Saturday, October 16, 2021

2021.10.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 23:35–46

Read Luke 23:35–46

Questions from the Scripture text: What were the people doing ( Luke 23:35)? What were the rulers doing? And saying? Who else mocked (Luke 23:36)? By doing what? And saying what (Luke 23:37)? What was written over Him (Luke 23:38)? In what languages? What did the inscription say? Who else blasphemed Him (Luke 23:39)? What did he say? What did the other criminal do (Luke 23:40)? Saying what? What did he point out was the same? But what was different about their condemnation (Luke 23:41)? What were they receiving? But what does he say Christ has done? Then to Whom does he speak (Luke 23:42)? What does he call Him? What does he ask Him to do? When? How does Jesus begin His response to emphasize the answer (Luke 23:43)? About what time does He promise? With Whom does He say the criminal will be? Where? What time was it (Luke 23:44)? What happened? Until when? What happened to produce this darkness (Luke 23:45)? And what happened to what veil? What does Jesus do at the beginning of Luke 23:46? Then to Whom does He speak? What does He say He is going to do? And then what does He do?

Luke’s selections of what to report of Jesus’s time on the actual cross focus upon mocking and upon mercy.

First, there is the mocking of the rulers, the soldiers, and even one of the criminals. Luke 23:35 seems to imply that the people started the “He saved others…” sneering, and that the rulers were happy enough to jump in and join with them. The motivations are slightly different. For many of the people, the way the week had started (cf. Luke 19:38), they were probably hoping that Jesus would be the One who brought them out from under Rome. Surely, it was a disappointment to see the mocking sign in Luke 23:38. For the rulers’ part, they had persistently resisted the idea that Jesus is the Christ, and they probably now feel vindicated.

The soldiers also mock (Luke 23:36). The sour wine is not the same as the wine-with-gall that Jesus refuses in other gospels. This particular wine was something that soldiers would drink when they were coming off of their shift. It’s part of the mocking. To their soldier sensibilities, a man can’t be a king who can save others if he can’t even save himself (Luke 23:37). Finally, one of the criminals mock, and the mockery is of the same kind: “if You are the Christ, save Yourself and us” (Luke 23:39).  

All of the mocking comes from the same wicked place of denying that Jesus is the Christ. It comes from a place of being spiritually dead and expresses a rebellion that deserves Christ’s wrath. Jesus has claimed to be the Christ, the King, the glorious One Whom you blaspheme if you mock Him (cf. Luke 23:38). Do you receive His claim—even when you do not experience the exact type of freedom which you had desired, and even when He does not seem to be defeating His enemies, and even when you are wickedly tempted to treat as insignificant His divine glory? If you do not receive Christ’s claims, you will receive wrath.

But in the second place, for those who receive Him there is mercy. Ironically, it may actually be the words of the mockers that the Lord uses to prompt the criminal that gets saved. He has heard the words… “the Christ” (Luke 23:35) … “the chosen of God” (verse 35) … “the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:37) … “the Christ” (Luke 23:39) … and now at the last “save Yourself and us” (verse 39).

But why “and us”? Is that what a great King would do? Let the guilty off? Keep those who are justly condemned from receiving the due reward of their deeds? 

This second criminal comes to a wonderful answer: yes! Yes, He would! That’s the explanation for why He does not “save Himself.” It’s not because He cannot. It’s because He will not. It’s because “this Man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41)—but look at the man on the other cross! And look at the people. And look at the rulers. And look at the Roman soldiers. These all deserve wrath. There is only One Who does not, and here He is on the next cross, precisely because He is the glorious One, the King, the Christ—dying for sinners.

So, he asks for mercy. He’s drawn the opposite conclusion from everyone else. Jesus is a King, and He is the only hope that this criminal has for not receiving the “due reward of our deeds.” He pleads the mercy of the King, “Lord, remember me.” He expresses confidence in the King, “when You come into Your kingdom.”

And Jesus rewards both the plea for mercy and the confidence. The criminal is correct about Jesus’s identity and power. Jesus is just a few hours from paradise (Luke 23:43). And the criminal is correct about Jesus’s compassion. The criminal is also now just a few hours from paradise. Three hours pass (Luke 23:44). The creation acknowledges its Creator in the darkening of the sun (Luke 23:45a). The temple acknowledges its obsolescence in the tearing of the veil (v45b). And Jesus asserts His authority—sending His soul exactly where three hours prior He had said it would go: into His Father’s hands. Into paradise.

And one criminal’s soul went with Him. Into the Father’s hands. In the presence of His Lord and King, Jesus. Into paradise.

Where will your soul go, dear reader, when it departs this world? If you trust in Jesus’s kingship, divinity, compassion, and power, you can know the answer: it will go to paradise!

What have you done with Christ’s claims about Himself? When you leave this world, will you be receiving the due reward of your deeds, or will you be with Him in paradise?

Sample prayer:  Lord, You are the Christ, the chosen One, the King, the glorious One! If we receive the due reward of our deeds, then we will be justly condemned. Remember us from Your kingdom, and gather us to Yourself in paradise when it is time for us to leave this world. For, we ask it in Your Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH340 “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” 

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