The Gospel of Luke - Part 101
The Crucifixion (continued) — Luke 23:26-31

December 23, 2007
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

Review:

Last week, we opened our study of the crucifixion. We spent that lesson looking at the events of the crucifixion and then getting a feel for what crucifixion really is. Remember that I am going to restrict our study of the Crucifixion to primarily what Luke records. We could literally spend many weeks in the study of the crucifixion alone.

Remember that the goal of this section of our study is to gain a deeper appreciation of Jesus and what he went through. Our goal is not just information, but devotion. If our appreciation of Jesus and our faith in Jesus and our devotion to Jesus is not enhanced, then we have failed to see why we are studying it.

Last week we set the stage that the crucifixion is evidence of:

Pilate had given in to the demands of the crowd to crucify Jesus, not because he was guilty but because the crowd had traded Barabbas for Jesus to be crucified. So after the fate of Jesus had been set, Luke tells us:
When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 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.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountain, ‘fall on us’, and to the hills, ‘cover us.’ For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” —Luke 23:26-31
John’s Gospel indicates that He began the journey to Golgotha carrying His own cross:
So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. —John 19:16-17.
Simon was pressed into service, probably because Jesus was physically unable to carry His cross because of the beatings and His exhaustion. The usual custom was for criminals to carry the crossbeam, which would weigh about 100 pounds. Jesus had gone through a great deal of physical abuse and punishment before He ever reached Golgotha.
  1. First, there was the abuse by the guards who arrested Him:
    Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him and beating Him, and they blindfolded Him and were asking Him, saying, “Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?” And they were saying many other things against Him, blaspheming. —Luke 22:63-65

    Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face. —Matthew 14:65
  2. Then there was the scourging that Pilate authorized when he handed Jesus over to be crucified. For some reason, Luke omits the beatings that Jesus endured by the Roman guards (though it is mentioned in the other three Gospels):
    Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. —Matthew 27:26

    Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him. —John 19:1

    Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. —Mark 15:15
The Bible Knowledge Commentary tells us that scourging is the name for a Roman flogging. It was a brutal beating that always preceded the execution of a capital sentence on male offenders, though it could also be a separate punishment. The prisoner was stripped, often tied to a post, and beaten on the back by several guards using short leather whips studded with sharp pieces of bone or metal. No limit was set on the number of blows. Often this punishment was fatal. Pilate had Jesus flogged in hope that the people would take pity and be satisfied. But this also failed; they still insisted He be crucified (cf. John 19:1-7). [Bible Knowledge Commentary]

There seems to be a third final round of abuse and beatings after Jesus was flogged. This last beating, when Jesus was given the crown of thorns, is also omitted in Luke:

They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; and they began to acclaim Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him. —Mark 15:17-20
Matthew and John also tell us about this third abuse. It is no wonder that Jesus was not able to carry His own cross the whole way!

Cyrene was a coastal town in North Africa, in what is today the country of Libya. No further mention is made of Simon in the New Testament. But Mark, in his Gospel, pointed out that Simon was “the father of Alexander and Rufus”

They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross. —Mark 15:21
The words used here are interesting. It’s as if Mark expected at least some of his readers to know who this family was. This reference seems to imply that possibly Simon and his family (or at least his sons, Alexander and Rufus) later became believers. There is a Rufus mentioned in Romans 16:13 but it is unknown whether this is the same person.
Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine. —Romans 16:13
Back in Luke:
And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. —Luke 23:27
Luke, more than any other Gospel, emphasizes the involvement and devotion of women. They are mentioned several times in this passage: There are nine references to women in Chapters 23 and 24.

Luke continues:

But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” —Luke23:28
Jesus’ heart for people shines through here. Even on the way to the cross, Jesus grieves over the fact that the people have rejected Him. Jesus quotes Hosea in verse 30 as He speaks of the terrible consequences of rejecting His salvation.

Hosea says:

Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, will be destroyed; Thorn and thistle will grow on their altars; Then they will say to the mountains, “Cover us!” And to the hills, “Fall on us!” —Hosea 10:8
In Luke, Jesus says:
“Then they will begin to say to the mountain, ‘fall on us’, and to the hills, ‘cover us.’ —Luke 23:30
Jesus seems to be speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem which will occur in less than 40 years —  during the lifetime of the children of these women. [See also Revelation 6:16 -dw]

Let’s look at what we can learn from what Jesus says here:

Luke then gives us information on what else was going on around Jesus.
Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. 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. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. 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.” 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!” Now there was also an inscription above Him, “This is the King of the Jews.” —Luke 23:32-38
All four Gospels record that Jesus was crucified with criminals:
At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. —Matthew 27:38
They crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. —Mark 15:27
There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. —John 19:18
Since Pilate’s original plan was to crucify Barabbas, some scholars speculate that these two criminals were part of Barabbas’ conspiracy, but we don’t really know.

At this point Luke focuses on Jesus’ forgiveness of the people who did this to him.

But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” —Luke 23:34
These are the first recorded words of Jesus while on the cross. The Gospels record seven statements (often called “the 7 last words of Christ”) by Jesus during His crucifixion. We saw this in the list of events handed out last week.

Amazing love! Amazing mercy!

The people and the religious leaders are treating Him with contempt, the soldiers are making fun of Him and one of the criminals is “hurling insults” at Him. And what’s Jesus’ response? He prayed that God the Father will forgive them for what they are doing! Jesus’ prayer here is probably the greatest example of forgiveness to be found in the Bible.

For me, Jesus’ words here are probably the most challenging passage on forgiveness that can be found in Scripture. Here is Jesus hanging in agony and yet praying for the forgiveness of the people who crucified Him!

It’s tough to forgive people who’ve hurt you even when you’re still hurting. But that is the example that Jesus left of us. And that is the example Jesus expects us to follow. Paul teaches us, as paraphrased in the Good New Bible:

Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. —Colossians 3:13 [TEV]
What truths should motivate us to forgive those who wound us? Chuck Swindoll writes:

"If you are resentful of the way someone has treated you, if you are holding it against that person, hoping you can retaliate or get back, you need to ask God to free you from that bondage. The secret, plan and simple? Forgiveness! Claim God's power to forgive through Jesus Christ. Begin by asking His forgiveness for excusing and cultivating that deep root of bitterness within your own heart. Ask him to expose it in all its ugliness and put it to death. Jesus Christ, who went through hell for you, can give you the power you need to overcome the worse kind of condition in you life.

"The desire for vengeance or revenge — the desire to get even — is, in my opinion, the most subtle temptation in all of life." [Charles Swindoll]

The Life Application Bible Notes say:

Jesus asked God to forgive the people who were putting him to death—Jewish leaders, Roman politicians and soldiers, bystanders—and God answered that prayer by opening up the way of salvation even to Jesus’ murderers. The Roman centurion and soldiers who witnessed the crucifixion said, “Surely he was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). Soon many priests were converted to the Christian faith (Acts 6:7). Because we are all sinners, we all played a part in putting Jesus to death. The gospel — the Good News — is that God is gracious. He will forgive us and give us new life through his Son.
The Bible Background Commentary says:
In the Old Testament prayers concerning enemies usually asked God for vengeance (see 2 Chron. 24:22; Psalm 137:7-9; Jeremiah 15:15; Jeremiah 17:18; Jeremiah 18:23; Jeremiah 20:12). But Jesus prays that God will forgive his persecutors.

Those who were executed were supposed to say, “May my death atone for all my sins”; but Jesus confesses instead the sin of those who falsely convicted him, who under Old Testament law were liable for his penalty before God.

Next week — we will continue to look at the forgiveness that Jesus modeled.

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Golgotha today