Christ before Pilate. (1-5) Christ before Herod. (6-12) Barabbas preferred to Christ. (13-25) Christ speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem. (26-31) The crucifixion, The repentant malefactor. (32-43) The death of Christ. (44-49) The burial of Christ. (50-56)
Verses 1-5 Pilate well understood the difference between armed forces and our Lord's followers. But instead of being softened by Pilate's declaration of his innocence, and considering whether they were not bringing the guilt of innocent blood upon themselves, the Jews were the more angry. The Lord brings his designs to a glorious end, even by means of those who follow the devices of their own hearts. Thus all parties joined, so as to prove the innocence of Jesus, who was the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Verses 6-12 Herod had heard many things of Jesus in Galilee, and out of curiosity longed to see him. The poorest beggar that asked a miracle for the relief of his necessity, was never denied; but this proud prince, who asked for a miracle only to gratify his curiosity, is refused. He might have seen Christ and his wondrous works in Galilee, and would not, therefore it is justly said, Now he would see them, and shall not. Herod sent Christ again to Pilate: the friendships of wicked men are often formed by union in wickedness. They agree in little, except in enmity to God, and contempt of Christ.
Verses 13-25 The fear of man brings many into this snare, that they will do an unjust thing, against their consciences, rather than get into trouble. Pilate declares Jesus innocent, and has a mind to release him; yet, to please the people, he would punish him as an evil-doer. If no fault be found in him, why chastise him? Pilate yielded at length; he had not courage to go against so strong a stream. He delivered Jesus to their will, to be crucified.
Verses 26-31 We have here the blessed Jesus, the Lamb of God, led as a lamb to the slaughter, to the sacrifice. Though many reproached and reviled him, yet some pitied him. But the death of Christ was his victory and triumph over his enemies: it was our deliverance, the purchase of eternal life for us. Therefore weep not for him, but let us weep for our own sins, and the sins of our children, which caused his death; and weep for fear of the miseries we shall bring upon ourselves, if we slight his love, and reject his grace. If God delivered him up to such sufferings as these, because he was made a sacrifice for sin, what will he do with sinners themselves, who make themselves a dry tree, a corrupt and wicked generation, and good for nothing! The bitter sufferings of our Lord Jesus should make us stand in awe of the justice of God. The best saints, compared with Christ, are dry trees; if he suffer, why may not they expect to suffer? And what then shall the damnation of sinners be! Even the sufferings of Christ preach terror to obstinate transgressors.
Verses 32-43 As soon as Christ was fastened to the cross, he prayed for those who crucified him. The great thing he died to purchase and procure for us, is the forgiveness of sin. This he prays for. Jesus was crucified between two thieves; in them were shown the different effects the cross of Christ would have upon the children of men in the preaching the gospel. One malefactor was hardened to the last. No troubles of themselves will change a wicked heart. The other was softened at the last: he was snatched as a brand out of the burning, and made a monument of Divine mercy. This gives no encouragement to any to put off repentance to their death-beds, or to hope that they shall then find mercy. It is certain that true repentance is never too late; but it is as certain that late repentance is seldom true. None can be sure they shall have time to repent at death, but every man may be sure he cannot have the advantages this penitent thief had. We shall see the case to be singular, if we observe the uncommon effects of God's grace upon this man. He reproved the other for railing on Christ. He owned that he deserved what was done to him. He believed Jesus to have suffered wrongfully. Observe his faith in this prayer. Christ was in the depth of disgrace, suffering as a deceiver, and not delivered by his Father. He made this profession before the wonders were displayed which put honour on Christ's sufferings, and startled the centurion. He believed in a life to come, and desired to be happy in that life; not like the other thief, to be only saved from the cross. Observe his humility in this prayer. All his request is, Lord, remember me; quite referring it to Jesus in what way to remember him. Thus he was humbled in true repentance, and he brought forth all the fruits for repentance his circumstances would admit. Christ upon the cross, is gracious like Christ upon the throne. Though he was in the greatest struggle and agony, yet he had pity for a poor penitent. By this act of grace we are to understand that Jesus Christ died to open the kingdom of heaven to all penitent, obedient believers. It is a single instance in Scripture; it should teach us to despair of none, and that none should despair of themselves; but lest it should be abused, it is contrasted with the awful state of the other thief, who died hardened in unbelief, though a crucified Saviour was so near him. Be sure that in general men die as they live.
Verses 44-49 We have here the death of Christ magnified by the wonders that attended it, and his death explained by the words with which he breathed out his soul. He was willing to offer himself. Let us seek to glorify God by true repentance and conversion; by protesting against those who crucify the Saviour; by a sober, righteous, and godly life; and by employing our talents in the service of Him who died for us and rose again.
Verses 50-56 Many, though they do not make any show in outward profession, yet, like Joseph of Arimathea, will be far more ready to do real service, when there is occasion, than others who make a greater noise. Christ was buried in haste, because the sabbath drew on. Weeping must not hinder sowing. Though they were in tears for the death of their Lord, yet they must prepare to keep holy the sabbath. When the sabbath draws on, there must be preparation. Our worldly affairs must be so ordered, that they may not hinder us from our sabbath work; and our holy affections so stirred up, that they may carry us on in it. In whatever business we engage, or however our hearts may be affected, let us never fail to get ready for, and to keep holy, the day of sacred rest, which is the Lord's day.
Luke 23:1-5 . JESUS BEFORE PILATE.
Luke 23:6-12 . JESUS BEFORE HEROD.
(See Mark 15:6 .)
7. sent him to Herod--hoping thus to escape the dilemma of an unjust condemnation or an unpopular release.
at Jerusalem . . . at that time--to keep the passover.
8. some miracle--Fine sport thou expectedst, as the Philistines with Samson ( Judges 16:25 ), O coarse, crafty, cruel tyrant! But thou hast been baulked before and shalt be again.
9. answered . . . nothing--(See Matthew 7:6 ).
10. stood and vehemently accused him--no doubt both of treason before the king, and of blasphemy, for the king was a Jew.
11. his men of war--his bodyguard.
set him at naught, &c.--stung with disappointment at His refusal to amuse him with miracles or answer any of his questions.
gorgeous robe--bright robe. If this mean (as sometimes) of shining white, this being the royal color among the Jews, it may have been in derision of His claim to be "King of the Jews." But if so, "He in reality honored Him, as did Pilate with His true title blazoned on the cross" [BENGEL].
sent him again to Pilate--instead of releasing him as he ought, having established nothing against Him ( Luke 23:14 Luke 23:15 ). "Thus he implicated himself with Pilate in all the guilt of His condemnation, and with him accordingly he is classed" ( Acts 4:27 ) [BENGEL].
at enmity--perhaps about some point of disputed jurisdiction, which this exchange of the Prisoner might tend to heal.
Luke 23:13-38 . JESUS AGAIN BEFORE PILATE--DELIVERED UP--LED AWAY TO BE CRUCIFIED.
26. Cyrenian--of Cyrene, in Libya, on the north coast of Africa, where were many Jews who had a synagogue at Jerusalem ( Acts 6:9 , and see Acts 2:10 ). He was "the father of ALEXANDER and Rufus" ( Mark 15:21 ), probably better known afterwards than himself, as disciples. (See Romans 16:13 ).
out of the country--and casually drawn into that part of the crowd.
laid the cross--"Him they compel to bear His cross," ( Matthew 27:32 )--sweet compulsion, if it issued in him or his sons voluntarily "taking up their cross!" It would appear that our Lord had first to bear His own cross ( John 19:17 ), but being from exhaustion unable to proceed, it was laid on another to bear it "after Him."
27-31. women--not the precious Galilean women ( Luke 23:49 ), but part of the crowd.
28. not for me, &c.--noble spirit of compassion, rising above His own dread endurances, in tender commiseration of sufferings yet in the distance and far lighter, but without His supports and consolations!
30. mountains . . . hills, &c.--( Hosea 10:8 ), flying hither and thither as they did in despair for shelter, during the siege; a very slight premonition of cries of another and more awful kind ( Isaiah 2:10 Isaiah 2:19 Isaiah 2:21 , Revelation 6:16 Revelation 6:17 ).
31. green tree--that naturally resists the fire.
the dry--that attracts the fire, being its proper fuel. The proverb here plainly means: "If such sufferings alight upon the innocent One, the very Lamb of God, what must be in store for those who are provoking the flames?"
Luke 23:32-38, 44-46 Luke 44-46 . CRUCIFIXION AND DEATH OF THE LORD JESUS.
Luke 23:39-43 . THE TWO THIEVES.
39. railed on him--catching up the universal derision, but with a turn of his own. Jesus, "reviled, reviles not again"; but another voice from the cross shall nobly wipe out this dishonor and turn it to the unspeakable glory of the dying Redeemer.
40. Dost not thou--"thou" is emphatic: "Let others jeer, but dost thou?"
fear God--Hast thou no fear of meeting Him so soon as thy righteous Judge? Thou art within an hour or two of eternity, and dost thou spend it in reckless disregard of coming judgment?
in the same condemnation--He has been condemned to die, but is it better with thee? Doth even a common lot kindle no sympathy in thy breast?
41. we . . . justly, &c.--He owns the worst of his crimes and deserts, and would fain shame his fellow into the same.
nothing amiss--literally, "out of place"; hence "unnatural"; a striking term here. Our Lord was not charged with ordinary crime, but only with laying claim to office and honors which amounted to blasphemy. The charge of treason had not even a show of truth, as Pilate told His enemies. In this defense then there seems more than meets the eye. "He made Himself the promised Messiah, the Son of God; but in this He 'did nothing amiss'; He ate with publicans and sinners, and bade all the weary and heavy laden come and rest under His wing; but in this He 'did nothing amiss': He claimed to be Lord of the Kingdom of God, to shut it at will, but also to open it at pleasure even to such as we are; but in this He 'did nothing amiss!'" Does His next speech imply less than this? Observe: (1) His frank confession and genuine self-condemnation. (2) His astonishment and horror at the very different state of his fellow's mind. (3) His anxiety to bring him to a better mind while yet there was hope. (4) His noble testimony, not only to the innocence of Jesus, but to all that this implied of the rightfulness of His claims.
42. said unto Jesus, &c.--Observe here (1) The "kingdom" referred to was one beyond the grave; for it is inconceivable that he should have expected Him to come down from the cross to erect any temporal kingdom. (2) This he calls Christ's own (Thy) kingdom. (3) As such, he sees in Christ the absolute right to dispose of that kingdom to whom He pleased. (4) He does not presume to ask a place in that kingdom, though that is what he means, but with a humility quite affecting, just says, "Lord, remember me when," &c. Yet was there mighty faith in that word. If Christ will but "think upon him" ( Nehemiah 5:19 ), at that august moment when He "cometh into His kingdom," it will do. "Only assure me that then Thou wilt not forget such a wretch as I, that once hung by Thy side, and I am content." Now contrast with this bright act of faith the darkness even of the apostles' minds, who could hardly be got to believe that their Master would die at all, who now were almost despairing of Him, and who when dead had almost buried their hopes in His grave. Consider, too, the man's previous disadvantages and bad life. And then mark how his faith comes out--not in protestations, "Lord, I cannot doubt, I am firmly persuaded that Thou art Lord of a kingdom, that death cannot disannul Thy title nor impede the assumption of it in due time," &c.--but as having no shadow of doubt, and rising above it as a question altogether, he just says, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest," &c. Was ever faith like this exhibited upon earth? It looks as if the brightest crown had been reserved for the Saviour's head at His darkest moment!
43. Jesus said, &c.--The dying Redeemer speaks as if He Himself viewed it in this light. It was a "song in the night." It ministered cheer to His spirit in the midnight gloom that now enwrapt it.
Verily I say unto thee--"Since thou speakest as to the king, with kingly authority speak I to thee."
To-day--"Thou art prepared for a long delay before I come into My kingdom, but not a day's delay shall there be for thee; thou shalt not be parted from Me even for a moment, but together we shall go, and with Me, ere this day expire, shalt thou be in Paradise" (future bliss, 2 Corinthians 12:4 , Revelation 2:7 ). Learn (1) How "One is taken and another left"; (2) How easily divine teaching can raise the rudest and worst above the best instructed and most devoted servants of Christ; (3) How presumption and despair on a death hour are equally discountenanced here, the one in the impenitent thief, the other in his penitent fellow.
Luke 23:47-56 . SIGNS AND CIRCUMSTANCES FOLLOWING HIS DEATH--HIS BURIAL.