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Home arrow Daniel arrow Luke 23:26-56: He Breathed His Last
Luke 23:26-56: He Breathed His Last Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 December 2013

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In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom describes her and her sister’s survival in Nazi concentration camps.  At one point, she recounts how on every Friday they faced “the recurrent humiliation of medical inspection.”  They were forced to remove all their clothing while they waited to be seen.  She describes one particular day: “But it was one of these mornings while we were waiting, shivering, in the corridor, that yet another page in the Bible leapt into life for me.  He hung naked on the cross.”  She goes on to talk about how that had never occurred to her because of all the pictures and crucifixes she had seen.  She goes on: “I leaned toward Betsie (her sister), ahead of me in line.  Her should blades stood out sharp and thin beneath her blue-mottled skin.  ‘Betsie, they took His clothes too.’  Ahead of me I heard a little gasp. ‘Oh, Corrie.  And I never thanked Him…’” 1  Their faith in that moment (and throughout their entire ordeal) is humbling.  Instead of obsessing over their own humiliation, which was unspeakable, they were overwhelmed by one detail from Jesus’ crucifixion: He hung naked on a cross.  Sometimes it is just one particular detail of Jesus’ death that astounds us and drives us to praise and thanksgiving.

Luke’s telling of Jesus’ death is in one sense brief.  In one verse he tells of the crucifixion (v. 33) and in one verse he describes His death (v. 46).  The rest of the NT will flesh out the significance of the cross for our salvation, while Luke simply tells us the story with little comment.  Yet, this does not mean that we do not see the significance in Luke.  In fact, if we look at some of the details that Luke mentions took place during the crucifixion, we see him pointing us in the direction of what Jesus’ death meant for us all.  I want us to look at a number of those details this morning and come back and look at a couple of lessons that we can learn from them.

Simon carried the cross (v. 26)

The first detail that we come across is the fact that Jesus could not carry His own cross.  Look at verse 26.  We see in this just how cruel Jesus’ suffering had been to this point.  He was so weakened by the beatings that He had already faced that He could not carry His cross.  Therefore, the soldiers got Simon to carry it.  We should note that we see in this a picture of our own discipleship and a reminder that Jesus was dying in our place.

Jesus warns the women of Jerusalem (v. 27-31)

Luke tells us that some women were following Jesus to the cross and were mourning for Him.  Look at verse 27.  But Jesus responds to them in verses 28-31.  Look at those with me.  They are weeping for Him because of the suffering that He is about to face, but He tells them to weep for themselves because of the suffering that will soon come upon them.  Jesus has repeatedly spoken of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and He warns these women again.  It will be terrible to be in the city during that time.  So bad that people will actually long for death.  The judgment of God upon Jerusalem will be just and severe.  Jesus, knowing that He is about to face His Father’s wrath for our sin, warns these women about the wrath to come in Jerusalem.  Jesus shows His compassion for these women even as He is making His way to the cross.

Jesus prays for their forgiveness (v. 34)

After Jesus is nailed to the cross, Luke records His prayer.  Look at verse 34.  Amazing.  Jesus shows compassion and love even to those who nailed Him to a tree.  We see in this His great love for sinners like us.  One commentator writes: “As soon as the blood of the Great Sacrifice began to flow, the Great High Priest began to intercede.” 2  The amazing reality is that the intercession that began on the cross is still happening right now.  Even now, Jesus is interceding before the Father for our sins to be forgiven.  Even now, He is our Great High Priest, seated at the right hand of God, having finished His work of our atonement.

The Jewish Leaders mock Jesus as Messiah (v. 35)

The Jewish Leaders who had Jesus arrested and took Him before Pilate and Herod are also present at the cross.  Look at how they respond to the crucifixion in verse 35.  They did not believe that Jesus was the Promised Messiah.  They felt like the cross was their proof.  How could the Messiah, the Savior of Israel, be hung on a tree?  If He was so powerful, why didn’t He just come down and save Himself?  The answer to that question is that Jesus did not save Himself because He was saving us.  They mock Him as the Savior as He is in the very act of saving.  They laugh at His claim to be Messiah as He is fulfilling what the prophets wrote.  But they are not the only ones to mock Jesus at the cross.

The Soldiers mock Jesus as the King of the Jews (v. 36-38)

The soldiers join in the wicked fun.  Look at verses 36-38.  The reason Pilate gave for crucifying Jesus was that He was the King of the Jews.  Of course, the leaders hated this and even asked Pilate to change it (John 19:21).  The soldiers apparently thought it was humorous.  They found it amusing that they were hanging “The King of the Jews” on a cross.  They too told Him to save Himself if He was really a King.  Yet, the King had come to die.  The man hanging on the cross before them was not just the King of the Jews but the King of Kings.  All kings and all men will answer to Him.  But on this day, the great and glorious King was dying on a tree.  If you ever have moments when your sin does not seem so bad or ugly, then I encourage you to remember Jesus on the cross.  He is the Messiah, the Promised One, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, hanging naked on a cross for your sin.  We must always view our sin through the lens of the cross, for only then do we see its gravity, and the love of the One who saved us from it.

Two Criminals respond to Jesus (v. 39-43)

Jesus did not die alone.  Luke tells us that He was crucified between two criminals (v. 32).  In verses 39-43, we see an interaction between Jesus and these men.  The first joins with the Jewish Leadership and the soldiers in mocking Jesus.  Look at verse 39.  Once again the identity of Jesus is questioned on the cross.  If He is truly the Christ, then surely He will save Himself (and maybe even the others there with Him).  Yet, He is not there to save Himself, He is there to save the world.  It seems that the other criminal gets this.  Look at his response in verses 40-42.  He rebukes the first criminal for his mockery.  He speaks about fearing God and goes on to confess that he is receiving what he deserves.  Then, believing that Jesus truly is the King, he humbly asks Him for mercy.  Jesus responds in verse 43.  Look at that.  In these few verses, with these two criminals, we have a concise picture of the whole of humanity.  Every person is either on one side of Jesus or the other.  Some just mock Him and deny His identity, while others repent and believe in His mercy.  The most important thing about us in this life is which side we are on.  Do we mock Him or do we believe Him?  The answer will determine our eternity.

The Darkness and the Tearing of the Curtain (v. 44-45)

As we often see in critical moments of redemptive history, the creation is impacted by what is happening.  Look at verses 44-45a.  From noon until 3:00pm on Good Friday there was darkness.  The darkest moment of human history was accompanied with darkness on the earth.  Yet, the darkness would give way to light.  Look at verse 45b.  While the sun refused to shine, the curtain in the Temple was torn, symbolizing that man could now come into the presence of God.  The author of Hebrews will spend several chapters on the glory of this reality.  We can now come into the presence of the Holy God through the blood of Jesus (see Hebrews 8-10).  He has opened a door that will never be closed for those who believe in Christ.

Various responses to Jesus’ death (v. 47-49)

As we said before, Luke writes of Jesus’ death in one verse.  Look at verse 46.  Jesus, the Holy One, the Lamb of God, the Promised Messiah, breathes His last.  Luke then tells us of various responses to Jesus’ death.  First, the centurion confesses Jesus’ innocence.  Look at verse 47.  The only person to praise God at the cross was a Roman soldier.  Second, look at how the crowds respond in verse 48.  Although there were those that joined with the Jewish Leaders in crying out for Jesus’ crucifixion, not all of the people remained convinced by them.  Many of the three thousand who believed on the Day of Pentecost were likely present when Jesus died.  Third, Luke tells us of Jesus’ acquaintances in verse 49.  Look at that with me.  His friends and His followers were there standing at a distance and the women that Luke mentions will play a significant role in His burial and resurrection, which leads to our last detail.

The Burial by Joseph and the women (v. 50-56)

Luke tells us of Jesus’ burial in verses 50-56.  Look at those with me.  The burial is significant because it demonstrates that He was truly dead.  They prepared spices and put Him in a tomb.  They were not looking for the resurrection.  All they knew is that this One that they loved had died on a tree and they wanted to care for His body in death, which they did.  At the end of Good Friday, Jesus was dead in a tomb.

Luke tells us many details about the death of Jesus.  What can we learn from these?  Let me close by just mentioning a couple of lessons.  First, Jesus’ crucifixion is historical, it really happened. Luke is not over-exaggerating, he is simply telling what happened.  He gives us these details so that we can be certain about Jesus and His death, just as he said he was doing (1:4).  All the witnesses and all the details help us to be certain.  Second, Jesus’ crucifixion is sacrificial.  The details reveal Jesus’ mercy and compassion, even while He is suffering in our place.  He warns the women, prays for His executors, pardons the criminal, and seemingly convinces the centurion.  The truth is that He gave His life at the cross for us.  The Lamb of God sacrificed Himself for our salvation.  He did not save Himself to save us.  Thus, the only proper response to Jesus’ death is to give Him your life.  Turn from your sins and trust in the compassion of the One who paid it all at the cross.  Amen. 

1 Quoted in Philip Graham Ryken, Luke, Vol. 2 REC (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), p. 583-84.
2 J. C. Ryle, quoted in Ryken, p. 587.

~ William Marshall ~


Last Updated ( Sunday, 26 January 2014 )

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