that all things should be comprehended under one head in Christ, Ephesians 1:10. From the moment when the Great Sufferer trod the threshold of the heathen dwelling, the wall of partition which was between is broken down, Ephesians 2:14-16, and the heathen world invited in to a nobler feast of freedom than Israel was able to celebrate in the paschal night. As the night, Acts 16:9-10, was for the spiritual weal of Europe a decisive one, so was this morning for the salvation of the whole heathen world.

2. It is one of the most adorable ways of the providence of God, that at the very time at which Christ must die, a man stood at the head of the government in Judea, who in every respect was most peculiarly fitted to be, in his ignorance, a minister of the counsel of God for the salvation of the world,—on the one hand, receptive enough to recognize the truth, courageous enough to declare it and to confess several times the innocence of our Lord, conscientious enough to omit no effort to deliver Him; but, on the other hand, moreover, so weak that he loved honor among men rather than honor from God, and so selfish that his own honor lay more at heart with him than the cause of the innocent.—We feel that just such a man must the secular judge have been, under whom the Deliverer of the world should suffer death.

3. By the delivery of our Lord to Pilate, the heathen world now becomes partaker with the Jewish world in the greatest wickedness that has ever been committed. In this it appears that the true light is hated as well by those who are under the law as by those who are without the law, and the judgment Romans 3:19-20, appears as a perfectly righteous one. But, at the same time, there is also revealed therein the grace of God, as having appeared to all who believe, without respect of persons, Romans 3:21-31.

4. The very manner in which the chief priests here introduce the secular process reveals from the very beginning the part which they are now resolved to play. No means, even slander, is too base for them; for we can only call it thoroughly conscious slander when they, after what had taken place three days before, Luke 20:20-25, yet venture with bold brow to assert that our Lord had forbidden the payment of taxes. Sometimes they come creeping, sometimes they spitefully erect themselves, and prove therewith that they do homage to the principle: the end sanctifies the means. And scarcely have they failed in one attempt when they proceed immediately with desperate stubbornness to another. So much more gloriously beams over against this night of wickedness the glory of the immaculate innocence of the Lord, to which Pilate must repeatedly bear witness. In union with other voices which were audible in honor of the moral purity of Jesus In the last hours of His life, from different sides, the testimony of Pilate also serves to strengthen us in our most holy faith, that the Lamb of God is indeed an ἀμνὸς ἄμωμος καὶ ἄσπιλος. The connection in which this sinlessness of our Lord stands with the atoning virtue of His death, is something which it is the business of Dogmatics to bring to view.


The early morning hour of the most remarkable day of the world’s history.—The most terrible injustice practised under the forms of law.—The King of the Jews delivered into the hands of the Gentiles.—Christ the centre of the union of the Jewish and the heathen world: 1. The sins of both He, a. reveals, b. bears, c. covers; 2. both He reconciles in one body, a. with God, b. with one another, c. with heaven, Colossians 1:19-20.—Slander against our Lord and His people: 1. Inexhaustible in its weapons; 2. impotent for victory.—Jesus the Faithful Witness, Revelation 1:5.—“Thou sayest it”: 1. The truth; 2. the dignity; 3. the requirement, of this utterance.—The first favorable impression which the Accused makes upon His yet impartial judge.—The immaculate innocence of the Suffering One: 1. Slandered; 2. vindicated; 3. crowned.—The praiseworthy manner in which Pilate opens the trial of Jesus, in contrast with the lamentable way in which he ends it.—Pilate the image of the natural man in his relation to Christ.

Starke:—They who would otherwise have no communion with one another easily become one when one must help the other to carry out his evil schemes.—Quesnel:—There is no course of life so righteous and innocent that it cannot be accused and persecuted.—Brentius:—Judge not at once, but hear also the other side.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—One finds often even more uprightness in a heathen than in a Christian judge.—Osiander:—Christ has suffered not for His sin but for ours, 2 Corinthians 5:21.—Heubner:—The preacher of obedience is charged with insurrection.—Jesus, it is true, has caused the greatest imaginable commotions.—Arndt:—The first hearing of Jesus before the Procurator; how Pilate has to do: 1. With the Jews; 2. with our Lord.—Krummacher:—Christ before Pilate: 1. The leading away of Jesus to Pilate; 2. His entry into the judgment-hall; 3. the beginning of the judicial proceeding.—The accusations.—Christ a King.—The Lamb of God.—Tholuck:—The history of the Passion makes evident in Pilate to what degree the human heart is capable of becoming shallow and frivolous.—J. B. Hasebroeck, Preacher in Amsterdam:—Pilate: 1. As man: 2. as Judges 3:0. as witness to us.


Luke 23:2; Luke 23:2.—With Lachmann, Tischendorf, [Meyer, Tregelles,] we read on the authority of B., D., [Cod. Sin., H.,] K., L., M., [R.,] Cursives, &c., ἔθνος ἡμῶν. [Alford omits it, regarding it as a probable reminiscence of Luke 7:5.—C. C. S.]

Verses 5-12

b. JESUS BEFORE HEROD (Luke 23:5-12)

5And they were the more fierce [insisted, ἐπίσχυον], saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry [Judea], beginning from Galilee to this place. 6[And] When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. 7And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction [or, was from Herod’s jurisdiction], he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time [in these days]. 8And when Herod Saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season [had been long desirous], because he had heard 9many things2 of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. Then Hebrews 1:0; Hebrews 1:00questioned with him in [him with] many words; but he answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood [by] and vehemently accused him. 11And Herod with his men of war [or, guards; lit., armies] Set him at nought [handled him ignominiously], and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. 12And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together [became friends with each other]; for before they were at enmity between themselves.


Luke 23:5. And they insisted, ἐπίσχυον, in an intransitive sense = καίσχυον, invalescebant, Vulgate.—The declaration of Pilate has not corresponded to their expectation. Since now they see that their last charge of the assumption of royal dignity finds no acceptance with the judge, they now come with so much the stronger emphasis back to the first—namely, that He is perverting the people. That the Procurator may still take note that there is nothing less at question here than the peace of the state, they again accuse Jesus of being incessantly occupied in stirring up the people (ἀνασείει, in the Present). The starting point of His tumultuary efforts, they say, is Galilee, ἀρξάμενος. Acts 1:22, but He has already made His way even hither to the centre of the land. According to Matthew 27:12-14; Mark 15:3-4, they add yet many other accusations, so insignificant, however, that the Evangelists do not even cite them, and our Lord answers them only with silence. Pilate, however, sinks deeper and deeper into perplexity, and so soon, therefore, as he hears the name of Galilee, he seizes on this as a welcome way out of the difficulty. Not without hostile intentions have the Jews named Galilee, since the hatred of the Procurator against the Galileans and against Herod was well known to them; they hope therewith to engage him the more against our Saviour, as a Galilean. But in this respect, at least, their wish is, not fulfilled; Pilate hears Galilee spoken of without noticeable bitterness, and since Herod, the Tetrarch of this land, is, by reason of the Passover, just now at Jerusalem, he resolves, so soon as he has learned that Jesus (according to the superficial view of the people, who know nothing of His birth at Bethlehem), is of Galilean origin, to send Him immediately to the Tetrarch.

Luke 23:7. He sent Him to Herod.—The question is: To what end? According to the common view, in order to relieve himself of the case. According to Meyer, “he seeks by the reference to the judgment of Herod, who could possibly have Him transported to Galilee, to draw himself out of the affair, and to get rid of the case.” Unquestionably such a reference from the forum apprehensionis to the forum domicilii was in and of itself permitted, and also, according to the usages of the Romans, not unusual; comp. Acts 26:3-4. Friedlieb, ad loc. It is, however, a question, whether this intention now really existed in the Procurator’s mind. Pilate gives no sign of wishing to remove the case entirely from him; so troublesome and burdensome it was not yet even in this instant to him that he would have wished at any price to be relieved of it. Much more probable is the view (Ewald), that he hopes if possible to obtain a favorable opinion of Herod for the accused; or yet more probable, that he hopes to receive from Herod a further explanation in reference to a person and a case that becomes to him with every moment more obscure, and yet more interesting. Therewith he at the same time, out of policy, shows Herod a courtesy, while he, in case he had committed to Herod the decision of so important a matter without reservation, would thereby have conceded to him a right over himself. The former but not the latter agreed with the disposition of the Procurator, who, indeed, previously had not sent the Galileans, whose blood he had mingled with their sacrifices, Luke 13:1, to Herod for execution, but had had them hewn down by his own soldiers. Thus is also explained why our Lord could be silent before Herod, because He recognized in him no legal judge. Thus do we comprehend, moreover, why Pilate, after the return of Jesus from Herod, shows himself in no way disappointed in his expectations, but simply, Luke 23:13-16, communicates the impression which both he and the Tetrarch had received of the Accused, and thus finally does it become clear why only one Evangelist has considered it as necessary to speak of this occurrence, which, doubtless, even on account of its political consequences, had become generally known. We have here, not a decisive turning-point in the process before us, as was, for example, the case at the arrest, or at the leading away of our Lord to Pilate; but it is a simple endeavor of the Procurator to obtain clearer light about the mysterious element in the case before him, by a measure which was as prudently chosen as perfectly admissible. It was not, however, at all in his design to prepare for the Accused in this way new scorn and sorrow, although it is true the result showed that this, nevertheless, had befallen Him at the hands of Herod.

Luke 23:8. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad.—Once, when the report of Jesus’ miracles came to his ears he had trembled, but even this sting is now blunted: he can now only laugh and scoff. It is the wish of the frivolous Tetrarch now for once to see something right piquant, and to have his court take part in this pastime. For some time already he has had the wish to be able for once to see Jesus (θέλων), comp. Luke 9:7-9, since he has continually heard much about Him, and hoped accordingly to be able to induce Him to the performance of some miracle or other. The possibility that his wish may remain unfulfilled he does not even forebode. Of what sort his questions, Luke 23:8, were, may be very well conjectured on the one hand from his well known character, and on the other hand from the unshaken silence of the Lord. As a thaumaturge, for whom, without doubt, he took our Lord, he could at most meet Him with childish curiosity, but could not possibly treat Him with even a trace of respect. “Jesus was to entertain him as a mighty magician, divert him, or perhaps foretell luck to his egoistic superstition; anything else he sought not of Him. It is an awful sign to see what a caricature this prince’s conceptions were of this First among his subjects, although Jesus had moved his whole land with His spirit. And for so common a character would he take Him, notwithstanding that the Baptist had lived near him and made on him an impression of the spirit of the prophets.” Lange.

Luke 23:10. And the chief priests.—From Luke 23:15, we learn that Pilate had commanded them also to appear before Herod, and how could they indeed have neglected this, leaving the prisoner to escape from their hands even for a moment? They see very well that their interest requires them to paint Him to Herod in colors as black as was any way possible, and accuse Him, therefore, with visible emphasis, comp. Acts 18:28, as if they feared that even Herod himself, perchance, might be too equitable towards their victim. It was, however, not so much in consequence of their imputations as rather on account of his own disappointed expectations that Herod does not send back our Lord without first overwhelming Him with new ignominy.

Luke 23:11. Mocked Him.—The priests accuse the Saviour, the courtiers mock Him. With the first it is hatred, with the others contempt that strikes the key. Scoffing is here the vengeance of insulted pride, and reveals itself in a peculiar form. They hang round the shoulders of our Lord a brilliant vesture, ἐσθῆτα λαμπράν, not exactly of purple, coccineam vestem, which is not implied in the word, but brilliantly white, in order to designate Him in the Roman manner as a candidate for Some post of honor (Kuinoel, Lange, and others), or in order to characterize Him as King, by arraying Him in a similar garment to that in which generals went into battle (Friedlieb, De Wette, Meyer). In the latter case there was implied in this at the same time an unmistakable intimation for Pilate that such a pretended king did not deserve condemnation, but at the most, contempt.

Luke 23:12. Pilate and Herod became friends.—The cause of the enmity is unknown. Perhaps it was the massacre of the Galileans, Luke 13:1. This result, however, appears at any rate remarkable enough to the delicate psychologist, Luke, not to be passed by unmentioned. In view of the general publicity of this unexpected reconciliation, this remark affords at the same time an indirect but yet a very strong proof of the truth of the event related. That John knew nothing of this intervening scene is indeed asserted by De Wette, but not proved; even if this were the case, however, it would not of itself by any means shake the truth of the fact, since such a thing might very well happen without having come to the knowledge of John, or without being retained in his memory at the writing of his Gospel. In view of the eclecticism of all the Evangelists, even in the history of the Passion, it is dangerous to lay too great weight on an argument e silentio. On the other hand, this narrative, in which Herod is depicted to us even as he is known from other accounts, bears altogether the internal character of truth, and may very fittingly be inserted immediately after John 18:38. Strauss’ conjecture that this whole account has arisen “from an endeavor to bring Jesus before all the judgment-seats that could possibly be brought together at Jerusalem,” is without any trace whatever of proof, and if Luke had been induced by an anti-Jewish interest to invent this narrative, in order, namely, to get as many witnesses as possible for the innocence of the Saviour, something of which Baur speaks (Kanon. Evang. p. 489), he would without doubt have put a more direct declaration of this innocence in Herod’s mouth. Over against these unreasonable doubts it deserves note that as far back as Acts 4:27, the names of Herod and Pontius Pilate are mentioned together in the prayers of the first believers, and that also Justin Martyr, Dial. cum Tryph. Luke 103, is acquainted with this event.


1. At the court of Herod there returns for the Lord once more that temptation, in its deepest ground Satanic, which He, Luke 4:9-12, had triumphantly repelled. Once again before He is to be elevated on the Cross He sees the opportunity opened to win in the easiest way the favor of the mighty Tetrarch. The scornful courtiers on the one, the blaspheming priests on the other hand—could a more admirable opportunity well have offered itself in order to elicit on the one side astonishment, on the other confusion? But neither of the two the Saviour does; He remains faithful to His fundamental principle, and performs no miracle of display for His own advantage; He explains with His silence His sense of the precept of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:6. The shade of John could have observed no more inviolable silence, if it had really appeared to his murderers.

2. If there was during the whole duration of the trial before Pilate an hour which for our Lord deserves to be named an hour of the most unparalleled anguish of soul, it was certainly that of His presentation before Herod. What the view into the depths of Herod’s soul must have been for the holy Searcher of hearts, and how much it must have cost Him to see the hand defiled with the blood of the Baptist stretched out caressingly towards Himself, of this we can have only a faint conception. But in the midst of this deep humiliation, in which He is, as it were, tossed like a football from the one impure hand to the other, there shines forth so much the more gloriously the majesty of His eloquent silence. Even the silent Jesus before Herod, doing no miracle, is Himself a sign that is spoken against, but that also awakens wonder. Comp. Luke 11:29-30.

3. The silent Jesus over against the laughing court, expiates the sins of the tongue, of vanity and of scoffing contempt, and the white garment of His humiliation is, although Herod presages it not, the prophecy of the shining garments of His glory. Revelation 1:13; Revelation 19:16.

4. The coalition between Herod and Pilate over against the suffering Lord is the prototype of many a shameful covenant which equally implacable enemies in former and later times have concluded, in order together to oppose the sect that is everywhere spoken against.3 Acts 28:22.—Unbelief and Superstition, Pharisaism and Sadduceeism, churchly Hierarchy and political Liberalism, Romanism and Republicanism, [Republicanism, in the meaning of this Continental divine, is doubtless synonymous with red Republicanism. Indeed, this is certain, as Dr. Van Oosterzee is a warm friend of our country.—C. C. S.] are by nature just such antipodes as Pilate and Herod, and yet, out of egoism, just as disposed to a temporary coalition, when the effort for self-preservation and the irreconcilable hatred towards living Christianity leads the way. In this respect also, the primitive history of the Passion remains a very fresh one, and the past the mirror of the present. [Seeing that, as far as there was any coalition at all between Pilate and Herod, its result was rather favorable to Jesus than the reverse, and certainly was not, on Pilate’s part, intended against Him, I can hardly see the exegetical justice of these remarks, although we know that they are sustained by a common proverb. Of the truth of the remarks concerning later coalitions against Christ, there is, of course, no doubt.—C. C. S.]


The false accusation against Jesus an involuntary eulogy upon Him.—The suffering of our Lord before Herod mentioned in the prayer of His first disciples, Acts 4:27-28.—The leading away of our Lord to Herod with its attendant circumstances a revelation of the adorable leading of God in reference to the suffering Saviour. In the beginning we see here: 1. Gloomy night, but soon; 2. a happy dawn; finally; 3. the breaking morning light.—The desire of Herod to see Jesus in contrast with the desire of other kings, Luke 10:23-24; John 8:56; John 12:21.—The Saviour in the palace of Herod: 1. Deeply humiliated; 2. severely tempted; 3. found entirely spotless.—The unbridled lust of wonders not nourished but repelled by our Lord.—The frivolity of the court in contrast with the solemnity of the Passion.—How Herod stands over against our Lord, and how our Lord stands over against Herod.—The many unprofitable questions with which even now our Lord and His gospel are besieged by so many who neglect the one question that is needful, Acts 16:30.—There comes a time in which our Lord at last gives no more answer at all to His adversaries.—There is a time to speak and a time to keep silence, Ecclesiastes 3:7.—The silence before Herod: 1. A wise; 2. a dignified; 3. an eloquent silence.—Jesus often keeps silence long, but—in order to speak yet once again.—“Answer not a fool according to his folly,” Proverbs 26:4.—Spiritual pride is filled with yet deeper enmity towards our Lord than worldly frivolousness.—The High-priest of the New Covenant also in the white garment, even like the High-priest of the Old Testament on each recurring great day of atonement.—Now as ever, false politics knows how to draw much advantage from the name and the cause of our Lord.—[As, for instance, in the pretensions of the European despots to be in a peculiar sense protectors of Christianity doing it thereby infinitely more damage than if they treated it with all the contempt of Herod.—C. C. S.]—The Lord brings the counsel of the heathen to nought, He maketh the devices of the people of none effect, Psalms 33:10-11.—He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment, Revelation 3:5.

Starke:—Quesnel:—The high ones in the world always want to be having a new spectacle and a new sensation to feed their eyes and mind.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—When people who have no religion want to inquire, talk, and dispute much about religion, it is best not to answer them, but to shame them with a humble silence.—To enter into talk with courtiers does more harm than good.—Ungodly teachers are Christ’s most implacable foes.—Envy is intensely zealous, but without understanding.—The children of the world take Christ for a puppet and amuse themselves therewith.—Great people’s friendship is like April weather,—no one can reckon upon it.—Heubner:—The history of Christ repeats itself in different periods of His church.—How many honest witnesses are charged with making uproars.—The great world often regard religious preaching as entertainment as diversion.—Not a few clergymen at court have been even merrymakers.—Never use thy gifts, intellect, wit, skill, to make laughter.—The friend of God should, in company, and even in the power of scoffers, maintain his dignity (like Haller before Voltaire).—Luther:—Every true Christian, if he preaches Christ aright, has his Herod and Pilate.—Rieger:—“Where the people have no ears to hear, there Jesus has no mouth to speak.”—Arndt:—Herod’s behavior towards Jesus: 1. His false expectation; 2. his great disappointment; 3. his ineffectual vengeance.—Krummacher:—Christ before Herod. this Passion Gospel shows us: 1. A mirror of the world; 2. a glowing sacrificial flame; 3. a glorifying of Jesus against the will of those that render it.—Besser:—A miracle had Herod expected to see of our Lord; he really saw one, but he comprehended it not. For a miracle of the love which traverses all the depths of Shame for us, which suffers itself to be arrayed in a white robe, that we might appear before the throne of God in white garments of honor, a miracle of this love is it indeed that our Lord withholds the curse which otherwise might have fallen upon His mockers, as upon the mocking children at Bethel, 2 Kings 2:24.—A. des Amorie van der Hoeven. Remonstrant, Professor at Amsterdam. † 1855.—Jesus before Herod the object: 1. Of indifference; 2. of idle curiosity; 3. of slander; 4. of scoffing; 5. of the policy of men.—Saurin:—Nouv. Serm. i. p. 239 seq.:—He perverteth the people.—Wolf:—Worldly wisdom as judge in Jesus’ case.—Palmer:—Three main forms of sin: 1. Ignominious servility in Pilate; 2. contemptible frivolity in Herod; 3. lying malice in the chief priests.

Luke 23:8; Luke 23:8.—On the authority of B., D., [Cod. Sin.,] K., L, M., the πολλά of the Recepta is omitted by Griesbach and others [Meyer, Tregelles, Alford.] The conjecture that it has been interpolated a seriore manu to strengthen the text, is sufficiently plausible.

[3]The flourishing condition of living Christianity in our country, renders it difficult for us to apprehend the literalness with which this ancient designation of Christ’s people can be used even now by one writing, like the author, in the midst of a kingdom deluged with Rationalism, in which those who are animated by a living faith are little more than a despised and disparaged ecclesiola in ecclesia.—C. C. S.]

Verses 13-25


(Parallel with Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; John 18:39-40.)

13And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth [turneth away] the people [i.e., from Cesar]; and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: 15No, nor yet [even4] Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is [has been] done unto [by] him. 16I will therefore chastise him, and release 17him. (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.5) 18And they cried out all at once [πανπληθεί], saying, Away6 with this man, and release unto us 19Barabbas: (Who7 for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was [hadbeen] cast into prison.) 20Pilate therefore, willing [wishing] to release Jesus, spake again to them. 21But they cried [against it, ἐπεφώνουν], saying, Crucify him, crucify him. 22And 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. 23And they were instant [urgent, ἐπέκειντο] with loud voices, requiring [demanding] that he might be crucified: and the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. 24And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required [their demand should go into effect]. 25And he released unto them [om., unto them8] him [the one] that for sedition and murder was [had been] cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.


Luke 23:13. And Pilate, when he had called together … the people.—It is not enough for Pilate to communicate his peculiar views merely to the Sanhedrists. He calls also the people together, the number of whom has considerably increased during the sending of our Lord back and forth, and who take a lively interest in the matter. He assembles them in order to communicate to them also his mind and will, which he wished to be regarded as definitive. He introduces his communication now by a more or less official address, in which the motives of the sentence to be uttered are stated. The judge sums up the acta before he declares them concluded. He comes back to the first charge (Luke 23:2), that this man perverts the people (ὡς�). On this charge he had heard Him in their presence. See Luke 23:3; comp. Matthew 27:12-14; Mark 15:3-5, which is not in conflict with John 18:38 seq. (De Wette, Meyer), if only we distinguish between the private interview and the public audience, of which latter Pilate here speaks. They see, therefore, that he has taken up the matter in earnest, but in direct opposition to their εὕρομεν, Luke 23:2, he is obliged to declare himself, for his part, to have found nothing which could be maintained before the secular judge, as legal ground of an accusation. Respecting the peculiar construction of this passage, see Meyer. Nay, not even Herod, who, as Tetrarch of Galilee, would yet undoubtedly have known if there had existed ground for a serious accusation, not even he has been able to discover anything tenable in their charge. On the contrary, they are both convinced that, whatever reports may have been circulated abroad, this man has, in fact, neither committed anything (πεπραγμένον) nor brought about anything that could be called criminal. After this introduction, there appears to be scarcely any other final judgment possible than a simple release, but—“hic cœpit nimium concedere Pilatus.” Bengel.

Luke 23:16. Chastise Him and release Him.—“Chastise.” Although the word “scourge” is not yet uttered, Pilate can scarcely have had any other chastisement in mind. He makes this proposition that he may not, on the one hand, too heavily load his own conscience, on the other hand, because he must not let the Jews go wholly unsatisfied. A light punishment of the kind, at all events, the enthusiast probably deserves in his eyes, who, harmless as He is for the Roman authority, has yet given Himself out for a King. The alleged confusion with John 19:1-4 (De Wette) is by no means real, but Luke in his summary notices, relates only a plan of the scourging, the execution of which the three other Evangelists relate. It is remarkable, moreover, how in the connection of the two words: Chastise and Release, Pilate begins already evidently to show either that he is disposed to do too much or too little. Hitherto he has done three good things: he began a careful investigation, he has made a solemn declaration of Jesus’ innocence, he has taken an admissible way to gain more particular information. The word “release” would set the crown on all this, if it were not that the illegal chastisement announced simultaneously with this prepared the way for three opposite measures, by which his weakness passes over into crime. A dishonoring comparison, a painful scourging, a mournful spectacle (Matthew 27:24) are the steps which make way for that most unrighteous judgment. Luke has only described the first.

Luke 23:17.For of necessity he must release one.—Although it is unquestionably possible that this verse was omitted quite early, because it appeared to be placed with more or less incorrectness, and interrupted the course of the narrative (De Wette), it is, however, more probable that it is not genuine. It is wanting in A., B., K., L., [retained by Cod. Sin., see notes on the text.—C. C. S.] Copt., Sahid., Vers., and is placed after Luke 23:19, by D., Æth., Cant., while, besides this, many variations appear in the details. It appears, therefore, after having seemed suspicious to Griesbach and Lachmann, to have been omitted with reason by Tischendorf, although the clause must be tolerably old, since it has found its way into by far the greatest number of manuscripts and versions. But, however this may be, the fact itself, namely, that the governor at the Passover was under obligation to release a prisoner, cannot be doubted, although the origin of this usage is veiled in obscurity. To us everything appears to favor the opinion that this had grown up rather on Jewish than on heathen soil. Even the expression of Pilate, ἔστι δὲ συνήθεια ὑμῖν, John 18:39, appears to point to the former; the connection of this custom with the Passover was far more likely to be a Jewish than a heathen idea. The coincidence with the Roman Lectisternia and [the Greek] Thesmophoria, which are referred to, is exceedingly slight, and it was much more in the spirit of the Roman policy to leave the inhabitants of a province in possession of a national privilege than to press on them a foreign benefit, especially when they had such an aversion to foreign manners as the Jews. They could the more easily assume to themselves the jus gladii if they still at least one day of the year, did not bestow, but left yet with the nation, a seemingly free disposal over life and death. And although the Scripture, no more than the Talmud, brings this usage into connection with the signification of the Passover, yet with a people who, like the Jewish, were accustomed to symbolical actions, this connection struck the eye at once. In this manner it is, at the same time, intelligible why the people attached so great a value to this their prerogative, Mark 15:6-8, that it was from them first that the demand proceeded, which gave Pilate occasion to the most dreadful comparison. Finally, this voice of the people furnishes one convincing proof the more, that to-day was really already the first day of the Passover, since the prayer would have come very much out of season if the feast had not yet had a beginning.

Luke 23:18. Away with this man.—Here, also, we first gain a clear conception of the fact, when we complement Luke from the other gospels. The wild cry αῖ̓ρε presupposes that our Lord already stands before the eyes of the multitude, together with the hideous Barabbas. But how matters had gone so far is described especially by Mark, while Matthew, by the narrative of the dream of Pilate’s wife, solves for the reader the difficulty how it had been possible that the people in so short a time could have been filled with so fanatical a fury. The short absence of the Procurator is used by the priests most energetically to work the people over to their mind, and very soon does the clue to this labyrinth slip out of Pilate’s hands.

Luke 23:19. Who for a certain sedition.—Respecting the character of Barabbas, see Lange on the parallel in Matthew. In all the gospels, but especially in Luke, Luke 23:19; Luke 23:25, there is expressed the deepest displeasure at the blindness and hardened temper of the Jews, who could make such a choice. An echo of this tone of righteous resentment we still hear in the declaration of Peter, Acts 3:14.

Luke 23:20. Spake again to them, προσεφώνησε, which is used, Acts 21:40, of a longer address, here, however, probably consisted only of a few words, and those not essentially different from the ones which are communicated to us a little before and a little later. In all this the good intention of Pilate cannot possibly be entirely lost sight of. His proposal had sprung from a laudable principle, had a laudable end in view, and appeared, at the same time, to offer for its accomplishment an exceedingly fitting means. In the persuasion that personal hatred impelled the chief priests, he seeks to win the voice of the people in favor of Jesus, and believes that he may expect nothing else than that the result will fully correspond to his wishes. But still his conduct remains worthy of reprobation, not only before the judgment-seat of strict righteousness, but even before that of wise considerateness. All the words with which he now, after this, seeks to conjure down the rising storm, signify little or nothing, because he does not yet come to the one act which he has already indicated as his purpose—ἀπολύσω!

Luke 23:21. Crucify Him, Crucify Him.—For the first time the terrible cry is here heard, which, as the secret wish and thought of the chief priests, is now by these placed upon the people’s lips, and with fanatical rage raised by these. According to John, Luke 18:40, they cry again, πάλιν: “Not this man but Barabbas” must be released, although the Evangelist has not mentioned a previous cry,—a new proof how admissible and necessary it is to complement the statements of the fourth Evangelist from the narratives of the Synoptics, which were familiar to him. This cry was the direct answer to the question which Matthew 27:22, and Mark 15:12, communicate.

Luke 23:22.The third time.—To Luke alone we owe the remarkable, and of itself probable, account, that the governor at this point of the trial raises for the third time his voice in favor of our Lord. No wonder, he feels that if he here gives way, the death of Jesus is as good as decided, and that all further endeavors which he might, perhaps, yet make for the discharge of his official duty, would, after this great concession, be fruitless. He repeats, therefore, essentially what he has already said, Luke 23:14; Luke 23:16, and assumes outwardly a demeanor so much the firmer the more he is inwardly beginning to waver.

Luke 23:23. And they.—It is as if the one word, “Release,” which he has once more ventured to utter, filled them with all the more furious rage. Now the chief priests also join in the impetuous cry of the raging people for blood. “Etiam decori immemores cum plebe clamabant.” Bengel. These voices obtain the upper hand, κατίσχυον. The same word which, Matthew 16:18, is used of the gates of hell over against the church.

Luke 23:24. And Pilate gave sentence, ἐπέκρινεν, 2Ma 4:47. In contrast with the provisional judgment which the Sanhedrim had already passed, the final judgment is here spoken of, without our, however, being required by Luke to understand a formally uttered sentence. On the contrary, the distinction in the demeanor of Pilate in reference to Barabbas and Jesus is not to be mistaken. The former—Luke, in righteous displeasure, does not even mention his name, but only discloses to us a view into the disgraceful history of Barabbas—he expressly releases: apparently the murderer is unfettered before his eyes, so that he after a few moments hastens free through the streets of Jerusalem. The other he delivers up, παρὲδωκεν, not by a solemn ibis ad crucem, but by simply letting go the weak hand with which he had hitherto vainly sought to protect the victim of priestly hate. Not to the will of the judge or the requirement of the law, but to the judgment of the people, τῷ θελήματι αὐτῶν, is the Prisoner surrendered. On this account, also, it is not even necessary to inquire into the genuineness of the old record of the sentence: Jesum Nazarenum, subversorem gentis, &c., which Adrichomius, Theatr. terrœ sanctœ, Colon.1593, p. 163, has, it is said, taken from old annals, and which Friedlieb, ad loc., communicates in a note entire.

Since we here have to do, not with the history of the Passion in general, but with the narrative which Luke has given us of the same, we also pass over the particulars which he does not communicate expressly. As respects, however, the sequence of the different scenes in the trial before Pilate, we believe that a correct harmony requires the following arrangement: 1. The Leading Away to Pilate, which Luke relates with its particulars; 2. The First Public (Synoptics), and immediately after that the First Private (John), Examination of our Lord by the Procurator; 3. More Vehement Accusation by the Jews after Pilate’s first declaration of innocence, followed then by the sending to Herod; 4. First Decision of Pilate, in which his wavering first becomes visible (Luke 23:13-16); 5. His proposal to select Barabbas or Jesus (all the Evangelists); 6 Delay by the communication of the dream of Pilate’s wife (Matthew), during which the people are persuaded over; 7. Decision of the question, “Barabbas or Jesus,” in favor of the former (all the Evangelists); 8. The Scourging, as the customary, yet not indispensably necessary, preliminary of crucifixion, which, however, according to Luke, is used as a measure of compromise, as well as in order, by presentation of the pitiably maltreated Prisoner, to dispose the people to compassion (John); 9. In consequence of this, the Crucifixion decidedly refused, and a new accusation brought up by the disappointed priests (John 19:6-7); 10. Further, but fruitless, endeavors even yet to deliver Jesus (John 19:6-12); 11. The Washing of Pilate’s hands (Matthew 27:24-25), which Matthew, in view of his objective representation of the Scourging as the preparation for Crucifixion (which it, considered a posteriori, in fact became), places before this maltreatment, but which, as evidently appears, has only sense and significance if we conceive it as a concluding act; finally, 12. The scene described in John 19:13-16, for which we may with more right assume a place after than before the washing of the hands (as is proposed by Sturm). Immediately after this, the Leading Away to Calvary, which Luke communicates most in detail.—It appears, therefore, that Luke 23:24-25 cannot be attached immediately to the choice of Barabbas, but is to be regarded as the concluding act of the trial before Pilate, some intervening scenes of which Luke has passed over. As to the actual point of time of our Lord’s Delivery to Crucifixion, which Luke also leaves unmentioned, comp. also Lange on Matt., ad loc., and on Mark 15:25. It is noticeable that Luke, with the exception of Luke 23:44, refrains in his account of the Passion from almost any attempt to give any particular notes of time.


1. By the unequivocal declaration of Pilate after our Lord’s return from Herod, not only did His innocence appear in the most brilliant manner, but it thereby, at the same time, became evident also how unreasonable the opinion of Christians and theologians was, who, like the older Deists and Rationalists, ventured to invent for our Lord political views. Pilate and Herod do not yet know anything of that which in the last century was hatched out by the Wolfenbüttel Fragmentist concerning this. Even the Jews are not able to destroy Him by political charges. They must immediately, John 19:7, proceed further to an accusation founded on religious grounds.

2. The sad observation how Pilate with every moment sinks deeper and deeper, gives us a powerful contribution to Anthropology and Hamartology; but at the same time, there is implied therein, not less than in the direct testimonies borne to the innocence of our Lord, a striking argument for the immaculate purity of Jesus. Soon, also, does it appear that weakness, as well as hatred, may mislead man to the most terrible crime. Pilate, who first only becomes Herod’s friend, will at last also remain Tiberius’ friend, and becomes therewith a confederate of the chief priests and of the people, nay, the accomplice of Caiaphas. Then how is the truth of the saying here proved: “He that is not with Me is against Me.”
3. In the transaction respecting the choice between Jesus and Barabbas, it appears very plainly how dangerous it is to let the popular voice decide upon the highest questions of life, upon truth and right. The history of the Passion raises a terrible protest against the familiar maxim: Vox populi, vox Dei; while, on the other hand, it powerfully confirms the truth of the poet’s sentence:—

Was ist Mehrheit? Mehrheit ist ein Unsinn,
Verstand ist stets bei Wen’gen nur gewesen;
Der Staat muss untergehn, früh oder spät,
Wo Mehrheit siegt und Unverstand entscheidet.

[What is majority? Majority is absurdity. Understanding has ever been with few only; the state must perish early or late, where majority prevails and folly decides.] In church history, also, we see how often ecclesiastical and political democracy have led to genuine Parabbas-choices. Compare the admirable dissertation by Ullmann, Die Geltung der Majoritäten in der Kirche, Hamburg, 1850.9

4. For the typical significance of that which here took place with Barabbas, the Mosaic law, Leviticus 16:6-10, must, in particular, be compared. The importance of this part of the history of the Passion is only comprehended perfectly when we find represented to the very sight therein, in historical symbols, the idea of representation, and behold in the released Barabbas the image of the sinner, who, in consequence of the death of this immaculately Holy One ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ, is acquitted of the guilt and punishment of sin. [The release of a murderer, without the slightest sign that he was changed for the better, is a rather equivocal type of the justification of the sinner.—C. C. S.] In this way, moreover, we learn also to understand the significance of the unshaken silence which our Lord in these awful moments of decision, during which He remains so entirely passive, maintains. It is here, in the full sense of the word, the silence of the Lamb of God, on whom the sins of the world were laid, Isaiah 53:6.

5. The choice between Jesus and Barabbas is the striking type of the choice which, through all the centuries, is proposed to mankind, the choice, namely, between life and death, between blessing and cursing, Genesis 2:16-17; Deuteronomy 30:18-19; Joshua 24:16, &c. The motives which here misled the people to so perverted a choice are the same as those which now, as ever, induce most of men to choose the appearance instead of the reality, and the curse instead of the blessing.

6. The moment of the popular choice between Jesus and Barabbas is the decisive moment, not only in the history of the Passion, but also in the history of Israel and the world, Romans 9:30-33.

7. “It is something yet other and worse to reject the Lord after He was there rejected, and first became the foundation of our salvation. These Jews had, at all events, at that time not yet rejected Him who in infinite love had ascended the cross for our redemption. Woe to the betrayers of the Crucified!”


In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established, 2 Corinthians 13:1, even where our Lord’s innocence is declared.—Whoever complains that Christ and the gospel pervert the world in a political respect, stands in principle even below Pilate and Herod.—Pilate the man who wishes to serve two masters.—The false lust of compromise condemned in the person of Pilate.—The mournful triumph of persistent wickedness over hesitating weakness.—Jesus over against Barabbas a picture of universal history.—The fatal choice of the Jews a primitive and yet eternally new history.—Whoever prefers sin to Christ, he chooses like them: 1. A robber instead of the wealthiest Distributor of grace; 2. a rebel instead of the King of peace; 3. a murderer instead of the Prince of life.—The choice of the service of the world instead of the service of Christ, how it: 1. Bears the same character; 2. betrays the same origin; 3. deserves the same judgment; 4. needs the same atonement, as the fatal choice of the Jews.—The fatal choice even yet, as then, a fruit: 1. Of heedlessness; 2. of misleading influence; 3. of weakness; 4. of the enmity of the flesh.—The inconstancy of popular favor and of human honor [There is no certainty that the masses who hung on Jesus’ lips as He taught were the same that here demanded His blood. There were surely men enough in Jerusalem to furnish crowds for this purpose, without of necessity involving one of those who had so recently heard Him with delight.—C. C. S.].—The cry of Crucify Him ! over against the Hosannas of the throngs.—The first cry for murder considered in reference: 1. To the judge who elicits it; 2. to the people that utter it; 3. to the Saviour who hears it; 4. to the Father who accepts it; 5. to the world which yet in all manner of forms repeats it.—“O, My people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee?” Micah 6:3.—The highest activity of the love of Christ in the midst of seemingly complete passivity.—The murder of Messiah the suicide of Israel.—Whither concessions and compromises may at last lead.—The blind policy of Pilate, who will: 1. Deliver our Lord by evil means; 2. give up our Lord to save himself.—Jesus: 1. Reckoned with the transgressors, Isaiah 53:12; Isaiah 2:0. humbled among the transgressors; 3. by that very means given up for transgressors, 2 Corinthians 5:21.—Jesus most deeply humiliated: 1. By comparison with a malefactor; 2. with a malefactor like Barabbas; 3. with a malefactor that, moreover, is preferred to Him.—The diverse departure of the Prince of life and of the murderer from Gabbatha.—The fearful defeat of wickedness even in a seeming victory.—For every man there appears, as once for Pilate, an hour when he must decide for or against Christ.

Starke:—Brentius:—Christ had to pass from one unrighteous judge to another; be content, my brother, if without cause the like of this befalleth thee, 1 Peter 2:21.—Cramer:—The gospel of Christ must be true, for the heathen, His enemies, testify of His innocence.—Christ’s innocence has given to the whole Passion the just weight before the judgment of God, Hebrews 7:26.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—Innocence at last breaks through all imputations.—Sinful and evil usages must not be furthered by the magistrate, but disregarded, especially when they take place on Sundays and feast days.—A malefactor who, according to God’s law, has deserved death, must be allowed right and judgment.—Unrighteous judgment of the world: the murderer shall live, the Prince of life die.—Canstein:—The world loveth her own, it is a den of murderers.—Human wisdom goes with the tide and is partial.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—Hatred and envy is something utterly devilish.—Of evil things, too, there are wont to be three, Luke 23:22 [an allusion to the German proverb, Aller guten dinge sind drei, “All good things go in threes.”—C. C S.]—“I will, I will,” is indeed the speech of godless people too, but woe to them if they rest satisfied therewith.—Where the people have more power than the government, there is a dish spoiled and a most unhappy state.—The world judges not according to right, but according to favor.—Osiander:—It is nature’s view of the world for the vicious to escape punishment and the innocent to be punished, Psalms 73:12.—Brentius:—The issue demonstrates ever how far human wisdom reaches, and what we can promise ourselves therefrom.—Arndt:—The choice between Jesus and Barabbas; 1. What determines Pilate to this choice; 2. on what rock it splits; 3. how it turns out for the salvation of the world.—Krummacher:—Pilate our advocate, who frees us from the threefold imputation of seditious tendencies, of senseless teachings, and exaggerated consolations.—Jesus and Barabbas, the great picture.—The release of Barabbas: 1. How this was effected; 2. how the joyful tidings was received on the part of Barabbas.—The conclusion of the process.—Tholuck:—The dreadful illusion which unbelieving Israel is under, inasmuch as it, instead of Jesus the Son of God chooses Jesus Barabbas; 2. which the unbelieving world is under, inasmuch as it, instead of Jesus the Son of God and man, chooses Jesus the child of man (Predigten, i. p. 127 seq., together with an appendix very well worth reading, p. 156). [Calmet has this statement: “Origen says that in many copies Barabbas is called Jesus likewise. The Armenian has the same reading: ‘Whom … will ye that I deliver unto you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ This gives additional spirit to the history, and well deserves notice.”—C. C. S.]—In Barabbas Pilate released the murderer of his soul; in the Lord Jesus he rejected the deliverer of his soul.

Luke 23:15; Luke 23:15.—The ἀλλ̓ οὺδέ implies that if even Herod, though well acquainted with the Jewish law, and, as the sovereign of the accused, especially solicitous that he might not be allowed to stir up the people against the Romans, Herod’s patrons, if even he could find no matter of complaint, the case might be looked upon as decided. Herod, it is true, does not appear to have instituted any formal inquiry, but Pilate is willing so to represent it, to support his intended release of the prisoner by Herod’s authority.—C. C. S.]

Luke 23:17; Luke 23:17.—Respecting the grounds on which the genuineness of this verse is doubtful, see Exegetical and Critical remarks. [Omitted by A., B., K., L.; retained by Cod. Sin. Omitted by Tischendorf, Meyer, Tregelles; bracketed by Lachmann; approved by Bleek; retained by Alford.—C. C. S.]

Luke 23:18; Luke 23:18.—Αῖ̓ρε “Make away with,” “E medio tolle.”—C. C. S.]

Luke 23:19; Luke 23:19.—Ὅστις ἧν, κ.τ.λ.,quippe qui as Meyer remarks, not equivalent to the simple qui, but, as ὅστις always denotes category, “a man of such a sort as to have been,” &c.; the form of the relative reflecting unconsciously the indignation of the Evangelist at so hideous a preference.—C. C. S.

Luke 23:25; Luke 23:25.—The αὐτοῖς, which Griesbach adds to the ἀπέλυσε, is from Matthew and Mark.

[9][A crime which was forced on a populace that, left to itself, would not have committed it, by a corrupt and implacable aristocracy, is a curious text for this diatribe against popular government. However, this, like all similar expressions of our author, must be judged in view of the dislike which he has to a democracy so deeply infected with infidelity as the European democracy, even though that infidelity is in no small measure owing to the tyrannies and frauds of priests and Most Christian kings. Dr. Van Oosterzee, however, has expressed his most unqualified sympathy with our national cause.—C. C. S.]

Verses 26-31

4. Calvary (Luke 23:26-43)


(Parallel with Matthew 27:31-32; Mark 15:20-22; John 19:16-17.)

26And 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. 27And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. 28But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. 29For, behold, the days are coming [there come days], in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps [breasts] which never gave suck [nourishment10]. 30Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. 31For if they do these things in a [on, or to, the] green tree [or, wood], what shall be done in [happen to] the dry?


Luke 23:26. And as they led Him away.—As respects the identity of the present via dolorosa (Haradell-Alahm) with the way of our Lord to the Cross, this is at least doubtful. It is about a league in length, starting from the prœtorium, inside the walls of the city, in a northwesterly direction as far as Mount Calvary, The actual way to the Cross was hardly so long, and appears also to have tended more southerly. The spuriousness at least of the so-called Stations, as, for instance, of the place from whence the train set out, where Simon of Cyrene met the Lord, where Mary sank down speechless, and heard a “Salve Mater” from His mouth, where Veronica handed Him the handkerchief, upon which immediately, in a miraculous way, the features of His countenance impressed themselves, &c., can hardly need any further mention, although, for instance, even Chateaubriand has defended their identity. Even Sepp, 3:536, no longer ventures to take these traditions under his protection, and Lamartine also allowed that he had found here stone-heaps of far later date. In reference to specialities of this sort, the admirable expression of Von Schubert holds good, Reise durch das Morgenland, ii. p. Luke 505: “Although it may be that here the childlike devotion of the natives, when it describes to us the individual features of the great picture, sometimes appears similar to a countryman whose cottage stands in the neighborhood of a battle-field, when he, not with the words of an experienced soldier, still less with the certainty of an eye-witness, relates to us what here and there took place upon the greatly-altered spots: still the relation will ever move us to deepest sympathy; for it is at all events an echo of that which his ancestors here really saw and experienced. There is now passing the sixteenth century since Constantine and Helena’s times, of those that have edified and spiritually refreshed themselves from the monuments of these mighty recollections.” Respecting, however, the identity of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre, see Lange, Matthew, p. 520, and the there cited authors, with whose results we on the whole can agree.

They laid hold of.—A more exact expression, ἀγγαρεύειν, is found in Matthew and Mark, a word which, with the exception of Matthew 5:41, is only found in this passage of the New Testament. That the idea of a military constraint is implied in it is certainly beyond question, wherein, it is true, in respect to the person of the one thus impressed, the form in which the impressment took place, and the occasion why precisely he was chosen in preference to all others, a wide field remains open to the fancy of exegetes for all manner of conjectures. The most important we find in Matthew, ad loc. Unless we assert that the notice of Mark, “father to Alexander and Rufus,” was written down without any purpose, then the conjecture is obvious that this meeting with our Lord became for Simon and his house an event of great importance, and the occasion of his afterwards bearing the Cross after Christ in a yet higher sense. In this case then, the King of the kingdom of God has, even on His way to the Cross, won a subject, and the well-known fiction of the Basilidians (of whom Epiphanius, Hœres. 24, 3, makes mention), that Simon died on the Cross instead of our Lord, acquires then a beautiful symbolical sense. Not in the place of our Lord, but in His fellowship, was, thus, not indeed his body, but his old sinful nature nailed with Jesus to the tree. Comp. Romans 6:0 and Matthew 16:24.

Coming out of the country.—“Belongs to the Synoptical traces of a working day.” Meyer. To this, however, the fact is opposed that we do not learn how distant this field [ἀπʼ ἀγροῦ] was from the city, and as little whether he had been working in the country, in which case it must not at the same time be left out of sight that a feast day with the Jews was by no means observed more strictly than the Sabbath; but, on the contrary, less strictly. Very justly, therefore, does Wieseler remark: “We Christians [He means, of course: “We Continental Christians.”—C. C. S.] easily mistake the true relation, by comparing the Jewish Sabbath with our Sunday, and then remembering that the feast days to us are holier, celebrated with more Sabbath rest than our common Sundays.” The name of the greatest Sabbath, Leviticus 16:31, [Shabbathon,] is among all the feast and memorial days only given to the great day of atonement; but on the remaining feasts this strict abstinence from all labor is not required as on every seventh day (comp. Leviticus 23:31 with Luke 23:7; Luke 23:21; Luke 23:25; Luke 23:35, where there is a careful distinction made between labor and servile labor). Even among the present Jews the greater holiness which the weekly Sabbath and the great day of atonement have above all other feasts is among other circumstances visible from this fact, that during the two first-named days, but not during the latter, mourning for the dead is suspended; that on the former they bury no corpses, but they do so on the latter, &c. We do not, accordingly, even hold it necessary for an explanation of the compulsory service imposed upon Simon of Cyrene to assume (Lange) that they were disposed therewith, regarding him as somewhat of a Sabbath breaker, to let him smart a little for it.

On him they laid the cross, ἐπέθηκαν … φέρειν ὄπισθεν τοῦ ʼΙησοῦ.—The general expression of Matthew and Mark, ̔ἵνα ἄρῃ τὸν σταυρόν must be explained according to this more precise one of Luke. It is no φέρειν ὑπέρ τοῦ ʼΙησοῦ, but ὄπισθεν, so that our Lord obtains, it is true, some lightening, but not a freeing from bearing the cross. The cross was bound with cords upon the shoulders, and it is hardly probable that they would have lost much time in unbinding it from our Saviour and laying it in His stead upon the back of Simon; it is, therefore, not an entire transfer of the cross that is spoken of, but only a bearing of it with Him, and particularly the hinder part; and if one should even assert that our Lord found His burden hereby much rather aggravated than relieved, since then the fore-part must have pressed so much the more heavily upon Him, it would only follow from this, as often, that the tender mercies of the wicked were cruel. As to the rest, we do not read in any of the Evangelists that our Saviour was about to sink under the load if just at the right time Simon had not supported Him. Here also the Saviour bears the heaviest part of the burden, while the (comparatively) lightest part rests on the shoulders of him who follows after Jesus.

Luke 23:27. Women, which also bewailed.—A beautiful trait of genuine humanity, which in the third Gospel is exactly in its place. As customary at public executions, so here also, a great crowd have streamed together, among whom there are also women from Jerusalem. Luke, in whose Gospel the most of the women who stood in connection with Jesus are described, relates to us also how their compassion strewed yet one last flower for our Lord upon His path, of thorns. This phenomenon was the more remarkable because it, at least according to a later Jewish tradition, was considered as entirely unlawful to bestow on a malefactor who was led to the place of punishment any proof whatever of compassion. These women have, however, been placed too high when they have been put on a level with the Galilean friends of our Lord, and again too low when it is asserted that they only showed traces of an entirely superficial sympathy, such as is brought up so easily at the view of any pitiable object. In the last case our Lord would assuredly never have deemed these women worthy of a particular address, and what, moreover, could there be against supposing that at least some were found among them who personally knew Jesus, who had been affected by His preaching, or who, by report, or by their own experience of His benefits, had become engaged in His favor? We do not need, therefore (Sepp), to understand high-minded matrons who had come to a work of love, and bore in their hands a wine drugged with myrrh (which was to be a composing draught for the Saviour). They have no myrrh wine, but tear-water, wherewith they moisten the way to the Cross; but the sincerity of their sympathy becomes for our Lord upon this sorrowful course a refreshment, and He who before a frivolous Herod has kept silence, gives now these sorrowing women to hear His powerful admonitions. It is the last connected discourse of our Lord of any length that is uttered on this occasion; afterwards we shall hear only single interrupted words before His death. Perhaps He uses thereto the moment of delay which the impressment of Simon had occasioned; in this case the difficulty at once disappears, “that at this moment we are hardly to presume a witness as present who could have caught up and related any words uttered by Jesus.” (Weisse). What our Lord had uttered with composed dignity and intelligibly enough, may very well have been related by a sufficient number of witnesses, and particularly by the women themselves to His disciples.

Luke 23:28. Daughters of Jerusalem.—Our Lord undoubtedly does not overlook the fact that the compassion of these women had not the three condemned in equal measure, but Himself personally as its object. Therefore, also, He does not say: “Weep not for us,”—the terrible equalizing of Him with two murderers is only to be made some minutes later by the hands of His executioners,—but “Weep not for Me,” and He directs their look from Himself to their own future by the touching words: “Weep for yourselves and your children.” The latter certainly not without direct allusion to the imprecation of the Jews, Matthew 27:25, whose fulfilment should come upon the children of these women also. Not to elicit new fruitless emotion, He now adds, not a Woe upon those with child, but a somewhat softer “Blessed” upon the unfruitful, not without a still retrospect, perhaps, to the “Blessed” which once a Galilean woman had uttered upon His mother, Luke 11:27; yet this prophecy of evil is not, therefore, the less terrible. He foretells days in which the highest blessing of marriage should be regarded as a curse, and on the other hand a sudden, even though a terrible death, as a benefit. Comp. Hosea 9:14; Hosea 10:8; Revelation 6:16. The moment of the outbreak of this desperate condition of things (ἄρξονται), which is here drawn entirely after life, can be no other than the point of time at the destruction of Jerusalem, when all hope of deliverance is cut off. It is worthy of note that our Lord now, after His condemnation, no longer warns against this catastrophe, but foretells it as unavoidably impending, without adding even the faintest intimation of any way whatever in which it could be escaped. The day of visitation for Jerusalem is now already passed; nor will our Lord, so near His end, at all assume the guise of being any longer concerned to deliver Himself or the people so as in any way in this moment to excite them even yet to believe on Him as the promised Messiah. The preaching of repentance becomes by this very fact so much the more tremendous.

Luke 23:31. For if they do these things to the green wood.—So long as the enemy at his incursion into a land spares the green wood, he will, perhaps, even refrain from destroying the dry; but if he does not even spare the fruitful, how should he not deny compassion to the unfruitful? The image, sufficiently intelligible of itself, is probably taken from Ezekiel 20:47, and places the fate of the innocent Saviour as a prophecy of evil over against that of the guilty Israel. We have here not the contrast between young and old (Bengel), and as little the continuation of the exclamation of the despairing women themselves, Luke 23:30 (Baumgarten-Crusius), who, he supposes, from the fate which comes upon themselves as guiltless, now make inference as to the lot of the guilty; but, on the other hand, a pathetic allusion of our Lord Himself to that which even now is coming upon Him, in which this is given to the women as the standard according to which they were to measure the fate impending over themselves. Comp. Jeremiah 49:12; Proverbs 11:31; 1 Peter 4:17-18. Εἰ ταῦτα ποιοῦσιν, He does not even say what, in order not to agitate the souls of the women yet more deeply; they were themselves to see it in the moments next succeeding; ποιοῦσιν, Impersonally; it designates neither the Jews nor the Romans alone, but is an indefinite expression of what is here to be accomplished by human hands.


1. The meeting of Simon the Cyrenian with the suffering Saviour is again one of the most striking proofs of a providentia specialissima, in which the history of His life and suffering is so incomparably rich. It was not merely for Simon himself, but also for our Lord of importance, since it prepares for Him a relief, even though a brief one, on the way to the cross. Simon Peter is not at hand, although he had promised to follow his Master even to death. But from the distant Cyrene must there another Simon appear to lighten the burdened course of the Lamb of God, on the way to the slaughter. The willingness with which Simon takes the burden forced upon him, renders for his character, perhaps for his awakening courage of faith, a favorable testimony. In the women also there is manifested a feeling for our Lord, which we, after all that hitherto had come to pass, should expect least of all in this hour. “Now already the first breezes of another temper begin to breathe; the harbingers of the courage of the cross are coming into view.” Lange.

2. The address of our Lord to the weeping women causes the light of His heavenly greatness to beam afar through the mists of the way to the cross in surprising wise. In an hour in which all presses in upon Him, and He might have had all occasion to think only of His own suffering, He wholly forgets this in order to occupy Himself only with the salvation of persons who yet really only exhibited for Him an inconsiderable sympathy. While the present with its whole weight rests upon Him, the future stands bright and clear before His unclouded spirit, and His eye already beholds the day that shall extort quite other tears. The feeling of His own innocence and dignity leaves Him not a moment. He knows and designates Himself as the green wood, in the same hour which He is about to end, nailed on the dry wood of shame. No word of bitterness against His murderers is mingled with the tones of love and compassion; even the fate of the children goes to His heart, upon whom their parents have recklessly called down the curse, and as if His own conflict were already endured, He will only have tears shed for Jerusalem’s fate. Thus does His prophetic character reveal itself in the same hour in which He goes to perform His High-priestly work, and He yet, as the Good Shepherd, seeks that which is lost, while He is already on the way to give His life for the sheep.
3. The difference between this leading away of our Lord and the entry which had only taken place five days before. The place which Calvary occupies as a link in the chain of those mountain-tops which are remarkable in the life of our Lord. An admirable representation of the Cross-bearing Christ, by Ary Scheffer. Another, the Moment Before the Crucifixion, by Steuber.
4. “God’s wrath is harder to bear than Christ’s Cross.” Rieger.


Compare here and in the following divisions the Homiletical Hints on the parallels in Matthew and Mark.

The leading away to Calvary: 1. The Victim of wickedness led by the hands of men; 2. the atoning sacrifice of the world led by the hand of the Father to the slaughter.—The Via Dolorosa: 1. How far the Saviour alone treads it; 2. how far His disciples must continually tread the same in the following of Him.—The way of the cross: 1. Strown with the thorns of malice; 2. moistened with the tears of compassion; 3. illuminated by the light of the greatness of Jesus; 4. ended by the hill of death.—The Christian’s cross-bearing in following Jesus, like that of Simon, a work which is performed: 1. Seldom voluntarily; 2. best with resignation; 3. never without reward.—How our Lord now, with His cross-bearing disciples, has taken upon Himself the work of Simon the Cyrenian.—Not a single woman in the whole Evangelical history is hostilely disposed towards our Lord.—The great contrast between superficial feeling for, and living faith in, the Saviour.—“Weep not for Me.”—How much value is to be laid upon emotions such as are not seldom awakened in the hearers by a sermon on the Passion.—The view of the cross-bearing Christ calls us to weep for ourselves: 1. Such a suffering have human hands prepared for the most innocent and the holiest One; 2. such a sacrifice was requisite for the atonement of our sins also; 3. such a grace is even yet vainly proclaimed to many—and should we not weep over all this?—The fearful punishment of the rejection of Christ: 1. Foreseen with infallible certainty; 2. fulfilled with terrible severity; 3. held up for an example for all Christian nations who do not honor God’s Anointed.—Faith or despair; no other choice.—How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation! Heb. 2:23.

Starke:—God knows the cross-bearers most perfectly.—The greatest and most splendid cities have often the fewest to bear the Lord Jesus’ cross after Him; small places are before them in it.—Canstein:—It is to be reckoned among the hidden benefits when God, through others, against our own will causes the cross to be imposed on us which we do not like to bear, and which, yet, is so good for us.—Rather help thy neighbor to bear his burden than make it heavier, Galatians 6:2.—All true Christians are cross-bearers.—At the Passion of Jesus the disciples, though men, become women, and the women become men.—Cramer:—The right way to consider Christ’s Passion begins thus: that we, with our children, bewail ourselves and our sins.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—We commonly lament most what we should lament least, and least what we should lament most, Joel 2:12; Psalms 119:36.—To have no children is in many circumstances happier than to have children.—The wrath of God, when it breaks out, is unendurable, Hebrews 10:31.—The righteousness of God must be satisfied; if He did not spare His own innocent Son, how much less will He spare an impenitent sinner.—Heubner:—Such lamentation, Luke 23:27, is itself a fulfilment of the prophecy, Zechariah 12:10-14.—Christ restraining the weeping ones proved His own high dignity.—The Passion of Christ is the most solemn warning for the impenitent.—Paternal and maternal love—the thought of the future fate of their children should move parents to repentance.—For every blinded sinner there will come a day when he shall curse his life.—Luke 23:31 by no means in conflict with the Evangelical doctrine of Atonement.—Arndt:—Jesus’ death-journey to Calvary.—F. W. Krummacher:—Simon the Cyrenian: 1. The Lord Jesus with the cross of the sinner; 2. the sinner with the cross of the Lord Jesus.—The daughters of Jerusalem.—Besser:—And He bore His cross. The two thieves also bore their crosses, for such was the manner; but He has borne a heavier one than they, outwardly and inwardly.—W. Hofacker:—The solemn death-journey of Christ to Calvary: 1. As a mirror of wholesome doctrines; 2. as a mine of peaceful consolation; 3. as a ground of obligation to willing following; 4. as a warning picture against guilt and its account.—Hagenbach:—What temper of mind the celebration of the death of Jesus should awaken in us.

Luke 23:29; Luke 23:29.—Rec.: ἐθήλασαν. apparently an interpretamentum of the original ἔθρεψαν, which Lachmann and Tischendorf, [Meyer, Tregelles, Alford] read, on the ground of B., [Cod. Sin.,] C.1 and 2, D., L., [C.2, D. having ἐξέθρ.] 4 Cursives, [Versions. It is almost needless to say that ἐθήλ. might very easily be substituted for ἔθρεψ., but ἔθρεψ. we may be sure was never substituted for ἐθήλασαν.—C. C. S.]

Verses 32-38

b. JESUS ON THE CROSS (Luke 23:32-38)

(Parallel with Matthew 27:33-44; Mark 15:22-32; John 19:18-24.)

32And there were also two others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. 33And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary [A skull], there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. 34Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.11 And they parted his raiment [clothing], and cast lots. 35And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them [om., with them12] derided [ἐξεμυκτήριζον] him, saying, Hebrews 3:0; Hebrews 3:06saved others; let him save himself, if he [if this] be Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 37And saying, If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself. 38And a superscription also was written over him [And there was also a superscription over him13] in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew [om., in … Hebrew, V. O.14], THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.


Calvary, κρανίον, Greek translation of the Hebrew Golgotha. Respecting the probable ground of this appellation, as well as respecting the whole locality, see Lange, Matthew, p. 520, where, moreover, respecting the Crucifixion itself, the necessary information is found. As respects the question about the nailing of the feet, there is, without doubt, not a little to be brought forward for it as well as against it that is worthy of serious consideration; yet the grounds for it appear to us to be by far the stronger. The first rank here is taken by the testimony of Justin Martyr, c. Tryph., Luke 97, and Tertullian, Adv. Marc. iii.19. As to the latter, especially, we can scarcely conceive how he, after the interpretation of the words, Psalms 22:16, as applying to our Lord’s death on the cross, should have written: quœ propria atrocitas crucis, if he had not found the peculiar cruelty of this capital punishment in this very particular, that both the hands and the feet were pierced. The well-known drama, Χριστὸς πάσχων, also, which is ascribed to Gregory of Nazianzen, represents it so, and retains its value as proof, even if its spuriousness were demonstrated. In the common Martyrologies, the nailing of the feet as well as the hands is always either presupposed or described, and is at the same time strongly supported by the testimony of Cyprian, Hilary, Eusebius, Athanasius, and others. That the familiar passage in Plautus, Mostellaria, ii. 1, 13, concerning one condemned to crucifixion: bis affigantur pedes, bis brachia, indicates an unusual cruelty, has been indeed said, but not yet proved. That, moreover, the conception of feet nailed through lies at the basis of Luke 24:39 can hardly be disputed. But especially the declaration of Thomas must also be brought into consideration, John 20:25, “Except I shall see the print of the nails and put my finger into the print of the nails,” &c. Unless we will assume that Thomas wished a double certainty in respect to the same marks of the nails, so that he wished first to see them, and then, besides that, to touch them, we shall, it seems, be obliged to explain his words thus: that he first wishes to see in the hands of our Lord the marks of the nails, and after that, bending himself to the earth, wishes to lay his finger in the nail prints of the feet, and, finally, lay his whole hand in the side; so vanishes at the same time every appearance of a tautology and of an incorrigible unbelief, and it then appears that Thomas also may be reckoned among the witnesses for the nailing of the feet.

Luke 23:34. Father, forgive them.—The first of the seven words on the cross, of which Luke alone has preserved three for us. The genuineness of this prayer is, it is true, not beyond all controversy, but yet it is above every reasonable doubt. It is lacking in B., D.1, 38, Sahid., It., &c. [found in Cod. Sin.], while other manuscripts also have individual variations. Since, however, the words themselves bear an indelible stamp of genuineness and inward sublimity, it seems that the omission of them must be explained from an exaggerated craving to establish the harmony of the Synoptics at any cost. As respects the sense of the words, it is undoubtedly a question whom the Lord meant by the ἄφες αὐτοῖς, and in reply to this question, it is certainly not admissible to say (Gerlach): “This intercession Jesus made not for the soldiers who fastened Him to the cross,” but yet more arbitrary is it to limit the reference of this prayer exclusively to the four men who carried out the sentence of death (Euthymius, Paulus, Kuinoel, and others), since our Lord may indeed primarily, but can by no means exclusively, have had these in mind. Without doubt He comprehends here both the executioners and the authors of His death, the heathen, with their Procurator, the Jews, with their High-priest, in one prayer together. Of all these, even of the most implacable among them, it could in a certain sense be said, as indeed the first witnesses of Jesus afterwards said (Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:8), that with their wickedness there was united a high degree of blindness, but this blindness, which a strict righteousness might have been able to reckon to them as their own guilt, since it had by no means arisen without their concurrence (John 15:22-25), the inventiveness of love makes the very ground of the intercession for grace to the guilty. Nay, inasmuch as our Lord, in the Jews who caused His death, beheld merely the representatives of the whole of sinful mankind, we may say that He with these words, by implication, commended this race of men itself, which was the author of His Passion on the cross, to the Father’s compassion. To-day He does what He in His intercessory prayer had not expressly done, John 17:9. How such a prayer, which was probably uttered during the terrible act of the affixing to the cross (τί ποιοῦσιν), is most peculiarly in the spirit of the third, the Pauline, gospel scarcely needs remark.

And cast lots.—The partition of the garments Luke mentions only with a single word, as he also passes over, as well as Mark, the remarkable citation from Psalms 22:0 which Matthew and John have added to their account. It is as though he, instead of this, wished to bring into view a feature which is also in the same Psalm so powerfully set forth (Psalms 22:17), namely, the unfeeling staring upon the incomparable Sufferer by an indifferent and hostile crowd.—And the people stood beholding.—A contrast to the just uttered prayer of the Lord, which is so great and terrible that it could only appear in the unexampled reality of the Passion; Luke therewith does not deny that the people scoffed (Meyer), but he only passes over this in order to direct attention to the scoffing of the rulers, who appear somewhat later, but in connection with the people. It appears that the standing and beholding must be limited to the moment of the affixing to the cross and the one immediately subsequent. It lies, however, in the nature of the case that such a status quo in so great a throng at such a moment could not possibly have lasted long. Perhaps it was the ἄρχοντες. whom Luke specially mentions, that led on the crowd with evil example. Our gospel, however, here also takes less strict account of the sequence of the different stages than Matthew and Mark.

Luke 23:35. And the rulers also.—If καί is genuine (see Meyer, ad loc.), then there is indirectly implied in this itself, that the rulers in this respect were by no means alone.—Divided.—Comp. Luke 16:14. In Luke also they speak of our Lord in the third person, while the passers-by (Matthew and Mark), calling out to Him with their mocking speeches, address Him directly in the second person. Here also they involuntarily proclaim the Saviour’s eulogy, inasmuch as they acknowledge, “He saved others”; but, at the same time, tempt our Lord therewith, inasmuch as they will seduce Him to leave the ignominious tree. Might it be possible that even yet a trace of earthly-minded expectation expresses itself in their words? Could it be possible that even yet some one might have conceived the possibility that the Crucified One might even yet reveal His miraculous might for His own deliverance? After He is now gone so far, and has silently endured all, we can scarcely suppose that they wished and expected the realization of a condition, upon the fulfilment of which they pretend that even now they are willing to believe in Him. As little does it admit of proof that they here designedly took the words of the 22d Psalm into their mouths. That which awakens astonishment in this one great spectacle is precisely this, that they themselves, without wishing or willing it, must attest the greatness of Him whom they are most deeply outraging. The insolence of one sharpens the biting wit of others, and there arises a contest which of them can utter the most outrageous words of blasphemy. Luke is the only one who communicates to us the fact that the soldiers also took part in the mocking, which the example of the chief priests had excited. They leave their previous composed demeanor, drink to Him in soldier’s style, and while they appropriate to themselves the words of the chief priests quite as eagerly and willingly as they had previously done the garments of the Condemned, they exclaim, not without bitterness towards despised Judaism: If thou, &c. This psychologically probable account could be called a misunderstanding of Matthew 27:48 (De Wette) only if we read that they at the same time had refreshed our Lord, and, therefore, more or less mitigated His suffering. But of a reed, by means of which the draught would have been really brought to the lips of Jesus, the narrative says nothing, but we have rather to conceive the case thus: that they, holding forth to Him the vinegar at a certain distance (προςφέροντες), jestingly drink to Him, and, therefore, even by the exhibition of the scanty refreshment, increase His bodily suffering.

Luke 23:38. A superscription.—That Luke reckons this also among the mockeries (De Wette) we could hardly assert. We are rather disposed to conjecture that this superscription, as to which he, perhaps, would otherwise have kept silence, is here given by him subsequently, in order therewith to give the reason for which the soldiers also, and that in such a way, took part in the scoffings. The superscription itself gave them occasion to throw now with ignominy before the feet of our Lord the royal name which they so pompously displayed above His head. Respecting the custom itself of putting such a superscription over crosses, see Wetstein and Lange on Matthew 27:37. The diversity in the statements of the superscription is sufficiently explained from the fact that in the original languages it had a somewhat different form. In the Latin, for instance, Rex Judœorum, which Mark renders literally for his readers in Rome, In Greek, ΟΥΤΟΣ ΕΣΤΙΝ Ο ΒΑΣΙΛ. ΤΩΝ ΙΟΥΔΑΙΩΝ, which is reported almost without alteration by Matthew and Luke. In John, finally, the literal translation of the original Hebrew superscription appears to be communicated to us. According to all, it contains no accusation, but simply a title, the purpose of which is not so much to insult the Crucified Himself, as in particular the Jewish nation, as is clear at the first glance.


1. The sublime simplicity with which all the Evangelists delineate the unexampled fact of the crucifixion of Jesus, without in any way mingling with it their subjective experiences and feelings, is one of the most striking proofs of the credibility of this part, also, of the sacred history; the farther we press into the sanctuary the more impossible does it become to us to utter the word “Invention” or “Myth” even in thought. From the very beginning of the statement of the coming to Calvary, everything is avoided that could have even the least appearance of the romantic or tragic. Much genius has been shown in endeavoring to fill up this seeming hiatus with legends of Veronica, of the Wandering Jew, &c.
2. The crucifixion of our Lord is the realization of that obscure presentiment of heathenism which Plato had already uttered, De Republica, ii., when he makes Glaucus say to Socrates that the perfectly righteous man, if he appeared among men, would certainly be beaten, scourged, tortured, and when he should have endured all this, would be crucified (ἀνασχινδυλευθήσεται). Also the end and the crown of the Typics of the Old Covenant, and of the prophecy of the Messianic Passion, Isaiah 53:0; Psalms 22:0, which last is no direct prophecy of that which went into fulfilment upon Calvary, but a typical symbolical picture, in which David describes his own sufferings, yet, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in exactly such forms and colors as, although to him entirely unconsciously, yet, a posteriori, became a perfectly exact description of that one whole unique and unexampled event, which took place upon and around Calvary.

3. Not without reason have the words of our Lord on the cross been reckoned among His most precious legacies. The first, preserved to us by Luke exclusively, is, at the same time, the most generally loved. In itself indescribably striking, it is so yet more through the circumstances of the time at which it was uttered, and through the contrast with the demeanor of the people who stood there beholding. It is, at the same time, the best commentary on the sublimest precept of the Evangelical ethics, and an unequivocal proof of the majesty of our Lord in the midst of His deepest humiliation; the worthy conclusion of His earthly, and the striking symbol of His heavenly, life [“There for sinners Thou art pleading,” &c.] Even before Him there was no lack of saints who prayed for the wicked, nay, for their enemies (Abraham, Jeremiah, and others), and after Him His example has not seldom been followed in the most surprising degree (Stephen, James the Just, Huss, H. V. Zütphen, and others). Of His predecessors, however, no one has reached the ideal height to which His love has here raised itself, and it is only through His might that His followers have learned so to pray and forgive. The enforcing of this prayer by reference to the ignorance of His enemies would only have arisen in His loving heart But more strongly yet than through this pathetic “They know not what they do,” was the prayer, without doubt, supported in the Father’s view by the blood which in the utterance of this prayer was drunk by the earth on Calvary, a blood that spoke better things than the blood of Abel. And it was, moreover, heard, as is plainly attested by the renewed preaching of the gospel to the Jews at Jerusalem, the conversion of so many thousands, and the continuous work of grace on Israel. For us who read it, it is a new proof of His love and greatness, a proof of such kind as does not occur again, even in our Lord’s own history, and, at the same time, a reminder of that feature of the prophetic portraiture of the Passion which we read, Isaiah 53:12 : “He made intercession for the transgressors.” Compare, respecting this and the following words on the cross, Dr. G. J. Vinke, Dissert. Theol. de Christi e cruce pendentis vocibus, Traj. ad Rhen. 1846.

4. From a doctrinal point of view, the first word on the cross is peculiarly important, because it points us to the natural connection that exists between the pardonableness of a sin and the ignorance of the sinner. It is here plainly expressed that if one knows perfectly what he does, all hope of forgiveness falls away, since the capability of receiving it, remorse and repentance, is lacking. On the other hand, we are not to forget that in almost every sin there is a minimum of ignorance present, which may be accounted as a lessening of the guilt, nay, that the blindness, however self-caused, becomes the greater in the degree in which the bondage of sin increases in duration and obstinacy. However, here, before all, it must not be forgotten that all which must be weighed and brought up for the diminution of the guilt of others cannot, on that account, serve as a mantle with which we can cover and excuse our own sins. With entire justice, therefore, does J. Muller, Lehre von der Sünde, i. p. 239, say, in reference to the sin of the first rejectors of our Lord: “If their not knowing removed their guilt, they did not need forgiveness; if it did not diminish their guilt, the prayer for forgiveness could not have used it as a motive for forgiveness.”

5. The mocking on the cross by four different classes of men was not only a dreadful revelation of the might of darkness, but for our Lord, at the same time, the last return of the Temptation in the Wilderness, Luke 4:9-11.

6. In the midst of the deepest humiliation, God provides that the royal dignity of His Son shall be proclaimed by the superscription over the cross. Notwithstanding the urgent entreaties of the Jews, not a jot nor a tittle may be altered therein; in three different languages—in the language of the empire, of culture, of nationality—there stands there on the cross for thousands to read, the shame of Israel and the glory of Jesus. In view of such a concurrence of circumstances, it is easy to comprehend that some fathers of the church were of the view that Pilate had ordered and maintained this superscription divinitus inspiratus, in order in this way to help fulfil the prophetic word, Psalms 2:6. To us, at all events, this little trait of the history of the Passion remains a palpable proof of the truth of the other prophetic word, Isaiah 46:10.

7. The sacred narrative in the account of the Partition of the Garments might well have deserved a better fate than to have given occasion for the most wretched superstition and priestcraft of later ages. The legends about the garments, especially about the seamless coat, of our Lord, cannot be here all given, but only be rejected with a word. Compare the writings of Dr. J. Gildemeister and H. V. Seibel, “The holy coat of Treves and the twenty other holy seamless coats,” Düsseldorf, 1844; and “The advocates of the coat of Treves brought to silence,” 1845.

8. We can also indicate with only a word what the poetry and painting of the church have done for the glorifying of this bloody scene of the Passion. Compare the beautiful hymn: Vexilla regis prodeunt; the Stabat Mater [Exquisite in poetry, but so unhappily and deeply defiled by Mariolatry.—C. C. S.], the Impropera, the Miserere of Allegri, the famous paintings of Poussin, Gué, and innumerable others. Comp. Staudenmeyer, l. c. p. 440 seq.


Jesus has, as the true Sin-offering, suffered without the gate, Hebrews 13:11-12.—Jesus reckoned among the transgressors; this word considered in the light of the history of the Crucifixion of our Lord, points us: 1. To Israel’s shame; 2. to Jesus, glory; 3. to the Father’s counsel; 4. to the Christian’s boast; 5. to the world’s hope.—To whom do we in our own eyes belong—to the transgressor who deserved what He suffered, or to those justified through His blood and reconciled with God?—The Lord of glory upon the summit of shame, the Prince of life among the murderers.—The high value of our Lord’s words on the cross for His dearly-purchased church.—How each single word of the first utterance on the cross is a new pearl in the shining crown of our Lord: 1. He prays in the hour of crucifixion; 2. He prays to God as to His Father; 3. He prays in this hour for others; 4. for enemies; 5. with most urgent importunity; 6. with the richest result.—Not the murder of the Messiah in itself, but the continued and obstinate rejection of the apostolical preaching, the ultimate cause why Israel has obtained not pardon but punishment.—Here is more than Elijah, 2 Kings 1:10.—Oravit misericordia, ut oraret miseria, Augustine.—The first prayer of our Lord on the cross an entirely unique prayer: 1. Unique in its sublimity, a. For whom prays He? b. When? c. What? 2. unique in its significance; this prayer is, a. the crown of His earthly life, b. the consecration of His cross, c. the image of His heavenly activity; 3. unique in its power, it serves, a. to our humiliation, b. to our consolation, c. to our sanctification.—Jesus on the cross the Intercessor for His enemies and the example for His friends.—The glorified Jesus the object: 1. Of frivolous covetousness (the lot-casting soldiers); 2. of cold indifference (the beholding people); 3. of cowardly mocking (the insulting rulers).—The mocking upon Calvary the crucifixion of the heart of Jesus.—How with the mocking at the cross everything reaches the highest culmination: 1. The sin; 2. the suffering; 3. the grace of God who surrenders His Son into the extreme of misery.—Jesus foes, even when they curse, are involuntarily constrained to bless.—God’s way in the sanctuary, Habakkuk 2:20. We see upon Calvary a God: 1. Who keeps silence; 2. who rules; 3. who thus reconciles the world unto Himself.—Jesus on the cross tempted once again, yet without sin, Hebrews 4:15.—The Christian crucified with Christ must also often yet hear this tempting voice and repel it.—“The world loves to blacken that which shines” [Es liebt die Welt, das Strahlende zu schwärzen].—The different degrees of wickedness in those who mock alike.—The superscription on the cross a speaking proof of the adorable providence of God. It proclaims: 1. The innocence; 2. the dignity; 3. the destiny of the crucified Christ.—This superscription: 1. Written in three languages; 2. read by the Jews; 3. unchanged and unchangeable.—What does the superscription on the cross testify: 1. Concerning God; 2. concerning man; 3. concerning Christ; 4. concerning the way of redemption; 5. concerning the hope of the future.—This superscription: 1. Was read by all; thou surely wilt not go unheeding by? 2. it was offensive to many; thou surely wouldst for all that not alter anything therein? 3. one man has stubbornly maintained it (Pilate); thou surely wilt not let it be taken from thee?

Starke:—Osiander:—Christ has been willing to be reckoned among the transgressors, that we might come into the number of the children of God.—This is, so to speak, the supreme masterpiece of the Mediator, that He knows how to make an intercession out of that of which others would have made an accusation.—The best we can entreat for ourselves and others is forgiveness of sins.—It is equitable to have more compassion on those that sin ignorantly than on those that sin maliciously.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—The crucified Jesus to the Jews a stumbling-block, to the Greeks foolishness, but to us, &c., 1 Corinthians 1:23-24.—It is a terrible sin to give occasion for the name of God and Jesus to be blasphemed among the heathen, Romans 2:24.—All languages and tongues have a share in Jesus the King.—Heubner:—Christ prays for all the authors of all His sufferings.—The most glorious hearing of the prayer of Jesus is yet reserved in the future conversion of Israel.—If Jesus then prayed for His enemies, He will now continue to pray also for penitents and believers.—Arndt:—The superscription over the cross.—The partition of the garments:—Krummacher:—The Crucifixion: 1. Jesus’ arrival at His death-mount; 2. the act of crucifixion: 3. the erected cross. The Partition: 1. The Testator; 2. His bequest; 3. the heirs. The Superscription: Jesus on the cross a King: 1. His majesty: 2. His victory; 3. the founding of His kingdom; 4. His judgments; 5. His government.—“Father, forgive”: 1. Contents of the prayer; 2. grounds justifying it; 3. limits within which it finds acceptance.—Van Oosterzee:—The crucifixion a union without compare: 1. Of triumph and baseness; 2. of ignominy and majesty: 3. of caprice and providence; 4. of condemnation and acquittal; 5. of earth and heaven. In conclusion, the double question: Belongest thou to those who crucify Christ afresh, or to those who in truth are crucified with Christ?—Vinet:—Les complices de la crucification du Seigneur.—J. Saurin:—Nouv. Disc. i. p. 365, sur la prière de Jésus Christ pour ses bourreaux.—W. Hofacker, l. c. p. Luke 311:—The magnificent sunset of the life of Jesus Christ on Calvary.—The world-atoning death of Christ in its mighty working.—The words on the cross: Septem folia semper viventia, quœ vitis nostra, cum in crucem elevata fuit, emisit. Bernard. The first: res miranda, Judœi clamant: crucifige, Christus clamat: ignosce. Magna illorum iniquitas, sed major tua, o Domine, pietas. Idem.—Schleiermacher, Pred. ii. p. 436 seq.:—The mystery of redemption in connection with sin and ignorance: 1. The redeeming suffering of Jesus was a work of ignorance; 2. but the redemption which proceeds from Him, the farther it goes, abolishes so much more the excuse: “They know not what they do.”—Tholuck:—The intercession: 1. The thought of the Redeemer at this word; 2. the thoughts which it must call forth in us.—Nitzsch:—The execution of Jesus in its connection with other works of the world and of the temper of the world.—Palmer:—Christ between the malefactors.—For further citations, see Lange on the parallels.

Luke 23:34; Luke 23:34.—See Exegetical and Critical remarks.

Luke 23:35; Luke 23:35.—The σὺν αὐτοῖς of the Recepta is wanting in B., C., D., [Cod. sin.,] L., Q., X., &c., and is therefore rightly rejected by Tischendorf. [Received again in his 7th ed.—C.C.S.] It appears to have been added to avoid its seeming as if the rulers alone had mocked, since, according to the parallels, the people mocked also. [Lachmann brackets the words. Meyer, Tregelles, Alford omit them.—C. C. S.]

Luke 23:38; Luke 23:38.—The Γεγραμμένη of the Recepta is in all probability spurious, as well as superfluous. See Tischendorf, ad locum. [Om., B., L., Cod. Sin.—C. C. S.]

Luke 23:38; Luke 23:38.—Van Oosterzee in omitting the clause, “in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew,” follows Tischendorf, with whom Meyer, Tregelles also agree. Lachmann, followed by Alford, brackets it. The omission rests upon the authority of B., C.1, L., some Versions. Cod. Sin. has it with the rest of the uncials, and apparently all the Cursives. Tischendorf and Meyer regard it as a very ancient interpolation from John 19:19-20. But Alford pertinently asks why it should not have been equally interpolated into Matthew and Mark, and why the interpolation should vary so much in language from its source. There are some variations in the copies of Luke, but only such as can be naturally accounted for.—C. C. S.]

Verses 39-43

c. THE PENITENT THIEF (Luke 23:39-43)

39And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ [Art not thou the Christ?15], save thyself and us. 40But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not [even16] thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41And we indeed justly; for we receive [are receiving17] the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42And he said unto Jesus, Lord, [he said, Jesus, remember, V. O.18] remember me when thou comest into [in] thy kingdom. 43And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.


Luke 23:39. And one of the malefactors which were hanged.—According to Matthew 27:44, and Mark 15:32, our Lord is mocked by both robbers; according to Luke, only by one. The different harmonistic attempts to remove here all appearance of contradiction are familiar. See Lange, Matthew, p. 525. The view of Lange, that we must make a distinction between ὀνειδίζειν and βλασφημεῖν in the following manner, namely, that the latter could be said only of the impenitent, the former also, on the other hand, of the better-minded robber, who had begun as well as his fellow to urge our Lord to leave the cross, but had soon given up this earthly-minded expectation—this view diminishes the difficulty without doubt, but yet does not wholly remove it. For even in this way the psychological objection cannot be refuted as to how so sudden a conversion could all at once have arisen in the soul of the penitent thief, and as to whether it is not in contradiction to the nature of an unfeigned conversion, when the penitent begins his conversion with rebuking a fellow-sinner on account of an act which he himself had only a few moments before been committing. We rather assume (Ebrard), that Matthew and Mark express themselves indefinitely; that they meant only to give the genus, but not the number of the last class of the scoffers, and that it was reserved for Luke to instruct us more fully about a particular which, in the Pauline Gospel of justification by free grace, is so very peculiarly in its place.

Luke 23:40. Dost not even thou fear God?—It is not, therefore, the blaspheming of Jesus in itself which gives occasion for this outspoken rebuke, but the frivolous forgetfulness of God, the lack of the fear of God which manifests itself in the words of a man who is now suffering the same punishment with Jesus, whom he blasphemes, and who, therefore, now at least ought to have exhibited a more serious temper. But now the powerful antithesis with this word: ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ κρίματι, comes before his awakening consciousness of faith, and he expresses, as strongly as possible, the heaven-wide distinction which exists between the Saviour and the companions of His fate.

Luke 23:41. And we indeed justly, sc. ἐν τῷ κρίματι ἐσμεν.—He knows himself to be before God a man as guilty as the companion of his fate, although he censures his blasphemy.

This man hath done nothing amiss, οὐδὲνἄτοπον.—Nothing censurable, evil. Comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:2. “The mild expression denotes innocence the more strongly.” (Meyer). Even had the robber said nothing more than this, yet he would awaken our deepest astonishment, that God—in a moment wherein literally all voices are raised against Jesus, and not a friendly word is heard in His favor—causes a witness for the spotless innocence of the Saviour to appear on one of the crosses beside Him. This murderer is the last man who before Jesus’ death deposes a testimony in honor of Him. But now he soon shows a yet clearer and firmer faith, while he directs his look upon the middle cross, and now begins to speak no longer of, but to, Him Himself.

Luke 23:42. Jesus, remember me.—He desires no instantaneous liberation from the cross, on which he on the contrary is convinced that he must die, but he desires solely and singly that our Lord in grace may remember him, and receive him into His kingdom. Undoubtedly he is not wholly free from earthly Messianic expectations, and here is thinking not of the heaven in which our Lord after His death would be, but he represents to himself the moment when the Messiah comes in His kingly glory to erect His kingdom upon earth, and desires that he then, awakened from the grave, may enter in with Him into the joy of his Lord. Comp. Matthew 16:28. But even on this interpretation his prayer is assuredly one of the boldest and most surprising that has ever been utrered. A crucified malefactor, the first that has fully understood the deep sense of the superscription over the cross, and becomes the herald of the royal dignity of our Lord, in the same instant in which the Messianic hope of the apostles themselves was most vehemently shaken—of a truth this phenomenon may be called one of the brightest points of light in the history of the last hours in the life of our Lord! And even if we assume that he had previously heard and seen our Lord; that he, although a murderer, could not yet have been a hardened felon; that he attentively observes Jesus in the last hours, and that the approach of death had filled him with the deepest seriousness, yet all this clears up for us only a part of the riddle, which finds singly and solely its full solution in the faith of God’s free grace, which has in this very moment in fullest abundance glorified itself in the robber, while it had, we may believe, even previously prepared him by all the circumstances of his life for this courageous faith and this sincere conversion, which comes to light here in him in so surprising wise. An examination of the history of the psychological development of his inner life, which commends itself by great originality, see in Lange, Leben Jesu, ii. p. 1568. Only in this way does it become explicable how he in clearness of knowledge, in strength of faith, as well as in courageousness of confession, could be so far prominent above all others, and behold now a source of life and a royal throne in the cross, that even for the most advanced disciples was a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. [Trench’s conjecture appears to be a reasonable one, that this robber may have been a companion of Barabbas, and that both these λῃσταί may have belonged to that class of turbulent zealots for freedom who had already begun to appear in the Jewish land, and who, like the Greek Klephts in Turkish times, united audacious wickedness with a perverted but ardent feeling of devotion to their country. The fact that Barabbas had just about this time “made a sedition,” which implies accomplices, who were not like himself released, but doubtless punished, lends weight both to the conjecture that some vague Messianic longings may have been mixed up with his crime, and that this man may have been a participant of it. A nature led through the very strength of noble impulses into crime, might well be more receptive of Divine grace in the hour of utter disenchantment and of mortal agony, than that of a common ruffian. Of course, this must remain only a conjecture, but I think we may be free to say, a not improbable conjecture.—C. C. S.]

Luke 23:43. And Jesus said unto him: To-day.—We can but faintly guess what, for the suffering Saviour, a word like this must have been. Over against all the voices of blasphemy He has observed steadfast silence; but such a petitioner He permits not to wait a moment for an answer. He promises to him something much higher than he had desired—the highest that he could pray or conceive—Paradise, and that even to-day, and in fellowship with Him. Senseless is the combination To-day with λέγω σοι, of which Theophylact already speaks, and which is vindicated in particular by Roman Catholic exegetes, in order as much as possible to weaken the proof which has always been derived from this word on the cross against the doctrine of Purgatory. It is self-evident that our Lord spoke to-day, not yesterday; never has He so pleonastically expressed Himself; moreover, on this interpretation the so thoroughly definite promise would lose all precision. But now there is implied nothing less in it than first the assurance that the murderer should die even to-day, and that with the Saviour, while He had perhaps feared that he should have to languish slowly away, hanging yet one or several days upon the cross [as we know was frequently the case in crucifixion, before death ensued.—C. C. S.]; a promise which was fulfilled a few hours later by the crurifragium. But at the same time our Lord promises him Paradise, a word whose whole sweetness in such a mouth, for such ears, could only be experienced if one had himself hung there with the Saviour upon the cross. We have, however, by this Paradise to understand not the heavenly Paradise, 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7, but that part of Sheol which is opposed to Gehenna, and which was also named Paradise, and moreover, apparently, “Abraham’s bosom.” Nothing else could the forgiven one understand, who unquestionably had grown up entirely within the sphere of the Israelitish popular expectations; nothing else could the Saviour have had in view, since He undoubtedly from His death-hour to the resurrection morning, must abide in the condition of separation. “Dubium non est, quin Christus ita locutus sit, quomodo sciebat, a latrone intelligi.” Grotius. In the assurance of a being with the Lord in this Paradise, there is at the same time included for the Penitent Thief the promise of the resurrection of the just, and of further participation in the blessings of the Messianic kingdom. Respecting the Jewish popular conception of the future state, comp. Sepp, iii. p. 557 seq.


1. The history of the Penitent Thief may in the fullest sense of the word be called an Evangelium in Evangelio. The inner truth and beauty of this account of Luke strikes the eye with special clearness, when we compare it with that which the Apocryphal Gospels have to relate about this man, whom tradition has named varyingly, Titus, Demas, Vicinus, and Matha. According to the Arabic Evangelium Infantiœ, Luke 23:0, see Thilo, Cod. Apocr. I. p. 93, the man had already protected the child Jesus on the flight to Egypt, against the wickedness of the second robber, and our Lord then for a reward therefor, foretells to His mother with childish lips, what thirty years afterwards should take place on Calvary with these two. The Gospel of Nicodemus, Luke 26, even proceeds to tell us about the meeting of this man with Enoch and Elijah in Hades. Does there now exist between these narratives and the account of Luke no other distinction than between secondary and primary myth-formations?

2. The beatitude uttered upon the Penitent Thief appears to have preceded the commendation of Mary to the disciple John (John 19:25-27), so that we have here before us in Luke, not the third, but the second word on the cross.—According to the course of the Synoptical representation, the mockery follows so quickly upon the crucifixion, and the scene between our Lord and the Penitent Thief so quickly upon the mockery, that it appears forced to insert the Johannean account between the one and the other event. On internal grounds, moreover, we consider it as much more probable that our Lord provided for His mother only after He had previously saved this sinner, than the reverse; the spiritual at every time with Him preceded the natural. The first word on the cross was for His enemies, the second for a penitent sinner, only the third for His sorrowing mother, while then finally the fourth reveals to us His own anguish of soul; thus does the circle draw ever closer together.

3. Brief as the utterance of the Penitent Thief was, yet there is nothing lacking to it that belongs to the unalterable requirements of a genuine conversion,—sense of guilt, confession of sin, simple faith, active love, supplicating hope,—all these fruits of the tree of the new life we see here ripen during a few moments. The address of our Lord, on the other hand, comprehends, as it were, in a short summary, the whole riches and the glory of redemption. The first word on the cross gives us a view into His High-priestly heart. His kingly character reveals itself in the second. Grace and majesty suddenly diffuse their bright beams through the night of the deepest humiliation. We wonder not that history gives us no account of an answer of the forgiven robber to the promise of the Saviour. On a cross there is not long or much speaking, and how, moreover, could he have found words for his thanks! But without doubt the consolation of this promise illumined his last hours, and he stands forth before our eyes as the first fruits of the millions of subjects whom the King of the kingdom of God has won even on His cross, and through the same.
4. The possibility of a conversion even in the last moments is undoubtedly established by the example of the Penitent Thief; the impenitent companion of his fate, however, proclaims quite as powerfully by his terrible end, how dangerous it is to postpone conversion so long.
5. The second word of our Lord on the cross contains a very significant intimation in respect to His Descensus ad Inferos, with which the yet further developed teaching of 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 4:6, &c., is in no way in contradiction; but at the same time it renders not less than Philippians 1:23; Revelation 14:13, and many other passages of the New Testament, a powerful testimony against the Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.

6. The two robbers on the cross, the representatives of the whole human race in its diverse behavior towards Jesus. The crucified Jesus also the fall and the rising of many, Luke 2:34. The beatitude pronounced upon the Penitent Thief a type of the great judgment day.


The three crosses.—The hill of death a place of triumph.—Calvary shows us: 1. The triumph of stubborn wickedness; 2. the triumph of penitent faith; 3. the triumph of redeeming love.—The view of death cannot of itself break the froward heart.—The rebuke of the sin of our neighbor a difficult but holy duty.—The different ways in which two sinners proceed towards the terrors of eternity.—The desperate cry for help and the believing petition for redemption.—How the penitent looks upon the Saviour, how the Saviour looks upon the penitent: 1. The sincere penitent is a. humble in the acknowledgment of guilt, b. eager for salvation in coming to Christ, c. courageous in the confession of the Saviour; 2. the Saviour, a. accepts the confession of guilt, b. hears the humble prayer, c. crowns the courageous hope.—The theatre of judgment changed into a working place of grace.—How penitent faith may expect after the hour of death: 1. The joy of Paradise; 2. the joy of Paradise with Jesus; 3. the joy of Paradise immediately after death.—As the Father so also the Son does exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we can ask or think, Ephesians 3:20.—Conversion in the hour of death: 1. Possible, certainly; 2. but yet rare; and 3. only to be expected when one does not stubbornly and presumptuously strive against the drawings of the prevenient grace of God.—Wonderful guidance of God, which at the boundary of life: 1. Gives the sinner yet to find his deliverer; 2. gives the King of the kingdom of God even yet to find one of His subjects.—For God’s grace no sinner too vile.—Salvation and damnation in a certain sense already decided before the hour of death.

Starke:—Men are not of one kind, as not in life, so not in death.—Brentius: It is an infallible token of a sound and true repentance when one acknowledges God’s judgment upon himself as righteous, and publicly praises the same.—The Christian is under obligation to deliver the innocence of the innocent.—How profitable it is to talk with the suffering Jesus.—The eye of hope must look farther than upon the visible things of this world, 1 Corinthians 15:19.—It is not the “with Me,” that comes first, but the “through Me.”—God’s acceptance of a fervent prayer is not delayed.—Brentius:—Christ has again opened the closed Paradise.—Man will after death be either with Christ or with the devil.—Whoever remains in his suffering steadfastly united with Jesus, will also remain united with Him in His glory.—Heubner:—The suddenness of this conversion should excite no doubt, for: 1. It is bound to no conditions of time; 2. there was found in the thief everything that precedes conversion; 3. undoubtedly there was here a miracle of grace in order to reveal the power of the death of Christ, even to coming generations.—This is what every poor sinner should daily pray: Lord, remember me.

Compare the well-known inscription on the grave of Copernicus: “Non parem Paulo veniam requiro, gratiam Petri neque posco, sed quam in cruris ligno dederis latroni, sedulus oro.”—The sermon of Chrysostom, De latrone, and that of Melanchthon in Bretschneider, Corpus Reform, ii. pp. 478–487.—The Passion Week’s sermons of Rieger, p. 641–643.—Saurin:—Sur les deux brigands, p. 403.—T. Theremin:—The Cross of Christ, the third sermon.—F. Arens, Preacher in Osnaburg:—The value of the grace on Calvary set forth in one of the crucified thieves.—Thomasius:—Our own death-hour in the light of this history.—Dr. J. J. Rambach: 1. The prayer of the malefactor; 2. the answer of the Saviour.—Palmer:—Christ between the robbers.—Krummacher:—The robber: 1. A look into the heart of both robbers; 2. into the great kingly word of Immanuel.

Luke 23:39; Luke 23:39.—According to the reading of Tischendorf, [Meyer, Tregelles, Alford]: οὐχὶ σὺ εῖ̓; after B., [Cod. Sin.,] C.1, L., Versions. The Recepta comes from Luke 23:37.

Luke 23:40; Luke 23:40.—That is, “any more than the mockers around, who at least have not a fellow-suffering to restrain them from impious cruelty towards a dying man.”—C. C. S.]

Luke 23:41; Luke 23:41.—Revised Version of the American Bible Union.—C. C. S.]

Luke 23:42; Luke 23:42.—The κύριε of the Recepta is wanting in B., C.1, D., [Cod. Sin.,] Cursives, &c. Ἰησοῦ is supported by the authority of B., C.1, L., [Cod. Sin.,] Origen, and the Coptic and Sahidic Versions.

Verses 44-56

B. The End of the Conflict. Luke 23:44-56

1. The Repose of Death (Luke 23:44-46)

(Parallel with Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; John 19:28-30.)

44And it was [now19] about the sixth hour, and there was [came, ἐγένετο] a darknessover all the earth [land] until the ninth hour. 45And the sun was darkened, and thevail of the temple was rent in the midst. 46And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend [commit] nay spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost [expired, ἐξέπνευαεν].


Synoptical Remarks.—The more the history of the Passion hastens towards its end, the more evidently does it appear that Luke sums up his narrative in few words. The commendation of Mary to John, the lamentation of our Lord upon the cross, the last refreshment of the Dying One, he passes over. On the other hand, he gives account of the rending of the veil in the temple immediately before our Saviour’s death, although from Matthew it appears that this took place simultaneously, or, indeed, even a moment later. In view of the rapid succession of events, it is, however, almost impossible to speak here of former and latter. We also owe to Luke alone the communication of the last, the seventh word on the cross, and the statement of the miracles during the dying of our Lord. He attaches himself, although he is very brief, more to Mark than to Matthew, and while he, like the other Synoptics, passes over in silence the breaking of the legs of the robbers and the piercing of our Saviour’s side, he coincides again, in the rather detailed description of His burial, with the other Evangelists.

Luke 23:44. A darkness.—Respecting the cause, the character, and the historical certainty of this darkness, comp. Lange on Matthew 27:46. Entirely without ground do the Jews, in the Gospel of Nicodemus, tell Pilate (Luke 11:0) that an ordinary eclipse took place. See Thilo, p. 592. The well-known testimony of Phlegon, to be sure, we also should not venture to use to prove therewith the credibility of this Evangelical account, since he speaks rather of a natural, although more than ordinarily deep darkening of the sun, as to which, moreover, it is still doubtful in which year of the 202d Olympiad it took place. Yet whoever holds our Lord for Him for whom He declared Himself, will, in this mourning of nature at the death of Jesus, be as far from finding anything incredible as anything insignificant. Unquestionably, there are mythical accounts of similar natural manifestations even at the death of Romulus, of Cæsar, and others; but what in the sphere of profane history is invention, may none the less in the sacred history be true. And if, in certain Rabbinical writings, the death of famous men is compared to the darkening of the mid-day sun, these expressions are, at all events, later than our Evangelical narratives, and may indeed, moreover, have very well originated from the analogy of the here-related fact. In a word, the idea so strikingly expressed in the familiar

Sol tibi signa dabit, solem quis dicere falsum audeat, &c.

has become reality. As respects, particularly, the account of Luke itself, it might, on a literal interpretation, seem as if he meant that the sun until the ninth hour, although there was already a deep darkness, yet had remained all the time visible, but that then, in the moment of Jesus’ death, the sun itself also became invisible. But, even supposing that the genuineness of the words καὶ ἐσκοτίσθη ὁ ἥλ. were above all doubt (De Wette disputes this, and Griesbach is also for omitting them), there would yet be no essential difficulty in connecting the thought thus, that (Luke 23:45) with καί the proper cause of σκότος κ.τ.λ. is stated. It often occurs that two phenomena are coördinated or arranged together, of which the second constitutes the natural ground of the first. Precisely the same interpretation appears, moreover, to lie at the basis of the reading which appears in B., C., L., cursives, Origen [Cod. Sin. has τοῦ ἡλίου ἐκλίποντος—C. C. S.], τοῦ ἡλίου ἐκλείποντος. The participial clause indicates a causal connection, and on internal grounds it is not probable that Luke meant to give an account of a great darkness, during which the sun for three hours yet remained continually visible.

Luke 23:45. And the veil of the temple.—Attempts have been made to explain these phenomena also naturally, as a mere result of the earthquake, of which Luke has given no particular account. But can we represent to ourselves an earthquake by which—not from below up but from above down—a curtain should be rent which was one finger thick, thirty ells long, woven of purple and scarlet, and, according to the testimony of Jewish scholars, renewed from time to time? How could anything of the kind take place without other buildings in the capital, and especially the temple, having suffered serious harm, and, indeed, without their having been converted by the convulsion into a heap of ruins? Quite as arbitrary is the conjecture that the curtain was old and worn out (Kuinoel), as well as the assumption that it was, perhaps, too tensely stretched and too tightly fastened both at the bottom and on the two sides (Paulus). Even in the last case, a rending through an earthquake would have been impossible without a simultaneous rending of the walls or roof of the temple. As to the rest, Luke is entirely silent as to the sleeping saints whose resurrection Matthew relates; but that John passes over all these miracles appears to be best explained from the character of his whole gospel, which has less reference to the outer revelation of the glory of the Logos than to the spiritual character of His whole manifestation and activity. Of Luke’s account the same holds good, although in a lesser measure, which Lange has remarked in respect to that of Matthew: “The Evangelist has gathered the reminiscences of these traits, and comprehended them in words which, in effect, have the resonance of a hymn, without thereby losing their historical character, for here the history itself took on the character of a hymn.”

Luke 23:46. Father, into Thy hands.—It is involved in the nature of the case that this utterance must be placed after the τετέλεσται of John, since he also states the substance of it with a παρέδωκεν τὸπν. According to Matthew and Mark also, the dying Christ cries out with a loud voice, but what He exclaims Luke alone relates to us. Here, too, we hear from His lips an utterance from the Psalms, Psalms 31:5. (The reading of Tischendorf, παρατίθεμαι, deserves the preference above the Recepta, παραθήσομαι, which appears to be borrowed from the Septuagint, Psalms 31:5.) ΙΙαρατίθεσθαι is to be understood here not in the weak sense of “commend,” but in its proper sense of “commit,” tradere. Into the Father’s mighty hand our Lord now commits, as a precious deposit, the spirit which is ready to depart from the body, and departs, therefore, with composure and hope, to the condition of separation (Paradise, Luke 23:43), preceding the Penitent Thief and all his fellow-redeemed.

Expired, ἐξέπνευσεν.—So also Mark, stronger still Matthew, ἀφῆκεν τὸ πνεῦμα, emisit spiritum. Even then, when He, according to the nature of the case, finds Himself in deepest dependence, He yet exhibits and uses His true freedom (John 10:18), and does what now is commanded by the course of nature so entirely with free choice, that the dying becomes not only His present lot, but also the supreme act of love and obedience.


1. Comp. Lange on the parallels, and, respecting the significance and the purpose of the death of our Lord itself, Christian Dogmatics.

2. The last word of our Lord on the cross impresses on all the rest, as also on His whole life, the seal. With composed, clear spirit, He proceeds, the immaculately Pure, into eternity. With childlike trust He gives His spirit into the Father’s guardian hand; with joyful hope He looks towards the rest and joy of death. Only after He, in the sixth word on the cross, has rendered account of His completed work, does He give us, finally, in addition, knowledge of His personal expectation. A word of Scripture is the torch which lights Him down into the valley of the shadow of death; He dies with the Scriptures on His lips, in which He has ever lived. Therefore, also, it is not necessary to ascribe to the 31st Psalm a direct Messianic signification; our Lord simply takes a word of Scripture on His lips as an expression of His own inward state, while He, doubtless not casually, passes over in silence that which the poet immediately adds: “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” What
David in a certain sense utters as his motto of life, that He uses as His dying device.

3. The darkening of the sun in the moment of the dying of Jesus, points us to a deep hidden connection between the realm of nature and that of grace, which has yet been but little investigated by theologians. Not only as “sorrowing, as it were, with her greatest Son” (Hase), does nature veil herself in a mourning garment, but where the Incarnate Lord, through Whom all things were made, grows pale in death, there does convulsed nature depose concerning His greatness an unequivocal testimony. And as respects the rending of the curtain, the Epistle to the Hebrews (Luke 9:8) refers us clearly enough to the symbolical significance of this fact. Apparently their terror at the occurrence occasions the first involuntary information on the side of the Jews, since otherwise they would have been glad to keep it hidden. Various Jewish traditions respecting the miracles which at this very time, about forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, came to pass in the sanctuary, we find collected in Sepp, l.c. iii., p. 586; they permit the faint traces of the truth of a fact to be recognized, whose actual occurrence stands more exactly detailed in the gospels. As respects, finally, the objection that in the Holy Scriptures, besides here, there exist no further actual allusions to the miracles here mentioned at the death of our Lord, we can in part very well acknowledge this without deriving therefrom any unfavorable inference in reference to the Evangelical narratives, but must also refer to Revelation 11:0, where it speaks of the wakening of the two witnesses, a revelation connected therewith, the opening of the heavenly temple (= the rending of the veil), and other miracles, which involuntarily remind us of what is here related.

4. The dying of Stephen, Huss, Luther, and others, even in their last words, an echo of the last words of our Lord.
5. The last word on the cross an unequivocal argument for the personality of God, as well as for the personality of the human spirit and its individual immortality. “Whoever could think that Jesus, with these words, breathed out His life forever into the empty air, such an one certainly knows nothing of the true, living spirit, and, consequently, nothing of the living God, and of the living power of the Crucified One.” Ullmann.


“When even the creation is stirred, be not thou slumbering, O my heart.”—Light and darkness in the dying hour of our Lord united upon Calvary: 1. Gloomy night in nature, and therein the light of Providence; 2. gloomy night of suffering, and therein the light of Jesus’ greatness; 3. gloomy night of death, and therein the light of a living hope.—The rent veil; of what it gives testimony: 1. That, a. a new economy is begun, b. a perfect atonement effected, c. a blessed fellowship founded; 2. to what it incites: a. to believing beholding, b. to courageous approach (Hebrews 10:19), c. to holy self-surrender.—Jesus’ death: 1. The lowest depth of His humiliation: 2. the beginning of His exaltation.—“Let us go with Him, that we may die with Him,” John 11:16.—A pilgrimage to Calvary on the mortal day of our Lord: 1. What seest thou there? 2. what feelest thou there? 3. what confessest thou there? 4. what promisest thou there?—The ninth hour; the high significance of this moment: 1. For our Lord; 2. for His friends and foes; 3. for the world; 4. for the Father.—“Ye do show forth the Lord’s death,” 1 Corinthians 11:20.—Calvary a school for Christian life, suffering, and dying.—Christ has: 1. Died; 2. died for us; 3. died for us that we also might die with Him.

Starke:—Darkness is finally punished with darkness; consider this, ye children of darkness.—Since Christ has died, we need no expiatory sacrifice more.—Christ from the deepest abandonment passing over into the highest composure.—No longer in the hands of His enemies, but in those of the Father.—The saint prays not only in the beginning and the continuance, but also at the end of his suffering.—Canstein:—Jesus dies, like a true corn of wheat, to bring forth much fruit, John 12:24.—Die willingly where God wills, for Jesus died not in a sumptuous canopied bed, but poor and naked on the cross.—Brentius:—The souls of the righteous are in God’s hands, and no torment touches them. What would we more?—Heubner:—As Jesus did all that He did for us, so also for us was this prayer; He has committed our souls also with His own to the Father.—Steinmeyer:—The last word on the cross proclaims: 1. The glory of a blessed death; 2. the glory of the dying Son of God; 3. the glory of His high-priestly sacrificial death.—Draseke:—The death of Jesus as culmination and completion of His life. He shows: 1. A supreme composure of soul; 2. supreme love to man; 3. supreme Mediatorial power; 4. supreme Filial glory.—Tholuck:—How the Lord dies: 1. With inner freedom; 2. with clear consciousness; 3. with perfect trust.—Arndt:—Luke 23:46 as cap-stone of the last words. Taken together: 1. The first two, words of compassion; 2. the two following, words of comfort for those outwardly and inwardly forsaken; 3. the last three, words of strengthening for those wrestling with death.—Krummacher:—Father, into Thy hands. The How and Why of the death of Jesus.—Harms:—The word “for you” to be weighed: 1. The faith which the word demands; 2. the repentance which it effects; 3. the consolation which it brings with it.—Schmidt:—How holy and awful the dying of the Saviour is.—Van der Palm:—1. Jesus’ death the fulfilment of all God’s promises; 2. Jesus’ death the main substance of the Apostolic preaching; 3. Jesus’ death the completion of His teaching and the crown of His life; 4. Jesus’ death our life.

Luke 23:44; Luke 23:44.—̓́Ηδη may here be confidently received into the text. [Found in B., C.1, L. Cod. Sin. omits it. Tregelles brackets it. Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Alford adopt it. Has dropped out of the MSS. from its resemblance to the preceding ην δε which is found in nearly all the MSS. that omit ηδη, instead of και ην or ην, which those have that read ηδη—C. C. S.]

Verses 47-49

2. The Mourning of Nature and of Mankind (Luke 23:47-49)

(Parallel with Matthew 27:51-56; Mark 15:38-41)

47Now when the centurion saw what was done [took place], he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. 48And all the people [throngs, ὅχλοι] that came together to that sight [this spectacle], beholding [having beheld] the things which weredone, smote their breasts, and returned. 49And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.


Luke 23:47. Now when.—The mourning of nature Luke has already mentioned, Luke 23:44-45, with a word. Matthew and Mark connect this yet more closely than he with the signs of a great change, which at the moment of death began to reveal itself in the human world. The leader in the array of witnesses for the glory of the death of Jesus, is the heathen centurion who saw τὸ γενόμενον. Without our having thereby particularly to exclude the events of the previous hours, this, however, appears to point particularly to the moment of the death of Jesus, in connection with the wonderful phenomena of nature occurring at the same time. Τὸ γενόμενον, Luke 23:48 goes, it is true, somewhat farther back, and comprehends all that from the moment of the affixing to the cross had taken place upon and around Calvary.

The centurion.—Comp. Lange on Matthew and Mark. The impression which what took place produced upon a noble soldier’s soul like his, is psychologically very explicable. Such a death the proud Roman, who had beheld death and its victims in its most diverse forms, has never yet seen. In the midst of the gloom of the three hours’ darkness, the day begins to break before the eye of his soul: the mighty voice with which the last word on the cross is uttered resounds in his ears like the voice of a God, and with Jesus’ death-hour there strikes also for him the birth-hour of a higher life. He has, doubtless, heard that this Jesus has been condemned as a blasphemer of God, but he cannot possibly believe it. He remembers the testimony of Pilate, and concurs fully with that which the Penitent Thief but a short time before had said in Jesus’ honor. The substance of his confession Luke communicates when he makes him call our Lord a δίκαιος. But the original form of this, Matthew and Mark appear to have preserved to us, although the possibility undoubtedly must be allowed that both the one and the other expression may be genuine. As to the supposed sense of his words, see Lange. It must, above all, not be overlooked that they are less the expression of an exactly defined conception of the understanding than the outgush of a deeply-moved sensibility, and that it is as unreasonable to deny the echo of superstition as the voice of sincere faith in his manly words.

Luke 23:48. And all the people.—Scarcely can we conceive the number of the witnesses of Jesus’ death and of the events connected therewith as great enough. At the time of the Passover there were from two to three millions of Jews, gathered from all lands of the earth, in the capital, a multitude almost as great as that which had once come out of Egypt, and of these it may be presupposed that there was no stranger among them that had not heard of Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 24:18). So far as the hills and plains around Calvary give room for it, all are covered with beholders, who now, however, are found in a wholly different mood from that which is described Luke 23:35. As the centurion, in fact, glorifies God by his confession (a doxological trait entirely in the spirit of the third gospel, Luke 13:17; Luke 18:15), so do these beholders accuse themselves as sharers in the guilt of the death of Jesus, and as objects of the holy displeasure of God. Even in itself such a transition in the mood of a mixed throng is not at all uncommon, and the objection (Strauss) that here is related to us, not so much what the Jews felt and did, as rather what they, according to the Christian view, should have felt and done, proceeds from an unpsychological and, for that very reason, an exceedingly uncritical mistrust. The murder of the Messiah had been a deed of national intoxication and bewilderment, upon which an hour of awakening must follow. The extraordinary phenomena of nature spoke, therefore, so much the more loudly to their conscience, and the remembrance of everything great and good which our Lord had done bestowed on Him in their eyes a so much greater dignity after they had rejected Him by their own guilt. The terror of death upon so many countenances is also an involuntary homage which is brought to the dead Christ, and the mournfully earnest Passover mood of so many contrite hearts becomes the preparation for the earnest Pentecostal inquiry: Men and brethren what shall we do?

Luke 23:49. All His acquaintance.—Luke mentions these in addition to the people and the women, of whom he also, as well as Matthew and Mark, speaks. “Only Luke has this notice, which is so mere a summary, that it does not even by the ἀπὸμακρόθεν, contradict the account of John (Luke 19:25).” Meyer. We may understand particularly the acquaintance in the wider sense of the word, at Jerusalem and of the region round about, to whom, for instance, the owner of the colt at Bethphage and the owner of the Passover-hall at Jerusalem belong. In respect to the women, comp. Luke 8:2 and the parallels. In what mood they now stood there, after they were now no longer hindered by the scoffings of the people from coming near, may be better felt than described. With the deepest sorrow over this irrevocable loss, which was not yet softened by the joyful hope of the resurrection, there is united melancholy joy that now at last the agonizing conflict is ended, and the heartfelt longing to render now the last honors to the inanimate corpse. In infinite diversity of moods, according to the measure of their spiritual development, receptivity, and their peculiar relations to our Lord, they stand there in the neighborhood of the place which had heard His last sighs, while we even now do not yet read respecting the disciples that they were with the women. John has led Mary home. Peter wanders lonesomely about. The other scattered sheep have vanished, without leaving a trace, when the Shepherd was smitten. Only the faithfulness of female love holds its ground when all seems lost.


1. The death of our Lord was glorified, and at the same time confirmed, as never a death after it. Even though we only rightly understand and interpret the signs at His death in nature and the human world, we shall be conducted to a higher Christology than to the Nazareo-Ebionitic one of ancient and modern Rationalism.

2. The heathen centurion the first fruits of the believing heathen world which shall yet one day bow the knee before Jesus. His joining in the confession of the robber in honor of our Lord the first union of Jews and Gentiles, who hitherto had been separated from one another by the middle wall of partition, and the presage of the communion of saints, Ephesians 2:14-16. If we may assume that he stood at the head of the Legio Germanica, which the Romans, as is known, had in service at this time in Palestine, then the Germanic Christendom of Europe may consider him in a yet closer sense of the word as their representative and Prodromus.

3. The awakening remorse of the people a precursory fulfilment of Jesus’ own word, John 8:28, and, at the same time, a prophecy of the hour in which Israel as a nation shall acknowledge what it did when it rejected the Son of David, Zechariah 12:10-12; Revelation 1:7. Here also, however, wickedness remains consistent with itself even to the end. Only the people, and not the Pharisees and Scribes, return from Calvary smiting their breasts. With reason, however, may we regard these first penitents of Israel as a first fruits of the hearing of the prayer, Luke 23:34.

4. Never has the might of love been more speakingly revealed than on the death-day of our Lord. It yet keeps its ground even there where faith has suffered shipwreck and hope is utterly frustrated. With right, might Paul extol it as the chief among the Three, 1 Corinthians 13:13.


The dead Jesus glorified: 1. By God; 2. by man.—What the miracles in the realm of nature declare to the honor of the dead Saviour: 1. Jesus the immaculate, innocent Sufferer; 2. Jesus the perfect Atoner of sin; 3. Jesus the Resurrection and the Life.—The new covenant considered in the light of these miracles: 1. A ministration of the Spirit, where that of the letter is done away; 2. a ministration of righteousness, which replaces that of condemnation; 3. a ministration that abides, in contrast with that which ceases, 2 Corinthians 3:6-11.—The centurion under the cross a presage of the calling of the Gentiles at the rejection of the Jews.—The impression which the view of the dying Jesus produces in the truth-loving soul.—The triumph of the enemies of Jesus ending in a complete defeat.—The impression of the death of Jesus on the female heart.—How the view of the dead Saviour calls us: 1. To a fuller confession than that of the heathen centurion; 2. to a deeper humility than that of the remorseful people; 3. to firmer faith than that of the Galilean women.—Heaven and earth united in doing homage to the dead Christ.—The first witness concerning the death of Jesus: 1. Wherein we must follow him; 2. wherein we must be distinguished from him; 3. wherein we must excel him.

Starke:—Confess Jesus even when He is on the cross, and when it seems to fare worst with His church.—The first fruits of the power of the death of Christ are so remarkable, what great things shall not the full harvest bring?—Brentius:—Miracles, as well in nature as in grace, have no other design than the conversion of men.—He must certainly have a hard heart whom the Passion of Christ cannot move to repentance.—Cramer:—God can be mighty even in the weak (2 Corinthians 12:10).—There are witnesses enough of the cross of Christ; he that will not believe cannot be helped.—Schultz:—Concerning the miracles at the death of Christ, they show us: 1. Wherein the benefit consists which He has purchased for us by His death; 2. what the dispositions are to which the benefit must excite us.—Gerok:—The holy evening stillness upon Calvary: 1. The still rest of the perfected Sufferer; 2. the still repentance of the shaken world; 3. the still labor of the loving friends; 4. the still rest of the holy grave.—Ahlfeld:—What seest thou on the cross of Christ? 1. The love that sues for us; 2. the love that dies for us: 3. the love that never dies.—Thym:—The cross on Calvary: 1. A sign of grace for us; 2. a sign of judgment against us.—Rautenberg:—Christ’s death, my sin’s death (John 19:1-30).—My Jesus dies, why should I live?—(On Luke 23:47) Bobe:—How do believing Christians stand under the cross of the dying Redeemer?—Ackerman:—The death of the Redeemer of the world in its composing influence on our death.—Alt:—The death of Christ a strong incitement to conversion from sin.—Schmid:—The preaching of the Crucified: 1. A preaching of repentance for sinners; 2. a preaching of joy for believers; 3. a preaching of glory for our Lord.—Arndt:—The signs at Jesus’ death: 1. The signs of God’s almightiness in nature; 2. of the grace of God in the hearts of men.—Krummacher:—The funeral: 1. How it is rung in from heaven: 2. how it is attended on earth.

Verses 50-56

3. The Sabbath of the Grave (Luke 23:50-56)

(Parallel with Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; John 19:38-42)

50And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man’and a just: 51(The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them:) he was of Arimathea, a city of the Jews; who also himself20 waited for the kingdom of God. 52This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. 53And he took it down’ and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, whereinnever man before was laid [there was no one yet lying]. 54And that day was the preparation55[And it was the day of preparation21], and the sabbath drew on. And the women also [om., also], which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld thesepulchre, and how his body was laid. 56And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day [indeed22] according to the commandment.


Luke 23:50. Joseph.—Comp. Lange on Matthew 27:57. In a peculiar way Luke portrays his character as that of a good and righteous man. The latter, of course, not in the juridical, but in the theocratical sense of the word. Bengel: “Omnis homo ἀγαθός est etiam δίκαιος, non contra. Lucas totum laudat ante partem.” Whether he was the only one who in the Jewish council had raised his voice against the sentence of death upon our Lord, cannot be with certainty stated. So much, however, is clear, that he by this account is indirectly distinguished from Nicodemus, who is named indeed ἄρχων, but not βουλευτής, and who, therefore, appears to have had no voice in this case. As respects Arimathæa, this city is by no means identical with Rama, in Banjamin, which appears also Matthew 2:18, as Friedlieb, ad loc. asserts without stating his grounds. In all probability we must understand by it Ramathaim, in Ephraim, where Samuel was born, and which lay not far from Lydda or Diospolis. See Wieseler in Herzog’s Real-Encycl. ad vocem. The additional trait, finally, that he waited for the kingdom of God, gives Joseph a claim to an honorable place in the spiritual family circle of those who are named in Luke 2:38.

Luke 23:52. Went unto Pilate.—For the more particular circumstances, see Mark. According to Cicero, In Verrem, v. 45–51, the Roman Procurators sometimes conferred such a favor for money. Moreover, the Roman laws also provided: corpora eorum, qui capite damnantur, cognatis ipsorum deneganda non sunt. See Ulpian Digest. 47, t. 24. That Pilate demanded no money of the rich Joseph, who did not belong to the relations of our Lord, may have had its ground in a secret joy at the speedy death of our Lord (Lange), or perhaps also in the wish to give at once a mark of his complacency to that member of the supreme council who displayed respect for Jesus, and thereby also in this way indirectly to mortify the priests, who had violently extorted the sentence of death. In this matter also, Pilate, even as in the refusal to alter the superscription over the cross, shows himself great in little things, while he, it is true, in the great matter had been, alas, only too little.

Luke 23:53. In linen.—To be understood of fine sindon, a cotton stuff which was cut into strips, and is elsewhere called clean linen, because the priests were commonly clothed with this stuff. The head was wrapped separately in a σαυδάριον of the same stuff, John 20:7. The preliminary costly embalming Luke passes over, probably because soon, in place of it, the anointing by the women was to come. To speak of “enormous consumption of spices” (Strauss), would only be reasonable, if we did not know what a lavish expenditure in this respect often prevailed in the Orient, so that according to Josephus, Ant. Jud. xvii. 8, 3, at the funeral of Herod the Great, not less than five hundred servants were required to carry the spices.

A sepulchre that was hewn in stone.—If we must in general acknowledge the identity of the present and of the original Calvary, then the Holy Sepulchre is at all events to be sought in the immediate neighborhood of the place that even yet is shown as such, in the church of this name. Comp. hereupon the admirable words of Von Schubert, l. c. iii. p. 509.

Luke 23:54. It was the day of preparation, παρασκευή, preparation for the Sabbath, and particularly that part of the Friday which was regarded as the introduction to the Sabbath (προσάββατον, Mark 15:42). When Meyer says ad loc. “Here also there betrays itself the absence of a festal character in the day of Jesus’ death’ is may be inquired whether, or the other side, the Jewish council on this whole day, and even at evening, would have exhibited such a restless activity if on this evening the Paschal Lamb had yet to be bought, slaughtered, and eaten. In all probability we have to understand the late Friday afternoon, between five and six o’ clock. ̓Επέφωσκε signifies here the dawning, not of the natural, but of the legal Saturday.

Luke 23:55. And the women … followed after.—Κατακολοθήσασαι. The strengthened expression appears in this connection to intimate a following down, κατά, even into the grave. See Lange, L. J. iii. p. 521. They accompany the funeral of our Lord as far as possible; that they, according to the common view, were also present at the taking down from the cross, and active in it, is not related to us by the history. According to all the Synoptics, they joined the little funeral train only after the corpse had been taken down and suitably wrapt around. In this work Joseph and Nicodemus had apparently the assistance of servants or friends, but not directly of the women. It is, therefore, very possible that they did not know precisely the quantity of the spices brought by Nicodemus, and even if this had been the case, love does not inquire how little will suffice, but how much it can perform. Even the view of the abundance of the manifestations of love on the part of these two men must also have disposed them to like zeal, and made the thought unendurable to them that they who yet had served the living Master with their possessions should now render no further service to the dead. The observation also that all was accomplished sumptuously, it is true, but with comparatively great haste, must have spontaneously brought up the thought to them, whether there might not be here something still to be cared for. Therefore, after the men had returned home, they remain alone, and still regard the grave for a while (Luke 23:55), going home then with the resolution as soon as possible to buy spices and ointment, but resting the Sabbath day, according to the commandment. According to the more exact statement of Mark, the spices were first bought and prepared after the Sabbath was already passed (Luke 16:1), that is, according to our reckoning, on Saturday evening, after six o’clock. This is also internally probable, since the Sabbath, we may suppose, had already begun when they had returned to Jerusalem from viewing the grave (Luke 23:55). That the purchase took place directly after their return, Luke does not at all say, although he does not deny it (ὑποστρέψασαι δὲ ἡτοίμασαν); he only intimates that they did not permit themselves to be kept back from their work of love by the strict observance of the Sabbath law. Luke 23:56 of his account is immediately connected with Luke 24:1, and the antithesis between μέν and δέ would properly indicate that at the end of Luke 23:0 only a comma ought to have been placed. Sense: After they had viewed the grave, they bought (not stated when?) spices, and rested indeed on the Sabbath day, according to the law, but when this was over they went with the (just-purchased) spices as quickly as possible to the grave.


1. If it has ever plainly appeared that decisive events in the kingdom of God must serve to bring its hidden friends to light, and that a great sorrow is capable of uniting men of diverse rank, condition, and age, this then took place at the burial of our Lord. For the Eleven we here look round in vain; so scattered are the sheep that even the care for the corpse of the Shepherd is not capable of uniting them; but love to the Lord has turned women to heroines, and if even to this moment there has not yet a single voice from the Jewish council been lifted against the atrocity committed, yet it now appears that not all the members are animated by the spirit of Annas and Caiaphas.
2. The certainty of the death of Jesus before His burial is raised above every rational doubt, and partially attested even by the manner of His burial. Only the modern romance of unbelief, which in late years has sought in a magnificent manner to deceive a credulous public by the publishing of quasi-ancient manuscripts out of which the connection of Jesus with Essenism was to appear as clear as the sun, undertakes to assure us that Joseph of Arimathæa still discovered signs of life, and, therefore, attended the supposed corpse with the utmost care. See, e. g., Jesus der Essäer oder die Religion der Zukunft, Leipzig, 1849; the Buck Jesu, Kassel, 1850. “The important discoveries about Jesus’ manner of death,” and the like, which a few years ago were circulated by thousands, now are in part already forgotten again, but in part serve even yet as weapons in the hands of the most stupid unbelief. 2 Thessalonians 2:11.

3. The burial of our Lord constitutes the precise transition from the condition of His humiliation to that of His exaltation, and is therefore sometimes reckoned with the one, sometimes with the other. It is, with all that took place hitherto, the fulfilment of the prophetic word (Isaiah 53:9; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4), and in the more particular circumstances, remarkable in the extreme. A new grave receives our Lord, even as before an ass’s colt bore Him, on which never yet a man had sat. A grave in the rock, so strong that only angels’ power could open it; with only one entrance, so that the local circumstances themselves forbid the supposition that the corpse had been stolen; in a garden, so that thus, in a place like that in which sin was born, it is also borne to the grave. Thus does all concur to procure for our Lord an undisturbed repose, and to prepare for Him a glorious resurrection morning.

4. As respects the condition of our Lord during the interval which His corpse passed in the grave, we venture boldly to apply to it the word of John, that “that Sabbath day was a great day.” Luke 19:31. It was, without doubt, a condition of full consciousness, of refreshing rest, of the beginning of joy in company with the Penitent Thief, and of blessed hope of the approaching resurrection morning. How far we can now begin to speak of an activity of our Lord in the condition of separation, is connected with the question when the preaching to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19-21) took place. We believe that the apostle places it between our Lord’s resurrection and His ascension.

5. The Sabbath which our Lord passes in the grave is the last Sabbath of the Old Covenant. Therefore, also, His friends spend it in the sadness of those who do not yet know that the day of the New Covenant has dawned, wherein life and immortality were brought to light. His enemies embitter to themselves this their Sabbath rest with the endeavors which they use to guard the corpse of our Lord, as related by Matthew alone. It is a poetical justice that they who have so often accused the Saviour of Sabbath-breaking, now themselves finally desecrate this day. Scarcely has the day after the Friday dawned (the legal Sabbath day, that is, which began on Friday evening after six o’clock), when they already come to Pilate and make their proposition to him, Matthew 27:62. Not a single night will they leave the corpse unwatched, and do not rest until the guard is posted in the garden of Joseph. But by this very means they concur in the revelation of their shame, in the revelation of the resurrection of our Lord, and of the glory of God.

6. An admirable representation of the Taking Down from the Cross, by Rubens; of the viewing of the grave by the two women, by E. Veith; beautiful grave hymn: “Nun schlummerst die, O meins Ruh,” &c.


See on the parallels in Lange.—Joseph of Arimathæa the representative of an honorable minority.—Just when all appears to be lost, does the heroic courage of faith awake.—The dead Saviour the centre of union between His male and female friends.—Love stronger than death, Song of Solomon 8:6.—“They beheld the sepulchre” (admirable text for Good Friday evening): 1. How far our beholding of the sepulchre may be distinguished from that of the first female friends; 2. how far, however, it must agree with theirs.—Jesus’ sepulchre viewed in the light of faith: 1. The monument of the wickedness of His enemies; 2. the goal of the Passion of our Lord; 3. the working-place of the providence of God: 4. the grave of the sin of the world; 5. the pledge of the Christian’s rest in the grave.—The great Sabbath: 1. A feast of delusive rest for Israel; 2. a day of refreshing rest for Jesus; 3. a time of active rest for the Father; 4. a pledge of restored rest for the sinner: 5. an image of the present rest of the Christian, Hebrews 4:9.—The great Sabbath: 1. The history; 2. the significance; 3. the admonitions of this very memorable day.—The Sabbath rest: 1. Of Christ; 2. of the Christian.

Starke:—Say not, “If everything is thus corrupt, how can I alone live so devoutly?”—He that is inwardly concerned for right, must also make it known in seasonable time.—There is no fear in love, but, &c.—Before our rulers we must have befitting respect, Romans 13:7.—Believers’ best and dearest treasure is Jesus.—One may and should, even yet, clothe Jesus in His naked members.—Hedinger:—Even to the dead must we show love, and Christianly commit them to the earth.—To lose one’s money for Christ’s sake is a great gain.—Through a blessed death there is a passage to the true rest, O beauteous Sabbath!—J. Hall:—The true Christian is not content with having others show love towards their neighbor, but he does it also himself.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—This is the way of pious souls, that they are God-fearing, loving, active.—Arndt:—The burial of our Lord: 1. Its possibility; 2. its glory; 3. its importance; 4. its obligation.—J. C. Stern:—The confession of the Christian at the grave of the Saviour.


Luke 23:51; Luke 23:51.—The words καὶ. . . καὶ αὐτός should be omitted from the Recepta, and we should with Lachmann, Tischendorf, [who has, however, restored them,] read simply δς προςεδέχετο [with Meyer, Tregelles, Alford also. The MSS. which have tho suspected words show so many variations in writing them as to make it probable that they came from the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark.—C. C. S.]

Luke 23:54; Luke 23:54.—B., Cod. Sin., C.1, L., have παρασκευης instead of the παρασκευή of the Recepta. The Genitive is adopted by Lachmann, Meyer, and Tregelles. Tisehendorf and Alford retain the Recepta, which, however, besides being opposed by the above-named MSS., is not supported by D., which has προσαββατου. As all the uncials which read the Nominative, omit the following και, while those which read the Genitive retain it, there seems little doubt that Meyer is right in supposing the final ς to have been dropped from παρασκευς in consequence of the following σαββατον, while και, where it remained, protected the Genitive ending.—C. C. S.]

Luke 23:56; Luke 23:56.—Καὶ τὸ μὲν σάββατον ἡσυχασαν. .. τῆ δὲ τῶν σαββάτων ... ἡλθον. “And the sabbath day, indeed, they rested … but on the first of the week … they came.”—C. C. S.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Luke 23". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/luke-23.html. 1857-84.
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