Sunday 20 March 2016

Bible Book:

Luke 23:1-49 Sunday 20 March 2016

Psalm: Psalm 31


Today is the start of Holy Week, when we relive the drama of thetrial and crucifixion of Christ. Jesus, of course, is at the centreof this drama, but with a strikingly large supporting cast. So manyindividuals, often unnamed, speak for the human experience in somany small ways.

  • Pilate wants to release Jesus, as justice requires, but withoutcausing a riot. He tries everything to avoid responsibility forJesus' fate - asserting his innocence (verses 4, 14, 22), sendinghim to Herod (verse 7), offering to have him flogged (verses 16,22), using the tradition of freeing a prisoner at Passover (verse20). But finally he gives in to their demands (verse 24).
  • Herod is thrilled to meet Jesus (verses 6-12), because he hasheard great things about this man of miracles, and wants to watchan entertaining magician ("Walk across my swimming pool!", as Jesus Christ Superstar puts it). But whenJesus refuses to perform, Herod loses interest and sends himback. 
  • Barabbas doesn't actually appear in person, but plays a verysignificant role as a guilty man, who is allowed to go free whileJesus dies in his place. 
  • Simon of Cyrene just happens to be passing by (verse 26). He isforced to carry Jesus' cross, and so to share both in hissufferings and in bringing about his execution.
  • The two criminals form a fascinating double-act (verse 32-43).One gives in to that very human instinct, to see ourselves asbetter than others in the same situation, instead of offeringsolidarity. But the other, now all earthly hope is gone, turns toJesus and seeks grace, which Jesus gives. 
  • The centurion  (verse 47)- an outsider to the Jewishreligion - has the faith to see the truth in Jesus, and the courageto speak it. Jesus is 'dikaios': 'innocent', 'just' or'righteous'.

Then there is the chorus. The crowd who previously welcomedJesus with palm branches (Mark11:8) is now turning against him. Perhaps not encountering thefiner religious debates, they are swept along, by those who eitherrejoice in or reject Jesus.

Meanwhile, a much smaller group of women and disciples, watchthe drama unfold, helpless to assist, giving all they can - theirloyal presence and their grief.

To Ponder

  • With which character do you most associate? Who speaks for you?And is this different at different times? Why?
  • What do you think is the significance of the darkness and thetorn curtain, in verses 44-45?
  • Jesus' last words are, "Father, into your hands I commend myspirit" (v. 46). If you could plan your final words in advance,what would you like them to be? What would they say about your lifeand faith?

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