Today: [Luke 23 Part 1] Our Sins Take Jesus to Golgotha: In chapter 23 Jesus is beaten and brutalized first at the high priest’s residence, then at Pilate’s judgment hall and also by Herod at the vile king’s own palace. We can only wince at the brutal violence of the mistreatment Jesus suffers, but the greater truth is that it is our sin and not just Pilate that sends Jesus to the tree.
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[Luk 23:1-26 KJV]
1 And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. 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. 3 And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest [it]. 4 Then said Pilate to the chief priests and [to] the people, I find no fault in this man. 5 And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. 6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean. 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. 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. 9 Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. 10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. 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. 12 And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves. 13 And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 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: 15 No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. 16 I will therefore chastise him, and release [him]. 17 (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.) 18 And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this [man], and release unto us Barabbas: 19 (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) 20 Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. 21 But they cried, saying, Crucify [him], crucify him. 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. 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. 24 And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. 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. 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.
After apprehending Jesus at Gethsemane, the Temple authorities abused and brutalized Him at the High Priest’s residence. He was then whisked off to Pilate’s judgment hall in hopes that Pilate would condemn Jesus to death, which they had no authority to carry out themselves. In order to interest Pilate to consider Jesus case’ they attempted to portray Jesus as a disturber of the peace, a rabble rouser against Caesar, and a miscreant worthy of capital punishment. Pilate sees through their protestations and political theater, but the suggestion that Jesus might consider Himself a king bore further investigation.
In v. 3 Pilate asks Jesus “are you king of the Jews?” Jesus answer was not typical of what Pilate was used to hearing: “Thou sayest it…” Something about Jesus demeanor, or perhaps the legend of Jesus that had reached Pilate beforehand disinterested him in capriciously delivering Him to death. Pilate turns to the chief priests and the usual suspects gathered with them and let’s it be known “I find no fault in this man…” There is no civil record or independent record outside of scripture that this trial ever took place. Scholars further hold this passage in question because it maintains the character of a narrative that absolves the Gentile involvement in Jesus’ death and particularly impugns the Jews as the main culprits in the affair. Jewish sources in the main cry fowl at this account because it casts them in such a bad light. For us, in a devotional reading of this passage we conclude that certainly Jesus came unto His own and His own received Him not. Even down to this day when Jewish scholarship discusses the subject of Jesus culpability in these matters will still maintain that it was a fitting punishment that Jesus be executed for what they still believe were a common Galilean’s crimes against the ancient Jewish state.
Upon hearing Pilate’s attempt to exonerate Jesus the Jews are not about to relent. They become violently insistent that Jesus is stirring up the people. They were not being honest about wanting to maintain the Pax Romana, the Roman peace, because 20 years later Jewish authorities would hail a first century revolutionary named Bar Kopa to be the Messiah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, backing him in a successfully overthrow of the Roman occupation. Ten years after this man’s revolt the Romans came back with great force and dismantled Jewry, expelled the Jews, destroyed Jerusalem and leveled the temple. When Pilate heard that Jesus was a Galilean, he attempts to claim that the jurisdiction is Herod’s and sends Jesus away to the palace of the corrupt and vile king, who happened to be in Jerusalem at the moment.
When Herod sees Jesus, he is very glad and hopes to see Jesus perform some spiritual parlor trick, perhaps to turn water into wine for his party guests. While Jesus did answer Pilate, to Herod, He offers not a single word. Herod is a half Jewish pretender to the throne of David, who built the Jews their magnificent temple but was never fully accepted as their rightful sovereign. Since Jesus will not satisfy Herod’s curiosity, Jesus is again abused by Herod’s soldiers and apparently Herod himself laid his hands upon Jesus in violence and then sent Him back to Pilate, this time as a cruel joke, clothing His battered body in a gorgeous robe in order to goad Pilate into further action against Jesus. Pilate apparently appreciated the gallows humor, because v. 12 tells us that Herod and Pilate became fast friends after this, whereas before they were bitter enemies.
Pilate (v. 13) converse the chief priests and city rulers together again and insists that in spite of their protestations against Jesus that he finds no fault in Him, or nothing worthy of death. He then offers to further chastise Jesus and to release Him and let Him go. Again, this narrative is strongly objected to by the Jews down to this day, so much so that even Christian textual critics suggest that these references to Pilate’s efforts to free Jesus were added in later and never existed in Luke’s original treatise to Theopholus. Remember now that this is the time of the Passover and it was customary for a convicted felon to be released at this time of national celebration. Pilate is aware of this and is attempting to use that custom to get Jesus released from custody. Instead of Jesus the people call out for a brigand, named Barabbas to be set free instead. As for Jesus, the final disgrace upon the people is nakedly exposed in their hearts as they cry out “crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate is appalled, asking openly “why, what evil has this man done … and insists that it is Jesus and not Barabbas that he will let go…” The cry of objection is so overwhelming that Pilate relents and sends Jesus out of his judgment hall, beaten, spat upon, scourged and bleeding to be flayed alive and crucified at Golgotha.
Jesus is weekend by the abuse of Pilates soldiers and the beating he took at Herod’s palace that instead of the convicted man carrying the wood for his crucifixion we see again that a man named Simon is compelled to carry the cross instead. Simon was from a city in what is now eastern Libya. It is known to history that the Jews of Libyan origin were so prominent in Jerusalem that they maintained their own synagogue in the city in the first century. Apparently Simon was standing by as Jesus is compelled to carry the wood toward His place of execution. It is believed by some that Simon must have shown some sympathy for Jesus’ suffering, and in retaliation the execution squad punishes him by forcing him to take the wood of the cross himself, a clear threat against Simon’s own life.
Mark 15:21 identifies Simon as the father of Alexander and Rufus. Christian tradition holds that in the later Christian community established in the city of Rome, these two sons were very prominent leaders. Acts 11:20 speaks of Cyrenian believers who were preaching among the Greeks in later years and it is held by some that this very Simon was among them. This is interesting because there are few characters other than the 11 disciples whose lives are tracked from the days when Jesus walked in Jewry to the years following when the early church was established. The existence of Simon and of at least one of his sons is established in archeology by virtue of the grave of an “Alexander, son of Simon” being discovered in 1941.
It is also of note that there are some (and you may run into this from time to time) that insist that it was Simon and not Jesus who actually dies upon the cross. They maintain that when Simon was compelled to carry the timber that it was actually a euphemism in the wording that is implying that Jesus was allowed to slip away after a bribe to the soldiers and went on to die a natural death. You need in order not to be dumbfounded by such a outlandish claim should it arise in conversation among the skeptics you may encounter. What we do know from our narrative is that Jesus is condemned. His followers are scattered. Those who cried out “hosanna, hosanna” just a few days earlier are now shrieking “crucify him, crucify him…” Jesus is proceeding along the via dela Rosa. His body is abused, filthy, bleeding, covered with sweat and spittle. The sin debt weighs upon him inwardly as the wood crushes Him outwardly. Our sins, our personal sin mars Him as much in His soul as the abuse of the soldiers has torn His physical body. We realize that our transgressions are His greatest burden, but He bears them willingly, lovingly chooses that He should suffer in our place for all the love wherewith He loves us.
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