9 July 2012

Luke 23:44-56a

"Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.'" (v. 46)


The death of Jesus is shown by Luke's Gospel to have cosmic significance, through supernatural phenomena. Although it was noon, darkness came over the whole land (verse 44). It seems that for a time the powers of evil had won, blotting out the light of the one that the disciples have hoped would be the light of the world. It was as if time paused while the whole of creation stood aghast at the tragedy that occurred. In this awesome moment, the curtain in the temple separating the sacred dwelling place of God in the Holy of Holies, from the inner sanctuary was torn in two (verse 45). It is a place no ordinary person can go into. The tearing of the curtain signified the ending of an old order, and that God, through the death of Jesus, was providing a way to be accessible to all people, Gentiles (non Jews) as well as Jews.

Jesus did not see the darkness as an absence of God. His last words echoed the prayer of Psalm 31:5, a prayer of trust that Jews pray before going to sleep at night. Jesus commended his spirit into God's keeping. The centurion and the crowds were impressed with the dignity with which Jesus died (verses 47-48). But those who have been closest to Jesus watched his death from a distance (verse 49).

One faithful Jew, Joseph of Arimathea, who although on the Jewish council, was not present when they voted for Jesus' death, took responsibility to give Jesus a burial with dignity. And the women prepared Jesus' body for burial.

Meditating on the death of Jesus can help us, like those who watched his death, to enter into the pain and anguish of some of the very difficult experiences that happen to us, or those known to us, or communities known to us. As we see the darkness fall over the land, we know that Jesus has entered into the depths of human tragedy. We can draw strength from his final words of trust, and that some deeper spiritual purpose might somehow come out of the suffering. And like the spectators around Jesus we can acknowledge the awfulness of the situation, and treat the victim(s) with dignity.

To Ponder

  • Why do you think that Jesus' acquaintances (verse 49) stood at a distance and watched his death?
  • What emotions do you think that those watching the death of Jesus might have experienced and how might it have changed their lives?
  • My grandfather told me as a child that he had learned to trust in God throughout his life, and he would trust God in his death. How do we learn to have such trust in God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jenny Ellis

Jenny is a Methodist minister and this year has permission to study, as well as work alongside a rural chapel to help it find a new physical presence and sense of mission in its village. She is leading a number of quiet and study days.