Archive for the ‘Luke’ Category

Seeing is Believing, part 2

Posted: April 22, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 24:36-53, “Seeing is Believing, part 2”

All good things come to an end, or so the saying goes. Some good things continue on & on. When it comes to the resurrection of Christ and the joy He gives to the church, that is something that lasts…even into eternity. We will never stop rejoicing in our Risen Lord Jesus! (Nor should we ever stop!)

Our text today brings us to the end of the Gospel of Luke – a journey lasting two full years. Luke has had much to say about the ministry of Jesus, and even at this point, he isn’t quite done. He continues the story of Jesus by writing the history of Jesus’ church – all in a book we know as the Acts of the Apostles. Again, not all good things come to an end! 

Even so, this particular book comes to a close as it shows the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Everything given to Jesus to be fulfilled was fulfilled. The plans of God concerning the Messiah were accomplished, and it was time for the Son to be received back into glory. As He ascends, Jesus demonstrates Himself forever victorious over death, proving for all time that God’s forgiveness and His gift of eternal life are found only in Him.

For Christians of the 21st century, this is basic theology. For the original disciples, it wasn’t so easy. And no wonder! They were at the end of a long trial that had begun several days ago in the previous week.

By this point, we’re well familiar with the events leading up to the cross. After Jesus’ horrendous suffering and death by crucifixion, His body was physically buried, being witnessed not only by those who buried Him, but by the women who desired to attend to His body. At the time, they were unable to do so because of the Sabbath, but they returned at their first opportunity three days later to discover an empty tomb. The tomb was empty of Jesus’ body, but two angels were there, telling the women of Jesus’ resurrection. Joyful, but confused, the women quickly told the apostles who were able to verify the tomb was empty, but not the resurrection itself. 

That was Sunday morning. Later that day, two other disciples travelled to the village of Emmaus, and unbeknownst to them they were accompanied by Jesus, who had supernaturally restrained them from recognizing Him. While on the road, Jesus explained to them the Biblical prophecies pointing to His suffering, death, and resurrection, finally revealing Himself to them for the briefest moment as He joined them for dinner. Just then, Jesus vanished from their sight, and the two disciples rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the others. Upon their arrival, they learned of an appearance of Jesus to Simon Peter, and they finally had the chance to tell of their own experience.

Verse 36 picks up at precisely that moment. And as it does, it shows the proof of the risen Jesus – it shows the commission of our Lord to be His witnesses – it shows His final ascension into glory. The disciples saw Him, were convinced of Him, and believed. Now they would tell the world. So can we. Rejoice in the Risen Jesus! And as you do, proclaim Him to all the world!

Luke 24:36–53

  • Jesus appears (36-43)

36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.”

  1. It almost doesn’t do it justice to read the words on the page. We’ve had a whole week in between these verses, and even when we read the text in one sitting, we can lose track of how quickly things progressed. Imagine Cleopas and his companion excitedly telling their tale of how Jesus walked with them on the road, and even broke bread with them at the dinner table, only to have their story interrupted by none other than Jesus Himself! When the two disciples had last seen Jesus, He had suddenly disappeared from sight at the dinner table. Now He suddenly reappeared right in the middle of all of them. They had to run back 7 miles from Emmaus; Jesus simply reappeared without breaking a sweat.
    1. BTW – this tells us something about the resurrection body. It is physical, but it isn’t natural. As Luke will make clear, Jesus’ resurrection body was fully physical, but He had capabilities that no normal human currently has. The apostle John describes Jesus’ resurrected boy in a similar way, being able to simply appear in rooms that have doors shut and locked. (Jn 20:19) Whether our future resurrected bodies will have the same capabilities is unknown, but it seems likely. Jesus is the firstfruits of those risen from the dead. In His earthly ministry, He had exactly the same type of body as any other normal human; it seems only logical that when our bodies are resurrected, our bodies will be like His. (We may not know everything about our future resurrection, but we know this much: It will be awesome!)
    2. BTW #2 – All human beings will be resurrected at some point. We are either raised in the resurrection of the just, or in the resurrection of the wicked. We are either raised to eternal life with Christ, or we are raised to face the final judgment of God at His great white throne. We want to be included in the former!
  2. As amazing as Jesus’ resurrection appearance is, it is almost comical how He treats it as the most natural thing in the world. He gives the standard greeting, “Peace to you.” (“Shalom Aleichem” in Hebrew. שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם ) It’s almost as if He says, “Howdy.” Not that “peace” wasn’t desperately needed by the apostles…it was! Not only were they all in that in-between point of grief from the crucifixion, joy in the reports of the resurrection, and confusion as to what to make of it all…now they also had Jesus Himself standing in the middle of their group greeting them. 

37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?

  1. Their terror was understandable – after all, it’s not like this was an everyday occurrence! Sure, they were used to being around Jesus, but when they had all known Jesus to be dead and physically buried, to have a living, breathing Jesus suddenly appear within arms’ reach would have given anyone a fright!
  2. Even so, this was more than a simple startle; this was something more. Notice how Jesus diagnoses their fear & trouble: as “” Doubts gave rise to fear. When the disciples had a lack of faith, then they were primed for an abundance of fear. (Fear always displaces faith & vice-versa!)
  3. Of course, that begs the question: what was it that the disciples doubted? It wasn’t Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion, and death – they had all seen that for themselves. Even though the men had mostly gone into hiding, they knew without question that their Lord Jesus had died. Nor was it the empty tomb. Even though they initially hadn’t believed the women, a group of the apostles went to personally verify that Jesus’ body was gone, which it was. So what was it they doubted? The ability of Jesus to truly rise to life. They could understand His death and come to grips with His missing body; they couldn’t believe that Jesus’ body was no longer missing, but actually physically standing right in front of them. They saw, but they did not believe. (At least, not yet.)
    1. Have you ever doubted something you saw with your own eyes? Even though you were looking right at it, it just seemed too impossible to be real. It’s one thing when you’re alone…maybe your eyes are playing tricks on you, or you’re ill, or you’re half asleep, etc. But that wasn’t the case with the disciples. Either this was a group hallucination, or it was 100% real. It had to be real, yet they still doubted. That sort of doubt is an act of the will.
    2. It’s no different with us today. The proof of Jesus’ resurrection can be laid out from A-to-Z in front of people, yet some will still not believe. Why? Because they refuse to do so. They have made a choice not to believe. It’s not that they don’t have reason to believe – it’s not that they lack the information needed to believe – it’s that they don’t want to believe. They’ve chosen not to believe in Jesus and His word.
      1. Yet there’s good news in that. If for some, it is a choice to not believe, that means that’s a choice that can be reversed. If someone is willing to see Jesus as He is, as He has revealed Himself to be, then that person can be sure that Jesus will reveal Himself. (Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”)
      2. That’s what we see Jesus doing with the disciples. He revealed Himself to them, giving them the opportunity to believe. Verse 39…

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.” 40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.

  1. Jesus provides two forms of proof of His physical resurrection. The first was His actual body. By definition, spirits are spirits. They do not have bodies, which is why Jesus showed and offered His to the apostles. Jesus had a body, it was real, and even His former wounds were visible. A week later, He would offer to Thomas (who had been full of doubts) to actually put Thomas’ hands on the nail prints & even inside the wound caused by the Roman spear confirming Jesus’ initial death. How many of Jesus’ wounds were retained, we don’t know (every whip mark – every puncture from the crown of thorns?), but evidently He had at least a few. These wounds could be physically examined, because they were physical. Jesus had a real body.
  2. Without question, this was important proof to the apostles, as it would have been to any of us. It’s one thing to see something with your eyes, and to hear something with your ears; it is another to be able to touch it with your hands. After all, we can see and hear something on the internet, but that doesn’t mean it’s real. Whole movies are based on nothing except realistic computer animation, to where it is almost impossible to distinguish real people from fake backgrounds – our sight and hearing can be deceived! But when we touch something, it’s different. That’s when we experience it – that’s when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s real. That’s exactly the way it was with the apostles. 1 John 1:1–3a, “(1) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—(2) the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—(3) that which we have seen and heard we declare to you…” John (and the others) declared what they knew to be real: the resurrected living Lord Jesus. They had known Him in earthly incarnated life, and they knew Him in His resurrected still-incarnated life. Their hands had even “handled/touched” Him. John didn’t pass on rumor after rumor like the old “telephone” game played by children; he and the others were physical witnesses of the real thing.
  3. Why is a real body important? Because it means Jesus had a real resurrection. This appearance was not Jesus’ ghost – it wasn’t a hallucination – it wasn’t a mass vision of spiritual things – it wasn’t some kind of spiritual metaphor. It was real. Someone who was dead was dead no longer. Someone who was buried was walking and talking. Someone who had taken His last breath was now having an honest-to-goodness conversation with people, exercising His lungs & mouth in the process. Jesus is really alive, and He has a real body to prove it! If Jesus is really alive, it means that He really conquered death. If Jesus is really alive, it means He did everything He claimed to be able to do. If Jesus is really alive, it means that He is who He claimed that He is. If Jesus is really alive, it means that Jesus is GOD. A dead Jesus is none of these things – an imagined Jesus is none of these things – neither is a ghost or good thoughts or anything else. Only a real resurrected living Jesus can offer salvation, and that is what He is. His physical body proves it!
  4. Yet even with this, the apostles still had difficulty believing. 

41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence.

  1. Before we get to the 2nd proof, notice the disciples’ reason for unbelief: “joy.” Joy?! How is that possible? We can understand how fear (trouble) causes a lack of faith, but how does this happen with joy? Chalk it up to the excitement of the moment. They were too overjoyed to know what to think. Keep in mind this wasn’t a theological symposium for the apostles. This wasn’t a moment when they all peered over their Bibles, parsing the words of Scripture. This was a moment that the physical Risen Jesus stood in their presence. First their hearts had stopped; now their jaws had dropped. They were drinking from the firehose of Jesus’ resurrection, and they simply couldn’t take it all in.
    1. The presence of the Lord IS something in which we can rejoice, and rejoice overwhelmingly!
  2. This is when Jesus gives them a 2nd proof: eating. As they approached Him to touch His hands and feet, they could give Him some supper and watch Him eat. Spirits have no reason to eat, because they have no body in which to store the food. Did Jesus need to eat? Surely His resurrected body was fully capable of sustaining itself without food. But He could eat – He had the ability to eat. That’s something only a living physical being can do, and it provided convincing proof to the disciples that Jesus truly was right there in the midst of them.
  3. At this point, nothing more is said of doubts, at least in Luke’s gospel. Ten of the eleven apostles had been gathered at that point, with one out of the room: the aforementioned Thomas. This is when Thomas acquired his unfortunate nickname, “Doubting” Thomas. Should Thomas have believed? On the original Resurrection Sunday, the initial doubts among the disciples were understandable. Reports of Jesus’ resurrection were a bit sketchy, with Him being seen one at a time on separate occasions – that was until the two men from Emmaus arrived. But the apostles barely had time to hear the news from Emmaus when Jesus interrupted the account and stood among them. At that point, ten apostles (and whoever else was in the room) saw Jesus, heard Jesus, and touched Jesus, having the opportunity to believe and come to faith. By this point, it was far more than one eyewitness – it was several. Culturally, an agreement of 2-3 witnesses was all that was needed to establish something as fact (it could even serve as a basis for the death penalty) – the disciples of Jesus easily had 3-times that many. So when Thomas arrived, he had plenty of reason to believe – he had every reason to believe…he just didn’t. Like the other apostles earlier in the day, he chose not to believe. As a result, he continued to wallow in grief and doubt for another full week until Jesus graciously appeared again, specifically appealing to Thomas, offering His body to be examined. Thomas’ response? Faith. John 20:28–29, “(28) And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” (29) Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”” Beloved, if you have chosen to put your faith in the Risen Jesus, you are among the blessed! We have not seen Jesus with eyes of flesh, but through eyes of faith. And we have seen Him indeed, believing upon Him as God for our salvation!

With all of this said, Jesus’ appearance among the disciples certainly surprised them. But the fact that Jesus could appear among the disciples should not have been a surprise. Everything about His life, death, and resurrection had been foretold in the Scriptures, and the apostles could have (and should have) known it. Verse 44…

  • Jesus commissions (44-49)

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.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

  1. Just as Cleopas and his friend received a Bible study from Jesus while they were on the road to Emmaus, so did Jesus give a similar study to the gathered group of disciples and apostles. As before, it’s doubtful that Jesus gave an exhaustive study of every Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament. If this was all given in the same night as Jesus’ first appearance to them on Sunday evening, then there wasn’t a whole lot of time left in the day! Of course, it’s possible that what Luke writes in verse 45 is a summary of what took place over the next forty days, prior to His ascension. (Acts 1:3) Even so, there are over 300 prophecies that refer to Jesus’ first coming, and multitudes more that refer to His future second coming. It seems likely that Jesus summarized a lot of Scripture, and gave the disciples the tools and the framework they needed to be able to understand the rest of Scripture for themselves. Like verse 45 says, “He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” They needed help to understand, and Jesus gave it to them.
  2. Notice this is a supernatural work of God. Prior to Jesus’ work among the disciples, they feared, doubted, and had trouble believing even while overjoyed. Of course, that was all in relation to Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead, but much of that was still based in their lack of understanding of the Bible. Consider for a moment that the 11 remaining apostles had for three years sat under the teaching of the best Bible teacher in all history, and they still did not understand the prophecies speaking of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. It’s not as if they could claim a lack of information! They simply didn’t have the ability to understand. This is what Jesus imparted to them.
  3. How did He do it? Although unmentioned by Luke, this seems to have been the moment when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on to them. John 20:21–22, “(21) So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (22) And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In John’s gospel, this took place on that first Sunday evening when Jesus appeared to the whole group of gathered disciples. That very evening, He imparted to them the indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit, giving them the ability to understand the word of God. 1 Corinthians 2:11–12, “(11) For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” Once the disciples had the indwelling presence of the Spirit, they were able to understand the words of the Bible inspired by the Spirit. (Likewise with us.)
    1. Question: Why didn’t Luke say anything about the work of the Spirit in this? Because Luke will describe a different work of the Spirit later. There is a ministry of the Spirit in which He indwells the believer (via John’s gospel), and a ministry of the Spirit in which He empowers the believer (via Luke’s gospel). It’s that second ministry that is addressed in verse 49 and throughout the book of Acts.
  4. Once the apostles were equipped to understand the Scriptures, they would be able to share those same Scriptures with others. Verse 46…

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, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

  1. This is the Gospel and the Great Commission! First, Jesus describes the Gospel, as it had been foretold in the Scriptures. Four aspects are mentioned:
    1. Jesus is the “Christ.” He is the Anointed One of God – the Messiah – the promised Son of David – the prophesied future King of Israel and King of the world. As the Christ, Jesus is the fulfillment of every promise God made to David, to Moses, to Abraham, and even to all mankind through the first-forefather Adam. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise God made to deal with the curse resulting from mankind’s fall into sin, forever defeating death and the dealings of the serpent (Satan). As the Christ, Jesus is the Son of God, and He has come among us. Jesus is the good news, and without Jesus as the Christ, there is no gospel.
    2. Jesus had to “suffer” and die. Jesus’ death by crucifixion was no accident of history – it was the very reason He came. Our sin earned the wage of death, and Jesus paid it. Corporately as the human race, we sinned in the Garden of Eden, and we were then doomed to death. Individually as men and women, we confirmed our guilt when we engaged in sin after sin after sin. Were we in a spiritual court of law, we would be given death sentences beyond count! That’s why Jesus intervened. He willingly offered Himself in our place, becoming our substitution & sacrifice when He suffered on our behalf. That’s why the cross is good news, because it is the place where our debt against God was paid.
    3. Jesus rose “from the dead the third day.” By itself, the cross would not be good news – it is the resurrection on the third day which makes it good. The empty tomb is where the paid debt of sin was confirmed. It was where the true identity of Jesus as the Christ was verified. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, everything about His gospel is glorious!
    4. Jesus offers the “remission of sins” for those who “repent.” Although this is a transition to the Great Commission, it is an essential part of the Gospel, for it is the reason the Gospel is good news for us individually. It is grace enough that the Son of God would walk among mankind, reconciling what went wrong in the Garden of Eden, but what does that mean for us? It means our sins can be forgiven! It means that every debt we have toward God has found remittance, and has been done away. It means that across the spiritual invoice of your life, a giant stamp has been inked: “Paid in Full!” This is what God gives to those who repent – to those who turn away from their sins of the past and turn to Christ Jesus in true faith. When we let go of our sins & cling to Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we find that He has truly forgiven us and saved us!
    5. The Great Commission: the Gospel was to be preached in His name to all nations, starting with the Jews in Jerusalem, and proceeding outward. Luke will pick up again with this theme in the book of Acts, as he records Jesus telling the disciples to begin in Jerusalem, move outward to the rest of the countryside of Judea, continue outward to the neighbors (and enemies!) the Samaritans, and finally proceed on to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The Gospel was to be preached everywhere to all peoples, no one excluded. It begins with Jerusalem because Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, but the Messiah was not sent only for the Jews; He was sent for all mankind.
      1. The message continues to go out to all nations (ἔθνος ~ “ethnic” – every race, culture, and political nation), and we are the ones to take it to them. Our mission isn’t over until Jesus calls us home, either by death or rapture. People still need to hear how they can have their sins forgiven through repentance in the name of Christ. Who will hear it from you?
    6. Who was it that was to preach? Initially, the apostles. Verse 48…

48 And you are witnesses of these things.

  1. They saw, so they could speak. They were the first witnesses. As John wrote, they were the ones who saw Jesus and touched Him. They knew beyond doubt that Jesus was alive, being physically risen from the dead. BTW – They weren’t the only ones! When Peter first preached on Pentecost, it was evident that far more than the original 120 Christians knew of the Risen Jesus, because 3000 Jerusalem Jews were cut to the heart and believed. Paul wrote that prior to Jesus’ ascension, there was an occasion when over 500 people saw Jesus at one time (1 Cor 15:6). That said, the eleven apostles were first, and Jesus specifically sent them out as His “witnesses,” literally, His “martyrs.” They would testify of the Christ they had seen and the Christ they had known – they would share what they experienced with Him and what they learned from Him. Their eyewitness testimony would go out and change the world. (It’s still working!)
  2. Question: This all began with the apostles, but was this limited to only the apostles? No! Anyone who has had an encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus is a witness of Jesus. That’s you & me – that’s every born-again Christian. We may not have physically seen the resurrected Person of Jesus, as had the original apostles, but we have encountered Him through faith. You know He is alive, because you have spoken with Him in prayer. You know He lives, because you entrusted your life to Him as Lord. People don’t do that with a dead Savior – we don’t pray to the meaningless nothingness of an idea. The only way any of us has a Lord & Savior is if that Lord & Savior is alive. Thus, we interact with that Living Savior. We have each had encounters with the Risen Jesus, which is why we are witnesses of Him.
    1. If that doesn’t describe you – if you can’t say that you’ve encountered the Risen Jesus by faith, then that’s a serious red flag. If you call yourself a Christian, you need to ask why. Christians know & follow the Lord Jesus Christ; we believe in a Risen Savior. If you have not had personal knowledge of that Risen Savior, then you need to get on your knees and know Him today.
  3. The apostles would be witnesses, but they would not be powerless witnesses. Verse 49…

49 “Behold, 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.”

  1. When Jesus speaks of “the Promise,” this is a reference to the Holy Spirit. Although Luke did not record all of Jesus’ teaching that took place the night of His betrayal, John describes how Jesus repeatedly promised that God the Father would send God the Spirit to live and work within the disciples after Jesus’ ascension. God would not leave the disciples as orphans; the Spirit would come, and the Spirit would empower them for everything they would face in the future. That particular coming is indeed described by Luke, shown in the famous tongues of fire resting on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost (Acts 2).
  2. As mentioned earlier, this is the second ministry of God the Holy Spirit, when He comes upon born-again believers, empowering us for the work He has given us to do. This is when He empowers us as witnesses, enabling us to be effective witnesses for Jesus. The word for “endued” is basically borrowed from the Greek (ἐνδύω), and it means “clothed.” The Holy Spirit of God works on the born-again believer both inside and out. Internally, He gives us new life, new understanding, a new nature, and a guarantee of eternity. Externally, He clothes us by coming upon us, giving us the strength to do what would otherwise be impossible to do. There will be much more of this to see throughout the book of Acts, but suffice to say that it is impossible to do the work of God without the power of God. The Holy Spirit is to the One who gives us that power!
  • Jesus ascends (50-53)

50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.

  1. Bethany wasn’t far from Jerusalem, only about three miles. This was the hometown of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, whom Jesus had personally raised from the dead. No doubt they were among the larger group of disciples who were with Jesus as He gave His final blessing. Luke mentions the event only briefly here, providing more detail in the opening chapter of the book of Acts.
  2. What stands out at this point is the serenity of it all. Everything is so calm and peaceful. There was no commotion – there’s no fear of the Jewish authorities or Romans. After everything that took place at Passover, this event (now 40 days later) is easy. The Lord Jesus is in total control of His surrounding, being victorious over death and every enemy. Jesus wasn’t running or fleeing to heaven; He was going there of His own accord under His own power.
  3. And (most importantly) He went there physically. Jesus’ physical ascension demonstrates His total defeat of death. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but Lazarus would eventually die again. Jesus raised others from the dead throughout His ministry, all of whom would one day die. Not Jesus. When Jesus rose from the dead, that was it – this was final. Jesus rose from the dead never to die again. His ascension proves it. Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father, being just as alive today as He was nearly 2000 years ago when He ascended to that place.
    1. Nice theology, but so what? So this means that eternal life in Jesus is truly eternal! What we have in Him never ends, for when we rise, we will never die.
  4. What was the reaction of the apostles to all of this? Verse 52…

52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen.

  1. They rejoiced! All their previous confusion, fear, and doubt was gone. Now they could worship, rejoice, and praise God. And they never stopped! Neither their hearts nor their lips could remain silent, as the reality of Jesus’ resurrection gave them constant reason for continual praise!
  2. BTW – Note where they were “praising and blessing God”: “in the temple.” They were in public, around other people, praising God for His resurrected and ascended Son. IOW, they were already engaged in the work of witnessing. Power was certain to come in the days ahead (if Luke isn’t already summarizing those days), but while they were in Jerusalem they were already obedient to the commission given them by Christ. They had seen and known the Risen Jesus. They could not help but testify of Him! (Neither can we!)

Conclusion:

An evening that had begun with confusion, doubt, and fear, quickly turned into days, weeks (and more!) of joy! Earlier that evening, the disciples weren’t sure what to believe, but when they saw the Risen Jesus, everything soon came into focus. Jesus provided proof that He was really alive – Jesus gave them understanding of the Scriptures and a mission – Jesus demonstrated His eternal victory over death as He blessed them in departure. If that didn’t give the apostles reason to rejoice, nothing would!

It’s no different with us. The Lord Jesus really is risen from the dead, so we have real reason for joy. Rejoice! Worship Him as the victorious God He is – praise His name for who He is and what He has done.

And then preach Him to all the world. Go out, and be a witness! Witnessing isn’t only something we do; it’s something we are. We are witnesses of the Risen Lord Jesus. If you’ve repented of your sin and received the remission of your sins, then you are a witness of who the Risen Lord Jesus is, and what He promises. So testify of Him! Let your light so shine among men that they cannot help but see to Whom you belong!

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Seeing is Believing, part 1

Posted: April 15, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 24:13-35, “Seeing is Believing, part 1”

 

Normally, if something seems too good to be true, it is.  Like the emails from the Nigerian prince offering $1M to anyone who simply responds to him, or the Facebook chains promising blessing for just commenting “Amen.”  Things like that are either false or outright scams, and we need to be careful. 

 

Every so often, however, we come across something that seems too good to be true, but actually is true.  On even rarer occasions, it might even be better.  The road to Emmaus is one of those times.  That was one of the occasions when the resurrected Jesus was first seen, and the reality of His rising was better than what the apostles could have dreamed.  This was something to be excited about.  (It still is!)

 

As we know, the events leading up to it were exciting, though in a far different way.  The past few days for the disciples had been filled with fear, heartache, and grief.  The whole week was a holiday week among the Jews, being the days leading up to the Passover festival, and the city of Jerusalem had been entranced with the drama that played out between Jesus and the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes.  There had been no way the Jewish leadership could forcibly arrest Jesus out in the open, so they conspired to take Him in secret.

 

And so they did.  With the bribe of Judas Iscariot, Jesus was betrayed into the hands of the religious authorities, and things quickly snowballed.  Jesus went through multiple kangaroo courts, was found guilty of blasphemy, though the Sanhedrin delivered Jesus to the Romans on the charges of insurrection and treason.  Soon the Romans had beaten Jesus horrendously and nailed Him to the cross.  There, Jesus was mocked, having been despised & rejected by men, and by 3pm Friday, died.  His body was requested by Joseph of Arimathea (a formerly secret disciple of Jesus who was a member of the Sanhedrin), and buried in Joseph’s own tomb, which was witnessed by the women who never left Jesus’ side.

 

The women would have remained there, had it not been for the approaching Sabbath (beginning sunset Friday).  They went home, but came back at their earliest opportunity, which was daybreak/first light on the third day (Sunday).  What they found, amazed them.  The tomb was empty!  All that remained were Jesus’ graveclothes and a couple of angels who told them of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  They remembered Jesus’ prophecies about this, and though still confused, ran to tell the disciples the good news (becoming the very first evangelists of Jesus’ resurrection in history).  Out of all the disciples, Peter was the first to rise to run to the tomb.  Having denied Jesus on the night of His arrest, Peter was no doubt suffering emotionally on a level different from that of the others.  Once he arrived (John having beat him there), Peter went inside the tomb and verified it as empty.  And he marveled.  He wasn’t sure what to think.  The news of the women, and their report from the angel had seemed too good to be true, but it was.

 

Or was it?  The tomb was empty, but where was Jesus?  This is why Luke (and the other gospel writers) continued writing.  On one hand, we might think that if the tomb was empty, then the story must be over.  Jesus is risen from the dead, and that’s the end.  No.  To this point in Luke’s writings, Jesus’ resurrection has been proclaimed & the surrounding evidence verified, but Jesus Himself had not yet been seen.  His risen life would require eyewitnesses, who would then go out to tell the world.  (Which is why Look wrote his second book, the Acts of the Apostles!)

 

As Luke 24 continues, the group of eyewitnesses begins to form.  As it does, they also begin to realize that none of this should have been a surprise.  The Scriptures spoke of Jesus’ suffering & resurrection, just as Jesus Himself had.  All of the information was there…it just needed to be believed.

 

Do you believe the message of Jesus’ resurrection?  Those who do are transformed!

 

Luke 24:13–35

  • Journey with Jesus (13-27)

13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.

  1. Luke quickly gives the setting, tying in these events with the things that preceded it. To write the “same day” was to refer to the same Sunday that the women discovered the empty tomb, and that Peter verified it empty.  All of the disciples were reeling from the news, unsure with what to believe, and what next to do. 
  2. For two of the people among the larger group who believed in Jesus, they decided (for whatever reason) to head to “a village called Emmaus.” Scholars are uncertain to the exact location of the town, most believing it to be generally west of Jerusalem.  What Luke does tell us is that it was “seven miles” (literally “60 stadia”) away from Jerusalem.  Keep that distance in mind, as it becomes important.  For most people, seven miles at a relatively easy pace is around a two-hour walk.  It was a distance, but not an unusually long one for a culture that travelled primarily by foot.
  3. This left plenty of time for conversation! And among the disciples of Jesus, there would surely be only one topic of discussion: the reports they had received from the women and from Peter.  What should they believe?  What could they believe?  They had verified evidence that something happened, but they didn’t know what they could do about it.  They (like all of the disciples) were still in shock, and they were debating back & forth among themselves trying to make sense of it all.
  4. That’s when they saw Jesus, but didn’t see Jesus.

 

15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.

  1. Encountering strangers along the road would not have been too unusual at the time, and no doubt the two disciples were so involved in their conversation that they may not have noticed this Man until He was right upon them. Jesus came right alongside them and joined them in their journey, but they didn’t know Him.  Luke tells us “their eyes were restrained,” so that recognition of Him was impossible.  Depending on the context, the word for “restrained” could speak of being held, seized, controlled, on hindered – all basically leading to the same conclusion.  These disciples were held back from seeing Jesus.
  2. This reveals something important about this event: at this time, Jesus didn’t yet want to be known. Jesus could have been known, but He wanted this initial contact to be secret, so some supernatural action was taken to ensure the disciples’ “eyes were restrained.”  Why?  Ultimately, Scripture does not say, but judging from what follows, perhaps Jesus held back their recognition of Him because He wanted them to recognize the Scriptures.  Sometimes people follow a teacher because of the teacher; not necessarily because of what’s taught.  Sometimes people get caught up in a person’s charisma & personality, so that they just go along with whatever is said…and no question Jesus had an attractive personality!  When He taught, He taught with incredible authority, such was unknown among the Jews, and it was not unusual to have thousands flock to Jesus at different times.  Perhaps this time, Jesus wanted these two disciples to look beyond His personality and see the truth of the Scripture for what it said, and to realize that the written word of God and the Living Word of God each spoke exactly the same thing with the same authority.  (It does!)
  3. In the end, we cannot say with certainty why God restrained the eyes of the disciples, only that He did. And this is what Jesus used to gain an opening to their conversation.

 

17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”

  1. It’s always interesting when God asks questions. Here, Jesus spoke up to involve Himself in the debate between the two disciples, so He basically asks, “What’s up?  What are you talking about?”  No doubt He already knew what they were talking about, but He wanted them to express it in their own words to Him. He wanted to make this seem as normal as possible.
  2. If nothing else, a question from a stranger might have been naturally expected, because the emotion of the disciples was evident. They were “sad,” so their new companion simply asks, “What’s wrong?”
    1. It may be strange for us to consider. After all, resurrection Sunday is one of the happiest days of the year for a Christian.  How could any believer in Jesus be sad on Easter?  How could any disciple be sad on the day Jesus rose from the dead?  Easy, if they didn’t know Jesus actually rose.  That’s a believer who doesn’t have anything to believe.  A dead Jesus who remains a dead Jesus leads to dead hope.  Without His resurrection, we have no answer to sin – we have no promise of life – we have no reason to believe that Jesus was anything more than a prophet, and a false one at that.  A dead Jesus who stayed dead is hopeless.  Only a Jesus who is no longer dead offers hope, forgiveness, and eternal life, and that’s exactly what He does!
  3. Question: Can a believer not believe in a risen Jesus? Not from our perspective, no.  For these two disciples, they were at a unique point in history where they did believe, but they didn’t yet have the full revelation of Christ and His resurrection, so they were in a kind of in-between state (which only lasted for a few days starting from the cross through His post-resurrection appearances).  For us, we have no such excuse.  We either believe in the risen Jesus with all our heart, or we don’t.  Those who do, surrender our lives to Him, because there can be no other response to the risen Son of God.  Those who don’t, don’t.  Some of them may say they believe, but they are ultimately Christians in name only.  They can recite truths from the Bible, and even quote that Jesus is risen from the dead, but they don’t really believe it. … How can we be sure?  Because otherwise there would be a response.  If Jesus IS who the Bible says that He is, then it means: He is the Almighty 2nd Person of the Triune God who clothed Himself in human flesh for the specific purpose of becoming a sin sacrifice on our behalf – that when He died on the cross, He stood in our place, taking the wrath of God for every sin committed by every member of the human race – that He rose from the dead on the third day, definitively proving that (1) He is God, and (2) the price for sin has been paid – and that He freely offers forgiveness and eternal life to those who believe and who receive Him as Lord.  These are not truths we can quote, but not apply – it isn’t a religious game or mind-trip.  We have to do something with it.  Real faith requires a real response. We have to surrender our lives to Him as Lord.  Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  To confess Jesus as “Lord,” isn’t to simply quote a title; it’s to confess Him as your Master & King.  It is to surrender everything to Him, offering Him your life.  He gave His life for you; you give your life to Him – it is the only reasonable, rational response. (Rom 12:1)  But it is a necessary response.

 

18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”

  1. There were originally two travelers; only one was named. Theories about regarding the identity of Cleopas and his companion (be it another male believer, or one of the remaining 11 apostles, or perhaps Cleopas’ wife).  All we know is that both were fairly anonymous to history.  Cleopas would have been known to Luke’s readers at the time, considering he was named.  Surely an apostle would have been named as well, if one had been present.  The reasonable assumption is that both people were just everyday “Joe’s” – just normal Christians.  They don’t seem to have been leaders among the disciples, or have any recognition beyond this event.  Yet they were some of the very first people to witness the resurrected Jesus!  How amazing is the grace of Christ! The message of Jesus’ resurrection was first given to the women, and (though unnamed here, but recorded in John) Mary Magdalene was the very first to see Jesus, but before Jesus appeared to the remaining 11 apostles, Jesus appeared to two regular Joes on the road.  Jesus isn’t impressed by someone’s pedigree or reputation; He loves us for who He has created us to be!  (Not necessarily for who we are, but who He desires us to be.  By ourselves, we’re simply sinners; in Christ, we are forgiven saints!)
    1. You may not have an impressive religious résumé, but if you know the Lord Jesus, then you have personally experienced the grace of Almighty God. That puts you on the same playing field as Billy Graham, or even the apostle Paul.  We are all sinners, saved by the grace of Jesus.
  2. Of course, Cleopas wasn’t yet aware of Jesus’ identity, so he’s a bit amazed by the question. There is perhaps a bit of sarcasm in his response – perhaps a bit of incredulity.  From Cleopas’ perspective, how could this person not know of Jesus’ crucifixion?  The whole city of Jerusalem had been consumed with the drama surrounding Jesus throughout the entire week of Passover.  So many people had witnessed the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish authorities, that the authorities knew it was impossible to arrest Jesus in the middle of the temple.  That was the entire reason they had to do things “by hook or by crook” through Judas.  And who in Jerusalem (or even the surrounding area) would not be aware of the mob that had stood outside Pilate’s doorstep demanding Jesus’ crucifixion?  Just the crucifixion itself would have been publicly known – the very act was designed to instill the fear of the Romans in as many people as possible, which is why it was done in as public as possible a place.  For someone not to know these things, they would have had to been under a rock!

 

19 And He said to them, “What things?” So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.

  1. Question: Was Jesus being deceptive? Not in the way we might think of others.  In no way was Jesus trying to mislead or harm Cleopas & his companion.  Jesus was simply trying to get them to open up about the cross & empty tomb, in order that He could lead them to true faith.  So He plays along with the conversation, prompting Cleopas to continue.
  2. And Cleopas does! He and his friend (i.e. the plural “they”) confess their faith in Christ, even as it had been soundly shaken.  They state:
    1. Jesus was a Man. He had come from “”  He had a human background & upbringing.  He was a Jew, just like all the other Jews in Judea and Galilee.  At the same time, He was more.
    2. Jesus was a “” Of course, Jesus was vastly more than a prophet, but this was (at the time) still an apt way to describe Him.  He had been obviously invested with authority and power from God.  He spoke the truth of God in a way none others did, and performed miracles of God in ways that hadn’t been seen since the days of Elijah.  There was no question that Jesus was a powerful prophet, even the fulfillment of Moses’ prediction of the Prophet who would come after him. (Dt 18:15)
    3. Jesus was rejected by the Jews. Although Jesus had demonstrated His prophetic authority, He was nonetheless rejected by His nation.  The “chief priests and…rulers” acted in evil conspiracy to rid themselves of Jesus.
    4. Jesus was unjustly killed, being “” He had truly died, in torturous suffering.  This had been witnessed by man, and verified by the Romans.  Jesus had not fallen asleep, was put into a coma, or anything else…He was dead.
  3. There’s one other thing they confess about Jesus. 

 

21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.

  1. Jesus was the Redeemer! The hope for Israel was that God would send His Messiah.  Just as God promised to David long ago, one of David’s descendants would have His throne established by God forever (2 Sam 7:13).  The kingdom of Israel would be fully restored, and of the Messiah’s government & reign, there would be no end (Isa 9:6).  To Cleopas, and all the Jews at the time, they thought this meant an immediate restoration of the Jewish kingdom, and total freedom & redemption from the Romans.  (In fact, the disciples still thought that after they all witnessed Jesus’ resurrection.  It would take time before they understood the future nature of the Millennial kingdom.)
  2. Or at least, all of this had been their hope. Three days had passed since Jesus was sent to the cross, and now they weren’t sure what to think.  With Jesus dead and in the tomb, how would the nation be restored?  If Jesus was dead, how could He have been the Redeemer & hope of Israel?  Only a living Messiah could accomplish these things.
    1. And He would! In fact, Jesus had accomplished their redemption…they just didn’t understand what kind of redemption He accomplished.  They were looking for a restored kingdom; Jesus was giving them a restored relationship with God.  Jesus was giving them forgiveness and eternal life.  When we come to faith in Jesus, we are not simply redeemed for a future earthly kingdom, we are redeemed from death itself!  The redemption Jesus provides was far bigger than what Cleopas conceived!
  3. Just a few hours ago, their hopes of Jesus had been completely dashed, but shortly after dawn that morning things had begun to change. Cleopas relates the story to Jesus.

 

22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 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. 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.”

  1. They basically give Jesus a summary of 24:1-12.  For Cleopas and the others, things had left off with a verified empty tomb, but an unverified resurrection. They had an angelic report of a risen Jesus given to them by the women, but they weren’t sure if the women could be trusted.  At this point, the disciples didn’t know what to think.
  2. Some of their confusion was cultural (i.e. not valuing the testimony of a woman), but some of it was understandable. We might look back at the resurrection of Jesus & think it obvious, but we’ve had nearly 2000 years of Christian history, the full revelation of the Scriptures, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  The original disciples of Jesus had none of this at the time.  To be sure, they had the Scriptures, and (as Jesus will soon show) the Old Testament certainly testifies of the suffering and resurrection of the Messiah.  But it isn’t nearly as obvious at the writings of the New Testament.  Likewise, they also knew of God the Holy Spirit – but His permanent indwelling presence wasn’t yet given.  The original disciples certainly had enough given them in order to believe, but we have vastly  They had a tough time believing because this was all new.  People had risen from the dead, but no one had ever risen from the dead by their own power.  For the disciples, this would have sounded too good to be true.
  3. Even so, what tragedy it was that they did not yet believe. They didn’t have as much information and advantage as we do, but they had enough.  They could have believed; they simply didn’t.  Thus, they dwelled in grief, sadness, and confusion.
    1. It’s not much different with many people today. They have the full opportunity to believe Jesus, to know God, and to be transformed by His grace…they just don’t.  So they live in grief, despair, and confusion, while being controlled by sin. 

 

25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

  1. It’s always difficult to read tone from writing. (It’s one of the reasons personal conversations are encouraged with tough discussions, rather than emails, texts, or Facebook posts. Tone can be easily misread!)  Although it would be easy to read these words as a harsh rebuke & tough discipline from Jesus, it’s better to assume the best & fall back on what Scripture tells us of Jesus’ character.  Typically, Jesus (being God) resisted the proud, but gave grace to the humble.  To the Pharisees, Jesus was stern & sharp, but to those who followed Him in faith, He was meek & wouldn’t break a bruised reed. Here, there’s no doubt Jesus chastised the two disciples, but this was probably done in a gentle, loving way.  It was likely done with a smile on His lips and a wistful tone in His voice.  “Oh, how could you not yet believe?  You’re so close, yet so far!”
  2. They had all they needed to believe in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. The Scriptures prophesy of these things – they say what to expect of the Messiah.  Although we typically think of the Bible (the Scriptures) as the New Testament, none of that was yet written.  For them, the Bible was the Old Testament.  And guess what?  It told them all they needed to know.  Prophecies of the Messiah are contained throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, spread among all of the divisions that the Jews would have recognized: in the books of Moses (Torah), in the Prophets (Nevi’im), and in the Writings (Ketuvim) = Tanakh.
    1. From the Garden of Eden… Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
    2. To the substitution of Isaac with a ram… Genesis 22:8, “And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.”
    3. To the need for a Passover lamb… Exodus 12:13, “Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”
    4. From the bribery and betrayal… Zechariah 11:13, “And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter.”
    5. To the specific sufferings of the cross… Psalm 22:16–18, “(16) For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; (17) I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. (18) They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”
    6. All of the suffering of the Messiah was clearly prophesied! Isaiah 53:3, “(3) He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”
    7. The exact prophecies quoted and taught by Jesus are unknown, but He had literally hundreds from which to choose. The Old Testament is replete with Messianic prophecies…all that Jesus’ disciples needed to do was open up their eyes and read them.
  3. BTW – Jesus taught the two disciples a grand Bible study during their time on the road, but in no way did He give them a comprehensive listing of every single prophecy throughout the Old Testament. There simply wasn’t time.  That wouldn’t take hours; it would take days.  When Luke writes that Jesus “expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself,” Luke is referring to a grand overview.  Jesus would have given enough examples from the major divisions of the Old Testament that the two disciples could see how all the other prophecies related to Jesus as well.
    1. In a sense, all of the Old Testament points to Christ. That’s not to say Scriptures need to be ripped from their context and forced to apply to Jesus in some way; but from an overall perspective, the whole of the story of Scripture points to Jesus.  It’s all about the promise of Jesus, the work of Jesus, and the reconciliation wrought by Jesus.  To read the Old Testament and miss the Messiah is to miss the point.  The Messiah was promised to right everything that went wrong in the Garden of Eden, and that is exactly what Jesus does.

 

  • Perceiving Jesus (28-35)

28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. 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.

  1. This was a typically gracious show of hospitality from the travelers. Roads were dangerous to travel at night, and modern hotels as we know them did not exist.  It was normal for people to invite strangers to stay with them, opening up their home & table to them. 
  2. Of course, it wasn’t just good manners that caused the two disciples to invite Jesus to stay. No doubt, they wanted to continue their conversation over dinner. 

 

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. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

  1. Earlier, the sight of the disciples was supernaturally restrained. They couldn’t have recognized Jesus if they wanted to.  Now that restraint was removed.  As Jesus “took bread, blessed, and broke it,” they finally saw Jesus for who He was, “and they knew Him.”  They looked into the eyes of their Master – they saw the nail-prints in His hands as He handed them the bread.  All of sudden, they knew without a shadow of doubt that they were in the presence of Jesus!
  2. Interestingly, when was the last time Jesus broke bread? Passover – the Last Supper.  This wasn’t a communion meal in the technical sense of the term, but they were certainly dining with Jesus.  One can hardly get a better picture of the Lord’s Supper than that!  It’s doubtful that Cleopas and his friend were present for the Last Supper, but they certainly got a gift of a meal with Jesus! 
  3. Their physical recognition of Jesus was short-lived, for the moment they knew Him, “He vanished.” True to Jesus’ statement that He would no longer drink the fruit of the vine until the kingdom, He broke the bread, but vanished before the wine was drunk.  How He vanished is unknown, but Luke is clear that one minute Jesus was there, and the next He wasn’t.  He simply disappeared from sight.  They received the briefest confirmation that Jesus was alive and among them, and then He was gone.  Even so, that confirmation was all they needed.
  4. That was when they realized they should have known Jesus all along. 

 

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?”

  1. Their hearts knew Jesus even if their eyes didn’t. Their hearts “burned within them,” as Jesus spoke to them about the Old Testament prophecies.  They had recognized the authority of God, even subconsciously, as their Rabbi and Teacher taught them as He had so many times before.
  2. Just as sheep know the voice of their Shepherd, so do Christians know the voice of Christ! When Jesus calls us, we know – when He leads us, we feel the urge to respond.  Our hearts burn within us…we need to learn to listen.  That’s not to say that we allow ourselves to be carried off by emotion.  That’s too unsteady & untrustworthy.  After all, our hearts are deceitful (Jer 17:9).  But when born-again Christians are instructed by the living Christ, we do have some kind of internal confirmation.  The Spirit who dwells within us confirms with our own spirit the things that are true.  That’s why when we read the Scripture, it gives us that solid conviction.  Have you ever read the Bible, and just felt the weight of it? Or the joy in the Psalms?  That’s God the Holy Spirit confirming/convicting your spirit, and it isn’t something to be ignored.
    1. A similar sort of conviction (heart-burning) can come to those who haven’t yet surrendered their lives to Christ. When God is calling you to be saved, you know it.

 

So Cleopas and his companion have had this dinnertime revelation of the resurrection of Jesus.  They’ve literally seen their Lord & Master physically risen from the dead.  The testimony of two witnesses was all that was required to prove a story to be true, so now they have confirmation of everything that had been earlier reported to them by the women.  What do to now?  They’ve got to pass on the report themselves!  This was too good & too important stay put, no matter what time of day it was.  They had to get back to the apostles, and that’s what they did.

 

33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”

  1. Remember that it was seven miles to Emmaus, a two-hour walk. It was now getting into night, but they didn’t let that stop them from going back to Jerusalem.  No doubt the journey took a lot less time, as it was doubtful they did much walking!
  2. What they found when they arrived surely surprised them. They had expected to break the news of Jesus’ resurrection to the disciples, but they found the disciples already talking about it.  The news given to Cleopas and his friend was that Simon Peter had also seen the resurrected Jesus!
  3. Interestingly, this event is not recorded in any of the four gospels. It is, however, recorded in a writing even older than the four gospels: the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians.  1 Corinthians 15:1–5, “(1) Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, (2) by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (3) For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (5) and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.”  When & how Peter saw the Lord, we don’t know.  But we do know that he did, and it was part of the earliest confession of the apostles, being taught to Paul when Paul first came to faith in Christ within only a few months of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

 

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.

  1. Once Cleopas and his friend heard of Peter’s experience, it was then their turn to talk. What did they do?  They shared their testimony.  They told the 11 of everything that had happened.  The independent testimonies of Mary Magdalene and Peter were now confirmed by two other disciples who had together seen the risen Jesus.  They could truly testify that He was really alive!
    1. Never neglect the value of your personal testimony! However someone might debate you on other theological points, they cannot debate your experiences.  You know when Jesus called you & when Jesus saved you.  You know what happened when Jesus came into your life & you surrendered everything to Him.  You know how He transformed you.  Speak of that!  Share your testimony & be a witness! 

 

Conclusion:

What a day for Cleopas & his companion!  What a day for all the disciples of Jesus!  Jesus was risen from the dead, and they finally had verified proof.  Amazing!

 

Even more amazing was the fact that these two disciples got to spend special time with Jesus, and didn’t even realize it.  It was like when Jesus spoke His parables to the crowds in Galilee according to the prophecy of Isaiah, they were seeing but not perceiving.  Because of their grief surrounding Jesus, their hearts had grown dull & slow to the promises contained in God’s word, but if they had read it & remembered, then they would have had hope.  The Bible not only would have prepared them for Jesus’ suffering & death, but also His victory, resurrection, and reign.  All they needed to do to see Jesus, was to believe.

 

Do you want to see Jesus?  Do you want to know the truth?  Then believe the truth that has already been given!  Believe what the Bible says about Him, and have your eyes and heart opened to the risen Lord Jesus.  Seeing is believing, but believing is also seeing.  Put your faith in the word of God, and know the Son of God in truth!

 

For those of us who know, we share.  This is going to be the overall command throughout the rest of Luke & into the book of Acts.  We ourselves are witnesses of the Living Jesus, and we need to tell the world.  The news is good, but not too good to be true; instead, it’s too good to keep to ourselves!

 

Luke 24:1-12, “The Adventure of the Empty Tomb”

Although I’ve read only a handful, I’ve always been fascinated with the stories of Sherlock Holmes. Recent revivals on TV and in the movies have been great to watch – all are interpretations of this fictional detective who observes the tiniest of details, and is able to deduce the facts surrounding a case, able to solve the unsolvable. Told from the viewpoint of his companion, Dr. John Watson, the stories come with titles such as, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb,” “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor,” etc. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a rich imagination, but it seems that he was fairly formulaic with his short story titles. 😊

If Arthur Conan Doyle were to title the opening verses of Luke 24, he might have called it, “The Adventure of the Empty Tomb.” Much like a Sherlock Holmes fiction, we witness the impossible, which is solved logically, but miraculously. Thankfully, unlike Sherlock Holmes, the Empty Tomb of Jesus is fact; not fiction.

That the Empty Tomb of Jesus is fact is something truly monumental within the pages of history, and within the existence of the human race as a whole. The Empty Tomb sets Jesus apart from all other religious founders in the world, and truly defines Jesus for who He is. After all, if the tomb had not been empty on Sunday morning, then Jesus would have been just another false prophet – the latest in a long line of men claiming to speak for God, but in the end, nothing more. Without the empty tomb, we could not even remember Jesus as a good teacher. Foundationally, good teachers teach the truth, and when we consider that Jesus taught that He was God and that He would rise from the dead, then if Jesus hadn’t risen Jesus wouldn’t be good. As CS Lewis observed in Mere Christianity, Jesus would be either a liar, or downright crazy. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he’s a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” (CS Lewis)

That begs the question: how do we know that Jesus was neither a lunatic nor a liar, but truly the Lord God in the flesh? Answer: the empty tomb. This is what we find in Luke 24. The tomb was discovered empty by the women, it was explained to them by the angels, and it was verified by the apostles. Jesus’ body was gone, and the only logical explanation was that Jesus rose again to life, and left under His own power. Incredible? Yes…but it’s still the truth.

Of course, this was the culmination of everything that had exploded in the last several days. Jesus’ whole life had led up to this moment, but it all came to a head during the week of Passover in Jerusalem. Jesus had celebrated His final Passover meal with the disciples on Thursday night, only to be betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and abandoned by the rest. (Interestingly, for all of the text that follows, that was the last mention of Jesus’ disciples until this moment in Chapter 24.) Once Jesus was delivered over to the Jews, He was railroaded through the “legal” system of both Jews and Romans, He was rejected by the people (both Jews and Romans), and finally He was sent to the cross, enduring all kinds of suffering along the way. Although He was mocked by many (both Jews and Romans), some Jews and Romans either came to faith, or showed their faith. There was the criminal hanging on a cross next to Jesus who asked mercy from his Messiah (and received it) – there was the Roman centurion who understood that the Man who died was totally innocent, and the Son of God – there was the Sanhedrin council member Josephus who risked his reputation by caring for the body of Christ – and there were the women who had steadfastly remained at Jesus’ side, witnessing His execution, and observing His burial.

It is with these women that Luke picks up his narrative once more. They had seen Jesus buried, but although they desired to also attend to His body, the approaching Sabbath made it impossible for them to do so. They waited for the Sabbath to pass, and then returned where they last saw Him. What they found was an amazing mystery, but one that was soon solved. The tomb was empty, but their Savior had risen. An empty tomb = a risen Jesus. A risen Jesus = a victorious Lord.

See it, and believe!

Luke 24:1–12

  • Seeking Jesus (1-3)

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.

  1. They came to the tomb, intending to finish the job of a final good-bye. They weren’t going to get their chance, but they wouldn’t exactly be disappointed, either. They were in for a wonderful surprise!
  2. The “first day of the week,” is a specific reference to Sunday. Interestingly, the Greek for “week” is the same word used for “Sabbath.” (σάββατον) Whether or not this refers to the specific Sabbath day, or the week as a whole, is something that is determined solely from the context. Because the previous verse spoke of “the Sabbath” needing to pass, and the present verse refers to “the first day,” there’s no doubt the reference here is to the week as a whole. Jesus was raised on a Sunday, which is exactly why most churches gather for worship on Sunday. It isn’t that the Sabbath has changed (contrary to the teaching of many Reformed Protestant churches) – the Sabbath is the 7th day of the week, just as it has been since the initial week of Creation. Saturday is the Sabbath Day in the Scripture (both Old Testament and New Testament), without exception. What has changed is the reason for the worship gathering. It isn’t only to rest from our manual labor in order to give dedicated time to God in praise; it is to rest in the Resurrected Living Lord Jesus, knowing that the spiritual work of salvation is complete. He is the best reason to worship! (And that isn’t limited to one day in particular.)
  3. There is no doubt that Jesus’ empty tomb was discovered on Sunday – but because that day is so clearly defined in the Scripture, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion is often the subject of scrutiny and debate. If Jesus died on a Friday, how could it be said that He was dead for three days, as the Scriptures repeatedly affirm? (Acts 10:40, 1 Cor 15:4) Jesus even personally prophesied that He would rise after three days (Lk 9:22, 13:32, 18:33) – something that would soon be brought to the attention of the women. Three days in the grave is very important to the truth of the Scripture! Answer: That the women arrived at the tomb “very early in the morning” on Sunday fits well within the three-day timeline. In that culture (as today), any part of a day is considered “the” day. If we go to a baseball game on a Friday, we don’t typically say, “I’ll be at the ballpark from 6:00-9:00 on Friday;” we say, “I’ll be at the game Friday.” It wasn’t any different for the ancient Jews. When looking at the timeline of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection, we find: Friday 9:00AM, Jesus crucified; 3:00PM Jesus dead. Buried prior to sunset Friday = DAY 1. Friday evening sunset through Saturday sunset as the Sabbath = DAY 2. Saturday sunset through early Sunday morning = DAY 3. Prophecy fulfilled.
  4. That said, the day of the week isn’t the only controversy of Jesus’ resurrection; the time of day has also come under scrutiny. Although Luke is somewhat generic, writing of “very early in the morning,” Matthew writes that it “began to dawn,” (Mt 28:1), Mark writes “when the sun had risen,” (Mk 16:2), and John writes “while it was still dark,” (Jn 20:1). Surely none of these agree, right – these are all contradictions? These are simply different ways of expressing the same thing from different perspectives. Take any four people today outside at 6:45AM, and they’ll describe it as dark, daybreak, dawn, or ‘very early.’ It’s the same way four people in the same room (maybe even a church sanctuary!) can describe the temperature as cold, cool, comfortable, or hot. None of these people would be lying, and none contradict the other. After all, none was giving an exact measurement of the temperature (68* vs. 72*) or an exact time of day (6:45 vs. 7:15). Each was speaking generally from a different personal perspective. – This actually provides quite a bit of credibility to the gospel writings, because although the various writers seem to be familiar with some of the others, they obviously did not copy one another word-for-word. They did not collude together in a grand narrative. They wrote the things they either witnessed (Matthew, John), or researched (Mark, Luke).
    1. BTW, It should not come as a surprise that so much controversy surrounds what is so clearly historical fact. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the primary evidence that He is none other than the Living God, and that every word He said was true. It is the declaration that He is the Son of God, and that He paid the price for our sin. It is the conviction that our sin requires a price to be paid, and that we cannot pay it. That is exactly what atheists, skeptics, and followers of other religions don’t want to believe or admit. They need to find some way to discredit Jesus, and the only way to do it is through the resurrection. Thus, they try to find any inconsistency possible in an attempt to stir up doubt. 
    2. Trust the Scripture! The Biblical record is trustworthy, and has been proven true time & time again throughout the centuries. The Bible will always come under attack, all up until Jesus returns to earth, but the Bible will always withstand the attack. You can bet your life on it!
  5. Don’t miss the main point. It was early Sunday when the women arrived. They had waited as long as they dared. They were obedient to the Sabbath rest from Friday evening-Saturday evening, and it was too late to head out after dark on Saturday. But their prioritized their visit Sunday morning! The very first thing they did was to head to Jesus’ tomb, bringing the spices (literally “aromatics”) they had earlier prepared. Why does this matter? Because it illustrates their whole plan: they had come to address a corpse. Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb Friday afternoon, and that was how they fully expected to find it Sunday morning. IOW, Jesus was dead. There was no thought in the minds of the women of a conspiracy, of a coma, of the potential of grave robbery, etc. They certainly did not expect a resurrection! They came for a dead body, nothing more. 

2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

  1. Once there, they found something strange: the “stone rolled away,” – it was moved! To us, this is spectacular; for them it would have been strange and ominous. We look at the rolled away stone as a sign of the empty tomb, just as they would eventually, but not yet. When they first arrived, this was the equivalent of seeing a grave dug up. Something had happened, and their initial thoughts would not have been good.
  2. That only continued as they went inside the tomb, because just as they found the stone removed, they also did not find something: the body of Jesus! With all of their trepidation, they entered the tomb and discovered Jesus’ body was not where it was supposed to be.
  3. Thank goodness the biblical account continues, but stop right there for a minute – try to imagine what it would have been like to be standing there with the women at that split second. Already, your world had crumbled with the death of Jesus. This was the Man you truly believed to be the Messiah. You had seen Him perform incredible miracles, with no other explanation than Him having the power of God. You’ve heard Him teach with authority unlike any other in the nation, having far more insight to the Scriptures than the most learned of priests, rabbis, and scribes. You’ve spent time with Him and experienced love, mercy, compassion, and holiness to such an extent that you knew you were experiencing it from the very source of love, mercy, compassion, and holiness. There was no doubt in your mind that Jesus was the Messiah, the fulfillment of all the promises to Israel. And then there were the last several days…everything seemed to fall apart. Jesus was betrayed, rejected, crucified, dead, and buried. All your hopes had been pinned on Him, and all of a sudden, He’s gone. The only thing left for you was the process of your grieving…and now that’s gone too! When you woke up Sunday morning, you couldn’t imagine your life getting worse, and somehow it did. What do you do? What hope do you have? Answer: outside of a resurrected Jesus, there is none. If we have no Messiah – if we have no Incarnate God in the person of Jesus Christ, we have nothing. Without Jesus, we have no access to God. We cannot turn to the law for hope, because the law points out our hopelessness. We cannot turn to good works, because we have none. We need a living Jesus. A dead Jesus does nothing for us, because a dead Jesus cannot save. Only a living Jesus offers hope – only a living Jesus offers salvation. That was the news these women needed to hear; they just didn’t know it yet.
    1. This is the same message so many other people need to hear – even if they don’t yet know they need it. What hope do any of us have apart from a resurrected, living Jesus? Science can tell us about our universe (at least in part), but science cannot save. Medicine can heal some wounds and at least delay death, but it cannot abolish it. Money can purchase power and influence, but it cannot purchase eternity. Apart from a living Jesus (i.e. a resurrected incarnate Son of God who has satisfied the wrath of God on your account), we have nothing. Whatever else it is upon which you’re depending to save you, if it’s not Jesus, it’s worthless. Jesus is the only hope you have.
  • Hearing of Jesus (4-8)

4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.

  1. They were confused. To say that “they were greatly perplexed about this,” is a masterful understatement. They were downright bewildered…and rightly so. When they left the tomb on Friday twilight, it was full – it was occupied. Now it was empty. The women had come to the grave looking for/expecting a body, and there was no body to be found.
  2. Keep in mind this is no minor detail! The empty tomb of Jesus cannot be easily dismissed. There must be an explanation. It was a verified fact that Jesus had indeed died, and there were multiple witnesses who saw His body in the tomb. Prominent council members had charge over it, and Pilate had given personal permission for them to take it. According to Matthew’s gospel, there was even a contingent of Roman soldiers guarding against grave robbers, having sealed the entrance with the official seal of Rome. (Mt 27:65-66) Not that the 11 remaining disciples were in any position for tomb raiding. They were in hiding, fearful that the same Jews who sent Jesus to the cross would soon come for them. – How then, is the empty tomb explained? No other religious leader in the world had an unexplainable empty tomb. This is unique to Jesus, setting Him apart from all the rest.
  3. The explanation would come from the “two men” the women saw, as they witnessed the angels there with them. Once again, there is some variety in the gospel accounts, as Matthew and Mark both mention one, whereas John mentions none at this time while recording a slightly later appearance. Still, there is no contradiction. To write of one angel does not forbid the presence of a second, and it’s not unusual at all for John to leave out some details covered by the Synoptic writers while covering different details altogether. ‘Differences’ do not equal ‘Contradictions,’ especially when they’re easily reconciled.
  4. The whole point is that these men/angels were present. In all likelihood, they were there the entire time, only now noticed by the women. Once they were seen, they were probably all the women could see! Technically, Luke never specifies the beings as “angels,” writing only that they were men in gleaming/shining/dazzling clothing. This is not unusual, and Luke does the same thing in the book of Acts when he writes of Jesus’ ascension. That these men were angels is clear in Matthew, for it was an angel who rolled away the stone in order that the witnesses could look inside.
    1. FYI: The Bible never describes angels in the same way as our popular culture. Angels are not babies – they are not described as having wings (though cherubim and seraphim are) – they are not souls of dead humans. They have the appearance of men, almost always shining with the glory of God. Most importantly, angels don’t call attention to themselves. They are simply messengers (which is literally the meaning of the Greek word) – they point back to God.

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?

  1. The women “were afraid,” and no wonder why! They would have already been crushed by the sight of the empty tomb, confused & not knowing what to think. Now they’re in the presence of angels, beings who had power to wipe out entire armies over night. People sometimes think they’d want to see an angel…if they ever did, they might quickly change their minds!
  2. They were reverent, and “bowed their faces to the earth.” Although this could have easily been interpreted as an act of worship, the angels seemingly didn’t see it that way. The apostle John was corrected by an angel for inadvertently worshipping the angel while John was in the process of receiving the Revelation of Jesus (Rev 19:10, 22:9). Here, no correction is given – it would seem the women bowed in reverence & respect, though not outright worship. They showed deference to heavenly power & authority, while reserving their worship & adoration for God alone. (Good example for us!)
  3. As the women bowed, they were asked a poignant question: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” For us, knowing of Jesus’ resurrection, the question is wonderful – it’s a not-so-subtle clue that Jesus is no longer dead. For the women at that moment, it probably added to their confusion. After all, they thought they had every reason to expect Jesus to be dead. You go to graveyards to pay your respect to the buried. That’s what Jesus was, so that’s why they were there…right? How wonderful for them to be so wrong! Thankfully, the angels didn’t leave the women on the hook for too long, and they quickly explained the good news.
    1. Before we get there, consider how many Christians do something similar as the women at the tomb, only with the opposite result. They professed Jesus to be dead, not knowing He was alive. We so often profess Jesus to be alive, but act as if He’s dead. Our prayers are based more in complaints than any real hope of Jesus’ acting upon them. Our worship seeks after emotional highs for ourselves, rather than offering the praise of our lips to the King of the Universe. Obviously, that’s not all of us all the time – but how often is it all of us some of the time? Our Lord Jesus is alive! He is not among the dead – He lives! He is active, and powerful, and merciful, and loving, and offers life and salvation to the lost, and power and abundant joy to the saved. Pray to Him as being alive – worship Him as the Living God, for so He is!
  4. That was the message of the angels to the women…

6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

  1. They were told, and what they were told was wonderful! The women had not been mistaken; Jesus had been there in the tomb. It’s just that He was there no longer. He was “risen,” having risen not only from lying down on the stone slab in the tomb, but from death itself. Jesus was just as alive as any of them – in fact, more so, being that He was experiencing the glorified resurrected life that one day all of us will receive.
  2. It was wonderful, and it was a surprise – but it shouldn’t have been. The women were told that they had been Jesus told all of them to expect this! Jesus prophesied of His death on at least three different occasions, and every single prophecy had something in common: Luke 9:22, “saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”” … Luke 13:32, “And He said to them, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’” … Luke 18:32–33, “(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.”” Notice a common thread? After death, comes resurrection. Jesus repeatedly prepared His disciples for not only His death, but His resurrection from the grave. If the women (and the disciples) were surprised, it’s wasn’t because they hadn’t been told. It’s because they hadn’t believed.
  3. Question: This was all a surprise the disciples, but was their surprise a surprise to Jesus? Of course not. He knew full & well they had neither understood His prophecies, or believed Him when He spoke of such things. He had long known they were people of “little faith,” (Mt 16:8) but that did not stop Him from teaching them. He knew they didn’t believe at the time, but He also knew that it would make perfect sense later. They would be able to look back on all of those previous prophecies (both the ones recorded for us in the Scripture, and those that weren’t), and it would confirm their faith. That’s exactly what happened with the women…

8 And they remembered His words.

  1. They “remembered.” All of those times Jesus had spoken of the things concerning His crucifixion and resurrection came rushing back to their minds at once. Throughout His ministry, from the time they were all in Galilee until their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover, Jesus had steadfastly prepared them, and for the first time they were able to think back on His words, not through a heart of confusion, but a mind of clarity.
  2. Have you ever had the experience where you weren’t sure what was going on at the time, but once something happens, everything else makes sense? All of sudden, you can look back & see exactly how everything fit together (usually pointing us to the sovereignty of God). That’s what happened at that moment with the women. Years of teaching from Jesus suddenly became crystal clear. They saw Him at the heart of the gospel He preached because His resurrection demonstrated the fulfillment of it. All of the parables that had seemed so mysterious at the time now made sense. Jesus was alive, being resurrected from the dead, and that made all of the difference in the world!
    1. For some of us, we have a similar experience the moment that we first come to faith in Christ. We may have heard about Him for years – perhaps we even investigated a bit of the Bible, trying to read it for ourselves. But it didn’t make sense, or we lost interest, or life just got in the way. But then we had a moment of clarity – we had a struck-by-lightning experience when all of a sudden we knew Jesus was real, that He was really God, really died for our sins, and really rose from the grave – and that’s when we surrendered our lives to Him. All of sudden, things made sense. It’s not that we never had any questions about the Scripture, or that there wasn’t a need to learn – but when it came to what was most important, we had clarity about God, His love, His Son, and His salvation.
    2. Have you had that moment of clarity? If not, why? Seek Him!! See how He is the fulfillment of all the Scripture has spoken, and believe!
  • Telling of Jesus (9-12)

9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

  1. Luke is so restrained in his description! Matthew puts it plainly, that “they went out quickly…and ran” to tell the disciples. (Mt 28:8) You bet they ran! They wouldn’t have been able to walk if they tried! Not that they completely understood everything at the moment – John tells us of some of the remaining confusion of Mary Magdalene, and Mark tells how they were still afraid to speak to anyone else along the way. Even so, something wonderful had happened, and they couldn’t wait to tell the rest. They couldn’t not tell the rest. Not only had they been commanded to go tell the disciples (Mt 28, Mk 16), but the news was too good to keep to themselves. They had to find “the eleven” (Judas gone) as soon as possible, and tell them & all the other believers who were with them.
  2. Please don’t miss this. This is the Great Commission in action before the Great Commission was given. This is the first act of post-resurrection evangelism in church history. The news of Jesus is too good to keep to ourselves. To remain silent about the resurrected Savior is downright sinful & selfish. If we’ve been saved, how could we not tell others how to be saved? If we know of Jesus’ resurrection (of His power & victory), how can we remain silent? It is reported that the night of the infamous sinking of the Titanic that there were lifeboats that had been launched partly-full, sometimes in order to keep the various economic classes separated. Some lived, while others died…others who could have been saved, if those who lived simply acted. Beloved, as gently as possible, I say that Christians who refuse to testify of Jesus are like those in half-full lifeboats. (And I am as guilty as anyone.) This news is far too good to keep to ourselves. There is someone in your life who needs to hear – there is someone you know with whom you have influence. Don’t waste your opportunity! Tell them.

10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.

  1. The fact that women were the first to testify of the empty tomb is something that is prominently reported in all four gospels. It’s given such a place of prominence, that several of them are named. As we’ve mentioned in the past, this is highly unusual, and strongly argues for the historicity of the events. The testimony of women was often taken lightly, or altogether unbelieved (as was the case that day among the disciples!). It was unheard of to believe a woman over a man, because women (according to the culture of the day) simply couldn’t be trusted. That being the case, why would any religious group rely on the testimony of women? If a religious group breaking away from Judaism wanted to be believed, the very last thing they would promote would be the initial testimony of women. There was zero reason to do it…unless it were true. The only reason it would be reported would be that there was no other way to speak the truth without including all of the facts, and that’s exactly the way it was. We read of the testimony of the women because it is the historical fact that they were the first to Jesus’ tomb, and they were the ones to discover it empty.
    1. How wonderful is the graciousness and sovereignty of God! These women were the only ones who had been faithful to Jesus throughout His sufferings, and God accorded them the highest of honors by not only making them the first witnesses, but ensuring that their testimony had to be recorded! Not only were they to be believed, but they were to be honored!
  2. Of course sadly, they weren’t believed – not at first. Initially, the eleven male apostles of Jesus (themselves being products of their time and culture) dismissed the women as being hysterical & delusional. The stories they spoke “seemed to them like idle tales,” being too good to be true. Surely, the women were imagining things in their grief – there’s no way their testimony could be true. How wrong they were!
    1. Have you ever felt discouraged when someone didn’t believe your testimony about Jesus? You have good company! Even the initial disciples disbelieved the women. Mary & the others had all the facts about Jesus – they had a heavenly authentication of Jesus’ resurrection – they had seen the empty tomb with their own eyes, having a personal experience of His rising…yet they were still disbelieved. We’ve been there. We know the facts of the gospel – we have authentication of the gospel via Jesus’ resurrection – we have our own personal experience through our personal testimony…yet sometimes people still disbelieve. That’s on them; not you. Don’t let their lack of faith stop you from sharing yours. They may or may not come around in time, but we still have the responsibility of telling them. The women had been obedient, and that’s all that was asked of them.
    2. Maybe you’re one who has disbelieved the testimonies delivered to you. What’s keeping you from faith? What’s stopping you from believing? Investigate it for yourself – that’s what Peter did…

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.

  1. Interestingly, this is the 1st mention of Peter since his denial of Jesus. Once Peter denied his Lord three times, he fell into hiding and obscurity with the rest. He had failed massively, and it seems that he hid his face for three days. Yet at the mere possibility of Jesus being risen, he sprints to the tomb to see for himself.
    1. It says something about his denial. When Jesus was on trial, Peter failed, but Peter hadn’t fallen away into apostasy. There’s no question Peter sinned and crumbled; but he never gave up his love for Jesus. All of us fail at times, but it doesn’t mean we’ve stopped being Christians. When you fail, confess – seek Jesus’ forgiveness…then receive it & rejoice!
    2. It says something about his faith. Peter always seemed a bit more eager than the others to act on the possibility of Jesus’ identity as God. Peter was the one to walk on water – Peter was the one to confess Jesus as the Christ. And Peter was the one to run to the tomb. The Bible tells us that John went as well, but initially it seems to have just been the two. Peter may not have fully believed the women, but he knew enough of Jesus to know that if anyone could rise from the dead, it was Jesus. He had to see it for himself.
  2. And he did. Peter verified the testimony of the women, seeing the tomb empty of everything except the graveclothes of Jesus. He did not yet see Jesus, but he saw evidence of Jesus’ rising, and Peter marveled. He was astonished, amazed, and in wonder of what he witnessed.
    1. The resurrection of Jesus is a marvel. The resurrection changes everything!

Conclusion:

Of all that Luke wrote in his opening account of the resurrection, do you notice the one person not present? Jesus. All four gospel accounts are alike in this. The one Person not initially at that gravesite is the Lord Jesus. And why should He be there? He’d been there the past three days…He deserved a break! All of this emphasizes His absence. He wasn’t in the tomb; He wasn’t even in the vicinity! Jesus is risen from the dead, and there’s no reason that a Living Lord would be hanging out among gravestones.

Who was there? The women, and the angels: the seekers, and the messengers. The seekers themselves became messengers, and their message caused someone else (Peter) to seek, and he too learned the truth. He too, became a messenger, telling not only the other ten disciples, but all the Jerusalem crowds on the day of Pentecost.

And the cycle progresses from there. Those who seek, are told. Those who are told believe, and they in turn tell others who are seeking. And on, and on.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to go. Too often, it seems that those who seek are told & they believe, but it stops there. They don’t go on to tell others. That throws a wrench into things – that isn’t the way it’s supposed to go. According to the Great Commission, disciples are supposed to make other disciples. It might even be said that disciples are supposed to make disciple-makers, in order that the cycle would continue according to God’s plan. Those who believe the gospel of Jesus are supposed to tell others, that they might believe, and so forth.

Where are you in the process? Perhaps you’ve been told, and you believe, but you haven’t yet passed along the news to someone else. Or maybe you’ve believed, and told others. Praise God! But don’t stop with one. As long as you have neighbors, then you have people who need to hear of Jesus. 

Or maybe you’re still in the seeking phase. Seeking is good! Just be sure you seek in true, honest faith. Those who do, find. Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Death Came First

Posted: April 1, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized
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Luke 23:44-56, “Death Came First”

“You’re late! You’re preaching the wrong text! We’re supposed to remember the crucifixion on Friday, and the resurrection on Sunday!” The death of Jesus is entirely appropriate to remember on Easter/Resurrection Sunday. After all, for there to be a resurrection, there must first be a death.

In fact, one might argue that this is one reason Luke (and the other gospel writers) spend so much time dealing with it. After all, where else in the Scriptures does this happen? The Bible often tells us the fact of someone’s death, and sometimes the circumstances leading up to it – but rarely does it give the kind of details that surrounds the death of Jesus. We’re told of His last words, the witnesses around Him, the controversy over His body, His place of burial, and even the rituals that prepared His body for burial. That sort of thing is almost unheard of in the Scripture. Genesis 25 tells us where Abraham was buried, but not any details concerning his body. Genesis 50 gives us a few additional details of Jacob’s burial, though only summarizing his actual death. Moses’ death is only briefly mentioned in Deuteronomy 34, as is David’s in 1 Kings 2 & 1 Chronicles 29. The point? Jesus’ death and burial stands out as unique. It is purposefully emphasized in Scripture. The writers wanted their readers to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus really died. Why? Because if Jesus really died, that means that once He was seen again, He really rose.

So yes, it’s appropriate to remember Jesus’ death on Resurrection Sunday. One event miraculously leads to the other. Death comes first, in order that the Resurrection comes at all!

When looking at the context, we might be lost as to where to begin! This moment had been anticipated by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit since before the foundations of the world. The whole of Jesus’ earthly incarnate life had led to this point. Were we to narrow it down to the previous 12-18 hours, it would seen that Jesus had gone through the full gamut of human suffering. He had been betrayed, rejected, denied, dismissed, abhorred, abused, crucified, and ridiculed. Yet by the end of it all, there was at least one who believed. Out of the two criminals crucified on either side of Jesus, one had expressed his own faith, asking Jesus to remember him in Jesus’ future kingdom. With glorious assurance and grace, Jesus told him that he wouldn’t have to wait long. That very day Jesus pledged the man would be with Him in Paradise.

Paradise was coming, but it wasn’t there yet. Jesus still drew breath, as painful as it was. Soon He would die, and all the world around Him would bear witness. It would be infinitely tragic, but ultimately glorious. For Jesus, death was not the end – just like it need not be the end for anyone who believes in Him as Lord. Resurrected life was on the way, which guarantees eternal life to us! But before He was raised, He first had to die. One directly leads to the other.

May we pay close attention to the death of Jesus, in order that we might know life in His name!

Luke 23:44–56

  • Jesus’ death (44-49). Final moments (44-46)

44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

  1. Luke provides a bit of time reference. Accounting for the Jewish system of time, the morning began at 6am, that being the 1st hour of the day. Thus the 6th-9th hours are from noon – 3pm. Keep in mind that Luke does not say that Jesus was on the cross only for 3 hours; that was just when the darkness lasted. Mark 19:15 notes that Jesus was crucified at the 3rd hour (9am), so He would have hung on the cross for 6 hours total.
    1. There is a bit of debate concerning the times in the gospel accounts, as John wrote that Jesus was still with Pilate during the 6th hour, and this was when Pilate presented Jesus to the nation, still seeking to have Jesus freed as their King (Jn 19:14). Is this a contradiction? No – there are different arguments on either side. It possibly comes down to different methods of time accounting (Jewish vs. Roman).
    2. Don’t miss the main point. The issue isn’t so much chronology, as it is agony. This was no quick execution. It wasn’t as if the worst part of the day was having spikes driven through Jesus’ wrists & feet, and then everything was all over. Jesus’ ordeal lasted for hours. It was interminably long. Consider the times you’ve been in terrible pain – mere seconds feel like several minutes to hours…time seems to slow down. Consider what it was like for Jesus. He not only had the physical pain of the cross & all of its horrors, but He had the emotional and spiritual pain of bearing the wrath of God. No doubt, the hours felt like years.
  2. As Jesus hung on the cross, the sky grew dark – remaining this way for three full hours. Question: when Luke writes “there was darkness over all the earth,” does he mean that there was no part of the earth that had light at the time? Was Rome or London just as dark as Jerusalem? No – that wasn’t Luke’s point, and we do ourselves a disservice to press it this way. Luke simply means that as far as the eye could see, it was dark. Luke is not making an astronomical statement of an event that affected the whole planet; he’s giving a description from eyewitness reports of what it was like in Jerusalem at the time. How can we be certain? His whole context is Jerusalem, as is seen in verse 45…

45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.

  1. The “sun was darkened,” but the “veil” was local. Luke describes local Although it is true that the word translated “darkened” can refer to an eclipse of the sun (indeed, our English word is taken from the Greek: ἐκλείπω), it is guaranteed that there was not an eclipse on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Again, how can we know for sure? Because Jesus was crucified in connection with Passover, and Passover never has an eclipse. Eclipses of the sun are only possible with new moons; not full moons. (Astronomy review: a new moon is when the illuminated side of the moon is away from the earth, thus the moon is difficult to see; a full moon is when the illuminated side is facing the earth. Full moons, by definition, are only possible when the earth is in-between the sun & the moon. Thus, although lunar eclipses are possible during Passover, solar eclipses [which would actually darken the earth] are not.) The feast of Passover is specifically directed to take place after a full moon, being that it is the 14th day of the Jewish month Abib, i.e., the 1st month of Spring.
  2. So what was the darkness? Perhaps thick cloud cover – perhaps dense fog – perhaps a supernatural darkness such as existed during the Egyptian plagues. We can’t say with certainly what the darkness was – we can only say with certainty that it was not a solar eclipse, and that it was definitely seen by all within Jerusalem and the surrounding area. (Which makes sense for the day of Pentecost 50 days later, that all people in Jerusalem were well aware of the events surrounding Jesus. Even if they hadn’t personally seen Him hanging from the cross, they would have experienced the uncanny darkness while He hung there.)
  3. The sun may have been obscured, but there was at least one thing that was unexpectedly revealed: the holy of holies in the Jerusalem temple! Normally, a thick curtain (“veil”) separated the holy place from the most holy place. The temple had several divisions, the outermost area being public (itself being sectioned off into areas for Gentiles, for Jewish women, and for Jewish men); then there was the holy place where the priests burn incense, light the menorahs, change out the showbread, etc.; then there was the most holy place, where only the high priest would enter once a year to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat of the ark (when it existed). That room was never seen, apart from the high priest, always serving as a reminder of God’s ultimate holiness and the people’s separation from Him due to their sin. Yet, as a result of the cross, when Jesus died this temple veil was torn in two (from top to bottom, according to Matthew & Mark. The reminder of man’s removal from God was no more. The price had been paid, and mankind now had full & free access to God via faith.
    1. How free? Totally free! Hebrews 10:19–22, “(19) Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, (20) by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, (21) and having a High Priest over the house of God, (22) let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” The temple veil was nothing compared to the veil of Jesus’ flesh! Because His body was broken for us, now those of us who believe have full, unrestrained access to God the Father. Praise God for the sacrifice of Jesus, the perfect High Priest!
    2. Christian, there is no sin you commit that is “too much” for the grace of Jesus. When He ripped the veil, He did it all. You cannot rebuild that which He has destroyed. That’s not to say that Christians never sin and never have need of repentance…we certainly do! But we always can repent, because Jesus has made the way!

46 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.

  1. The words spoken from Jesus at the cross are spread out among the four gospels – this phrase being unique to Luke. Although we might not recognize it as being a fulfillment of prophecy (as we would Jesus’ earlier cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” from Psalm 22), it actually is. In fact, we might argue that it is more than a statement of fulfilled prophecy; it’s a statement of faith from Jesus in the fulfilled redemption of God. Psalm 31:1–5, “(1) In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness. (2) Bow down Your ear to me, Deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge, A fortress of defense to save me. (3) For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me. (4) Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength. (5) Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.” This is a psalm of David, but it speaks so well of the Greater-than-David, the Lord Jesus! Just as David had experienced hardships and persecution from his enemies (particularly Saul), so did the Son of David generations later, particularly when Jesus was hanging upon the cross. Yet in those trials, God the Father could be trusted. Although it had seemed as if the Father had utterly forsaken Him, at the end, Jesus knew beyond doubt that His Father had redeemed Him – or rather, had received Jesus’ work as the redemption price. Just moments earlier (according to the gospel of John), Jesus had declared “It is finished!” – that the price had been paid, and the work was done. Now that work was ratified, and the Son could place Himself totally in the hands of His Father.
    1. So can we! Because of the finished work of Christ, we can entrust ourselves totally unto God. We need never fear that Jesus’ sacrifice is insufficient, that the cross is not enough; it is! Everything that could be done, everything that was required to be done, was done by Jesus at the cross. Our ransom has been paid, and Jesus’ blood was enough. All that is left for us is to receive His finished work by faith – to fully trust in Christ, and fully entrust ourselves to the mercies of God because of the work of His Son. Those who do, find themselves gloriously saved!
    2. This can be you, today! Maybe you’ve been in church dozens of times – maybe you’ve heard all your life about the work of Jesus & His death on the cross. But in all of those times, you’ve never responded to His work in faith – you’ve never consciously entrusted yourself to God. You can do that today! 
  2. Once Jesus made this profession, “He breathed His last.” With no more to be done, He could finally be released from the pain and torment of the cross. It’s interesting to see that at the very moment most would think that death conquered another victim, it was Jesus who was the Victorious Conqueror. After all, death did not overtake Him; He gave Himself unto it. Jesus chose the moment of His death…He was fully in control the entire time.
  • Reactions (47-49)

47 So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”

  1. Quite the reaction from a pagan solider! Most likely, the centurion was there as a supervisor. Being an expert in the things of death, someone had to oversee the events at Calvary/Golgotha. Someone had to ensure that the men sentenced to die there did indeed perish. An officer within the Roman army who had the responsibility of leading at least 100 men was perfect for the job. But what he saw amazed him. The centurion was no stranger to death, but never had he seen a death like this. Never had he witnessed the earth paying tribute to the One being tortured, as was seen in the unnatural darkness or the accompanying earthquake (unmentioned by Luke; Mt 27:54). These events had a profound impact, and he couldn’t help but saying something.
  2. What did he say? Of all the things that could be said of Jesus, one that could not be said was that Jesus deserved this death. The criminals on either side of Him did – countless others in the crowds at the foot of His cross did – even the centurion and the soldiers under his command did. All of them deserved some punishment for some sin. But not this Man. This Man was “righteous,” i.e., innocent of all charges. Both Pilate and Herod had come to the same conclusion earlier that day, though they didn’t care. They were just as happy to send Jesus to the cross as to release Him to the crowd. They knew Jesus had done nothing deserving of death, but they were content to release Him unto death. Not the centurion. The centurion’s reaction went further than Pilate and Herod. Not only was Jesus undeserving of the death sentence, but Jesus was truly righteous in the first place. IOW, Jesus not only had an absence of sin; He had an abundance of the one thing absent in everyone else: righteousness.
    1. This is exactly what makes Jesus the perfect substitute for us. Our sin requires death. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), and blood must be shed. But if we don’t want our blood shed, then we need an acceptable sacrifice. That’s Jesus. Yet it’s one thing to have our punishment removed; it’s another to receive an undeserved gift of life. How can we receive that? We need not only an innocent unblemished sacrifice; we need a source of righteousness. Again, that’s Jesus. When we believe upon Him, we don’t only have our guilt removed (glorious enough!), but we have grace imparted. We receive the righteousness of Christ, in order that we might become the children of God. This is grace beyond our imaginations! …
  3. Question: Was this saving faith, or just a simple observation? Many scholars believe it to be an observation, nothing more. They note that even the further statement of the centurion recorded by Matthew & Mark, “Truly this Man was the Son of God,” is nothing more than a statement of Jesus’ righteousness, considering the centurion was likely a believer in many gods. To be called “a son of the gods,” would have been a compliment, nothing more. Even so, those scholars seem to sell the centurion short. Matthew & Mark both use singular terms for “God;” not plural. It wouldn’t exactly be a stretch of the imagination to think that the centurion, who was aware of all the controversy surrounding Jesus earlier that day (if not, earlier that week!), who witnessed all of Jesus’ sufferings & His responses towards those who tormented Him, who witnessed the supernatural events that took place at the moment of Jesus’ death – to think that this man (though a Gentile pagan) would have come to true faith in the true Son of God. After all, we are expected to see these things and believe. Why not an actual eyewitness to them? Neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke give any indication that this centurion saw Jesus through the eyes of anything less than saving faith; we have little reason to believe otherwise.
    1. The point? Faith is internal. You either have it, or you don’t. Either the centurion believed, or he didn’t. If he rightly observed Jesus’ innocent righteousness, but did not believe that Jesus was the true Son of the true God, then the centurion still went to hell in unbelief. A half-faith is still wholly condemned. Yet if the centurion did come to true faith in Christ, then he had all the assurance as did the one criminal next to Jesus. He too, had the promise of Paradise.
    2. The question for you is whether or not you have that same assurance. Do you have that same faith – a full faith?
  4. The centurion wasn’t the only one watching the sight. Others were there as well…

48 And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned.

  1. The “crowd” watched, and they grieved. Perhaps this was the same crowd that followed Jesus along the road. Luke shows two sets of crowds in Jerusalem: those who believe in Jesus, and those who rejected Him & wanted Him crucified. This seems to have been the former. Although there were many who mocked Jesus from the ground, the reaction described by Luke isn’t that of mocking, but of mourning. To “beat their breasts,” was a show of grief in the culture, indicating that these people also believed Jesus was wrongly crucified. Whether or not they also had saving faith is unknown to anyone but God. Yet there was one group of people whose faith was undeniable: the women.

49 But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

  1. Luke mentions Jesus’ “acquaintances,” noting that there were men and women at the foot of the cross that truly knew Jesus. Of all His apostles, at least John had been present, being the one to whom Jesus entrusted the care of His mother (Jn 19:25-27). Undoubtedly there were others, whose names we won’t know this side of heaven. (It’ll be interesting to learn who they were!)
  2. The women, however, were known, and their faith was undeniable. Never had they left Jesus’ side. Although no women were mentioned at the trial of Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and Herod, that isn’t unexpected as women wouldn’t have been allowed in those situations. Yet everywhere the women could have been, they were. That’s not to say their faith wasn’t shaken, or that they understood every theological event that was unfolding at the time; it’s simply to say that their devotion to Jesus never failed. They loved Jesus, and despite any difficulties they may have experienced, they were determined to remain devoted to Him.
    1. Sometimes we have to draw a line in the sand with our faith. There are some situations we don’t understand, nor even have the ability to understand – but we still have to choose whether or not we will believe. Choose faith! Choose to remain devoted to Jesus, no matter what! 
  3. In this case, what did the women do? They observed. Luke writes that they were “watching these things.” IOW, they watched Jesus die. They knew the exact moment Jesus’ last breath left His body, and there was no doubt in their minds their Lord was dead.
  • Jesus’ burial (50-56). Joseph (50-54)

50 Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. 51 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 kingdom of God.

  1. Once Jesus was dead, something had to be done with His body. Typically, those who were crucified had their bodies left upon their crosses, subject to the carrion birds and insects – a gruesome reminder to all not to commit crimes against Rome. Obviously, this couldn’t be allowed to happen to Jesus’ body. Enter Joseph of Arimathea. Scholars are unsure as to location of Arimathea – some believe it was 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem on the border of Judea and Samaria. What we do know is that it was “a city of the Jews,” and that Joseph was a leader among the Jews. According to the standards of the day, he was “a good and just man.” IOW, he lived an upstanding life, and was considered by his peers to be a good Jew & faithful citizen of the Hebrew nation. The bottom line is that Luke goes out of his way to demonstrate this was a good guy – one who was not consenting to the conspiratorial decision against Jesus. Although the Sanhedrin railroaded Jesus, and the Jewish nation was a whole rejected Jesus, some Jews believed. Some Jews had faith, as demonstrated by the disciples, by the women who remained with Jesus, and even by some members of the ruling class such as Joseph and Nicodemus the Pharisee.
  2. How do we know Joseph had faith? All Luke writes is that Joseph was “waiting for the kingdom of God.” That itself is a statement of faith, considering that all of Jesus’ disciples were waiting for the kingdom of God, believing Jesus to be the King. Even so, the Bible gets very specific on this point, telling us that Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus (Jn 19:38). To this point in his life, Joseph had every reason to remain underground. If his faith had been known, he would have been ridiculed and perhaps kicked off the council. Besides, there were other prophets in Israel and other men who had claimed to be the Messiah. Joseph could bide his time, believing in Jesus, but waiting things out to see what happened. At some point along the way, the proof became overwhelming. Though Joseph had been a secret believer, his belief would not remain secret for long.

52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 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.

  1. Please do not miss the magnitude of Joseph’s request. Although it might read as some matter of routine city administration (what to do with a dead body), this was much more. This was nothing less than Joseph’s public declaration of faith! As a council member, Joseph had the standing to make the request from Pilate – but this was a double-edged sword. He could make the request, but as he did, he would also out himself as a disciple. The Sanhedrin wanted Jesus humiliated – they wanted Him disgraced as a teacher, and disgraced in death. That’s one of the reasons they fought so strongly for crucifixion. To be hung on a tree unto death was considered to be a cursed death (Dt 21:22-23), and that’s exactly why they wanted it for Him. (What they didn’t realize is that this was part of Jesus being made a curse for us, in order that we might have our curse of death removed – Gal 3:13.) For a fellow council member to want to treat Jesus’ body with respect would have been a surefire sign that he was a friend of Jesus – that he was a believer in Jesus. Thus, Joseph’s request for burial was his proclamation to all, “Yes, I believe that Jesus was the righteous Messiah.”
    1. There comes a moment in the life of every believer in Jesus that someone’s faith becomes public. Faith sometimes begins in secret, but it rarely remains that way for long (except perhaps in the most rare of circumstances, as when a person’s life is in danger…and many times, not even then!). At some point, the grace of Jesus Christ bursts through our actions and our words – His transformation within us is undeniable. At that point, for us to deny our Lord is to be disobedient. If we are ashamed of Him, then He will be ashamed of us (Lk 9:26). For Joseph, the time had come for him to be unashamed, to be bold, and to let his faith in Jesus shine bright!
    2. For some of you, today might be that day. Don’t let fear stop you from expressing your faith in Jesus as Lord.
  2. Not only did Joseph make the request; he acted upon it. He got personally involved in the burial of Jesus. This wasn’t something to be delegated out to servants, which were surely available to someone with Joseph’s wealth. Even as a deeply religious man (though we don’t know if Joseph had a formal ministry position among the Pharisees or scribes), Joseph didn’t fear to get his hands dirty. To touch dead bodies would normally render a person ritually unclean – something perhaps reasonable on “normal” days, but this was the Passover. Surely Joseph ought to have someone else deal with Jesus’ body on such a high holy day, right? This was Joseph’s faith, and this was Joseph’s act of devotion and worship.
    1. Worship is something impossible to delegate. No one else can have your faith, and no one else can give God your worship. Unless you get involved, your worship won’t be done.
    2. We might not often think of it in these terms, but that’s exactly what many people try to do. They show up in a worship service as spectators; not participants. They think: “I just wait for the musicians to engage in worship – that’s their position, after all. Or just look to the pastor…let him pray & worship & do all that other sort of ‘spiritual’ stuff.” So the pastor worships, and the musicians worship…but what about you? God isn’t interested in your delegated worship; He wants you. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; that’s something you have to do personally. (What better day to start than Resurrection Sunday?)
  3. As for the burial itself, the Bible provides several details. First, Joseph donated his own tomb for Jesus’ use (Mt 27:60). The tomb was new, having been recently cut out of the rock. This itself was a fulfillment of prophecy, being that Jesus was with the rich at His death (Isa 53:9). Interestingly, there is a parallel with Jesus birth in this: just as Jesus was born from a virgin mother, His body was laid in a virgin tomb. Otherwise, the process of burying Jesus reflected the customs of the day. His body was wrapped in linen (thereby making the Shroud of Turin highly unlikely, if not impossible), it was packed with spices (Jn 19:40), laid to rest with a large stone rolled in front of the doorway to block the stench of decay.

54 That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.

  1. Considering that the Sabbath began at sundown on Friday (lasting until sundown Saturday), all of this took place late Friday afternoon. This fits with the earlier timeframe provided by Luke. Darkness covered the land from noon to 3pm, at which point Jesus cried out to God and committed His spirit to God as He died. Joseph requested the body from Pilate, and he (along with Nicodemus) had to work quickly in order to ensure their work was completed prior to the beginning of Sabbath. They had only a few hours, but it was enough to do the bare minimum.
  2. FYI, for all the debate that takes place among some Christians as to the actual day of the week Jesus died on the cross, it’s interesting to note that the modern Greek word for “Friday” is exactly the same as the word used in the text for “Preparation.” The Bible repeatedly testifies that Jesus died on Good Friday – and it fits with prophecy and necessity.
  • The women (55-56)

55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid.

  1. Earlier, the women had observed Jesus’ death; now they observed His burial. So what? So they knew whether or not this was all a hoax. They knew whether or not the disciples were carrying out some grand conspiracy. They would have known if Jesus had just slumped in a faint or a coma – and if He had, there’s no way they would have let Him be buried! The women were witnesses to all these things, and they acted the same way they would have acted in any death…because Jesus actually died.
  2. That Jesus physically died is no minor detail. Rather, it’s an intricate part of the gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, “(3) For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” Notice the prominent mention of Jesus’ death and burial. These elements are not optional to the gospel message; they are essential to it. Why? Because a resurrection is only a resurrection when there is a death. We need a resurrected Jesus in order to promise us our own resurrection – we need a resurrected Jesus in order to guarantee us eternal life. That can’t happen without a real death. A fake death accomplishes nothing for our salvation. A fainted Jesus is impotent in regards to eternal life. Only a dead Jesus who returned to life is able to give life to us. And that is exactly what Jesus does!

56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

  1. Question: if they witnessed what Joseph & Nicodemus did (Jn 19), why did they prepare more? We can only speculate. Even though the men packed Jesus’ body with a kingly amount of spices, perhaps the women believed more needed to be done. Perhaps they observed that only spice was used, and no oil. Perhaps they just wanted to personally get involved. In the end, we don’t know. But it’s good they believed they needed to return later…that’s exactly what made them the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection! 
  2. For the time being, the Sabbath had come, and obedience to the commandment required that the women rest. By the time the Sabbath ended on Saturday, it would be too late to begin the remainder of the work, so they had to wait until 1st light on Sunday morning. No doubt they were crushed and disappointed Friday night, but they were in for the surprise of their lives on Sunday!

Conclusion:

Sunday for them (and for us) IS glorious! On Sunday, Jesus rose from the grave, demonstrating His sufficient sacrifice and victory over death. On Sunday, Jesus proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is God in the flesh. On Sunday, Jesus proved that His offer of salvation is trustworthy, being available to all the world. Truly Sunday is a great day!

But Sunday was never available without Friday. Friday came first, because death had to come first. For Jesus to offer resurrected life, He had to first physically die. His blood needed to be shed for our sin, and His body needed to be broken for our sin. He had to personally bear the wrath of God upon Himself…and that was exactly what He did.

When He did, creation bore witness through the darkness, even as light shone through the temple veil for the first time. Jesus entrusted His life to God, as a Roman centurion trusted Jesus as God. Several Jewish people publicly mourned, as a Jewish leader publicly showed his faith. Through His death, Jesus changed the lives of many that very day…and He has changed the lives of multitudes more through the centuries that followed.

Jesus’ death still changes lives, because Jesus’ death is not the end. His death leads to a new beginning – not just resurrected life for Him, but abundant and eternal life for us. WE can partake in the new life of Jesus, when we believe upon Him, His death, and His life.

The King on a Cross

Posted: March 25, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 23:26-43, “The King on a Cross”

It was a day unlike any other. It was a day that none but God and His prophets could have ever imagined. Who would dare conceive of a day when God’s creation would so rebel against Him that they would nail His Son to a tree? Yet that was exactly what happened. The Creator was so despised by His creation (the pinnacle of His creation, no less!), that humanity marched its rightful King to a place of death, drove spikes through His hands and feet, and ridiculed Him as He died. It seems too awful even to speak to this day.

But we must remember. We dare not ever forget the cost of our salvation, for that is exactly what took place that day. Jesus offered Himself as a substitute for our sin – He prayed for the forgiveness of those who hated Him – He even gave assurance of salvation to the one person who believed. Jesus loved us to the fullest extent, and there is no greater demonstration of it than at the cross.

Much had led up to this point. The night had been long, and already difficult. Jesus felt the sting of personal betrayal when kissed by Judas Iscariot & turned over to the Jews. No doubt He felt it again when He looked into the eyes of His friend Peter who was denying Him at that very moment. Jesus had been repeatedly rejected by His own nation, the Roman governor, the Edomite ruler, and the Roman governor all over again…each one dismissing Jesus as insignificant or blasphemous in some way. Finally the mobs called out for His crucifixion, and Pilate (being the coward and compassionless person he was) gave them what they wanted. As Luke wrote in verse 25, “he delivered Jesus to their will.”

What happens after are some of the most famous events in history, and rightfully so. Jesus is led to Calvary as an innocent sacrifice, hated by men, but refusing to hate in return. He gives His life for mankind, promising sure salvation to anyone who believes.

Will we believe?

Luke 23:26–43

  • Jesus followed (26-31)

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.

  1. Although Luke never directly mentions Jesus’ scourging, it certainly is implied. Pilate had twice promised to “chastise” Jesus (23:16,22), the word sometimes being used as a synonym for the Roman practice of scourging: when a condemned man was brutally beaten with a multi-thronged whip, during which a person’s back was often flayed wide open. Luke refrains from the graphic picture, preferring to simply point to Simon’s conscription by the Roman soldiers to carry the cross of Jesus. The scourging is the only reason why Jesus would be too weak to carry the cross on His own – after all, this is a Man who was a carpenter for much of His life & spent the previous 3 years (or so) walking the roads of Judea & Galilee. Although Jesus was emotionally approachable and meek, He was by no means physically weak. Yet by this point, Jesus as an incarnate Man could no longer carry His cross and still move forward, so the Romans grabbed a random spectator along the road, Simon of Cyrene.
  2. Cyrene = modern day Tripoli, Libya. Most likely, Simon was a Jew of the diaspora, having returned to Jerusalem in order to celebrate Passover. No doubt, he hadn’t a clue what awaited him when he arrived! Interestingly, he’s mentioned in all three of the Synoptic gospels, with Mark giving the specific details that he was “the father of Alexander and Rufus,” (Mk 15:21). The Bible records nothing of Simon before or after this event, but apparently he was well-known by the early church. We can only imagine what Simon would have (or would not have) known of Jesus prior to this day…but Simon surely learned much of Him afterwards!
  3. Simon shared the suffering of Jesus, literally carrying His cross (cross-beam). This is the essence of discipleship. Luke 9:23–24, “(23) Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (24) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” It’s doubtful too many people in history understand what this means better than Simon of Cyrene. To carry a cross is to carry one’s own instrument of death. The beam balanced along the back of Simon was the wood in which Jesus would soon have His hands nailed. This was the item which would eventually lead to the death of Savior. When we carry our cross after Christ, we don’t pick up a hardship or inconvenience for the day – we don’t simply have to deal with a difficult person or situation; we die. We die to ourselves, die to our sin, die to the things we would follow in this world, and instead follow Jesus as our Lord. (And when we do, we find true life!)
  4. Simon wasn’t the only one along the road…

27 And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him.

  1. This is quite the contrast from the crowd on Pilate’s doorstep! There, the mob repeatedly chanted for Jesus’ crucifixion. Even if some of them followed Jesus along the road, at this point there are others who lifted their voices for entirely different reasons. Several “women…mourned and lamented Him.” Mourning in the Ancient Near East wasn’t like mourning of 21st century western culture. Today, we grieve quietly; then, they wailed. Sometimes professional mourners were hired at funerals for the specific purpose of attracting attention, in order to demonstrate the importance of the person who died. Here, it’s unlikely these women were hired, but rather these were women who truly grieved the sight of Jesus during His death march to the cross. They loudly lifted their voices, and bewailed their King.
    1. One of the wonderful things about the gospels (and the New Testament as a whole) is how women are held in high esteem – especially for the culture of the day. During a time in which women were pushed to the background, and silenced with the idea that their thoughts cheapened or invalidated testimonies, the gospels lift up the voices of the women who followed Jesus in wonderful ways. They were the only ones who remained faithful to Jesus every step of the way, including at the foot of the cross & on the outside of the tomb. They were the first to visit His grave, and the first to know His resurrection from the dead. The women who followed Jesus had sincere faith, and the Bible does not hesitate to show it. (Which is one more reason the Bible is totally credible as a historical source!)
  2. Question: Was it right for these women to mourn Jesus, even before He died? Absolutely! Who wouldn’t? After all, even though Jesus had repeatedly prophesied of His resurrection, this was something truly difficult to believe in advance. No doubt many of Jesus’ own followers believed either Jesus was speaking symbolically, or they simply wrote it off as something they didn’t understand. It wasn’t until Jesus actually rose that all of His words and teaching truly came into focus. So yes, the women mourned as Jesus went to the cross, knowing that Jesus was walking to His death. He had already suffered greatly, and He looked forward to little but torturous pain for the next many hours. The women had reason to grieve!
  3. Even so, Jesus had other ideas for them…

28 But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’

  1. The women were weeping for valid reasons, but Jesus told them they had even more sorrow on the way. There were days yet to come that would be far worse for them personally, than the day they now endured. On the Friday of Passover, Jesus alone suffered; on the future day of Jerusalem’s destruction, they would all
  2. Remember that Jesus had already prophesied of this event, even earlier that week after visiting the temple. Jesus had told the disciples how soon the days were coming when not one temple stone would be left upon another, and the disciples asked Jesus when it would be. On the Mount of Olives, Jesus told them of two future events: first, the temple and all the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the sign of this would be when the city was surrounded by armies (21:20). This was fulfilled by the Roman conquest in 70AD, and truly, the streets of Jerusalem ran red with the blood of the Jews. Second, Jesus spoke of the day of His return, during which there would be signs in the heavens (21:25), the ultimate sign being the Abomination of Desolation (unmentioned in Luke, but covered in detail in Matthew 24:15). During both events, the Jews of Jerusalem would suffer, and they would need to get out of town quickly. It is perhaps with both events in mind that Jesus tells these women to weep for themselves.
  3. How bad would it be? Blessings would be burdens, as life got turned upside-down. Normally childlessness was considered a curse, but Jesus proclaims the barren woman to be blessed. He said something similar during the Olivet Discourse, when He proclaimed “woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days.” (21:23). Bad enough for a person to suffer the horrors of war; far worse when a parent is concerned for her nursing child in such a time.
  4. Question: what does all of this have to do with Jesus’ crucifixion? It almost seems out of place, to have this prophetic teaching take place at the very moment Jesus’ back is torn to shreds & He’s hobbling His way to the cross. Actually, it’s not. As bad as Jesus’ suffering was, it was all part of the wrath of God. That was the punishment due to our sin. Thankfully, Jesus loves us so much that He substituted Himself in our place. Yet for those who don’t believe, they will bear the wrath of God on their own. For the Jews who finally reject Jesus as Messiah, they would bear the full weight of God’s wrath. For Gentiles (even today!) who reject Jesus as the Son of God, they will have to answer directly to God for judgment. Truly that will be a day of weeping and wailing!

30 Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’ 31 For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”

  1. No doubt, when faced with the full weight of the wrath of God, it would be better to be hid by mountains than to stare into God’s eyes of fiery holiness. When a person’s sin is laid bare before the Holy Creator of the Universe & Almighty Judge, who will be able to stand?
  2. Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea: Hosea 10:8, “Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, Shall be destroyed. The thorn and thistle shall grow on their altars; They shall say to the mountains, “Cover us!” And to the hills, “Fall on us!”” The original context refers to the conquest of Israel by the Assyrian empire, but there’s plainly more to it than Assyria. Jesus adapts it specifically for the people of Jerusalem. And as true as it was for the Jews of 70AD, it will also be true for the people of the future Great Tribulation which begins in Jerusalem and covers the entire earth. Revelation 6:15–16, “(15) And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, (16) and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” Jesus’ point? You don’t want to face the wrath of God on your own! Better to be crushed and maimed than to face His holy judgment…but even that is no escape.
    1. The one escape we do have is the one offered to us by Christ. Jesus took on the wrath of God so that you and I won’t have to. He was judged in our place, so that we might be forgiven and free. (Believe!)
  3. If the prophecy makes sense, what about the proverb? What does Jesus mean by the “green wood” versus “the dry”? Different scholars offer different thoughts. Perhaps it’s best to consider the green wood a reference to Jesus Himself, the One who is life and offers life to others – whereas the “dry” is a reference to the people of Jerusalem, who had dead faith in religious ritual. If God did not restrain His wrath from His only begotten Son, then how much more would it be experienced by the people of Jerusalem? If God allowed the Romans to treat Jesus this poorly, how bad would He allow the Romans to treat Jerusalem? Bad days were coming, indeed. The time to believe upon Jesus was now. (It still is!)
  • Jesus crucified (32-34)

32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.

  1. Eventually the road to Calvary comes to an end, and Jesus is finally nailed to the cross. 33 years of Jesus’ earthly life had led to this singular point – a blink of an eye, compared with the eternity from which God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit all planned this action. This was the act that had been anticipated since the dawn of human history, the moment when Satan the serpent was finally allowed to bruise the heel of the Savior, the Seed of the Woman (Gen 3:15). Nailed between two “criminals,” (literally, “evil-doers”), the Lord Jesus had spikes driven through His wrists and feet. Though no bones were broken, flesh, nerves, and arteries were split wide. Placed in (literally) excruciating pain, Jesus was raised upon this cross, and its base slammed into a hole in the ground, keeping Jesus upright. Every breath was a painful struggle, only increasing over time. For crucifixion, it wasn’t the nails that killed a person; it was the lack of oxygen. Soon, Jesus would no longer have the strength to pull Himself up on the nails in order to take a breath, and He would choke on His inability to breathe.
  2. It all happened at “the place called Calvary,” or, what the other gospels refer to as “Golgotha.” “Calvary” is the English version of the Latin word Calvariae, which itself is the translation of the Greek κρανιον (~”cranium”). The word literally means “skull,” though scholars are unsure the reason for the place’s name. Perhaps the scenery looked like a skull – perhaps it was a common place of execution & many “skulls” had gone there.
    1. Interestingly, the gospels never once describe it as a hill – rather, it’s always a “place.” As to the actual historical location, this is something of perennial debate. There are two main locations often visited in Jerusalem regarding Calvary: the traditional site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the garden tomb sometimes known as “Gordon’s Calvary.” Although the garden tomb is far more peaceful, and probably much more visually reflective of what the original tomb would have been, it is almost certainly not the historical location. Scholars have dated the tomb as being 600 years older than Jesus’ ministry & the Scriptures are clear that Jesus was buried in a new That’s not to say that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the actual location; it just doesn’t contradict the Biblical requirements. 
    2. FWIW, the fact that the site is disputed is a good As is mankind’s tendency, the traditional site has become home to all kinds of idolatry. It is better that we not know the actual site, in order that we might continue to worship God in spirit and in truth.

34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.

  1. Amazingly, once hanging upon the cross in torturous pain, with every breath being agonizing and every spoken word an effort, Jesus prayed a prayer unlike any other: to forgive His tormentors. The Roman soldiers had toyed with Him that morning, beating Him & shoving a crown of thorns deep into His scalp. His back had been ripped open by the scourging, and His body was surely still quivering from the pain of having the spikes driven into His wrists & feet – and the first words out of His mouth were a plea for their forgiveness. How much can one Man love? 
  2. And forgiveness was needed! Should the Father have acted in righteous wrath for the pain they inflicted on His only begotten Son, none would remain! Fire could have been sent from heaven to consume them all. Angels could have appeared and leveled the entire mountain range upon which Jerusalem sat. If God had not held back His wrath in mercy, no one would survive! But more than mercy, Jesus asked for forgiveness. He prayed that these charges against them be dismissed – that they would be released from any debt they owed on this matter.
    1. This is a prayer we can hardly imagine ourselves praying – yet it is precisely what we are commanded to pray. Remember the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Jesus tells us to forgive as we have been forgiven (Mt 6:12, 14). Release others from the debts they owe against us, just as God has released us from the debts we owe against Him. Let those things go – truly forgive those who have wronged us, even interceding to God on their behalf. Impossible? In our own strength, yes – in the strength of the Holy Spirit, no. This is precisely what the 1st martyr of the church, Stephen, prayed as men were stoning him to death. Acts 7:59–60, “(59) And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (60) Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
    2. It would be easy for us to write off this prayer for forgiveness as something only the Son of God could do, while excusing ourselves from the same. The Bible doesn’t leave us that option. Beloved: forgive! Forgive others as Jesus has forgiven you. 
  3. As Jesus hung there in pain, the people below Him acted repulsively. As noted in the other gospels, the soldiers gambled for His clothing (being that Jesus’ outer garment was seamless, and worth at least a little bit – Jn 19:23). This act alone was a fulfillment of prophecy (Ps 22:18), although surely unknown by the soldiers fulfilling it. They were acting out in brash selfishness, treating the Man above them as already dead; their actions had been foreseen from centuries ago, included in the all-knowing plans of God. (One more piece of evidence that God was fully in control!)
  4. As horrible as these things were, the day was just beginning…
  • Jesus mocked (35-43)

35 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.”

  1. The way the NKJV reads, it sounds as if “the people” and “the rulers” might be contrasting one another. The Greek leaves it an open question. Each group could just as easily have had the same reaction, as the NASB, ESV, and others imply. There they stood, gazing up at the Man on the cross – not in reverence, but in ridicule. First, it was the Jews. Although there had been faithful women who wept over Jesus, there were many others who gloated over their supposed “victory” in having Jesus crucified. (In reality, the victory was the Lord’s!) From their perspective, this self-proclaimed Messiah was a failure. The true Anointed of God, the Son of David, was supposed to come in power & victory, conquering every enemy. (And the Bible does speak of the Messiah in those terms…at His second coming; not His first.) If this Man were really who He claimed to be, He could pull Himself off the cross & “save Himself.
  2. Ironically, that’s exactly what Jesus could have done. At any moment, Jesus could have pulled Himself off the cross in a display of glorious divine power, and all of them would have fallen to their knees in worship. Even beyond an obvious display of the miraculous, Jesus had already saved Himself on other occasions. Early in His ministry when Jesus travelled to Bethlehem, the people then attempted to throw Jesus off a cliff, and He escaped through their midst (Lk 4:28-30). He saved Himself in Jerusalem when a mob attempted to stone Himself at the temple (Jn 8:59). Jesus had no difficulty avoiding execution in the past. In fact, He even had no difficulty in avoiding arrest, having done exactly that back in Jerusalem (Jn 7:44-46). Jesus could have saved Himself at any time; He chose not to.
  3. Question: Would the Jews have worshipped Jesus as Messiah if He had saved Himself? Would they enter into eternal life? No. If Jesus had saved Himself, He would never have been able to save others. If Jesus had saved Himself, we would have been left without a sacrifice for sin, and each one of us would face the wrath of God. For these Jews (and others!) to call for Jesus to save Himself was to invite their own damnation!

36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”

  1. It wasn’t just the Jews who mocked Jesus; the Gentiles did as well. All of humanity bears the same guilt in our treatment of the Son of God. It wasn’t only the Jewish race that sent Jesus to the cross; it was the human race. The Roman soldiers were just as crass in their mockery of Jesus, as they echoed the sentiments of the Jewish priests & rulers. Sure, they gave Jesus “sour wine” to drink (likely from the same buckets/flagons from which they drank themselves), but at this point they weren’t doing it in compassion, but in cruelty, no doubt jabbing their stick in Jesus’ face as they shoved the drink at Him.
  2. Of course, the very title mocked by Jew and Gentile alike was the official charge leveled against Jesus by Pilate. 38…

38 And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS

  1. Although there is a bit of debate whether or not the three languages are mentioned by Luke, there’s no doubt the three languages were there (Jn 19:20). Pilate had it proclaimed to all the literate world Who it was that hung upon the cross, the full title reading: “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Of course Pilate didn’t believe it – neither did Herod, nor the Roman executioners, nor the Jewish priests and scribes who had delivered Jesus over to them in the first place. But it was the truth. What was proclaimed by the crude sign hanging over the bloody head of Jesus was (is!) the unvarnished truth. Jesus IS the King of the Jews, the Christ/Messiah – He IS the Son of David, and King of the world. We are to look to Him, if we are to be saved.

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

  1. The mockery continued from the most unlikely of sources: from the thieves (robbers) crucified next to Jesus. Apparently, both criminals “reviled” Jesus at first (Mt 27:44), but at some point things changed, and one of the robbers took the lead, continually mocking Jesus. Keep in mind that it would have been just as painful for the robber to speak as it was for Jesus. Just to breathe while hanging on the cross was difficult, and to muster up enough strength to speak put the victim in pain. Yet this robber never stopped. The Greek implies that his blasphemy was continual action, and he kept saying it over & over. Whereas both had started out this way, one robber had eventually stopped (probably conserving his strength), while the other kept going.
    1. How much hatred does someone have to have in their heart to put themselves in pain, just so they can blaspheme God? Obviously, the robber didn’t truly believe Jesus was the Christ (Messiah), but that’s no different than so many skeptics and atheists today. They don’t believe the claims of the gospel, yet they go to terrible extents to mock Jesus, spitting upon God. They’ll even hurt themselves – drinking themselves to death in rebellion, or engaging in other forms of self-harm. Satan has a field day with those who hate God; how tragic it is for people to give him an open door!
  2. How long this went on, we don’t know. At some point, the robber on the other side of Jesus had heard enough…

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”

  1. This robber pointed out the absurdity of it all. How could the criminal ridicule Jesus for being crucified, when he himself was being crucified? Did that robber think himself better than Jesus? Did Jesus somehow deserve the crucifixion more than him? Certainly not! No doubt these two men were witnesses to the events of the day, just like the rest of the crowd. It was likely all three of them had been crucified around the same time; its just that no one complained or rallied for their own individual executions. It seems reasonable to think that Barabbas was originally to executed along with them, and it was only the last-minute substitution of Jesus that earned Barabbas his freedom. Perhaps all three of them had committed crimes together in the past. At the very least, the three of them had been in contact while they were imprisoned, awaiting crucifixion. The point: these robbers knew each other, and they knew they committed these crimes. They also knew that Jesus had done nothing. The fact that Jesus was innocent was obvious to all – even the condemned robbers hanging next to Jesus. If the devious & cruel Pilate could see Jesus’ innocence, surely everyone could! 
  2. And Jesus is innocent! Jesus is the only truly innocent Man who has ever lived! Were any of us to receive crucifixion, we would deserve it. Objection: “Wait a second! I know I’m not perfect, but I don’t deserve that!” Sure you do…just like me. The sin we’ve committed is no simple “casual” sin; it’s treason. The sin that we’ve committed & harbored in our hearts is rebellion against our Creator God. What’s the appropriate punishment for treason? The death sentence. That is precisely what we’ve earned – by no means are we “innocent.” But Jesus is! Though He was tempted with sin in every way as we are, He never once gave into it. Jesus lived His life free from the stain of sin, and free from even the very nature of sin.
    1. This is why Jesus can serve as our substitute sacrifice! If Jesus had sin of His own, then He would have died for Himself & no one else. For a sacrifice to be valid, it need to be spotless, without blemish. That’s what Jesus is…totally clean. 
    2. Once we belong to Christ by faith, so are we. We become totally clean!

42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

  1. Not only did this robber have faith in Jesus’ innocence, he also had faith in Jesus’ identity. He realized that this was no normal man hanging next to him in agony – this was a Man who had a future. Though Jesus would die like the rest of them, Jesus really was the King of the Jews, and somehow (though surely the robber had no idea how) Jesus would eventually come into His kingdom and reign. This robber knew that the sign over Jesus’ head was the truth: this was the King of the Jews, and that meant that every promise about Him had to be true. The robber’s simple prayer now was that Jesus would “remember” him in that day. Whenever it was that Jesus came into the fulfillment of His kingdom, that he would remember the man hanging next to Him, and somehow show kindness.
  2. Jesus would do far more than that! 43…

43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

  1. Amen! The robber wouldn’t need to wait for years in the future – the robber didn’t even have to worry that he would be only a memory in the mind of Jesus. This day, that very day, Jesus and the man would be together “in Paradise.” As soon as the robber’s heart gave out, he would find himself with Jesus. He would be absent from the body, yet present with the Lord. (2 Cor 5:8)
  2. What glorious assurance! Jesus promised him salvation – He promised him eternity, right then & there. There was no time for a baptism – no opportunity for a catechism or new believer’s class – no demands for further rituals, acts of contrition, or some list of good works to be performed. The robber had expressed simple faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and Jesus responded with solid assurance. This man was now saved, and his hopes were sealed with the confirming word of God.
    1. So are ours! If you have believed upon Jesus as Savior & Lord – if you have believed what the Bible says about Him, and you have personally, knowingly responded to Jesus in faith, then you have this same assurance. Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” That’s as simple as it gets. Discipleship classes are valuable, good works are natural in the lives of believers, and baptism is commanded by the Lord Jesus Himself (Mt 28:19-20). But none of those things save us. What saves us is the sufficient work of Jesus, as the Son of God who died on the cross for us & rose from the grave. If we confess Him with our mouth & believe in our heart in true faith, then we are saved. Our hopes likewise are sealed with the confirming word of God.
  3. The only real question is whether or not you believe. Two robbers hung next to Jesus. Which one expresses the true intent of your heart: mockery, or faith?

Conclusion:

When Jesus was followed along the road, wept over by the woman, He warned them of suffering yet to come – He Himself was their substitute, if they would believe. When He was crucified, tortured, and treated as already dead, Jesus prayed for their forgiveness – demonstrating love and mercy to the highest extent. When Jesus was mocked by Jew, Roman, and condemned alike, He did not respond in kind – instead, He gave assurance of salvation from the one man who demonstrated faith. 

Jesus gives Himself for us, Jesus forgives us, Jesus saves us. What more could He do? What more could we ask?

As born-again Christians, we hear these words & we remember again the cost of our salvation… And once we remember, we act. Like Simon of Cyrene, we follow in the footsteps of Jesus. We forgive like Jesus forgave. And we believe like the thief on the cross believed, having simple faith in the sufficient Savior. We remember that all of our hope is in Christ, and His work is enough.

The Gutless Governor

Posted: March 18, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 23:13-25, “The Gutless Governor”

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Although it is probably Edmund Burke’s most famous quote, it is also his most disputed – scholars being unable to find its source. Whoever first said/wrote these words, they are absolutely true. When good people are apathetic people, evil prevails.

Pontius Pilate was certainly not a good person (nor is anyone – but not Pilate, by a long shot). This was a man, who while the prefect (governor) of Judea, often incited his Jewish subjects to near riots & insurrections. He was corrupt to his core, with the Roman historian Philo writing of his “corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and un-condemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity.” (Philo, “On the Embassy to Gaius,” Book 38) For Pilate to allow an innocent man such as Jesus to be condemned to death was not all-that-unusual – the only thing that would have fit his character better would have been for Pilate to done the act himself.

This is important to keep in mind when reading Luke’s account of Jesus’ final appearance before Pilate, just prior to His crucifixion. It would be easy to read this portrayal, and conclude that Pilate was a victim of his circumstances in front of the Jewish mob. But such a conclusion is wrong. Pilate was no victim; his apathy was just as antagonistic towards Jesus as was the crowd shouting “Crucify Him!”. When it came to Jesus, Pilate did nothing – and terrible actions were the result.

Even so, even these actions were part of the wonderful plan of the ever-wise God. God the Father knew what needed to happen for God the Son to become a substitutionary sacrifice for all mankind. Jesus would serve as a substitute not only for Barabbas, but for all of us – and God used Pilate as His tool to ensure it would be so.

Contextually, this was the most famous day in Jesus’ incarnate history. In the wee hours of the night/morning previous, He had been betrayed by Judas Iscariot & delivered to the various factions of the Jewish leadership, united as the Sanhedrin council. The priests, scribes, and officers presided over His mistreatment & abuse, both physical & mental, as they railroaded Him into a death sentence. Jesus had been found guilty of blasphemy, though He rightly claimed to be the Son of God, the Messiah.

The Jews then delivered Jesus to Pilate. Being themselves unable to legally execute Jesus, they sent Him to the Roman governor desiring him to act. Of course, Pilate wouldn’t crucify Jesus on a religious charge, so they invented accusations of Jesus being a traitor – a rival King of Israel over Caesar, who would lead the Jewish people in revolt against Rome. Examining Him, Pilate found no fault in Jesus, but sent Him to Herod Antipas, who happened to be in Jerusalem for the feast. Herod likewise found no fault, though it didn’t stop the Galilean ruler from having Jesus beaten for Herod’s own enjoyment. Pilate had been dismissive & indifferent – Herod had been cruel & mocking – both found common cause in belittling Jesus, even though they knew Him to be innocent.

So what happens from here? Jesus appears once again before Pilate for sentencing, and although Pilate attempts to weasel his way out of it, he caves to the demands of the mob which wanted Jesus dead. Pilate knew what justice should have been; he just didn’t care. When it came to Jesus, Pilate did nothing…and that was his ultimate sin & crime.

Don’t do nothing with Jesus! He is the righteous Son of God…we must respond to Him!

Luke 23:13–25

  • Confronting the Accusers (13-17)

13 Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 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;

  1. Chronology-wise, this was after Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Jesus had been mocked & clothed in a brightly-colored robe as a king. Soon, Jesus would have a different robe placed upon Him by the Roman soldiers, along with a crown of thorns shoved into His scalp. At this point, Jesus had already been mocked and beaten at least twice, and Pilate showed Him to the Sanhedrin and the crowd with them. This was to be Pilate’s official time of verdict, pronouncing the sentence of Jesus to His accusers.
  2. What Pilate pronounced wouldn’t be appreciated! He believed Jesus to be innocent. Having heard the charges of the priests and scribes that Jesus was a dangerous insurrectionist and traitor to Rome, he “found no fault” in Him. To Pilate, these charges were plainly false. Granted, Jesus had never denied being a King – He received the title of Christ in front of the Jews as well as in front of Pilate. But even in the face of Jesus’ own testimony, Pilate found nothing threatening in Him. There was no indication at all that Jesus was “one who misleads the people,” as Pilate never saw any people following Jesus to be misled. It’s unknown if Pilate was in Jerusalem a few days earlier during Jesus’ triumphal entry on Sunday, although it seems likely Pilate would have been there. Surely this wasn’t the first time Pilate was made aware of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus had been the center of attention in Jerusalem several times – no doubt, word would have gotten back to Pilate. Even with all that in mind, Pilate still saw no threat in Jesus. There was no doubt at all in his mind that Jesus was innocent of the charges against Him, trumped up by the priests and scribes.
  3. And Pilate wasn’t the only one…

15 no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him.

  1. Herod Antipas, though by different means, reached the same conclusion. And surely, Herod was desperately searching for something of which to accuse Him. Herod wanted to see miracles & magic – he demanded a command performance from Jesus, this prophet of whom he had heard so much. If Jesus had demonstrated supernatural ability, then surely Herod would have been happy to agree with the priests about the threat of this King (whose very existence would threaten Herod’s own claims & title). Yet even Herod, who had every reason to object to Jesus, found Jesus innocent. He had done “nothing deserving of death.
  2. Question #1: Should Pilate & Herod have seen Jesus as a threat? Yes – though not in the way that the priests and scribes described. In their own ways, both Pilate and Herod believed Jesus to be harmless…not so! Jesus is the Almighty Son of God. Not only could He have called down 12 legions of angels to help Him, He could have obliterated Pilate & Herod (and all their abusive soldiers) by an act of His sheer will! It was through God the Son that God the Father spoke the world into existence, and every atom in the universe is held together by Him. “In Him, all things consist,” (Col 1:17). Had Jesus decided to act in His power as God, Pilate and Herod would have lost all hope! Was He a threat to their existence? Without doubt! Like the famous line about Aslan in CS Lewis’ tale, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” Jesus isn’t “safe, but He is good.” The only reason Pilate, Herod, and the Jewish Sanhedrin were allowed to treat Jesus the way they did was because Jesus allowed it. There is nothing “safe” or “harmless” about Him!
  3. Question #2: If that’s the case, was Jesus truly innocent? Yes, again! In all of Jesus’ power as God, and the potential He had (and still has) to remake the entire universe, Jesus is innocent of all charges against Him. He has absolute power, and exercises absolute restraint. The Jewish nation owes Jesus their allegiance as the rightful heir of David & their King – yet Jesus at that time did not demand their worship. At any point in time, Jesus could have overthrown the entire Roman empire, but He didn’t. Never at any time had Jesus misled the people, nor had He perverted the truth, nor had He led an insurrection against the government. Every single charge the Sanhedrin invented about Jesus when they presented Him to Pilate was false. Jesus is indeed the Christ, the King of the Jews – but He was still absolutely innocent.
  4. This is true on every level. Jesus is not only innocent of the false charges against Him, but He is innocent of all sin, period! Who among us can say the same? No one. “There is none righteous, no not one,” (Rom 3:10; Ps 14:1). Each of us have sinned in myriads of ways against God. We’ve rebelled against Him, and gone our own way. We have given into temptation, time and time again. Not Jesus! Jesus is the only Man in all history who has looked temptation in the eye, and emerged spotless. Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is totally sinless, not only having been born without a sinful nature (the purpose of the virgin birth), but also having lived His life in total perfection. Jesus is the only truly innocent Man who has ever lived.
    1. This is precisely why He provides the perfect sacrifice for us. We cannot pay the debt we owe our sin – any so-called “good” work we do is already tainted by all the bad works we have already done. Our death sentence has already been long-earned through our vast amounts of sin. It takes a truly innocent sacrifice to take away our guilt…and Jesus provides it! He has done nothing deserving of death, yet He takes our death for us. This is the gospel!
  5. Pilate affirms Jesus’ innocence, which means Pilate ought to simply dismiss the charges, right? That was what he should have done, but that’s not what he did…

16 I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” 17 (for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast).

  1. Pilate seems to have been willing to “release” Jesus on the basis of innocence, but he was more than happy to have Jesus beaten on the way out the door. The word used for “chastise” is interesting, in that on the surface it speaks of the disciplining of a child. Like a schoolboy might receive corporal punishment for disobedience (or at least, used to!), this was the sort of discipline to be given to Jesus. At the same time, this same word could be used as a synonym for whipping or scourging (BDAG). Luke never directly mentions the scourging of Jesus (as do Matthew, Mark, and John), but he does imply it here & in vs. 22. The Roman scourging was a horrible punishment in itself, as a multi-thronged whip with straps embedded with stone & glass would be thrashed across a victim’s back. It wasn’t uncommon for people to die from the scourging alone – the later crucifixion no longer necessary.
  2. With that in mind, consider the fact that Pilate was more than willing to scourge (chastise) Jesus. The governor was already convinced Jesus had done nothing deserving of death, but he was willing to inflict a punishment upon Jesus that could easily kill Him. Pilate’s protest of the Jew’s treatment of Jesus rings hollow.
  3. Depending what Bible version you read, vs. 17 might not be included in your Bible. It is included in the KJV & NKJV – the NASB, HCSB, & AMP all have it set apart either in brackets or italics – the NIV & ESV don’t include it at all. The verse is missing from some very important manuscripts, including the one of the oldest papyrus mss that contains this section of Luke. Yet there are many other very ancient manuscripts (codices, etc.) that do include it, all along a wide geographical spread. Arguments can be made either way as to the verse’s inclusion, but there is zero doubt as to its truth. Even if Luke did not originally write of Pilate’s practice of releasing one prisoner during the feast of Passover, Matthew and Mark do, both with ample textual evidence.
    1. The occasional textual issues we see in our Bibles ought not cause us to doubt them, but to have even greater assurance as to their truth. The very reason these debates exist is because so many handwritten copies of the New Testament exist. We have an abundance of evidence testifying to the original writings of Scripture…so much so that scholars can actually debate the rare instances when a verse is in doubt. (And none of those instances effect even one tiny bit of doctrine!)
  4. As for Luke, even if vs. 17 is not original (which it probably is), the issue of having a prisoner released to the Jews at Passover is clearly addressed…
  • Confronting the Crowd (18-22)

18 And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas”—19 who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder.

  1. Although Pilate stated his verdict for the Jewish leadership (the Sanhedrin), the Jewish priests and scribes got the larger crowd involved. Mark makes it clear that it wasn’t only the Sanhedrin that asked for Barabbas, but that they “stirred up the crowd,” (Mk 15:11). These were savvy politicians. They knew when to restrain themselves due to their lack of public support (which is why they did not dare arrest Jesus openly, but rather had Judas betray Jesus under cover of darkness) – and they also knew when they had the crowd in the palm of their hand. Such was the time. Mobs typically get thirsty for blood, and the Jewish priests and scribes were masterful in getting the attention placed solely on Jesus.
  2. The fact that they asked for Barabbas demonstrates Pilate’s own political failure. No doubt he chose Barabbas as the option other than Jesus in order to make the choice as easy as possible. The Jews could either have this harmless so-called “king,” (in his mind), or they could have this murderous robber. One would think the choice would be clear! Where Pilate failed was his underestimation of the Jewish leadership. The priests and scribes had rejected Jesus as King (as the Messiah, the Son of David), having convicted Him of blasphemy. To the crowds shouting for Jesus’ death, a pretender to the Messianic office was a worse crime than robbery and murder. There would always be other murderers to try; a chance to kill a false-Messiah was far more rare.
    1. Of course, Jesus isn’t a false Messiah…He is the Messiah! This had been proven abundantly throughout His ministry. But the people didn’t care. Once they determined they wanted Jesus’ blood, they wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less.
    2. If there was any question about the depravity of man, it ought to be answered at the response of the Jews toward Jesus. Presented with an innocent Godly Man – the perfect Prophet & King, the mob preferred the murderer to the Messiah. They would rather receive someone as sinful as themselves than to acknowledge the innocence of the perfect Son of God. Given the choice, sinful men and women (us, without Jesus) always choose sin…always. That’s just who we are.
      1. Praise God that is not who we are any longer!
    3. Did you notice something about Luke’s description of Barabbas? He’s guilty of the very things of which the Sanhedrin accused Jesus. Of course, Jesus wasn’t accused of murder (yet), but the threat of rebellion was exactly the political charge the Jews leveled against Him. They accused Jesus (23:2) of “perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” If that isn’t a charge of “rebellion,” nothing is! To the Jews, Jesus was the perfect substitute. They’d get back one rebel, and kill another in his place.
      1. Jesus is a perfect substitute – not only for Barabbas, but for all of us.

20 Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. 21 But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

  1. Pilate was resistant, but the people were insistent. Luke notes that Pilate truly wanted “to release Jesus,” but he risked the mob becoming a riot. At this point, they were whipped into a frenzy, shouting out “crucify, crucify Him!” The NKJV assumes two “Him’s,” when the Greek only has the second. The original wording has the two present-tense imperatives back-to-back, demonstrating a strong ongoing emphasis. Imagine the throng on Pilate’s doorstep chanting “Cru-ci-fy! Cru-ci-fy!” Things are getting louder & louder, about to get more out of hand than what they already were.
  2. Question: What happened to the adoring crowds of Jesus from Sunday? When Jesus entered Jerusalem just five days earlier, there was a multitude of disciples rejoicing over Jesus so loudly that the Pharisees rebuked Jesus for not keeping them quiet (19:37-39). What happened to those crowds? Were the people of Jerusalem so fickle that their loyalties could go from adoration to crucifixion in less than a week? (1) We don’t know that this was necessarily the same crowd, but (2) yes, people are that fickle. That’s not just the Jews of Jerusalem; that’s true of all mankind everywhere. People are easily swayed. It’s not for nothing that we’re often referred to as “sheep.” Sheep aren’t the most intelligent of animals, and they can even be led by a dog. More than ever, it seems that our culture swings from outrage to outrage. There’s always something new to protest – there’s always some new hashtag activism to uphold. Whatever holds the attention of the news headlines holds the attention of the crowds. As a whole, we are not led by principles; we’re led by our emotions.
    1. This is precisely why we need to build our lives according to an unwavering standard. Knowing that our emotions and reactions so often change, we need something that never changes: the word of God. When we build our lives on Christ & His word, then we can know we’re building on the solid rock!
  3. What’s truly shocking about this mob-chant is their insistence on crucifixion. It’s one thing to call for the execution of an innocent Man; it’s another thing to demand He be crucified. Crucifixion was the most torturous form of death in the Roman arsenal – something truly horrific to behold, much less experience. It prolonged the victim’s suffering as long as possible, as they hung upon the cross in utter anguish, barely able to breathe. Yet this was what the mob demanded. This death was viewed as a curse – it was something legally forbidden to administer to Roman citizens. It was something that a Jew should have never have desired for even his worst Jewish enemy, at least valuing his enemy as a fellow countryman. Yet they wanted it for Jesus. They demanded it for Jesus. They could have asked for beheading, or stabbing, or being pushed off a cliff…all terrible, but none so horrendous as crucifixion. Yet Man’s evil was at its peak, and that’s what they asked for.
    1. What was a shocking display of evil from the crowd was actually foretold in Scripture. Numerous prophecies in the Old Testament speak of the death of the Messiah – many are incredibly specific about some of the events leading up to & after Jesus’ death (such as Judas’ betrayal for 30 pieces of silver, which were later thrown into the temple). Among all of it is one very specific prophecy that speaks directly of crucifixion: Psalm 22:14–16, “(14) I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. (15) My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. (16) For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet;” The entirety of the psalm reads like a first-hand account of Jesus’ crucifixion, and Jesus even references the 1st verse of it while hanging from the cross. But vss. 14-16 speak very specifically of the method of execution itself. When David originally wrote the psalm, crucifixion did not exist, thus there was no word to identify it – but David visually described it in detail. 14-15 speak of the physical experiences of someone enduring the tortures of crucifixion, whereas vs. 16 specifically describes the spikes through Jesus’ hands and feet. Out of all of the forms of torturous deaths devised by men, the cross is the only one that fits this description. This is what was prophesied by God concerning His Son.
    2. How amazing is the sovereignty of God! Nothing about Jesus’ death was left to chance. Nothing about our salvation was left in the hands of chaos. God decreed that Jesus pay the penalty for our sin, and He decreed how the penalty would be paid. The murderous crowds of Jerusalem may have freely chosen this evil, but it was still part of the sovereign plan of God. God knew what needed to be done, and He ensured it was
      1. What does that mean for us? It means that we can trust His word regarding our salvation! We don’t have to hope that Jesus’ work “might have” been good enough. We don’t have to wonder if it really “took.” Once our faith is in Jesus, then our eternity is secure! Once we have surrendered ourselves to God the Son as our Lord, then we are assured of being included in the sovereign plans of God. His work is sovereignly sufficient for you!
    3. God was in control of the situation, but from Pilate’s perspective, the mob was getting out of hand. That’s when he spoke to them again…

22 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.”

  1. Once again, Pilate declared Jesus faultless. And once again, Pilate declared his willingness to beat Him to death. Pilate is not a man to be pitied as a victim; he is as culpable as the crowd.
  • Caving to the Mob (23-25)

23 But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed.

  1. The shouting never ceased – the mob got rowdier – the priests and scribes kept whipping up the crowd…and eventually they “” Bloodlust prevailed over justice, and the priests got what they had come for: a death sentence of crucifixion.
    1. It’s sadly all too common that the loudest voice wins the argument. Neither logic nor justice matter as much as quieting the one making the most noise. Pilate and the Jews of Jerusalem were not all that different than us today.
  2. Have you noticed what is missing in all of this? Any outcry from the main character. Despite all the people speaking about Him, and the mobs calling for His torture & death, Jesus never utters a word. This is the case in the other gospel accounts as well. Although Jesus does speak a bit in the presence of Pilate (though not much, and never in self-defense), none of the gospels show Jesus saying anything in front of the crowds. He never appeals to their better natures – He never pleads His cause – He never attempts to convince them of His Messianic identity. Jesus remains absolutely silent. Why? (1) If Jesus had spoken up in His defense, He might never have gone to the cross, and He would have sabotaged the plan of God. (2) This is another aspect that was prophesied. Isaiah 53:7, “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.” There was an aspect of this prophecy that was true at every stage of Jesus’ various trials: in front of the Sanhedrin, in front of Pilate, in front of Herod, and now in front of the Jerusalem crowd. He remained silent as a sacrifice, never speaking up in His own defense. So what? So it shows that Jesus was totally submitted to the plan of God for Him. For Jesus to defend Himself would have been for Him to rebel against His Father – and He wasn’t about to do that. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had prayed that if there was another way that His Father would give it – but in the end, Jesus wanted the will of His Father; not Himself. What Jesus spoke in prayer there, He demonstrated in actions here. Jesus was 100% submitted to the plan of God, no matter the cost to Himself. He wouldn’t even speak in His own defense, knowing that it would endanger the whole thing.
    1. Praise God for Jesus’ willing submission to the cross!
    2. May God help us be equally submitted to His plan for us!

24 So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. 25 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.

  1. With the will of the priests and the people prevailing, Pilate caved completely. He gave them everything they wanted, releasing Barabbas to them. Pilate may have maintained custody of Jesus, but it was the crowd who had control (with God ultimately having control over them).
  2. Again, be careful not to see Pilate as a victim…he’s not! What he was, was a coward. He knew Jesus was faultless, declaring His innocence a minimum of three times. Yet instead of maintaining justice, per his duty as a Roman governor – instead of holding true to any personal convictions, per his duty as a human being – Pilate rolled over to the will of the mob, doing whatever the crowd wanted. Remember that Pilate had no problem with Jesus’ death; he just didn’t want to be directly responsible. As it turned out, it was something he could not avoid.

Conclusion:

What was the problem with Pilate? He was neither willing to condemn Jesus, nor believe Him. Pilate wanted to remain neutral – he wanted to do nothing. And nothing wasn’t an option.

Don’t do nothing with Jesus! He has demonstrated Himself to be the truly innocent Man – the perfect sacrifice – the Son of God. This demands a response. We either believe Him, or we don’t. There is no neutral ground. What will you choose?

The Jews in Jerusalem (both the Sanhedrin and the crowds) chose to reject Jesus. What had been earlier determined by the Jewish leaders as representatives of the people, was ratified by the people themselves when they cried out for the cross. They wanted nothing to do with Jesus, preferring a murderer to their Messiah.

Pilate made a choice of his own as well, though he desperately tried not to do so. When he chose to abstain, he gave Jesus over to the will of the people – thereby being complicit with their rejection. Pilate, just as much as the mob, decided it was better to see Jesus dead than to believe upon Him as the Son of God.

Today, people are faced with the same choice. Many choose to reject Jesus outright. They hate God, being vehement in their opposition against Him. Others choose not to care. Whatever other people do is fine for them, but they don’t want to think about Jesus at all. Here’s the truth: in the end, both groups of people choose the same thing. Both choose to reject Jesus – both choose their own death.

Choose life! Choose to see Jesus as He is: the Son of God crucified for your sin – the One who willingly & lovingly substituted Himself in your place – the One who freely offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe. Do something with Jesus: believe!

Luke 23:1-12, “Messiah Reviled & Rejected, part 2”

It’s like the start of a bad joke, except with ancient characters. Instead of starting out with “a priest, a minister, and a rabbi,” it’s “a Roman, a Idumean, and a bunch of rabbis (priests).” What is it that brings together a whole bunch of people with hardly anything in common, except the time & area in which they live? Each and every one of them rejected Jesus. They didn’t believe His teaching, they didn’t accept His true identity, and they either wanted Him dead or didn’t care whether or not He lived or died. Jew and Gentile alike turned their backs on the Savior of the world. All of representative humanity rejected Jesus and sent Him to the cross.

Of course, this is what humans have always done. From the Garden of Eden onward, mankind has turned its back on God. We’ve wanted Him to bend to our will, rather than submit to His. Whether it was Adam and Eve eating of the one singular tree they were commanded not to eat (despite the multitude of trees they had available to them) – or it was Cain taking out his frustrations of failure on his younger brother Abel – or Pharaoh hardening his heart against the commands of God, refusing to release the Hebrews from slavery – all of it was man putting himself above God, rejecting God’s authority.

And it is not only the Biblical record…personal experience shows that we do the same thing. How many times have we chosen our way instead of God’s way? Sometimes it’s something we consider relatively small, as when we indulge our pride or choose to worship our own entertainment rather than the Lord who gave us life. Other times, it is something “larger,” when we purposefully and distinctly say “no” to God, and we intentionally choose to do things our own way. And that’s just the behavior of Christians! Before we came to faith, many of us chose to either ignore God or to mock Him – that’s just what we did. Whatever our own personal examples, we haven’t strayed too far from the response of the Jewish priests, the Roman governor, or the Idumean pretender-king.

It had been the start of a very long day for Jesus – probably the longest of His entire incarnated life. What had been the celebration of His final Passover supper the night before with His disciples, and an overnight in the Garden of Gethsemane spent in prayer, turned in the wee hours of the morning into betrayal by Judas Iscariot, arrest by the Jewish authorities, and a denial from one of His best friends (Peter) that he had even known the Lord Jesus. The Jewish Sanhedrin (the chief priests & scribes, composed of leadership from both the Sadducees and the Pharisees) wasted no time putting Jesus on trial. In fact, they did it twice (though only once was recorded by Luke). The first trial came at the home of the high priest, illegally performed in front of a small cadre of those conspiring against Christ. The “official” trial took place at daybreak, Jesus having been beaten & mocked by the officers of the Jewish temple guard. It was there that Jesus fully admitted that He is the Christ, the Son of God, and the priests and scribes were able to convict Him of blasphemy.

That was the charge that the Sanhedrin had desired all along, but they had a problem: although blasphemy was a capital offense according to Jewish law, it didn’t mean a hill of beans to the Romans. They needed the Romans to convict & execute Jesus, so that meant they needed to take Him to Pilate, trying to trump up some other criminal charges against Jesus – something that would cause Rome to take notice & kill Him. In the process, Pilate would get the input of another imperial leader who happened to be in town: Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great – the Idumean (Edomite) king who once ruled all of Judea.

Theologically speaking, what took place was more rejection of Jesus. Earlier it was the representatives of the Jewish nation – this time, it was the Gentiles. Be it Rome or elsewhere, all nations rejected Jesus as the King of the Jews, having no fear of Him as the all-powerful Son of God. Just as all peoples everywhere have rebelled against God, so too did all nations reject God’s Messiah. The One sent to save the world was first despised by the world – disdained as being unworthy and unremarkable.

How wrong they (and we) were! Jesus is the King of the Jews, and not of the Jews only – He is the King of the world! Don’t reject Him; recognize Him for who He is & worship Him as Lord!

Luke 23:1–12

  • Pilate’s indifference (1-5)

1 Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. 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.”

  1. Be careful not to get the wrong idea from verse 1. When the NKJV speaks of “the whole multitude,” it’s simply a reference to the full assembly/congregation of people who were already gathered for the Jewish trial of Jesus. This isn’t a massive mob of people (yet!). There will be larger crowds to come, but for now, this was the assembled group of the Sanhedrin: the priests, scribes, and whatever temple guards they had with them who had put Jesus through a kangaroo court trying to find some legal reason to put Him to death.
  2. Although the Jews rarely hesitated to stone people through mob “justice,” (as seen in the example of the woman caught in adultery – Jn 8), they did not have the authority to engage in legalized execution (capital punishment), which was the Sanhedrin’s desire for Jesus. If they had personally killed Jesus, they ran the risk of the mob turning against them. Yet if they had Jesus convicted and executed by the Roman government, then they would maintain the support of the people. Thus, they “led Him to Pilate.” Normally, the Roman prefect (governor) would not have been in Jerusalem, but in Caesarea – but due to the size of the Passover feast, Pilate was in the city. It made things convenient for the Jewish priests & scribes as they were simply able to take Jesus from one house to another. Keep in mind, it was still the early morning…Jesus had a busy day ahead of him.
  3. The first thing they do upon waking Pilate is “accuse” Jesus, charging Him with all kinds of crimes. Note that the charges against Jesus are somewhat different than what was debated among the Jews. Earlier that morning, the question had still been asked if Jesus was the Christ (22:67), but the main issue was religious; not political. At that point, they wanted to know if Jesus believed Himself to be the Son of God, and if so, they could convict Him of blasphemy (which He did, and they did). Here, the issue is purely political. Here, when the priests accuse Jesus of proclaiming Himself “Christ,” He was really proclaiming Himself to be “a King” – the king of the Jews.
    1. Actually, He’s both. The priests may have split of the charges into what they believed mattered to Pilate & what they knew mattered to them, but both aspects of the Christ are true. “Christ,” is the Greek word meaning “anointed,” which is the translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah.” The Messiah is the Anointed One of God, who is both the Son of God (endued with all of the power and glory of God, being God of true God Himself), and the King of Israel (being the legitimate heir of David, and the rightful heir to the throne). There are times in the Old Testament that the Messiah is shown to be a human military victor in the role of a king, and there are other times that the Messiah can be none other than God Himself. No doubt the ancient Jews had trouble understanding how this could be reconciled, but in the person of Jesus the question is answered! He is the Christ: fully God, fully Man – Suffering Servant and Victorious King. Jesus is the fulfillment of every Messianic prophecy, from Genesis to Revelation!
  4. As to the charge of Jesus claiming to be Christ, that much is true – but everything else the priests claim of Him is false. They engage in all kinds of lies and false witness of Him, as they attempt to bolster their case that Jesus pretended Himself to be the usurper of Rome. Had Jesus ever said anything about paying taxes to Caesar? Yes – but He said the taxes ought to be paid; not forbidden. It was just a few days earlier that week when the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus with a dilemma over taxes, and Jesus famously (and publicly) told them to “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (20:25) In no way did Jesus forbid tax payment to Caesar! How then could the priests make the charge (apart from outright deception)? It was all insinuation. If Jesus was the true king of Israel, then the taxes to be paid ought to be paid to Him; not Caesar. Again, this was nothing Jesus said – but it was how the priests chose to twist His Messianic claims for their own purposes in front of Pilate.
    1. In no small irony, the priests accused Jesus of “perverting” or “misleading” the nation, but it was they who were guilty of perverting/distorting Jesus’ teaching and reputation. They directly violated the 9th Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” (Exo 20:16). They intentionally testified wrongly of Jesus. And remember that these were the priests & the scribes – they were the experts in Jewish law. Those who had the responsibility to teach God’s truth could not (or would not) speak truth about God’s Son.
    2. Just because someone knows a lot about the Bible doesn’t mean that they know the Author of the Bible. Someone might have a theological degree, but no relationship with Jesus. This is one reason it’s so important for us to know the Bible for ourselves. An “expert” might get on TV, interviewed by the History Channel about Jesus & end up dragging Jesus’ name through the mud. We would never know unless we knew for ourselves what the Bible says about Jesus. We need to be students of the word!
      1. More than that, we need to know our Jesus! As important as it is to know the Bible (and we know Jesus through the Bible), if we study the Bible without coming to the knowledge of Jesus, we’ve missed the point. These priests knew their Scripture & traditions, but they knew nothing of the Savior to whom the Scripture pointed…which they proved through their lies to Pilate. 

3 Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered him and said, “It is as you say.”

  1. Although it may not sound like it, this is pretty much a direct question and direct answer. Jesus did not come out and say “I am,” but He gave a similar answer to Pilate as He gave to the Sanhedrin when they asked Him if He was the Son of God (22:70). This would have been Jesus’ opportunity to refute the charges, and since He chose not to do so, it was as if He received Pilate’s question as a true assumption. “Are you the King of the Jews?” “You said it.” It was about as clear as it got in that culture.
  2. Jesus is the King of the Jews. They may not know it today, but one day they will! The Bible is clear that one day the Jews will have their spiritual blindness to Jesus healed, and all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26). It says that one day they will look upon the One they had pierced (Zech 12:10), mourning their sin against Him. It says that one day the Messiah (Jesus) will reign over Israel as the Son of David, and His kingdom will never end (Isa 9:7). Jesus is indeed Israel’s legitimate King, and He will reign!
    1. FYI: Jesus isn’t only the King of the Jews; He is the King of the world! Jesus’ rule begins in Jerusalem, but it extends over all the earth. And yes, one day, all the world will see Him & acknowledge Him as such. One day every knee will bow & every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father! (Phil 2:10)
  3. No doubt the interview went longer (as indicated in the other gospels), but Luke draws it to a close. 

4 So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no fault in this Man.”

  1. The verdict? Innocent! Even with the direct admission by Jesus about being the King of the Jews, Pilate still found “no fault in this Man.” He found no grounds for legal action by the empire of Rome against the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
  2. As much as we might rejoice in the recognition of Jesus’ innocence from criminal charges, we have to ask the question of “why.” Why did Pilate pronounce Him innocent? Wasn’t Jesus’ admission of being the Christ enough to bring a conviction of insurrection or treason? Luke doesn’t go into Pilate’s motives for additional details, nor do the other gospels. Matthew tells us how Pilate’s wife warned him against having anything to do with Jesus, but that warning didn’t come until later in the day (Mt 27:19). At this point, we don’t know. Perhaps Pilate looked for evidence of Jesus’ kingship that went beyond His claims & the charges against Him. We know Pilate did not understand the nature of Jesus’ kingdom (Jn 18:33-38). Perhaps Pilate was looking for armies or some sign of military might and authority, of which Jesus manifested none. Whatever his logic, Pilate didn’t see Jesus as a threat, and was willing to pronounce Him faultless.
    1. Pilate may not have seen it, but Jesus was more than a threat than he knew! Jesus has more might in His pinky finger than what existed in the entire Roman army all over the civilized world. Pilate didn’t have a clue who it was he so casually dismissed.
    2. Do we? It’s easy to write this off to the skeptics of the world, but there are many cultural casual “Christians” who dismiss Jesus just as easily. They show up at church a couple of times a year, put a few bucks in the offering plate as it goes past, and consider their duty done. Or perhaps we should go a bit deeper. What about those who believe upon Jesus for eternal life & forgiveness of sin, but never give a second thought to Him as their Lord? Is that not just as much dismissal of Jesus as Pilate? Sure, they might not find any wrong in Him, but neither do they find anything right. They know enough of Jesus for Him to suit their purposes, but not enough for them to change their lives.
      1. If that’s how you know Jesus, then you don’t truly know Him at all!
    3. Question: If Pilate found no fault in Jesus, can it be considered Pilate’s fault that Jesus was crucified? Yes! Think about it: Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, yet he did nothing. Pilate could have defied the will of the priests – surely it wouldn’t have been the first time he did something the Sanhedrin didn’t like. Pilate could have released Jesus in order to spite the priests, perhaps even in an attempt to curry favor with a different political faction among the Jews. He didn’t. Pilate did nothing. He chose to let an innocent Man continue to suffer and eventually be tortured to death on the cross – an act of sinfully cruel indifference that becomes even more evident later in Chapter 23.
      1. It isn’t enough to recognize Jesus’ righteousness; we have to respond to it.

5 But they were the more fierce, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.”

  1. The priests were strongly opposed to Pilate’s finding. They claimed that Jesus incited the people, disturbing them & stirring them up with His doctrine. They basically accused Jesus of fomenting Jewish rebellion and revolution against Rome. They pressed the case that Jesus was a traitor & insurrectionist. Again, more lies, but it shows that they pulled out all the stops in their attempt to get Pilate to act.
  2. Question: Had Jesus stirred up the people? Not according to the priests’ insinuations – there was nothing in Jesus’ teaching that directed people to physical & military revolt. But Jesus certainly left an impact everywhere He went! Thousands of people came to see & hear Him at any given point in time. There were times the Jews tried to take Him by force and make Him king (Jn 6:15), and there were times they rejected Jesus & tried to kill Him by throwing Him off a cliff (Lk 4:29). Whether their reactions were joyful or terrible, people couldn’t help but have some sort of response to Jesus. And it didn’t stop with Him – the apostles had a similar reputation. They were the ones who turned the world upside-down! (Acts 17:6) They preached the gospel of the resurrected Jesus, the Son of God – and they demonstrated His power & their changed lives to prove it. People couldn’t help but be stirred up, wherever the message of the gospel went.
    1. If that was the reputation of Jesus & of His apostles, then it ought to be the reputation of His church. Is it? When was it that the church became seemingly impotent, unable (or unwilling) to provoke a reaction in others? Perhaps it was when the people of the church became more visible than the reason of the church (Jesus). When Christians live as though they are unchanged by Christ, then the world has no reason to even look to Christ. If we’re going to provoke a response, then we need to show them Jesus

Pilate was just one of the Gentile rulers who would hear Jesus that day. Luke records another, and the scene quickly transitions to the Idumean (Edomite) & part-ethnically Jewish ruler, Herod Antipas.

  • Herod’s insufferableness (6-12)

6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. 7 And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

  1. Pilate found himself in a sticky situation. On one hand, he knew Jesus was blameless of the charges of being an insurrectionist king looking to overthrow Rome. On the other hand, the charges were serious enough that they needed to be fully addressed, lest Pilate find himself in trouble with Rome. He probably wanted to get a little of the pressure off him, and the mention of Galilee by the priests got him thinking. The regions of Galilee & Perea were ruled by Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great. Although Herod normally resided in Galilee, he was “in Jerusalem at that time,” and Pilate saw an opportunity to pass the buck – at least for the moment.
  2. It ought to be noted that the account with Herod is unique to Luke, being unmentioned by the other gospels. Because of this, it has been attacked by liberal scholars as being imagined by Luke. Yet, what would be the purpose? Luke had nothing to gain by including Herod Antipas in his account of Jesus’ trials, and Herod was long gone from Judea by the time Luke wrote – having been exiled from Judea by the emperor Caligula, with his nephew Agrippa receiving his land and title. Bible students might recall that it was Herod Agrippa who heard Paul’s own testimony regarding the Jewish accusations against him. Another Roman leader of Judea (Festus) invited Herod Agrippa to hear Paul’s side of the story, and Agrippa almost himself came to faith in Jesus (Acts 25-26). The point? Although this account might be unique to Luke, it’s not unreasonable. As a historian, Luke has repeatedly shown himself to be truly accurate, and there simply is no reason to doubt him. Considering one of the members of Herod’s household eventually came to faith and was a leader within the church of Antioch, the base of ministry for Paul & Barnabas (Manaen, Acts 13:1), it’s quite possible Luke received the information from him – giving us a fuller picture of the various rejections Jesus endured.

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.

  1. Herod may have been “exceedingly glad” to see Jesus, but it was for all the wrong reasons. Herod sought a sign; not a Savior. He looked for a miracle & a magic show. Herod Antipas had heard of Jesus for “a long time,” at one point even fearing that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead (9:7-9). He perhaps even remembered his father’s failed attempt to kill Jesus in His youth (Mt 2:16), having pieced together that the claims of the king born in Bethlehem belonged to this prophet claiming to be Christ. Whatever his thoughts of Jesus had been in the past, he now finally had the chance to see Jesus for himself. This was his opportunity to see if Jesus was worth all of the fuss – if He was worthy of all of the rumors.
  2. What is clear is that Herod had no interest in Jesus as the Son of God. If he had, he would have feared at least the possibility of truth. All that intrigued Herod was the possibility of miracles. He didn’t want the Lord; he wanted a light show.
    1. Sadly, this is how many churches treat Jesus today! Forget about the skeptics for a moment, and consider some of those who truly believe that Jesus is God. How many of the people who show up to a healing crusade service are truly seeking the Lord as the Lord? It’s impossible for us to know what is in another person’s heart, but it’s no stretch to say that many who to go to scheduled “signs and wonders” events are going for the miracles; not for the Lord Jesus. When people show up to a church service expecting to see gold dust appear in their Bibles, or to see people supposedly getting “high” on the Holy Spirit, or expecting to receive a miracle by getting kicked in the chest from a self-proclaimed prophet – very little of that has anything at all to do with Jesus being the Lord God of Creation. That stuff is entertainment & personal ecstatic experience; not recognition of the Resurrected Jesus and worship of God in spirit and truth. In the end, it’s barely different than Herod Antipas: a desire to see a magic show; not a desire to see and know the Messiah.
    2. Can Christians ever expect to see miracles from Jesus? Yes – every time a sinner is saved, someone has been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life. The miraculous happens every single time someone is made a new creation in Christ. Jesus does miracles every day! And yes, sometimes He does other more visible things – some of us have personally experienced miracles of God. But those signs are not why we seek Jesus. They never are! Even in the apostolic age, the miracles written of in the New Testament were done to point people to Christ; not to call attention to themselves. True miracles of God are a means to an end; not the end themselves. Those who seek a miracle without seeking Jesus waste their opportunity. 

9 Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing.

  1. Herod questioned; Jesus refused to answer. Jesus hadn’t provided much answer to Pilate, but it seems that He remained totally silent with Herod. And why would He? Jesus did not need to dignify Herod’s request for miracles with a response. Herod may have been an appointed leader within the Roman empire, but Jesus did not answer to him. God is God; and Herod wasn’t God.
    1. Neither are we! The only reason we can approach God is because we are invited to do so through Jesus Christ – but we go to Him on His terms; not ours. We don’t go to Jesus demanding things from Him. We don’t go, pounding our fingers into certain Bible verses, supposedly “claiming” those promises for ourselves, insisting in prayer that God had better deliver on them. That’s not faith; that’s rebellion. That’s us putting ourselves above God, pretending that we are the Lord & He is our servant. And it is sinfully backward. Yes, as born-again believers in Jesus, we are invited to freely go to God in prayer, boldly so – and we are invited to pray in faith, believing His promises to be true…but always in reverence and humility. Jesus is the Lord; not us. He is God & we are His humble servants.
  2. That Jesus refused to answer Herod demonstrates a key truth that surely irked Herod to his core: Jesus was in control; Herod wasn’t. No matter his ranting or whining (or whatever it was Herod did at the time), he could not threaten or manipulate Jesus into a response. He could not force his own way. Even as a prisoner in Herod’s house, Jesus was fully in control of the situation, and Herod could do nothing about it.

10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. 11 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.

  1. Jesus had not gone to Pilate alone. At least a few (if not all) of “the chief priests and scribes” who had gone with Jesus to Pilate followed Jesus to Herod. Just as they did with the Roman, they did with the Idumean. They were always accusing Jesus, always bringing more charges against Him. It was as if they didn’t trust the evidence to speak for itself (which it didn’t!). No doubt, the Jews were trying to force/manipulate the outcome. Too often, it is the loudest voice that wins the argument, and that was the tactic of the priests.
  2. By this point, Herod was all too willing to go along. Like Pilate, Herod Antipas had no real reason to appease the Jewish priests, though there was a faction among the Jewish leadership that supported him (the Herodians). Even so, Jesus’ refusal to answer apparently got under his skin, and he turned Jesus over to his guards for mockery. For Jesus to be “treated with contempt,” was for Him to be treated as worthless – someone who deserved maltreatment. For Him to be “mocked” was for Him to be subject to derision, even supposedly tricked into making a fool of himself (something that wouldn’t happen with Jesus, though attempted by the Herodian guards). Basically, it was similar to the treatment Jesus had earlier received with the Sanhedrin officials. This had become a cruel playtime for Herod & his “men of war.” They wanted to toy with the Man claiming to be King. Hence, the “robe” they draped on Him. It was a “gorgeous,” or “splendid/brilliant” robe – something that might be found on a king. If that was Jesus’ claim, then they would cruelly dress Him for the part.
    1. It’s been 2000 years, but people still mock the Messiah. In our postmodern western culture, it seems that Jesus is mocked more than ever! Atheists routinely ridicule those who believe in “imaginary” tales and “ignorant” myths about God. Some go so far to claim that Jesus was morally evil, in that He healed some blindness, without healing all blindness, picking & choosing the miracles He performed. Whatever the argument, they take the gracious revelation of God in Jesus, and spit in His face.
    2. How ought Christians to respond to such things? How did Christ respond? He died for them. Think of it: when Jesus died upon the cross, He died just as much for Herod & his thugs as Jesus died for everyone else. Jesus died for the sins of the truly despicable – you & me included! When hated, Jesus did not hate – when insulted, Jesus did not insult. Instead, He gave Himself as a sacrifice & serves as our example: 1 Peter 2:21–24, “(21) For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: (22) “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; (23) who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; (24) who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” How do we respond when mocked by the world for following Jesus? We keep following Jesus! We walk in His example, forgiving those who sin against us & we commit ourselves to our Heavenly Father, trusting Him to work His ultimate plan. We walk by faith, not by sight – knowing that God will be glorified as we testify of Jesus in our attitudes and our actions.
  3. Why did Herod send Jesus back to Pilate? Jesus was Galilean, but everyone was still in Jerusalem at the time. Herod had a lot of freedom as to how he treated Jesus as a prisoner, but he had not authority within Jerusalem to execute Him. Even if Herod thought Jesus to be innocent, he didn’t care to free Jesus any more than Pilate. Obviously, Herod did not believe Jesus to be a threat (which is why he didn’t fear to mock Him), but Herod also didn’t want to act on Jesus’ behalf. So he sent Jesus back to Pilate to die, leaving the choice in Pilate’s hands as to how to proceed.

12 That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other.

  1. It’s been said that “politics makes strange bedfellows,” and it’s proven true here! Pilate and Herod had previously been rivals (Pilate replacing Antipas’ brother Archelaus as the ruler of Judea, the region falling out of the hands of the Herodian dynasty & directly ruled by Rome). However at this point, the two men found at least one thing in common: they each rejected the King of the Jews. They had a common disdain of Jesus.
  2. The same thing happens the world over today. People who are otherwise enemies of each other still hate the people of God. They find common cause in opposition to Christ.

Conclusion:

As the terrible day continued for Jesus, so did the world’s rejection of Him. First it had been the Jews, now it was the Gentiles. Jesus was delivered over to two very different Gentile leaders of the day, and came out with the same result.

At first glance, the two men appear very different. Pilate was indifferent, not caring whether or not justice was done or whether Jesus lived or died. Herod was insufferable, wanting Jesus for entertainment value, and extracting it from Him through mockery once he didn’t get his miracles. Both rulers were in sin, asserting themselves over the Son of God & rejecting Him as God. It was bad enough they did not recognize Jesus for who He is – it was far worse for them to turn Him over to death, turning their back on Him altogether.

As Christians, we might ask what it is we learn from these men. After all, they were plainly unbelievers, so what is it that a believer needs to know about them? First of all, we cannot assume everyone who reads Luke 23 is actually a believer! Many people are in the same boat as either Pilate or Herod, having dismissed Jesus as insignificant or irrelevant. How wrong that is! Can you imagine the moment that either Pilate or Herod died on earth, only to immediately look into the eyes of their Judge, finally realizing Who they mocked & dismissed? Sadly, multitudes of skeptics, atheists, and even cultural Christians (in name only) will experience the same thing. Don’t be one of them! See Jesus for who He is, and respond to Him in faith!

Second, as we come to Christ, we need to do so on His terms. Why is it we seek Jesus? Do we really want truth, or are we looking for an excuse not to believe? (Like Pilate.) Or perhaps like Herod, we want miracles & supernatural signs, but have no desire for a Savior & Lord? 

Third, if you have come to Christ in sincere faith, humbly submitted to Him, now we are to walk in His footsteps. We walk as those who have been changed by Him, stirring up the people around us to see Jesus. We walk as those forgiven by Him, freely extending that same forgiveness to others.