From: Busy Person’s Guide to Luke 13 to 24 Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2019
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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:
Quickly Understanding Luke
(Volume 2: Chapters 23 to 24)
Jesus Brought Before Pilate (Luke 23:1-5): Then the whole group of them rose up and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man subverting our nation, forbidding us to pay the tribute tax to Caesar and claiming that he himself is Christ, a king.”
3 So Pilate asked Jesus,
“Are you the king of the Jews?” He
replied, “You say so.” 4 Then Pilate said to
the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against
this man.” 5 But they persisted in
saying, “He incites the people by teaching throughout all
23:1 Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. The decision having been made, both those involved in the pseudo-trial and the varied spectators and attendants all traveled as a group to Pilate. When we read in Matthew that in front of Pilate, “the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus” (27:20), their job was made immensely easier because they already had this crowd of accommodative voices to form the core of the larger group.
Sidebar: Pilate was far from perfect in these proceedings--after all, He does permit the physical abuse and execution of the Lord to occur. Yet compared to the Jewish religious leaders who were the ones who were supposed to be merciful and understanding, he comes across as (comparatively) responsible and restrained and there is more than a little irony in this: Too often he acted as a self-centered regent who dispensed with good judgment. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges provides this short analysis:
“Pontius Pilatus was a
Roman Knight, who (A.D. 26) had been appointed, through the influence of Sejanus, sixth Procurator of Judaea. His very first act—the bringing of the silver
eagles and other insignia of the Legions from
“He had also had deadly quarrels with the Samaritans, whom he had attacked on Mount Gerizim in a movement stirred up by a Messianic impostor; and with the Galileans ‘whose blood he had mingled with their sacrifices’ (Luke 13:1). He reflected the hatred felt towards the Jews by his patron Sejanus, and had earned the character which Philo gives him of being a savage, inflexible, and arbitrary ruler.”
23:2 And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” Their religious objections have to be hidden behind a veneer of something secular in order to make Pilate have any concern with the matter. Hence the triple accusations of (1) “perverting the nation” and (2) “forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar,” (3) “saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”
The first accusation might be arguably true if the offense were one of undermining the religious governing officials’ status as the supreme religious authority and if that was improper even when they were in the wrong. In the current context and with Pilate as the judge, they surely wanted him to have the impression that Jesus was “perverting the nation” by prohibiting the paying of taxes.
The second charge began with a blatant lie: Jesus had not forbidden the payment of taxes. (If a prominent and popular “rabbi” such as Jesus had actually done so, the report would surely have been to Pilate long before this.) To make it a credible lie they had to join this with the third one of Jesus’ claim of Kingship . . . for here not only Roman revenue comes into play but the ego and prestige of the Roman emperor as well.
Furthermore if the “Kingship” accusation were true, would not Pilate’s varied informants have told him of the danger long ago? Indeed could Jesus’ refusal to become a king have avoided coming to their attention (John -15)?
23:3 Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered him and said, “It is as you say.” It is fascinating that the admission is far from adequate to gain a conviction. Perhaps it is partly that He says “King of the Jews” rather than “king of the world.” Perhaps that Pilate--wisely--knows that the last thing they are likely to do is take the initiative in seizing an anti-Roman agitator when that would unquestionably annoy a large number of their fellow Jews. They might not actively or publicly hinder him . . . but take the initiative and arrest him--would they even dare?
In John’s account of this part of Pilate’s questioning we find not only this admission (), but that He had already demonstrated that His kingship did not involve the use of force: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (). The implication clearly being: “If I won’t use force against My fellow Jews who wish to kill Me, why would I use force against the Romans who have not acted to even hinder Me?”
23:4 So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find
no fault in this
Sidebar: The other accounts provide much in the way of supplemental details that led to this declaration, but Luke has opted for brevity. What is most important to Luke is that a Roman governor--who has every reason to defend Roman interests--finds nothing legally culpable in what Jesus had done. The implicit message to any Gentiles who read the work: “Those who follow the teachings of this Jesus are not subversives, at war with the political world we live in.”
23:5 But they were the more fierce, saying, “He stirs up the
people, teaching throughout all
In the very act of maximizing how widespread was the “danger” this Jesus represented, they inadvertently give Pilate an excuse from handing them the judicial condemnation they seek. . . .
Pilate Passes the Case Over to
Herod, Restoring Their Friendship (Luke 23:6-12): 6 Now when Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 When he learned that he was from Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over
to Herod, who also happened to be in
8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some miraculous sign. 9 So Herod questioned him at considerable length; Jesus gave him no answer.
10 The chief priests and the experts in the law were there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, dressing him in elegant clothes, Herod sent him back to Pilate. 12 That very day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other, for prior to this they had been enemies.
23:6 When Pilate heard of
23:7 And as soon as he knew that He
belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in
23:8 Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. Although Herod had certainly not expected to see Jesus under these circumstances, “he was exceedingly glad” that their paths had finally crossed. Herod had heard of Jesus’ abundant miraculous deeds (Mark ) and cherished the dream of seeing some done in his presence (Luke 9:7-9).
23:9 Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. This was a lengthy interrogation--note the “many words”--but the prisoner refused to co-operate at all. He maintained His silence. We aren’t told what the questions were but we know that he was reasonably well informed about what Jesus was doing and saying while inside his territory--note that the wording of Luke 9:6-9 seems designed to cover both: “So they [the apostles] departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again. Herod said, ‘John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?’ So he sought to see Him.”
In light of this prior knowledge and interest, the questions were as likely religious as political and involved a variety of topics including that of his own remarriage that had gotten John beheaded. But Jesus had no interest in dealing with any of these subjects at this late point in His own life.
If He wouldn’t answer Herod, that still didn’t mean his critics couldn’t try to goad Him into saying something . . . or to make such an outrageous claim that Herod felt compelled to endorse a death sentence. . . .
And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. The religious leaders of the city more than made up for the silence by throwing at Him one “vehement” accusation after another. (Or, perhaps, the same accusation merely reworded slightly differently?) What they lacked in evidence they made up for in venom. But as the ancient prophet had spoken, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
But, as we saw above in Luke 9:6-9, Herod’s own sources had him well briefed as to what was being said. Anything truly threatening would already have been known by him. Inventing things out of whole cloth--or invoking vast exaggeration--were unlikely to alter Herod’s attitude shaped by the informants he had at home, especially when coming from these outraged critics who clearly had only one thing in mind. However not treating Herod with the “proper respect” by refusing to enter into a discussion at all was a far different matter. . . .
Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate. Unable to get Jesus to talk at all, Herod and his own forces tried to humiliate Him. First they dressed Him with a “gorgeous robe” as one would expect on royalty and then they had their pleasure by mocking Him. At last a “king” the soldiers could openly mock and not run the danger of being hauled before their military superiors or civilian Roman authorities! After this foolishness, Herod declined to make a formal decision on whether Jesus deserved death but simply sent Him back to Pilate.
This “hot potato” was now back in the hands of the official who wanted to be rid of the problem in the first place. The text of any verbal or written message that may have accompanied the return we do not know, but from 23:14-15 we conclude that whatever was conveyed included the fact that Jesus was judged as having done “nothing deserving of death” (23:14-15).
Sidebar on the “gorgeous robe” (“elegant robe,” NIV): “A white or shining robe, for this is the meaning of the original. The Roman princes wore ‘purple’ robes, and Pilate, therefore, put such a robe on Jesus. The Jewish kings wore a ‘white’ robe, which was often rendered very shining or gorgeous by much tinsel or silver interwoven. Josephus says that the robe which Agrippa wore was so bright with silver that when the sun shone on it, it so dazzled the eyes that it was difficult to look on it. The Jews and Romans, therefore, decked him in the manner appropriate to their own country, for purposes of mockery. All this was unlawful and malicious, as there was not the least evidence of his guilt.” (Barnes Notes)
That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other,
for previously they had been at enmity with each other. Politically speaking this
exchange of prisoner had produced one desirable side effect: Pilate and Herod had previously been
antagonistic and this voluntary act reconciled the two. Although the reason for the alienation is
unknown, Luke earlier referred to how certain Galileans had been killed in the
Brought Again Before an Unwilling Pilate, an Angry Crowd Arranged by the Religious Authorities Visually and Verbally Harass Pilate into Agreeing to a Death Sentence (Luke -25): 13 Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. When I examined him before you, I did not find this man guilty of anything you accused him of doing.
15 ”Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, he has done nothing deserving death. 16 I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”
18 But they all shouted out together, “Take this man away! Release Barabbas for us!” 19 (This was a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder.) 20 Pilate addressed them once again because he wanted to release Jesus. 21 But they kept on shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”
22 A third time he said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done? I have found him guilty of no crime deserving death. I will therefore flog him and release him.” 23 But they were insistent, demanding with loud shouts that he be crucified. And their shouts prevailed.
24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man they asked for, who had been thrown in prison for insurrection and murder. But he handed Jesus over to their will.
Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people. The pause between the return of the prisoner and this action gained him a little time as to consider how to proceed next.
said to them, “You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him. He had not ignored their claims but had heard their accusations--yet he still had been unable to find any facts that would justify the conviction they wanted. In a less volatile situation, he would likely have been tempted to mutter out loud, “Why are you wasting my time?”
did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of
death has been done by Him. Pilate’s negative
judgment stood uncontested: the ruler of
He doesn’t get into the issue of whether Jesus was deserving of any punishment and restricts himself to “deserving of death” for that is why He has been brought before him. There must be a legitimate connection between crime and punishment and in this case there was none. Any lesser offense--assuming it even existed--they could have taken care of under their own existing authority. Yet was it really prudent to allow such furious people to leave without some blood to entertain their rage?
23:16 I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” Since they were so incensed by Jesus, it seemed clear that he had to do something violent and extreme to let their blood passions run dry. So he would punish Jesus--but not by death but by chastisement with a whip and afterwards release Him. Perhaps this would be enough blood to satisfy their rage.
Many have insisted that this was equally unjust since neither death nor a beating was justified. He “should” have let Jesus go--and that is quite true. But imagine yourself the ruler of a land where neither the government nor you personally are liked. To avoid a possible eruption of violence or outright revolt you had to remember the upper religio-political crust who have brought Him are in exactly the right situation to encourage both. So what of your responsibility to maintain stability in the land? Unjust, yes, but it may still preserve the peace and prevent many other deaths; it might just get this Jesus out of the situation still alive as well.
Sidebar: Ancient prophecy of the coming Redeemer (Isaiah 53:1-12) referred to how He would be abused: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed”(verse 5).
(for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast). Pilate’s decision also fitted in with the custom of releasing a prisoner during the feast. This way he would get both that out of the way and rid himself of the nuisance case before him.
why this custom had arisen we do not know.
But since Passover was the commemoration of when death “passed over” the
Sidebar: Due to the omission of this verse in modern “critical” Greek texts, it is omitted nowadays by the majority of translations. The inclusion of the remark, though, would have told first century readers that Pilate was not acting outrageously in permitting the freedom of the revolutionary/murderer in the following verses. (The existence of the custom is confirmed in Matthew 27:15 and Mark 15:6.)
And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas”— It was unthinkable to them that the seasonable generosity that was to be shown would ever be granted to this man. The One who had cut no throat, killed no one, and robbed no one simply deserved death and the one who had probably done all three deserved his freedom. This is called bigotry and prejudice of the worst kind.
who had been
thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder. Barabbas
was not a run of the mill criminal. He
had been involved in a “rebellion made in the city” and had even cost one or more
people their life. And it wasn't as if
the crime had occurred in some distant city where the human cost could be
overlooked. It was “in the city,” i.e., in
the city they were within,
Yet so intense is the feeling against Jesus, that the religious leaders felt it was better to have such a dangerous man released than One who had so often embarrassed them and who was so often scornful of their “bent” usages of scripture.
Sidebar: “John [18:40] styles him a robber; this well describes the character of the man; a bandit chief who carried on his lawless career under the veil of patriotism, and was supported and protected in consequence by many of the people. The meaning of his name Bar-Abbas is ‘Son of a (famous [or distinguished]) father,’ or possibly Bar-Rabbas, ‘Son of a (famous [or distinguished]) rabbi.’ A curious reading is alluded to by Origen, which inserts before Barabbas the word ‘Jesus.’ It does not, however, appear in any of the older or more trustworthy authorities. Jesus was a common name at that period, and it is possible that ‘when Barabbas was led out, the Roman, with some scorn, asked the populace whom they preferred--Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ!’ (Farrar.). That this reading existed in very early times is indisputable, and Origen, who specially notices it, approves of its omission, not on critical, but on dogmatic grounds.” (Pulpit Commentary)
-21 Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called
out to them. 21 But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” With an unruly crowd as audience and wishing to be heard he
had no choice but to speak loudly (note the “called out”) and not just do it
once but twice (“again”) in order to assure that everyone had heard his
offer. Yet not even his
repeated offer was enough to dilute their rage for they systematically chanted,
“Crucify Him, crucify Him!” “Shouting” (“persistently shouted,”
That this annoyed Pilate can be taken for granted. He was supposed to make life and death decisions and they were trying to pressure him into one against his best judgment. But there were some of the most important people in the city present and egging them on (verse 23) and who could make his life difficult if not outright miserable.
Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.” Pilate pressed one last time for some legally valid reason to put Him to death. Since they had presented none it was still his intention to have Him whipped and then released.
But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. Their cries were “insistent” and “loud” that the execution must be carried out--whether the innocent Man who had already been vigorously punished at the hands of a Roman soldier with a whip deserved it or not.
So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. Pilate finally threw in the towel and permitted them to have their way. A disorderly crowd with the backing of the key religious figures of the day could stir up all types of trouble for him. Political prudence demanded that he acquiescence in the injustice. Jesus was, after all, one of their people and Pilate wasn’t about to gain additional support in the Jewish leadership circles by grimly holding on to his intention to be lenient. (If one can call a brutal beating before release leniency! Ironically, when contrasted with death it was.)
if the peace failed because of Jesus’ release, it could be all held against
him--or even if the highest ranking clerics simply filed a vehement protest
And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will. Note “their will” rather than “his will.” Although it was legally “his” it had been gained by mob pressure and nothing less. His own preferences did not enter into the picture.
Sidebar on details omitted by Luke
in regard to the trial but found in the other gospel accounts: “St.
Luke omits here the [details of the] ‘scourging;’ the mock-homage of the
soldiers; the scarlet robe and the crown of thorns; the last appeal to pity
when Pilate produced the pale, bleeding Sufferer with the words, ‘Ecce
Homo!’ the last
solemn interview of Pilate and Jesus, related by
The Painful Walk of an Injured Jesus to the Crucifixion Site (Luke -31): 26 As they led him away, they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country. They placed the cross on his back and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A great number of the people followed him, among them women who were mourning and wailing for him.
28 But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 2 9 For this is certain: The days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore children, and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ 31 For if such things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
23:26 Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. Jesus was so severely weakened by the scourging, that He was unable to carry the cross to the site of the crucifixion. Any able bodied male could have been grabbed to take care of the problem but it happened to be one Simon of Cyrene who happened to be entering the city from the countryside. Some have speculated he was a farmer coming into the city; others a pilgrim there for the feast. Yet others that he was someone the clerics recognized as at least vaguely associated with the Jesus movement--typically deduced by tying together the fact that this Simon of Cyrene had a son named Rufus (Mark 15:21) and Romans 16:13 refers to a Rufus (the same one???) as a disciple.
Sidebar on the nature of the cross that was being carried: “The cross used for this mode of execution was (1) either the Cruz decussata X, what is usually known as St. Andrew's cross; or (2) the Cruz commissa T, St. Anthony's cross; or (3) the ordinary Roman cross †, Cruz immissa.
“Our Lord suffered on the third description, the Roman cross. This consisted of two pieces, the one perpendicular (staticulum), the other horizontal (antenna). About the middle of the first was fastened a piece of wood (sedile), on which the condemned rested. This was necessary, else, during the long torture, the weight of the body would have torn the hands, and the body would have fallen. The cross was not very high, scarcely twice the height of an ordinary man. Strong nails were driven through the hands and feet. The victim usually lived about twelve hours, sometimes much longer.
“The agonies endured by the crucified have been thus summarized: "The fever which soon set in produced a burning thirst. The increasing inflammation of the wounds in the back, hands, and feet; the congestion of the blood in the head, lungs, and heart; the swelling of every vein, an indescribable oppression, racking pains in the head; the stiffness of the limbs, caused by the unnatural position of the body--these all united to make the punishment, in the language of Cicero ('In Verr.,' 5:64), crudelissimum teterrimumque supplicium [most brutal execution].’ ” (Pulpit Commentary)
And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. Per the customs of the day, there were women who “mourned and lamented” Jesus. This would surely have included those that came to sympathize at all public executions (reasonably implied by verse 28 since locals are specifically addressed). Some may have known enough about Jesus to recognize that He was especially deserving of sympathy. Certainly there had now been enough time for word to spread within the body of His own disciples for a number to have come from that group as well.
Who the rest of the “great multitude” were--the males--we can only guess. There were certainly the clerics and their supporters happily looking forward to the death. Furthermore in all ages there have been those who regarded public executions as a kind of free entertainment.
would have been no objection to the presence of disciples; indeed the religious
establishment might well have relished the thought: “See what we’ve done to your leader; mark
‘paid’ to your delusion!” and “Think about what we could arrange to have done
to you!” Indeed, whether fearful
for themselves or not, they did gather at the cross that fatal day
whether they were in this immediate group or came just a little later: “But all
His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from
turning to them, said, “Daughters of
Remember that Jesus is now so weak that He has to have someone carry the cross for Him. So this is not “dynamic” teaching, but a message He is laboring to get out of His mouth in spite of pain and agony. What He is going through is horrible, but what they will go through would be horrifying as well.
For indeed the days are coming in which they
will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ A 180
degree reversal of normal views.
But the fall of
Then they will begin ‘to
say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’ The wording can easily be
interpreted as a plea for a quick--and comparatively speaking--merciful death
compared to what was happening to others (cf. Hosea 10:7-10). Their agony which
would be extended, painful, and horrifying. Most however take this in a more “upbeat”
manner--as a plea for the earth to hide them from danger (compare such
imagery in Isaiah -21). Even that widely failed, however: Josephus estimated that some 2,000 perished
in the sewers and other underground hiding places at the end of the siege of
For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?” “The expression is proverbial; and was in frequent use among the Jews, who compared a good man to a green tree, and a bad man to a dead and dry one. It is as if our Lord had said, If a righteous person suffer thus, what will become of the wicked?” (Benson Commentary). In other words, the Romans are doing this to the undeserving (= “green wood” = Jesus), how much more extreme would they act toward the deserving (= “dry wood”) who had no spiritual life or justification left in them?
Alternatively, He may have specifically in mind the controlling elements in the current Sanhedrin who had rammed through the conviction: If they acted this irresponsibly now, how much more irresponsible would they be years in the future when the Romans came to destroy their city and temple?
The Two Guilty Criminals and Their Reaction to Jesus (Luke -43): 32 Two other criminals were also led away to be executed with him. 33 So when they came to the place that is called “The Skull,” they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 [But Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”] Then they threw dice to divide his clothes.
35 The people also stood there watching, but the rulers ridiculed him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the king of the Jews.”
9 One of the criminals who was hanging there railed at him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. It was not to be a single crucifixion. That, barring unusual circumstances, would have been a waste of the soldiers’ time. Hence two others were also brought with Jesus. Speculation has been that they may have been part of the group Barabbas had led and that is certainly possible since Barabbas was involved in “a certain rebellion” (); by definition, that requires a group and not a single person.
And when they had come to the place called
Sidebar on the name of the place: “As a matter of translation, it would clearly have been better either to give the Greek form (Cranion), or its meaning (= ‘skull’) in English. The Vulgate, however, had given Calvarium, and that word had taken so strong a hold on men’s minds, that it was apparently thought better, as in all the English versions, to retain it here. It is not without interest to note that the name which more than any other is associated with Protestant hymns and meditations on the atonement, should come to us from the Vulgate of the Latin Church.” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. The amazing thing about Jesus on the cross is not the pain and even the despair that He sometimes felt. It is the fact that He could still wish mercy upon those who had shown no mercy, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”
He may have in mind His enemies in general, but why in the world would He be praying for mercy on those who knowingly and willingly did wrong? Would not--in that context--we expect the prayer to say, “Father, may they repent”? On the other hand, Stephen does act the same way as Christ had: “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:60). But even there, would there not have to be an implicit “may they repent” as well? Or are they to be forgiven without admitting guilt and responsibility?
The situation is much different if He has in mind strictly the Roman executioners. They were simply doing their job. They literally did not recognize the severe infamy of what was happening. The real guilt was on those who knew that this was a legal travesty but insisted on doing it regardless of facts or evidence.
Sidebar: “They were the first of the seven words from the Cross, of which three (Luke , 43, 46) are recorded by Luke only, and three (John -28, 30) by John only. The last cry also began with the word ‘Father.’ The seven words are
“Luke 23:34: The Prayer for the Murderers.
“Luke 23:43: The Promise to the Penitent.
“John 19:26: The provision for the Mother.
“Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
“John 29:28: The sole expression of human agony.
“John 19:30: ‘It is finished.’
“Luke 23:46: ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.’
“Thus they refer to His enemies, to penitents, to His
mother and disciple, to the agony of His soul, to the anguish of His body, to
His work, and to His Heavenly Father.
Luke here omits our Lord’s refusal of the sopor—the medicated draught, or myrrh-mingled
wine (Mark ; Matthew 27:34), which, if it would have
deadened His pains, would also have beclouded His faculties.” (
And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” It gave the “rulers” (i.e., Sanhedrin members) considerable satisfaction that while He had previously been able to “save others” (heal, cast out demons, raise the dead), He could do nothing to help Himself. How odd if He were really the Messiah! (Yet the entire course of their interactions with Him argue that even if He had come down from the cross, they would simply have conjured up some new objection to justify their rejection. When the will to disbelieve is strong enough no amount of evidence can overcome it.)
-37 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” As Roman soldiers they were not exactly thrilled at the idea of Jewish kings--and its corollary Jewish independence. Hence they took considerable pleasure in taunting Him with the challenge to save Himself if all that talk were true.
The reference to “offering Him sour wine” is often taken to indicate that they acted as if they were offering it to Him and then quickly snatching it away. But even genuinely offering it was an easy pretext for mockery: After all, why in the world did He need their help when He ought to be able to save Himself from what was happening. Kindness combined with easy insult could easily come to their minds when serving on an execution squad.
And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Latin was the official language of the Roman government, Greek the near universal lingua franca and Hebrew that of the scriptures of the Jewish people. Hence anyone and everyone could know the charges.
This inscription carried a message on two levels: First it was a warning to any and everyone who wished to become such a Jewish king that they also would die. Second it was a calculated insult to the Jewish officials who had pushed through the wrongful death and proclaimed their lying charges of political “kingship” to one and all (cf. John 19:19-21): They always had wanted a king; now they had one even Roman soldiers were willing to acknowledge!
Sidebar: “ ‘superscription:’
A tilulus written in
black letters on a board smeared with white gypsum,
and therefore very conspicuous. To put
such a board over the head of a crucified person was the ordinary custom.” (
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” Even more mockery: if all this talk of His power were true, surely it was about time for Him to exercise it--both for Himself and His fellow sufferers on their crosses as well. Pain and desperation are the subtext lying beneath the insult, of course. But we should never minimize the fact that this was a dangerous criminal. To a man with that kind of mind frame, the opportunity to psychologically assault another person often comes just as easily as the willingness to do so physically.
But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? The second criminal recognized the absurdity of the criticism. The last time for someone to be criticizing another is while they are dying unjustly! In contrast to themselves. . . .
And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Both of them knew that they were reaping the proper reward for the kind of crimes they had committed. Yet this Jesus was suffering without having done anything wrong at all. We may be criminals, but we don’t have to be blind to common sense!
Sidebar: “In Matthew
and Mark we are told that both the
robbers ‘reviled’ Him. Here then we
might suppose that there was an irreconcilable discrepancy. But . . . the
explanation of the apparent contradiction lies in the Greek words used. The two first Synoptists
tell us that both the robbers during an early part of the hours of crucifixion reproached Jesus (ὠνείδιζον), but we learn from Luke that only one of them
used injurious and insulting language to Him (ἐβλασφήμει). If they were followers of Barabbas
or Judas of Galilee they would recognize no Messiahship
but that of the sword, and they might, in their very despair and agony, join in
the reproaches leveled by all classes alike at
One who might seem to them to have thrown away a great opportunity. It was
quite common for men on the cross to talk to the multitude, and even to make
harangues . . . ); but Jesus, amid this universal roar of execration or
reproach from mob, priests, soldiers, and even these wretched fellow-sufferers,
hung on the Cross in meek and awful silence” saying virtually nothing. (
Then he said
to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your
kingdom.” Whatever the
nature of Jesus’ future kingdom might be . . . where ever it might be . . .
whenever it might be . . . he pled that He might be part of it. He probably had the only the foggiest idea on
any of these points, but He fully trusted the integrity and power of Jesus to
ultimately provide what was needed and appropriate. “He
acknowledges Him as King, and a King of such a sort as can, though dead, benefit the dead.
Not even the apostles at that time entertained so pure sentiments
said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in
The second way to read the text is this way--The criminal speaks of the kingdom and Jesus responds by speaking of Paradise, as if the two are interlocked entities: If so it follows that Paradise is the ante-chamber to the Kingdom (until it is established) or that entering Paradise should even be considered part of the kingdom Jesus had long spoken of.
It is not heaven itself for Jesus, after His resurrection, denies that He has yet entered heaven--John 20:17: “Jesus said to her, Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”
Jesus' Death on the Cross (Luke -49): 44 It was now about , and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 because the sun’s light failed. The temple curtain was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And after he said this he breathed his last.
47 Now when the centurion
saw what had happened, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was
innocent!” 48 And all the crowds
that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place,
returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all those who knew Jesus stood at a distance, and the women who had
followed him from
Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. A profound darkness settled on the earth for three hours--psychologically disconcerting for no one would be expecting it. The crucifixion began at the third hour (Mark ) so the darkness began about half way through the six hours He was in anguish on the cross. Hence at (“the sixth hour”) it was “as dark as .” Jesus’ critics had demanded a “sign from heaven” (Luke ) and, in a sense, one might argue it was now being given!
the earth” can with full propriety be translated “over the whole land”
(NIV)--either way indicating that an indeterminate area far beyond the mere
Sidebar on John’s strangely different time for the events: “While the three synoptists are in perfect harmony, we are met with a grave difficulty in John's account, for in John of his Gospel we read how the final condemnation of our Lord by Pilate took place about the sixth hour. At first sight, to attempt here to harmonize John with the three synoptists would seem a hopeless task, as John apparently gives the hour of the final condemnation by Pilate, which the three [Synoptists] give as the hour when the darkness began, i.e., when the Sufferer had already hung on the cross for three hours.
“Various explanations have been suggested; among these the most satisfying and probable is the supposition that, while the three synoptists followed the usual Jewish mode of reckoning time, John, writing some half a century later in quite another country, possibly twenty years after Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed, and the Jewish polity had disappeared, adopted another mode of reckoning the hours, thus following, probably, a practice of the province in which he was living, and for which he was especially writing.
“Dr. Westcott, in an additional note on John 19:14,
examines the four occasions on which St. John mentions a definite hour of the
day; and comes to the conclusion that the fourth evangelist generally reckoned
his hours from midnight. The Romans
reckoned their civil days from , and there are also traces of reckoning the hours
Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. A person did not have to be particularly superstitious to view this odd combination of events as ominous. Especially on the eve of what was supposed to be a joyous Passover.
Sidebar: “The veil
intended must be what was called the Parocheth,
or inner veil, which hung between the
And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last. Jesus had finally reached the end of His strength. Recognizing it, He commits Himself into the hands of His Father.
We also read of the Psalmist (31:5) committing his spirit to God. Since Jesus had preceded him to heaven, the martyr Stephen committed his own spirit to the Lord (Acts ).
So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly, this was a righteous Man!” The centurion was so impressed by what he had seen that he honored God by proclaiming this “certainly this was a righteous Man!” He had probably crucified many a criminal. This one had not acted like one. Nor had the strange events surrounding the crucifixion (thick darkness etc.) indicated He was. Even nature itself seemed to have gone into mourning.
on the other praise given by the centurion:
“After the earthquake he may have added,
‘Truly this man was a Son of God’ (Matthew 27:54). The latter phrase sounds at first incongruous
on the lips of a heathen, though ‘Son of God’ is found as a title of [emperor]
Augustus in some inscriptions. But the
centurion had twice heard our Lord pray to ‘His Father’ (Luke ; ),
and even Pilate had been overpowered by the awful dread lest He should be
something more than man (John 19:7-9).”
23:48 And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing
what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. The hostile crowd beat their chests in joy
that they had triumphed. The modern
idiom would be “shaking joyous fists in the air and shouting aloud.” The popular interpretation that this was done
in guilt and sorrow over what they had done seems inherently improbable: Yes, there had been the weird darkness but
they would have been unaware yet of what had happened in the
But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from
“All His acquaintances” would seem to be intended to cover both all His remaining apostles and varied other disciples as well. The fact that they observed these things “at a distance” shows them self-defined as a separate group from those who had been so enthusiastically cheering the death. By not coming closer they were also protected against the danger of entering into needless verbal confrontations with the others--or receiving their gratuitous insults either.
Jesus Is Buried In the Unused Tomb
of a Member of the Sanhedrin Opposed to the Execution (Luke -56): 50 Now there was a man
named Joseph who was a member of the council, a good and righteous man. 51 (He had not consented to their plan and action.) He was from the Judean town of
52 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and placed it in a tomb cut out of the rock, where no one had yet been buried. 54 It was the day of preparation and the Sabbath was beginning.
55 The women who had
accompanied Jesus from
Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. So much of the Sanhedrin enthusiastically backed the crucifixion or could be pressured into not objecting, that it is easy to forget that there were a few others who held back from the excesses due to their respect for Jesus. This Joseph was one of their number and he is singled out not just because of his refusal to embrace the execution but also because, unlike the dominant members of the Sanhedrin, he was “a good and just man” rather than one willing to do anything to hold onto position and influence.
a tad fanciful but still an interesting analysis: “Each evangelist
speaks of Joseph in high terms, and each in his own way. “Luke styles him 'a counsellor,
good and just;’ he is the καλὸς κὰγαθός,
the Greek ideal. Mark  calls him 'an honourable counsellor,' the Roman ideal. Matthew [27:57] writes of him as 'a rich
man:' is not this the Jewish ideal?’ (Godet). And
He had not
consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea,
a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the
However if there was any significant hint that he had either pro-Jesus inclinations or been less than conspicuous in condemnations of Him, he would surely have been “overlooked” in the initial mustering of the Sanhedrin members. If only the ones you can count on the most are invited first, the danger of unexpected internal obstacles are thoroughly minimized. They could not risk delays; the time left available for a pre-Passover execution was extremely limited.
This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He probably used his official connection with the Sanhedrin to gain admission. Furthermore, the fact that someone connected with the Sanhedrin had exhibited enough sense to recognize--like Pilate--that Jesus had done nothing to deserve death probably appealed to the governor as well. If Jesus had to die dishonorably at least He could be buried with dignity. So the body was granted to Joseph.
Sidebar: “This was a bold, and might even have proved to be a perilous request. Hence the ‘boldly’ (tolmesas) of Mark . Pilate seems to have granted the boon without a bribe because the Jewish care for burial was well known (Matthew ; Acts 8:2 . . . ), and was indeed a part of their Law (Deuteronomy ). For the surprise of Pilate at the rapid death of Jesus, and his enquiry about it from the centurion, and other details, see Mark 15:44.” (Pulpit Commentary)
Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. The hour was growing late in the day and these preparations needed to be hastily carried out before sunset and the new day began. Jesus was given a mark of respect and honor in His tomb--not sharing that with someone else but in being the first to be placed in an unused site that had been carved out of solid rock.
Sidebar: On the wrapping of the body “in a sindon,
or piece of fine white linen. Compare
Mark 14:51. Two other words, othonia (John ) and soudarion (John
20:7), are used of the various cerements [= wrappings] of Jesus. That Joseph bought this sindon, apparently
on this day (Mark 15:46), is one of the many incidental signs furnished even by
the Synoptists that the true Passover did not begin
till the evening of the Friday on
which our Lord was crucified. On the
part taken by Nicodemus in the entombment, and the spices which he brought,
see John 19:39-40. Both Joseph and
Nicodemus in acting thus not only showed great courage, but also great
self-sacrifice; for the touching of a corpse made them ceremonially unclean,
and thus prevented them from any share in the Paschal Feast.” (
That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near. The reader is provided a double explanation for the burial haste (1) it was the day of “Preparation,” i.e., for the feast of Passover and (2) the Sabbath day was almost upon them at sunset, when further work would have been prohibited whether it was Passover or the end of any other week.
And the women who had come with Him from
Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. Upon their return, they “prepared spices and fragrant oils” that were necessary for the entombment of a body. “The ‘spices’ are dry, the ‘perfumes’ liquid” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges). Then they rested during the Sabbath as the Torah had commanded since the days of Moses.
Sidebar--Speculation on what that Sabbath was like among the disciples (Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers): “It is noticeable that this is the only record in the Gospels of that memorable Sabbath. Can we picture to ourselves how it was spent by those who had taken part in the great drama of the previous day: Caiaphas and the priests officiating in the Temple services of that day, after their hurried Passover, just in time to fulfill the bare letter of the law, on the previous afternoon; the crowds that had mocked and scoffed on Golgotha crowding the courts of the Temple, or attending in the synagogues of Hebrew or Hellenistic Jews; scribes and Pharisees preaching sermons on the history and meaning of the Passover, and connecting it with the hope of a fresh deliverance for Israel?
“And the disciples, where were they? Scattered each to his own lodging, or meeting in the guest-chamber where they had eaten their Paschal supper, or, as that was apparently a new room to them (Luke 22:8-9), in some other inn or lodging in the city, or its suburbs? On that Sabbath, John and Peter must have met, and the penitent must have found in his friend’s love the pledge and earnest of his Lord’s forgiveness; and the Twelve and the Seventy must, in groups of twos or threes, have mourned over the failure of their hopes; and the women have comforted themselves with the thought that they could at least show their reverence for the Lord they loved as they had never shown it before; and Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathæa have rested with satisfaction in the thought that they could honor a dead prophet without the danger that had attached to honoring a living one, or have reproached themselves for the cowardice which had kept them from any open confession till it was too late, and mourned over the irrevocable past.
“The records are silent, but the imagination which turns the dead chronicles of history into a living drama has here, within due limits, legitimate scope for action. May we go a step yet further, and think of what was then being accomplished behind the veil, of the descent into Hades and the triumph over Death, the soul of the robber in the rest of Paradise, and the good news proclaimed to ‘the spirits in prison’ (1 Peter 3:19)? If we dare not fill up the gap with the legends of the Apocryphal Gospel that bears the name of Nicodemus, we may, at least, venture to dwell reverently on the hints that Scripture actually gives.”
The First Disciples to See the Resurrected Jesus Are Female Followers Come to Finish the Preparations for the Permanent Burial (Luke 24:1-12): 1 Now on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women went to the tomb, taking the aromatic spices they had prepared. 2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
4 While they were
perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood beside them in dazzling attire. 5 The women were terribly frightened and bowed their faces to the ground,
but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has been raised! Remember how he told you, while he
was still in
8 Then the women remembered his words, 9 and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles.
11 But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb. He bent down and saw only the strips of linen cloth; then he went home, wondering what had happened.
24:1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. Certain other women joined with those who had observed where Jesus was buried--some of the names are provided in verse10--and they all worked on the project of carrying further prepared spices to the burial spot. Additional hands enabled less work to be placed on any one person’s shoulders and was a practical way for them all to show their “final respects” to the deceased. “Preparing the body” inherently shows even more reverence for the deceased than just “going to a funeral.” “Whether they went and returned all in one company, or at different times, and by different ways, is not quite certain.” (Benson Commentary)
24:2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. This would have caused shock because it “was [a] very large” (Mark 15:4) and heavy object that blocked the entrance and because there was no reason for it to have been removed.
24:3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Examining the tomb was the natural response to finding the entrance open. Even more startling was to find that the body of Jesus had disappeared. There was no reason that the apostles would have moved the body and if they had, it is hard to imagine why they would have permitted the women to engage in this kind of wasteful effort--wasteful not merely of their time but even more so of the cost of the spices. (Although they certainly weren’t destitute, they certainly did not have a lot of money to waste either!)
24:4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. They were “perplexed” by this--“the word means ‘utterly at a loss’ ” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges). They didn’t have the foggiest idea of what could be going on. Their thoughts were interrupted as two angels suddenly stood before them in bright clothing. Not normal clothing, but “bright clothing” that there was no reason to ever encounter: the attire “gleamed like lightning” (NIV); “bright as lightning” (GW).
24:5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Now they passed from confusion to fear. Bowing and pushing their faces to the ground were reflections of both this and a physical way of showing both “we mean you no harm” and “we honor you and your obvious importance.”
The words of the angels give information and make no sense unless they are also a very gentle rebuke. Which implies--and in verses 6-8 is made explicit--that the women also knew that Jesus had pledged not to remain among the dead, but since the thought was as alien to their way of thinking as to the apostles, they had placed it on their intellectual “back burner” and hadn’t thought about it.
The Jesus they sought is still “living.” Perhaps with the overtone expressed in Revelation (“I am alive forevermore”) and that “life” is His essence (John 1:4, ; ).
24:6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still
24:7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ” “Delivered into” carries with it the idea of betrayal and “the hands of sinful men” that what will be done by them will be out of ill will and not love for the truth. The result would be His death on a cross, but that dire thought was cushioned by the fact that He would not remain dead longer than “the third day.” In their minds, all of this fell into the category of “it can’t happen” and so they suppressed it from their conscious thoughts and were that much more startled when the events came true. But now was different. . . .
24:8 And they remembered His words. Having it pointed out to them, this matched their own recollections--recollections that their despair and dislike of the warning about His death had caused them to suppress.
24:9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It is now “eleven” rather than twelve and even if Judas had not committed suicide, it is impossible to believe that he would have dared try to rejoin the other apostles or that the others would have been willing to receive him. . . . not only out of rage at what he had done, but out of the fundamental “self-protective instinct” that “what he’s done once to us, he might well do again.”
24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. Those who brought the story were all women and, perhaps, it was dismissed in part on this grounds. However just as the women had not anticipated the resurrection neither did the rest of the disciples. Credulity was clearly not present in this crowd; any blind “willingness to believe” was totally absent. Skepticism reigned until the repeated appearances drove it out as a rationale explanation.
Sidebar on integrating the four gospel accounts together: “Compare Matthew 28:8. From John 20:2 we infer that Mary of Magdalene had, in the first instance, run from the sepulcher to tell Peter and John of the removal of the stone, and had therefore not seen the first vision of angels. The apparent contradiction in Mark 16:8 obviously means that they ‘said not one word on the subject to any one’ except the Apostles to whom they were expressly told to announce it (Matthew 28:7)” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).
24:11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. To those the women spoke, the story of the empty tomb and angelic appearances seemed like empty and foolish stories that inherently lacked any credibility.
Sidebar on “idle tales:” “Literally, silly talk; nonsense. Only here in New Testament. Used in medical language of the wild talk of delirium.” (Vincent's Word Studies)
24:12 But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened. Something had clearly happened at the tomb and it needed to be promptly investigated. So Peter took the initiative and rushed there and found it empty just as they had said. The very linen cloths Jesus had had wrapped around Him were lying within but the body they contained was missing. Peter “marvel[ed]” at this and wondered what it meant. Might the women be right after all?
In an Unrecognized Form, the Lord Joins Disciples Walking Some Seven Miles Outside Jerusalem As They Are Discussing the Unexpected Death of Jesus (Luke 24:13-27): 13 Now that very day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking to each other about all the things that had happened.
15 While they were talking and debating these things, Jesus himself approached and began to accompany them 16 (but their eyes were kept from recognizing him).
17 Then he said to them, “What
are these matters you are discussing so intently as
you walk along?” And they stood still,
looking sad. 18 Then one of them,
named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only
19 He said to them, “What
things?” “The things concerning Jesus
the Nazarene,” they replied, “a man who, with his powerful deeds and words,
proved to be a prophet before God and all the people; 20 and how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be condemned to
death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that
he was the one who was going to redeem
22 ”Furthermore, some women of our group amazed us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back and said they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.”
25 So he said to them, “You foolish people—how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures.
24:13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a
village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from
24:14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. The death of Jesus and the events that had led up to it. By now there were probably precious few in the entire nearby area who had not heard of the dirty dealing inflicted upon the Lord (compare verse 18).
So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. They tried to reason these events out and understand what they meant--“Why did it happen?” and “How could they have done such a vile dead?” must have been included in their discussion. Not to mention the strange report of an empty tomb (verses 22-24). While half distracted another traveler joins them in their walk.
But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. Their eyesight was altered so that they could not recognize who was really with them--either that or the very nature of His appearance was changed for the same reason. Assuming (as is extremely probable) that Mark 16:12-13 is a very concise summary of these verses, then it definitely wasn’t their eyesight but the appearance of His literal external body: “He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country” (GW: “He did not look as he usually did.”) Their inability to grasp who it really was would allow a candid discussion of whatever was going on in their minds.
24:17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” Jesus could recognize their sadness from their facial looks and the tone of their conversation, but He wants to probe deeper and see what is actually going on in their minds. The renderings “looked discouraged” (Holman) and “downcast” (NIV) perhaps convey the point even more powerfully than the still popular “sad.”
24:18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas
answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger
24:19 And He said to them, ”What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of
24:20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. The religious leaders had convinced the Romans to have Him executed. Note how these Jewish adherents aren’t casting blame on the Romans: “our rulers” had pulled off this atrocity and they aren’t about to hide the fact. Is it inappropriate to assume a sneer or an overtone of outrage in their voices?
24:21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem
Sidebar: Might the “third day” allusion also refer to what Jesus had said bouncing around in the backs of their minds (Luke )? And that they dare not put such an unprecedented possibility into words lest even greater disappointment occur?
24:22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. Or “amazed us” (NIV), “astounded us” (Holman), “startled us” (ISV). Colloquially today we would speak of it throwing an intellectual “curve ball”--it was the last thing they expected to happen. As Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible sums up the resulting confusion: They “surprised us, with an account they brought, so that we could not, nor can we now tell, what to think or say of it; it is such an [explanation] we know not how to believe, nor to disprove; it is we fear too good to be true, and should it be as they report, it is amazing indeed.”
24:23 When they did not find His body,
they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was
alive. “This mention
of a sort of double hearsay--‘women saying--of angels who say’--shows
the extreme hesitation which appears throughout the narrative.” (
24:24 And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and
found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” Disciples not identified here (and the names were probably
unknown to the speakers themselves) had gone to investigate--Peter
and John we learn from other passages (John 20:3-10). They came back with verification that the
women were unquestionably right in regard to the tomb being empty . . . but
could not provide any word about Jesus Himself--alive or dead. This “expresses
their incredulity and sorrow. It also shows how impossible is the skeptical theory that the
Disciples were misled by hallucinations. ‘Les hallucines, [The hallucinated]” says Bersier, “parlent en hallucines [speak in hallucinations];’ but
against any blind enthusiasms we see that the Apostles and Disciples were most
suspiciously on their guard. They accepted nothing short of most rigid
24:25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Jesus softly rebuked their inability to accept what the ancient seers had predicted. The written evidences had long been available if they had just been able to see them in the right light. Verse 44 of the current chapter presents Him as reminding them that He had previously taught them about this matter. In Luke 18:31-33 we have a specific example. This is in addition to His personal warnings that the unjust death was inevitable (-22, 43-45).
24:26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” Just as surely as previous scripture had spoken of the coming of a national Redeemer, the concept of a suffering Messiah was also firmly rooted in the ancient texts. Therefore didn’t such evil abuse have to occur before entering “into His glory”?
24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. To verify the accuracy of what He was assereting, He discussed various texts from Moses and the Prophets that had an application to the Messiah’s life and death. The fact that He did so convincingly provides additional explanation--beyond it being the time of day to eat--why they wished Him to remain with them (verse 29): They wished to learn yet more. What they are hearing fascinates and intrigues them.
Sidebar--A summary of the type of texts that would have been alluded to (Pulpit Commentary):
The Scriptures which the Lord probably referred to specially were the
promise to Eve (Genesis );
the promise to Abraham (Genesis );
the Paschal lamb (Exodus 12);
the scapegoat (Leviticus 16:1-34);
the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:9);
the greater Prophet (Deuteronomy );
the star and scepter (Numbers 24:17);
the smitten rock (Numbers20:11; 1 Corinthians 10:4), etc.;
Immanuel (Isaiah );
“Unto us a Child is born,” etc. (Isaiah 9:6-7);
the good Shepherd (Isaiah 40:10-11);
the meek Sufferer (Isaiah 50:6);
he who bore our griefs (Isaiah 53:4-5);
the Branch (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:14-15);
the Heir of David (Ezekiel 34:23);
the Ruler from
the Branch (Zechariah );
the lowly King (Zechariah 9:9);
the pierced Victim (Zechariah );
the smitten Shepherd (Zechariah 13:7);
the messenger of the covenant (Malachi 3:1);
the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2); and no doubt many other passages. . . .
To these we must add references to several of the psalms, notably to the
sixteenth and twenty-second, where sufferings and death are spoken of as
belonging to the perfect picture of the Servant of the Lord and the ideal King. His
hearers would know well how
strangely the agony of
in those vivid word-pictures He called before their memories in the course of that
six-mile walk from
As They Arrive at Emmaus, They Invite Jesus to Have Dinner With Them and Only Then Realize Who They Have Actually Seen (Luke 24:28-35): 28 So they approached the village where they were going. He acted as though he wanted to go farther, 29 but they urged him, “Stay with us, because it is getting toward evening and the day is almost done.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?”
33 So they got up that
very hour and returned to
24:28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. In no way did He impose Himself upon them: He had gotten them thinking about the scriptural basis for the Messiah enduring unjust suffering (verses 26-27) and now He was willing to move on--unless they requested Him to stay longer. This left it entirely in their hands whether He would do so.
24:29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them. They strongly urged Jesus to remain with them--but they noticeably do not say it was because they wished to hear yet more even though most commentaries think it was. Instead they point to the fact that it was late in the day and night was near. This argues that they wished to “repay” His courtesy in teaching them things they did not know by sharing a meal with their Teacher. However they had unquestionably been spiritually aroused by His teaching (verse 32) so they would certainly not have minded in the least if more were done.
24:30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. In light of His earlier teaching, He is clearly the most spiritually astute individual at the table and they yield to Him the honor of blessing the bread and breaking it for their joint consumption.
Sidebar: Although this has often through the centuries have been taken as an offering of the Lord's Supper, there is nothing suggesting a “church service” purpose in the context. Furthermore “breaking bread” is an obvious way to describe a meal in a society in which bread played such a pivotal role--and seems so used in Acts 2:46, in contrast with where the inclusion of “prayers” suggests a religious service instead. Luke also () pictures Jesus blessing and breaking the bread when He fed the 5,000 in a regular meal.
24:31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. At this point they were permitted to recognize whom they were really with. And no sooner had this recognition occurred than He disappeared. Although hallucinations may talk with you, they certainly don’t break bread and share it out with you. Hence they could be sure that what they had seen was objectively real--no matter how strange the entire event had been.
Sidebar 1: Not “got up and left” but promptly and instantaneously “vanished” or “disappeared” (Holman, NIV). The modern analogy might be the science fiction concept of being “beamed up”--removed by quite scientific means--from one place to another. The miraculous has its own “scientific laws” it works by (for lack of a better term) and we are as unable to comprehend them as to understand the technology the current world will have in 500 years . . . assuming the Lord permits it to remain that long.
Sidebar 2--The different types of Jesus post-resurrection appearances (Pulpit Commentary):
Not here, not now, can we hope to understand the nature of the
resurrection-body of the Lord; it is and must remain to us, in our present
condition, a mystery. Certain facts have, however, been revealed to us:
(1) The Resurrection was a reality, not an appearance; for on more than
one occasion the Lord permitted the test of touch. He also ate before his disciples
of their ordinary food.
(2) Yet there was a manifest exemption from the common conditions of
bodily (corporeal) existence; for He comes through a closed door; He could
withdraw himself when he would from touch as well as from sight; He could
vanish in a moment from those looking on Him; he could, as men gazed on Him,
rise by the exertion of His own will into the clouds of heaven.
(3) He was known just as He pleased and when He pleased; for at times
during the “forty days” men and women looked on him without a gleam of
recognition, at times they gazed at him, knowing well that it was the Lord.
On the words, “he vanished out of their sight,” Godet writes, “It must be
remembered that Jesus, strictly speaking, was already no more with them (verse
44), and that the miracle consisted rather in his appearing than in His
Dr. Westcott expresses the same truth in different language, “What was
natural to Him before was now miraculous, what was before miraculous is now
24:32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” The recognition of the traveler’s actual identity (verse 31) explained the strange sense of enthusiasm and happiness they had felt “burn within” while they had discussed the meaning of the Scriptures on the walk to Emmaus. (Compare the words of His enemies who had been awed into not arresting Him due to the power of His message: “No man ever spoke like this Man”--John .)
24:33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to
24:34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” They did not even have time to speak of their own encounter--that only happens in the next verse--than they were hearing the exciting news that Jesus had indeed risen and had appeared to Simon Peter. Here and 1 Corinthians 15:4 we learn that he was the first apostle to see the Lord but nowhere are we provided with details.
(Clearly each of the gospel writers had knowledge of events that they did not select to include in their respective accounts. Space was limited and their own interests and the needs of their audiences would have played obvious roles in their selections. Additionally, Luke’s conscious research [1:1-4] had gained additional information that the others, though they may have known much of it, had not recorded.)
Sidebar--We know nothing of the specifics of the meeting, but Peter's behavior and guilt allow us to confidently be sure of the substance. As MacLaren's Expositions rightly suggests: “We know nothing of what did pass; we know what must have passed. There is only one way by which a burdened soul can get rid of its burden. There is only one thing that a conscience-stricken denier can say to his Savior. And--blessed be God!--there is only one thing that a Savior can say to a conscience-stricken denier. There must have been [repentance] with tears; there must have been full absolution and remission. And so we are not indulging in baseless fancies when we say that we know what passed in that conversation, of which no word ever escaped the lips of either party concerned.”
24:35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread. Thanks to what had happened to Peter, this strange encounter provided further confirmation of the apostle’s reliability. No matter how much we may trust someone, when the subject matter is fully alien to what one expects, it is always encouraging to have it reaffirmed by additional sources.
Appearing Unexpectedly to the Disciples in Jerusalem, Jesus Challenges Them to Examine His Wounds and to Feel Them in Order to Prove That He Has Really Been Resurrected—And Goes Even Further by Taking Food to Eat to Prove that He Is Really Present (Luke 24:36-43): 36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a ghost.
38 Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; it’s me! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones like you see I have.” 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.41
And while they still could not believe it (because of their joy) and were amazed, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in front of them.
24:36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” As the apostles were hearing the report from the two travelers to Emmaus, Jesus suddenly appeared--not after a knock on the door but “out of nowhere” (so to speak), in the middle of the entire group of disciples.
“Peace to you:” a common Jewish greeting and in this context it emphasizes that they have nothing to be terrified of by His appearing. . . . that He is not angry at them over their weakness betrayal night . . . and that He continues to wish the best for them. But the reassuring words of greeting do not abort their horrified reactions. . . .
24:37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. Although intellectually prepared for this--through what the two disciples and Peter had reported--emotionally it was a far different story. They “were terrified and frightened” and feared that they were seeing “a spirit” and not the true Jesus. The idea seems to be that the most they could imagine was a visionary appearance occurring. That He might well be able to appear in the most literal of senses was still beyond their range of thinking.
On the other hand--In its way this ought not to be as startling as we may find it: The doors were locked (cf. John ), they certainly hadn’t let anyone else in, and yet suddenly, unexpectedly, without warning, He is there. Which of us would it not have been spooked? “Impossible” things are far easier to take calmly so long as we ourselves are not in the middle of them!
24:38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Jesus naturally asked this obvious question: for an explanation of why this visit disturbed them so much . . . and why they should be doubting the reality of what they were seeing. They clearly had the evidence right in front of them! (Seeing is clearly not always believing!) They had also received multiple reports indicating its possibility--from both Peter and these two disciples.
24:39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” They could judge the matter for themselves. Let them touch and feel the body: obviously a spirit lacks “flesh and bones as you see I have.” The challenge: “You verify my tangible, physical reality for yourself. I am standing next to you!”
Various theories have risen because Jesus says “flesh and bones” rather than “flesh and blood.” All He’s out to do is conclusively prove His physical existence and tangibility--that they are not having a delusion or vision. This they can quickly and immediately verify by touching His body; the blood part they could verify only by cutting Him and letting Him bleed. Wouldn’t that have been a time wasting and rather gory way to virtually demean the core point He is trying to make?
24:40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. Would even a “vision” of the once dead Christ duplicate even the wounds? Would they not--if such were the root of what was happening--far more likely show the fully well and uninjured Jesus? Just as our scars remind us and those who have seen them what we have been through, these scars reminded them of the physical trials and pain their Lord had endured only days before.
24:41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” They were so much wrapped up in the happiness (“joy”) of the moment that they still hesitated to believe the evidence of their eyes or even the touch of their hands. “This is [human] nature. We have similar expressions in our language: ‘The news is too good to be true;’ or, ‘I cannot believe it; it is too much for me’ ” (Albert Barnes Notes). To shake them out of their stunned condition, He asked whether they had any food available. This will require a response on their part.
24:42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. Seeing Him physically take the food from them provided further evidence that this was not a mere intangible vision but absolute, concrete reality capable of independent interaction with who and what was around Him. The food itself would have been leftovers from their own meal or food gathered for their next one.
Sidebar: Fish was routinely supplied
24:43 And He took it and ate in their presence. When the person has taken the food from your hands and is clearly eating it while you look . . . well, that is unquestionable tangible reality. They had (1) seen Him, (2) touched Him, (3) handed Him food, which He took, and (4) observed Him eating it. What more could they possibly need to convince them that He was really and concretely there in the flesh? . . . The one who had been dead only three days ago and was now quite clearly alive.
Jesus Provides Them With the Ability to Understand the Scriptures Accurately and Reliably (Luke 24:44-49): 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it stands written that the Christ would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day,47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 ”You are witnesses of these things. 49 And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. But stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
24:44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” Jesus reminded them that He had repeatedly emphasized during His ministry that “all things” written about Him in either the Mosaical law, the prophetic writings, or the Psalms had to be fulfilled. This is quite emphatically laid out in Luke 18:31-34:
31 Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going
of Man will be accomplished. 32 For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will
be mocked and insulted and spit upon. 33 They will scourge Him and kill Him.
And the third day He will rise again.”
34 But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from
them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.
They had not been able to grasp the concept of a suffering Messiah, but only of a triumphant one, which fitted naturally into their concept of a temporal king ruling over the people. Since they needed assistance in understanding the prophetic texts, He used His miraculous powers to remove their interpretive problem. . . .
24:45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Rather than being blind to how the texts could apply to their current world, now they were able to see their relevance and application. The Psalmist also recognized that we may wear blinders to our understanding of the scriptures and need to have them removed: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18).
Sidebar: The Old Testament texts may not always be as clear and explicit as we would like, but if they had been would not the apostles already have understood them without further assistance? In discussing how and why we should seek a direct or indirect Jesus-centric meaning in many passages, the Pulpit Commentary quotes two very relevant remarks:
The remarks of Meyer and Van Oosterzee on this subject are well worthy
of being quoted: “If the exegete should read the Old Testament Scriptures
without knowing to whom and to what they everywhere point, the New Testament
clearly directs his understanding, and places him under an obligation, if he would be a sound Christian teacher, to acknowledge its authority and interpret
accordingly. Doubt as to the validity of our Lord and of his apostles’ method of
expounding, involves necessarily a renunciation of Christianity” (Meyer).
“They who consult the teaching of Jesus and his apostles with respect to
the prophecies concerning the Messiah, need not grope in uncertainty, but should,
nevertheless, remember that the Lord probably directed the attention of the
disciples, on this occasion (he is referring to the walk to Emmaus), less to isolated
Scriptures than to the whole tenor of the Old Testament in its typical and
symbolical character” (Van Oosterzee).
24:46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day. Jesus being murdered on the cross was not merely a blatant injustice, the injustice of man was simultaneously being used as the means of accomplishing what the scriptures of old had spoken of--human redemption (“remission of sins,” verse 47). These texts had done so by centering upon the necessity of the Messiah suffering, dying, and being resurrected.
that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all
nations, beginning at
24:48 And you are witnesses of these things. Of all the people in the world, they were the ones fully qualified to undertake a preaching mission to the world: they had seen the ministry of Jesus and had heard the many things He taught. They could bring to their teaching the power of eyewitness testimony. A historian can rightly say that “something happened;” the eyewitness, however, can say, “I saw it happen.” “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John ). The apostles repeatedly stressed this theme of reliability due to having seen it happen (Acts ; ; ; -32; -41; ; 2 Peter -18).
I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until
you are endued with power from on high.”
they had received their commission to preach, they still needed
to wait in
“12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He ]will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16).
Sidebar: As we come to the close of this gospel, it might be useful from the standpoint of further study to provide a list of the various resurrection appearances presented in the gospels. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges provides this one:
There are ten recorded appearances of the Risen Christ (including that at
the Ascension), of which St Luke only narrates three (the 4th, 5th, and 10th),
though he alludes to others (e.g. the 3rd). They are
1. To Mary of Magdala. John 20:11-17; Mark 16:9.
2. To other women, who adore Him. Matthew 28:9-10.
3. To Peter. Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5.
4. To the disciples on the way to Emmaus. Luke 24:13-15; Mark 16:
apostles and others. Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23; Mark
6. To the eleven apostles. The incredulity of Thomas removed. John
apostles at the
8. To five hundred on a hill of Galilee. Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-
18; 1 Corinthians 15:6.
9. To James, the Lord’s brother. 1 Corinthians 15:7.
10. Before the Ascension. Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:6-9.
Since more Appearances of the Risen Christ than those here narrated were
well known to
they were known also to St Luke. If he here omits them it must be borne in mind
(i) that neither he nor any of the Evangelists profess to furnish a complete
narrative; (ii) that St Luke especially shows a certain ‘economy’ (as has been
already pointed out) in only narrating typical incidents; (iii) that he is here
hastening to the close of his Gospel; and (iv) that he has other particulars to add in
the Acts of the Apostles.
Jesus Ascends into Heaven (Luke 24:50-53): 50 Then Jesus led them out as far as
24:50 And He led them out as far as
24:51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. When all was said and done, they received their final personal blessing from their Lord: during the very blessing itself, He was lifted into heaven. The image is not one of sudden disappearance, but--if you will--a “calculated” disappearance, as He slowly and majestically rises into the sky until they no longer can see Him. He disappears into a cloud, Luke informs us in the second of his two volumes--Acts 1:9).
24:52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to
24:53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen. Their joy was not brief, but continued as they regularly gathered in the temple to give thanks to God for all that He had done to and through Jesus. Hence they did not return to their normal work lives; they waited for Pentecost (Acts 2) as they had been told to do (Acts 1:4-5). The triumph of Jesus of Nazareth had only just begun.