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LUKE - Christ, the Savior of the World
A Bible Study Course on the Gospel of Christ according to Luke


11. Jesus' Crucifixion and Death (Luke 23:26-49)

LUKE 23:35-38
35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” 36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 
37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” 38 And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: This is the King of the Jews.

Jesus in pain and agony was nailed on the cross between two thieves, who were suffering severe pain and heaping abuses and insults upon those who crucified them. But the Son of God prayed for his enemies, and atoned for their sins. The clothing of the condemned prisoners became the property of the execution squad that sat under Christ’s feet, as the fee for their service in their fearful office. The soldiers cast lots and divided Jesus’ garments among themselves, while the Savior was bleeding for them.

The religious leaders of the nation stood aside to see if Jesus would confess that he was going astray, and pray with the tears of repentance asking God’s pardon for his pride. But they heard his intercessory prayer, in which he called God his Father, mediating and asking forgiveness for the leaders who claimed to be righteous. He did not ask forgiveness for himself, but forgave them, proving to be the true God. Their fury led to his crucifixion, and his enemies intended to destroy his reputation among the people by showing his human weakness on the cross.

The scoffing leaders were led by the power of darkness to tempt Jesus to come down from the cross, that they might dismiss his worthiness as the Lamb of God. That was the devil’s design from the first moment of Christ’s life: to destroy the efficacy of the cross by causing the Holy One to fall into sin. The rulers blasphemed against his loving service. They assumed his power as something under suspicion, and incited him to save himself and prove by his coming down from the cross in a wonderful miracle that he was the Son of the Mighty One. They claimed that then they would believe in him and accept him as the true Christ. Furthermore, they tempted God himself, and called Christ, “the chosen of God from among all men.” So where is God’s help to his Chosen One? Such hateful and spiteful statements are produced from hell itself. These scribes had forgotten the opening statement of the Book of Psalms, which says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful”.

The soldiers also, took part in the mockery. They offered him who was suffering vinegar to inflame his suffering and as an act of torture. They asked him to come down from the cross as a token of the might of the God of the Jews, that they might believe in him. Jesus’ plan was that all nations and the Jews should believe in the true God and his merciful Son, that they might receive everlasting life. However, he did not come down from the cross, but continued praying in the fire of God’s wrath that he might truly deliver us. Christ was indeed the King of the Jews, as he was at the same time the Lord of lords, and the Creator of all men whom he loved and purchased for God with his own blood from the slave market of sin. Thus every man became a possession of Christ. We all belong to him, and he is our divine Creator, for we are his own. Christ is the unique, true King. We live from his reconciliation more than we know. Without him we can do nothing, for without him who was crucified for us God would have consumed all men. All of us are dependent on the sacrifice of Christ which opened to us the doors of God’s mercy and great patience.

LUKE 23:39-43
39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Christ loved all men equally, even the criminals. We are all guilty before the perfect love of God. Every sin is a crime. All men will tremble in the light of God because of their pride. However, there is a difference between criminals: Some of them perceiving their repulsive faults, repent truly and fear the living God, and others hardened by sin, blaspheme against God, and tempt his love with prayers of unbelief.

One of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus said that he would believe in Christ’s power and divinity if he came down from the accursed cross, and helped him also to come down, for they were friends in need. The blasphemy of this murderer on the cross was an echo of the blasphemy of those who passed by Jesus.

Yet the other criminal who was hanged with them on the other side, saw God’s light shining in Christ. He had heard his words to the wailing women, sensed his love for those who tortured him, and listened to his prayer asking forgiveness for the sins of those who afflicted him. This thief sensed that Jesus was not an ordinary man. He became convinced of his innocence, and realized from the derision of the spiteful rulers and angry soldiers that the meek one who was crucified alongside him was Christ himself, the Son of the living God.

How shameful for all humans! The chief priests, lawyers, people, soldiers, and sinners did not realize at that moment the nature of Jesus. Only the thief sensed his glory. The love of God made incarnate in Christ enlightened him. He was weighed down under the burden of just judgment that was coming upon him. This led him to repent and confess openly, his mouth was filled with testimony of Christ’s innocence, and he became humble, with faithful prayer with all reverence and godly fear. The penitent thief called Jesus “the Lord” and believed in his divinity and asked that he would remember him. Thus he was aware that he deserved punishment. But he laid his hope completely on grace. He could not offer good deeds, nor did he sing songs of praise on the cross, but asked Jesus to be merciful to him, and took hold of the Compassionate, the Merciful, that he might be saved.

Every broken man who prays such a prayer will hear the same answer, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” He who becomes broken before Jesus will enter eternal life. The Holy Spirit will immediately fall upon him when Jesus forgives his sins, establishing Paradise in the heart of the believer.

How astonishing! The thieves perceive this grace more quickly than the upright, for salvation comes to us by grace only, and not of works. Your faith has saved you. Are you a justified thief or a self-righteous criminal?

The moment the seeker of Christ’s grace believed, there was more joy in heaven than over one thousand just persons who need no repentance. The salvation of the thief on the cross without baptism is a token of salvation for all mankind.

PRAYER: O Lord Jesus, I am the criminal who deserves death on the cross. Please do not reject me, but enlighten me with your holiness, and lead me to confess my sins and renounce them by your power. Forgive me my sins, and press me to your bosom lest death separates me from your love. You are my only HOPE.

QUESTION 140: What are the three words spoken by him who was crucified according to Luke? What do they indicate?


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