Today: [Luke 23 Part 2] Jesus Pays the Price for You and I. In Part two of Luke 23 we find Jesus addressing his weeping followers along the way to the cross. He says “if they have done these things in a green tree, what shall be done in a dry?” Indeed this moment is the most grave and dire incident of all human history as we watch somberly, aghast as the Darling of Heaven is so mistreated, paying a price for you and for me that we might make heaven our home.
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[Luk 23:27-56] 27 And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. 28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. 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. 30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. 31 For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? 32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. 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. 34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. 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. 36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. 44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. 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. 47 Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. 48 And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. 49 And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things. 50 And, behold, [there was] a man named Joseph, a counsellor; [and he was] a good man, and a just: 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. 52 This [man] went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. 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. 54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. 55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. 56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
The curtain fell on the first part of our chapter with Jesus falling under the weight of the cross and Simon, a Cyrene being compelled to carry the timber to the place of execution. Along with the crowd that jeered and heaped scorn on Jesus along the Via De La Rosa – there is mentioned in Luke’s gospel that there was a great number of people and of women who bewailed and lamented them. The 11 remaining apostles however and sadly were not among them. To a man, they all forsook Him and fled. John followed afar off with a linen sheet cast around his body, Peter went so far as the courtyard of His trial but denied Him when questioned by the rabble.
We picture Jesus, bloodied and weak, one hand on Simon’s arm as the burly Cyrene carried the timber toward the place of the skull. Jesus turns to the crowd and fixing His gaze on the lamenting women says “weep not for me – weep for yourselves…” In the tombs of the Puritans and the Quakers of centuries past, this phrase is often found on the markers of departed saints. The days are indeed evil and amazingly so with the very son of God clothed in human form among them. As Jesus so aptly expresses – “if they have done these things in a green tree, what shall be done in a dry season?” The coming centuries of what we call the Dark Ages would bear out the dim hopes of man ever doing anything other than shaming himself before the Creator.
There were also along with Jesus two other malefactors who were crucified, flayed alive with Him, one on the right hand and one on the left. As they threw Jesus’ body on the tree, His breath coming in great rasps of pain, He is heard to pray as the mallet drives the spikes through His femurs and through His wrists – “Father forgive them, they know not what they do…” The soldiers are oblivious, and set about gambling for His clothes, stripped from His naked form, for they were valuable to them, not to be discarded as they no doubt did with the rags stripped from the two thieves. These quality garments were no doubt testimony to the love of the wealthy women who supported Jesus, or perhaps Zacheus or some other wealthy publican, showering Jesus with love and gifts insisted that He take of the very best they had to offer.
As the soldiers cast the dice, the two thieves writhed on the timbers, in agony – cursing and crying out. The rulers of the Jews cast dispersions upon Jesus in the hearing of the people. “He saved others – let Him save Himself, if He is who He says He is…” Have you ever came close to such a ghastly statement of “God if you are who you say you are …” What a testament that God in heaven restrained His hand when certainly with one breath of assent the angels would have descended from on high and wiped mankind off the face of the earth in a moment of time – to rescue Heaven’s Darling from the offense perpetrated upon Him in the house of His very own kinsmen.
The soldiers noted the bristling crowd and joining in the fun they offered Jesus vinegar to drink, saying “if you are a king – save yourself…” To which Jesus uttered not a word. the superscription scrawled on a sign above Jesus’ battered brow read “This is the King of the Jews” and certainly Jesus in His earthly lineage hung there – a son of David unimpeachably deserving of the throne of the very people that spat their curses at Him in this moment. What a dread price the Jews would pay in the centuries to come. Having sown to the wind they would in spite of all of heaven’s clemency toward them they would indeed reap the whirlwind of their rejection of their Messiah.
One of the thieves stirred from his own blinding pain and screamed at Jesus “if you are the Christ then save yourself and save us…” Not knowing that Jesus was doing exactly that. What is taking place in this moment? He is saving this man. He is saving you and He is saving me. The other thief rebukes the man, leaning forward on the nails that pierce his own hide, wincing from the pain and crying out “do you have no fear of God?” He knew he was suffering the just recompense of his crimes but in Jesus he saw something of cosmic consequence and looking on Him said “Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom…” Jesus reply gives us the very first Christian convert and the very first martyr. Surely when Steven was ushered from his own martyrdom and death a few months later – it was this thief who met him along with the resurrected Christ and welcomed Steven to his eternal reward.
About the sixth hour a curious darkness settles over all this macabre scene. The sun itself refused to cast its illumination on the very Creator that stoked its furnaces in the beginning of time. The veil of the temple, refuses to hide its horrible secret and rends itself just as the prison doors open of their own accord to release Peter a few months from this moment. The veil tears itself apart showing that for at least four centuries the Jews had worshipped before a holy of holies completely empty for the glory of the Lord had departed in Josiah’s day never to be seen from that day till this. Back at the hill of execution Jesus’ body wracked in spasms of pain and He cries out – “Father into thy hands I commend My Spirit…” and having thus said He gives up the ghost. Oh my what a scene. What a Savior. What a work has been wrought for you and I that we might call ourselves Christians and followers of a resurrected Lord.
The centurion in charge of the execution squad pauses in his supervision of the grisly death task and realizes that something very different has occurred. He looks into the fading light of biological light in the face of Jesus and declares “surely this is a righteous man, surely this is the son of God…” No one had ever died with the composure and grace demonstrated by the Galilean. Tradition would tell us that this man would go on to take his place as a follower of the way and lay his own life down in martyrdom to the very Christ that he himself had participated in brutalizing and killing.
The people watching are suddenly somber. Their jeers die in their throat. Their gallows humor ceases and for one transfixed moment they have a sense that they have participated and brought upon themselves the blood guiltiness of a crime more horrendous than any other human act in history past or in history to come. The killing fields of Cambodia pale before the atrocity of this day. The 11 millions that died at the hands of Nazi Germany are a mere footnote in the dread shadow of this awful moment. They beat their breasts and depart in single file from the scene, not knowing what tomorrow will hold for them.
From a distance a man named Joseph – we know of Arimethia goes to Pilate and with a bribe arranges for the body of Jesus to be turned over to his care. He lays the broken, lifeless frame into his own tomb and the women who had yet to leave the scene take spices and ointments to prepare the body. The scene leaves us spent. Our minds reel in confusion, utterly confounded by the enormity of what has happened. All of human history from this day forward and this day looking back will be reckoned from this one moment when Heaven’s best paid the price for man’s worst. We are undone. We wait with baited breath not knowing that on the third day all the world would be reborn to a hope beyond comprehension – opening the heavens for you and for me and for all those of like precious faith.
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