THE CRUCIFIXION CONSUMMATES THE REDEMPTIVE MISSION OF THE MESSIAH
When the Messiah set His face resolutely to go to Jerusalem, it was precisely to accomplish this work of redemption on the Cross. This moment is the focal point of human history. The contrast is stark between the innocent Creator being crucified between two guilty criminals. The contrast is also stark between the mocking and savagery of the rulers and the soldiers as opposed to the forgiveness still on the lips of the Savior. Despite the heavy weight of taking upon Himself the wrath of God and suffering unknown agonies for being sin for us, Jesus still evidences His heart of compassion towards others as He warns about the coming judgment upon unrepentant Jerusalem.
Anyabwile: Put the scenes together: Judgment is coming. God is forgiving. Paradise is offered. But the only ones who receive it are the humble who admit their sins and confess that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to atone for their sins and was raised from the grave three days later.
I. (:26-32) SAD SCENE = VIA DOLOROSA
Chiastic structure: a b b a
A. (:26) Death Walk of Jesus
“And when they led Him away, they laid hold of one Simon of Cyrene,
in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.”
Donald Miller: the picture of Simon taking up the cross and following behind Jesus is a fitting description of the Church which later carried the cross in a deeper sense (9:23-26; 14:27).
MacArthur: This is the final few steps to the execution of the Son of God. From Pilate’s judgment hall to Skull Hill (or Golgotha in Hebrew or Calvary in Latin) was only a short walk, few hundred yards, few minutes, but those were just the final steps, the final minutes. The earthly journey to the cross actually began thirty-three years earlier. . .
And so in the final few steps, in the final few moments, we meet some characters on the road to Skull Hill who help us understand the whole purpose of God in redemption and how people respond. We meet the mixed murderers. We meet a supporting stranger. We meet again the curious crowd. We meet some weeping women. And then we meet two companion criminals. And they’re not here incidentally, they’re here because they’re instructive to us as to the purposes of God. . .
At some point Simon embraced the gospel of the Lord whose cross he had carried. His wife and sons also became believers and were known to the church at Rome. One of them, Rufus, was singled out by Paul as a choice servant of the Lord, and Simon’s wife ministered to the apostle (Ro 16:13). The church at Cyrene, in which Simon undoubtedly played a significant role, developed and grew strong, eventually sending out missionaries to preach the gospel to the Gentiles at Antioch (Acts 11:20). One of its members, Lucius, even served as one of the pastors at the Antioch church when Paul and Barnabas were sent out as missionaries (Acts 13:1). It may have been the carrying of Jesus’ cross that led Simon to faith in Him. What began as a forced and probably resented act of physical servitude became the opportunity for spiritual life. Not only Simon himself but his entire family came to salvation, and his wife became like a mother to the apostle Paul.
B. (:27-28) Mourning for the Suffering of Jesus in the Current Day of the Lord
1. (:27) Recognizing Their Mourning
“And there were following Him a great multitude of the people,
and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him.”
Morris: We should bear in mind that those who clamoured for Jesus’ execution were not necessarily a great number. They could crowd in round the judgment hall. There were still many in Jerusalem who admired Jesus and it is of some of these that we now learn.
2. (:28) Repurposing Their Mourning
“But Jesus turning to them said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.’”
Geldenhuys: instead of thanking them for their friendly sympathy with Him, urges them not to weep for Him, but for themselves and their children. The Lord does not in any way disapprove of their mourning for Him as though this were in itself something wrong. Undoubtedly He appreciated their sympathy. But because He knows what terrible judgments will ere long visit Jerusalem, He expresses in these words His unfathomable pity for the doomed people. It is beautiful and good that they should manifest such tenderness and sympathy with Him on His way to the cross. But they are unable to see things in their right perspective and do not realise what is awaiting them and their people if they should persist in their unbelief. It is far more urgent that they should weep for themselves and their children: even at this late hour such tears may lead to repentance and avert the approaching doom. He impresses on them the appalling peril in which they stand.
C. (:29-31) Mourning for the Suffering of Israel in the Future Day of the Lord
1. (:29) Better Not to Have Been Born
“For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’”
This looks forward both to the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and then to the suffering in the Great Tribulation period of eschatology
Deffinbaugh: At the time of the writing of this gospel, Luke himself did not know the particulars because this was, in his day, still prophecy. The gospel of Luke was written approximately ten years before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and his Roman army. In the providence of God, these words were recorded, words which spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem several years ahead of the event. These words of Jesus, pertaining to the downfall of Jerusalem, were prophetic, even from Luke’s point of view, at the time of his writing. Luke had not yet seen these words fulfilled. He did not know exactly how God would bring their fulfillment to pass. But they were a prophecy, given to the Gentiles, pertaining to God’s use of a Gentile army to punish this wicked generation for rejecting the Messiah. The impact of Luke’s gospel may well have been intensified by the fulfillment of Jesus’ words here. The Gentile readers should have been humbled by the realization that the sovereign God of the Bible, the God of Israel, could use a disobedient and wicked Gentile world power to accomplish His purpose, as a divine chastening rod, though not for the first time, mind you (cf. Habakkuk 1).
Morris: His words direct the women to the importance of looking beyond the present moment to the inevitable consequences of the nation’s sins.
Liefeld: Jewish women (v.27) had always considered barrenness a misfortune and children a blessing (v.28). In the day of Jerusalem’s destruction, however, women would have the horror of seeing their children suffer and would wish they could have been spared that agony (v.29).
2. (:30) Better to Have Been Killed Quickly in a Natural Disaster
“Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’
and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’”
Hos 10:8; Rev. 6:16
3. (:31) The Latter State Will Be Worse Than the Current State
“For if they do these things in the green tree, what will happen in the dry?”
Probably a proverbial saying
Donald Miller: If Jesus is the green wood, the Jews are the dry wood. God’s judgments were now falling on him, though it was not fitting that they should, any more than it is fitting to used green wood for fire.
Deffinbaugh: Jerusalem’s “greenness” is the presence of her God. Her “dryness” is the absence of God. Jesus is therefore saying, “If, when the Messiah, the very Son of God, is in your fair city, and the Roman army deals with Me as such, what do you think your destiny will be in My absence, when Jerusalem is abandoned by God, and fit only for the fire of destruction?”
D. (:32) Death Walk of the Two Thieves
“And two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him.”
Is. 53:12 Jesus died along with two guilty transgressors
II. (:33) SUMMARY STATEMENT OF THE CRUCIFIXION
“And when they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him
and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.”
Very simple statement of the most momentous event in human history
Geldenhuys: Like the other evangelists, Luke does not dwell on the manner in which the Saviour was crucified. He merely mentions the terrible fact that Jesus, the Son of God, the Immaculately righteous One, was crucified – crucified between two criminals. And thus He, the Holy One, was “numbered with the transgressors”. Crucifixion was the most agonizing and shameful form of execution ever devised (the Romans confined this form of punishment to slaves and criminals of the lowest type), and yet the physical agony which Jesus had to endure was but the faintest reflection of the spiritual suffering He had to undergo as the Bearer of the sin of lost mankind. For this reason the Gospels give practically no details of His physical suffering, so that the reader’s attention should not be concentrated upon outward things and thus overlook the deepest essence of His suffering.
Guzik: This was the most important act of this most important life, and this is reflected even in ancient secular histories. The existing mentions of Jesus in ancient extra-biblical literature each highlight His death on the cross.
A letter written by Mara bar Serapion to his son (ca. a.d. 73)
Josephus, the Jewish historian (ca. a.d. 90)
Tacitus, the Roman historian (ca. a.d. 110-120)
The Babylonian Talmud (ca. a.d. 200)
III. (:34-43) SELECTED INTERACTIONS – HIGHLIGHTING JESUS’ DESIRE TO EXTEND FORGIVENESS AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF MOCKING AND INDIGNITIES
Chiastic structure: a b a
A. (:34a) Forgiveness Extended – Interaction of Jesus with His Heavenly Father
“But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them;
for they do not know what they are doing.’”
Jesus is all about forgiveness and the undeserved, gracious offer of salvation;
His antagonists are all about mocking and trying to humiliate Him
Deffinbaugh: What was Jesus praying for here, and why was He doing so? First and foremost, I believe we should understand Jesus’ words to have a specific reference. While He had come to die for the sins of the world, so that the sins of men would be forgiven, Jesus is here praying for a specific forgiveness, as I understand it. He is praying that the sin of these people be forgiven. That is, He is praying that those who were participants in His rejection and death be forgiven of this specific sin, the sin of crucifying the very Son of God. The reason, Jesus said, was because of their ignorance. Their ignorance was also specific. It was the ignorance of who He was. They knew that He claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, but they did not believe Him. Had they known that this One was the only begotten Son of God, they would surely not have put Him to death, nor would they have mocked Him. They would have rejected Him, but not ridiculed Him.
I believe that Jesus’ prayer conveyed several things. Among other things, it conveyed the heart of the Son, and of the Father. It revealed the compassion of our Lord, who came to seek and to save sinners, and the Father, who sent Him. But perhaps most of all, the prayer of our Lord may have spared the city of Jerusalem from immediate destruction. We tend to focus on our Lord, and on the taunting of the people that He prove His deity by coming down from the cross. But think of the restraint of the Father. How would you feel toward this city, this people, if they were treating your son in this way? The Holy Father, to whom Jesus was praying, is the One who said to Moses on Mt. Sinai, at the sin of Israel in worshipping the golden calf,
“I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation” (Exodus 32:9-10).
If God the Father wished to destroy the nation Israel for their idolatry while Moses was on Mt. Sinai, what do you think God the Father would liked to have done to these stiff-necked Israelites (and Gentiles) who were mocking His Son and who were putting Him to death? I think Jesus’ prayer spared the lives of these people and delayed the wrath of God until after His resurrection, and after the gospel was preached to them so that they would no longer be ignorant of His identity, and so that they might repent and be saved from the destruction of their own generation. The prayer of our Lord was thus answered in the salvation of many (e.g. Pentecost, Acts 2) and in the delay of God’s wrath for the rest, so that they had ample opportunity to repent and be saved.
Darrell Bock: Jesus thus intercedes for his enemies, portraying the very standard he sets for his disciples in the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:29, 35; 1 Pet. 2:19–23; Ernst 1977: 634). He does not curse his opponents (contrast 2 Macc. 7:19, 34–35; 4 Macc. 9:15; Schweizer 1984: 360). The moral tone of Jesus’ response is high, although this lack of vindictiveness is also found in a few other ancient works. Thinking of others, Jesus still desires that they change their thinking (as some do in the Book of Acts) and that God not hold their act against them. Jesus’ love is evident even from the cross.
B (:34b-39) Final Mocking and Indignities – Interaction of Mockers with Jesus
1. (:34b) By Divesting Him of His Only Garments
“And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.”
Deffinbaugh: The soldiers, as can happen in such tasks, became hardened to their task and to the suffering it caused. There Jesus was, the innocent, righteous Son of God, hanging from a cross, His blood being shed for our sins. And there they were, on the ground below, rolling the dice to see who got what. They were only interested in the material gain they would receive from Jesus’ death, but they were not interested in His suffering and sorrow. They were aloof, while He was in agony. They were seeking a little gain, while He was giving up His life. How cruel!
2. (:35a) By the Silence of the Onlookers
“And the people stood by, looking on.”
3. (:35b) By the Religious Rulers
“And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, ‘He saved others;
let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.’”
4. (:36-37) By the Soldiers
“And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, ‘If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!’”
Donald Miller: The Roman soldiers added their mockery to that of the priests (vss. 36-37). It was more in the form of sport, however, perhaps intended to mock the religious leaders themselves as much as Jesus.
5. (:38) By the Plaque on the Cross
“Now there was also an inscription above Him,
‘THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.’”
Warren Wiersbe: The fact that this title was written in Hebrew (Aramaic), Greek, and Latin is significant. For one thing, it shows that our Lord was crucified in a place where many peoples and nations met, a cosmopolitan place. Hebrew is the language of religion, Greek of philosophy, and Latin of law; and all three combined to crucify the Son of God. But what He did on the cross, He did for the whole world! In this Gospel, John emphasizes the worldwide dimensions of the work of Christ. Without realizing it, Pilate wrote a “Gospel tract” when he prepared this title; for one of the thieves discovered that Jesus was King, and he asked entrance into His kingdom.
6. (:39) By One of the Criminals
“And one of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying,
‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!’”
C. (:40-43) Forgiveness and Blessing Promised – Interaction of Jesus with the Confessing Criminal
1. (:40-41) Genuine Repentance
a. (:40) Evidencing Fear of God
“But the other answered, and rebuking him said, ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?’”
b. (:41) Evidencing Ownership of Sin and Judgment
“And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
2. (:42-43) Grace Extended
a. (:42) Request for Grace
“And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’”
b. (:43) Promise of Grace
“And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you,
today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’”
Deffinbaugh: There are those who have noted and capitalized on the fact that this thief was not baptized, but may I suggest that he fulfilled the essence of even this commandment. The purpose of baptism was to make a public profession of faith, to disassociate with that unbelieving generation (from the standpoint of those Jews living in that generation), and to publicly associate with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. What this man said was surely witnessed by more Jews of his day than of those who would later be baptized as a public profession of faith. Even in this matter, the thief is a model (if there can and should be such a thing) of conversion.
Let us not pass by this conversion without noting several essential ingredients. First, there is the recognition of one’s personal sin, and of his deserving of death, of divine wrath. Second, there is the recognition that Jesus is precisely who He claimed to be, the sinless Son of God, Israel’s Messiah, the only way by which men can enter into the kingdom of God. Third, a belief that Christ’s kingdom lies beyond the grave, and that resurrection will enable us to be enter into it. Fourth, a belief in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which prompted Him to die in our place, to provide a salvation for the worst of sinners, which is not merited or earned, but which is achieved in accordance with grace alone. A simple trust in Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life, by virtue of what He has done.
IV. (:44-49) CATACLYSMIC CLIMAX
A. (:44-45A) Dramatic Darkness
“And it was now about the sixth hour,
and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour,
the sun being obscured;”
B. 45b) Dispensational Transition
“and the veil of the temple was torn in two.”
C. (:46) Death Cry
“And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.’ And having said this, He breathed His last.”
Donald Miller: The fact that Jesus died much sooner than was usual in crucifixion (Mark 15:44; John 19:32-34), and that his last word was in “a loud voice” (vs. 46), suggests that he died not just from physical exhaustion, but form spiritual agony – a paroxysm of grief occasioned by taking upon himself the sin of the world, in which he felt abandoned even by God (Mark 15:34) – which no physical frame could endure. It was his battle with sin, more than physical crucifixion, which caused his death.
D. (:47-49) Dramatic Eyewitness Responses
Emphasis is on what each of them observed as eyewitnesses:
1. (:47) Praise of the Centurion – Proclaiming Innocence of Jesus
“Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’”
2. (:48) Anguish of the Multitudes – Saddened by What They Had Witnessed
“And all the multitudes who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts.”
Morris: Instead of being entertained they were saddened by it all and went home beating their breasts in grief. Many have seen in this reaction a preparation for the successful preaching on the day of Pentecost when three thousand believed in this city (Acts 2:41).
Geldenhuys: The multitude that had gone to see the spectacle of the crucifixion undoubtedly experienced great terror during the hours of darkness and during the earthquake. And, struck by the miraculous occurrence, they smote their breasts with a feeling of guilt and secret presentiments of approaching calamity, and went back to the city. Many of them no doubt knew deep down in their hearts that they were guilty before God because they had caused the Nazarene, who was certainly innocent, to be crucified.
3. (:49) Remote Observance of His Close Followers – Perplexed and Uncertain
“And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee, were standing at a distance, seeing these things.”