Welcome to Becomning Closer! 


Seven Reactions

Luke 23:26 -- 56

Lesson audio

“Socrates died like a philosopher; Jesus Christ died like a God.” - Jacques Rousseau.

The death of Christ stirs the hearts of men. Mel Gibson made a movie based upon this, and the politically correct were horrified that he would dare assert the truth. Predictably, the film was not nominated for any awards. The modern world would prefer the gentle Jesus cuddling children. It behooves us, therefore, to examine the reactions of those nearby the Crucifixion. The lessons they show are with us today. We shall see seven of these vignettes, drawing lessons from them as we may.

When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. "For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.' "Then they will begin TO SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, 'FALL ON US,' AND TO THE HILLS, 'COVER US.' "For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. 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. 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. 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." The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, "If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!" Now there was also an inscription above Him, "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? "And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT." Having said this, He breathed His last. Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent." And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things. And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

(Luk 23:26-56 NASB)

The women

We must understand the place of women in that society. Rare indeed was the woman of influence and power. Most were like these women: spectators, feeling the pain, but having no power to stop it. Does that sound like you? Feeling the pain but unable to stop it?

See, then, what they did. They picked up the work assigned to the women. To touch a dead body rendered them ceremonially unclean – and this at the time of the Passover, the most sacred of Jewish feasts. They are examples to us in two ways:

  • First, they have the servant heart. It is not theirs to change the world; it is only theirs to serve in the world they have given.
  • For this, Christ reminds them that, given the way he was treated, they could hardly expect better.

Christ’s prophecy was literally fulfilled about forty years later. At the end of the siege of Jerusalem, thousands went into hiding in underground caves – which the Romans sealed up, leaving them to die by starvation.

The rulers

Those who are lordly in this world have always had a problem with Jesus, the Christ. If you acknowledge who he is, then you acknowledge a lordship so high that it cannot be overthrown. If you will not acknowledge him, then you must sneer at him – for then his words must be foolishness. The sneer is with us today; the joke is always presumed. Righteousness must be funny; mocking those who attempt it is sophisticated fun. No one with half a brain could be a Christian; therefore those who proclaim his name must be fools and simpletons – or worse. After all, those weirdo right wing fundamentalists are a vast conspiracy, right?

Our response is simply to know that this will happen. He told us so. He also told us what to do about it:

  • We are to overcome evil with good; hatred with love. We are at war with the world, and thus must not use the weapons of the world.
  • We must always remember that the world will be watching our fidelity – if we don’t have it, we’re just like they are.

These people are a tough audience; we need to walk what we talk.

The soldiers

Pardon me if this interpretation does not match yours; I have been a soldier and know the life.

  • It is a life of discipline – by fear. Reward arrived seldom; punishment was an everyday experience.
  • It is a life of harshness. Soldiers are trained to kill; it is ordinary for them. It is therefore not surprising that a calloused disdain for life is present.
  • It is a life of pride – your station is so low that pride must often be your motive.

The result of all this? A heart so hardened that even the death of the innocent man does not move them. They take what little pleasure they can from his death; the Lamb of God is dying at their hands and they gamble for his garments. They are hard soil; Christ told us we would encounter such.

The two thieves

The wicked react to righteousness in two ways, just as these thieves did. These men lived their lives as professional criminals. They knew the penalty and took the risk. Here they pay the price. Two minds in pain; two minds wondering about death; two minds dealing with their guilt.

One reacts as many do yet today. His troubles are somebody else’s fault. It’s not fair. To implement this thought requires someone to blame, or at least someone as a target of your anger. The first thief thinks nothing of blaming Jesus for this; after all, if he is who he claims to be, now would be a good time to show it. This Jesus fellow is obviously not doing his part.

There is something farcical in that; but I suspect that in the pain of crucifixion the thief’s mind didn’t see it. Jesus, get me out of this mess, so I can go on being who I am and what I want to be.

The other thief portrays the more noble course. He is being crucified for his own deeds; he recognizes his own guilt. Amazingly, he does not make the claim to be a better man than the first thief. He makes no claim at all; he simply begs. “Just as I am, without one plea.”

And the lesson for us? Jesus opened the door of paradise for the second thief; we should not bar it for the criminals of our day. Do we bar the door at which Jesus would stand and knock?

The Centurion

The centurion reminds of a cardinal fact: the world is not nearly as impressed by what we say as by what we do. Our deeds give life to our words – if we have the deeds to match. The centurion seems to say nothing until Christ dies; then he acknowledges him.

The centurion is an obedient man; he has his orders and – no matter how unpleasant – he carries them out. It is a recognized point of international law that the guilt for such actions does not lie with the underlings who followed orders, as they are sworn to do. We should expect it. But we should also be aware that lives may change by the way in which we die. You never know who’s coming to your funeral; so be sure to give the preacher plenty of ammunition before you go.

Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph – a figure of legend throughout the Middle Ages – is little known from the Scriptures. We can see a few things about him:

  • He is a man of courage. To beg the body for proper burial is to irritate the powers that be. Joseph “screws his courage to the sticking point” and does just that – boldly. It is a style to be admired.
  • He is a man of charity. By his light there is no way Jesus could repay him for this kindness. A great kindness it was, too, for Joseph made himself ceremonially unclean so that this man might be properly buried.
  • He is a man of patience, waiting for the kingdom of God.

There is our lesson: as we wait patiently for our Lord’s return, let us fill our days with simple charity, even if it requires great courage to do so.

Simon of Cyrene

(The reader will please note that I am indebted to C. H. Spurgeon for this section.)

We know very little of Simon. He was picked out of the crowd to carry the Cross. And he carried it. His sons were later noted as members of the church, but with that little information we must be content. He carried the Cross; that is lesson enough for all of us.

  • Note, please, that it is His cross – not our own. The cross laid upon you comes from our Lord; do not reject it but carry it with the hope of glory.
  • You carry the cross after He did. Whatever your cross might be, Jesus carried it first. If he gives it to you, accept it as royal favor from the King of Kings.
  • You do not bear the cross alone but in partnership with Him. It will not be more than the two of you can bear.
  • You bear it but a little while – yet to great honor. The only thing we know of Simon is his carrying the Cross – and that is honor enough for any man. Do not fret; your burden will slip free some day.

If you would follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, then you must – each day – take up the cross he gives you. You must deny yourself, surrender to him and carry the cross. Those who do will be given the crown of life when he comes. Today the cross is our burden; tomorrow, it will be our glory.

Previous     Home     Next