For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

23:1.  “And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.”

Pilate means close pressed (as a piece of felt), and if ever there was a man whose life demonstrated the propriety of his name, it was he, for he ultimately found himself close pressed between his conviction of Christ’s innocence, and the need to deliver himself from the charge of treason against Caesar, see Jn 19:12,16, “And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him; but the Jews cried out, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.... Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified.”

23:2.  “And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.”

Unable to bring any just charge against the Lord, they had to invent one, a charge refuted by His own words in 20:25, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.”

“... perverting the nation” is literally “inciting sedition,” the imagined basis for this false charge being the Lord’s truthful claim that He was God’s anointed King.

23:3.  “And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews?  And he answered him and said, Thou  sayest it.”

Whether He was the King of the Jews was the crucial question, yet the Lord’s affirmative answer made no difference.  Pilate may have been willing to accept it, but the Jews weren’t, for ignoring all the evidence which supported the Lord’s claim, they were determined to put Him to death anyway.

23:4.  “Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.”

This was the only honest judgment rendered that day.  The Lord was guilty of no wrong.

23:5.  “And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.”

Without a shred of evidence to support their false charge, the chief priests and the multitude continued to accuse Him of stirring up sedition against Rome.

23:6.  “When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean.”

23:7.  “And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.”

Pilate was desperately seeking a way out of a very awkward situation, and the decision to send Christ to Herod seemed the perfect solution.  As the sequel shows, however, it wasn’t.  No man can evade responsibility for the decision he makes in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ.  He must either be accepted now as Savior, or met at the great white throne, as the Judge Who must consign unbelievers to the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

23:8.  “And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.”

This Herod incidentally, was the one who had had John beheaded, he himself being the son of the Herod who had slain the children at the time of the Lord’s birth.  The pleasure with which he anticipated meeting Jesus quickly turned to spiteful disappointment, for the Lord neither answered the king’s questions, nor would He perform any miracle.  A greater disappointment, however, awaits Herod, for he will meet Christ again, but this time it will be the Lord Who interrogates the one-time king, and Who displays His power, not in a spectacular miracle, but in His consigning to the eternal torment of the lake of fire, the guilty wretch who once dared to mock the Son of God.

23:9.  “Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.”

The Lord wouldn’t dignify Herod’s questions with an answer.  He knew that His hour had come, and that nothing He might say would change Herod’s mind, as He knew also that if men’s souls were to be redeemed He must die as foretold in Scripture.

23:10.  “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.”

Christ’s refusal to respond to the king’s questions evoked even more ardent accusations from the Jewish leaders, who may have been afraid that the Lord’s silence might have led Herod to conclude that He was innocent.

23:11.  “And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.”

Many since then have also esteemed Christ as of little worth, and many since then have also mocked Him “and sent him again to Pilate.”  How different it will be on that day when their worth is estimated by Christ, and He dismisses them as worthless rebels, into the lake of fire, because on earth they failed to comprehend both His worth, and that of their own souls!  They in their folly arrayed Him in mockery in a gorgeous robe, never realizing that their rejection of Him will result in their standing naked before Him, because they refused to accept the robe of righteousness He bought for them at such cost that day at Calvary.

23:12.  “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.”

What paltry gain!  He who that day might have been reconciled to God, emerged from the test of his life with nothing but the worthless friendship of the dissolute Herod, with whom he has now spent two thousand years in hell, and will yet spend another thousand years awaiting the resurrection of damnation, and consignment to the lake of fire, in company with all who have preferred the friendship of the world to the friendship of God.

23:13.  “And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people,”

23:14.  “Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:”

Having carefully examined the Lord, Pilate was compelled to confess, “I have found no fault in this man.”

23:15.  “No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him.”

Herod likewise had failed to find fault in Christ, and it might have been supposed that acquittal by two high officials of Rome would have settled the matter; but it didn’t, for the Jews weren’t interested in justice: they were bent on murder, and wouldn’t rest until they had killed an innocent Man, their Messiah, their King, the Son of God, God manifest in flesh!

23:16.  “I will therefore chastise him, and release him.”

What a travesty of justice!  In spite of having been found innocent by two different tribunals, Christ was nevertheless, to be flogged!  For what?  In any ordinary Roman court, Pilate himself would have been found guilty of a gross breach of the law for flogging a man who had been acquitted of all charges brought against him.

Pilate clearly was trying to save Christ’s life, and undoubtedly thought that this expedient would satisfy the Jews, but he very much underestimated the intensity of their blood lust, and the wickedness of their evil hearts.  Nothing would satisfy those sons of Satan but the death of the Son of God.  Such is the depravity of the heart of the natural man!

23:17.  “(For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)”

23:18.  “And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:”

23:19.  “(Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)”

It was strange irony that they should demand the release of one who was guilty, not only of the very crime with which they had falsely charged Christ: sedition, but who was guilty also of murder.  With what dread must those same men await their own arraignment before the Lord at the great white throne, their guilt compounded by their rejection of Him Who had been willing to save them had they but believed Him!

Barabbas, incidentally means son of father, but I can’t see any special significance connected with that meaning.

23:20.  “Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them.”

Pilate’s good intentions were all nullified when he had first compromised with the mob, instead of standing firm on his conviction that they had brought no proof of Christ’s guilt.  The fear of man is a terrible snare.  It cost Pilate his soul, as it has also many another too cowardly to confess Christ as Savior.

23:21.  “But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.”

The governor’s willingness to compromise simply encouraged the multitude to press their demand for Christ’s death, no matter how unjust the demand might be.  It is never otherwise.  Cowardly compromise only encourages the opponent to make ever more outrageous demands.  That crowd cared nothing about justice.  They were determined to have the Lord crucified.

23:22.  “And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.”

His very willingness to flog an innocent man told the crowd in unmistakable language that Pilate was afraid of them, and armed with that knowledge they pressed their murderous demand.  How much greater must be the fear in Pilate’s heart today as he contemplates his own fate to be pronounced at the great white throne!

23:23.  “And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified.  And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.”

Cornered by his own cowardice Pilate saved his life, but at what cost!  His soul!  He is one of millions who by saving their lives have lost them, as it is written, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.  For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mt 16:25-26.

23:24.  “And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.”

The sentence given wasn’t the demand of law but of Jewish blood lust for Christ’s life, Pilate little realizing that in pronouncing it he was sounding the death knell of his own soul.

23:25.  “And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.”

What a blot on the page of Roman law was Pilate’s release of Barabbas, and his consignment of the innocent Christ to the will of the murderous mob!  But in the release of that guilty man from the death demanded by Roman law, because Jesus Christ willingly accepted an unjust sentence, God bids us see the deliverance made available to all men from the death demanded by His holy law, because His Son was willing to die in their place, for their sins, as it is written, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God,” 1 Pe 3:18.

23:26.  “And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.”

Simon is the Greek form of Simeon, and has the same meaning: harkening; and while the meaning of Cyrene is uncertain, it is thought to be supremacy of the bridle.

John 19:17 informs us that the Lord went forth carrying the cross Himself, so the obvious conclusion to be drawn is that He became too weak to carry it all the way: hence Simon’s being compelled to carry it behind the Lord.  This has led some, rightly I believe, to see in this a symbolic picture of the believer’s proper place here on earth: walking in the footsteps of the Master, and taking up the cross and following Him, see Mt 10:38;16:24; Mk 8:34;10:21; Lk 9:23;14:27.  The very names confirm the significance of the symbolic picture, for hearkening speaks of obedience, while supremacy of the bridle points to the truth that the path to glory is found in submission to the easy yoke of Christ, as it is written in Mt 11:29-30, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Why the mob should have singled out Simon to carry the cross is no where revealed.  It may be that he just happened to be passing by, though as we know, with God nothing just happens by chance.  In view of the symbolic picture presented in Simon’s bearing the cross behind the Lord, we can’t reject the possibility that God’s overruling providence had him there at that exact moment just because the meanings of his name and country would enable spiritual minds to see more easily the spiritual picture being presented.

23:27.  “And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.”

It was a mixed multitude that followed the Lord out to Calvary.  There were some at least who disapproved of what was being done, and they, with sorrowing hearts may still have hoped that He Who had wrought so many miracles for the good of others, would yet perform one for Himself and take Himself out of the hands of His foes.  Not even those who loved Him understood then the necessity of His death if men were to be delivered from hell and fitted for heaven.  The Lord could have saved Himself, but because He loved sinners He wouldn’t.  He would die willingly in their guilty stead to make atonement for their sins, giving Himself as the spotless Lamb which every believing sinner could offer to God by faith for the remission of his sins.

23:28.  “But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.”

Only He knew what a terrible harvest rebel Israel would reap from that day’s monstrously evil sowing.  Their rejection of Him as their Savior Messiah would result in their becoming the objects of the fierce wrath and judgment of the God Whose Son they mocked and taunted even in His dying agony.

23:29.  “For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.”

The Lord could see beyond Calvary the slaughter-house which Jerusalem would become just thirty-eight years hence, as the Roman legions spilled Jewish blood like water in the streets - God’s recompense in part, of the Jews’ arrogant words to Pilate, “His blood be on us, and on our children,” Mt 27:25.  The blood that flowed in Jerusalem in AD 70, however, was just the beginning, for Jewish blood has flowed in torrents during the past twenty centuries, and will flow yet more copiously in the fast approaching Tribulation era.

23:30.  “Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.”

That this has reference to the Tribulation period is certified in Isa 2:19; Ho 10:8; Re 6:16; 9:6.  There is, however, only one Hiding Place from the wrath of God, as it is written, “A man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest,” Isa 32:2.  He Who staggered out to Calvary that day was that Hiding Place, though the sin-blinded eyes of His enemies perceived it not.  Believers should never cease to thank God for the love, and kindness, and grace, and mercy that caused them to hear the Gospel which opened their blind eyes and enabled them to see in the Lord Jesus Christ their Savior, man’s only Hiding Place from the wrath and judgment of a Holy God against Whom they in their folly had once rebelled.

23:31.  “For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”

“These things” refer to what they were doing to Him, for clearly He is the “green tree,” that is, the One in Whom was life.  Israel was the “dry tree,” a nation without spiritual life.  Their unjust and cruel treatment of Him was a foreshadowing of what God’s just judgment of them would be like.

With God there is no neutral ground.  We are either His friends or His enemies, for Him or against Him, loving Him (because He first loved us) or hating Him.  What that mob did to Christ is nothing less than the tangible evidence of what every unbeliever would also do to Him, for to reject Him is to approve the mob’s rejection and mistreatment of Him.  How can those in sympathy with such men expect mercy!  Remember, we are either with Him, or with them, and God’s eternal treatment of us will be according to our association.  Nor should it be forgotten that the foremost of His enemies were the religious leaders of Israel.  There are many today occupying similar high religious positions, and many respected members of churches, who, because they have never been born again, are nonetheless seen by God as standing with His enemies, and being therefore the heirs of judgment.  “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already.... He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” Jn 3:18-36.

23:32.  “And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.”

His being led to execution with these two criminals had been foretold by the prophet, “He was numbered with the transgressors,” Isa 53:12.  This was the place assigned Him by man.  God’s estimate of His worth is very different, as it is written, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Php 2:9-11.

23:33.  “And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.”

Calvary, meaning a skull, is the Greek form of the Hebrew Golgotha, and in spite of several popular traditions purporting to explain the reason for this meaning, none is supported by evidence.  It is to be noted also that the scriptural references do not indicate that it was a hill, as is generally believed, nor is the exact location known.

Inasmuch as the skull encases the brain, the choice of Calvary as the place where man crucified the Son of God, ought to remind man perpetually of the folly of human wisdom which led man to kill his Creator.

23:34.  “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.  And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.”

This is grace beyond human comprehension.

Since garments represent righteousness, the removal of the Lord’s clothing speaks of man’s attempt to strip Him of His righteousness, a thing impossible of course, since His righteousness was inherent.  But spiritual wisdom sees in the gambling for the Lord’s garments the folly of the world relative to the righteousness made available to men through Christ’s death.  They were satisfied to make possession of His garments dependent on mere chance, and the attitude of the world remains the same in regard to the righteousness (of which garments are the biblical symbol) without which no man can hope to enter heaven.  Apart from the few who have been born again, the rest of humanity are content to leave to chance the matter of whether they will be in heaven or hell eternally; whatever hope they have being based on the teaching of their particular religious system, the one thing common to all being their uncertainty as to their future state.  I cannot recall ever having met an unconverted man willing to state that he was certain beyond all doubt that he would be in heaven.  Only those who have been born again have that assurance.

Inasmuch as that seamless robe represents the righteousness of Christ, its becoming the possession of just one of the soldiers serves to remind us that salvation is a personal thing which cannot be shared.  No one can believe for another.  Each man, by faith, must make the righteousness of Christ his own personal possession.

23:35.  “And the people stood beholding.  And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.”

How true were the Lord’s words, “... they know not”!  For all their religious knowledge, those proud Jewish leaders knew not that had He responded to their taunting, and come down, they and all men must have perished eternally, for there is no salvation for men apart from the vicarious death of Christ.  What they in their blindness didn’t know was that it was only by His remaining on the cross that salvation would be made available to men.

23:36.  “And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar (sour wine).”

Its being said that the soldiers “mocked him” by offering Him vinegar seems to imply that they held the liquid close to His lips but without allowing Him to drink it.  What cruelty to a dying Man suffering the torment of thirst as declared in Ps 22:15, “... my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death”!

23:37.  “And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.”

The soldiers were as faithless as the Jews.  They too mocked His claim to be the Messiah; and there may perhaps be detected in their taunt the implied impossibility of anyone’s overcoming the might of Rome, for this was Israel’s expectation, that the Messiah would break the Roman yoke, and set them free.  The soldiers’ taunt may have had subtle application also to the Jews. If the One Who claimed to be their King couldn’t even save Himself from the cross, what hope was there of His delivering the nation from the dominion of Rome?

What neither Jew nor Gentile understood was that it was only by Christ’s remaining on the cross, that men could be delivered from a far more terrible thraldom than that imposed by Rome: the fatal bondage to sin, Satan, and death, in which all men lie bound because of Adam’s sin.

23:38.  “And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

Greek was the language of learning; Latin, the language of mighty Rome; and Hebrew, the language of religion.  The Greek points to man’s intellect; the Latin, to man’s will; and the Hebrew, to man’s emotion: the three parts which constitute man as having been created in the Divine image.  (For a fuller discussion of this topic, see the author’s book Genesis - Verse by Verse, chapters 1 and 3).  In its three languages therefore, the superscription was the declaration that intellectually, volitionally, and emotionally, man rejected and hated his Creator, so much that he would kill Him if he could.

23:39.  “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.”

Even with only an hour or two left to live, the unrepentant malefactor used his remaining breath to join the Jews and the soldiers in blaspheming Christ.  Unregenerate man’s hatred of God is no passing thing.  It is inherent, inveterate and lifelong, though often very cleverly disguised under the mask of religion. 

23:40.  “But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?”

It is strange that the circumstances which evoke blasphemy in one heart, produce repentance in another.  The second malefactor, also with only an hour or two left to live, wisely pondered the fact that at the end of that brief time he was going to have to meet God, and that prospect made him afraid, for he knew that he wasn’t prepared to stand in that holy Presence.  He is a wise man who engages in the same reflection while there is time to avail himself of God’s remedy, it being emphasized that that time does not embrace the whole span of one’s life.  For each man there is a divinely allotted time in which to repent and accept God’s pardon and gift of eternal life; but salvation not accepted within that time is lost forever, God’s warning being, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation,” 2 Cor 6:2.

23:41.  “And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.”

This same confession of guilt must be made by every man who would be saved, yet strangely it is the one most men refuse to make.  The vast majority, like the Scribes and Pharisees, refuse to admit that they are utterly sinful; and clinging to the filthy rags of their religious self-righteousness, they cut themselves off from God’s salvation.

23:42.  “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

How deceptive are outward appearances!  To the multitude, that malefactor was no different from his companion, but how different he had become through faith.  Though there was no visible change, he had become a saint about to enter paradise, while his companion remained a sinner about to enter hell.  And it was faith that made the difference!  Faith enabled him to see beyond the mutilated form of Jesus Christ, the form of the Son of God, the Savior of the world.  How simple God has made salvation!  A man has only to confess himself a sinner fit only for hell, and have the faith to believe that Jesus Christ whom the world despises, is the Son of God Who loved sinners so much that He has been willing to die in their stead for their sins, so that they might be forgiven, saved from hell, and fitted for heaven.

23:43.  “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Not one of the mocking rabble would have changed places with that dying man, but could they have been given a glimpse of the place to which he was going, and also the place to which they were going, all would have rushed to take his place.  God, however, has drawn a vail over the unseen world, so that salvation might be by faith; but were men able to see that world, there wouldn’t be an unbeliever on earth.  It is only on earth that there are unbelievers.  There are none in heaven, nor are there any in hell, but for the latter their belief has come too late, and it has come as a result of their experiencing the awful torment of hell’s unquenchable flame, rather than of believing before seeing and feeling.

That day which must have dawned as the darkest and most hopeless of that man’s misspent life, was transformed into the happiest any man could ever know.  He was leaving a sinful condemned world to go to paradise (see notes on 16:23) with His Savior, and in another three days to be transported by that same Savior into the eternal glory and bliss of heaven, to await there the completion of his salvation, the resurrection and glorious transformation of his body.  If believers dwelt more on the blessings that are theirs through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they would celebrate with greater joy the day of their spiritual birth.

Many others have pointed out that salvation is independent of works or sacraments.  That man was unable to do any works, good or bad, neither was he baptized, nor did he eat the Lord’s Supper.  Whenever possible believers should be baptized, and should eat the Lord’s supper on the first day of each week according to Scripture, and certainly they ought to do good works as an expression of gratitude for salvation already received, but salvation itself precedes, and is independent of all these other things.

In regard to the two malefactors, another has pointed out that only one was saved, so that none need despair; but only one, so that none should presume.  It is very great folly for any man to presume that he has plenty of time in which to be saved.  He may not have another minute, for his present heartbeat could be his last; or he could, without knowing it, cross over that invisible line which separates God’s mercy from His wrath, which marks the boundary of the time appointed by God during which salvation is made available.  A man may live many years beyond that time, but he cannot be saved.  One second beyond the Divine time line is eternally too late.

23:44.  “And it was about the sixth hour (twelve noon), and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour (three in the afternoon).”

Small wonder that the sun refused to shine when the Light of the world was being put to death, and by the creatures whose sins He was expiating, remission of sin being impossible apart from the shedding of His precious blood.

The hours mentioned are also significant, for six is the number of man, sin, weakness, imperfection, etc., being one short of God’s perfect number seven.  The ensuing darkness reminds us that as the natural man dwells in spiritual darkness, so will he, unless saved, dwell for all eternity in “the blackness of darkness for ever,” Jude 13.

But nine is the Biblical number of resurrection (its factors are 32), and significantly the coming of the ninth hour saw the light restored, the truth symbolically declared in this being that the man who has experienced resurrection out of spiritual death through the new birth, has passed from darkness into light, and at the end of life’s journey will pass from this world’s darkness into the glorious light of heaven where there is no night, no darkness.

43:45.  “And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.”

It was during the three hours of darkness apparently that the veil of the temple was torn in two, thus signifying the opening of a new and living way by which men could approach God, see Heb 10:19-22, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; 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 Word of God - Eph 5:26).”

23:46.  “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”

The loud cry appears to have been that recorded in Mt 27:46, and also uttered about the ninth hour, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  See also Mk 15:34.  Apparently there was just a brief time between that awful cry of agony, and His dismissal of His spirit.  The change from “My God,” when He was suffering wrath and judgment due to us, to “Father,” when the work of atonement was complete, reminds us of what a terrible thing it was for Christ the Holy One to be made sin, and therefore to experience how dreadful it is to become the object of God’s wrath.

23:47.  “Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.”

Matthew and Mark record the confession of the centurion as being that Christ was without question the Son of God.  It is a sad commentary on the hardness of the hearts of the Jewish leaders that they should have been unmoved, while this Roman soldier, doubtless inured to the sight of violent death, should have been moved to make such a confession, and to glorify God.

23:48.  “And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.”

Matthew indicates that it was the earthquake which climaxed the crucifixion, that produced this fear in the hearts of the onlookers, but it isn’t indicated how many, if any, were led to trust the Savior that day.  It is one thing for a man to be afraid: quite another for that fear to result in salvation.  Felix, for example, trembled, but it isn’t recorded that he was ever saved.

23:49.  “And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.”

The callous multitude might return to the city, but those who loved the Lord lingered still, though “afar off.”  Their remaining at a distance seems strange, since, with the crowd gone, it might have been expected that they would have approached closer to look, for what they were sure would be the last time, at the body of the Lord before it was placed in the tomb.  Undoubtedly there was a reason for their standing “afar off,” but that reason isn’t given, and I regret being unable to suggest one.

23:50.  “And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just:”

23:51.  “(The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.”

23:52.  “This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.”

Joseph means let him add; and Arimathaea, a high place.  John informs us that this man was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews.  The Lord’s death, however, had apparently banished Joseph’s fear, for in Mk 15:43 we read that he “went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.”  No man can remain long a secret believer.  The new life cannot be kept pent up indefinitely, as the Lord Himself said, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life,” Jn 4:14.  The water of a spring cannot be indefinitely confined.  There is no such thing as a secret believer, as it is written, confession is an essential part of salvation, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness: and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” Ro 10:9-10.

24:53.  “And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.”

From Mt 27:60 we learn that the tomb was Joseph’s, and from Jn 19:41 we learn that it was in a garden in the vicinity of the crucifixion site.  Man would assign Christ the place of a felon, and had things gone man’s way He would have been buried in a malefactor’s grave, but God saw to it that His Son was given an honorable burial.  Man would strip the Lord of His garments and suspend Him naked on a cross, but with the work of atonement completed, His body was reverently swathed in linen, the Biblical symbol of righteousness.  It is to be noted incidentally, that the linen was not in the form of a long flowing garment as depicted by artists, but rather, consisted of long strips wound around the body as in the case of mummies.  As Joseph and Nicodemus applied those bandages they also applied the resinous mixture of myrrh and aloes to Christ’s body.  It is this that adds additional miraculous character to the Lord’s resurrection, for those grave clothes were left in the tomb in the same form as when they had enveloped His body, leaving His enemies to explain how He could possibly have emerged from those wrappings.

23:54.  “And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.”

“The preparation” was the term commonly used to describe not only Friday, the day before the Jewish sabbath, but also the day before any special feast day.

23:55.  “And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.”

23:56.  “And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.”

It isn’t difficult to imagine the sorrow with which those women witnessed the Lord’s body being placed in Joseph’s tomb, and the sorrow with which they went away to prepare the spices and ointments for the anointing of it in preparation for final burial.  That tomb must have seemed to them the burial place of all their hopes.  It is written, however, that “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps 30:5).  What transformation came with the dawning of the first day of the new week, when their tears were turned to joy!

[Luke 24]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough