Grow in the Work of Christ, part 2

From the believers union with Christ (2.1-10) Paul points his readers toward their unity in the church (2.11ff). Paul’s emphasis is that in the body there is not Jewish and Gentile believers but “one new man in place of two” (v.15).

Access to His Blood (11-13)

Though previously far away from God by the blood of Jesus God has brought us near.

11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—

Therefore: On the ground of your former, fallen state and in light of your current, exalted state…

Remember: present imperative. Remember what you were by nature (v.3) and what you have become by grace (v.5, 8).  Some even contend this therefore reaches back to 1.3; so Paul calls upon the Gentiles to consider all they have experienced from God through Christ.

That at one time…in the flesh: Though dead and made alive by Christ like the Jews, the Gentiles were distinct in the flesh, i.e. in regards to physical circumcision. That is, since they did not bear the mark of covenant (i.e. circumcision), they were excluded from the promises and blessings of covenant with the true and living God (hence, v.12). The present tense indicates this kind of behavior was habitual and ongoing.

Called…by hands:  The phrase ‘the uncircumcision’ was a term of derision by the Jews to speak of everybody who was not a Jew in the flesh. The Israelites were supposed to be a light for the nations (Isaiah 42.6; 49.6), but instead they treated uncovenanted people with contempt.

Who are “the uncircumcised” of our day and time? An updated version might talk about “the unbaptized.” I would hope, though, we would not speak of those unbaptized ones in a derogatory fashion, but rather with a broken heart speak of those who are excluded from the blessings and benefits of being an immersed one.

12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Remember that you were: “Remember” is supplied to continue the thought. You were is the imperfect tense, indicating this was the ongoing situation in their former life before Christ.

Separated from Christ: or “without Christ” indicating that they were totally destitute of the favor and fellowship, the blessings of God. Suggesting perhaps even no interest in Him.

Alienated from…Israel: very strong language; they were shut out from the presence, fellowship of God. They did not have a country nor citizenship in the divinely appointed kingdom.

Strangers to the covenants of promise: that is, they had no share in or knowledge of the covenants of Israel. It was foreign to the Gentiles.

Having no hope: as regards the future, they had nothing to look forward to in the afterlife. How could they? They had no hope of the forgiveness of sin or resurrection unto life.

Without God in the world: Gk. Atheoi, from which we get our word “atheist.” The Gentiles had many gods. But Paul says they were “atheists” for they did not know the true God.

Some of us may have been atheists before coming to Christ. Some may have been hopeless, caught in various vices and addictions. Some may have been Biblically illiterate and “covenant” was not in our vocabulary. But all of us were at one time separated from Christ because of sin.

13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

But now in Christ Jesus: But now is a complete reversal of the preceding portrait. Only in Christ Jesus can the picture be reversed.  This is the gospel—Christ came to reverse our fortunes and rewrite our futures. He died so that the dead might live now.

You who…by the blood of Christ: There had been a wide, impassible chasm fixed between the Gentiles and God—the chasm of sin. But the blood of Jesus filled the chasm, spanning the gulf to bring them near. The aorist tense have been brought answers to the imperfect tense you were in verse 12; their lifestyle was an ongoing mess of sin until all-at-once they came in contact with Christ’s blood and everything changed. Cf. Isaiah 57.19

Our lives were unmanageable messes, just a constant stream of self-gratification and doing whatever we wanted. But then all-at-once and in an instant we came in contact with Christ’s blood at the baptistery and we came near God in Christ. Now our lives have become an ongoing transformation process.

Access to His Peace (14-17)

Jesus offers peace to all through His cross. Note: “One” is the language of peace.

14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

For He Himself is our peace: Christ is not only a Peacemaker, but He is peace; He has removed the enmity, thereby producing an atmosphere free from war wherein Jew & Gentile unite.

Who has us both one: Lit. He has made both elements one element. Christ takes two hostile factions (Jews & Gentiles) and by His blood fashions one body, one people, one church.

And has…wall of hostility: In His flesh Christ offered Himself as a peace offering to God for mankind. It is in that moment on the cross (aorist) that the dividing wall is broken down, the symbol of which was at the temple (dividing the temple from the Court of the Gentiles). When a person is at peace with God, he/she is simultaneously at peace with every other person at peace with God.

15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

By abolishing…in ordinances: This is strong language which is easily misunderstood. Christ “renders ineffective” the Law of commandments in dogmas by His death on the cross. He fulfilled the Law and rendered it ineffective to function as a set of regulations to make Gentiles Jewish. The Law still serves as a moral guide (see 6.2, Paul quotes the 5th commandment), but the enmity causing barriers of regulations and rituals “in the flesh” has been invalidated “in His flesh.”

That He might…in place of the two: Jesus came to unite all men (contextually, Jew & Gentile) into one new man. Not by Greeks conquering the Jews or Jews forcing Greeks to convert; this is a completely new creation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5.17). New in more than just a temporal sense (time), but also in a qualitative sense (kind). This is a creation which did not exist before.

So making peace: primarily between God and man; secondarily between Jew & Gentile. With the removal of the Law came peace.

Why was there hostility between men (Jew and Gentile)? Perhaps the Jew, with the oracles of God, gloried in his position while the Gentile despised the fantastic rites of the Jew, namely circumcision (which was brought up earlier).

“One new man” – New in kind: Christ produces a new kind of person out of both Jews and Gentiles although both remain Jews & Gentiles. Chrysostom says that it is as if one should melt down a statue of silver and a statue of lead and the two come out as gold (Barclay 136).

16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

And might reconcile us…through the cross: Reconcile is friendship language. Previously there was a rupture in the friendly relations (b/c of sin); we became the enemies of God because of the enmity present (cf. Rom 5.10). But Christ has removed the hostility, taking it upon Himself in the cross, and there is a complete restoration of the relationship. Both Jew and Gentile in the one body (church, the new Israel) are reconciled completely back to God. Harmony is restored.

Thereby killing the hostility: When Christ is killed, the hostility is killed. “By His being slain, He slew it” (JFB, emphasis original). This is the hostility first, between God and man, and second, between Jew & Gentile (or among people generally).

Jesus is the answer to animosity among all races, ethnicities, factions, and peoples. The church is the single place on this planet where Jew & Gentile, slave & free, black & white, educated & illiterate, democrat & republican, the haves & the have-nots, American capitalists & Chinese communists are united and “one” (v.14, 15, 16, 18). Double reconciliation: all people to God in one body and all people to his fellow brother in Christ.

17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

And He came and preached peace: cf. Isaiah 57.19. Both verbs are aorist tense (snapshot). The Lord’s coming and preaching is somewhat debated: 1) Some say this is in reference His earthly ministry before the cross (Luke 2.14); 2) Others say what is in view is the event of the cross (mentioned in verse 16) as an act of proclaiming peace; 3) Some see the whole crucifixion-resurrection-exaltation as an act of proclaiming peace; 4) Still others see here the coming of the Holy Spirit since peace could not truly be proclaimed (esp. to Gentiles) until after the ascension.  “Regardless of what view one may take, the important point is that in the Christ event (life-death-resurrection-exaltation), peace was achieved and access to God was made possible” (Patzia 197).

To you who were far off: i.e. Gentiles. Cf. v.13. They were far off because they did not have the patriarchs, the covenants, the Law, etc. whereas Jews did and were thus near (see Romans 9.4-5).

And peace to those who were near: i.e. Jews. It is interesting that the Gentiles are mentioned first and then the Jews (esp. cf. Romans 1.16). Chronologically, the Jews were the first to hear the gospel and hope in the Lord. But the emphasis here seems to be that the gospel is for Gentiles and they were as near as the Jews.

Christ was the best and most balanced preacher to ever live. Let us reserve the title “prince of preachers” solely for Him. Not only was He the one to speak most about hell, but He also preached a message of peace, peace with fellow man (Jew/Gentile) and peace with God.

Access to His Father (18-22)

Christians are part of the Family of God wherein the Father dwells by His Spirit.

18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

For through Him we both have access: Access has to do with the right or opportunity to speak to someone. Formerly, only Jews had access and even that was limited (High Priest once a year into the veil). Now, in Christ and through Christ, all (“both” means Jew & Gentile) have the freedom to come to God.

In one Spirit to the Father: Christ has made it possible that we can address our Father in one Spirit, i.e. the Holy Spirit. So we have the Godhead presented in this single statement. Also, the Christian’s access to God is through or by one Spirit since we are united by one Spirit in baptism (see 1 Corinthians 12.13).

19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

So then…strangers and aliens: or “therefore.” Strangers is the same word as found in v.12. Aliens is a new concept which denotes a person who lives in a place without the right of citizenship. While the Gentiles were strangers and aliens (see v.12), there has been a complete reversal and they are no longer excluded from God’s purposes.

But you are fellow citizens with the saints: But (Gk alla) draws a sharp contrast. The Gentiles are now fellow citizens with all the rights and privileges that come with being residents of the holy nation of God. They have citizenship in the divine kingdom; they are residents of a “better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11.16).  With the saints could be an allusion to the Old Testament saints, the historic people of God.

Members of the household of God: Earlier in the epistle Paul said that they were adopted as sons (1.5). “You are not guests or visitors, but permanent dwellers in the house and members of the family” (Pulpit Commentary 67). The idea of the church as family can be traced through the New Testament (1 Timothy 3.15; Hebrews 3.2, 5, 6; 10.21; 1 Peter 4.17).

The drive to identify with someone, some group, some important cause is powerful and strong in each of us. Why do you think people (men especially) are such ravenous sports fans, even getting in fights in the bleachers with fans of the opposing team? These identifications make us feel important. They cause us to feel like we belong. This text (with the following verses) communicate to us and tell us we belong! We have a country and a kingdom; we have a home and family. We belong with God and are involved in what He is doing. This should shape our worship: we do not come as spectators to watch; we come to participate in the family experience, uniting our voices in praise and prayer, addressing and being addressed. We belong and are involved.

20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

Built on…the apostles and prophets: Here is the third image Paul uses to show the Gentiles they are part of the eternal purpose of God: a holy temple (v.21). The Gentiles have been built (aorist tense indicates a completed action in the past) upon the firm foundation of the apostles and prophets. Here the OT prophets as well as NT prophets are those who are in view here (e.g. Agabus, Acts 21.10 for a NT prophet). However, word order coupled with 3.4-5 (the mystery now revealed) seems to emphasize NT prophets.

Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone: He is the cornerstone because “the whole edifice rests on Him” (Coffman). “The idea of chief corner-stone is that of regulation, pattern-hood, producing assimilation” (PC 67). If both Old & New Testament spokesmen (i.e. prophets) are in view, then Christ has been and continues to be the support for the saints of God, shaping and forming the community and her members.

 

Notice: the church is the people. We are the living stones. While our building is conducive to worship and other functions, we are the church. 1) Our assembly should not be viewed as a program in which a privileged few participate. In fact, we are all participate, worshipping our God who is present with us. 2) Ministry is for everyone, not merely the “clergy.” 3) We are all valuable & vital to the ministry and mission of the church.

21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

In Whom…joined together: As the cornerstone of a building holds together two walls, so Christ has joined & holds together both Jews & Gentiles in one church. The word for being joined together (Gk sunarmoloumene) is a double compound that Paul invents; it is exclusive not only to the NT but also to Ephesians (see 4.16). In the present tense, it indicates that this is an ongoing process. An architectural term which points to fitting exactly together and even enhancing in compatibility.

Grows into a holy temple in the Lord: Paul presents the temple as a living being capable of growth. This is similar to Peter’s “living stones” in a “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2.5). The temple of God will continue to grow and increase until the day of judgment. The word used for temple here denotes the place in which God dwells, where His holy presence (i.e. glory) resides.

Albert Barnes on “being joined together”:

The word used here means “to joint together,” as a carpenter does the frame-work of a building. The materials are accurately and carefully united by mortises and tenons. so that the building shall be firm. Different materials may be used, and different kinds of timber may be employed, but one part shall be worked into another, so as to constitute a durable and beautiful edifice. So in the church. The different materials of the Jews and Gentiles; the people of various nations, though heretofore separated and discordant, become now united, and form an harmonious society. They believe the same doctrines; worship the same God; practice the same holiness; and look forward to the same heaven.

22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

In Him: That is, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

You also are being built together: present passive verb. This indicates that the process is continuous and the building is done by God. You indicates Paul is emphasizing the Gentiles; they along with the Jews as the church are being build together. Every part is of vital importance to the structural integrity of the building.

Into a dwelling place for God: connected with v.21 (a holy temple), these Christians are being continually fashioned into a fit residence for the divine presence. Formerly God dwelt in the temple in Jerusalem; now “the dwelling place of God is with man” (Revelation 21.3; cf. 2 Corinthians 6.16). Simultaneously, “what an awful thought, that the holy God dwells in our unholy hearts, watching us in our secret moments, and reading out very thoughts” (Pulpit Commentary 84).

By the Spirit: Verse 21 ended with in the Lord; now this verse ends by/in the Spirit. This reminds us that only in Christ, only in the Spirit are we said to be God’s place of residence. “None can have any true place in the eternal building of God, unless they have found life in Christ” (Foulkes 96). Also note that once again we find the Godhead all mentioned in a single verse: In the Son we are built into a residence for the Father by the Spirit.

When houses are built it is so that people may live in them. In similar fashion, God’s house (the church) is built so that He might dwell in it. When we abide in Christ, He abides in us (John 15.4). Further, the building is continual and progressive; it is ongoing. Construction never ceases. Consider our building. It started with just the auditorium. Soon classrooms were added. The west & east wings were built. The fellowship hall was renovated. The church offices have been relocated. New flooring was put into the fellowship just last year. Plus, there is general upkeep and projects to maintain it. So with the church, the construction is continual. There is always refining work to be done. New members are being added. The faith of some may need shoring up. When we gather together, we edify the structure.

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The Crucifixion, pt.3

Many people base their salvation upon a thread of Scriptures pertaining to “faith-only” and usually tie it together with the present account in Luke 23.39-43, the thief on the cross. Usually, their contention is that the thief was saved because of his faith and accepted Jesus as his personal Savior. Therefore, all a person needs to do today to be saved is put their faith in Jesus. Unfortunately, this one example of a man saved under the old covenant just prior to the death of Jesus does not square with what Scripture says about salvation under the new covenant. Nor is it consistent with every example of a person being saved by the apostolic preaching. Therefore, a person desiring to know what they must do to be saved (a common question in the New Testament book of Acts also authored by Luke) must look elsewhere for that answer.

Why then does Luke include this unique incident of a contrite criminal? To confuse millions of Bible readers about how one obtains salvation? Nay, verily. Instead, Luke includes this incident to make a striking contrast. Those who are reviling Him, be it the Jewish authorities, the Roman soldiers, or the other criminal are calling on Jesus to “save himself” (v.35, 37, 39). It seems Luke highlights the fact that the cross is for the salvation of others, indeed, all of mankind (A theme of Luke’s; cf. 1.79; 2.31-32 7.1-10, esp.v.9). Further, Jesus is fulfilling His mission in providing salvation through the cross from the emarginated in society, even the prisoners and ciminals (cf. 1.52; 4.18-19; 7.22-23). This passage was not written to explain to people what they must do to be saved; it is written to show that Jesus never lost sight of the mission of Messiah even during the agony of the crucifixion.

All the voices are yelling, “Save yourself.” That’s not the point. The point is that Jesus through His substitutionary death on the cross is saving others. Even in this moment of His greatest weakness, as it were, He is accomplishing His greatest work: salvation for all mankind.

The Reviling

Many believe that both of the criminals began their final moments on their respective crosses by railing at the Son of God, joining in with the rest of those who mocked Jesus. This much can be gleaned from the parallel accounts (Matt 27.44; Mark 15.32). However, Luke records that one of the thieves had a change of heart, repentance. Key figures in church history such as Athanasius, Origen, Hilary, Chrysostrom, Theophylact, and Euthymius have held much the same view. Both of these thieves had crucified near Jesus, presumably equidistant and therefore were equally near Jesus. Both no doubt heard Jesus’ various sayings and had beheld His unjust suffering those six hours on the cross. Both were wicked men in need of salvation. Both were suffering acute pain and quickly approaching death. Both had equal opportunity to respond to the Messiah. Yet only one has a change of heart.

The one criminal is railing at Jesus, heaping up further insults on the Son of God. The tense of this verb indicates that this is something he kept on doing, as if he were continuing his activities which began at the first on the cross. The word itself is a form of the word for which we get “blasphemy.” This gives us an idea of the insults and slander which this man was speaking to Jesus. Part of the blasphemy is recorded by Luke: “Are you not the Christ?” This is a rhetorical question, the criminal expecting an affirmative answer. Of course you are the Christ and therefore you should be able to save yourself and us.

The Rebuke

“But the other rebuked him.” In this action, we see this criminal’s repentance which will be dealt with more in detail in a moment. But he rebukes his fellow criminal: “Do you not fear God?” God, the just judge; shortly these men will stand before the throne of God and give an account for what they have done. It is interesting that the thief then says their punishment is them “receiving the due reward of our deeds.” In other words, this is justice, which the thief says in v.41. Hence, he connects God and justice in nearly the same breath. God is a God of justice, pouring out His judgment on nations in history and at the end will justly judge each man. This criminal says it is God’s justice that they hang on their crosses, but Jesus is different: He “has done nothing wrong.” Here is a critical theological point: as Jesus hangs on the cross, the One who knew no sin becomes sin on our behalf (2 Cor 5.21). He is taking upon Himself the just judgment of God. In other words, God is justly judging our sins, meting out in due measure His wrath, punishing our sins through the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus.

The Repentance

There are a number of reasons put forth by scholars as to why this criminal did repent. J. C. Ryle in his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels lists several of the reasons scholarship has put forth as to why this was: “Some say, as Bengel, that he was a Gentile; and some as Scott, that he was a Jew. – Some thin, as Suarez, that he had heard our Lord preach, and seen Him work miracles at some former period. – Some think, as Euthymius, that he had heard our Lord’s answers to Pilate, and been struck by them and so learned to believe in our Lord’s kingdom. – Some think, as Stier, that he was struck by the title put over our Lord’s head on the cross. – Some think, as Theophylact, that he was pricked to the heart by hearing our Lord’s prayer for His enemies, and by seeing our Lord’s patience under suffering.” Ryle accurately notes: “All these are purely conjectural ideas.” Luke records precious little concerning what they dying man thinks of Jesus and why he repents. But it would seem to be based upon his knowledge of the innocent man hanging before him that he makes a request.

The Request

What did this criminal know about Jesus? The criminal knows Jesus’ identity. “Jesus.” The name itself means “salvation.” And here is a criminal, nearing death, conscious of need for freedom from the great sins on his record and he turns to Jesus for salvation. This implies this man was familiar with the fact that Jesus could do something about his sins. Perhaps word had even reached the ears of this criminal that there is a man who forgives sins: Jesus of Nazareth.Some later manuscripts add the word “Lord” after “Jesus” but this seems to be an interpolation added later. The criminal knows Jesus’ intelligence. “Remember me” is the criminal’s plea. This implies this man is aware of Jesus ability to grant him divine favor, even the favor of a just God. He also seems to have some idea that Jesus will know him in the after and identify as a person who died in faith. The criminal knows Jesus’ instruction. “Your kingdom,” that is Jesus’ kingdom. Now it could be argued that the criminal knew Jesus had claimed to be a king because on a placard above the cross was written “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in three languages. But inferred is the man’s knowledge of the Messianic kingdom and Jesus coming “into” His kingdom, that is His rule and reign as the church’s cosmic sovereign ruler. Implied also is the Lordship of Jesus, ruling over His kingdom. Again, perhaps word of the Messiah has reached the ears of this criminal and kingdom thoughts have been planted as seeds finally sprouting vines of faith.

The Reward

Because of the faith this criminal manifests, Jesus has a rewarding declaration for him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Truly” is “amen” in the Greek. “So be it.” “You” is emphatic; “you, even you.” “Today” for some reason is tricky with many scholars but means, simply, “today.” Not tomorrow, next week, or two thousand years yet future from when Jesus spoke these words. “Before the sun yet scorching the their tortured bodies set” (Pulpit). “Paradise” –  This is the only occasion Jesus speaks of the resting place for the righteous in this language. It conjured up, for the Jews, thoughts of perfect Eden before the fall and “Abraham’s bosom” which we have seen Jesus use earlier in Luke (16.22). It probably refers to the place where God dwells (see 2 Cor 12.4) but if nothing else, it points to a splendid place of bliss and the pleasure of fellowship with God.

Again, this is not an account to point to establish doctrine concerning salvation for people under the new covenant. Luke deals with that in his next volume Acts. What we should take away from this account is that indeed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and has the ability to forgive sins, something we have seen Him do earlier in Luke (5.20; 7.48). Here is a pentient criminal whom Jesus uses to once more demonstrate His authority and power.

The Crucifixion, pt.2

As we continue through the crucifixion scene, we cannot but see that multiple prophecies are finding their fulfillment in the historical account of Jesus’ death. Intermingled with these prophetic fulfillments is the Christ’s cries from the cross, petitions even to heaven itself for the people performing this heinous deed.

Numbered with the Transgressors

Luke especially points this out and is the only gospel writer who gives us the details concerning the dialogue between Jesus and one of these criminals in particular. The word “criminal” is actually a contraction of two words in Greek, one meaning “evil” (kakon) and the other “work” (ergos) and is variously translated “criminal” or “malefactor.” Literally these are “evil doers” (Gk. kakourgoi). These are bad men receiving their due punishment. Between these evil doers is crucified the sinless Son of God. Isaiah records how the suffering Servant would be “numbered with the transgressors” (Isa 53.12b) and how through that action he would “make intercession for the transgressors” by bearing “the sin of many.” Jesus, in the upper room scene with His disciples, when He institutes the Lord’s Supper has already pointed to the vicarious nature of His death: “this is my blood of the [new] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26.28, ESV. Emphasis mine). All of this prophecy, from Isaiah to Jesus, finds its fulfillment here in the crucifixion.

Nailed to a Cross

As mentioned in Part 1, the manner in which Jesus was to be killed, namely crucifixion, was prophecied nearly a millenium before Jesus lived in Psalm 22.16: “they have pierced my hands and feet.” This is a prophetic picture of crucifixion. Two thousand years removed from the first century Roman Empire, this cruel form of torturous death has lost its impact upon the human psyche. The cross was not a warm, fuzzy, friendly image in the early church. Indeed, for nearly a millenium the cross was not the main symbol of Christianity as it is today. People understood what crucifixion was all about. The Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero (102-43 BC) called crucifixion “a most cruel and disgusting punishment.” He went on to say, “It is a crime to put a Roman citizen in chains, it is an enormity to flog one, sheer murder to slay one; what, then, shall I say of crucifixion? It is impossible to find the word for such an abomination.” He goes on to say, “Let the very mention of the cross be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears.” Jewish historian Josephus called it “the most wretched of deaths.” Indeed, under Jewish law, being hung on a tree was a curse (see Gal 3.13 where Paul quotes Deut 21.23). It was an ugly, miserable, horrible way to die.

And yet, it should be noted that the gospel writers spend very little time dealing with the actual practice of crucifixion. Luke puts forth very simply that Jesus was crucified with next to no emphasis on the actual suffering and torment of crucifixion. The primary focus concerning the sacrifice of Christ is that 1) it happened, really and truly and 2) there are real benefits and significance for mankind as a result of the death of Jesus. Further, by comparison, the majority of the focus in the gospel narratives is on the life and teachings of Jesus as well as presenting the actual, factual resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, the crucifixion scene (i.e. the death of Jesus) seems to be pointing forward to Sunday morning when the tomb is empty (i.e. the resurrection of Jesus).

Jesus is crucified at the place called the Skull (or “Calvary,” KJV which translates it such from the Latin calvaria). In Aramaic, it is Golgotha (see John 19.17). Most scholars say this hill is north of Jerusalem looks like a skull and is therefore named appropriately. It should be noted, though, there is a tradition that this is the place where, after vanquishing his opponent, David came and buried the skull of Goliath. Yet another tradition says this is the place where Adam’s skull was buried. But is seems most likely the hill was named for what it resembled: a skull. “There they crucified Him.” The statement is brief yet sums up the entire event. One criminal is to His right, the other on His left. Here, heaven’s love and heaven’s justice will meet and the problem of sin will be settled.

Casting Lots for His Garments

Luke records a unique of Jesus from the cross in v.34: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Here is a prayer, short and simple, from the lips of Jesus. He prays the Father forgive “them.” Who? The Jews? The Romans? Either or both seems to be acceptable. As Barnes points out the Romans did not know that they were crucifying the Son of God and the Jews did not know that they were yet filling up the cup of God’s wrath. Even while the mobs cry “Crucify Him” Jesus crys out to the Father “Forgive them.”

Meanwhile, at the foot of the cross, the Roman soldiers are busy gambling for the clothing of Jesus. Yet another prophecy is fulfilled from Psalm 22.18: “they divide my garments among them,/ and for my clothing they cast lots.” The garments, history tells us, were the clothing of a simple man, even a poor man. Modern-day televangelists want people to believe that Jesus had a big house, drove a Rolls Royce, and wore designer clothing (Prosperity preachers Dr. Apostle Frederick K. C. Price, Creflo Dollar, John Hagee, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Copeland, et al). John Chrysostrom says this detail is added to show the poorness of the Lord’s clothing. In other words, He wore dressed in simple fashion.

Wagging their Heads

In verse 35 we have yet another fulfilled prophecy as Luke alludes to Psalm 22.7-8. Indeed, Matthew records this account and the words of the rulers are nearly identical to the words of David (see Matt 27.39, 43). There is a marked difference between the people (who seem to have comprised the bulk of the crowds calling for Jesus’ crucifixion) and the rulers. The people are nearby just standing and watching all of this. What was going on in their hearts and minds? Remorse? Guilt? Memories of this great Teacher? The triumphal entry just days earlier? However, the rulers of the people scoff and deride Jesus, calling upon Him to “save himself” from His present predicament. They call Him the “Christ of God.” This term has come up in Luke previously (9.20) when Peter called Jesus this same thing. No doubt they were calling Him this in that Jesus, less than 24 hours previous, had stood trial and acknowledged as much before them (22.67, 70). “His Chosen One” is unique to Luke’s account of the crucifixion. It is a term that speaks of divine favor, something that the Son of God would no doubt have. The rulers draw even more attention to the fact of Jesus’ unheard of claims and his present plight on the cross.

But the jeering does not stop with the Jewish authorities. Even the Roman soldiers (v.36), the executioners themselves, join in the ridicule, mocking Jesus as He hangs on the cross. There is yet further fulfillment of prophecy from Psalm 69.21: “for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” The soldiers, Luke tells us, did just this when they offered him “sour wine.” This was cheap wine, really vinegar wine heavily diluted with water and gall. Luke is the only gospel writer to mention that there was mocking that accompanied the offering of sour wine to Jesus. Their mocking is simple but sadistic: “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” The “if” can also be translated “since.” Having the placard posted over Jesus on the cross (v.38) would point them to an understanding that this man has claimed to be someone great. Therefore, since He is a King, he should be able to save himself.

Verse 38 presents an interesting historical note. All four gospel accounts mention a placard with an inscription and while “the four reports of the inscription slightly differ verbally” there is no difference “substantially” (Pulpit Commentary). Some of the oldest manuscripts do not have part of v.38 (“in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew”) but that this was an historical fact is evident because John records (John 19.19) and no authorities dispute this. The message on the placard is the crime for which the condemned is dying. In Jesus’ case, He claimed to be “The King of the Jews.”

These are several of the prophecies we find fulfilled directly in the historical crucifixion of Jesus. Now Luke will shift focus to an incident duirng the crrucifixion which is cause for much misunderstand pertaining to salvific matters. What’s next is Luke’s account of the thief on the cross.

The Crucifixion, pt.1

Recently, a televangelist told his audience of thousands (possibly millions across the country and around the world) that Jesus never told His disciples he was going to die on a cross, i.e. by crucifixion. What a monstrous display of biblical illiteracy! And this from a guy who has his own television broadcast seen world wide!! This particular pastor (Fred Price Jr., son of Apostle Frederick K. C. Price, pastors of the Crenshaw Christian Center) even had the audacity to claim he had researched this and would not say this if he had not researched it. My advise to this ignorant pastor: read your Bible.

For if you read your Bible, even just a cursory reading of the gospel accounts will tell you otherwise. On multiple occasions Jesus has pointed His disciples to even to the mode of death, crucifixion (See Matt 16.21, 24; 20.19; Luke 9.22-23; 24.6-7; cf. Mark 8.31, 34; 9.31; 10.33-34; Luke 18.32-33, et al). Further, even if Jesus was silent about the specifics of His death, God was not silent and prophecied centuries before crucifixion was invented in the mind of man as a torturous mode of death and nearly a millenium before Jesus ever walked the earth that Messiah would die by crucifixion (see Psalm 22.16). Again, to all the televangelists: read your Bible.

No, Jesus has been predicting exactly what will happen to Him in Jerusalem by the Jewish and Roman authorities: He would be crucified. Luke records this dreadful deed in 23.26-43. First, in verses 26-31, we run into several people on the way to the crucifixion site.

The Man

We meet a man named Simon of Cyrene, a town in North Africa. This man is a long way from home, no doubt one of the Passover pilgrims in Jerusalem for the Feast. There is precious little we know about this man and what happened to him once he finished carrying the cross to the site. Mark tells us he was father to two sons, “Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15.21). Most scholars believe that Mark wrote his gospel, aided by the apostle Peter (an eyewitness) and the Holy Spirit, to or for the church in Rome. Hence, Mark includes this specific detail about Simon of Cyrene being the father of Alexander and Rufus as if to say, “If you have any questions, just ask these men who’s dad was there and actually carried the cross.” It is interesting that in Romans 16.13 Paul greets a man in the Roman church named Rufus and his mother. Is this the same Rufus? It is possible, but any attempts to draw a hard line connecting them is purely speculation. Nevertheless, if nothing else, it would seem that Simon’s sons went on to be leaders in the early church. Were they influenced by their father, himself impacted by what he experienced when he carried the cross of a condemned man named Jesus?

Simon was coming in from the country. It seems that Jerusalem, crowded with Jews from all over the Empire, yet again has no room in the inn for anyone, Simon of Cyrene included. Hence, he forced to lodge outside the city in a nearby village and “commutes” as it were to Jerusalem for the Feast. Perhaps on this occasion he was on his way to the Temple or to the Cyrenian synagogue, which Jerusalem had. Cyrene was an important city with a large number of Jewish residents. So when they had to come from Cyrene to Jerusalem for the various feasts, they had a place to gather.

Simon is “seized” by the Romans and “compelled” to carry the cross of Christ. Jesus has been weakened by the last 24 hours and perhaps especially the scourging He has endured has taken its toll. So the soldiers lay hold of Simon had force him to go “the extra mile” as it were. The cross is laid on him and he follows Jesus as Jesus walks. Scholars reading from historians of antiquity say that the condemned often had a white sign hung about their necks which read their charges and what they had been condemned of. Perhaps Jesus has a similar sign and this is what is affixed later to the cross.

The Maidens

Luke is careful to note that this whole episode was not done in secret where no one could see; in fact, when Jesus is before Pilate there are substantial crowds of people (23.4, 13) present. Here again we see there is “a great multitue of the people” who are following along this deadly processional to Golgotha. But Luke, as he has done throughout this gospel account (1.39-52; 2.36-38; 7.11-15, 37-50; 8.1-3; 10.38-42; 11.27; 13.11-16), highlights some women who are walking along with Jesus. These women are crying out, wailing loudly, beating their breasts or smiting themselves as they go. Perhaps He sees the faces of some of the women He has known during His ministry: Mary and Martha, Joanna, Mary Magdalene. Did He see His mother’s face in the crowd? She was present at the cross (John 19.25-27).

Nevertheless, Jesus sees these women and turns to them, a dramatic gesture in the midst of chaos, and imparts some teaching about what is to come. First, He says stop weeping for Him. What? But Jesus is one His way to death. True, but Jesus knows something even worse is yet to come. Stop weeping for Jesus. Second, start weeping for yourselves and your children. When I was little if I cried over something I wanted but did not get, my dad would tell me to “dry it up or I will give you something to cry about!” Jesus does something similar; He tells them exactly what to cry about. Third, He explains why: There are some bad, terrible, horrible things come down Jerusalem’s way. In fact, it will be a blessing to have been barren and not had children when this time comes. People will be calling for mountains and hills to fall and cover them from the terror and horror of what is coming. “They” in v.29-30 seems to be the people who have called for the death of Jesus – the religious leaders and other various people of Jerusalem, the crowds. And all the judgment coming upon them would spill over onto all of Jerusalem. Hence, these “Daughters of Jerusalem” who belong to Jerusalem proper do have something to weep, lament, and beat their breasts over: the coming destruction of Jerusalem, heaven’s exclamation point on the grand scheme of redemption.

Finally, there is this cryptic word from Jesus in v.31: “For if they do these when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” What’s this all about? It seems to be a common proverb used as an explanation of what Jesus has just said. Various interpretations abound. Leon Morris in his commentary on Luke offers several which all seem plausible. Morris writes: “If the innocent Jesus suffered thus, what will the fate of the guilty Jews? If the Romans treat thus One whom they admit to be innocent, what will they do to the guilty? If the Jews treat like this Jesus who had come to bring salvation, what will be their punishment for destroying him? If the Jews behave like this before their wickedness reaches its consummation, what will they be like when it does? If grief is aroursed by the present events, what will it be when the subsequent disaster strikes?” Farrar adds: “If they act thus to me, the Innocent and the Holy, what shall be the fate of these, the guilty and false.” Inasmuch as Jesus addressed these Jewish women and it was the Jewish who so vehemently sought his death, this proverb from Jesus seems targeted for the Jews. The “wood” when he spoke this proverb is “green,” that is hard to burn. But its drying. Even as Jesus marches to Golgotha, the wood is drying. And when it is dry, what will happen? We, looking back into history, know exactly what happen when Jerusalem’s time in AD 70.