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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Day 21: October 3, 2009, Luke 23.1-56

Day 21: October 3,Luke 23.1-56

My commentary is below the text.  

Luke 23.1-56


23Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” 6When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

13Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” 18Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” 19(This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” 23But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

26As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. 28But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

44It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

50Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, 51had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. 52This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. 54It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. 55The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Commentary:  In the four gospels, the letters of St. Paul and the confessions of the church the crucifixtion of Jesus is central to the story of salvation.  Each of the four gospel writers have a slightly different perspective on just what the death of Jesus means.  Only in Luke do we get Simon of Cyrene who is compelled to carry Jesus' cross (In John's gospel it is theologically important for Jesus to carry his own cross).  We also get the sad but beloved story of the other two being crucifed and only in Luke is the conversation of 'today you will be with me in paradise."  

The last words of Jesus in each gospel are worth looking at, for these words help us understand how the Gospel writer is interpreting this horrific event.  For Luke there are three series of conversations that I think are important for us to reflect on.  "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."  Once again human beings will show our inability to understand God or God's will for the world.  Human beings at the cross eerily repeat the same "IF" that Satan used in the wilderness. (If you are the Son of God.....). And yet the word from Jesus is forgiveness. I find the power of the cross event right here.  What is the worse thing a human being could ever do?  Try to destroy God, destory all that is good and right.  That is what we tried on the cross, and Jesus speaks a word of forgiveness.  What about us:  what is it that Christ wont forgive, wont take upon himself, if even upon his crucifixtion he speaks a word of forgiveness?

"Today you will be with me in paradise."  There are two thoughts about death.  Paul suggest that we fall asleep in death and then when the time comes for God to fully realize the kingdom that has begun in Christ, the dead will be raised.  Others say that since Jesus offered "Today you will be in paradise" that means that at death we instantly are in the presence of God.   The message of both understanding is clear: death is not the end, and God has the final word. 

"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit:"  In Matthew and Mark Jesus quotes Psalm 22.  Here in Luke Jesus is quoting Psalm 31.5.  It is an awknowledgement of God's soveriegnty and plan for salvation.  It may look as if God has been defeated, but like the Psalmist, Jesus knows that God remains soveriegn!  Take a look at how Psalm 31 ends:  "Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord."

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