Luke 23

In this chapter, Jesus is brought before Pilate; then he is escorted to Herod, who was in town. The crowds shout that Jesus must be crucified. Pilate delivers him over to them. Jesus is crucified, and the one insurrectionist who was crucified with him asked Jesus would remember him after they die. Jesus dies, after he entrusts his spirit to his Father. Joseph of Arimathea buried him. The women who followed him from Galilee were there at the crucifixion and the burial. Please see the table of events during Passion week.

As I write in every chapter:

This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries. I hope it helps them.

The translation is mine. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If readers don’t read Greek, they can ignore the left side of the tables. I include the language to check my work and for Greek readers, who can also check my translation.

If you would like to see other translations, please go to The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.

The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.

Links are provided for further study.

Let’s begin.

Jesus before Pilate (Luke 23:1-5)

1 Καὶ ἀναστὰν ἅπαν τὸ πλῆθος αὐτῶν ἤγαγον αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸν Πιλᾶτον. 2 Ἤρξαντο δὲ κατηγορεῖν αὐτοῦ λέγοντες· τοῦτον εὕραμεν διαστρέφοντα τὸ ἔθνος ἡμῶν καὶ κωλύοντα φόρους Καίσαρι διδόναι καὶ λέγοντα ἑαυτὸν χριστὸν βασιλέα εἶναι. 3 ὁ δὲ Πιλᾶτος ἠρώτησεν αὐτὸν λέγων· σὺ εἶ ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων; ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς αὐτῷ ἔφη· σὺ λέγεις. 4 ὁ δὲ Πιλᾶτος εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ τοὺς ὄχλους· οὐδὲν εὑρίσκω αἴτιον ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τούτῳ. 5 οἱ δὲ ἐπίσχυον λέγοντες ὅτι ἀνασείει τὸν λαὸν διδάσκων καθ’ ὅλης τῆς Ἰουδαίας, καὶ ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἕως ὧδε. 1 Then the whole group of them got up and led him to Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man to be misleading our nation and forbidding them from giving tribute to Caesar and saying of himself that Christ is king.” 3 Pilate asked him, saying, “Are you the king of the Jews?” In reply he said, “You are saying this.” 4 Pilate said to the chief priests and the group, “I find nothing of a legal charge against this man.” 5 But they were persisting, saying, “He is stirring up the people, teaching all the Jews, beginning from Galilee to here.”


Including the final six verses in the previous chapter, we have four different trials (if one can call them that) of Jesus:

(1). The council of the elders (22:66-71);

(2). Before Pilate (23:1-6);

(3). Before Herod (23:7-12);

(4). Before Pilate again (22:13-25) (BTSB, p. 1879).

Garland (p. 916) sees Jesus’s crucifixion and death in four sections, each with a statement by Jesus:

1.. On the way to the cross, with Jesus’s lament over the mourning women (23:28-31).

2.. The crucifixion, with Jesus’s request to forgive the perpetrators (23:39-43).

3.. On the cross: the mockery, with Jesus’s announcement to the repentant criminal that he will be with him in paradise (23:39-43).

4.. His death, with Jesus entrusting his spirit to the Father (23:46).


Pilate: The Christian creeds remember him as the governor under whom Jesus Christ suffered (1 Tim. 6:13) (see the Apostles Creed). The NT calls him governor while other sources call him prefect (his official title). Pontius was his nomen (tribal name) and Pilate was his cognomen (family name). His praenomen (personal name) is nowhere recorded. He came to power in A.D. 26. He was an anti-Semite. He brought into Jerusalem the insignia of the Roman military bearing the image of Caesar. He planted armed Roman soldiers, disguised as civilians, among the populace. This may have been the historical occasion for Luke 13:1, which says that Pilate mingled Galilean blood with their sacrifices. It is surprising then that he felt pressure from the Jewish authorities to put Jesus to death. However, he could have believed his position in the empire was precarious; John 19:12 says that if he released Jesus, he would be no friend of Caesar. The NT writers were eager to show that he was innocent in regards to Roman law. Yet the only way the Jewish Council could convict Jesus was to accuse him of claiming to be king. Finally, Pilate’s name does not appear in Judea after A.D. 36/37, and this indicates he was removed shortly after he slaughtered Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim (Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary).


Bock says that the leading Jews accused him of three accusations (pp. 1810-1811).

(1). They charged him with misleading the nation. Answer to the charge, from his point of view:

46 Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 Everyone coming to me and hearing my words and acting on them—I’ll show you what he is like: 48 He is like the person who builds a house and dug deep and established the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river burst upon that house, but was not strong enough to shake it because it was built well. 49 But the one hearing and not acting is like the person building a house on the ground without a foundation. The river burst on it and immediately it collapsed, and how great was the crash of that house! (Luke 6:46-49)

Jesus was doing the exact opposite of misleading the nation. He was in fact leading them away from oppressive laws and traditions piled up by the religious establishment. He was leading them to a relationship with the Father. Instead, it was the Jerusalem establishment who were misleading the nation—leading them right into judgment.

(2). As to the charge that he forbad them from paying tribute to Caesar:

22 Is it lawful to give tribute tax to Caesar or not?” 23 He detected their craftiness and said to them. 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Therefore give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 26 Then they were unable to catch him in his word in front of the people, and marveling at his answer, they fell silent. (Luke 20:22-26)

(3). The third charge—that he was the Anointed One—was true, but not in the sense that Jews thought—to be an earthly king.

The first accusation was dependent on the point of view of either side. The second one was an outright lie. The accusers brought it up because the charge of blasphemy in a Jewish context was insufficient for the Romans. The Jewish legal authorities had lost the right to execute people. They needed Rome’s permission.


Pilate asked a fair question, but Jesus was ambiguous. Why? He wanted to allow the falsehoods to pile up. When people cannot spot the truth but are arrogant and powerful, they are often victims of divine irony. Irony is this: you think you know, but you do not; you are actually ignorant. When you add a religious component to it, it become “divine irony.”

Evidently, Jesus intended (1) to let the false accusations fly, so the religious establishment would sink deeper into guilt before God and justly incur his judgment; and (2) the divine plan had to be fulfilled; Pilate had to condemn him to death.

Pilate asked him whether Jesus was the king of the Jews, and he answered honestly, without making a big issue of it: “You are saying so.” This is an oblique answer that says, “Yes,” but Pilate was too dull to understand it. So Jesus is playing with the ambiguity in the word king: (a) A Caesar-like king who conquers the world with the military and compels allegiance with bodily threats; (b) a heavenly king who conquers humanity’s heart with the gospel who persuades humanity to have allegiance with love. Jesus fits the second definition. He really was the king of the Jews, but in a spiritual sense, in the new kingdom that God was ushering in. This new kingdom has links to the kingdom God set up over Israel, but now it was entering a new phase, with King Jesus at its head. But the Roman governor and his accusers did not see it. Spiritual and moral blindness.

As to Jesus’s silence, let’s quote these verses. Peter summarizes Jesus’s demeanor before the authorities:

 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet. 2:21-23, ESV)

Now let’s turn to the remarkable verse in Isaiah’s accurate prophecy.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. (Is. 53:7, ESV)

However, he did make a confession before the high priests, chief priests and the elders of the people, quoting Ps. 110:1 and Dan. 7:13 (Matt. 26:64). So let’s not overinterpret the silence here. It simply means he did not put up a defense or give a long speech, say, as Paul will do in Acts.

But Pilate did “exceedingly” marvel at it, because no doubt he had heard many trials when the courtroom erupted in words.

Jesus was in fact about to become king of the whole world, at his resurrection and ascension. However, in no place in Luke’s Gospel does he proclaim himself king by words. He does this symbolically, here:

37 He was already approaching the descent of the Mount of Olives, and the entire crowd of disciples celebrated and began to praise God with a loud voice about all the miracles they saw, 38 saying,

“Blessed is the one coming,
the king, in the name of the Lord, [Ps. 118:26]
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 And some of the Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, scold your disciples!” 40 He replied, saying, “I tell you, if these people kept quiet, the stones would cry out!” (Luke 19:37-40)

He does not stop the crowds from shouting honor and praise. The whole episode refers to Zechariah’s prophecy:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zech. 9:9, ESV)

However, it was the people who proclaimed him king, a seditious act from the establishment’s point of view, but never from his own words.

The religious accusers and Pilate were confused, not having a clear picture. Pilate must have concluded that Jesus was a “harmless enthusiast”; he did not fit the profile of a king plotting to overthrow Rome or Judea run by Rome (Bock, citing the early commentator Plummer, p. 1812). So Jesus was letting them stew in their ignorance and false and incomplete accusations. They may have caught on that he claimed to be the Messiah and Son of God, but they knew by their own wisdom that his could not be true. He didn’t fit their profile or job description. But they were deeply ignorant.

Let divine irony play out, Jesus seems to say.


Garland says (comment on 23:4) that Luke is careful to emphasize Jesus’s innocence:

1.. Pilate declare Jesus innocent (23:4, 14, 22)

2.. Herod agrees with Pilate’s assessment (23:15)

3.. Jesus ≠ Barabbas, an insurrectionist (23:18-19, 25)

4.. Jesus is crucified with criminals, and one declares that they alone are guilty of the charge, but Jesus is not guilty (23:41)

5.. The centurion declares Jesus righteous (23:47)

6.. Joseph of Arimathea, described as a good and righteous man and open to the kingdom, a member of the Sanhedrin, did not consent to the verdict.

7.. The righteousness (innocence) of Jesus is affirmed throughout Acts (3:14; 7:52; 13:28).

Pilate’s pronouncement that he could see no legal basis on which to condemn him to death was risky. The Jerusalem establishment saw the weakness, so they had to push the political angle. Jesus said he was a king. How can a king exist without permission from Rome? It was seditious. It is better to eliminate him from Pilate’s “to-do” list and order him executed.

“chief priests”: Please learn more about them here:

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts


There is a lot of meaning in the verb “stirring up.” It has connotations of a revolution: shaking up, movement, instability. Does Pilate want instability in his governorship? What would Rome think?

“teaching all the Jews.” So we have jealousy about numbers. The teachers of the law did not have his success. And there is also their belief that his teaching was misleading the entire nation. “stirring up” means that they believe he is leading an insurrection or at least not following Pax Romana or Roman Peace.

GrowApp for Luke 23:1-6

A.. Read Rev. 12:10-11. The devil is the accuser of the brothers and sisters. How do you defeat him? Do his accusations have power over you, or has the devil been defeated?

Jesus before Herod (Luke 23:6-12)

6 Πιλᾶτος δὲ ἀκούσας ἐπηρώτησεν εἰ ὁ ἄνθρωπος Γαλιλαῖός ἐστιν, 7 καὶ ἐπιγνοὺς ὅτι ἐκ τῆς ἐξουσίας Ἡρῴδου ἐστὶν ἀνέπεμψεν αὐτὸν πρὸς Ἡρῴδην, ὄντα καὶ αὐτὸν ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις ἐν ταύταις ταῖς ἡμέραις. 8 Ὁ δὲ Ἡρῴδης ἰδὼν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐχάρη λίαν, ἦν γὰρ ἐξ ἱκανῶν χρόνων θέλων ἰδεῖν αὐτὸν διὰ τὸ ἀκούειν περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἤλπιζέν τι σημεῖον ἰδεῖν ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ γινόμενον. 9 ἐπηρώτα δὲ αὐτὸν ἐν λόγοις ἱκανοῖς, αὐτὸς δὲ οὐδὲν ἀπεκρίνατο αὐτῷ. 10 εἱστήκεισαν δὲ οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς εὐτόνως κατηγοροῦντες αὐτοῦ. 11 ἐξουθενήσας δὲ αὐτὸν [καὶ] ὁ Ἡρῴδης σὺν τοῖς στρατεύμασιν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐμπαίξας περιβαλὼν ἐσθῆτα λαμπρὰν ἀνέπεμψεν αὐτὸν τῷ Πιλάτῳ. 12 ἐγένοντο δὲ φίλοι ὅ τε Ἡρῴδης καὶ ὁ Πιλᾶτος ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ μετ’ ἀλλήλων· προϋπῆρχον γὰρ ἐν ἔχθρᾳ ὄντες πρὸς αὐτούς. 6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean; 7 knowing that Herod had this jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem for these festival days. 8 And when Herod saw Jesus, he was really thrilled, because for a long time he was wanting to see him since he heard about him and was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 He questioned him with many words, but he did not answer him at all. 10 The chief priests and teachers of the law had been standing there accusing him vigorously. 11 After Herod treated him contemptuously, along with his soldiers, and ridiculed him and threw elegant clothes around him, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 Herod and Pilate became friends with each other on that day; previously they had been enemies towards each other.



Pilate was “passing the buck.” Pilate’s wife had suffered in a dream that Pilate should have nothing to do with Jesus (Matt. 27:19). This explains why Pilate was so hesitant. No doubt he too had heard about the miracles that Jesus did. Pilate was nervous about the whole episode.


Herod Antipas was a son of Herod the Great. He ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD. Herod had heard about everything that was going on when Jesus was ministering in Galilee. He was perplexed because maybe John the Baptist had been raised from the dead, whom Herod had already beheaded (Luke 9:7-9). A report came from the Pharisees to Jesus that Herod was seeking to kill him. Herod wished to kill Jesus (13:31). Jesus replied by calling him an old fox, not a compliment (Luke 13:32). Jesus was not going to die prematurely.

I really like how Jesus was completely silent before this insincere inquisitor. Jesus was no circus juggler who did tricks on command. This is a lesson for the really charismatic healers who believe they can command the gift of healing whenever they want. Don’t be a circus clown for other people. God loves people, and when he chooses to meet their needs because he sees faith in them, he will tell you. Don’t step out on your own as if you can get a word of knowledge every single time. This is much too self-dependent, lording over the gifts from God. God gives the gift, you don’t ginger them up.

Herod was dissatisfied with the silence. He mocked Jesus and treated him with contempt. His soldiers joined in. Then he put elegant clothes on him, just out of spite and mockery. Now we know that Herod must have asked Jesus whether he was a king, and the Jews were vehemently or vigorously accusing him of this sedition.

Why was Jesus silent and not throw off the robe? It would have done no good, for the soldiers would have forced him to wear them. Also, he again was allowing these political rulers to pile up their injustices, so their own judgment would be strong. If the Roman and Jewish establishments were so unjust, then judgment on Jerusalem would be all the more justified. Political leaders swimming around in divine irony and use their “fake or seeming knowledge” or ignorance as a weapon incur a greater judgment.

“chief priests”:

“teachers of the law” (some translations call them “scribes”):

See this post for more comments.

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts


The NET translator and commentator says that Pilate and Herod may have become friends on the death of Pilate’s superior, named Sejanus. Apparently Sejanus had been anti-Jewish, and so Pilate had been treating the Jews insensitively. Herod had a Jewish background.

GrowApp for Luke 23:6-12

A.. Read Rom. 13:1-5. We are supposed to treat rulers with respect, but do we have to follow every word when it is unjust? How do we decide?

Jesus Sentenced to Die (Luke 23:13-25)

13 Πιλᾶτος δὲ συγκαλεσάμενος τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ τοὺς ἄρχοντας καὶ τὸν λαὸν 14 εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς· προσηνέγκατέ μοι τὸν ἄνθρωπον τοῦτον ὡς ἀποστρέφοντα τὸν λαόν, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐνώπιον ὑμῶν ἀνακρίνας οὐθὲν εὗρον ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τούτῳ αἴτιον ὧν κατηγορεῖτε κατ’ αὐτοῦ. 15 ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ Ἡρῴδης, ἀνέπεμψεν γὰρ αὐτὸν πρὸς ἡμᾶς, καὶ ἰδοὺ οὐδὲν ἄξιον θανάτου ἐστὶν πεπραγμένον αὐτῷ· 16 παιδεύσας οὖν αὐτὸν ἀπολύσω. 18 Ἀνέκραγον δὲ παμπληθεὶ λέγοντες· αἶρε τοῦτον, ἀπόλυσον δὲ ἡμῖν τὸν Βαραββᾶν· 19 ὅστις ἦν διὰ στάσιν τινὰ γενομένην ἐν τῇ πόλει καὶ φόνον βληθεὶς ἐν τῇ φυλακῇ. 20 πάλιν δὲ ὁ Πιλᾶτος προσεφώνησεν αὐτοῖς θέλων ἀπολῦσαι τὸν Ἰησοῦν. 21 οἱ δὲ ἐπεφώνουν λέγοντες· σταύρου σταύρου αὐτόν. 22 ὁ δὲ τρίτον εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς· τί γὰρ κακὸν ἐποίησεν οὗτος; οὐδὲν αἴτιον θανάτου εὗρον ἐν αὐτῷ· παιδεύσας οὖν αὐτὸν ἀπολύσω. 23 οἱ δὲ ἐπέκειντο φωναῖς μεγάλαις αἰτούμενοι αὐτὸν σταυρωθῆναι, καὶ κατίσχυον αἱ φωναὶ αὐτῶν. 24 Καὶ Πιλᾶτος ἐπέκρινεν γενέσθαι τὸ αἴτημα αὐτῶν· 25 ἀπέλυσεν δὲ τὸν διὰ στάσιν καὶ φόνον βεβλημένον εἰς φυλακὴν ὃν ᾐτοῦντο, τὸν δὲ Ἰησοῦν παρέδωκεν τῷ θελήματι αὐτῶν. 13 Then Pilate summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as someone misleading the people. And look! I have examined him before you and found in this man no legal cause of which you have accused him! 15 But then neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us! Look! I have found that there is nothing deserving of death done by him! 16 Therefore, after I have punished him, I will release him! 17 [For it was a requirement to release one person to them during the Passover festival.] 18 But they yelled in unison, saying, “Away with that one! Release Barabbas to us! 19 (Because of an insurrection that happened in the city and a murder, he was the one thrown in prison.) 20 But Pilate again addressed them, wanting to release Jesus. 21 But they shouted, saying, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “But what wrong has he done? I have found no legal cause for death in regards to him. Therefore, after I punish him, I will release him!” 23 But they pressed the matter with a loud voice, demanding that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 Then Pilate decided that their demand be done. 25 He released the one who had been thrown in prison because of the insurrection and murder, whom they were demanding, but he handed Jesus over to their will.



This scene is tragic and awful, full of injustice and bitterness and blindness against the most just man–the Messiah–who ever lived. It was a wrong decision based on a shouting match. Pilate was weak, but the Father was behind the scenes, orchestrating the push for his Son to die. But none of this exonerates the foolish mob (or him). Their hearts had been hard and filled with injustice and moral blindness. God simply allowed their hearts to drink the full cup of their preconditioned unrighteousness. In other words, they were unrighteous before the trial began and were part of the opponents. For all we know, they may have been part of the temple complex, including the families of the money-changers whose tables he had overturned.

The crowd was mixed with the people of Jerusalem and Judea in the south and the people of Galilee in the north. Generally, the southerners did not like the Galileans. This explains why some of the crowd turned against Jesus—they were likely from the south.

This leads us to the question: How many were shouting in favor of crucifixion? It was not the whole city, for the people liked Jesus, but it was enough of a crowd to shout so loudly that they prevailed or dominated the outcome.

The guilty man (Barabbas) goes free, while the innocent one (Jesus) suffers for the guilty one. This is a perfect picture of penal substitution of the atonement.

What Is Penal Substitution?

Christ’s Death on Cross = Cosmic Child Abuse?

“After I have punished him” means after Jesus was flogged. Matt. 27:26 and Mark 15:15 say that Pilate did have Jesus scourged or flogged. So here in Luke the clause could be translated as “after having flogged him,” as if it had already been done.

A sidebar comment on verse 17. It is in brackets because apparently it is not in the best manuscripts or because the text editors decided it was an explanatory gloss that was not original at that spot in the manuscripts. But I translated it anyway. You can decide what to do with it.

To wrap up this section, Pilate was weak probably because, as noted, his superior Sejanus, who was anti-Jewish, had died recently, and Pilate softened up a little towards the Jews. He wanted to please them, and right now what pleased them was Jesus’s execution, or so it seemed to Pilate.

“chief priests”:

See this link for more comments:

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts

Bock reminds us that there are four stages of crucifixion: (1) carrying the crossbeam on the way to the main stake already embedded in the ground, so when the crossbeam was fixed to it, the horizontal and vertical beams were shaped either as a capital T or the more common depiction: ┼. (2) The condemned person would be fixed to the crossbeam either by a rope or by nails (or spikes). John 20:25 says nails or spikes, and Luke 24:40 implies it. (3) The cross was raised by forked poles and fastened to the vertical pole. It thudded into the hole, and the accused man was raised high enough to get no support from his feet. (4) A tablet (titulus in Latin) was fastened to the pole or even hung around the neck of the accused, to expose his crime and teach the passersby a lesson. Jesus’s tablet revealed his “crime”: “king of the Jews”; that is, he was a rebel against Rome. (p. 1831).

GrowApp for Luke 23:13-25

A.. Barabbas the guilty one went free, while Jesus the innocent one paid the penalty. Study 2 Cor. 5:21. How does this speak of the Great Exchange?

The Crucifixion of Jesus (Luke 23:26-43)

26 Καὶ ὡς ἀπήγαγον αὐτόν, ἐπιλαβόμενοι Σίμωνά τινα Κυρηναῖον ἐρχόμενον ἀπ’ ἀγροῦ ἐπέθηκαν αὐτῷ τὸν σταυρὸν φέρειν ὄπισθεν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ. 27 Ἠκολούθει δὲ αὐτῷ πολὺ πλῆθος τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ γυναικῶν αἳ ἐκόπτοντο καὶ ἐθρήνουν αὐτόν. 28 στραφεὶς δὲ πρὸς αὐτὰς [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· θυγατέρες Ἰερουσαλήμ, μὴ κλαίετε ἐπ’ ἐμέ· πλὴν ἐφ’ ἑαυτὰς κλαίετε καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν, 29 ὅτι ἰδοὺ ἔρχονται ἡμέραι ἐν αἷς ἐροῦσιν· μακάριαι αἱ στεῖραι καὶ αἱ κοιλίαι αἳ οὐκ ἐγέννησαν καὶ μαστοὶ οἳ οὐκ ἔθρεψαν. 30 τότε ἄρξονται

λέγειν τοῖς ὄρεσιν· πέσετε ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς, καὶ τοῖς βουνοῖς· καλύψατε ἡμᾶς·

31 ὅτι εἰ ἐν τῷ ὑγρῷ ξύλῳ ταῦτα ποιοῦσιν, ἐν τῷ ξηρῷ τί γένηται;

32 Ἤγοντο δὲ καὶ ἕτεροι κακοῦργοι δύο σὺν αὐτῷ ἀναιρεθῆναι. 33 Καὶ ὅτε ἦλθον ἐπὶ τὸν τόπον τὸν καλούμενον Κρανίον, ἐκεῖ ἐσταύρωσαν αὐτὸν καὶ τοὺς κακούργους, ὃν μὲν ἐκ δεξιῶν ὃν δὲ ἐξ ἀριστερῶν. 34 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἔλεγεν· πάτερ, ἄφες αὐτοῖς, οὐ γὰρ οἴδασιν τί ποιοῦσιν. διαμεριζόμενοι δὲ τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ἔβαλον κλήρους.

35 Καὶ εἱστήκει ὁ λαὸς θεωρῶν. ἐξεμυκτήριζον δὲ καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες λέγοντες· ἄλλους ἔσωσεν, σωσάτω ἑαυτόν, εἰ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ ἐκλεκτός. 36 ἐνέπαιξαν δὲ αὐτῷ καὶ οἱ στρατιῶται προσερχόμενοι, ὄξος προσφέροντες αὐτῷ 37 καὶ λέγοντες· εἰ σὺ εἶ ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων, σῶσον σεαυτόν. 38 ἦν δὲ καὶ ἐπιγραφὴ ἐπ’ αὐτῷ·

ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων οὗτος.

39 Εἷς δὲ τῶν κρεμασθέντων κακούργων ἐβλασφήμει αὐτὸν λέγων· οὐχὶ σὺ εἶ ὁ χριστός; σῶσον σεαυτὸν καὶ ἡμᾶς. 40 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ ἕτερος ἐπιτιμῶν αὐτῷ ἔφη· οὐδὲ φοβῇ σὺ τὸν θεόν, ὅτι ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ κρίματι εἶ; 41 καὶ ἡμεῖς μὲν δικαίως, ἄξια γὰρ ὧν ἐπράξαμεν ἀπολαμβάνομεν· οὗτος δὲ οὐδὲν ἄτοπον ἔπραξεν. 42 καὶ ἔλεγεν· Ἰησοῦ, μνήσθητί μου ὅταν ἔλθῃς εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν σου. 43 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἀμήν σοι λέγω, σήμερον μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἔσῃ ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ.

26 Then as they led him away, they seized Simon of Cyrene coming from the field and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. 27 A great crowd of people were following him, and women were beating their breasts and mourning him. 28 Jesus turned towards them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me. But you will weep for yourselves and for your children 29 because, watch! The days are coming when you will say, ‘Blessed are the women who are barren and the wombs that have not birthed or whose breasts have not nursed.’ 30 Then they will begin

“to say to the mountains,
‘Fall upon us!’ and the hills ‘cover us!’”

31 Because if they do this to green wood, what would happen to dry wood?”

32 Now two other criminals were being brought to be executed with him. 33 And when they came to the place called “the Skull,” there they crucified him and the criminals, one on the right, the other on the left. 34 Jesus proceeded to say, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.” After they divided up the garments, they cast lots for them. [Ps. 22:19]

35 The people were standing and observing. The rulers were sneering, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Messiah of God, the Chosen One!” 36 Even the soldiers were ridiculing him and approaching and offering him sour wine, 37 saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was in fact a sign above him,

‘This man was the king of the Jews.’

39 One of the criminals who had been hung there was slandering him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 The other one responded, rebuking him, and said, “Don’t you fear God, because you are under the same condemnation? 41 We are getting paid back justly, getting what we deserve for the things we’ve done. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he began to say, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth: Today you will be with me in paradise!”



Simon the Cyrenian is a better translation. He was coming from the agricultural field where he was working. Cyrene is in N. Africa, where Tripoli is. Mark 15:21 identifies him as the father of Alexander and Rufus. Paul wrote: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well” (Rom. 16:13, ESV). How did Mark know who Rufus was? No doubt he met him in the Christian community in Rome. Recall that Peter arrived there, and Mark assisted Peter in putting together Peter’s preaching. I can easily imagine that Rufus liked to say, “My dad carried the beam for Jesus! That’s right!” However, all this is no more than a possibility, because Rufus was a popular name among Jews who wanted to Latinize their Hebrew name Reuben.

The soldiers made him carry the cross beam. The upright or vertical beam was already there at the place of crucifixion.

Jewish and Roman Writers on the Death of Jesus

1 Mara bar Serapion (c. AD 73): “For what advantage did … the Jews [gain] by the death of their wise king, because from that time their kingdom was taken away?”
2 Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.3: “Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified.”
3 Agapius Book of Titles (summarizing Josephus): “Pilate condemned him to be crucified.”
4 Tacitus, Annals 15.44 (c. AD 110-20): This name [i.e. Christian] originates from ‘Christus’ who was sentenced to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.”
5 Babylonian Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin 43a: “On the eve of the Passover they hanged Jesus the Nazarene. And a herald went out in front of him, for forty days, saying: ‘He is going to be stoned, because he practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead on his behalf.’ But not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover.”
Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996), p. 1843. Bock wrote these summaries before the web was up and running and well known, but now you can find them all over the web, on reputable videos and websites.

Most scholars I have read about the reference in Josephus (no. 2) conclude that the core of his record is right, though later Christians embellished it. Bock preserves the core. It is obvious that all of these writers differ greatly in the details, which is natural enough since they wrote at different times and in different places, but they all agree that Jesus lived and died.


A large crowd of onlookers followed behind. It is probable that his mother Mary was there, and so were the women from Galilee (Luke 8:2-3; 23:49). In v. 27, many felt sympathy for Jesus. Morris: “We should bear in mind that those who clamored for Jesus’ execution were not necessarily a great number; they could crowd around the judgment hall. There were still many in Jerusalem who admired Jesus and we now learn of some of these” (p. 343). Also, many pilgrims came from Galilee, where he ministered the most. They particularly felt sympathy for him.

Jesus is re-prophesying the judgment on Jerusalem that he had predicted in Luke 21:21-24:

“Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains and those inside it must get out and those in the countryside must not enter it, 22 because these are the days of judgment, fulfilling everything that has been written. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and are nursing in those days! For there shall be great distress upon the country and wrath upon this people. 24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword and be taken captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trampled on by the nations until the times of the nations shall be completed” (Luke 21:21-24)

The women in the crowd must actually weep for themselves, because judgment is coming on Jerusalem and the temple, and if they are within a short radius of them, then they will suffer bad things mentioned in those verses.

In v. 31 Jesus offers an enigmatic statement, but basically it means the following. If they (Judaism and the Jerusalem establishment) have judged him (the green or damp wood) like this, then how much more will the old dry wood (Judaism and Jerusalem) be judged? It speaks of worse things to come. Jesus was just; Judaism and the Jerusalem establishment were unjust.

It vaguely and obliquely hearkens back to the old wineskin contrasted with the new wineskin. Jesus was the new, and it can handle the new things of God, while a hardened old skin will burst if new wine, which ferments and expands, is stored in it (Luke 5:36-39). Here in a completely different context and purpose, Jesus is the green wood, and Judaism is the dry wood. But here the outcomes are as follows. The green wood was bent without breaking; Judaism and the temple are about to bend and break.

Garland says that the proverb means: “something far worse can be expected to happen to those deserving of punishment (see Prov. 11:31).” “These things” refers to what was being done to Christ, as the true green tree or moist wood. The “what” is done to dry wood is in the passive, so one could see it as the divine passive. Then Garland lays out the options for interpreting it:

(1).. If they treated Jesus in this way, then how can the Jerusalemites expect to be treated?

(2).. If God has not spared his innocent Son of such treatment, then would he spare a sinful nation when God “unleashes his righteous wrath upon it [by permitting the Romans to destroy Jerusalem]?” This happened in AD 70, when the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed its temple.

(3).. If it refers to Romans mistreating Jesus, whom the governor declared to be innocent (Luke 23:4, 14, 22), then the latter clause means: “What will they do to those who rebel against them and are guilty?” (p. 920). Presumably this means the people of Jerusalem when they come under judgment in AD 70. Or it could refer to those really are guilty, like the criminals on the cross (23:41). But the problem is that the criminals are also crucified, so the punishment is the same. But I’m not clear about the third option because it looks like the second one. Come to think of it, the first and second options look alike too! So it looks like my initial commentary is on target.

Bock has more options (pp. 1847-48).

Liefeld and Pao: “Fire spreads much more rapidly through a dry forest than through a wet one; so Jesus’s words in v. 31 warn of a situation in the future even worse than the events surrounding his crucifixion” (comment on 27-31).

Stein: “In light of the use of the third person plural [they] as a circumlocution for God in 6:38; 12:20, 48; 16:9, the most likely interpretation is If God has not spared his innocent Son from such tribulation [by permitting his crucifixion], how much worse will it be for a sinful nation when God unleashes his righteous wrath upon it [by permitting the Romans to destroy Jerusalem]” (comment on v. 31, emphasis original).


These verses move us along to the new scene. They have reached the place outside of Jerusalem called ‘the Skull.’ Now we learn of two more (unnamed) criminals. Luke calls them by the generic name “wrong-doers” or “evil doers” (kakourgos, pronounced kah-koor-goss). However, Matt. 27:38 and Mark 15:27 call them lēstēs (pronounced layss-tayss) and means, depending on the context: “robber, highwayman, bandit … revolutionary insurrectionist.” Barabbas was called a lēstēs (John 18:40). Verse 18 says that Barabbas participated in an insurrection. For all we know, Barabbas knew these two men, and they knew him.

This scene goes back to another prophecy of Jesus: “For I tell you that it is necessary that what was written be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the lawless’” (Luke 22:37, referring to Is. 53:12).


This is one of the most enlightening and marvelous verses in all of the Bible. Right after the horizontal beam was attached to the vertical one, and right after the cross thudded into the hole, and after Jesus surveyed the whole scene, with soldiers standing around, he asked Father God to forgive them: his unjust judges and his executioners. It challenges us to forgive those who have hurt us the most, particularly those in our family and friends.

In the Lord’s Model Prayer:

“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4).
“Pardon, and you shall be pardoned” (Luke 6:37).
“And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).
“But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15).

It is simply a requirement–a commandment–that you forgive people.

Let’s explore the deep and liberating truth of forgiveness.

it comes from the verb aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it. Clearly the most significant definition in this context is the second one and the Shorter Lexicon’s. It means to forgive.

Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)

And these great verses are from Micah:

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)

What Is Biblical Forgiveness?

Dividing up his clothes by lot refers to Ps. 22:18:

18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment. (Ps. 22:18, NIV)

Messianic Prophecies

At that link, there is a long table of quoted verses in the OT and NT. But Jesus fulfills more than just quoted verses. He also fulfills themes and patterns and types and shadows, like the entire sacrificial system.


These verses are about sneering from the onlookers. They are ignorant, but they think they know. That’s what irony means.

Comic irony: In the 1960s sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, Col. Klink brags that there has never been a successful escape from Stalag Thirteen. The truth: there are all kinds of escapes and they successfully accomplish their missions. Stalag Thirteen is like “Mole City” under his feet.

Tragic irony: King Oedipus believes he is wise, and he will investigate why a plague is attacking Thebes. But he is ignorant of the fact that he is the cause, until later on in the play. He learns the truth too late. It is tragic.

A biblical example is Job and his friends. They were trying to figure out why Job met with disasters, and though they had a small level of understanding—and the poetry is beautiful—they really did not know as much as their confidence allowed. God showed up on the scene and told them so.

Divine irony of the wise and powerful: In the same way, these religious rulers don’t understand Scripture, like Is. 53 and the Suffering Servant. They don’t know that he is about to be resurrected, which is his vindication. They are ignorant, and sneeringly ignorant. This is worse than comedic boasts and ignorance!

In v. 35, the verb literally means “turning up (their) noses.” But it is best to translate it as “sneering.” The rulers sneer because they expected the Messiah would storm Jerusalem and blow every enemy away. But here he is on the cross. “What a loser!” they thought. But they could not put two-and-two together. Is. 53 talks about the suffering Messiah.

The soldiers offered him sour wine or vinegar, which evidently lessened the pain. It refers to Ps. 69:21: “And for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink” (ESV).

Further verses in this Psalm perfectly summarize the blindness of the religious leaders:

Let their own table before them become a snare;
and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.
23 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, (Ps. 69:22-23, ESV)


For they persecute him whom you have struck down,
and they recount the pain of those you have wounded. (Ps. 69:26, ESV)

This section of Ps. 69 speaks of God punishing those who persecute the righteous. It may make the soft-hearted squeamish but look at this idea more theologically. God is the God of justice (not irrational vengeance), and he cannot deny who he is. Yes, he will forgive those who repent, but there is no evidence that these men repented, except one soldier and those with him (Matt. 27:54). God was going to visit on Jerusalem and the temple judgment, which happened in A.D. 70. See Luke 21:5-33 for a thorough discussion of this judgment.

Luke 21:5-33 Predicts Destruction of Jerusalem and Temple

Also see:

Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 and 17 in Parallel Columns Are Finally Clear


Now we have a study in contrasts. The one criminal is hardened and selfish. Expanded “translation”: “Come on, come on! Aren’t you the Messiah? We’re with you, man! We understand your cause. Save yourself by working some sort of miracle! And save us and join our cause! Or we’ll join your cause!” Once again, popular opinion expected the Messiah to blow away every enemy of Israel.

Matt. 27:44 // Mark 15:32 are silent about whether either of the two criminals repent, but in my opinion, one of them changed his mind, when he saw Jesus and was impressed with him. So at first he mocked Jesus, but changed.

In contrast, the repentant criminal looked at this life and wondered how he got here. It is said that the gallows focus the mind. The cross focused his mind. He realized what was coming—death. He asked for forgiveness, when he asked Jesus to remember him when he got into paradise. He repented. He did not need water baptism. Jesus said that he would be with him in paradise. This statement contradicts the doctrine that soul sleep happens after we die. Sleeping in all NT passages that speak of death is simply a metaphor for death. It’s a great image, because when we die, we appear to sleep as our body lies in the coffin, but our spirit or soul is very much alive and not sleeping. We are awake, even though our body is dead.

The word paradise is used only three times in the NT: Here, 2 Cor. 12:4; and Rev. 2:7. Paradise is thought to be a compartment next to the place of torment in Hades, in the underworld. Luke 16:19-31 is about the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Lazarus was in a place of bliss in Abraham’s bosom, while the rich man was being in fiery torment.

Rich Man and Lazarus: True Events or Just a Parable?

However, Paul was lifted up to paradise, which he called the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-3). Then Rev. 2:7 says that the tree of life is in the paradise of God, and Rev. 22:2 say the tree of life is in heaven. It is an over-interpretation to say that paradise was once a blissful compartment in some sort of underworld, and then God somehow moved it up into heaven. It is better to streamline our interpretation and say that paradise was always heaven.

Therefore, in John’s theology, paradise = heaven

Therefore, in Paul’s theology, paradise = heaven.

And now, therefore, in my theology, paradise = heaven

What about the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31)? After the poor man Lazarus died, he was in Abraham’s bosom, which may or may not be paradise. Some interpreters say it was not paradise or heaven, but this is just a story element that appears in similar stories around the Greater Middle East, in which two people can communicate from a blissful place and a place of torment. Others say the story is real, and they build an elaborate theology of the afterlife on it. So either Lazarus went to Abraham’s side / heaven / paradise, or he went to a temporary “holding place” until Jesus rescued him at his resurrection. I prefer the simpler version: this is merely a story element.

Once again:

Rich Man and Lazarus: True Events or Just a Parable?

Here’s the bottom line, based on 2 Cor. 12:4 and Rev. 2:7, 22:2: paradise = heaven.

Bible Basics about Heaven

In v. 42 Luke introduces the readers to the kingdom of God. The repentant insurrectionist did not know what the kingdom of God was, but here he seems to believe that it was a heavenly existence.

So let’s recall what the kingdom is in a generic way.

As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).

It also includes the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary said that Jesus and his kingdom were bringing to the world. The powerful and people of high status are brought low, while the humble and those of low status are raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the right-side-up kingdom, but upside-down from a worldly perspective. Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.

Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.

Bible Basics about the Kingdom of God

Questions and Answers about Kingdom of God

Basic Definition of Kingdom of God

1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)

“I tell you the truth”: Truth comes from the word amēn (pronounced ah-main and comes into English as amen). It expresses the authority of the one who utters it. The Hebrew root ’mn means faithfulness, reliability and certainty. It could be translated as “truly I tell you” or I tell you with certainty.” Jesus’s faith in his own words is remarkable and points to his unique calling. In the OT and later Jewish writings is indicates a solemn pronouncement. It means we must pay attention to it, for it is authoritative. He is about to declare an important and solemn message or statement. The clause appears only on the lips of Jesus.

Word Study: Truth

In this case, the clause “I tell you the truth” appears often in Luke and it introduces the pronouncement. The word “today” comes after the introduction to the solemn pronouncement: “I tell you the truth: today you will be with me in paradise.” It would be a mistranslation to write: “I tell you the truth today: you will be with me in paradise.” Nowhere else does Jesus ever say something like that in his use of the clause “I tell you the truth.”

Grow App for Luke 23:26-43

A.. Verse 34 shows Jesus forgiving his executioners and the authorities. Read Matt. 6:15. Are you willing to forgive others who have mistreated you? How do you become willing?

B.. The second insurrectionist was promised paradise. How did he secure Jesus’s promise? Are you ready to go to heaven? How did you get yourself ready?

The Death of Jesus (Luke 23:44-49)

44 Καὶ ἦν ἤδη ὡσεὶ ὥρα ἕκτη καὶ σκότος ἐγένετο ἐφ’ ὅλην τὴν γῆν ἕως ὥρας ἐνάτης 45 τοῦ ἡλίου ἐκλιπόντος, ἐσχίσθη δὲ τὸ καταπέτασμα τοῦ ναοῦ μέσον. 46 καὶ φωνήσας φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· πάτερ, εἰς χεῖράς σου παρατίθεμαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου. τοῦτο δὲ εἰπὼν ἐξέπνευσεν. 47 Ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ ἑκατοντάρχης τὸ γενόμενον ἐδόξαζεν τὸν θεὸν λέγων· ὄντως ὁ ἄνθρωπος οὗτος δίκαιος ἦν. 48 καὶ πάντες οἱ συμπαραγενόμενοι ὄχλοι ἐπὶ τὴν θεωρίαν ταύτην, θεωρήσαντες τὰ γενόμενα, τύπτοντες τὰ στήθη ὑπέστρεφον. 49 Εἱστήκεισαν δὲ πάντες οἱ γνωστοὶ αὐτῷ ἀπὸ μακρόθεν καὶ γυναῖκες αἱ συνακολουθοῦσαι αὐτῷ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ὁρῶσαι ταῦτα.  44 And it was already the sixth hour, and darkness came on the whole land until the ninth hour 45 when the sun grew dark, and then the curtain in the temple was torn in the middle. 46 Jesus cried out loudly and said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit!” [“s. 31:6] On saying this, he expired. 47 When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “This man was righteous!” 48 And all the crowds coming together at this sight and observing what happened turned and beat their chests. 49 All of his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee had been standing from a distance and saw these things.



You have two options to interpret these events: literally or symbolically.

Nature was bowing in reverence. The sixth hour was noon (12:00), and the ninth hour was at three in the afternoon (15:00). Some identify the darkness with a solar eclipse in A.D. 33 (BTSB), yet Jesus was crucified, more likely, in A.D. 30 (he was born in 4-6 B.C. and he began his ministry when he was about 30 years old, says Luke 3:23). So this event was a supernatural occurrence. However, the eclipse around that time appeals to me because the times when Jesus began his mistry and its duration are approximate.

On the other hand, you can interpret the sign in the sky as symbolic—the sun grew dark or gave out when the Son of God was just about to expire. In the OT, when a major eschatological change happens, like the judgment on nations, the cosmos or creation reacts apocalyptically. They do not react literally. For a list of the Scriptures, click on this link:

Cosmic Disasters = Apocalyptic Imagery for Judgment and Major Change

Whichever way you take the cosmic sign and the curtain tearing, the significance is the same as just described. A massive eschatological shift just happened. The world would never be the same—it would get better, but only when people hear and receive the gospel.

A small local earthquake happens, and apparently it is strong enough to tear the curtain in two (or see below for the divine passive). It either refers to the curtain separating the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (where a priest entered only once a year and where the ark of the covenant was housed, and other items). This is called the second (or inner) curtain in Heb. 9:3. Or it could be the outer curtain which separated the temple from the Holy Place. Garland: “It most likely refers to the inner curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Priests could have reported this event at a later time [see Acts 6:7 for numerous priests converting]. The passive voice ‘was split’ … suggests a divine passive; it is God’s doing” (comment on 23:45-46). A divine passive comes from the passive form of the verb, and in some context, as here, it is an understated way of saying God was behind the scenes do his work of tearing the veil.

In his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, Keener writes:

But some rabbinic sources may report a garbled account of a similar tradition, though the evidence is not clear. Josephus may know a related tradition about a heavy gate to the inner court opening by itself presaging Jerusalem’s destruction, though he or his source place it closer to the latter event (Jos. War 6:293-96); likewise, the priestly aristocracy would certainly not have publicized a rending of the inner veil at Jesus’s death (which they might regard as a coincidence … but early “leaks” to the Christians unconfirmed by the hierarchy would be possible (Acts 6:7). (A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, [Eerdmans, 1999], p. 687).

The tearing for sure relates to this teaching in Hebrews.

23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment … (Heb. 9:23-27, NIV).

This tearing symbolized that the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place was now accessible for Jesus’s followers, spiritually speaking. Jesus entered the heavenly tabernacle by means of his once-and-for-all sacrifice. Old Judaism was ending.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:19-22, NIV)

When Jesus ascended into heaven, he opened the curtain, so that we can have complete access to God. We can enter the Most Holy Place. We enter through the curtain, that is, through his body.


Now that nature was bowing in reverence, Jesus gave up or entrusted or commended his spirit to his Father. Jesus didn’t allow himself to be a victim of natural causes, like suffocation. He had complete control over his death. He declared when it was over.

Calling out to his Father expresses the fact that he did not believe the Father abandoned him completely, but at a certain time he must have felt abandoned. He was referencing Ps. 31:5: “Into you hands I commit my spirit” (ESV). The psalm describes the righteous sufferer, and this fits Jesus’s death on the cross.

When we die, our spirit is entrusted to our Father. It is not a ghost or goes into a soul sleep (see the comment on v. 43). If we are converted, saved and redeemed, then our spirit goes to heaven. If we are not saved, converted or redeemed, our spirit goes to hell waiting the final resurrection when our transformed bodies are reunited with our soul / spirit and go through final judgment. But there is some unclarity about what this hell is. Is it outer darkness? Fire? How can fire and outer darkness coexist? Whatever it is, it is separation from God.

Bible Basics about Hell

Bible Basics about Heaven

What Will Heaven Be Like for You?

As for Jesus possibly going down to Hades to preach, please see my post here:

10. Do I Really Know Jesus? Did He Descend into Hades to Preach?

There is Scriptural support for this doctrine, though not much.

Let’s go deeper into the significance of Jesus’s death.

First let’s look at the atonement, which is connected with Jesus’s death on the cross.

Atonement literally means in English at-one-ment or being one with God or being reconciled to him (the -ment suffix means “the result of”).

It is the extensive and costly process of reconciling sinners to God.

The Hebrew verb is kapar (used 102 times) and is generally translated as “to atone,” “to wipe clean,” and “to appease.” In Gen. 32:20, Jacob sent gifts ahead of him to “wipe” (atone) the anger off his brother Esau’s face. As it turned out, Esau was not angry because time healed his wounds, and he was prosperous. The main point, however, is that sacrifice and gifts atone for or wipe away just wrath. The sacrifice of an animal during the sin offering (Lev. 4:1-5:13), for example, was to atone for the worshiper’s own sins, by blood manipulation primarily. Then God’s judicial wrath would be lifted and he would smile on his people again. Jacob and Esau were reconciled, and God and his people were reconciled.

The NT Greek nouns are hilasmos (used twice and pronounced hih-lahs-moss) and hilastērion (also used twice and pronounced he-lah-stay-ree-own). The first noun appears in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 and means “an atoning sacrifice, propitiation.” Propitiation means “satisfaction” or “appeasement.” Jesus is the sacrifice that atones for sins. Our sins destroyed and separated us from God, but the sacrifice of Jesus reconciles us to God (1 John 1:6-7).

What Does ‘Atonement’ Mean?

To forestall objections that falsely accuse God of being primitive or petty, please see this post:

Christ’s Death on Cross = Cosmic Child Abuse?

Is. 6 is a wonderful passage that describes a holy man—Isaiah—in the very presence of God, and he saw himself as undone and ruined, because he was an unclean man living among an unclean people. God reached out to him and put a coal on his lips to speak with power and anointing. God cleansed him.

Is. 27:9 talks about the extreme need of Israel’s sins to be removed, and one way to do this was to cut down fertility poles and crush altars to false gods. But this would not bring about reconciliation for all of humanity, forever, but the need for it is clear.

Dan. 9:24 speaks of Israel living in exile seventy years to finish transgression and atone for their wickedness. The verb “atone” means to “wipe away” or appease or placate God’s righteous demands.

John 1:29 shows John the Baptist proclaiming to the people about Jesus, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”


Atonement: Bible Basics

Why was the blood of Jesus necessary, and what does it accomplish?

Personally, I like how the blood of Jesus cleanses our guilty consciences from past sins. And I like the last point about the blood of the Lamb tramples underfoot the accusation of Satan. The thing is—when he accuses us he knows which sins we have committed. They are not life by our own experience. But in Christ we realize that Satan’s accusations are lies, because God already wiped clean and forgave and released our sins. They no longer apply.


Why the Blood of Jesus?

What did the cross accomplish for us?

First, the cross put to death the curse of the old law. Paul wrote to the Galatians that according to the old law, everyone who hanged on a pole was cursed (Deut. 21:23), so Christ became that curse in our place (Gal. 3:13). Now the curse of the law is broken over us, so God does not judge us in his justice-wrath-judgment. We are in Christ and are spared his wrath.

Second, the cross took away our sins. The power that the law and regulations was broken and canceled over our lives, by the cross. Those things used to condemn us but now through the cross we have forgiveness of sins (Col. 2:13-14). 1 Peter 2:24 says that Christ himself bore our sins in his body, which happened at the cross (Is. 53:5).

Third, the cross reconciled us to God. Paul writes that humanity used to be divided by ethnic and cultural differences, but through the cross, all humans are made into one new human, united in Christ (Eph. 2:16). The fullness of deity lived in bodily form in Christ, and now God reconciled all things to himself by his cross and the blood that was shed there.

Fourth, the cross brought us eternal life. Jesus taught that when he was lifted up on the cross, so that everyone who sees him and believes can have eternal life.

Fifth, the cross triumphed over our enemies. As noted, Col. 2:15 says all the decrees issued against us were canceled, and Christ dragged behind him all of his enemies like a roman emperor led captive people in his victory parade.


Why the Cross?

What is reconciliation, and how does Christ’s death on the cross accomplish it? Reconciliation is when God calls us to surrender fighting him and become his friend. He doesn’t have to move, but we do. He did act, however, by sending his Son to die.

One more time: why?

First, God’s law and holiness required payment for human degradation and sin, if redemption is to be done. God cannot ignore or overlook sin. So how can humankind be reconciled or brought near to God, with such a wide gulf? Christ willingly became a sin offering in our place (substitute) and paid the penalty of sin that engulfed humankind. Now reconciliation between God and humans can take place because Christ is the mediator between the two. God can be just and the justifier of humanity (Rom. 3:26).

Then, second, there is another point of view. Redemption is a gift. Out of his love God gave his all through his Son and his Spirit. Humanity that was plunged into sin and darkness and the devil’s kingdom overcomes by Jesus atoning life and work. God maintains his justice, expresses his love and triumphs over darkness and Satan.


What Is Redemption in the Bible?


These three verses now shift the focus over to the onlookers. First in v. 47, the centurion, who seeing the signs, concluded that this man was innocent or righteous or upright (all three translations would work).

Then in v. 48, the crowds came together to witness the sight. When they saw that he had died, they turned around to go back into the city and beat their chests as a show of grief and repentance (18:13) (Garland, comment on 23:48). Recall that the crowds really liked him. Jerusalem was crowded during Passover, and some yelled for his crucifixion, while others wanted him to live. It is possible that the pilgrims from Galilee grieved, while the native Jerusalemites did not.

Verse 49 is the best one. His “acquaintances” could be translated as “friends” or literally his “knowns” or those whom he knew from Galilee to right then. I really, really like how Luke mentions the women. This honorable mention sets the stage of the beginning of the next section when they spy out the place where his body was laid. It refers to Ps. 38:11, which will become true in the near future: “My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away” (Ps. 38:11, NIV). Peter and the others thought the women’s report about the resurrection was “nonsense” (24:11).

Let’s look at an interesting possible family connection. Are Jesus, James, and John first cousins by their two mothers (Mary and Salome)?

The discussion has been moved to this post:

Were Jesus, James and John First Cousins? Was Clopas Jesus’ Uncle?

In any case, it takes a deep commitment from the women to see him crucified. It must have broken their hearts. But I wonder if they remembered his words that he would rise from the dead. They are about to get the burial spices and perfumes ready, so their commitment to him goes even farther.

GrowApp for Luke 23:44-49

A.. His friends and the women from Galilee followed him to Jerusalem and watched him die. That takes commitment. How about you? Will you follow him the whole way, even when times get tough?

The Burial of Jesus (Luke 23:50-56)

50 Καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ὀνόματι Ἰωσὴφ βουλευτὴς ὑπάρχων [καὶ] ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς καὶ δίκαιος 51 – οὗτος οὐκ ἦν συγκατατεθειμένος τῇ βουλῇ καὶ τῇ πράξει αὐτῶν– ἀπὸ Ἁριμαθαίας πόλεως τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ὃς προσεδέχετο τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, 52 οὗτος προσελθὼν τῷ Πιλάτῳ ᾐτήσατο τὸ σῶμα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ 53 καὶ καθελὼν ἐνετύλιξεν αὐτὸ σινδόνι καὶ ἔθηκεν αὐτὸν ἐν μνήματι λαξευτῷ οὗ οὐκ ἦν οὐδεὶς οὔπω κείμενος.

54 καὶ ἡμέρα ἦν παρασκευῆς καὶ σάββατον ἐπέφωσκεν. 55 Κατακολουθήσασαι δὲ αἱ γυναῖκες, αἵτινες ἦσαν συνεληλυθυῖαι ἐκ τῆς Γαλιλαίας αὐτῷ, ἐθεάσαντο τὸ μνημεῖον καὶ ὡς ἐτέθη τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ, 56 ὑποστρέψασαι δὲ ἡτοίμασαν ἀρώματα καὶ μύρα. καὶ τὸ μὲν σάββατον ἡσύχασαν κατὰ τὴν ἐντολήν.

50 Then, observe. A man named Joseph, being a councilman, a good and righteous man 51 (he did not consent to their plot and action) from Arimathea, a town of the Jews, who was expecting the kingdom of God, 52 approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 After he took it down, he wrapped it with fine linen and placed him in a rock-carved tomb, where no one had been lain.

54 It was the day of preparation, and the Sabbath was drawing close. 55 The women who had traveled with him from Galilee followed along behind and saw the tomb and how his body was placed there. 56 They returned and prepared perfume and ointment. Then they rested on the Sabbath, according to the law.



Joseph was a good and righteous man. One way we can know he was good and righteous is that he did not agree with the Sanhedrin’s plot and action to execute Jesus.

Believe it or not, people can be good and righteous by their social behavior. Their goodness and righteousness do not save them, but their external behavior can please God because they keep the peace and harmony in society. Paul wrote that according to law keeping, he too was blameless and was surpassing those of his age in zeal, before he was saved (Phil. 3:5-7). But he counted all his righteousness based on those works as a dung pile and turned his faith towards Jesus Christ. His righteousness did not come on his own, but by faith in Christ Jesus (3:9-10). Who knows? Maybe Jesus, after his resurrection, appeared to him and thanked him for his kindness with his body. But the Bible is silent about this.


Arimathea: the exact location remains unknown (BTSB on Luke 23:51), but the best guess is Ramathaim, the birthplace of the prophet Samuel, northwest of Lydda (Carson in his commentary on Matthew and Bock, p. 1873-74). You can google these locations.

Joseph was expecting or waiting for the kingdom of God (see v. 42 for more discussion of the kingdom of God). This expands the definition of why he was considered a good and righteous man. He probably did not know what the kingdom really was, but he sensed that Jesus was the main source of it. Now what would happen to his kingdom expectation? He may have not considered the resurrection, so his hopes must have crashed and burned. Yet, he had the courage to get the body.


Speaking of courage, Joseph approached Pilate and asked for the body. Pilate must have considered. Did the governor shake his head in disappointment that he got involved in the whole sorry “trial”? Or did he just say yes and told Joseph to go? If his heart was softened, then he probably did say something about the recent events.


No doubt he had his servants take down the cross and level it on the ground, the lifeless body moving, the head bobbing with the descent of the cross. Then Joseph ordered his servants to unfasten the body by pulling out the spikes.

The rock-hewn tomb was probably specially chosen for Joseph. In any case, no other body was lain there before. This act of generosity showed extra kindness and respect.


The day of preparation was the time when Jews got their food and other things ready for the day of rest, when no work was allowed. This day was on Friday. Sabbath was coming near on Saturday. This proves conclusively that Jesus was crucified on Friday. He did not die on Wednesday or Thursday as some TV preachers say on a panel discussion.


Once again I love the record of the women, which Luke offers us. He repeats that they had traveled with him from Galilee, indicating how committed they were to their Lord. They went with him all the way to Jerusalem. They followed Joseph and his servants from behind, just so they could find out where the tomb was. Why? They intended to come back early Sunday morning (their first day of the week) and put perfumed ointment on the body, to give it a special burial. This also shows kindness and respect. They loved their Lord. The perfumed ointment was intended merely to slow the decomposition. Jews did not embalm. You can google what perfumed oil or myrrh was used.

Then they kept the Sabbath by resting on it. The law commanded them (Exod. 20:8-10 and Deut. 5:12-15). They obeyed it.

GrowApp for Luke 23:50-56

A.. Read Matt. 5:16. Joseph and the women were good and righteous. Why? How do you go the extra mile to let your good works shine?

Summary and Conclusion

Let’s look, once again, at a table that lays out the events of Passion Week:

Passion Week

Friday Arrival in Bethany (Jn 12:1)
Saturday Mary’s anointing of Jesus (Jn 12:2-8; Mt 26:6-13 // Mk 14:3-9)
Sunday Triumphal Entry (Mt 21:1-11 // Mk 11:1-10 // Lk 19:28-38); surveying temple (Mk 11:11), return to Bethany (Mt 21:17 // Mk 11:11)
Monday Clearing temple (Mt 21:12-17 // Mk 11:15-19 // Lk 19:45-48); cursing fig tree (Mt 21:18-22; // Mk 11:12-14); miracles and challenge temple (Mt 21:14-16); return to Bethany (Mk 11:19)
Tuesday Disciples’ question about fig tree (Mk 11:20-21); debates with leaders of temple (Mt 21:23-22:46 // Mk 11:27-12:40 // Lk 20:1-44); Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25; Mk 13; Lk 21:1-36); return to Bethany, but Lk 21:37 says he lodged on Mount of Olives
Wednesday Little recorded in Gospel—Jesus and disciples apparently remain in Bethany; Judas arranges for Jesus’ betrayal (Mt. 26:14-16 // Mk 14:10-11 // Lk 22:3-6); I say he could be teaching in the temple or praying privately
Thursday Preparation for Passover (Mt 26:17-19 // Mk 14:12-16 // Lk 22:7-13); after sundown, Passover meal and Last Supper (Mt 26:20-35 // Mk 14:17-25 // Lk 22:14, 21-23, 15-20); Farewell Discourse (Jn 13-17); Gethsemane (Mt 26:30-46 // Mk 13:32-42 // Lk 22:40-46)
Friday After midnight, betrayal and arrest (Mt 26:47-56 // Mk 14:43-52 // Lk 22:47-53);

Jewish trials—Annas (Jn 18:13-14); Caiaphas and partial Sanhedrin (Mt 26:52-75 // Mk 14:53-72 // Lk 22:54-71); full Sanhedrin (Mt 27:1-2);

Roman trials—Pilate (Mt 27:2-14 // Mk 15:2-5 // Lk 23:2-5); Herod Antipas (Lk 23:6-12); Pilate (Mt 27:15-26 // Mk 15:6-15 // Lk 23:17-27);

Mocked by soldiers (Mt 27:27-31 // Mk 15:16-20);

Road to Golgotha (Mt 27:32 // Mk 15:21 // Lk 23:26-32);

Crucifixion 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. / 15:00h (Mt 27:27-56 // Mk 15:22-41 // Lk 23:33-49);

Burial (Mt 27:57-61 // Mk 15:42-47 // Lk 23:5-56)

Grant R. Osborne, Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010), who got it from Michael J. Wilkens, Matthew: NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 2004). I modified it.

Now let’s briefly summarize this chapter, which flows into the next one.

We have to wait until the next chapter before we can experience the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary said that Jesus and his kingdom were bringing to the world. The powerful and people of high status are brought low, while the humble and those of low status are raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator. Right now, however, Jesus is still in the basement, in the tomb. In the next chapter, he will be resurrected.

One of the marvelous features of this chapter is how women are mentioned several times. Luke tells us repeatedly that they had followed Jesus from Galilee, indicating their commitment to their Lord. In contrast, the men—particularly the eleven drop into the background.

Another important person in this chapter is the repentant insurrectionist who was promised to be with Jesus in paradise. It must have been wonderful to get that escort!

Joseph of Arimathea also stands out. He took the initiative to get the body down from the cross. He buried him in a tomb that had never been used before.

This chapter is very moving and sad, particularly when you don’t really know the outcome—his resurrection. The people who populate this chapter can hope for it, but they don’t know it. This chapter has many heroes, Jesus being the most prominent.


Bock, Darrel L. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 (Baker, 1994).

—. Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996).

Culy, Martin M., Mikael C. Parsons. Joshua J. Stigall. Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2010).

Fitzmyer, Joseph A., SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981).

—. The Gospel according to St. Luke, X-XIV. The Anchor Bible. Vol. 28A. (Doubleday, 1985).

Garland, David E. Luke. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2011).

The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014). The Greek text in the tables comes from the Nestle-Aland 28th ed, available here:

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans, 1997).

Liefeld, Walter L. and David W. Pao Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. (Zondervan, 2007).

Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. (Eerdmans, 1978).

Morris, Leon. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. (IVP Academic, 1988).

Stein, Robert H. Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Vol. 24. (Broadman and Holman, 1992).

Works Cited


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