Luke 23.32-49

Two criminals were also led away to be put to death with him.

And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals on his left hand and on his right.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

They cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by watching; but their rulers scoffed at him, saying, “Let him save himself, if he is God’s chosen Messiah!”

The soldiers also mocked him, offering him vinegar, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him: “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging there railed at him, saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself, and us!”

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Don’t you fear God? You’re suffering the same condemnation he is. And we’re condemned justly for our deeds, but he has done no harm.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your reign.”

And Jesus answered, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about the sixth hour; and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed, and the curtain of the Temple was torn in two.

Then Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit!” Having said this, he breathed his last.

When the centurion saw what had happened he praised God, and said, “Surely this man was innocent.”

And all the multitudes who had assembled to see the sight, returned home beating their breasts. All his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance and saw these things.

 

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4 responses

  1. If the Bible is our “You are here!” map of the Creation — and this event is the center of that map — then everything in our lives takes its significance from what’s happening here.

    And I don’t “understand” it!
    —— —– —— —– —–

    Oh, some things, probably. The “casting lots” for what must have been some very filthy and bloody garments by now — probably was added to the story from Psalm 22, so much “like” this event that someone felt it must have literally taken place as in that Psalm.

    Neither of the ‘robbers’ with him — probably ‘political offenders’, aside from whatever specific acts this may have led them into — would have considered opposition to Rome “wrong.” If one of them had literally asked Jesus, “If you’re really the Messiah, why don’t you get off that cross & do something about this?” — it might well have been more desperation than mockery. This part, too, was probably more “Luke’s” embedded commentary than anything that people who “stood at a distance” could have heard from men straining for each breath.

    But it’s a legitimate request, in view of what people are expecting of the Messiah — not that he should die with his people, but that he would live to save them from their enemies and establish God’s authority over all peoples of the world.

    God has pulled a real surprise, for anybody standing here who’d believed Jesus was the Messiah. This outcome is very clearly telling them that he is not.

    And this Jewish ‘crowd’ — is not the crowd of the High Priest’s partisans who were depicted yelling “Crucify him” in the previous passage. This is the ‘multitude’ the High Priest’s party were previously afraid of — but with their leader helpless and surrounded by armed soldiers, they have no effective way to help. None the less, they aren’t falling in with their leaders’ mockery; they go home mourning Jesus as one of their own.
    —- —- —- —- —–

    But why did it all happen this way?

    Because God wanted to see a good and innocent man die a horrible death; and this made up for not getting to torment the rest of us? I don’t think so; this doesn’t sound like the God I know, nor does it fit what Jesus said about Him.

    Still, it’s clear that this was how God achieved His purpose for the rest of us. Ten legions of angels slaughtering Roman soldiers wouldn’t have achieved that purpose. Simply enabling Jesus to escape — as he’d escaped people who’d wanted to stone him in previous stories — evidently wouldn’t have done the job either.

    Somehow this — plus resurrection, whatever that meant — must have been the best outcome available to a Being of unlimited love, wisdom, and power.

    Anyone up to explaining this?

  2. OK, time to open mouth and (probably) insert foot, but still….

    I have to agree with you that the whole “God wanted to see a good and innocent man die a horrible death; and this made up for not getting to torment the rest of us” idea is repellent and not at all like the God I know either. But I also agree that somehow it had to be this way to achieve His goals. Trouble is, I’m not sure that without God’s perspective we can really arrive at a totally satisfying explanation.

    I suspect that is why some of these ideas (which obviously also pick up on OT sacrificial images) are used–they are not “true” but they get something of an idea across that Jesus’ death and resurrection were essential. However, I find it interesting that I cannot find a single text in the NT that says, as a lot of Christians do, that Jesus suffered and died instead of us! He suffered and died _for_ us, yes, but not instead of us.

    What does that mean? I see it as being the working out of what Jesus said to Nicodemus: We must be born a second time (“from above” rather than “over-again”). If, as I do, you take his reference to being “born of water and of spirit” as meaning being born physically (water of the womb) and spiritually, then until we die and are in a sense resurrected we are only half-born.

    In that sense, Jesus opens a door for us, a door that leads to change. It is kind of like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly: In some sense the caterpillar must suffer and die, but only to become what it always should have been. Thus Jesus’ death in not something that helps us avoid death, but rather an invitation to join him in a different kind of death that leads, not to an end, but to a new beginning.

    Bit rambling, I know, but I hope it begins to convey a way of looking at it.

    1. This is good; I believe it is a true answer for anyone who is, in fact, imminently called to suffer a nasty death for a good reason…

      and I also believe that it isn’t the right answer for most people, most of the time.

      The life we’re living at each moment is entirely adequate and leads us directly into our proper development from here. Being “born again” can mean anything from reincarnation to saying: “Oh wow! So that’s how it is!”

      Thank you for “opening mouth”; somebody had to do it; and just because I partially disagree is no reason to think your foot belongs there!

      Yeah, maybe we won’t get a “humanly satisfying” answer, because “Humans simply can’t see things that way.”

      I have been having an intensely difficult time, trying to see any preferable/alternative way that Jesus could have taken his message to everyone who needed to see and know it!

      Yes, not dying “instead of” us. A whole lot of Jews die, about 40 years after this, in an event Jesus very much wanted to prevent, if he could have done so! But he was definitely dying “for” us. For us “individually”? Well, if he’d met any of us individually, I think he would have… but that isn’t the way I see it, so far.

      Did he suffer as badly as it looked? I don’t know. I wouldn’t insist! But there was the story about a Zen teacher who decided it was time to burn herself to death — and when one of her students asked, “Is it hot in there?” — replied “What do you think?!”

      I don’t think suffering exists without a purpose, though, and fail to see one here. This isn’t “Jesus’ victory in the worldwide suffering-macho contest”.

      I have been wondering, for a long time: “Why did Jesus think that being Messiah meant he had to do this?” Nobody else thought so! Today, in what looked like a totally unrelated Bible study group, I think I was shown the answer. [More later.]

  3. Someone had to teach the way of life that allows for right relationship with God.

    He had to live that way, in circumstances that were not easy, to show that this can be done.

    And then he had to let people kill him horribly, where everyone could see and shudder — him in particular, so that everyone who came after could see who it was that was suffering this death, what he had taught and how he had lived.

    And so we could see that he did not find it necessary to defend himself with violence, or to hate the people who felt they had to do this to him.

    Nor did God find it necessary to defend him with violence, nor to exact violent retribution for his death.

    But we could come to see that death was no obstacle to God restoring his life, this very life — allowing anyone who sees this to understand that God intended to vindicate him, his way, his teachings.

    I find the necessity deplorable; but I can’t see how it could have been avoided. It is truly miraculous that God produced anyone able to do it. Likewise miraculous, that so many people, when the crunch came to crunch, have been able to come as close to this way of dying as we have.

    But it isn’t about us needing to prove anything whatsoever about ourselves. Only to let God be God, and trust his workings in us.

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