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Tuesday, July 16th, 2024
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Bible Commentaries
Luke 23

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

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Verses 1-25

Luke 23:1-25

Commentary On Luke 23:1-25

Galen Doughty

Luke 23:1-5 - The Sanhedrin haul Jesus before Pilate. Their hatred for Jesus is so great that they are willing to forego their holiness rules in order to be in the presence of the governor, a Gentile. Luke says the whole council did this, presumably including Nicodemus and Joseph. The gospels don’t tell us whether they tried to defend Jesus or not or how much they participated in the sham trial. It is even possible that they were not even there or were excluded because the leaders of the Sanhedrin knew they supported Jesus and they wanted no one to defend him. That however is pure speculation.

The Sanhedrin condemned Jesus on the basis of what they considered blasphemy; Jesus called himself the Son of God and claimed to be the Messiah. When they bring him before Pilate however they talk about subversion, refusal to pay taxes to Caesar, which was totally bogus, and claiming to be the Messiah a king, which was the one charge that was true. Pilate doesn’t care about their religious controversies but the claim to be a king is serious according to Rome’s interests. He asks Jesus in what appears to be a derisive way, are you king of the Jews? Jesus responds with a yes. At this point Jesus has been beaten, spit upon and harassed all night long and cannot have looked very presentable. I think Pilate is amused at the whole scene. This is the best the Jews can do? What a pitiful people! The Romans valued strength and gravitas, Jesus appeared to have neither. I think it is for that reason that Pilate says he finds no grounds for the charges against Jesus. The elders keep pressing their case insisting that Jesus has stirred up the people, implying dangerous teaching and activities that will disturb the peace of the province if allowed to go on. They tell Pilate Jesus started in Galilee and now his movement has spread all the way to Jerusalem. They are trying to convince Pilate that Jesus is a dangerous man who promotes sedition against Rome because they want him executed. They are desperate to see him destroyed because they know they will not get another chance. If Jesus is set free his popularity with the people will prevent them from arresting him again, the Sanhedrin will lose face, events will spin out of control and then who knows what will happen!

Luke 23:6-12 - Pilate hears Jesus is from Galilee and since Herod Antipas is in Jerusalem for Passover he decides to send him to Herod and pass Jesus off as a Galilean matter. This is a classic bureaucratic maneuver designed by a career civil servant to pass the buck! Pilate plays it well!

Herod had been trying to meet Jesus for some time because he is both fascinated with him and afraid of him just like he was with John the Baptist. Earlier statements in Luke’s gospel indicate that Herod even entertained the idea that Jesus was John risen from the dead!

Herod questions Jesus for some time and Luke reports that he was hoping that Jesus would perform some miracle. But Jesus remains silent, just like Isaiah 53 had said he would. The chief priests and other members of the Sanhedrin are all there accusing Jesus trying to get Herod to act and Jesus to respond. Herod does respond by allowing his soldiers to dress Jesus in an elegant robe, perhaps one of Herod’s, and mocking him. Then he sends him back to Pilate. If Jesus is guilty of sedition as the Sanhedrin have said then Herod has done a very Roman thing by mocking him and tearing him down, showing how puny he is and how mighty Rome and Herod are. He has also done a very Jewish thing, by publicly shaming Jesus and causing him to lose great face, thus currying favor with the Sanhedrin. It was a very shrewd move on Herod’s part with little risk because it was obvious at that point to Herod that Jesus posed little threat to him or to Rome.

When Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate dressed in the royal robe Pilate gets the joke and his attitude towards Herod softens. Luke comments that they had been enemies before, probably meaning their relations were not cordial and there was much tension between them. Now they became friends. Pilate may have seen the incident with Jesus as a bonus because his relationships with Herod and Galilee had improved. The day was turning out well. He did not know how much pressure the Sanhedrin was going to put upon him.

Luke 23:13-25 - Jesus is sent back to Pilate by Herod, now dressed in the royal robe after having further been mocked and beaten by Herod’s guards. Pilate calls the whole Sanhedrin together and tells them he finds no basis for the charges against Jesus of inciting a rebellion. He notes that Herod could find no reason to execute him either. He concludes by saying he has done nothing to deserve death so Pilate will punish him, meaning scourge him and then release him. The Sanhedrin know they have to bring more pressure to bear on Pilate to crucify Jesus or all their plans will unravel. It is interesting to note Pilate’s prophetic words in v.15 that Jesus has done nothing to deserve death. He had not and never did deserve death because he was innocent. Even the Roman governor who did not believe in Jesus at all could see that if he ordered him crucified he was sending an innocent man to death.

The Sanhedrin now cry out for Pilate to release Barabbas to them and crucify Jesus. Matthew and Mark’s gospels note that the Romans had a custom of releasing a condemned prisoner in order to honor the Passover Feast and that is why the high priests and elders shout for Barabbas. Luke along with Mark note that Barabbas was in prison for murder and insurrection or rebellion. He did deserve death for fomenting a rebellion. The charges suggest that Barabbas was a Zealot revolutionary who had been captured by the Romans. In our day he would have been considered a terrorist.

Barabbas means son of the father, bar abbas. The Sanhedrin shout for the false son of the father, a man of violence, terror and murder. They scream for Pilate to kill Jesus the true Son of God whom Pilate himself has said does not deserve death. Jesus is their Messiah and Prince of Peace but they are so far from God and committed to keeping their own power that they reject him in favor of a murderer and false son.

Pilate keeps trying to convince the crowd led by the Sanhedrin to let him release Jesus. They keep shouting crucify him, crucify him! Pilate for the third time tries to reason with the crowd whipped into a frenzy of blood by the Jewish religious leaders. He finds no basis for the death penalty. He will release Jesus after having him scourged. The crowd shouts all the louder to have him crucified. Pilate is kowtowed by a Jewish mob and finally relents, releasing Barabbas the murderer and condemning Jesus the innocent man to the cross.

Luke shows Pilate being brow-beaten into crucifying Jesus, wanting to please the priests and Sanhedrin to keep the peace. He seems wanting to acquit Jesus, finding him innocent, but finally caving in. There is no mocking of the Jews here, no first scourging Jesus, no "friend of Caesar" accusations as in the other gospel accounts. It’s as if he did his best but failed; as if Pilate is the victim of circumstances and it is the Jews who force his hand and demand Jesus’ execution. Remember Luke is writing to a Roman official, Theophilus. That might be the reason he paints Pilate and his actions in the best possible light. In the end however, it is Pilate who bears responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus because only he had the authority to order it done. Underneath Luke’s account however stands God. This is the Father’s will and events will ultimately play out according to his divine plan. Jesus was innocent of any crime at all let alone a crime deserving death. He had to be because he was the innocent, spotless Lamb of God who would by his death take away the sins of the world.

Verses 26-38

Luk 23:26-38

Commentary On Luke 23:26-38

Galen Doughty

Luke 23:26-31 - The soldiers lead Jesus away to Golgotha. Luke says Pilate surrendered Jesus to the Sanhedrin’s will but it was the Roman soldiers who crucified him. On the way from the Fortress Antonia on the northern end of the Temple Mount to Golgotha, the site of execution outside the city walls, the soldiers press Simon of Cyrene into service. They make him carry Jesus’ cross because by this time Jesus has lost so much blood from the scourging and mocking and crown of thorns on his head that he is too weak to carry his cross. It was probably the cross beam and not the entire cross. The vertical piece was probably already in place. That would have been standard Roman procedure. Mark notes that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Rufus is greeted by Paul in Romans 16. It is likely it is the same Rufus and Simon’s experience of carrying Jesus’ cross led to his conversion and that of his family.

A large group of people follow the procession. This was a mixed crowd. Some would have come to jeer and mock Jesus or to gloat over his death, including the chief priests. Luke mentions many women were in the crowd mourning and wailing. Jesus turns to them and tells them do not weep. He warns them of the destruction that is coming, giving a prophecy of 70 again. He says blessed are those who never have children because of the destruction that is to come. Then he quotes from Hosea 10 and a passage of judgment on Israel’s sin. Jesus’ prophecy once more lends credibility to the idea that the Roman destruction of the temple in 70 and the smashing of the Jewish Revolt was a judgment on an unfaithful Israel who had rejected their Messiah. Going to his death Jesus speaks of this and implies if the Romans are doing this in peaceful times what will they do in a time of war and revolt?

Jesus shows his concern for the women following him and weeping. He tells them don’t weep for me; weep for yourselves and your children because they are the ones who will suffer. Jesus is going to die for all of us and his death will purchase our salvation. The death of thousands of Jewish children during the Jewish war will be senseless and mothers will grieve because their sons and daughters are no more. In the end it is only Jesus who can save the Jewish people not their soldiers, or high priests or even the temple.

Luke 23:32-34 - Two other men are led out to be crucified along with Jesus. Matthew identifies them as robbers. The word Luke uses simply means a bad person, someone who does bad things, which can describe all sorts of criminal behavior.

They come to the Place of the Skull, Golgotha in Aramaic, Calvary in Latin. It was a rocky outcrop or small hill just outside the main city walls. The Jews did not allow crucifixion inside the city. The Romans obliged their laws and crucified criminals outside the walls. Golgotha was just outside the city gates and would have been strategically placed to give maximum impact for people passing by. It publicly shamed the condemned man and it reminded all who came out and went in to the city the cost of opposing Rome or breaking the law. When the procession reached Golgotha, they crucified Jesus and the two thieves, one on his right and one on his left. Luke like all the gospel writers does not describe the details of how the soldiers crucified Jesus, where they placed the nails etc., because Theophilus and all his readers would have known the gory details all too well. Very few people in the Roman world had never seen a man die on a cross. Jesus in the resurrection appearances in John comments on the nail prints in his hands and feet. That tells us that the soldiers used the most painful method with Jesus, nails in the hands and feet, rather than simply nailing his feet and tying up his arms on the cross. The nails would have inflicted maximum pain and torture. That was their purpose.

Jesus after they have finished their gruesome task of nailing him to the cross speaks the first of the traditional seven last words of Christ, gathered from all the gospel accounts of the crucifixion. Here he asks his Father to forgive his executioners because they don’t know what they are doing. Jesus’ words are probably focused on the Roman soldiers doing their duty and not the Jewish religious leaders. He expressed his concern for the Gentile young men who nail him to the cross and asks his Father not to hold it against them. They do not know who he is or what he is doing. They will mock him and had mocked him but are doing it out of their Roman arrogance. The chief priests and Pharisees, and members of the Sanhedrin know who Jesus has claimed to be and have rejected him. Jesus is dying for them too, but he does not ask God to forgive them because they KNOW what they are doing.

Luke then adds that the soldiers divided up his clothes and cast lots for who would get them. This is fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalms 22 which says that dogs have surrounded me and have pierced my hands and feet and they have divided up my clothes and cast lots for them. Much of that Psalm is a prophecy of the crucifixion. In fact Jesus quotes it in his great cry of grief in the other gospels.

Luke 23:35-38 - The people who stood watching, including the rulers, meaning the Sanhedrin, hurl insults at him. They say he saved others let him save himself if he is the Christ of God. Here is Jesus’ last temptation. Matthew and Mark report that the Jewish religious leaders demanded Jesus come down from the cross if he was the Messiah and then they would believe him. They do not understand that Jesus has come to die and that he is dying for them and for all who insult him. If he does not, then there is no payment for human sin and the way will forever remain closed between God and humanity. His death is the only way.

The soldiers mock him too, thinking they are getting in on the fun. It is sadistic and cruel but that was crucifixion and it brought out the worst in people. It was not a humane way to execute criminals! The soldiers echo the religious leaders, if you are the king of the Jews save yourself. Their mocking was not only to Jesus it was also to the Sanhedrin. Here is the king of the Jews, dying on a cross! This is what we Romans think of you stupid Jews and your king!

To add insult and shame to Jesus’ execution the notice of the charges is written above Jesus’ head on the cross. Luke reports it read this is the king of the Jews. The last person to carry that title had been Herod the Great a friend and ally of Caesar. The notice shouts out if you are not Caesar’s ally and claim to be a king this is what we do to you and what we will do to your country if you rebel against Rome! John’s gospel says the notice was written in Aramaic, Greek and Latin so all who passed by could read it. The chief priests are insulted and want Pilate to change the notice to read he said he was the king of the Jews. Pilate refuses probably to rub their noses in it for pushing him to execute Jesus when he did not want to. Ultimately the notice is prophetic because it is true. Jesus was the king of the Jews. The Romans were carrying out the sentence but it was the Sanhedrin and the Jewish religious leaders who had rejected Jesus and demanded Pilate execute him. He had finally given in to their political pressure. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, descended from David’s line and the leaders of his own people rejected him and demanded his execution. They thought Jesus was a criminal and a blasphemer. 40 years later they would pay for their crimes against God and against his Christ and everything they valued, including the temple and their own lives would be taken from them. God’s judgment would fall. Since his ancient people continued to reject their true Messiah Jesus and proclaimed Eliazer a false Messiah, God would punish them to bring them to repentance. His purpose would be the same as in Revelation when all the judgments come upon the people of the earth in order to bring them to repentance and accept Jesus as Lord. They do not repent, and so the judgments keep coming until Jesus returns and it is too late.

Verses 39-43

Luke 23:39-43

Commentary On Luke 23:39-43

Galen Doughty

Luke 23:39-43 - One of the criminals crucified with Jesus joins in the insults to him. He demands if Jesus is the Messiah to save himself and save the two criminals as well. The other criminal rebukes him. Don’t you fear God since you too are sentenced to death? In other words what you are asking is incredibly selfish and is all because you are afraid to die and afraid what will happen next. The criminal understands he and his fellow thief are being punished justly for their crimes. He knows they deserve the death sentence. Then he says, but this man has done nothing wrong. He acknowledges Jesus’ innocence, just as Pilate had tried to do.

He says to Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Or, remember me when you take up your reign. It is a reference to the Kingdom of God and Jesus’ Messianic reign. Whether the man understands everything that is going on or not he recognizes Jesus as the Messiah. Perhaps he had heard Jesus somewhere in Jerusalem during holy week or perhaps he has simply watched him throughout the ordeal of his trial and crucifixion, having an immediate perspective that few others had. We don’t know, but here dying on the cross he knows who Jesus is.

Jesus says to him, today you will be with me in paradise. Paradise would be Abraham’s bosom that Jesus had referred to in the rich man and Lazarus. It was the heaven side of Sheol, and the resting place of the righteous, while Hades or Sheol itself was the prison for the wicked awaiting the final judgment of God. As the apostles interpreted Jesus’ teaching after the resurrection the whole concept of Sheol is abandon and substituted simply with heaven. The idea of Paradise is caught up into the idea of heaven and included in it. Part of the reason is Jesus finishes his work on the cross and resurrection. There is no more need for an intermediate place before heaven. We are now in heaven with Jesus and the Father. We are personally present with our Lord after death. We are not yet resurrected, that awaits his second coming but our spirits are with the Lord and with those who know Jesus who have died before we have. What Jesus promises the thief on the cross is to be personally present with him after death in heaven. Jesus knew he was dying and he knew the thief was going to die as well. He recognizes that the thief acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah and accepts his rudimentary faith as adequate. There is no baptism, no formula here at all, but the simple acceptance of Jesus by grace of the thief’s request. What was he thinking as Jesus spoke those words? What did his companion in crime on the other cross think? Jesus knows his hour is getting close and he has almost finished his suffering. Paradise awaits him and the resurrection and victory!

Verses 44-56

Luke 23:44-56

Commentary On Luke 23:44-56

Galen Doughty

Luke 23:44-49 - The sixth hour is noon and the ninth hour is 3pm. Darkness came over the land for three hours as Jesus hung dying on the cross. Darkness is spoken of often in the prophets as a sign of the Day of the Lord, the day of God’s judgment. Even nature itself was declaring that God was judging human sin on the cross and dealing with it. It was the Day of the Lord in history all focused on Jesus.

Luke reports that the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Mark comments that it was torn from top to bottom. No human being could have torn that curtain because it was inches thick and made of heavy wool fabric. That is even more true if it was torn from top to bottom. The symbolism is striking. The curtain divided the holy place from the holy of holies and kept the Ark of the Covenant out of sight of even the priests. It symbolized the holiness of God and the impossibility of approaching the presence of God except for the high priest on the Day of Atonement. God is holy and cannot look at human sin. When Jesus died the way was opened for humans to approach God because sin has been paid for by God himself. God has provided the atonement sacrifice that satisfies his justice, righteousness and holiness. He has offered his one and only Son!

Luke gives us the third of Jesus three last words and the final one, "Father into your hands I commit my spirit." A few hours before Jesus had cried out using the words of Psalms 22, my God why have you forsaken me? It was the climax of sin being placed upon God’s Son. That cry was a prayer of anguish. This is a cry of faith and victory. He is in fellowship with his Father and knows he is about to die. He commits his spirit to God as his body dies. That is a picture of what happens to us. This body of sin dies, but our spirits live in God’s presence. We must wait for resurrection day. Jesus had to wait too, but only to the third day. In that sense everything that happened to Jesus in death will happen to us, but he has gone before us to blaze the trail back to God’s presence. When Jesus cries out his prayer he dies.

The centurion who was probably in charge of the crucifixion detail exclaims after watching Jesus die on the cross, that this must have been a righteous man. It is curious thing to say. The Roman soldiers had mocked Jesus and were making fun of him as king of the Jews. But more importantly here is the final witness by a Roman that Jesus was innocent because if he was guilty he would not have been righteous. In Mark the centurion says he must have been the Son of God. Luke wants to emphasize Jesus’ innocence and has three witnesses to state it, Pilate, the

believing thief and the centurion. Testimony confirmed by three witnesses stood up in a Jewish trial. I am not certain how many witnesses were valid for a Roman trial.

Luke also reports to us that the people who had been watching Jesus’ crucifixion went away moved, beating their breasts in grief and emotion. This included many who had opposed him. No one left the cross unmoved. His friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching it all happen. Luke hints that at least some of the disciples were watching Jesus die from a distance. We know from John’s gospel that John was at the cross and was charged with taking care of Mary.

Luke 23:50-56 - Jesus is dead and it is getting late on Friday nearing sundown of the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and a Pharisee, but also a good man and a secret disciple of Jesus now does something very public. He goes to Pilate and asks for the body of Jesus. He takes down the body, wraps it in a linen cloth and places it in a new tomb cut in the rock near Golgotha. No one had yet been laid in this tomb. Joseph is apparently wealthy enough to have a tomb and as a member of the Sanhedrin had wealth and influence. Whether he knew it or not his actions fulfill Isaiah 53 that say God’s Servant will be laid in a rich man’s tomb.

The women who had followed him from Galilee and who had provided for his needs followed Joseph and whoever else was helping him to the tomb and saw how Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb. They went home and began to prepare spices and perfumes to anoint the body which was Jewish custom but did not go back to the tomb as it was the Sabbath. They rested according to the commandment. Luke is setting up Jesus’ resurrection on the third day: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Presumably the women start their preparations before sunset on Friday night and finish them after sunset Saturday, planning on going to the tomb early on Sunday morning to anoint the body and prepare a proper burial for their Lord and friend. Little do they know that they will never get the chance. For them Jesus is dead and with him all their hopes that he was the Messiah. It is clear from the gospel accounts that though Jesus had prophesied his resurrection none of the disciples were predisposed to believe it or watch for it. The cross had shattered any memory of Jesus’ sayings and any faith that they were true. On that Friday night all they felt was grief, defeat and disappointment. All was lost.

Questions by E.M. Zerr For Luke Chapter Twenty-Three

1. here did they lead Jesus?

2. What general accusation did they make?

3. What specific charge did they make?

4. Tell what the governor asked him.

5. And the answer.

6. How was Pilate impressed?

7. Tell how this affected the crowd?

8. What inquiry did Pilate make ?

9. State what prompted this inquiry.

10. What did Pilate then do with Jesus?

11. In what city did he meet this ruler?

12. What made Herod glad?

13. For what favor did he look from Jesus?

14. In what form did he address Jesus?

15. Repeat the answer Jesus gave.

16. Who accused Jesus in this hearing?

17. What did Herod then do with Jesus?

18. What reconciliation did this incident bring about?

19. Tell whom Pilate now called together.

20. What did he announce to them?

21. Tell his remarks about Herod.

22. What did Pilate propose to do?

23. State the custom they observed at this feast.

24. What demand did they make?

25. Whom would Pilate have released to them?

26. Tell what information he called for.

27. Was it given him?

28. Whose voices prevailed?

29. Tell what Pilate then gave.

30. What kind of man did he release?

31. Tell what Simon was made to do.

32. Who followed them?

33. State their condition of mind.

34. What did Jesus tell them not to do?

35. For whom should they weep ?

36. What days were coming?

37. Then what will be said ?

38. Who is better, Christ or the Jewish nation?

39. Which is better, a green or a dead tree?

40. Who were to be crucified with Jesus?

41. At what place did the crucifixion occur?

42. Repeat the prayer of Jesus.

43. How was the raiment disposed of ?

44. What did the people and rulers say ?

45. Tell what the soldiers did.

46. What did they say?

47. Tell the words written over the cross.

48. What about the complaint of the thief?

49. Who rebuked him?

50. State the request he made to Jesus.

51. And the reply.

52. What began at the sixth hour ?

53. For how long did it continue?

54. What happened to the temple?

55. What words did Jesus cry to God?

56. Then what happened ?

57. How did the centurion express himself?

58. Tell how the people were impressed?

59. What is said of his acquaintances?

60. State the position held by Joseph.

61. What was his character?

62. For what was he looking?

63. How had he stood in the verdict against Christ ?

64. What did he ask of Pilate?

65. Where did he place it?

66. What is said of this sepulchre?

67. Tell what this day was called.

68. From where did the women come?

69. Returning what did they prepare?

70. Then what did they do?

Luke Chapter Twenty-Three

By Ralph L. Starling

They led Him to Pilate and said He was a traitor

“Stirring up the nation and opposing our Caesar”

Pilate asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

After examining Him he said, “He is excused”

They were so angry, it was so simple!

He went everywhere stirring up the people!

Pilate learning He wss from Herod’s jurisdiction

Herod welcomed Him with great expectation

When Jesus refused to answer Herod’s question

Herod sent Him back to Pilate with no reservation

Interesting, Herod and Pilate had stopped being friends

With this common experience they became friends again

Pilate told the accusers Christ should be released

They angrily replied, “Then give us Barabbas”

Barabbas was in prison guilty of every evil

But Pilate gave them Jesus to do as they were willing

They compelled Simon to carry His cross

Multitudes followed wailing and lamenting their loss

At a place called Calvary they nailed Him to the cross

Crucifying Him between two thieves to make it look worse

He prayed, “Father forgive them they don’t know what they do”

They cast lots, parted His garments as though it was their due

The Rulers derided Him and the soldiers mocked

“Let Him come down if He is the Son of God!”

The wrote on the cross in three languages, not two

“This is the King of the Jews”

The two thieves marveled at all of this

To one Jesus said, “You’ll be with me in Paradise”

Joseph begged the boy of Jesus for burial

Wrapped it in linen, put Him in the tomb deeply caring

The women came to anoint Him where He lay

They they rested to observe the Sabbath day

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Luke 23". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/luke-23.html.
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