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÷÷LUKE 23



Jesus Brought Before Pilate Jesus Handed Over to Pontius Pilate Jesus Before Pilate Jesus Before Pilate Jesus Before Pilate
23:1-5 23:1-5 23:1-5 23:1-2  
Jesus Before Herod Jesus Faces Herod Jesus Before Herod Antipas Jesus Before Herod  
23:6-112 23:6-12 23:6-12 23:6-12 Jesus Before Herod
Jesus Sentenced to Die Taking the Place of Barabbas Jesus Before Pilate Jesus Is Sentenced to Death Jesus Before Pilate Again
23:13-25 23:13-25 23:13-17 23:13-17 23:13-19
    23:18-25 23:18-19  
      23:20-21 23:20-23
The Crucifixion The King On A Cross The Crucifixion Jesus Is Crucified The Way to Calvary
23:26-31 23:26-43 23:26-31 23:26 23:26-32

23:32-38   23:32-38 23:32-34a The Crucifixion
      23:34b-35 The Crucified Christ is Mocked
      23:38 The Good Thief
23:39-43   23:39-43 23:39 23:39-43

The Death of Jesus

Jesus Dies on the Cross

The Death of Jesus

The Death of Jesus

23:44-49 23:44-49 23:44-49 23:44-46 23:44-46
        After the Death
      23:47 23:47-48
      23:48-49 23:49
The Burial of Jesus Jesus Buried in Joseph's Tomb   The Burial of Jesus The Burial
23:50-56a 23:50-56 23:50-56a 23:50-54 23:50-54
      23:55-56a 23:55
    23:56b 23:56b 23:56

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.


÷LUKE 23:1-5

 1Then the whole body of them got up and brought Him before Pilate. 2And they began to accuse Him, saying, "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King." 3So Pilate asked Him, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?" And He answered him and said, "It is as you say." 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no guilt in this man." 5But they kept on insisting, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place."

23:1 The NJB puts this verse as the conclusion of the paragraph beginning in Luke 22:66. This is because "the whole body" refers to the Sanhedrin (cf. Matt. 26:59), who met early in the morning in an attempt to legitimatize their judicial proceedings of the night before.

23:2 "they began to accuse Him, saying" Although Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin for blasphemy, the charges they brought before Pilate relate to sedition:

  1. corrupting the nation
  2. forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar
  3. claiming to be a king himself (the Jewish Messiah, see Special Topic at Luke 2:11)

23:3 "Pilate asked Him, saying 'Are You the King of the Jews?' And He answered him and said, 'It is as you say'" Jesus answered in the affirmative, but with qualifications (in a sense similar to His answer to the High Priests in Luke 22:70). Pilate would have understood this as a "no" to the political charge of sedition. One of the main purposes of Luke and John is to show that Jesus and His followers are no threat to Roman authority (cf. Matt. 26:25; John 18:36-37).

Special Topic: Pontius Pilate

Special Topic: Jews

Special Topic: OT Titles for the Special Coming One

NASB   "I find no guilt in this man"
NKJV, Peshitta   "I find no fault in this Man"
NRSV   "I find no basis for an accusation against this man"
TEV   "I find no reason to condemn this man"
NJB   "I find no case against this man"
REB   "I find no case for this man to answer"

Luke emphasizes this truth over and over, as does John, that Jesus was not treasonous and that Pilate understood this (cf. Luke 23:14,15,22; John 18:38; 19:4,6).

NASB   "but they kept on insisting"
NKJV   "but they were the more fierce"
NRSV   "but they were insistent"
TEV   "but they insisted even more strongly"
NJB   "but they persisted"
Peshitta   "but they shouted"

This is an IMPERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE. The Greek term epischuō appears only here in the NT, but is used twice in the Septuagint (cf. I Macc. 6:6; Sir. 29:1) in the same sense. The other Gospel writers use the term katēgoreō (cf. Matt. 27:12; Mark 15:3; John 18:29; even Luke in Luke 23:10). Luke often uses his own vocabulary even when following Mark's Gospel. The doctrine of inspiration must include the Holy Spirit's using the vocabulary of the individual NT authors. Their words are directed by God, but not dictated. The NT authors were not typewriters.

Special Topic: Inspiration

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, Peshitta   "He stirs up the people"
TEV   "he is starting a riot among the people"
NJB   "He is inflaming the people"
REB   "causing unrest among the people"

Here Luke uses the same VERB as Mark (15:11). This word is not found in the Septuagint.

▣ "starting from Galilee" The Jewish authorities added this to further condemn Jesus as a traitor to Rome. Galilee was a hotbed of seditious activity. However, Pilate used this as an opportunity to pass the judicial responsibility to Herod (cf. Luke 23:6-7).

÷LUKE 23:6-7

 6When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that He belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time.

23:6 This is a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE. Pilate assumed Jesus was from Galilee.

23:7 "Herod's jurisdiction" This refers to Herod Antipas.

Special Topic: The Famaily of Herod the Great

▣ "who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time" Passover was one of the three major annual Jewish feasts (cf. Lev. 23). All Jewish males were expected to attend. Certainly all Jewish leaders would be present.

÷LUKE 23:8-12

 8Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. 9And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing. 10And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently. 11And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate. 12Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other.

23:8 "Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus" Only Luke records the trial before Herod. Herod was very interested in Jesus (cf. Matt. 14:1-2; Luke 9:9). Luke's source of information may have been Manaen, who grew up with Herod (cf. Acts 13:1).

▣ "to see some sign performed by Him" Herod was curious about Jesus. He had heard of His miracles. Herein is the problem of the miraculous. It can lead to mere curiosity and amazement, but not to personal faith and repentance as the appropriate response to the gospel message. Satan can and will perform miracles (cf. Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22; Rev. 13:13; 16:14; 20:20). The OT warns of these false prophets in Deut. 13:1-3!

23:9 "but He answered him nothing" This may be a fulfillment of Isa. 53:7b and e. Jesus did not initially reply to

  1. the Sanhedrin (cf. Matt. 26:63), but later did briefly (cf. Matt. 26:63-64)
  2. Pilate (cf. Matt. 27:12,14; Mark 15:5; John 19:9), but later did (cf. John 18:34,36-37; 19:11)
  3. Herod (cf. Luke 23:9) Jesus did not reply at all

23:10 The Sanhedrin accompanied Jesus to Herod and vehemently accused Him. The ADVERB "vehemently" (eutonōs) is used only in Luke's writings (cf. Luke 23:10; Acts 18:28), but is in the Septuagint (cf. Jos. 6:8). They may have expanded their charges before Herod to include blasphemy. Herod would have been sensitive to order and stability in the temple.

23:11 This is an example of the kinds of historical problems commentators face in trying to merge the four accounts of Jesus' life. Luke records that Herod's soldiers mocked Jesus as King, but Matthew 27:27-31, Mark 15:16-20, and John 19:1-5 record that it was the Roman soldiers. Herein enter the interpretive options:

  1. both groups of soldiers mocked Jesus
  2. only Herod's soldiers did
  3. only the Roman soldiers did

We must remember that the Gospels are not western histories, but eastern evangelistic tracts. The event is crucial, but the details must remain uncertain. Gospel writers had the authority under inspiration to arrange, adapt, and select events from Jesus' life. They did not have the authority to invent words, actions, and events! Soldiers mocked Jesus! Who, when, and why must remain ambiguous.

NASB, NKJV, REB   "a gorgeous robe"
NRSV   "an elegant robe"
TEV   "a fine robe"
NJB   "a rich cloak"
Peshitta   "scarlet robe"

The Greek term lampros basically means "bright" (cf. Rev. 19:8) or "shining," possibly "gaudy." James uses this word for a rich man's clothes (James 2:2,3). Mark 15:17 and John 19:2 describe the robe as purple (color of royalty); Matthew 27:28 as scarlet (a soldier's cloak). They were mocking Him as a supposed king!

23:12 This friendship between Pilate and Herod is unique to Luke, modern historians have no idea about what this involves.

÷LUKE 23:13-17

 13Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14and said to them, "You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. 15"No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. 16Therefore I will punish Him and release Him." 17 [Now he was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.]

23:13 This is surprising since the Sanhedrin brought Jesus to Pilate (cf. Luke 23:1) and accompanied Him to Herod (cf. Luke 23:10). Possibly Pilate took some time to conduct other business before returning to the trial of Jesus.

23:15 "has been done by Him" This is a PERIPHRASTIC PERFECT PASSIVE. Jesus had not done anything during His life worthy of crucifixion. Here Luke emphasizes that the highest Roman official rejects the Jewish charges against Jesus!

23:16 "Therefore I will punish Him and release Him" This was a common procedure in Roman law. This punishment was mild compared to the severe flogging that occurred before crucifixion. It is from the root pais (child) and was used of discipline in 2 Cor. 11:32 and Heb. 12:6,7,10, but has a harsher connotation in 2 Cor. 6:9.

There are many factors involved in Pilate's actions, but the most significant ones were

  1. he acknowledged Jesus' innocence
  2. he understood the Sanhedrin's manipulation and threats (cf. John 19:12)
  3. his own wife had warned him (cf. Matt. 27:19-20)
  4. he was afraid of a riot during the Feast days (cf. Luke 23:18)
  5. Pilate was very superstitious himself (cf. John 19:7-8)

23:17 Verse 17 is omitted from manuscripts P75, A, B, K, L, T, 070, or 0124, and the Old Latin, Vulgate, and Coptic versions, but is in the uncial manuscripts א, D (after Luke 23:19), W, and 063. This information is included in Matt. 27:15; Mark 15:6; and John 18:39. The NASB and NKJV include the text with brackets. The NRSV, TEV, and NJB omit the verse and put it in a footnote. The UBS4 rates its omission as "A" (certain). This shows the tendency of early scribes to standardize the Gospel's phrasing and details.

Special Topic: Textual Criticism

÷LUKE 23:18-25

 18But they cried out all together, saying, "Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!" 19(He was one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection made in the city, and for murder.) 20Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, 21but they kept on calling out, saying, "Crucify, crucify Him!" 22And he said to them the third time, "Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him." 23But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail. 24And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted. 25And he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will.

23:18 "they cried out all together" This "they" includes the Sanhedrin and a mob (cf. Luke 23:13). The makeup of this mob is not specified, but it surely did not include the many pilgrims from Galilee and Perea, Jesus' supporters from Jerusalem, or some members of the leadership (like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea). It is quite possible that the supporters of Barabbas (zealots) had been informed and recruited for this very purpose or that the family and friends of the Sadducean leadership had gathered their supporters.

▣ "Away with this man" This IMPERATIVE form is found only in Luke's Gospel. It is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE of the term airō, which basically means to lift up. Here it is used in its metaphorical sense of "take away and kill" (cf. John 19:15). It has this sense in the Septuagint (cf. I Macc. 16:19; Esther 4:1). This metaphorical usage may have come from the Hebrew idiom "to lift the hand against" (cf. Job 15:25).

▣ "and release for us Barabbas" This is an AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. Apparently it was a common Roman practice to release (but unknown in historical documents) one prisoner at the Passover to gain Jewish favor (cf. Matt. 27:15; Mark 15:6; John 18:39). It is ironic that the man released was guilty of the very same crime for which Jesus is being accused (cf. Luke 23:19, which may be a comment from Luke's source, cf. TEV).

23:20 This is an amazing verse. Why did Pilate want to release Jesus?

  1. his sense of Roman justice
  2. his animosity for the Jewish leadership
  3. his personal superstition or his wife's warning
  4. his desire not to cause a riot at Passover

23:21 "Crucify, crucify Him" These are both PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVES. This shout of condemnation by the mob is recorded in all four Gospels.

  1. Matthew 27:22,23, AORIST PASSIVE IMPERATIVE
  3. Luke 23:21 (twice), PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE
  5. John 19:6 (twice), AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE

The Gospels do not dwell on the physical aspect of Jesus' death (cf. Ps. 22:16). This form of death was developed in Mesopotamia and was taken over by the Greeks and Romans. It was meant to be an extended, excruciating death taking several days. Its purpose was to humiliate and cause fear as a deterrent to rebellion against Rome. A thorough article is in the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 1040-42.

Special Topic: Crucifixion

23:22 "a third time" Luke repeats Pilate's statements of Jesus' innocense three times for emphasis! Jesus was not seditious!

23:23 "But they were insistent" This is an IMPEFECT MIDDLE (deponent) INDICATIVE, which denotes repeated action. The Jewish authorities in essence blackmailed Pilate (cf. John 19:12).

23:25 "but he delivered Jesus to their will" This same term is used in the Septuagint in Isa. 53:12, "was delivered up."

÷LUKE 23:26

 26When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.

23:26 "Simon of Cyrene" This was apparently a Jew of the Diaspora. There were many Jews from Cyrene (North Africa) in Jerusalem as the presence of their own Synagogue suggests (cf. Acts 2:10; 6:9; 11:20; 13:1). I doubt that this was a black man. Cyrene was founded by Greek traders (seventh century B.C.) and many Greek-speaking Jews migrated to this city. He seems to have been a Jew attending the feast days. He might have later become a very well-known person in the church (cf. Luke 15:21; possibly Rom. 16:13).

▣ "coming in from the country" He was probably staying in the suburbs because there was no place in Jerusalem for most of the pilgrims to stay. The surrounding suburbs opened their homes to these annual pilgrims.

▣ "and placed on him the cross" We are not certain of the exact shape of the cross (a little "t," a capital "T," or an "X") nor are we certain what part of the cross was carried by condemned prisoners of the first century. Jesus was so badly beaten (cf. Isa. 52:14; 53:3; Luke 22:63; 23:11; Matt. 20:19; Mark 10:34; 15:15; John 19:1) that He was unable to fulfill this aspect of the crucifixion. The Roman soldiers had the option to solicit civilian aid at any point for any reason.

÷LUKE 23:27-31

 27And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. 28But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.' 30Then they will begin
 to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,'
 and to the hills, 'Cover us.'
31For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

25:27-31 This account is found only in Luke, who took special note of Jesus' conversations with women.

23:27 "And following Him was a large crowd of the people" This probably refers to the pilgrims who were just awakening and realizing what had taken place in the early morning hours.

▣ "women who were mourning and lamenting Him" This seems to refer to the women of Jerusalem, not to the women who accompanied the disciples (cf. Luke 23:49,55-56; 18:13) because Jesus calls then "daughters of Jerusalem" (cf. Luke 23:28).

23:28 "stop weeping for Me" This is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE with the NEGATIVE PARTICLE, which usually denotes stopping an act in process.

▣ "but weep for yourselves and for your children" This is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. It probably refers to the predicted fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (cf. Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Because of the mob's self-curse in Matt. 27:25, it may refer to the spiritual and eschatological consequences of unbelief.

23:29 "'For behold, the days are coming'" This refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by Titus, but it may also foreshadow the eschatological Second Coming of Jesus in judgment.

▣ "Blessed are the barren" This was strong irony for these Jewish women, for whom barrenness was seen as a curse from God.

23:30 This is a quote from Hos. 10:8 addressed to rebellious Israel or perhaps an allusion to Isa. 2:19, which is a context of judgment. This OT text is also quoted in Rev. 6:16.

23:31 This apparently is a common proverb that in essence means "if they (i.e., Roman authorities) can treat me like this when I am innocent, then what will they do to you?"

▣ "if" This is a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE, which is assumed to be true frm the author's perspective or for his/her literary purposes.

÷LUKE 23:32

 32Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him.

23:32 "Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him" This is a fulfillment of prophecy (cf. Isa. 53:9; Matt. 27:38).

÷LUKE 23:33-38

 33When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. 34But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. 35And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, "He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One." 36The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, 37and saying, "If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!" 38Now there was also an inscription above Him, "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS."

NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB, NIV, REB, Peshitta   "The Skull"
NKJV   "Calvary"

In Greek and English this is called "the cranium"; in Aramaic, "Golgatha"; in Latin, "calvaria." The exact location and topological description of this site is uncertain. The term does not refer to the full skull, but just the forehead. It seems to be a low, bald hill located on at least one or possibly two major roads entering Jerusalem. Remember the purpose of capital punishment was the deterrence of further rebellion.

▣ "there they crucified Him" The accounts of the crucifixion are not meant to solicit our sympathy, for the horror of Calvary was not in the physical pain, but in the spiritual rebellion of humanity that made it necessary (cf. Gen. 3:15; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Special Topic: Crucifixion

23:34 The first part of Luke 23:34, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing," is found in the Greek manuscripts אi*,2, A, C, D2, L, and 0250. It is also found in the Greek manuscripts used by Marcion, the Diatessaron, Justin, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Eusebius, Chrysostoma, Jerome (Vulgate), and Augustine. It is omitted in P75, אi1, B, D*, W, and 070. The UBS4 (1993) rates its omission as "A" (certain). The UBS3 (1975) rates its omission as "C" (difficulty in deciding). There is no parallel in the other Gospels. It is similar to Stephen's last words in Acts 7:60, which may be an allusion to these words of Jesus.

▣ "And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves" This was the reward for the Roman soldiers. All of the condemned criminal's belongings belonged to those who crucified them. It seems to fulfill the prophecy of Ps. 22:18 (cf. Matt. 27:35; John 19:24).

23:35 "even the rulers were sneering at Him" This also seems to be a fulfillment of Psalm 22:6-8.

▣ "He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One" We must remember that crucifixion, as viewed by First Century Judaism, was a curse from God (cf. Deut. 21:33). This is exactly why the Sanhedrin wanted Him crucified as a Messianic pretender.

Special Topic: Salvation (OT)

▣ "if" This is a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE, which is normally a way of asserting the truth of an assertion, but here it is used in sarcasm! All FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCES are not true to reality, but true from the author's perspective or, as here, for the speakers' (the rulers) purposes (mockery).

23:36 "offering Him sour wine" Jesus originally refused the drugged wine from the soldiers (cf. Matt. 27:34; Mark 15:23), but later He accepted the sour cheap wine (oxos, cf. John 19:29). This was not a gesture of compassion from the soldiers, but a way to extend the agony of crucifixion and thereby amplify its deterrent effect. This is a fulfillment from the LXX of Ps. 69:21, which also used oxos. I believe Jesus was so thirsty that He could not speak His last words for us to hear and, therefore, accepted the liquid. This is recorded in all four Gospels.

23:37 "if" This is another FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL used in mockery (cf. Luke 23:35).

23:38 "Now there was also an inscription above Him, 'THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS'" John tells us it was in three languages (cf. John 19:20). Apparently Pilate did this to goad the Jewish leaders (cf. John 19:19-21). Usually the crime for which the person was being crucified was displayed above the head on the cross.

Some early Greek manuscripts add "written in three languages," after "above Him" which comes from John 19:20. This phrase is omitted in P75, אi1, B, L, and 070. The UBS4 committee rank its omission as "A" (certain).

÷LUKE 23:39-43

 39One of the criminals who hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" 40But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" 43And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."

23:39 The mockery continues (IMPERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE).

▣ "Are You not the Christ" This question grammatically expects a "yes" answer, but it is mockery.

Special Topic: Messiah

23:40 "But the other answered, and rebuking him said" Both Matt. 27:44 and Mark 15:32 have both thieves insulting Jesus, however, in Luke one of them repented (cf. Luke 23:40-41) and turned to Jesus for help (cf. Luke 23:42). The beautiful thing is that Jesus responded as He always did and always does!

23:42 This dying criminal, with probably little knowledge of the gospel, was freely accepted and forgiven. Oh the reach of the mercy and grace of God!

23:43 "today" If this is to be taken literally and Jesus did not ascend to heaven (cf. Acts 1:9) for some forty days (cf. Acts 1:3), then this cannot refer to heaven in this context, but to the righteous part of hades (see note below).

It is surely possible that it was figurative and thereby has nothing to do with hades.

For me the most precious part of Jesus' statement is "you shall be with Me"! Jesus' presence is what makes paradise, paradise!

Special Topic: Where Are the Dead?

▣ "Paradise" This is a Persian loan word for a nobleman's walled garden used in the Septuagint (of Gen. 2:8; 13:10) for the Garden of Eden. The rabbis usually used this term for one of the divisions of Hades or Sheol, where the righteous abide (i.e., Abraham's bosom, cf. Luke 16:22,23; I Levi 18:10-11; Ps. Sol. 14:3; I Enoch 17-19; 60:7,8,23; 61:12). Paul uses this in the sense of heaven in 2 Cor. 12:3 (also see Rev. 2:7). It is my opinion that Jesus went to Hades after His death on the cross (cf. 1 Pet. 3:19; 4:16) and some thirty to forty hours later, He arose from the dead. When He ascended forty days later, He took all of those in the righteous part of Sheol with Him (cf. Eph. 4:7-10). Now Paul can say in 2 Cor. 5:6,8, "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."

Special Topic: Where Are the Dead?

÷LUKE 23:44-49

 44It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." Having said this, He breathed His last. 47Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent." 48And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. 49And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.

23:44 "It was now about the sixth hour" There is some confusion over whether this is Roman time or Greek time. Here is my comment from Mark 15:1:

Mark, like all Jewish writings, does not focus on specific times. It is probable that the Jews of Jesus' day divided the night and day into twelve hours each (cf. John 11:9), with three four-hour segments. The twenty-four hour day comes from Babylon. The Greeks and Jews borrowed it from them. The sundial was divided into twelve segments.

In chapter 15 Mark has several time markers:

  1. sunrise, Mark 15:1 (around 6 A.M. depending on the time of the year)
  2. third hour, Mark 15:25 (around 9 A.M.)
  3. sixth hour, Mark 15:33 (around noon)
  4. ninth hour, Mark 15:34 (around 3 P.M.)
  5. evening, Mark 15:42 (sunset, around 6 P.M.)

▣ "and darkness fell over the whole land" This is one of the OT judgment signs, either in a covenantal sense (cf. Exod. 10:21; Deut. 28:28-29) or an apocalyptic sense (cf. Joel 2:2; Amos 8:9-10; Zeph. 1:15). This is a symbol of God the Father taking His presence away from His Son, who bore the sin of all humanity. This is what Jesus feared most in Gethsemane (expressed by "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?" in Mark 15:34). Jesus became a sin offering and bore the sin of all the world (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). He experienced personal separation from the Father. Darkness was a symbol of God the Father turning away from His Son.

23:45 "the sun being obscured" We get the English word "eclipse" from this Greek word, but it was technically not an eclipse, rather an act of God. There are several Greek manuscript variants of the unusual phrase, but none change the obvious meaning of the text.

▣ "the veil of the temple was torn in two" Mark 15:38 tells us that it was torn from top to bottom (God's action). The way to intimacy with God had been fully opened for all. A Talmudic tradition says the "doors of the Temple opened automatically" during the crucifixion. Here is a quote from my commentary on Mark 15:38 (see www.freebiblecommentary.org):

"There were two curtains to the inner shrine of the Temple, one in the Holy Place and a second before the Holy of Holies. If the second was ripped no one would have seen it except the priests, unless the first one was regularly pulled back and tied to the sides. These curtains are described in Exod. 26:31-37. In Jesus' day, in Herod's remodeled Temple, this curtain was 60' by 30' and about 4" thick! If the outer one was ripped all worshipers in the different outer courts would have seen it. This seems to show that the way to intimate fellowship with God has been reestablished by Christ's death (cf. Gen. 3:15; Exod. 26:31-35). In Matt. 27:51-53 other miracles are recorded as attesting signs."

23:46 "Jesus, crying out with a loud voice" This is paralleled in

  1. Matt. 27:50, but His words are not given
  2. Mark 15:37, but His words are not given
  3. John 19:30, where Jesus says, "It is finished"

▣ "into Your hands I commit My spirit" This is a quote from Ps. 31:5. The term "spirit" refers to the human person.

Special Topic: Spirit (pneuma) in the NT

▣ "He breathed His last" The last exhalation was seen as the departing of the spirit (expiring). The same Hebrew word (ruah, BDB 924) denoted (1) breath; (2) spirit; and (3) wind. Therefore, this is a Semitic idiom for death (cf. TEV).

23:47 "when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God saying, 'Certainly this man was innocent'" Matthew (27:54) and Mark (15:39) have "a son of God." Plummer catches the essence of this phrase when he translates "he was a good man and quite right in calling God His Father." This is not a sign that this Roman guard was saved, but he recognized that Jesus was an extraordinary man and died in a very unusual manner. The NET Bible (p. 1882) has an interesting comment, "Here is a fourth figure who said that Jesus was innocent in this chapter (Pilate, Herod, a criminal, and now a centurion)." Here is my commentary from Matt. 27:54:

"There is no ARTICLE with son. This implied that although this soldier was surely impressed by all that happened he was not converted. He asserts Jesus was "a son of God," not Lord. However in the parallel in Luke 23:47 he is proclaiming Jesus as righteous or innocent. The irony is that this Roman soldier saw what the Jewish leaders did not (cf. Matt. 27:19; John 1:11).

This is literally "this man was a son of God." The image of God in mankind has been restored! Intimate fellowship is again possible. However the absence of the ARTICLE does not automatically mean it is not DEFINITE (cf. Matt. 4:3,6; 14:33; 27:43; and Luke 4:3,9). This was a hardened Roman soldier. He had seen many men die (cf. Matt. 27:54). This may be "the focal passage" of Mark because this Gospel was specifically written to Romans. It has many Latin words and very few OT quotes. Also Jewish customs and Aramaic phrases are translated and explained. Here is a Roman centurion professing faith in a crucified Jewish insurrectionist!

It is possibly purposeful that passers by, chief priests, and even fellow prisoners mock Jesus, but the Roman centurion responds in affirmation and awe!"

23:49 "all the crowd" This is obviously hyperbolic because the Jewish leaders were not grieved over Jesus' death.

▣ "beating their breasts" This was a sign of grief and/or repentance (cf. Luke 18:13). Many of the crowd who stayed to the very end were Jesus' supporters and friends (but no apostles except John, cf. John 19:20-27). The women who traveled with Jesus were also there (cf. Mark 15:40-41).

There are several later Greek manuscript additions which intensify the grief. See Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 182.

Special Topic: Grieving Rites

Special Topic: The Women Who Traveled with Jesus and His Disciples

23:49 "and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee" It is possible that this large group of women was the financial base for Jesus and the disciples during His teaching ministry.

Special Topic: The Women Who Followed Jesus

÷LUKE 23:50-56

 50And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man 51(he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; 52this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. 54It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. 56Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes.

23:50 "And a man named Joseph" He seems to have been a secret disciple, along with Nicodemus (cf. Matt. 27:57; John 12:42). However, after Jesus' death he went publicly to ask Pilate for Jesus' body (cf. John 19:38). It was dangerous to be identified as a friend of a crucified insurrectionist.

As an orthodox Jew of his day, Joseph would have made himself ceremonially unclean to observe the Passover Sabbath by:

  1. going into a Gentile house
  2. touching a dead body

However, he may have been attempting to remove the curse of Deut. 21:22-23. Usually the Romans let the bodies of the crucified remain unburied at the place of death, but because the Jews were so squeamish about unburied bodies, the Romans allowed them to bury their dead.

▣ "a member of the Council" See Special Topic: The Sanhedrin

▣ "a good and righteous man" Joseph had become a believer (cf. Matt. 27:57), but this phrase is a Hebrew idiom of his standing within Judaism. This does not imply his sinlessness, but that, like Noah (cf. Job 1:1), they had responded positively to all they understood of God's will and way. Nicodemus would have been seen in this same way (cf. John 3:1).

23:51 "(he had not consented to their plan and action)" This is a comment from the author and his research (cf. Luke 1:1-4).

Special Topic: Blameles, Innocent, Guiltless, Without Reproach

▣ "Arimathea" The term means "height" and is apparently another name for the city of Ramah (BDB 928), which was located five miles northeast of Jerusalem.

▣ "who was waiting for the kingdom of God" This is an IMPERFECT MIDDLE (deponent) INDICATIVE.

Special Topic: The Kingdom of God

23:52 "this man went to Pilate" This would have made him ceremonially unclean to participate in the high Sabbath of Passover week. This would also have identified him with Jesus, a crucified insurrectionist. This was a bold and decisive act.

Special Topic: Pontius Pilate

▣ "asked for the body of Jesus" Normally the Romans left the bodies on the cross to decay, as a deterrent to rebellion. These bodies were the property of Rome. They were usually not given back to the families for proper burial, which was especially important to Jews. This was a special, unusual request. It was granted because of the Jewish sensibilities about dead bodies ceremonially polluting the land during the Passover season.

23:53 "wrapped it in a linen cloth" Nicodemus was also there (cf. John 19:39-40). They quickly prepared Jesus' body (i.e., because of the rapid approach of the Sabbath at 6 p.m.) according to Jewish tradition. The Jews did not practice embalming as the Egyptians did, but they had a set procedure involving linen wraps and spices.

Special Topic: Burial Practices

▣ "in a tomb cut into the rock" This is another fulfillment of predictive prophecy (cf. Isa. 53:9; Matt. 27:66).

Jesus was not buried in the ground, but in Joseph's family crypt. It was hollowed out of a rock cliff and would have included several burial slabs. There were many of these in the Jerusalem area.

▣ "where no one had even lain" This phrase has three negatives! The VERB is a PERIPHRASTIC IMPERFECT PASSIVE. The tomb was prepared, but had never held a corpse (cf. John 19:41).

23:54 "It was the preparation day" In Jesus' day Passover was an eight-day feast (Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover, cf. Exodus 12); thus, it had two Sabbaths. This term can also refer to the normal preparations for a Sabbath or the special preparations for the Passover meal.

▣ "and the Sabbath was about to begin" Let me quote from my commentary on Mark 15:42, "where the evening had already come":

"Mark is the only Gospel that mentions this. Exodus 12:6 has "evenings" as if there were two: (1) 3:00 p.m. ‒ 6:00 p.m. and (2) 6:00 p.m. and later. Context implies it must have been after 3:00 p.m. (the time of the evening sacrifice), but before 6:00 p.m. (the start of the Passover Sabbath, which would have been the 15th of Nisan)."

Special Topic: Passover

Special Topic: Sabbath

23:55 "the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed" See Special Topic: The Women Who Followed Jesus

23:56 "they returned and prepared spices and perfumes" Although these women had seen Joseph and Nicodemus prepare and place the body of Jesus in a tomb, apparently because of the time limitations (i.e., between 3 ‒ 6 p.m.) something of the normal Jewish burial procedures (possibly the aromatic candles or some particular spices) may have been left out, and these women were going to properly finish the traditional procedures.

Special Topic: Burial Spices

÷LUKE 23:56

 56bAnd on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

23:56b "the commandment" This refers to Exod. 20:8-11 or Deut. 5:12-15. These were still Jewish people who respected and obeyed the Mosaic Law.

Special Topic: Terms for God's Revelation


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is it so significant that Pilate repeated over and over that Jesus was innocent?

2. Why would Jesus not speak to Herod?

3. Who made up the crowd that asked for Barabbas?

4. Was Simon of Cyrene a Jew or a black man?

5. What does the term "Calvary" mean?

6. What does the term "paradise" refer to?

7. Was the Roman guard saved in Luke 23:47?


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