Monday, March 15, 2010

Luke 23 - Crucifixion of the Savior

by Katrina

LINK: Luke 23

BACKGROUND
The Sanhedrin did not have the authority under law to carry out capital punishment, so they brought Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor who did have that authority. Pilate found no guilt in Jesus and hoping not to have to deal with the Jews anymore, sent Jesus to Herod. Herod only used Jesus for his own amusement and sent him back to Pilate Once again, Pilate found nothing in Jesus worthy of death and tried to convince the Jews to release him. The Jewish leaders insisted on death, and Pilate finally turned him over to be crucified.

Because Jesus had already been beaten repeatedly, he was too weak to carry his own cross as was usually done. Roman soldiers pressed Simon of Cyrene into service to carry it for Jesus. Cyrene was a city in North Africa where many Jews lived, so Simon had likely traveled to Jerusalem to participate in the Passover celebration there. This participation was surely more than he had planned!

The women who had followed and provided for Jesus throughout his ministry were present at his crucifixion, and Jesus showed his compassion for them. Jesus also had compassion on the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross. They weren't the ones who had condemned Jesus, and they weren't fully aware of who he was, so Jesus asked the Father to forgive them for this act.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals. One joined in all the mocking and abuse thrown at Jesus. The other demonstrated tremendous faith in Jesus when he said, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" This man saw Jesus dying yet believed that he still had the power and authority to establish a kingdom. What amazing faith!

Jesus was on the cross for about three hours when at noon the sun went dark and darkness prevailed for the next three hours. The veil of the temple was torn in two. Jesus cried out,
"Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit," breathed his last breath, and died. He gave his life voluntarily at that moment. The death of Jesus had a profound effect on those who observed it. The centurion believed and praised God, and the multitudes beat their breasts. Jesus' friends and the women were still standing there observing all that happened.

Joseph, a member of the Jewish Council, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Criminals didn't normally get a burial, and Joseph wanted to see to it that Jesus' body wasn't discarded with the others. He wrapped the body and laid him in a rock tomb where no one else had ever lain. He didn't have time to do a complete preparation of the body before the Sabbath sun-down that prohibited work, but he did what he could and made plans with the women to complete the task properly on Sunday after the Sabbath.

REFLECTION
Let's look at the temple veil that tore during the crucifixion. Matthew tells us that it tore from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). That veil was in the temple, separating the place of sacrifice from the holiest place of God's presence. The high priest went into the inner "holy of holies" once a year in order to bring atonement to the entire nation of Israel. This process is explained more fully in Leviticus 16. (And you can read Carol's comments on Leviticus 16 here.)

What is atonement? It is the covering over of sin, producing reconciliation between man and God. The system described in Leviticus was one that provided a temporary restoration of the relationship between Israel and God and had to be repeated every year. The atonement provided through the death of Jesus isn't just for Israel but is for all mankind. It is also complete and never needs to be repeated.

The fact that the veil was torn by God (the only way it could tear from top to bottom), demonstrated that the final atonement had been made and accepted by God. No longer would a priest need to bring an offering before God on behalf of the people. Jesus had provided the ultimate atonement in his death.

APPLICATION
In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill." In Jesus' death on the cross he fulfilled the Law concerning atonement. Can you think of other ways Jesus fulfilled the Law?

Has the atonement that Jesus provided on the cross been applied to you? Do you see how Jesus was crucified to pay the penalty for your sin? The death of Jesus provides for us access to God because he took the punishment for our sin on himself. His death removed the veil that separated us from God's presence. His death opens the way for us to have forgiveness before God. Come to him for that forgiveness. Be like the thief on the cross next to Jesus and put your faith in Jesus.

PRAYER
Thank you, Father, for showing us our need for atonement by spelling it out in the Law. And thank you for providing that atonement through your son Jesus and his death on the cross. We rejoice that you have given us access to your presence. May we seek after you always. In the name of Jesus, amen.
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