Jesus Offers Forgiveness

Explore the Bible Series

February 20, 2005


Background Passage: Luke 23:1-56

Lesson Passage: Luke 23:32-47


Introduction: The predicted and dreaded hour had come.  The events recorded in this chapter draw readers into the vortex of human sin and hatred against God; nevertheless, these verses also raise the heart to warm and tender adoration for the Lord Jesus.  Frankly, any true expositor, it seems to me, recoils a bit from handling the profound and glorious things in this chapter.  The Gospel writers record these things with gracious simplicity.  Approach this passage with great humility and prayer. Consider the significance of the events Luke described.  Refuse to allow your familiarity with the text to foster an inattentive spirit.  Above all, cultivate an attitude of worship as you meditate on the glorious redemptive work of the Savior.


I.                   Jesus Before Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:1-25)

A.     The initial questioning before Pilate (Luke 23:1-5): Pontius Pilate came to power in Judea about 26 A.D., and quickly earned a reputation as a cruel and ruthless tyrant.  The Jews hated him because of many serious provocations; therefore, it seems odd that the Sanhedrin turned to Pilate in their case against Jesus.  Of course, they needed Pilate’s help in executing the Lord because Roman law did not authorize Jews to carry out the death penalty.  Pilate may have complied with their request because the constant unrest in Judea may have already compromised his influence with Rome.

1.      The charges of the Jewish leaders (v. 2):  The Sanhedrin had already accused Jesus of blaspheme (See Matthew 26:65-66 and Mark 14:63-64); however, they knew this charge would carry no weight with the Roman procurator.  They leveled three charges against Jesus: he perverted the nation (this is the general charge, and the next two indictments state specifically how the Jews believed Jesus led the “nation” astray), he forbid paying taxes to Caesar, and Jesus declared himself as a king.

2.      Pilate’s verdict (vv. 3-5):  Luke, of course, gave only a summary of the proceedings before Pilate.  The procurator, according to Luke’s account, focused on the charges related to Jesus’ claim to be king.  The Roman ruler apparently saw through the charges of the Jewish leaders, and he found Jesus innocent of their indictments.  The Jews became more insistent and “creative” in their charges. Finally, they touched on a Roman sore spot, social unrest (“He stirs up the people”).

B.     Jesus Before Herod Antipas (vv. 6-12): Antipas became tetrarch of Galilee and Perea when his father, Herod the Great, died in 4 B.C. The Jews hated him, and he lived in unspeakable moral degradation.  Since Jesus hailed from Galilee, Pilate sent the Lord to Herod to rule in this case.  The situation amused Herod because he wanted to witness a miracle or two from Jesus (See v. 8).  Evidently, the tetrarch had some knowledge of Jesus’ life and ministry, but he had not actually seen the Lord. In addition to desiring some entertainment, Herod had some contemptuous curiosity about the Galilean; thus, he questioned Jesus “with many words.”  The Lord gave him no reply. The tetrarch, perhaps in retaliation for Jesus’ refusal to entertain him, mocked the Savior by having him arrayed in a beautiful, kingly robe. Strangely, this circumstance forged a macabre friendship between Antipas and Pilate.

C.     The second appearance before Pilate (Luke 23:13-25):

1.      For a second time, Pilate affirmed the innocence of Jesus and announced that Herod had not rendered a guilty verdict either. The text reveals that Pilate really wanted to release Jesus, but he apparently lacked the moral resolve to do what his conscience demanded (See v.20).

2.      Pilate’s efforts to pacify the crowds:  The desperate procurator tried to appease the violent crowd in two ways: he offered to “chasten” Jesus, and he proposed that they set him free rather the releasing the notorious criminal Barabbas. Matthew and Mark give a more thorough account of the horrific scourging Jesus endured and provide some detail related to the mockery of the Roman soldiers.  We know little about Barabbas.  His name means “son of the father.”  This may serve only as a nickname for this murderer and insurrectionist.  Some early church Fathers wrote that his name was Jesus Barabbas (Origen, in particular, pointed this out).

3.      Pilate, for the third time, affirmed the innocence of Jesus (v. 22) turned the Lord over to the Roman soldiers to carry out the will of the Jewish religious leaders and the jeering crowds. 


II.                The Crucifixion of Jesus (Luke 23:26-49)

A.     The journey to Golgotha (Luke 23:26-32): Great crowds poured into Jerusalem for the Passover, and, no doubt, the furor surrounding the Lord’s crucifixion attracted the attention of many. John’s Gospel says that Jesus bore his own cross, but the Synoptics mention a man named Simon whom the soldiers compelled to carry the cross. Perhaps the Lord’s weakened condition made it impossible for the Savior to continue to bear the considerable weight of the cross. The Scriptures tell little about Simon.  He came from Cyrene, in Northern Africa, and he may have been the father of a disciple mentioned in Romans 16:13.  Also, Luke recorded some interaction Jesus had with a group of women on the route to Golgotha. These women, perhaps a society of charity in Jerusalem, mourned the impending death of Jesus.  He must have surprised them when he refused their mourning and directed them to grieve for themselves (See vv. 28-30).  Jesus alluded to himself with the reference to the “green wood” (v.31).  He was like green wood, unsuitable for the fire of judgment.  If the fire would not spare the innocent Son of God, how much more the guilty (dry wood) will be consumed by the blaze of God’s wrath (v. 31)? 

B.      Jesus was crucified with two malefactors (vv. 32-33 and 39-43): All four Gospels mention the two criminals crucified with Jesus.  One of the men joined the taunts of the crowds, but the other man called upon the Lord’s mercy.  He apparently knew little about the Lord’s teachings, and his request seems a bit clumsy; nevertheless, his simple petition met with the warm grace of the Lord.  Jesus promised that this poor, suffering sinner would, that day, be in paradise with the Lord.

C.     Jesus endured the mockery of the crowds and forgave the sin of those who crucified him (vv. 33-38):  While the disciples of Jesus largely abandoned him in this hour of suffering, the Jewish leaders proved quite persistent in their ridicule of the Savior.  The crowds joined with the leaders in a chorus of cruel mockery.  The Roman soldiers added their voices to the cacophony, and, amazingly, even one of the thieves lent his voice to the disgraceful chorus. The Lord responded to this unseemly scene by praying for the forgiveness of his tormentors.

D.     Jesus’ death on the cross (vv. 44-49): The last hours of the cross brought some amazing and mysterious consequences. Around noon a great darkness covered the earth.  Even the creation seemed to groan under the weight of this grievous event.  Luke also recorded the tearing of the veil of the Temple (all the Synoptics mention this).  After these events, the Lord cried out to his Father, and he died.  One of the Roman centurions, struck by the overwhelming scene, confessed that Jesus was righteous man. 


III.             The Burial of Jesus (Luke 23:50-56)

A.     Joseph of Arimathea requested the body of Jesus (vv. 50-54):  We know little about this man.  He apparently was a secret follower of Jesus; yet, the crucifixion seems to have emboldened him.  He bravely went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  The burial had to take place quickly because the Sabbath neared.  Joseph and a group of women carried Jesus’ body to a tomb hewn out of rock.

B.     The women of Galilee helped Joseph prepare Christ’s body for burial (vv. 55-56):  The Jewish custom called for these women to wrap the corpse in linen, and enfold spices and fragrant oils in the cloth.  Since the body had to be prepared quickly, these faithful servants could not complete their task.  They planned to return, after the Sabbath, to finish preparing the body.


Conclusion:  As the text implies, this is not the end of the story.  Next week will rivet our attention to the marvelous account of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.