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Bible Commentaries
Luke 23

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

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Verse 1

§ 135. JESUS BEFORE PILATE, Luke 23:1-5 .

See notes on Matthew 27:1-14; Mark 15:1-5; John 18:28-38.

1. The whole multitude Not of the people, who were not as yet turned against Jesus, but of the parties mentioned in Luke 22:66 of the last chapter , namely, the ruling classes.

Verse 2

2. We found Using a judicial term to indicate that their finding was the result of a legal proceeding. Yet the present charge, so far from being a former legal finding, is absolutely new. Blasphemy was the former charge. Sedition is the present one. The former was likely to be fatal before a Jewish court; the latter prejudicial before a Roman tribunal.

Forbidding to give tribute So far from this, our Lord had laid down the maxim, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.

Christ a king Verbally true; for the word Christ, signifying anointed, does imply king. But it also signifies Messiah; and so the Jews made even the true Messiah a criminal.

Verse 4

4. I find no fault How he came to the conclusion that a claim to be a king is no fault in this man, we might never be able to know from either of the first evangelists. But John, in the parallel passage, gives the details which the present narrative requires. He shows that Jesus satisfied Pilate that his kingship was no way dangerous to the imperial power. He was king in the realm of truth, where Caesar was no rival.

Verse 5

5. Stirreth up the people The ground is now completely shifted from the spiritual to the political charge; from blasphemy to treason against Rome.

Jewry Judaea.

Beginning from Galilee All the more plausible and effective, from the fact that Galilee was noted for its turbulent character, and its disposition to rebel against the Roman government.

Verses 6-7


7. Herod’s jurisdiction The authority of Herod Antipas extended over Galilee and Peraea.

At Jerusalem Doubtless to keep the Passover. For a full account of Herod Antipas see our notes on Matthew 14:1-11, and on Luke 13:31-32.

Verse 8

8. Herod saw Jesus… glad Jesus seems to have been ushered into his presence without much announcement, (for he saw him before he was glad,) but it was an agreeable surprise. How little soever Herod might desire Jesus to be preaching in his own dominions, he had little of the hatred toward him which inspired the Jewish authorities. The dread of Jesus, which induced Herod to endeavor by stratagem to drive Jesus from Peraea, (Luke 13:31,) disappeared of course when Herod found him in chains under the hand of Pilate. Jesus no longer seemed to him a divinely-commissioned being, but some sort of a wonder-worker. His was only a trifler’s gladness, inspired by a hope of the same sort of enjoyment which is felt over a juggler’s legerdemain, or a pseudo-spiritualist’s table-turning. Thus the being held as a mere performer, was one of the deepest indignities of the Saviour’s endurance.

Verse 9

9. In many words It was an extended examination, conducted probably before the tetrarch’s courtiers, with many a cross question and device to draw out the wonder-worker.

Nothing The questions were in many words, the answer was a suitable nothing. For of what answer was the insulting curiosity of this regal trifler worthy but a most solemn and rebuking silence from the Son of God?

Verse 10

10. Chief priests… vehemently accused Seizing, apparently, the favorable moment when the chagrin of Herod disposed him to listen.

Verse 11

11. Set him at nought Treated him as an impostor and a nothing. In so doing Herod gratified both his own disappointment and the malice of the Jews.

In a gorgeous robe Clearly , as a mock symbol of his royalty; this was the purple; and probably that same robe which was afterwards used by the soldiers of Pilate.

Verse 12

12. Pilate and Herod were made friends From the method of the reconciliation we may infer the nature of their previous enmity. A deference to the jurisdiction of Herod in the present case seems to have both furnished Pilate a mode of ridding himself of Jesus, and making amends for some past trespass. We may, therefore, reasonably conclude that their quarrel had arisen over some question of conflicting jurisdictions.

Verse 13

§ 137. PILATE SEEKS TO RELEASE JESUS, Luke 23:13-23 .

See notes on Matthew 27:15-23; Mark 15:6-14; John 18:39-40.

13. Pilate It was no doubt a sad embarrassment to Pilate to see the returning Jesus. But he had now the sanction of Herod in pronouncing him innocent; and he proceeds to use the advantage.

Verse 15

15. Nothing worthy of death As a representative man, this Gentile stands before the Jew and pronounces Jesus innocent. But while he thus confessed him innocent, he did not make himself so. He shed innocent blood. So the Gentile nations pronounce Jesus innocent; yet it is their sin that ever crucifies him afresh.

Verse 16

16. Chastise him The Romans had a customary chastisement preceding crucifixion; but this was a chastisement to save him from it. Pilate, like a true compromiser, hoped by this lesser punishment to satisfy the Jews.

Verse 22

22. The third time Thrice did the Gentile demand of the Jews what evil hath he done? The former declared, and the latter knew, that he was innocent. Yet both united to crucify.

John now describes the last reluctant effort of Pilate to save Jesus. He brought him forth from the Praetorium streaming with blood from his thorny crown, wounded with a scourge, and clad in the burlesque robe, to make a last appeal to their pity. Crucify him is still the cry.

Verse 25

§ 138. DELIVERS JESUS TO BE CRUCIFIED, Luke 23:23-25 .

See notes on Matthew 27:24-31; Mark 15:15-20; John 19:1-16.

25. Released Barabbas to their mercy, and delivered Jesus to their will. This is stated by Luke as a sad contrast. It marks the transition from the trial to the execution.

Verse 27

27. Company of… women From the strong terms of sorrow used by Luke, bewailed and lamented him, it is evident that there was in this company much more than the vagabond sympathy of a crowd at an ordinary execution. They wept deeply for the sorrowful fate of the Just One. When Jesus made his triumphal entry a few days before, large crowds joined to form the honouring procession. During the subsequent trial at Jerusalem great had been the excitement in regard to him. The authorities, Jewish, Roman, and Galilean the Sanhedrim, Pilate, and Herod had been engaged in deciding his fate. Jesus, therefore, could have been no obscure character, and his crucifixion no obscure event. And there is reason to suppose that this company was largely composed of his true friends, many of whom may have shared in his triumphal entrance.

Verses 27-31


See notes on Matthew 27:32-34; Mark 15:21-23; John 19:17.

27-31. The touching incident here given is furnished by Luke alone.

Verse 28

28. Daughters of Jerusalem A beautiful but now a sad title. It means

heiresses of woe. Weep not for me A mere natural sympathy awakened even over the narrative of the Saviour’s crucifixion, though serving to attract attention to the solemn subject, and to be the entrance to deeper views, has in itself no saving power.

But weep for yourselves The Saviour does not condemn their tears for him, but warns them that they have not more than enough for their own fate.

And for your children The younger married persons in this crowd probably saw and shared in the woes of the destruction of Jerusalem forty years later. But it must have been mostly the generation of their children who suffered the destruction itself.

Verse 29

29. They shall say Here is a significant change from the second person to the third; from ye to they. Perhaps the they refers to children; perhaps impersonally to the wicked in the day of Jerusalem’s destruction.

Verse 30

30. To the mountains, Fall on us Terrible as is the earthquake which throws mountains and hills upon the inhabitants of the earth, that covering would be a refuge from the more terrible forms of divine wrath.

Verse 31

31. In a green tree… in the dry A usual interpretation of this verse may be best given in the words of Bloomfield: “A proverbial form of expression; for (as we find from Psalms 1:3; Ezekiel 20:47; Eccl.

Luke 6:3, and especially the Rabbinical writers,) the Hebrews were accustomed to figuratively call the righteous, green trees, and the wicked, dry ones. Hence the sense here is: “If the innocent and the righteous be thus cut off, what may not be expected to befal the wicked and disobedient at the day of visitation, which impends over you.” But we are convinced that this is not the meaning of the passage. The green tree and the dry represent, if we rightly understand it, Jerusalem in its living and vigorous state, and Jerusalem in its dry and withered state. If in the former she commits crimes like these, what will be her judgments in the latter.

Verse 33

33. Place… called Calvary See note on Matthew 27:33.

Verses 33-34


See notes on Matthew 27:35-50; Mark 15:24-37; John 19:18-30.

34. Said Jesus, Father The sacrifice is commenced, and at the same time the great INTERCESSION is inaugurated. The former renders the latter possible, and gives it prevalence. And the intercession is the voice which expresses the force and power of the

sacrifice. Father It is as Son he both atones and intercedes with the Father.

Forgive For the sacrifice which makes forgiveness possible is now being made.

For He is about to give the reason why the forgiveness now made possible should be bestowed. It is not that the sinner is innocent; for then no forgiveness would be needed: but it is, that such is the palliation, that their sin is within the range of pardon. They know not what they do Just in that proportion that this is the fact their case either reaches innocence, and so needs no pardon, or approaches it, and so is in reach of pardon. If a case exists, as, for instance, Caiaphas, of one who knows, without any ignorance, this is no prayer for him. If, like Pilate, any one knows not that he is killing the prince of life, but knows he is slaying an innocent man, his guilt, proportioned to his knowledge, is heinous but not beyond pardon upon repentance. And so they all perhaps knew not what they did to the full extent; but they knew too well what they did to some extent. The very crowd that cried Crucify him, and the soldiers that drove the nail, knew not all, but knew too much for their own innocence or for their own good.

And ignorance, to be an excuse, must be sincere and unavoidable; and it must be the ignorance of a will that would have done right had it known the truth. Error must not only be honest but honestly come by. And from all this we may well conclude, that our ignorance is so precarious an excuse that we do well not to look to our innocence for justification, but fling ourselves for pardon on the great sacrifice for sin.

It was argued by an acute Jew, that if Christ was truly Son of God his prayer would have been heard, and the Jews would not have been, as Christians admit they have been, punished for their sin. But this, like every other prayer, is offered on condition that its answer and fulfilment be in accordance with the divine order. (See notes on Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42.) It presents the sinner to God the Father as within the reach of pardon in view of Christ’s great sacrifice; it proffers that sacrifice in his death, and asks that pardon may be granted, in the resulting conditions of pardon. In order to that pardon, the sacrifice, the intercession, the Spirit of grace, and the sinner’s repentance and accepting faith, must all concur.

And this prayer from the human Jesus attains the utmost height of the moral sublime. If God were to become man, what could he do more godlike? If God were to blend in nature with man, to what purer, holier, higher manhood could he exalt our nature? Well did the French infidel, Rousseau, declare, “Socrates died like a philosopher, but Jesus Christ died like a God.”

Verse 35

35. He saved others Saved them by his miracles from disease and death.

Let him save himself This is the true test miracle. All his other deeds of power and mercy are of no validity, unless he now asserts his power and demonstrates his Messiahship by making his own crucifixion impossible. If he can be crucified he is not the Christ. This argument, derived from the rulers, satisfies the people.

If he be Christ If he be the MESSIAH.

Verse 36

36. Soldiers… offering him vinegar Pretending to share with him their posca, or ordinary stimulating drink.

Verse 38

38. Letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew The Greek was the universal language of literature; the Latin was the language of the Roman empire; the Hebrew (being the Aramean or Chaldee-Syriac) was spoken vernacularly by the Jews. The rabbins say there are three most perfect languages: the Roman for battle, the Greek for conversation, the Syriac for prayers.

Verse 39

39. One of the malefactors As to the question whether both thieves at first reviled Jesus, we refer to our notes on Matthew 27:44; Matthew 27:49.

Railed The miraculous darkness and relentings of heart had already commenced. One of the malefactors is earliest to feel the solemn influences, while the other continues his mockeries of Jesus.

Verse 40

40. The other… rebuked He may have been for the time being borne on by the general contagion of hostility to Jesus. His fellow-malefactor leads the way, obsequiously joining the crowd to show how he too, though a malefactor, can rail at the central object of the common contempt. But this other has different views and feelings. Is there anything improbable in the supposition, that during the wide range of our Lord’s ministry through Galilee, Paerea, and Judea, this malefactor may have heard his preaching and been impressed with his divine character and doctrines? Very probably he was an insurgent against the Roman government, rather than a robber, and was expecting the speedy establishment of Messiah’s reign. And, when he beheld the calm majesty of Jesus in suffering, heard the railings at his claims of Messiahship, read the inscription proclaiming him a king of the Jews, and finally felt the shades of miraculous darkness gathering over the scene of violence, he recognized Jesus as true Saviour, Messiah, king, and Lord. In this awe, conviction, and confession, he was more or less soon followed by most of the attendants at the crucifixion.

Not thou fear God Whose frown is visible in the supernatural darkness gathering round us

Seeing The phrase as thou oughtest should precede this word, to make the sense complete.

Same condemnation Under a like sentence, on a like cross, and, therefore, unentitled to emulate these blaspheming railers against him.

Verse 41

41. We indeed justly So that the criminals are truly rafting at the innocent.

Nothing amiss So far from crime, he has even done nothing improper. This testimony of the malefactor presupposes a knowledge of Jesus’s past history. He could not thus say that Jesus was pure from any wrong act, without an acquaintance with his doctrine and character.

Verse 42

42. Lord He addresses Jesus not as Rabbi, or Good Master, or Teacher, but LORD.

Into thy kingdom Rather in thy kingdom, or in thy kingship. He believes Jesus even on the cross to be what the superscription advertised him to be, the King of the Jews; and that a day of future advent in divine royalty was to come.

Stier shows thus strikingly how at each point the Lord’s answer surpasses the thief’s request: “The petitioner cried, Lord; therefore he replies, Verily I, this Lord, say unto thee. The petitioner prays, Remember me; this also is surpassed, Thou shalt be with me! Instead of remembrance, perfect fellowship and communion is promised. When thou shalt one day come in thy kingdom. In opposition to this indefinite futurity we here have to-day.”

Verse 43

43. Today A few interpreters have referred the phrase to-day to the verb say; making Jesus mean, Today I say unto thee. Nothing can relieve the vapidness of such a construction. It is with hardly less truth than severity that Alford says of this interpretation, “considering that it not only violates common sense, but destroys our Lord’s meaning, it is surely something worse than silly.” It would be scarce less absurd in Luke 19:9 to render the words, Jesus said unto him this day. Where did Jesus ever use the expression, I say unto thee to-day? Compare the language of the risen Samuel to Saul: “ Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me.”

Paradise The word Paradise was originally Armenian, and was thence adopted by the Arabic and later Hebrew, to signify a park planted with trees and flowers. It was then appropriated by the Greeks, and was used in the (Septuagint) Greek translation of the Old Testament. Thus the Septuagint has in Genesis 2:8: God planted a paradise in Eden. This primeval paradise was lost, and the name was transferred by the Jewish Church to the blessed section of Hades, or the intermediate state between death and the resurrection. Beyond all doubt it was the intention of Jesus to designate this, by the term Paradise, to the dying thief. The passage, therefore, presents an unanswerable proof of the existence, both of a human soul separate from the body, and a state of happy consciousness of the justified soul immediately after death and before the resurrection.

Verse 44

44. Darkness over all the earth Over all the land, as it is translated in Matthew. Not the globe, (for it was night at the antipodes,) nor perhaps was even all Palestine covered, but the vicinity and adjacent country. Nor was it an eclipse, since the Passover was at full moon. As the darkness was not universal but local, so it was not astronomical but atmospheric.

Modern learning has rejected the quotations from old authors, such as Phlegon and Thallus, to prove the universality of the obscuration.

Verses 46-56


See notes on John 19:31-42; Matthew 27:51-61; Mark 15:38-47.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Luke 23". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/luke-23.html. 1874-1909.
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