Luke 22:66-71 and Luke 23 – Christ in the Heart of His Messianic Ministry
When we read in Luke 23 about Christ’s official trial and condemnation by Pontius Pilate at Gabbatha (John 19:13), we find that we come to the heart of Christ’s messianic ministry. He had to be officially condemned by the lawful magistrate of the day. That is why king Herod Antipas sent Jesus back to Pilate, also with the conclusion that Jesus was not guilty. But Pilate had to give the final judgment.
Even though the outcome of the trial is that Jesus is not guilty as charged and Pilate tried in various ways to release Christ, the final verdict of the trial was binding. The Jews did not fall for Pilate’s excuses and schemes. When given a choice, they preferred a criminal offender, Barabbas, above the Messiah Jesus. So the sentence was determined and the way to the execution was open.
The Heidelberg Catechism recognizes the importance of a trial by Pontius Pilate. Roman law demanded that rebels and insurgents be crucified. This is then also the punishment that Jesus receives.
Jesus’ Trials (Luke 22:66-23:16)
66At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67“If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.”
Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
70They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied, “You are right in saying I am.”
71Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”
1Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.”
3So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
4Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
5But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”
6On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
8When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. 9He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.
13Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” 
18With one voice they cried out, "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!" 19(Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)
20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21But they kept shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
22For the third time he spoke to them: "Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him."
23But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.Luke 22:66-23:25
In this section we look at the accounts given by Luke of the official trials of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are actually three trials: the official trial before the Sanhedrin (22:66-71), the trial before Pontius Pilate (23:1-6; 23:13-16) and the trial before Herod (23:8-12). Actually none of these three events rightly merits the name “trial” for that name presumes that someone is considered innocent until proven guilty. Also, Jesus did not have anyone to defend him. All Herod wants to do is mock Jesus and then send him back to Pilate. We will look closely at the conclusions of these trials, to see if there is any truth to the accusations brought against the Lord.
Let us note in advance that each of these three trials has an important function. The function is that the verdict is binding. It also means that if a wrong verdict is the outcome, it is still official and binding. This applies especially to the decision of the Roman Governor, but can be said of the others, too. In the end, the Lord Jesus is considered guilty by the Jews, the Romans, and the Herodians.
Before the Sanhedrin
Christ was arrested when it was still dark and he was left under a guard until the morning. During this time he was beaten and offended. When dawn came, he was brought before the Jewish council, known as the Sanhedrin. He would not get any better treatment.
This Sanhedrin was composed of the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders. This body was called together and when this was accomplished, Christ was brought before them. The NIV Study Bible notes that only after daylight could a legal trial take place for the whole council to pass the death sentence.
It appears that this Sanhedrin is not in the mood to waste time on any pleasantries but wants to get right down to the heart of the matter. “If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.” (22:67) This was their first question or accusation. Perhaps this was only an introductory question, for they really want to ask him if he is the Son of God!
All this is interrelated: The Messiah is the Son of God. This is commonly accepted in Judaism. If the Lord Jesus says that he is the Christ, then he states by implication that he is also the Son of God.
Christ did not evade this question. In John 10 it is described how the Lord earlier came into a dispute with the Jews about the question whether he is the Messiah. This happened when Christ was once in Jerusalem and was walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. We read that the Jews gathered around him saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24)
The Lord then answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.” (John 10:25) The Lord is not referring to any particular statement that he made about being the Messiah. Actually, the only time he made such a direct statement was to the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar. She said to him, “‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am he’”. (John 4:25,26)
But in John 10 the Lord means that he made it very plain to the Jews by his signs and miracles that he is the Messiah. He also said: “I and the Father are one.” At that point also the Jews understood Jesus very well. They picked up stones to execute him. The Lord stated, “‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which one of these do you stone me?’ They said to him, ‘We are not stoning you for any of these, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’” (John 10:33)
See also the question that arose earlier and is discussed in John 7:25-30. The matter of Jesus being the Messiah was always front and center. Christ did not want to get into a discussion on this matter before the time was ready. Now at his trial, the time has come to make it very clear. If you are the Christ, tell us!
Jesus answered: “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” (22:67-69) Notice that the Lord often referred to himself as “the Son of Man”. Many explainers relate this to a prophecy in Daniel 7:13, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” It will be beneficial in this connection to read and study Daniel 7, especially the verses 1-13.
After Jesus’ reply to their initial question, the Jewish leaders all asked, “‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am.’ Then they said, ‘Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.’” (22:70,71) They had no real witnesses and did not require any. He is convicted of blasphemy and that warrants the death penalty.
Under Pontius Pilate
What follows next is Christ’s trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor at that time. This trial is a sham. It is hardly a real trial; witness how Pontius Pilate tries to manipulate things.
We read that “the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.” (23:1,2)
Notice how the accusation is re-phrased and, in fact, altered. The Sanhedrin had convicted Jesus of blasphemy, a religious matter. Now it is rebellion, a political matter.
It is clear that this is a false accusation. Once they had asked Jesus specifically whether it was right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not. We discussed this matter in Luke 20:20-26. He had answered: “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” There was no incitement to refuse to pay the tax. This accusation is blatantly false.
Of course, we should understand why the Sanhedrin had to alter the accusation and make it a political one. Pontius Pilate would not get involved in a religious quarrel. He even made it very clear, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” (John 18:31) The Jewish leaders stooped so low as to blackmail Pilate, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12)
Then Pontius Plate held court on the Judge’s seat at Gabbatha and officially condemned Jesus to death and “finally handed him over to them to be crucified.” (John 19:16) The penalty for sedition and treason was death by crucifixion.
One question remains at this point of the trial under Pontius Pilate. Why did the Jews want Pontius Pilate to be involved? There are those who suggest that the Jews were not allowed to execute anyone, for that was the Governor’s jurisdiction. But Pilate himself said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” (John 18:31) He gave them permission to do what they felt had to be done.
But the Jews objected saying, “But we have no right to execute someone” (John 18:31b). And in the next verse we find that “this happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled” (John 18:32). Christ spoke words of this kind in John 3:14,15 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The same words are repeated, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32) These words were fulfilled then on the cross.
Quite another explanation leads us to think that the Jews could not directly have anything to do with executing Christ because that would have made them ceremonially impure for the Passover feast. When the Sanhedrin brought Jesus to Pilate, the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and the proper distance was observed.
I have always thought that the Jews wanted to absolve themselves of any direct blame, and so passed the matter off to Pilate, for which there was a legal precedent. They hid behind their rituals. Later they could say: we did not execute him, Pilate did! But the four Gospels make quite clear that the Jewish leaders had conspired to kill Jesus, found a way to lay the blame elsewhere, and even turned the crowd into a lynch mob, “Crucify him!” (23:21)
The Christian church has always considered the official judgment by Pontius Pilate a fact of major significance. Whether it was a fair trial or not, does not alter the legality of the conviction. Even if a judge is wrong, the conviction stands until it is officially withdrawn. In the ecumenical creeds (The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed) Pontius Pilate is specifically mentioned as the authority under which Christ suffered, was condemned, and crucified.
We also note that this article of the Apostles Creed is explained in the Heidelberg Catechism. The Reformed Creeds (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort) are nothing more than a further explanation of the ecumenical creeds. In the Heidelberg Catechism the question is asked “Why did he suffer under Pontius Pilate as judge? The answer is: “Though innocent, Christ was condemned by an earthly judge, and so he freed us from the severe judgment of God that was to fall on us” (Lord’s Day 15, Q & A 38). In the same Lord’s Day it is also stated that Christ had to be crucified because “thereby I am assured that he took upon himself the curse which lay on me, for a crucified one was cursed by God.” (Q & A 38)
We also make a reference here to a key Bible passage, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” (Galatians 3:13)
Jesus Christ and Herod
Pilate said to the Jews, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” But they insisted, and added another detail, “He stirs up all the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” (23:5)
A whole new world opens up for Pontius Pilate. Maybe he can conscript Herod Antipas to condemn Jesus. Pilate and Herod were not friends at this time (in fact they could not stand each other), but when Pilate learned “that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.” (23:7) Herod prided himself on being familiar with the Jewish traditions, and was probably in Jerusalem to see the crowds who came for the Passover.
When Herod saw Jesus he was very pleased (23:8), “because for a long time he had wanted to see him.” He hoped to see Jesus perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions but Jesus gave him no answer.
It was a trial of sorts. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were there, vehemently accusing him (23:10). When this did not lead to any satisfactory conclusion, Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Then they dressed him in an elegant robe and sent him back to Pilate (23:11).
We also read “that day Herod and Pilate became friends – before this time they had been enemies” (23:12). We do not read anywhere why Pilate and Herod were at enmity with each other. Was it the fact that Herod favored the Jews above the Romans? But now they have something in common: their hatred for the so-called “king” of the Jews. They could mock him and laugh at the Jewish leaders at the same time. Their friendship is based on evil, and will therefore not last.
When Jesus came back to Pontius Pilate with Herod’s decision not to prosecute him further, Pilate calls together the Sanhedrin and says to them, “I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him, and then release him.” Pilate hopes that a lesser punishment will teach Jesus a lesson and will pacify the Jews.
But it does not work. Even after Pilate offers the Jews a choice between releasing Jesus or Barabbas (a known violent offender accused of insurrection and murder) they choose Barabbas (23:18).This may have stunned Pilate, for who would have thought that the Jews preferred the release of Barabbas over that of Jesus Christ. Pilate tried to turn back the tide of condemnation, but everyone kept screaming “Crucify him!” (23:21) For a third time Pilate tried to reason with the Jews, “I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty” (23:22). But they insistently demanded that Jesus be crucified.
Even an attempt to raise some sympathy from the Jews by showing Jesus with a crown of thorns and a purple robe was without the desired effect. They hated him so much. He said, “Here is the Man!” 1
The Crucifixion (Luke 23:26- 43)
26As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then
“ ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’
31For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”
36The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.
39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”Luke 23:26-43
We now come to the account of the crucifixion; what preceded it and what followed.
We know that a convicted criminal was forced to carry (part of) his own cross to the place of execution, and that the upright beam weighed upwards of forty pounds. After the long and difficult night which the Lord endured, he was not able to carry the cross. We read that “as they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus” (23:26).
Simon was “seized” which means that he did not volunteer for this task but was requisitioned to do this work. We can be sure that this increased Christ’s suffering and sorrow because he had said that everyone should bear his own cross. He was already exhausted before coming to Calvary.
Some have suggested that Simon was a black man (being from Cyrene, a prominent city from Libya) but the text does not state this. Simon is identified further as the father of Rufus and Alexander (Mark 15:21). Some explainers say that Simon’s family may later have been prominent members of the Christian church, perhaps at Rome. In the Letter to the Romans Paul sends greetings to “Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too” (Romans 16:13). From this sliver of evidence, we cannot be certain if there is a deeper connection between Simon, his family, and Jesus Christ.
We do read that a large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Perhaps these are the people that followed the entire procedure during the night. The women have already taken up the mourners’ chant, lamenting the death of a young man with so much promise.
But the Lord turns and says to the women, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (23:28-31)
What the Lord says here refers first of all to the Fall of Jerusalem, which occurred a few decades later. All, including mothers and infants, would be killed. People would rather be buried alive or hide deep in the ground rather than be found by Roman soldiers.
This same line of thinking can be found in the prophets Isaiah and Hosea. It is also mentioned in Revelation 6:16 in the context of the final judgment, “They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’ For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” No one will escape the great day of the wrath of the Lamb. It is a powerful word, “do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.” What parents do can deeply affect their children.
What is the meaning of the verse about the green and the dry tree? (23:31) Normally speaking, green wood is not burned, but used for replanting. Perhaps it will still sprout and have fruit. But dry wood that is otherwise useless will be burned. Our Lord warns the people of Jerusalem that when the day of wrath comes they will burn like dead wood that has no further use. Time does not stand still. Branches that do not bear fruit will be gathered together and cast into the fire.
It could also mean that the Lord is referring to himself. He is still “green wood”, fruitful in the service of God. But the Jews are like dried, dead wood that bears no fruit. If someone like Christ is rejected, what will happen to those who have ceased to bear fruit in the kingdom of heaven?
We read also, “two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be crucified” (23:32). Sometimes convicted criminals on the way to execution can encourage each other. Men on death row may develop a strong affinity. But here there are two other men who are both criminals. The Lord Jesus is not a criminal and innocent of all charges. He is all alone.
One of these criminals, after crucifixion, hurls insults at the Lord. “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (23:39) We know that both criminals first cursed Christ as well. But one began to see a difference and changed his mind. He finally rebuked his fellow criminal, “Don’t you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” (23:40,41). Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (23:42). The Spirit of God is powerful, also at Golgotha. Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (23:43).
One of Luke’s important messages is that Jesus Christ is absolutely innocent. It is said even while men were hanging on the cross. Theophilus has to know this. Roman justice failed. But God’s justice was victorious.
There are a few other items that we need to highlight before we leave this chapter. When Jesus is being crucified and placed between the two other men he says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (23:34).
Of course, this is true. Those doing the actual crucifying are not aware of the bigger picture. Was anybody really aware of the bigger picture, except, then, the Lord himself? Is this question even relevant? Can anyone really shift responsibility by saying, “I did not know what I was doing?” Is ignorance really a good reason for forgiveness? Is it not everyone’s calling to act on the basis of the law? Were the most basic principles of the Law not transgressed in Jesus’ trial and conviction?
We know that in such a process as happened to our Lord, the guilt of the one is not the same as the guilt of another. The high priest is guiltier than the maid who identified Peter as a disciple. But it does mean that the Lord knows he is establishing on the cross the unshakable foundation for forgiveness. Father, forgive them. If anyone may come with this petition, it certainly is the Lord Jesus.
We keep in mind the context of the moment this petition was said. For us it means that we need to identify our sins and repent from them. There is grace by the blood of the cross, but it must be sought. We may not put off repentance but seek God’s Spirit to help us in a new life of holiness.
There are various reactions to the crucifixion. The Lord prays for those who have crucified him. The two criminals first insult him with awful words. The soldiers cast lots to divide up his clothes, as if there was not really any value to them. It is another cruel humiliation. Jesus will not need these clothes anymore, let us use them in a game of rolling the dice. But could they not have waited until he was dead before casting lots over his clothes?
The people stood watching. People often do that; just stand and watch. Many people are gawkers in the extremes of life. The rulers go one step further: they sneer at him. They said: “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One” (23:35). Most people who sneer have a guilty conscience although they will not readily admit it.
The soldiers do what soldiers on assignment always do: try to pass the time. Executions are boring to professional soldiers who would rather be doing something else. Crucifixion does not mean instant death. They pass the time with foolish nothings, mocking the king of the Jews, offering him sour vinegar wine, the same cheap stuff they are drinking, and looking for something amusing. How long can you laugh about a little sign, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (23:38) ?
And then at noon, in the sixth hour, when the sun should be burning down on them in the mid-day heat, suddenly it all goes dark. The pitch-black darkness lasts for three hours. Nothing is more isolating than the dark, seeking, searching, lonely, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” How do you explain the darkness? Was it a total eclipse of the sun? Was it a sweltering sirocco from the sands of Sahara? In any case, it was a mighty act of God.
Jesus’ Death (Luke 23:44-49)
44It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
47The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these thingsLuke 23:44-49
The sun stopped shining. Something else happened a short distance away. “And the curtain of the temple was torn in two” (23:45). If you look closely, you will see that it was torn from top to bottom. (Mark 15:38) This is very significant. God said: I do no longer need the curtains. Christ has opened a new way! Now I can dwell in person with my people.
Christ’s life was not taken away from him. He laid it down himself. He was not a victim, but a conqueror. He said it clearly, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). This happened when he said with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (23:46). It is finished. When he had said this, “he breathed his last”, and laid down his life.
Now what? Was there anyone to pick up the pieces? “The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’” (23:47) In all his years of service, the centurion has never seen something like this. His testimony will be the official report to the Governor. But Pilate already knew that Jesus was innocent.
The people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place and “beat their breasts and went away” (23:48). Why do people beat their breasts? It reminds you of the tax collector who beat his breast and humbled himself before God. It is a sign of great emotion, perhaps even contrition. And then it says, “But all those who had known him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things” (23:49). They had known him, believed in him, followed him, and were bereft of him. They stood and watched; among them Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome (Mark 15:40). Women with deep sorrow, bereft of their Lord and Saviour.
The Burial of Jesus (Luke 23:50-56)
50Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
55The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. Luke 23:5-56
Luke takes great care in recording exactly how Jesus was buried. “There was a man named Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Council, a good and upright man who had not consented to their decision and action” (Luke 23:50). In John 19 we find that another man showed up, Nicodemus, also a dissenting man in the Sanhedrin, who had visited Christ once at night. Perhaps the words that most accurately describe these two men are: they were “waiting for the kingdom of God”. Men like Simeon, righteous and devout. These are men who saw in Jesus the MESSIAH, the Holy One of God.
Of course, one cannot just take away the body of an executed criminal. Joseph had to ask Pontius Pilate if he could have the body of Jesus to bury it. Pilate consented; the whole matter did not concern him anymore.
Actually in this way the prophecy of Isaiah 53:9 was fulfilled. “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death.” (Isaiah 53:9) Executed criminals were usually cast in the desert or the valley of Hinnom, a dump site just outside Jerusalem. That is where the body of the Lord Jesus would be unceremoniously dumped, in some unmarked grave. Nobody would ever be able to visit his resting place.
But Nicodemus took Jesus’ body, wrapped it in linen cloth, and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. Such tombs were usually made to house more bodies, like a family grave. It was still unused but well-prepared. There they laid the body of Jesus with a minimum of preparations. The reason for this is that it was the day of Preparation (Friday, before the Sabbath) which was a special day because it was also the time of the Passover. They were in a hurry, because the Sabbath was about to begin (23:53,54).
The women who had watched from afar followed Joseph and Nicodemus and noted the exact place where Jesus was laid. They, too, were under time constraints because of the coming Sabbath and wanted to return the day after the Sabbath (the first day of the week). “They went home and prepared spices and perfumes” (23:56). But as devout women, they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
The Lord was not buried in an unmarked grave which no one could ever find, but properly entombed in an area where wealthy people were buried, one with a garden. Everybody would be able to visit the grave. The women and the apostles could report that the tomb was empty.
- Explain how many trials the Lord endured. Before Anna, before Caiaphas, before Pilate, before Herod. What was the verdict?
- What was the purpose of Jesus’ trial before Annas?
- What was the purpose of the trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin?
- Why did the Jews want an official verdict by Pontius Pilate?
- Why did Pilate send Jesus to Herod Antipas?
- With what was Pilate blackmailed?
- On what basis was the Lord condemned to death?
- Why did one of the two hanged with him recognize Christ as the Messiah? What did he ask of the Lord?
- What is the meaning of “crucifixion”? What does the cross mean for us?
- What was the reaction of the centurion to Jesus’ death?
- Why was Jesus buried in a well-known but new tomb?
- Did anyone expect that Christ would be raised from the dead? What does that tell us today?