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The Gospel Of Luke An Exposition by Charles R. Erdman

J. The Death And Burial. Ch. 23:44-56

44 And it was now about the sixth hour, and a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 the sun's light failing: and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.46 And Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said this, he gave up the ghost.47 And when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.48 And all the multitudes that came together to this sight, when they beheld the things that were done, returned smiting their breasts.49 And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed with him from Galilee, stood afar off, seeing these things.

50 And behold, a man named Joseph, who was a councillor, a good and righteous man 51 (he had not consented to their counsel and deed), a man of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews, who was looking for the kingdom of God: 52 this man went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb that was hewn in stone, where never man had yet lain.54 And it was the day of the Preparation, and the sabbath drew on.55 And the women who had come with him out of Galilee, followed after, and beheld the tomb, and how his body was laid.56 And they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

And on the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

The death of Christ was an event of such supreme importance that it properly was accompanied by supernatural signs of deep significance. Of these Luke mentions two. The first was the darkened skies, a fit symbol of the blackest crime in all the history of man. The second was the rending of the Temple veil, a type of the |new and living way| opened into the presence of God for all believers. Thus these two signs correspond to the human and the divine aspects of this atoning death, and indicate the heinousness of sin and the purpose of redeeming grace.

The last word spoken by Jesus on the cross was an expression of perfect trust and peace. He had shown his sympathy for others by his prayer, by his promise to the penitent thief, and by his provision for his mother; by three other words he had revealed his sufferings of mind and body and their result in a completed redemption: |My God, my God ...|; |I thirst;| |it is finished.| He now breathed out his soul in a sentence of absolute confidence taken from the psalmist and recorded by Luke alone: |Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.| It was the supreme utterance of faith. The earthly ministry of the Son of God had ended.

Luke notes the effects produced by the manner of Jesus' death, and by the accompanying signs upon the Roman centurion, the Jewish multitudes, and the Christian disciples. The soldier was so impressed that he |glorified God,| giving his testimony to the fact that the One whom he had crucified as a criminal was a |righteous man.| Possibly he may be regarded as a type of that host of believing Gentiles, of whom Luke liked to write, who were yet to enlist under the banner of the cross.

The crowds of Jews had little real desire for the crucifixion of Jesus; they had been hounded by their rulers to cry out for his death, but they now returned to the city |smiting their breasts| in an agony of remorse, a prophecy of Israel's future repentance and mourning as they |look on him whom they pierced.|

Most pathetic of all was that group of saddened disciples who |stood afar off| gazing in bewilderment upon the scene; but for them the meaning of that cross would begin to dawn as they should meet their risen Lord. For none of his followers has the cross lost its mystery; yet to them all it has become a symbol of triumph and of hope.

The body of Jesus was given burial by Joseph of Arimathaea, a man whom Matthew designates as rich, Mark as a |councillor of honorable estate,| and Luke as |good and righteous.| Thus together they describe an ideal man from the Jewish and Roman and Greek point of view. Perhaps he is to be criticized for not having identified himself before this more publicly with the cause of Christ; but Luke makes not the slightest unfavorable reflection upon his character. He declares definitely that this powerful and influential member of the sanhedrin |had not consented| to the |counsel and deed| of the rulers who had compassed the death of Jesus; and now in the hour when his Master was most deeply dishonored, he risked the scorn of the people and the hatred of the rulers and begged from Pilate the body of Jesus, which he wrapped in linen cloth and lay reverently in his own new, rock-hewn tomb. It was a deed of loving devotion, and adds a gratifying contrast and a touch of tenderness to the story of the cross.

Other loving hearts longed to have a part in this expression of affection. The women who had followed Jesus out of Galilee, noted the place of his burial and purchased perfumes to embalm the body of their Lord. However, as the declining sun marked the beginning, at eventide, of the Sabbath, they rested until the first day of the week, and then they found that their task was needless. It was well to show affection for the crucified Master, it is a greater privilege to serve a risen Lord.

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