Read: Luke 23:26-49
The crucifixion of Jesus, the horrible torture to death invented by the Romans, was a public spectacle designed to deter people from breaking laws. It literally made no sense for Jesus, He did nothing to earn execution, except that it was required for our redemption.
The gospel writers don’t provide a lot of detail about the process, others have covered that in gruesome detail. Instead, they focus on the people who witnessed the event.
Simon from Cyrene was not looking to become a part of the drama when the soldiers forced him to carry the cross, but he is mentioned by Matthew and Mark as well.
Women are following Jesus through the crucifixion, mourning and wailing unashamedly. He addressed the crowd as He consistently did during His ministry.
Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. Luke 23:28
It’s going to get a lot worse for Jerusalem. We have the historical perspective, but they were living through these events. Hearts were broken by the speed of His faux trial and execution.
Jesus provided an important rhetorical question for the crowd to consider:
For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23:31
The extreme measure of the crucifixion of the Messiah, when God was there with them, is compared to a time when He is no longer in their midst. If they would crucify Jesus, what would they do to an ordinary person?
The soldiers mocked Him, the rulers sneered, the people watched from their positions of safety. The public spectacle is repulsive. Their participation is indicative of the darkness they hold onto. This is not a human being tortured and killed, this is an entertainment event, something to watch and be reminded of how good our lives are in comparison.
Jesus’ kindness is seen throughout. To the one being crucified with Him who is humble, the man who recognizes the injustice while knowing he is about to die, Jesus offers one last glimmer of hope:
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
The Death of Jesus
Let there be no doubt, Jesus died on the cross. His human body did not somehow survive the torture and pain associated with the methodical process of crucifixion. He died.
Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:46
With a loud voice, Jesus silenced the crowd. At least in my imagination, when these words were spoken, everyone stopped, everything was silent. The centurion on duty recognized the significance. Those gathered to witness the event got the message, beat their breasts and left.
But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:49
They watched from a distance. I don’t think this was out of concern for safety, rather, they couldn’t bear to get too close. Those who were mocking and sneering only added insult to injury. From a distance, they could watch and see Jesus, their friend, the Messiah, freely pay the ultimate price for all.
I’m glad I know the rest of the story; otherwise, this would be too much to bear. Honestly, it’s hard enough to write about even knowing what happens next. I hope these words help us all to get a sense of the weight of the burden Jesus bore, of the cost of discipleship, the seriousness of the call we either answer or ignore. There is no in between.