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Bible: What Does Luke 23 Teach Us About the Trials and the Crucifixion of Jesus the Christ?

Updated on September 15, 2016

Christ Stands Before Pontius Pilate


Pilate: "I Find No Fault in This Man"

Since the Jews have no power to put Jesus to death, they bring Him before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, and present Him as a political threat.

In conjunction with charging Jesus with claiming to be “Christ, a King” (thus insinuating Jesus as a possible rival to Rome’s rule), they falsely accuse Him of tax evasion (vv. 1-2).

Something in Jesus’ manner of response to his straightforward question about His kingship tells Pilate that the Lord is no political revolutionary (vv. 3-4).

At the governor’s response, “I find no fault in this Man,” the Jews’ fury increases; consequently, they stress to him how widespread Jesus’ influence has become in the entire nation including Galilee (v. 5).

When Pilate hears “Galilee,” he immediately inquires if Jesus is of that region (v. 6).

Learning that such is the case, he happily sends Christ to Herod to get Him off his hands (v. 7).



Herod Seeks a Miracle

“Jesus is here?” One can almost hear Herod ask this question with unfeigned glee.

However, his interest is piqued not because he desires to worship Him, but only because he wants to be entertained with a miracle (v. 8).

Imagine his displeasure when Jesus stares blankly at him, remains silent, and does no “work” for him or for those Jewish leaders who accompanied Him from Pilate (vv. 9-10).

Herod’s disappointment quickly turns to despotic hatred, as he sics his troops on Jesus who mock and assault Him (v. 11).

Perhaps he and Pilate become friends after this incident because Herod is able to wreak some vengeance upon Jesus, and he could not have done so unless Pilate had made this “diplomatic gesture” (v. 12; cf. Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 154).

The High Priest


Pilate, the Jews, and Barabbas

Back in Pilate’s backyard, the governor invites the Jewish leadership into his presence again to deliver to them his verdict regarding Christ (vv. 13-16).

He summarizes their reason for arresting Jesus, and dismisses the charges against Him (v. 14).

Pilate also informs them of Herod’s concurring decision; again, Christ has done no capital offense (v. 15).

His ruling—chastise and release—does not sit well with the Jews, however (vv. 16-17), for they want Pilate to release Barabbas to them, not Jesus (v. 18).

The leadership prefers that the murdering leader of a band of insurrectionists go free, and that the One with no fault be crucified (vv. 19, 21).

Against his objections—which may have been personal as well as political (vv. 20, 22)—the governor allows the political winds, fomented by the loud, insistent “voices of these men and of the chief priests,” to outweigh his own personal feelings and sway him into making what turned out to be his final decision concerning the Lord’s case (vv. 23-24).

Luke summarizes Pilate’s action: Barabbas (whom Luke leaves unnamed, but describes as a murdering rebel) leaves jail, but Jesus is handed over to His executioners for scourging and crucifixion (v. 25).

Simon of Cyrene


On the Way to Golgotha

On the way to Golgotha, the Romans “volunteer” Simon of Cyrene out of the crowd to carry Jesus’ cross after Him (v. 26).

[This incident hints strongly that the loss of blood from the scourging has weakened Christ so much that He could no longer bear His cross.]

Jesus takes a moment’s respite to prophesy to certain “daughters of Jerusalem” who are weeping because of His suffering (vv. 27-31).

In essence, He tells them not to weep for Him, but for their own future suffering at Roman hands.

At that time, these women will regard those who never bore or nursed children as blessed, for the latter will not see their babies die (vv. 28-29).

History fulfills this prophecy with the fall of Jerusalem in A. D. 70; the prediction also foreshadows an even worse period for the Jews during the seventieth week of Daniel (v. 30).

Jesus’ last metaphors (“green wood,” “dry”) compare the difference in the intensity of the punishment that Rome will inflict upon Him with what it will inflict upon the nation during war (v. 31).

The Place of a Skull


The Cross of Christ


Fulfilled Scripture

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At Calvary

Leading Jesus and two criminals along, the Roman soldiers arrive at Calvary and crucify them there, hanging Christ on the central cross (vv. 32-33).

Apparently, the Lord immediately speaks the first of seven sayings from the cross—three of which Luke records—: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (v. 34a).

He asks the Father to forgive “them”; the context indicates that the nearest antecedent is the Roman soldiers.

They are ignorant of Jesus’ deity, and are simply carrying out their jobs.

[Can this statement legitimately be applied universally and eternally to all people? No, for many people know exactly what they are doing when they “crucify” Jesus.]

By gambling to acquire His clothes, the soldiers fulfill Scripture (v. 34b; cf. Ps. 22:18).

Jewish Religious Leaders


Roman Soldiers


All God That Requires

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Four Groups of Witnesses

Four groups attend Jesus’ execution: “the people,” the rulers, the soldiers, and the criminals.

[Later, we read of a fifth coterie: Jesus’ family and friends (v. 49).]

Luke records rather ambiguously that the people merely “stood looking on." David writes,

“They look and stare at me,” indicating perhaps that they expected Him to do something miraculous.

On the other hand, it may be that they are amazed at His appearance (v. 35a; cf. Ps. 22:17; Is. 52:14).

Conversely, Luke clearly states the attitude of the Jewish leadership, who “wear” their contempt for Jesus “on their sleeves,” mocking the seeming inability of the self-professed Messiah/Savior to save Himself (v. 35b).

The soldiers, likewise, heap scorn upon Him, mimicking the Jews’ “request” for a miraculous deliverance while offering the Lord sour wine (vv. 36-37).

[Why did they give Him something to drink? Was this an act of compassion?]

At the same time, they nail an inscription over His head—whether it is written in the three languages is in dispute in Luke—with which they meant to insult the Jews (v. 38).

[In the Gospel of John, the Jewish leadership objects to this title; Pilate, however, maintains rather cryptically, “What I have written I have written” (19:21-22).

John records that the inscription also included the title “Jesus of Nazareth.”]

One member of “the fourth group” blasphemes Jesus, and then also adds his own mock desire to see Him save Himself and us—meaning him and the other criminal (v. 39).

The other criminal, on the other hand (that is, on the right), comes to a whole slew of scintillating conclusions:

(1) Knowing that the first condemned man is wrong, he rebukes him for his impiety (v. 40);

(2) He acknowledges that he and the other are guilty and justly deserve their punishment (v. 41a), and

(3) He recognizes that Jesus is innocent (v. 41b).

What’s more, he comes to understand at that moment that the Lord is truly Who He says He is, and requests that He “remember” him when He enters Paradise (v. 42).

Jesus assures the repentant man with His second “word” from the cross that he will go to “heaven” that day (v. 43).

[No rituals or good works are necessary to gain entrance into glory; faith in Christ alone is all God requires.]


The Sun Darkens, and the Veil Tears in Half

During the last three hours of Jesus’ life—from the sixth to the ninth hour (noon to three o’clock in the afternoon)—darkness envelops the earth (vv. 44-45a).

[Was this darkness universal, or only with reference to the land of Israel? Total eclipses of the sun do not last three hours.

Also, Jesus hangs on the cross for a total of six hours—from the third hour (Mk. 15:25) to the ninth—; some “Good Friday” worshipers only focus on the last three.]

Not only is the sun obscured, but the temple’s heavy veil is torn in two from top to bottom (v. 45b).

[Because total eclipses do not last but for a few minutes, and because human hands cannot tear the veil in two violently and immediately, only God can accomplish these phenomena.]

Jesus now cries out what may have been His last words from the cross—“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit”— words that signify that He controls the circumstances surrounding His death, not man (v. 46; cf. John 10:18).

[The text says that, after these words, He breathes His last.

However, John records that “He gave up His spirit” after having said, “It is finished.”

As an eyewitness, John probably has the definitive word here, though Luke is not incorrect from his perspective.

That’s all he wished to include in his narrative.]

Roman Centurion


Witness Reactions and Jesus' Burial

Luke records the reactions of one individual and two groups to Christ’s death and its concurrent events.

What the centurion witnesses—namely, the darkness, the sayings from the cross, the earthquake (Matt. 27:54)—convinces him not only of Jesus’ righteousness (v. 47), but also of His deity (Matt. 27:54).

The first group—“the whole crowd who came together for this spectacle” (NASB)—shows signs of remorse (“beat their breasts”), and returns to the city (v. 48).

Group #2, however, consisting of “all His acquaintances”—who would comprise this following?—and “the women who followed Him from Galilee,” stands and watches from afar.

[Is Luke simply recording who was there, or does he mean something more by his observation?

Why is he being cryptic about the identity of Jesus’ acquaintances?]

Joseph of Arimathea


"With The Rich At His Death"

Perhaps one of Jesus’ acquaintances is Joseph of Arimathea, for he appears on the scene and requests from Pilate the privilege of burying the Lord (vv. 50a, 52).

Luke thoroughly describes this man: a member of the Sanhedrin council, a good and just man (v. 50), a dissenter to the murder of Jesus, and a believer in the Messianic kingdom (v. 51).

[John adds more details: he is a secret disciple who brings abundant burial spices with him (19:38-39); Matthew calls him “rich” (27:57; cf. Is. 53:9).]

Taking Jesus’ body down from the cross, Joseph wraps it in linen and lays it in a sepulcher, newly-hewn and thus unused (v. 53).

Seeing that the Sabbath draws near—it begins at sunset Friday—, the women from Galilee—the same ones who stood afar off at Jesus’ crucifixion—note where Joseph’s tomb is situated and how he had prepared Jesus’ body for burial (vv. 54-55).

They, of course, must not work on the Sabbath, so they withdraw to their home to prepare spices and fragrant oils with which they planned to anoint His body on the first day of the week (v. 56).

© 2013 glynch1


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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      This is one of my favorites among your articles (I have not read all of them). Looking forward to a follow-up on what happened to the body.

    • MarieAlana1 profile image

      Marie Alana 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      This was well researched. God bless!


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