Luke 23 Study Notes


23:1 On Pontius Pilate, see note at 3:1. Pilate’s normal residence was in Caesarea Maritima, but he came to Jerusalem during the Jewish festivals to keep an eye on things. Since Jesus was crucified along with two criminals (vv. 32-33), a punishment that only the Romans could render, it seems that a couple of executions were already scheduled even before Jesus’s sentencing. Thus Pilate came to town planning to execute criminals, but he left town having executed an innocent man.

23:2-4 The three charges the Jews brought against Jesus in Pilate’s presence were fabrications. It was true that huge crowds had flocked to hear Jesus speak, but his teachings were not aimed at misleading Israel. The claim that he was opposing payment of taxes to Caesar was an outright lie (see note at 20:22-26). Jesus was the Messiah, but he carefully avoided giving the impression that he meant to topple Rome or ascend the throne as king of Israel. Pilate had undoubtedly heard about Jesus, and he saw right through the Sanhedrin’s rush to judgment.


Greek pronunciation [pah RAH day sahss]
CSB translation paradise
Uses in Luke’s Gospel 1
Uses in the NT 3
Focus passage Luke 23:43

The word “paradise” in Lk 23:43 is transliterated directly from the Greek word paradeisos, which occurs in only two other places in the NT. In the Greek world paradeisos could refer to a garden, a grove, or a park; thus, it is the word found in the Greek OT for the garden of Eden (11 times in Gn 2-3). Lk 23:43 and 2Co 12:4 use paradeisos to refer to the place where God especially manifests his presence, which we call heaven. Revelation 2:7 refers to paradeisos as the place where believers (those who “conquer”) eat from “the tree of life,” which is in the new Jerusalem (see Rv 22:2,14,19).

23:5-7 When Pilate heard that Jesus was from Galilee, he saw a convenient way to excuse himself from the Sanhedrin’s headhunt. He turned Jesus over to the proper jurisdiction, that of Herod Antipas, the ruler over Galilee (see note at 3:1). Like Pilate, Herod was in Jerusalem for the festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread.

23:8-11 At an earlier time, Herod Antipas had been anxious to meet Jesus (9:7-9), and the Pharisees had claimed that Herod wanted to kill Jesus (13:31). Jesus’s silence before Herod may have been designed to fulfill the prophecy in Is 53:7-8. In spite of the serious accusations of the Sanhedrin, Herod Antipas simply made sport of Jesus and sent him back to Pilate for final legal disposition. He dressed Jesus in bright clothing in order to ridicule him as a fake king and irritate the Sanhedrin since they charged him with claiming to be king (see note at vv. 2-4).

23:12-15 Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate became friends because they both made the same assessment (no grounds to charge this man) of Jesus (vv. 14-15). Apparently they also shared the same low opinion of the Jewish Sanhedrin for pursuing a death sentence against Jesus.

23:16-19 In order to placate the Sanhedrin, Pilate was willing to have Jesus severely whipped and set free. It was his custom to release a prisoner in honor of Passover (Jn 18:39). However, the crowd demanded that a criminal named Barabbas, who had committed murder and rebellion in Jerusalem, be released instead.

23:20-25 Pilate tried two more times to release Jesus, finding no valid basis for the death penalty. But he was repeatedly shouted down by a chorus of Crucify him! Finally, Pilate caved in to the crowd’s demand, releasing Barabbas and handing Jesus over to be executed.

23:26 Condemned prisoners customarily carried the crossbeam or patibulum to the site of their execution, where it was attached to the vertical beam. Jesus was unable to carry the cross any farther after his earlier beating (22:63), so it was placed on the back of Simon of Cyrene. Simon was staying outside Jerusalem and coming in from the country to worship each day during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Simon may have been part of the synagogue of the Cyrenians mentioned in Ac 6:9. Mk 15:21 mentions the names of Simon’s sons (Rm 16:13 may refer to one of those sons).

23:27-31 Jesus told the crowds who were mourning his unjust crucifixion that they should weep for their own families because of the future destruction of Jerusalem. It would be preferable not to have children in such awful times. Jesus then cited Hs 10:8, where it is said that people will request landslides to hide them from the military onslaught. The proverbial statement in Lk 23:31 implies that if things are this bad for an innocent man in a time of peace (when the wood is green), they will be much worse for those who deserve judgment during a time of war (when it is dry).

23:32-33 Being executed between two . . . criminals fulfilled the prophecy of Is 53:12, as well as Jesus’s words in Lk 22:37. The place where Jesus was crucified was called The Skull. In Aramaic, the name is Golgotha. The Latin equivalent is Calvary.

23:34 Jesus forgave his executioners because they acted in ignorance of who he really was. Some early manuscripts do not include the first part of this verse. The phrase they divided his clothes and cast lots fulfilled Ps 22:18.

23:35-39 Four different groups (the people in general, the leaders, the soldiers, and one of the criminals being crucified) scoffed at Jesus and challenged him to save himself. None of them believed that Jesus was the King of the Jews . . . the Messiah, even though the official inscription above his head on the cross charged him with posing as “the King of the Jews.”

23:40-43 In the midst of this display of unbelief and mockery, the other criminal came to understand the difference between his own guilt and Jesus’s innocence (this man has done nothing wrong). He also realized that Jesus was the Messiah and asked to take part in his coming kingdom. Jesus assured him that, after death, he would immediately be reunited with him in paradise (eternal life beyond the grave; see 2Co 12:4).

23:44-45 The three hours of darkness at midday (from noon . . . until three) was a sign of divine judgment against sin (which Jesus became on the cross) and the sinners who unjustly executed the Son of God. Matthew 27:51 explains that the splitting of the curtain of the sanctuary (between the holy place and the holy of holies in the temple) was caused by a great earthquake. The torn curtain symbolized open access to God, made possible by the death of Christ (see note at 22:20).

23:46 While expressing faith in God by reciting Ps 31:5, Jesus breathed his last. Jesus was placed on the cross at about 9:00 a.m. (Mk 15:25) and died after only six hours—an unusually short time. Crucifixion victims sometimes lingered for two or three days before death occurred.

23:47 Compared to the parallel accounts, Luke muted the centurion’s confession. Here the centurion merely observed that Jesus was truly righteous (not a criminal in any respect), whereas in Mt 27:54 and Mk 15:39 he is reported as acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God.

23:48-49 Striking their chests could be a sign of grief, though in Lk 18:13 it appears to reflect contrition before the Lord. Significantly, the women from Galilee, who had generously supported Jesus’s ministry financially (see note at 8:1-3), were spotlighted among those who were watching him die on the cross. They stuck with him even after the male disciples abandoned him. The women are named in Mt 27:56 and Mk 15:40.

23:50-53 Even though Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin, he had disagreed with their decision to execute Jesus (22:71-23:1). He was a good and righteous man, but he was also a secret disciple of Jesus (Jn 19:38). Jesus was laid in the tomb of the wealthy Joseph instead of the shallow common grave reserved for criminals. This fulfilled the prophecy of Is 53:9. Matthew (27:65-66) stated that soldiers were assigned to guard Jesus’s tomb and that the stone rolled in front of the tomb was stamped with the Roman seal of authority.

23:54-56 Preparation day (from Thursday sundown to Friday sundown) was the last day before the Sabbath when preparations for the Sabbath were completed. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus did much to prepare Jesus’s body for burial (Jn 19:39-40), but the women disciples from Galilee planned to finish the task (prepared spices and perfumes). They had to wait for the Sabbath to pass before they could carry out their plan.