After the Jewish trial, a Roman trial
- 23:1 The entire Jewish council got up and escorted Jesus to Pilate, Roman governor of the territory.
- 23:2 They charged him with two crimes: “Our counsel has found this man guilty of trying to get our people to break the law; he said they should stop paying taxes to Caesar. He’s also telling them he’s the Messiah, a Jewish king.”
- 23:3 Pilate turned to Jesus and said, “So, are you the King of the Jews”? Jesus answered, “You said it.”
- 23:4 Pilate turned back to the leading priests in the crowd and said, “You have no grounds to charge this man.”
- 23:5 But they argued, “This man fires up the people with his teachings. And he spreads his teachings everywhere, all over Judea, and as far north as Galilee, and even here.”
- 23:6 When Pilate heard this he asked if the defendant was a Galilean.
- 23:7 When he found out that Jesus was in fact from Galilee, which was in Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who happened to be in Jerusalem for the Passover festival.
After the Roman trial, another Jewish trial
- 23:8 Herod was delighted to finally meet Jesus. Herod had heard that Jesus was a miracle-worker, so he was hoping to see him do a miracle.
- 23:9 Herod started to pound Jesus with one question after another. Jesus didn’t say a word,
- 23:10 even though the leading priests and Jewish scholars started accusing him of one thing after another.
- 23:11 Herod and his soldiers made fun of Jesus and treated him with no respect whatsoever. They dressed him in an elegant robe and sent him back to Pilate.
- 23:12 Herod and Pilate became good buddies that day. Earlier, they hadn’t liked each other much at all.
Jesus goes back to the Romans for a verdict
- 23:13 Pilate called another meeting of Jesus’ accusers: the top priests, other religious leaders, and the crowd of people with them.
- 23:14 Pilate told them, “You brought this man to me and you accused him of trying to get the people to revolt. Here are the facts. I interrogated him. You saw me do that. But I find for the defendant. You have no evidence to support your charges.
- 23:15 Herod agreed. That’s why he sent him back to me. Look, this man hasn’t done anything that warrants me executing him.
- 23:16 I’m going to have him beaten and released.”
- 23:17 Every year at Passover the governor released one prisoner.1
- 23:18 The people in one loud voice screamed, “Away with him! Free Barabbas!”
- 23:19 Barabbas had gotten himself thrown into prison. He was charged with inciting a riot in the city and killing someone.
- 23:20 Once again Pilate tried to tell the crowd that he wanted to release Jesus. But as he spoke,
- 23:21 the people shouted him down by chanting, “Crucify! Crucify him.”
- 23:22 Pilate spoke to the crowd a third time. He said, “What did this man do that was so wrong? As far as I’m concerned he’s not guilty of anything that warrants execution. For this reason, I’m ordering him punished and released.”
- 23:23 The crowd would have none of that. They continued screaming, and demanding crucifixion.
- 23:24 Pilate eventually decided to give them what they wanted.
- 23:25 Pilate freed the man the people asked for—the man who had been thrown in prison for murder and insurrection. Pilate sentenced Jesus to die, just as the people wanted.
The man who carried the cross of Jesus
- 23:26 As they led Jesus to his execution, they arrested a bystander named Simon of Cyrene,2 who had just come into town. They forced him to carry the cross of Jesus.
- 23:27 By this time a huge crowd had started to follow the procession headed to the place of execution. In that crowd were women sobbing, wailing, and mourning.
- 23:28 Jesus turned to the women and said, “Jerusalem Daughters, don’t cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children.
- 23:29 A terrible time is coming when people will say that the most fortunate women of all are those who can’t have children and who have never given birth or nursed a baby.
- 23:30 People will scream at the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ They’ll scream at the hills, ‘Bury us alive!’3
- 23:31 If people act like this when the wood is green, what will happen when the wood goes dry?"4
- 23:32 Forced into the procession were two criminals sentenced to die with Jesus.
Crucifixion: The execution of God
- 23:33 When they got to the place called Skull,5 they crucified him with the criminals—one criminal on his right side and the other on his left.
- 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”6 The executioners gambled to see who would get his clothing.7
- 23:35 People stood by the cross, watching. Some of the Jewish leaders ridiculed him. They said, “He saved other people. Let him go ahead and save himself if he really is the Chosen One—the Messiah sent by God.”
- 23:36 Soldiers made fun of him, too. They offered him some old wine that had turned to vinegar.8
- 23:37 They told him, “If you’re the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
- 23:38 There was a sign above Jesus that read “This is the King of the Jews.”
- 23:39 One of the criminals hanging beside him kept insulting him. The man said, “Are you the Messiah or are you not the Messiah? If you are, save yourself and us.”
- 23:40 The other criminal scolded him, “Just like this man, you’re sentenced to die. You have no fear of God?
- 23:41 We’re getting what we deserve. But this man did nothing wrong.”
- 23:42 Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you get to your kingdom.”
- 23:43 Jesus told him, “What I’m telling you is the absolute truth. Today you will be with me in paradise.”9
- 23:44 It was about noon when everything went dark. Darkness covered the whole area for about three hours, until about 3 o’clock.
- 23:45 Sunlight was eclipsed. The curtain in the Temple ripped right down the middle.
- 23:46 Jesus screamed out loud, “Father, my spirit is in your hands now.”10 After he said that, he took his last breath.
- 23:47 When the Roman centurion11 saw all of this, he honored God when he said, “There’s no doubt now. This was a good man devoted to God.”
- 23:48 Crowds had gathered to watch the spectacle. But what they saw left them beating their chests in despair and grief as they returned to their homes.
- 23:49 Everyone who had come to know Jesus stood at a distance and watched. This group included the women who followed him down from Galilee.
God is dead and buried
- 23:50 Among the crowd was a man named Joseph, a good and godly man. He was a member of the top Jewish Council.12
- 23:51 He didn’t agree with what the other Jewish leaders decided to do. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea.13 He was waiting for God’s Kingdom to come, and expecting it anytime.
- 23:52 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
- 23:53 He took the body and wrapped it in linen. Then he laid it in a new tomb chiseled into stone. Jesus was the only one who had been buried there.
- 23:54 All of this took place on the day Jews made preparations for the Sabbath.14
- 23:55 The women who came with Jesus from Galilee followed behind those who carried his body away. The women saw the tomb and how his body was placed inside.
- 23:56 They went back to where they were staying and got the spices and perfume they would need to prepare his body for burial. But that would have to wait because the Sabbath had come. They rested, as Jewish law said they should.15
The oldest manuscripts don’t have this sentence. Many Bible translations today skip verse 17. Scholars guess that an editor later inserted it so that the verses that followed would make better sense. Editors do that kind of thing.
Cyrene is a city in the North African country of Libya.
Jesus seems to be quoting a prophecy in Hosea 10:8.
It sounds like Jesus was quoting a proverb familiar to the people. Bible experts say that somewhere along the way, history gobbled up the meaning. We are left guessing what the saying means. One theory: The green wood stands for the life that Jesus represents. The dead wood, fit for burning, represents the judgment that will be coming. Another theory would paraphrase the verse something like this: “If this is what happens to me, the Living Tree, what do you think is going to happen to the dead wood people of this city?”
Sometimes translated Calvary, from the Latin word for “school.” Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire.
This short prayer doesn’t show up in many of the oldest copies of the Bible.
They gambled by throwing lots, which were probably a bit like dice or marked stones. Some Bible scholars say they see this event predicted by an ancient songwriter: Psalm 22:18.
The Greek word describing the wine is xoxs, “sour wine.” Once a bottle of wine is uncorked, it begins oxidizing – oxygen reacts with chemicals in the wine, diminishing the taste. One way to slow this down is to put the cork back on the bottle and put the bottle in the fridge. In time, however, the wine will turn to vinegar. It became a common drink among Roman soldiers, perhaps because they didn’t have access to freshly uncorked wine.
“Paradise” comes from an ancient Persian word from what is now Iran. It describes a garden, a park, or an enclosed place. Jews in Jesus’ day had come to link that word to the lush Garden of Eden and then to associate both of those with Hades, a garden-filled home for the dead. Jews came to think of paradise as the resting place of people who loved God and were waiting for the day of resurrection.
This is similar to a prayer in Psalm 31:5.
Commander of a unit of 100 soldiers, and possibly the officer in charge of this execution.
See the note about the Sanhedrin council, 22:66.
It’s uncertain where the city of Arimathea was. Some of the guesses include cities a few miles from Jerusalem.
The Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday.
Exodus 20:8; 31:15.
The Jewish Council wanted Jesus dead. They wanted it badly enough that they were willing to lie: “He said they [the people] should stop paying taxes to Caesar” (23:2). Actually, Jesus had said the opposite (20:25). If Council members had to make a list of the honest-to-goodness reasons they wanted Jesus dead, what are some reasons you would expect to see on the list?
When Pilate asked if Jesus was King of the Jews, Jesus answered, “You said it” (23:3). That’s a strange answer, it seems. Bible translators aren’t sure what to do with it. One translation: “It is as you say,” (NASB). Another: “Those are your words” (NCV). What do you think Jesus meant?
Pilate was not someone history would describe as a Jew-lover. He slaughtered plenty of them. Luke doesn’t tell us why Pilate fought so hard to free Jesus. Any guesses why Pilate tried three times to convince the crowd to let Jesus go?
History scholars have a theory about why Pilate gave in and agreed to execute Jesus. The theory is that Pilate was already on shaky ground with Rome because the man who had recommended him for the job, Sejanus, was executed by Emperor Tiberius in A.D. 31, for plotting a coup. Pilate didn’t want the Jews causing a ruckus or, worse, going to Rome with a complaint about him. What do you think about that theory?
“Every year at Passover the governor released one prisoner” (23:17). This was apparently a goodwill gesture to keep the Jews happy in spite of the fact that they were being occupied by the Roman Empire. Doesn’t that seem odd? Why would anyone think that releasing a prisoner would improve political relationships—especially a prisoner who happens to be a murderer?
Jesus tells the women who were crying for him as he walks to his death, “Don’t cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children” (23:28). Then he goes on to describe something terrible that’s going to happen, something that will leave the people pleading to die. What does it sound to you like he’s talking about? Does it sound like he’s talking about the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, when the Roman Empire leveled the city? Or is he talking about something else?
No one seems to really know what Jesus meant by the saying that sounds like some kind of a proverb: “If people act like this when the wood is green, what will happen when the wood goes dry?” (23:31). Take a look at the footnote that offers some of the theories. What would you guess Jesus was talking about?
It’s anyone’s guess why people in Jerusalem called the execution site “Skull” (23:33). If you have heard any of the theories, what have you heard?
Bible experts say that one of the prayers of Jesus doesn’t show up in many of the ancient copies of the Bible. The prayer: “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing” (23:34). How do you react to that?
Luke reports that when Jesus died there was an eclipse or something that darkened the sky. He also says “The curtain in the Temple ripped right down the middle” (23:45). Matthew said the ripped curtain took place during an earthquake. The International Geology Review confirms that there were two major earthquakes that hit the area between 26 BC and A.D. 36. Jesus died sometime between A.D. 30 and A.D. 33, scholars say. The curtain separated the Temple sanctuary from the holiest room in the building—the room where Jews kept their most sacred object: the chest that held the 10 Commandments, the Ark of the Covenant. Only the high priest could go in there, and only on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). That’s the day when the entire nation repented of their sins. Some Bible experts speculate that God was sending the signal that because Jesus died, we all have access to God and to his forgiveness. What do you think about that theory?
When Joseph of Arimathea publicly asked for the body of Jesus so he could bury it, what do you think his buddies on the Jewish Council would have done to him when they found out?
LIFE APPLICATION. Joseph of Arimathea took a huge risk by taking a stand for Jesus. When have you seen someone do something like that—risking their reputation and perhaps even their livelihood for the sake of Jesus or out of respect for Christian principles?