Luke 23

This devotional is written by Sirine Hamammi.

Luke 23

Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, 'We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.'

3 So Pilate asked Jesus, 'Are you the king of the Jews?'

'You have said so,' Jesus replied.

4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, 'I find no basis for a charge against this man.'

5 But they insisted, 'He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.'

6 On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12 That day Herod and Pilate became friends - before this they had been enemies.

13 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 inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.'

18 But the whole crowd shouted, 'Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!' 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, 'Crucify him! Crucify him!'

22 For the third time he spoke to them: 'Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.'

23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

The crucifixion of Jesus
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, "Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!" 30 Then

'"they will say to the mountains,
'Fall on us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!'"

31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?'

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'[c] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, 'He saved others; let him save himself if he is God's Messiah, the Chosen One.'

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, 'If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.'

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: 'Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!'

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don't you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.'

42 Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'

43 Jesus answered him, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'

The death of Jesus
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, 'Surely this was a righteous man.' 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

The burial of Jesus
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Reflection

Luke's account of the trial, punishment, mockery, beating and crucifixion of Jesus helps us to see that even while Jesus was being falsely accused and suffering on the cross, He exemplified self-restraint, compassion, love, and forgiveness.

I want to focus on verse 45 where the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

In the Old Testament and in Jesus' lifetime, the temple in Jerusalem was the centre of Jewish religious life. It was a place of faithful worship to God, and where sacrifices were carried out according to the law of Moses. The temple was organised into different areas and the innermost and most sacred area was the Holy of Holies. This area, separated by a veil, was the earthly dwelling place of God's presence (Hebrews 9:1-9). The curtain both symbolised and acted to separate the holy God from sinful humanity. Once a year the high priest would pass beyond the veil to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed spotless lamb to atone for his and the sins of all Israel.

Luke tells us that as Jesus breathed His last breath the temple veil was torn from top to bottom. God tears down the curtain. It is as though the invisible hands of God reached down from heaven and removed this barrier that separated us, tearing it from top to bottom. God made a way once and for all for anyone to enter His presence by Jesus' supreme sacrifice. Jesus the spotless, sinless lamb of God shed his blood for us to remove our separation from the Father.

Prayer
Ephesians 3:12 In Him and through faith in Him we may enter God's presence with boldness and confidence.

Hebrew 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

2 Corinthians 3: 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord--who is the Spirit--makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

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