Reading for Wednesday, April 4: Luke 23
In Luke’s retelling of the Jesus story, what is supposed to be the low point is, in reality, the climax, the culmination of prophecy and purpose regarding God’s Messiah. The chief priests and scribes hurl trumped up charges and false accusations at Jesus before Pilate. Seeking to wash his hands of the matter, Pilate sends Jesus to Herod. This act of deference leads to reconciliation between the two magistrates: “And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other,” (v12). And this is Luke’s nod to what is occurring, for in the death of Jesus Messiah, the ultimate reversal of fortunes takes place. At the cross, enmity turns to reconciliation (Isa 2; 2 Cor 5; Eph 2).
The scene shifts to include Barabbas, a rabble-rousing murderer, who is summoned from his cell to stand next to Jesus. The crowd chants their choice: “Give us Barabbas!” And we hear the echoes of Eden once more. When faced with choosing between God’s will — perfectly and faithfully embodied by Christ — or willful disobedience, our choice is always “not God”. “So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted….he delivered Jesus over to their will,” (vv24-25).
And Luke introduces another character into the drama, Simon of Cyrene, proxy for all who would follow Jesus by taking up their cross. The irony in play is Simon’s complete lack of awareness. How could he possibly understand that this cross IS his cross? How could he possibly understand that the cross that Christ bears carries the weight of his own transgressions, every failure, every careless word, every unbridled thought?
We travel to the Skull to meet two more individuals, criminals crucified next to Messiah, one combative and one reflective. At each step of the way, Luke forces us to inject ourselves into this narrative, to ask ourselves how we would react were we participants in this drama. And this is the point. Will we, like Pilate, attempt to recuse ourselves from our choice when it comes to Jesus? Do we seek Jesus as Herod did, looking to be entertained by yet another sign or wonder? Will we, like Simon, follow behind Jesus, joining Him with cross in hand? Will we hurl curses at Him, mocking in jest the lifeless figure we see on the cross? Or will our prayer parallel the simple cry of the criminal: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (v42)? We see now that Luke is not recording mere history. This writing is more than biography. This narrative demands response.
The end comes unceremoniously and nondescript. Darkness envelopes the centurion as he notes the death of another innocent man, His blood joining with so many others, needlessly poured out to appease the lust of the masses. Jesus’ body is laid in an unused tomb — yet another wink at what is to come — and evening falls.
And then: Sabbath (v56).
For all the players in this drama, a day of rest.
All, save one.
For as the world rests…
Her Creator is engaged in His greatest work of all.