Luke 23:33-49 Christ suffers unjustly so that He may justify us before God
33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. 34 But Jesus was saying, “ Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. 35 And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “ If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” 38 Now there was also an inscription above Him, “ THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48 And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. 49 And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.
Pilate gives in to the request of the Jews and condemns Christ to the cross even after exonerating Him. The people could not accept that God would stoop so low as to die in shame and poverty. They mock Christ and challenge Him to save Himself. Even as none, not even the disciples would believe in Christ, a vile and condemned criminal offers a wholehearted confession of Christ as the righteous King. Today’s passage teaches us the right attitude when we suffer injustice. For Christ willingly suffered injustice so that He might justify us before God.
Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing – Jesus prays to the Father to release the people from the sin of ignorance as many do not have full knowledge who He is. In the same breathe, He proclaims woe to those who know Him and yet betray Him (see Luke 22:22). For many who cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves, who sneer and mock Him do not actually know that He is God.
If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself! – In the minds of the people including the disciples themselves, there is no possibility that God would allow Himself to be humiliated as a criminal and die a painful and shameful death. Hence, they challenge Him to dismount the cross and save Himself if He is truly the Messiah, the King of the Jews. The enemies of Christ want Him to withdraw His claim as King and Messiah. Even one of the criminals who is hanging adjacent to Him challenges Him to save Himself and them. Never in their wildest imagination would God allow Himself to be mocked and humiliated because of love. The willingness of God to die for humanity becomes to them a stumbling block in recognizing Jesus as the Savior of the world.
Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom! – The ignorance of the people is attributed to the blindness of their hearts to the truth; their evil blinded their eyes. The fact that they could execute an innocent man on the cross attest to their evil and hence their blindness. Of all people, a condemned criminal offers a wholehearted confession of Jesus’ righteousness and divinity, something that the disciples could yet do. He acknowledges his just punishment and the unjust treatment of Christ: And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. The criminal also acknowledges Jesus as the Savior who holds the power to forgive sinners: Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom! Jesus, upon hearing his words immediately justifies him and gives him a place in Paradise.
Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit – It is in the manner and the circumstances in which Jesus dies that attest to His righteousness and divinity. First, there is the physical phenomenon of darkness from the 6th to the 9th hour (12noon to 3pm). The heavens and all creation are paying tribute and grieving over the death of her King. The veil of the temple that separated the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place is torn in two, which signifies the reconciliation of God and those who love Him. As it is largely accepted that a man cannot lie at the point of His death, Jesus’ final words: Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit testifies indubitably to His divine origin, identity and calling. The spectacle of the physical phenomenon and Jesus’ last words has awakened many to the reality that they have executed a righteous man, the Son of the Most High God. The centurion saw what had happened and proclaims Christ’s innocence, the crowds began to return, beating their breasts. And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee saw with amazement and affirmed Christ divinity and righteousness. Despite all that happened, it did not cause them to look to Christ’s resurrection.
- We must sacrifice our own rights in order to bring justice to others. Many believers could not get over the injustices done against them and they become bitter throughout their lives. If they only recognize that God sometimes uses injustice as an opportunity to fulfill His will. Hence, it is important that we must perceive injustice done against us from God’s perspective so that we may respond correctly. Jesus allows Himself to be unjustly treated so that He may justify us before God. Therefore, we are not to seek personal justice but the ultimate good of all. Jesus makes use of the injustice done against Him to defeat the enemies of darkness.
- Do not judge others by their appearance or background. Those who are considered as losers and scums of society are capable of extraordinary faith and insights. Although being convicted as a criminal and a man with vile instincts he demonstrates faith at the most profound level. Although he is unlearned and is never a disciple of Christ, yet He recognizes Christ’s righteousness and divine origin. Insights, revelations and faith do not belong to the IQ department but to those who are humble and penitent. Therefore, we must not judge people on the basis of their capability and popularity but on their spiritual insights.
- Being an effective witness for Christ involves walking the talk. People are not moved by acts of great faith or strength, but they are convicted when a person remains true to His conviction despite great inconveniences. Being an effective testimony for God involves standing firm in God’s values system despite dire circumstances. Hence, we must deliver what we promised; stay true to our friends despite inconveniences; never talk behind another person’s back; and stay above board in financial matters. Because Jesus refuses to recant His belief system even unto death, many believe in Him.
- God does not look for moral perfection as much as a heart of repentance and honor towards God. We may not survive every temptation or make all the right decisions or display composed faith in every crisis. God looks for one who is willing to acknowledge his sin and make genuine effort to do what is right. Although, the criminal is no saint, but Jesus accepts him into the kingdom because he acknowledges Christ as Lord in honor and repentance.
- Do you set such high moral standards that you have subconsciously downgraded the virtue of humility and repentance?
- Do you have a tendency to demand a higher moral standard for yourself than for others? Or is it the other way around? It is only right that we set higher standards for ourselves first so that we may become an example for others to follow.
- Do you think about your own personal rights more than the state of justice and equity in the society? Perhaps, it is time to consider using more of your own resources for the benefit of others.
Dear Lord, I recognize that Christ suffered unjustly so that I may be justified before you. Cause me to give more of my time to the underprivileged so that the society may see more justice and equity. Help me to stand firm on your moral principles so that others may see Christ in me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.