Lukeby Mike Raiter
Jesus now arrives at Golgotha, the place of the Skull, or, in Latin, Calvary. The people, the rulers, and the soldiers mock Him. Yet, in their mockery they proclaim the truth: “He saved others; let him save himself” (v. 35). Of course, He can only truly save others by not saving himself. The sign above the cross announces the truth: Jesus is the King of the Jews (v. 38).
Isaiah 53:12 prophesied that Jesus would be numbered with the transgressors. Luke tells us about the two criminals hanging beside Jesus. One joins the crowd in mockery, but not the other. Presumably, this man knows something about Jesus and all the good He has been doing. He has just heard Jesus ask His Father to forgive His enemies (v. 34) and understands that Jesus is innocent and is the one who can bring salvation to people. Jesus had announced, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15). The thief confesses his sin (v. 41) and expresses his faith in King Jesus. As he takes his dying breath, Jesus welcomes him into His eternal kingdom. There is hope here for anyone who, even with their dying breath, sincerely turns to Christ.
As Jesus takes His final breath, there are three words of testimony. Creation speaks by bringing darkness over the land for three hours. Darkness is frequently a symbol of judgment (see Exodus 10:21; Matthew 25:30), and Jesus has borne the judgment of God that we deserved. God speaks through tearing the Temple curtain from top to bottom (v. 45). Symbolically, the Temple was the dwelling place of God, and the Almighty resided in His throne room, the Holy of Holies. Access into His presence was strictly prohibited. Once a year, the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies through the curtain (Hebrews 9:7). For anyone else, at any other time, death would be the punishment. Those days are now over! By taking away our sin, Jesus has opened the way for all to come to God. A Roman centurion speaks (v. 47). He has seen and heard the dying Saviour and experienced the darkness, and confesses Christ’s righteous innocence.
At Jesus’ birth, righteous Jews like Simeon and Anna welcomed Him. Now, at His death, a righteous Jew, Joseph, a dissenting member of the Sanhedrin, ensures Jesus is given an honourable burial (vv. 50–53).
Luke’s account of Jesus’ death begins with the lies and taunts of people, but ends with words of truth and faith. Whose voices will we join?
There is comfort for us in reading about the dying thief’s confession of faith. However, what wrong or foolish conclusions might people draw from this story about their personal decision to turn to Christ?
What lessons about faith can we learn from the story of Joseph of Arimathea?