Today we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us when He died on that cross. I don’t think I could retell it in a way that would do it justice, but three scenes from this chapter stuck out to me.
Scene one: The Jewish hierarchy brought Jesus before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, since their Law wouldn’t allow them to execute Him (John 18:31-32). When he found out Jesus was a Galilean, Pilate sent Him to Herod – the ruler of Galilee. We’ve seen before that Herod thought at one point Jesus might be John back from the dead, so he already knew of His existence. Luke says Herod hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle (Luke 23:8), but it wasn’t to be. He plied Jesus with questions, but Jesus refused to answer. Then Herod and his soldiers started insulting and mocking Jesus.
Scene two: Herod’s dismissed Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate, who wants to release Him. The Jewish leaders aren’t having any of it, so they incite the crowd to shout for Jesus’ crucifixion. “They shouted louder and louder that He should be crucified, and eventually Pilate capitulated” (Luke 23:23). John tells us Jesus carried His own cross (John 19:17), but He had already been severely beaten. Perhaps He was too weak physically to continue carrying it because according to Luke, as Jesus was led away, the soldiers seized a man named Simon and put the cross on him (Luke 23:26). Simon came from Cyrene (a city in northern Africa), and Rufus and Alexander were his two sons (Mark 15:21). Other than that, we don’t know much about him, but I can hazard a guess that as he came into Jerusalem from the countryside, Simon hoped for an uneventful Passover celebration. He wouldn’t have wanted to be ramrodded by a bunch of power-hungry soldiers into the brutality of that day.
Scene three: Jesus is nailed to a cross, and two criminals to crosses alongside Him. Both criminals start out ridiculing Him (Matthew 27:44), but I guess one felt a check in his spirit. As the first goes on cursing, the second speaks up. “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong” (Luke 23:40-41). All that’s ahead for them now is death, but the God-fearing one seems to have some concept of something more. I imagine his eyes locking with Jesus’ as he pleads: “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom”, and Jesus famously promised he would join Him in paradise. It’s a wonderful hope – that even if we haven’t known Jesus for the majority of our lives, if we turn to Him in our last moments asking to be remembered, He won’t fail us.
When Jesus is the centre of your hope, you won’t be disappointed.
On Monday, I did my first-ever open mic night at the Cavern Pub in Liverpool (amazing to be able to say I’ve sung at the Cavern!). I sang my song:
“You’re the only one who satisfies completely;
You’re the only one who never lets me down” …
Sometimes I might feel let-down because I haven’t got the things I’ve been hoping for here on earth, but in reality, He hasn’t let me down. I’ve always got the presence of Jesus. He’s never going to leave me; He’ll never expect me to cope with life on my own. Do you have that hope?