From John’s account we gain an understanding of just who Jesus was and is. He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man. He is nothing short of YHWH incarnate. What is Luke’s purpose in the details he has included? Remember Luke has a kingly element to the things he wrote. Remember his allusion to the Daniel prophecy and the Coming Prince or King at Triumphal Entry. (Gems 1142–1146). Luke doesn’t have the same focus John does. Luke simply follows the lead of Mark and Matthew and includes the reference to the King of the Jews. I can’t help but wonder if Pilate meant it disparagingly. He has already proclaimed Jesus innocent and yet the Jewish leaders themselves demand Jesus death. Pilate tries again to have Jesus freed but still they clamour for His blood. Possibly Pilate had these words carved above Jesus head as a ridicule of the Jewish leaders. When reading Luke’s account one can’t help but sense the juxtaposition of innocence and guilt. Luke has already made it abundantly clear in the preceding section that Jesus is innocent of all charges. What is written above Jesus head is effectively the charge against Him. He is (claiming to be) the King of the Jews. Since the Jewish leaders want Him condemned it is almost like Pilate’s words on the cross above His head are condemnatory, not of Jesus, but rather the Jewish leaders themselves. Luke begins this section (or ends the last section – depending which way you look at it) with innocent Jesus being condemned with criminals and crucified on the cross beside Him. Did you notice how Luke’s account is structured following that theme? Luke gathers a series of examples of Jesus’ subjects mocking Him.
The leaders and the system (Jewish and Roman) mock Him by finding Him guilty even when they know He is not. To which He cries out “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” The soldiers gambled for His clothes. One must ask why? Why on earth would they gamble for Jesus blood soaked clothes? They had no use for them. At that stage the clothes had no intrinsic value. It would not be until the following centuries that memorabilia from the Cross event would be sought after. Pure and simply it was an act of mocking Him. The leaders mocked Him while the crowd looked on. The soldiers mocked Him again by offering Him sour wine to drink. There is much I could say about that. Take note of the focus of all this mocking. It is focused on whether He is a king (Messiah) or not! All the mocking started with this focus of ridicule when Herod and his soldiers mocked Jesus by putting Herod’s old robes on Him. They were not lauding or applauding Him. It was done purely to ridicule. With the actions of ridicule come words of ridicule focused on the question whether He is Messiah King or not.
- 34 The soldiers gambled for His clothes by throwing dice.
- 35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let Him save Himself IF He is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
- 36 The soldiers mocked Him, too, by offering Him a drink of sour wine. They called out to Him, “IF You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”
- 38 A sign was fastened to the cross above Him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”
- 39 One of the criminals hanging beside Him scoffed, “SO You’re the Messiah, ARE YOU? Prove it by saving Yourself—and us, too, while You’re at it!”
- 39 The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery.
- 40 “Look at You now!” they yelled at Him. “You said You were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, IF You are the Son of God, save Yourself and come down from the cross!”
- 41 The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus.
- 42 “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but He can’t save Himself! SOHe is the King of Israel, IS HE? Let Him come down from the cross believe in Him!
- 43 He trusted God, so let God rescue Him now IF He wants Him! For He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
- 44 Even the revolutionaries who were crucified with Him ridiculed Him in the same way.
I haven’t included the segments from Mark because they parallel Matthew and I haven’t included the verses from John because he has a different theme. Notice that each one of these statements of ridicule focus on who Jesus is. King, Messiah and Saviour. IF you really are who you claim to be then do something to show us. Same old same old. I wonder if they have taken their cue from the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees. That has been a constant taunt of theirs. All of these people who ridiculed Christ did so attacking His personhood and who He really was.
Notice in Luke’s account there is one who has concluded accurately who Jesus is. One of the criminals on the cross beside Him. Now that is remarkable. When all others surrounding Jesus ridicule Him and cast dispersions on Jesus claims, a thief recognizes Christ for who He is, even in front of the Jewish leaders and experts in the law.
40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”Luke 23:40-43
Pilate has pronounced Jesus innocent. Herod Antipas has pronounced Jesus innocent and this thief beside Him has recognized His innocence too and seemingly its significance. I am sure that is what Luke is intending in the way He has put this segment together in juxtaposition with what has gone before it.
Time for you to ponder it some more.
A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumor.Anon
Make your can larger than your can’t and your dreams bigger than your doubts.Robin Sharma
You’re not defeated until your doubts and regrets take the place of your dreams.Bob Gass
When in doubt, just take the next small step.Anon
Truth divorced from experience will always remain in the realm of doubt.Robb Thompson
You don’t have to constantly doubt or defend the faith when you know the Faith Giver.Ian Vail