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Luke 23:26-56 – The Death of Christ

As Jesus is led away, the Romans seize Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross. Simon of Cyrene is not voluntarily giving his service in submission to the Christ – the context is a continuation of their mockery of Jesus as king. Jesus as king had exercised his right as Lord to lay claim to a donkey and an upper room – now others exercise their right to a man’s service in mockery of Christ’s right. In the books of Acts Jesus will exercise his right of requisition as he utilizes the services of men from Cyrene to take the gospel to the Gentiles.

Along the route to Golgotha, many women mourn and lament for Jesus – not because they love him but because the crucifixion of any Jew points to their subjugation to the Romans. They do what is culturally acceptable. Jesus turns and speaks to these women of Jerusalem. He prophesies of the horrific judgment that will befall Jerusalem in 70 A.D. having rejected God’s anointed king – if Jesus does not drink the cup of wrath for us then we will drink it for ourselves.

They arrive at Golgotha – the place of a skull. Krumacher writes: Golgotha—horrifying name—a naked and barren eminence, enriched only by the blood of criminals, and covered with the bones of executed rebels. An accursed spot, where love never rules, but where naked justice alone sits enthroned, with scales and sword, and from which every passerby turns with abhorrence, a nocturnal rendezvous of jackals and hyenas.

At Golgotha it seems that Jesus cannot be a king. Firstly, because he is disinherited. The soldiers cast lots for his clothing – he has nothing. Jesus is hung naked on the cross – a nakedness of shame reminding us of Adam’s sin and nakedness. Secondly, because three times Jesus is mocked with the words that he cannot be a king because he cannot perform the basic function of a king, that is, save. And yet if he were to save himself and come down from the cross then there would be no saving of us. Jesus’ being disinherited and not saving is for our saving.

One of the two evil-doers surrounding Jesus says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replies, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Even now Jesus is still the host who invites as guests even those estranged outside the city.

Before Jesus dies darkness is over the whole land and the sun’s light fails – a sign of judgment on Jesus who dies in the darkness. The curtain at the front of the temple is torn in two by God – not to let us enter the earthly temple’s holy places but as a sign of the temple’s forthcoming destruction. What use could there be now for the old temple – it was no longer the place of God’s presence or the place of propitiation – that place now lay outside the city in the person of Jesus.

Joseph went to Pilate to ask for the executed man’s body. Was he not afraid of associated himself with one whom Rome counted a rebel? No, Joseph is a disciple who denies his social standing and takes Jesus’ body and lays him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. Previously in Luke’s gospel Jesus rode a donkey that had never been ridden. Now he lies in a tomb that has never been used. The two objects are being compared. With regard to the donkey Jesus had said, “The Lord has need of it” – in other words God has need of a ‘holy donkey’ (one unused and given to God). Now the tomb is needed by “the Lord GOD”. The mystery of the incarnation that God-in-flesh should die and utilize a tomb. It is Friday evening but we wait for Sunday morning.