March 28 – Luke 23:32-43


This week we enter Holy Week, a traditional celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through the days of the week we remember the events of Jesus’ last week of ministry, his triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, his betrayal on Maundy Thursday, his death on Good Friday, and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. As different as the past two Easters have been, I would encourage you to find ways to celebrate these events with your community, either virtually or safely in person. Despite the desolate past year we’ve had, we can rejoice and remember together that Christ turns desolation into consolation.

This week’s passage, Luke 23:32-43, describes Jesus’ ignominious death. The passage is laced with insulting irony—the rulers scoff at him, the soldiers mock him, and over the head of the King of Kings hangs a laughing sign, “This is the King of the Jews.” Twice Jesus’ identity is challenged, “Let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God!”(23:35) and “Are you not the Christ?”(23:39)  Notice the striking similarity between these comments and Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, where Satan also said, “If you are who you say you are…”(Matt. 4:3) So not only were these comments insulting, they were maybe even Jesus’ final temptation to try to avoid the torture of death on a cross; every wrong thing they urged him to do was most certainly within his power to do. Notice also, the crowds and even the first criminal all assumed Jesus’ death would be proof of his failure, unmasking him for the charlatan they assumed him to be. The unbelief is shockingly intense in this passage, but if we’re honest, our unbelief can be too.

And yet how did Jesus respond? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”(23:34) While Jesus was dying his mediatorial death he interceded for them, pleading for the Father not to hold it against them. You couldn’t get a clearer picture of the upside-down love of Jesus. While suffering under the ridicule of his enemies, his life seeping out of his body, he speaks, “Peace.” Rather than spurning corrupt criminals, he dies alongside them, seeing faith blossom in the heart of the second criminal and pronouncing a second word of forgiveness. Jesus promised him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Imagine what their reunion was like.

Thinking back to our Job series, in Jesus’ death we find really the only way we can make sense of suffering in a hope-filled way. Outside the saving death of Jesus we can’t have any real expectation that God would make sense of our shared suffering. Redemption of that cosmic caliber is only available through the Son. Looking ahead to Easter Sunday, we’ll see that Jesus’ death can help us as we learn to relate with the suffering we experience in our earthly lives, knowing we have an eternal, unshakeable inheritance in Jesus.

Questions for Discussion

• Would someone read Luke 23:32-43 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• What are the different reactions to Jesus in this passage?

• What do you think is significant about Jesus dying alongside criminals?

• How do you personally connect with this passage?

• Thinking back to our Job series, how does this passage help us understand suffering?

• This Easter, how does this passage provide you with good news?