The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Luke 23

Luk 23:1

See Lesson, Roman trial of Jesus.

LED: As Isa 53:7 LXX.

PILATE: Governor of Judea, soldier of Spain, served with Germanicus in Germany. During stay in Rome, married Claudia (illegitimate daughter of Tiberius, and granddaughter of Augustus). This family connection aided him to become procurator. Always a crude and tactless man, as seen in affairs of imperial ensign, Corban money to build aqueducts, etc (HVM 116-118). But he tried Jesus' case generally with fairness, prob influenced by Claudia, who dreamed of "that righteous man" after hearing Pilate's conversation with Caiaphas of the night before. (Was the dream planted by an angel?) His actions at the trial of Jesus were a total reversal of his previous form: ordinarily, he was anything but a weak, indecisive man!

Luk 23:3

ARE YOU THE KING?: Pilate already knew the charges (thus proving an earlier, unrecorded interview with Jewish leaders). But he recognizes this is not the figure nor the conduct of a "real king" (ie a political "pretender").

Luk 23:4

THIS MAN: "Receives sinners" (Luk 15:2). "Never man spoke like..." (Joh 7:46). "No fault in..." (Luk 23:4,14,41). "Has somewhat to offer" (Heb 8:3). "Through this man... forgiveness" (Act 13:38). "Is worthy of more honor than Moses" (Heb 3:3). "Sat down" (Heb 10:12). "Continues forever" (Heb 7:24). "Was Son of God" (Mar 15:39).

Luk 23:7

Pilate's fatal mistake: after closing the case (v 4), he now reopens it. He has become the pawn of Sanhedrists.

HE SENT HIM TO HEROD: What relief. The "civil service" mentality: "Pass the buck" to someone else! "Let him worry about this."

Luk 23:8

Where once Herod had been fearful, now his conscience is "dead".

SOME MIRACLE: Perhaps the healing of his own vice-ridden body?

Luk 23:9

JESUS GAVE HIM NO ANSWER: "Jesus was silent so that the voice of the dead Baptist [whom Herod had killed] might be heard" (Stalker 69), but Herod was without shame.

"What was the single most amazing thing that Jesus did? Was it the overcoming of the tempter in the wilderness? Was it acts of healing? Of raising the dead to life? Was it even hanging on the cross?

"I submit that the single most amazing thing that our Lord did, was to be silent.

"Jesus was on trial. He was set upon by a band of none-too-gentle soldiers, under orders to whisk him away to a night-time court. False witnesses accused him. Malicious council members conspired against him. Falsely pious leaders plotted with evil intent against him. And all the while, Jesus knew that he was right, and they were wrong.

"Before them was a loved Son. The accused was the only one who was truly blameless. The only one who really cared in his heart for the nation that these brutish elders thought they were saving from the Romans. Before them was someone who had only and always given of himself for others. The only one who had the power to truly do good. The only one who had the power to throw off the true yoke. Jesus was silent.

"Jesus was not powerless. He could have confuted the lies. He could have shouted down the insinuations as well as the blunt accusations. He could have put them in their place. He could have annihilated their arguments. He could have used his power to hurt them, or destroy them, and escape. He was right, and they were all wrong. Jesus was silent.

"How do we react, I wonder, to words spoken against us? Do we consider that they may be justified? Most times they probably are, and we are blind to our own failings.

"More often, perhaps, we are blinded by our sense of justice. We are quick to excuse ourselves, and even quicker to attack supposed injustice against ourselves. We may lash out most often against those closest to us. When we are tempted to react in such a way, let us think on the mind of Christ. "Let this mind be in you..." (Mike Bull).

There is much OT support for this, which could have required a greater discipline than anything else he might have done. And so for us: it can be correct, in the right circumstances, ie, when faced with accusations from evil men, to keep one's counsel and not offer any defense: Psa 38:13,14; 39:1,2,9, Isa 53:7, Ecc 5:1.

Luk 23:11

SOLDIERS: The KJV calls these soldiers "men of war" -- a phrase which is true enough to the original text, but is especially apt, as an example of supreme irony! What "men of war" they were! Courageous and unrelenting in their mockery of a man who could not -- or, more precisely, would not -- defend himself!

We cannot help but remember that an earlier Herod -- father of this one -- had sent his "men of war" out to the village of Bethlehem, where they seized the babies from their mothers, and butchered them (Mat 2:16)!

The world has such "men of war" today -- they may be seen executing innocents and raping young women, stealing from the poor, and polluting themselves with every vice, in the "third-world" backwaters of the world... whose sole claims to legitimacy are cheap uniforms and deadly weapons, who serve men every bit as vile as the Herods.

May the true "Man of war" return soon, riding on a white horse, and leading the armies of heaven, to destroy once and for all such would-be "men of war"! (Rev 19:11-14)

Luk 23:12

Worldly enemies unite in opposition to Christ. Jew and Gentile together (cp Psa 2:2; Act 4:25-27; Rom 3:9,19,20).

Luk 23:13

Vv 13-17: Pilate, uncharacteristically weak and uncertain, tries desperately to get rid of his problem.

Luk 23:15

Christ's innocence attested: by Herod (Luk 23:15), by thief (Luk 23:41), by centurion (Luk 23:47), by Judas (Mat 27:4), by Pilate (Mat 27:24), and by Pilate's wife (Mat 27:19).

Luk 23:16

PUNISH... RELEASE: By flogging (Mat 27:26; John 19:1). "The lash was a long leather thong, often studded with nails and pieces of bone and sharpened pellets of lead. The prisoner was bound to a pillar in such a way that his back was exposed and he was unable to move, and then the lash was laid on. The victims usually lost consciousness under this scourging; many of them emerged from it raving mad; and not a few died under it" (Barclay). When wielded with force, it tore away large chunks of flesh, exposing veins, inner muscles, and sinews. Called by some "the half-way death".

"Hoping that mangling an innocent man with the savage Roman scourge would suffice as a compromise." As though Jesus were half-innocent and half-guilty.

Luk 23:18

WITH ONE VOICE THEY CRIED OUT: The priests had stirred up the crowd (Mar 15:11). These were not all the "common people" (who might have favored Jesus) -- it was too early in the morning -- but rather the soldiers and the "hangers-on", the lowest rabble (who were up late at night and drawn by the excitement of the arrest).

BARABBAS: Also a rebel (Luk 23:19) and a robber (Joh 18:40).

Luk 23:20

WANTING TO RELEASE JESUS, PILATE APPEALED TO THEM AGAIN: Pilate hoped they would ask for Jesus' release also, with which he would have gladly complied.

Luk 23:21

THEY KEPT SHOUTING: Lit, "they shouted him down".

Luk 23:22

"Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed" (Act 13:28). Cp also Act 3:13; Exo 23:2.

Luk 23:24

"The hallmark of the career politician in every age: Act 12:3; 2:27; Exo 32:1" (WGos 761). A riot would endanger his own position, and poss his very position. Some of his past actions already made him suspect in Rome (Luk 13:1) for antagonizing the Jews unnecessarily.

Luk 23:26

SIMON FROM CYRENE: Cp Mar 15:21: Simon was father of Alexander and Rufus (Rom 16:13). So evidently Simon became a follower of Christ (Mat 10:38,39). This day, he began the trip (Mat 5:41) which he continued all the rest of his life. See Lesson, Simon of Cyrene poem.

AND PUT THE CROSS ON HIM AND MADE HIM CARRY IT: "Without the camp, bearing his reproach" (Heb 13:12,13). Simon was "drafted" to go one mile (Mat 5:41). He "volunteered" to go the second mile, to baptism and beyond (Rom 16:13).

Luk 23:29

// Jer 16:1-4.

Luk 23:31

See Eze 20;47; 17:24: Christ = green tree (cp Jer 11:16,19); the wicked = dry tree. 'If this is what your nation is capable of now, what will be your fate?' Cp v 30 with Hos 10:8 (also Hos 9:12,14,15,17; 10:3,5,8,15...). Consider also Psa 1:3; Jer 17:5-8: the tree "planted" -- the cross (a piece of dead wood) "planted" in the ground! Yet it will be "green" again!

Luk 23:32

The three crosses of Luke 23:32,33: (1) The thief: on the cross of rejection, a scoffer, a blasphemer, who died in sin. (2) Christ: on the cross of redemption, a sacrifice, a benefactor, who died for sin. (3) The thief: on the cross of reception, a seeker, a believer, who died saved from sin.

Luk 23:33


THEY CRUCIFIED HIM: The practice probably originated in Asia Minor, being adopted by the Persians and Phoenicians -- who also impaled, speared, stoned, strangled, drowned, burned, or boiled victims in oil. Crucifixion reached Europe in 3rd century BC, and was adopted by the Romans as a strong deterrent to crime or rebellion.

The patibulum, or cross-piece, was probably the portion of the cross carried by Christ; it weighed -- alone -- about 100 lbs. The stipes, or upright piece, was probably permanently erected at the site of executions.

Crosspiece laid on ground, then attached to upright stake. Spikes in ankles and wrists. Lifted and jolted into place. Severe pain. Heat. Thirst. Flies. Difficulties in breathing. Dust. Abuse from observers. Shame of nakedness (Mar 15:24; Psa 22:18). Hallucinations? Depression (the "shadow of death")?

A small seat was prob attached to the stipes, so that the crucified man might sit periodically, to relieve the strain and weight put on the arms and shoulders. In this way, and because the will to live would be so strong in most men being executed, the whole process of crucifixion would be considerably lengthened, and the suffering prolonged. Death would come, eventually, by asphyxiation... when it would become too difficult to hold oneself up so as to draw breath.

ALONG WITH THE CRIMINALS: Cp Isa 53:12 -- numbered with transgressors.

Luk 23:34

See Lesson, Sayings from the cross.

Echoed by Stephen in Act 7:60. And in turn echoed by Paul in 2Ti 4:16.

JESUS SAID: Continuous: "kept on saying". Time after time he repeated the same prayer.

FATHER, FORGIVE THEM: "The broad-headed nails driven entirely home, the soldiers would then lift the cross with its bleeding burden, and plant it in the hole dug in the earth to receive it. Firmly fixing it there, they do the same for the two thieves, and put the climax on the shame of his cross by placing them one on each side of him. Jesus is still able to speak. What are those words that come from his parched lips? 'Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do!' Compassionate in the midst of his sufferings, he prays for his murderers. 0 Lord of heaven and earth, help us to conform to the example he hath left us. Our hearts break for love and pity. Help us to do his commandments" (NR 316,317).

FORGIVE THEM: (1) The Romans, because the Jews knew what they were doing (Mat 23:37,38). But would there be any real point in asking for forgiveness of the ignorant Roman soldiers, who were just doing their jobs? Or, (2) It was really the Jews who killed Jesus, although they didn't lay hands on him? So, wasn't this a prayer for the repentance of Israel, once they truly understood what they had done, leading to their (now very meaningful) forgiveness? Fulfilled in Acts 2:37-39. Or even, (3) a prayer for those yet unborn, whose continuing sins will be done in ignorance, but who may yet learn... and repent... and be forgiven.

Christ "could see their weakness and forgive them. He could hope that some time later they could come to realize the truth and repent. Yet at the moment he then could appeal to his Father to forgive them in their ignorance. He could let the responsibility of their actions be dealt with by God in His justice and righteousness, and let go of it himself.

When we are able to let go and give things to God, then we are able to continue our walk with Him without so much distraction. We can have the confidence that God will deal with all things as they should be dealt with. We can let God give the lessons He needs to give, and not feel as though it is our position to tell others what they should do or how they should act. We can forgive the weakness in others knowing that we too act in weakness many times. We don't have to understand or control everything to forgive. God is in control and is working with us all" (CPv).

Luk 23:35

THE PEOPLE STOOD WATCHING: A public road ran nearby, and there would be many travelers that day. Cp Psa 22:8,13-17.

HE SAVED OTHERS; LET HIM SAVE HIMSELF: The first phrase is spoken cynically. The second part is a mocking challenge: 'If he is the Messiah, then let him fulfill the terms of the prophecy [Zec 9:9], and bring salvation for HIMSELF!'

Luk 23:36

WINE VINEGAR: Wine mixed with myrrh (Mar 15:23) and gall (Mat 27:34). By tradition, said to be provided by a woman's society of Jerusalem, a humanitarian gesture to ease the excruciating pains of crucifixion. But he did not take it, because taking drugs would have distorted a sacrifice of intelligent, reasoned obedience (Rom 12:1,2). But he was also offered wine vinegar (alone?) at the end (Joh 19:29,30), which he did take.

Luk 23:37

"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?" (Lam 1:12).

IF YOU ARE THE KING OF THE JEWS, SAVE YOURSELF: A mocking challenge: cp v 35n.

Luk 23:38

See Lesson, Superscription on cross, the.

Four handwritings: upon the stone (Exo 20:2); upon the wall (Dan 5:24); upon the ground (John 8:6); upon the cross (Mat 27:37; Mar 15:26; Luk 23:38; John 19:19).

Luk 23:39

SAVE YOURSELF AND US: Picking up on the words of the people (vv 35,37).

Luk 23:40

Vv 40-42: The thief's "statement of faith": Fear of God, mortality of man (v 40), sinfulness of man, repentance, Jesus a man, Jesus perfectly obedient (v 41), Jesus as king and Messiah, salvation through the death of the King, the subsequent coming in glory of that resurrected King, the hope of a kingdom, the hope of a resurrection (v 42). Note also: the thief was "baptized" in a greater sense than we -- in crucifixion! Consider Rom 6:3-8: his "baptism" included death and burial along with Christ! If so, then why not his resurrection also?!

This crucified man had also heard the prayer of the great High Priest in v 34: "Father, forgive them!" And so he asks, 'Can this King (v 38)... this High Priest (v 34)... forgive... even me?' (Consider the context of Zec 9:9: "As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit" (v 11). Here was the blood of that covenant being shed before his eyes, and the thief knew that very soon he himself would be imprisoned in the waterless pit. "Lord, remember me!"

Supposition: Joh 6:53-66: Many who had followed Jesus at the beginning later went away, not liking what Jesus said of his need to die (vv 53-56) -- was this thief one of those men? Now, when he sees his former Master dying, as HE had predicted, he understands! And so the Good Shepherd -- as he lays down his life -- reclaims one of his lost sheep (Luk 15:4-7).

Luk 23:41

Christ's innocence attested: by Herod (Luk 23:15), by thief (Luk 23:41), by centurion (Luk 23:47), by Judas (Mat 27:4), by Pilate (Mat 27:24), and by Pilate's wife (Mat 27:19).

"We believe, confess, repent, and die figuratively when 'we are buried with him, by baptism into death' (Rom 6:4). The penitent thief believed, confessed, repented, and died literally, after he had been accepted by the dying Jesus: and thus he became the first one to be baptized into Christ. So what does this mean to our brother or sister who, in his or her humility, feels unworthy, as every right thinking brother or sister feels? Here, surely, is God, showing with emphasis how far He is willing and eager to go to save His children. 'The Lord is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance' (2Pe 3:9). The first one to be baptized into Christ in the Christian dispensation was not someone we might have selected, to put him on a pedestal and say, 'There is someone you can look up to and follow.' No, the first one was a common criminal, but one who realised his helplessness and his need, and looked on the only example to be followed, that of the One 'who had done nothing amiss' " (L Evans, Xd 114:216,217).

Luk 23:42

JESUS, REMEMBER ME: Citing, more or less, the words of Joseph in Gen 40:14: "But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison."

Luk 23:43

See Lesson, Sayings from the cross.

TODAY: (1) The original mss had scarcely any punctuation. So... repunctuate: 'I tell you the truth today... you will be with me..." In answer to v 42 ("Remember me when..."), Jesus answers: 'Not only will I remember you then, but I will remember you even today!' (On that very day, Jesus was not in "paradise", but in the grave!) Or (2) "today" may sig simply a solemn oath: ie Deu 6:6; 7:11; 8:1; 10:13.

PARADISE: Used 3 times in OT: translated forest and orchard, on earth! (Neh 2:8; Ecc 2:5; Song 4:12). Hence refs to Israel in Kingdom Age: Eze 36:35; Isa 51:3 (Elp 58-60). The paradise of God = Garden of Eden, restored (Rev 2:7; Gen 13:10). The dead wood of cross was beginning of the living wood, of the tree of life in the paradise of God.

Luk 23:44

Natural signs at Jesus' birth, and thus also natural signs at his death. Sig that the "light of the world" (Joh 8:12) was being taken away.

Luk 23:45

AND THE CURTAIN OF THE TEMPLE WAS TORN IN TWO: Under the Law the evidence of the sacrifice was always to be brought before the Lord -- blood poured out at the base of the altar of burnt-offering, blood on the horns of the altar of incense, blood before the veil, blood on the mercy-seat itself. In the death of Jesus, this supreme sacrifice could not be brought into the temple, so instead the veil was rent and the Glory of the Lord came to Jesus!

Luk 23:46

See Lesson, Sayings from the cross.

The disposal of Jesus' personal effects: his purse to Judas (Joh 13:29), his clothes to soldiers (Joh 19:23), his mother to John (Joh 19:27), his "spirit" to God (Luk 23:46), and his body to Joseph (Joh 19:38).

A LOUD VOICE: Inconsistent with death from exhaustion. Perhaps Jesus died from the spear thrust (see Mat 27:49n).

Luk 23:47

Every NT ref shows centurions in a good light: Luk 7:1-10; 23:47; Act 10:1,2; 22:25,26; 23:17,18; 27:43.

Christ's innocence attested: by Herod (Luk 23:15), by thief (Luk 23:41), by centurion (Luk 23:47), by Judas (Mat 27:4), by Pilate (Mat 27:24), and by Pilate's wife (Mat 27:19).

THE CENTURION: By tradition, Longinus, bishop of Cappadocia, and martyr for Christ (Stalker 280).

A RIGHTEOUS MAN: And "the son of God" (Mat 27:54; Mar 15:39).

Luk 23:48

BEAT THEIR BREASTS: As the publican, in confessing his sins (Luk 18:13).

Luk 23:49

ALL THOSE WHO KNEW HIM: All the apostles? At least Peter (1Pe 5:1).

STOOD AT A DISTANCE: The women first came near to minister (John 19:25,26), but then -- through shock and modesty at the nakedness (or because the soldiers drove them away) -- they removed further away (Mat 27:55).

The Roman historian Tacitus states that family or friends were forbidden to show open grief or approach very near the cross where a loved one is being crucified; those who continued to violate this law could be themselves crucified!

WATCHING THESE THINGS: As he watched them! "Beholding the [result of the] travail of his soul" (Isa 53:11).

Luk 23:50

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, A MEMBER OF THE COUNCIL: An "honorable counsellor" (Mar 15:43), ie one of the 14 priests forming a standing committee just below the High Priest, who regulated everything connected with Temple worship (Temple 100). A Joseph -- a just man -- at the beginning, to care for Jesus. A Joseph -- a just man -- at the end, to care for Jesus.

Luk 23:51

WHO HAD NOT CONSENTED TO THEIR DECISION: Had he walked out -- in protest -- before the final judgment was given?

HE WAS WAITING FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD: As was Simeon (Luk 2:25) and Anna (Luk 2:38).

Luk 23:52

The disposal of Jesus' personal effects: his purse to Judas (Joh 13:29), his clothes to soldiers (Joh 19:23), his mother to John (Joh 19:27), his "spirit" to God (Luk 23:46), and his body to Joseph (Joh 19:38).

GOING TO PILATE, HE ASKED FOR JESUS' BODY: A courageous gesture -- to identify oneself with Jesus publicly. (The Sanhedrin made provision for the brothers of an executed criminal to claim the body. Where was James? But now, in his stead, Joseph acts publicly as the "brother" of Jesus!)

Luk 23:53

WRAPPED IT IN A LINEN CLOTH: With a great deal of spices (Joh 19:39,40). An echo of his birth: "She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger" (Luk 2:7).

Luk 23:55

AND SAW THE TOMB AND HOW HIS BODY WAS LAID IN IT: So that they might return, after Sabbath, to complete the anointing for burial.

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