Jesus Dies and is Buried
[Luke chapter 23, verses 44-56]
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Last week in our ongoing study of the writings of the apostle Luke, we left off at the place where one of the condemned men on the cross had just asked Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus told that man, “….this very day you will be with me in paradise.” From this brief exchange we have learned that it’s never too late to ask Jesus for forgiveness for something from our past, no matter how bad it may be. Even people who have received the death penalty can be forgiven by Jesus if only they will ask him to. So that brief exchange on the cross between Christ and the condemned man shows us that one can be condemned on earth and saved by Jesus, all at once, but only if we place our complete faith in him. This week as we take up where we left off, the apostle Luke relates the death and burial of Jesus, along with a few details and observations. So let’s begin this week’s study starting at verse 44.
“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” (Luke 23, 44—49)
So we know that it became like night time in the middle part of the day. The references to the 6th and the 9th hour is how time was recorded back then. Hours were counted from sunrise to sunset, so apparently this took place from around noontime until about 3PM, the hour of our Lord and Savior’s death. The following sentence referring to the temple’s curtain being torn in two requires a little more explanation. In the Old Testament is a detailed explanation of how the Lord’s Temple was to be constructed (see Exodus 36: 33-36). The Temple curtain separated the Ark of the Covenant from the rest of the inner sanctuary, and there was a second one at the entrance to the inner sanctuary from the outer court. But it was the one in the inner sanctuary that Luke referred to in his gospel. The gospel of Matthew also describes an earthquake that was the cause of the Temple curtain being torn in two (see Matthew 27: 51), but Luke’s gospel does not mention this for some unknown reason. The darkness that overtook the land for three hours were when God could not look upon his Son and so forsook him. This is what happens when the “light of the world” (see Matthew 5: 14-16) gets taken out of the world. What we get in the absence of the Savior and Redeemer of humankind is total darkness, both figuratively and literally.
“Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” Jesus trusted his Father implicitly with his fate. Shouldn’t we be doing the same? Into your hands, O God, I commit my body, mind and spirit all day long, 24/7. Nothing else but him. Let nothing get in the way of your personal relationship with Jesus! Not money or material pursuits, not our pursuit of success or fame, nor a spouse or family, nor hobbies or travel, and not our careers – nothing can be allowed to interfere with our relationship with God. “When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.” Back in those days, men beating their chests in a remorseful manner was common for those who had just suffered a serious loss or misfortune of one kind or another. Those who did beat their breasts must have known that Jesus was the Son of God. Even the centurion guarding the three men on the cross knew Jesus’ true identity. So if the centurion on duty there, who was most likely a pagan, could readily identify Jesus as the Son of God, how much more could those who already believed? Just as it is written: “But all those who knew him…. stood at a distance, watching these things.” All the believers and followers, presumably including Luke himself, watched from a distance – not as wide-eyed believers, but as a group of apostles and devotees who were seeing what they thought was the death of a movement and a cause. Jesus the savior, redeemer and healer had just died in full view of everyone. The sadness that overcame them must have been deep and profound. And now let’s conclude this week’s lesson starting at verse 50.
“Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimethia and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” (Luke 23, verses 50-56)
Joseph of Arimethia was a biblical figure who played an important role in the burial of Jesus Christ. His account can be found in each of the four Gospels: Matthew 27:57–60; Mark 15:42–46; Luke 23:50–53; and John 19:38–42. He is called “Joseph of Arimethia” in verse 53 because “he came from the Judean town of Arimethia” and to distinguish him from other Josephs in the Bible. After Jesus’ death on the cross, Joseph, at great risk to himself and his reputation, went to the Roman governor Pilate to request Jesus’ body. While there is not much information in the Bible about Joseph of Arimethia, there are certain things we can glean from the text. In Luke 23:50, we learn that Joseph was actually a part of the Council, or Sanhedrin—the group of Jewish religious leaders who called for Jesus’ crucifixion. However, as we read on to verse 51, we see that Joseph was opposed to the Council’s decision and was in fact a secret follower of Jesus (see also Mark 15:43). Joseph was a wealthy man (Matthew 27:57), although the source of his wealth is unknown.
I also find it noteworthy that there were some women who had followed Jesus from Galilee all the way to Jerusalem and to his public execution – a slow, agonizing walk at that – and onward to the cross. That works out to roughly 90 miles, quite a distance on foot. I wonder – do we have this kind of devotion to Jesus today? Would we follow him on foot for 90 miles in a land devoid of convenience stores? Because if we don’t, then we have our work cut out for us. Let’s spend this week checking ourselves and our devotion level towards our Lord and Savior. And next week we’ll start on chapter twenty four of Luke’s gospel.