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Jan 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 8, 2012

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” Luke 23:4 (read chapter 23)

INTRO: The long journey we began in Luke over a year ago is almost over

In recent chapters, Jesus made his way to Jerusalem, where he was arrested
– then we followed him through chapter 22 where he was led from one place to another:

From the Mount of Olives to the house of the high priest, from the house of the high priest to the council chamber, from the council chamber to the hall of Pilate

But now, in chapter 23, Jesus is taken from one person to another until he is led to “The Skull”

Two threads are braided through the story

  1. Jesus is repeatedly referred to as “this man”
    – beginning with religious leaders, who use it to depersonalize him and express their contempt, depersonalize
    – Pilate, also uses it (objectively) to create distance between himself and an accused criminal
    – one of the criminals crucified with Jesus, for whom “this man” is another human that shares his fate
  2. The truth of Jesus’ innocence strains to emerge through the events of his trial and death
    the religious leaders: “We found this man misleading our nation” (v. 2)
    – Pilate: “I find no guilt in this man” and, with Herod, “We found no guilt in this man” (vv. 5 & 14)

The two threads reach their climax in a surprising way at the end:
– from the thief: “this man has done nothing wrong” (v. 41)
– from a centurion: “Certainly this man was innocent” (v. 47)

By the way, only one person addresses Jesus by his name – the thief (v. 42)

Many people crowd into the last scenes of Jesus’ life
– the most culpable people appear in the first scenes
– the most compelling appear in the last scenes
We’ll make our way through the chapter looking at these various people

Verses 1-25, People who appear in the legal trial

The chief priests (“and crowds,” v. 4; “and scribes,” v. 10; “and rulers,” v. 13) — they are present until the cross
– they brought three charges against Jesus that were calculated to hit a nerve with the Roman governor (v. 3)
– notice, they use both “Christ” and “a King”
The first, “Messiah,” was meaningful to them, but meant nothing to Rome
– on the other hand, a “king” would pose a threat to Roman rule
– this use of “Christ” and “king” will come up again at the cross

The governor, Pilate – he did not need any trouble, especially of this kind
– he had a brief interview with Jesus, but could not see that he posed a threat
– in discussions with the religious leaders, he learned Jesus was from Galilee, so he passed him off to Herod

King Herod – at first, a theme of sight begins to develop: “when he saw . . . wanted to see . . . hoping to see . . .”
– but that soon fizzled
– for me, there is nothing more frightening in this chapter than Jesus’ silence before Herod
– regardless of how many questions Herod asked, Jesus had nothing to say to him
– this did not significantly affect Herod, who simply went on and indulged himself in another form of entertainment

Luke included verse 12 for a reason – Why, do you think?

— we would appreciate a comment from anyone reading these notes who would like to suggest an answer —

What is clear: no one wanted to take responsibility for Jesus’ death

Pilate (again) – the problem of Jesus is thrown back into his lap
– that he “summoned the chief priests”, rulers and people indicates his desire to appease them

Chief priests, rulers, and people – now we come to a bizarre twist in the story
– their accusation against Jesus was that he was “one who incites the people to rebellion” (v. 14)
– but by their actions, they become guilty of inciting the people, leading a public demonstration (see also Mt. 27:24, where Pilate “saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting”)
– even more revealing of their true concern was the fact that they clamored for the release of Barabbas, “one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder” (19)

Barabbas – he does not act or speak in the story – he’s like a prop, yet his role is not without meaning
– he is the people’s choice (they wanted a ruthless activist, not a Messiah who taught them to love their enemies)
– Jesus received what Barabbas deserved and Barabbas received the freedom that should have been given to Jesus

We assume if a person is proven innocent, the charges are dropped, and they go free
– that was not the case with Jesus

Verses 26-32, People who appear along the road to The Skull

The scenes that are compressed into verses 26 through 53 are enveloped by two men who do something special for Jesus
– both men were out-of-towners: Simon of Cyrene and Joseph of Arimathea

Simon of Cyrene – a foreigner from north Africa, the help he gave Jesus was not voluntary
– the irony is that he literally took up the cross and followed Jesus (9:23)

Women – Jesus is touched by their grief
– his heart, in turn, goes out to them
– his longest speech in this whole ordeal

The two criminals – this is the first mention of his companions in death
– all through his ministry, Jesus has been associated with sinners
– so here is a foreigner, women, and criminals – all of whom existed on the margin of society

Verses 33-53, People who appear around the cross

The actual event in which the nails were driven into Jesus is told briefly, “there they crucified Him”

In verses 33-34 we have an undefined group, “they” (also the position of the criminals’ crosses are mentioned so that Jesus is in the middle of them)
– we understand that “they” most likely refers to a detachment of soldiers
– but their identities fade, so that the entire focus of attention can be on Jesus

His first prayer from the cross – “Father” – he holds on to him
– did they know what they were doing?
– on one level, yes – but they had no idea who Jesus really was

Now we will scan the faces around the cross

The people – spectators, who perhaps were now having second thoughts about Jesus

The rulers – here is a clear picture of their contempt for Jesus
– “if this is the Christ of God . . .”

The soldiers “also mocked Him” – the offered cheap wine to the delusional king
– “If You are the king of the Jews . . .”
– we saw earlier that “Christ” (Messiah) was a Jewish title and “king” was more meaningful for the Romans

The first criminal to speak – what I hear is the voice of a desperate man
– many people, who when the are in pain, lash out at God

The second criminal – the first and only person to speak in Jesus’ defense
– “we” and “our” he owns his crime and his punishment

According to Hebrew Midrash interpretation, forgiveness begins with confession and surrender to punishment. “The one criminal’s defense of Jesus is in essence a confession of guilt and acceptance of divine justice. Therefore, according to Jewish thinking, this criminal would merit a share in the world to come or Paradise.” (David Flusser, The Sage from Galilee)

– here Jesus is with the dying thieves in their suffering and deaths
– he joined them, even though he had done nothing wrong

The criminal’s request is amazing, “Jesus, remember me . . .”
– did he know anything at all about Jesus other than what he observed from the jailhouse to the cross?
– yet he put his faith in Jesus
Jesus’ preaching and teaching had been about the kingdom of God
– but could the thief have known that? How did he know Jesus was a king?
– it was written above his head (v. 38)
– Jesus’ promise to him

Hebrew scholar, David Flusser, questioned whether this conversation really took place. One of his reasons is the Christian confession of the Apostolic Creed–accepted and recited as the clear teaching of scripture by all orthodox Christians–which includes the phrase that after Christ died “He descended into hell.” So how could the thief had joined Jesus that day in Paradise? But Flusser misses the point that paradise is not a heavenly landscape or city with golden streets, but it is nothing less than Jesus and being with him
“‘Paradise’ is not meant to link up with the traditional imagery and evoke associations with glorious forms of enjoyment. It is itself interpreted by the ‘with me’ (met’ emou). Paradise is abiding fellowship with the crucified one who has overcome death. It is clinging to the Father’s neck.” (Helmut Thielicke)

vv. 44-45, The veil – I am aware of the significance this one strange action implies
– for example, the torn veil reveals “a new and living way” of access to God through Jesus’ torn flesh (He. 10:19-20)
– but could it also represent God’s rejection of the religion that had taken over the temple? that he was done with it?

Jesus’ second prayer – again, he prayed to his “Father”
– he did not give up and die or throw himself into gaping void of death
– he entrusted himself, his life, his spirit to the Father

The centurion – he would have been the commander supervising the soldiers who crucified Jesus
– he saw something in Jesus in the way he came to The Skull and handled himself there that convinced him of the Lord’s righteousness

The crowds – the effect that Jesus had on them was that they left with visible expressions of grief and mourning

Those who knew him, especially the women – they watched from a safe distance

Joseph – there was a Joseph at the beginning of Jesus life and now another Joseph at the end
– at the beginning, Jesus was “wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger”
– at the end, he was “wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb”
– the tomb is symbolic opposite of manger — birth and death, poverty and wealth

Verses 54-56, People who give us our last glimpse of the cross

The women

This was the end of the story for them and the disciples – Jesus’ death was a fully human and complete death

CONC: Notice how the last sequence of events in the story of Jesus is told through the impact he had on others

What is the story Jesus is writing in our lives?
What is the impact he is having on us?

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