PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION (Cycle C)

Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Luke 22:14-23:56 or 23:1-49

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of the Readings: God's Servant is Christ the King who raises us from Death to Life
This Sunday we have reached the climax of the liturgical year when everything that has been anticipated and promised in the Old Testament is to be fulfilled, as Jesus told the Apostles in today's Gospel Reading: "For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me ... indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment" (Lk 22:37).

The First Reading is from the third "Song of the Servant" in the Book of Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, composed four songs describing the ideal Servant-Son of God. Each of the songs is fulfilled in Jesus, God's beloved Son who came to "serve and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28). The First Reading and the Psalm Reading should be read as a description of Jesus' humiliating death on the Cross.  Jesus is the "Suffering Servant" whose coming Isaiah prophesied. Both readings give an accurate description of the abuse Jesus suffered as He submitted Himself without protest into the hands of His enemies.

The prophecy of Psalm 22:1 begins with Jesus' fourth statement from the Cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mt 27:46 quoted in Hebrew and in Mk 15:34 in Aramaic).   Psalm 22:8-9 and 17-18 provides a description of Jesus being abused and ridiculed by His enemies (Lk 22:63-65; 23:10-11, 16, 35-38), and Psalm 22:14-17 describes the physical agony of His crucifixion (Lk 23:33-43).  He suffered without protest for our sake (Lk 18:31-33; Is 53:4-7).  The taunts we hear in the Isaiah's Servant's Song and in Psalm 22 are repeated in the Gospels as Jesus is mocked and beaten (Lk 22:63-65; 23:10-11, 16; Is 50:5-6), as His hands and feet are pierced with nails (Lk 23:33; Is 53:5), as lots are cast for His garment (Lk 23:34; Ps 22:19), and as His enemies dare Jesus three times to prove His divinity by saving Himself (Lk 23:35, 37, 39; Ps 22:8).

Jesus is God's divine Son, and yet, as St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading, ...he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross (Phil 2:7-8).  By His obedience, St. Paul tells us, Jesus atoned for our disobedience and was exalted by the Father who bestowed upon Him the name which is above every name and for which every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).

We begin today's liturgy by commemorating Jesus' triumphal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem to complete His work as mankind's Redeemer-Messiah in the spring of 30 AD. He was God and yet He humbled Himself by coming in the flesh to live among us as a man. The celebration of the event of Jesus' triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, the remembrance of His unjust execution, and His victory in rising from the dead at this, the beginning of Holy Week, emphasizes that the three elements of His suffering, death, and resurrection belong together in God's plan for mankind's redemption and that Jesus' death was not a defeat but a victory over the powers of sin and death.  But that is not the end of the story. Despite our human frailties and our repeated failures, Jesus continues to humble Himself as God's Servant-Son, coming to His Church and offering us His Body and Blood in the miracle of the Eucharist so that one day we too will be able to rise up in triumph and join Him in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Commemoration of the Lord's Entrance into Jerusalem: The Order of the Procession

A hymn in honor of Christ the King is sung during the procession. As the procession enters the church, a responsory or another song which refers to the Lord's entrance is sung. Our Procession Rite imitates the procession of Jesus and His disciples on Palm Sunday in the spring of 30 AD.  Coming from the village of Bethphage, Jesus and His disciples crossed the Kidron Valley and entered the walled city of Jerusalem through the arched gate that faced the Mount of Olives. It was the gate that was closest to the Temple Mount and was located on the east side of Jerusalem. In the Antiphon we imitate the crowd that shouted acclamations from the Messianic Psalm 118:25-26 ~ We beg you LORD, save us [hosanna], we beg you LORD, give us victory!  Blessed in the name of the LORD is he who is coming!  "Hosanna" is a word of Hebrew origin (hosi-a-na) that is composed of two words literally meaning "save now" or "save (we) pray" (cf., 2 Sam 14:4; Ps 106:47; Is 25:9; 37:20; Jer 2:27; etc.).

THE MASS:
The First Reading Isaiah 50:4-7 ~ The Beginning of the Third Servant's Song: Trusting the Lord in the Midst of Suffering (NJB)
4 Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple's tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Morning by morning he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple. 5 Lord Yahweh has opened my ear and I have not resisted; I have not turned away. 6  I have offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; I have not turned my face away  from insult and spitting. 7 Lord Yahweh comes to my help, this is why insult has not touched me, this is why I have set my face like flint and know that I shall not be put to shame.

The 8th century BC prophet Isaiah contrasts imperfect Israel with God's ideal Servant-Son. Isaiah presents the Servant's testimony in the first person, allowing the Servant to speak for himself. In verses 4-7 the Servant emphasizes two points in giving testimony about himself:

  1. He testifies to his strength in the Lord (50:4-5).
  2. He testifies to his suffering in fulfilling his mission (50:6-7).

First, the Servant describes his strength in the Lord God.  He is strong because he has the ear/hearing of a faithful servant of the Lord.  He testifies to his obedience to his master and to his mission. It is the Lord who instructs him on what to say and gives Him strength. The second point the Servant makes in verses 6-7 is to describe his suffering, which he willingly endures and does not resist. He humbly submits to suffering and humiliation for God's sake as he is beaten, mocked, and spat upon.

7 Lord Yahweh comes to my help, this is why insult has not touched me, this is why I have set my face like flint and know that I shall not be put to shame. 8 He who grants me saving justice is near!
Despite his treatment, God's Servant is not disgraced and has remained steadfast ("set my face like flint") in order to fulfill his mission because he knows the Lord will sustain him and will ultimately vindicate him.

The Church has always seen the events described in Isaiah's third Servant's Song fulfilled in Christ's Passion and Resurrection: 

  1. In Jesus' obedience to His mission to proclaim the Kingdom in words that come from God (Jn 14:10).
  2. In the suffering and humiliation He endured in His trial before the Sanhedrin and the Roman governor, and in His crucifixion ( Mt 26:67; 27:25-26, 38-44; Mk 14:61-65; 15:13-20, 29; Lk 22:63-65; 23:33-37; Jn 19:1-3, 17-18, 33-34).
  3. In the final fulfillment of His vindication in His glorious Resurrection (Mt 26:1-8; Mk 16:1-8; Lk 24:1-10; Jn 20:1).

St. Paul wrote that as Christians we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:17 NAB; emphasis added). Then St. Paul drew upon Isaiah's prophecy as he described the firm standing of men and women who place their faith in Jesus and are willing to offer the sacrifice of their lives in Romans 8:31-39; especially in verses 33-34: Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones?  It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn?  It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us (Rom 8:33-34 NAB).

Responsorial Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24 ~ Christ's Abandonment
The response is: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Ps 22:1)
7 All who see me scoff at me; they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads; 8 "He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, if he loves him."
Response:
16 Indeed, many dogs surround me, a pack of evil doers closes in upon me; 17 they have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.
Response:
18 They divide my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. 19 But you, O LORD, be not far from me; O my help, hasten to aid me.
Response:
22 I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you: 23 "You who fear the LORD, praise him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him; revere him, all you descendants of Israel."
Response:

This moving Psalm attributed to Jesus' ancestor, the great King David, not only contains Jesus' first statement from the altar of the Cross from Psalm 22:1 in the response (see Mt 27:46 and Mk 15:34), but it is a vivid description of what took place during Jesus' crucifixion, a form of capital punishment that was unknown in David's day. The psalm prefigures the Passion of the Christ:

The psalm ends with the psalmist declaring that He will proclaim God's name in the liturgical assembly, and then he calls upon God's covenant people: You who fear the LORD, praise him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him; revere him, all you descendants of Israel. This is the praise and glory we proclaim to Jesus Christ in our liturgical assembly as we remember His Passion and death that God the Father transformed into victory and glory. We who are the universal Christian assembly of Jesus Christ are now the true descendants of Jacob and the new Israel of the universal Church (CCC 877).

The Second Reading Philippians 2:6-11 ~ Meditating on the Lord's Humility in His Suffering and Death
6 Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. 7 Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, 8 he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Most Bible scholars believe that verses 6-11 are from an early Christian hymn that is quoted by St. Paul in his letter to the Christian community at Philippi in Macedonia. The hymn speaks of Jesus' humility in emptying Himself of His divine glory in order to live a human life and to undergo the suffering that is part of the human condition (verses 6-7). Paul is probably contrasting Jesus with Adam. It was Adam who, being created in the likeness and image of God, attempted to grasp equality with God through his sin of rebellion and pride in eating from the forbidden tree; it was a sin of rebellion in which all humanity became condemned to live in sin. Jesus however, through His humility, was obedient to the Father in offering His life as a sacrifice for mankind's sins. His reward was that He was raised up by God to divine glory (8-11), making a way for mankind to be raised up by the grace of God through the merits of His work of redemption out of sin, and to receive the promise of eternal salvation in Heaven that had been closed to man since the time of Adam's fall from grace (CCC 536, 1026).

The Gospel Reading Luke 22:14-23:56 ~ From the Last Supper to Christ's Crucifixion and Death
The Gospel of John establishes the day of Jesus' last Passover: Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made his supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him (Jn 12:1-2). The day after the supper at Bethany Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on the foal of an ass. It is the event Christians celebrate as Palm (Passion) Sunday. Therefore, the dinner at Bethany the day before Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was a Saturday Sabbath meal that Jesus shared with His friends. Six days from the Saturday in Bethany, as the ancients counted with no zero-place value and with Saturday counting as day #1, identifies the sixth day, the day of the Passover sacrifice, as the Thursday of Jesus' last week in Jerusalem.  According to the Gospel of John and in agreement with the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the Passover sacrifice in the year of Jesus' death and resurrection was on a Thursday, the day before He was crucified (six days from the dinner at Bethany on the Saturday Jewish Sabbath in John 12:1), and His crucifixion was on Friday, Preparation Day for the Saturday Sabbath (Mk 15:42). Please note that the Jews counted a day from sundown to sundown.

Jesus Last Week in Jerusalem

The day after the Sabbath meal with His friends in Bethany, Jesus rode into Jerusalem. It was the same day that the sacrificial victims were chosen for the first Passover: Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 'This month must be the first of all the months for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, "On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock for his family: one animal for each household (Ex 12:1-3 NJB). On Thursday, Nisan the 14th, the Passover sacrifice took place at the Jerusalem Temple with one victim offered per each group of 10 – 20 people. The lambs and kids offered in sacrifice were skinned and the bodies returned to the different households/groups that had brought the animal for sacrifice. The body was taken back to where the groups were going to hold the sacred meal in Jerusalem and roasted on a pomegranate spit. Other food items were prepared for the meal: the unleavened bread, the sweet mixture of chopped apple, figs and red wine (haroset), and the two kinds of bitter herbs. There was also holy water in stone vessels for ritual purification and red wine. Four cups of communal red wine were to be ritually offered during the meal in addition to individual cups of wine. The meal began at sundown and only those members of the covenant who were in a ritual state of purity could attend the meal (Mishnah: Pesahim).

Luke 22:14-20 ~ The Last Supper: the Sacred Meal of the Passover on the First Night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread
14 When the hour came, Jesus took his place [reclined] at table with the Apostles. 15 He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, 16 for I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God."  17 Then he took a cup, gave thanks and said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."  19 Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me."  20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you." 

All the Gospels record that those assembled ate the traditional Passover meal that night before Jesus offered Himself, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, at the end of the meal (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:14-15; Jn 13:26). Notice that two cups of wine are mentioned (verses 17 and 20 with the bread that became His Body offered between the two cups in verse 19). The cup mentioned in verse 17 is probably the second of the four communal ritual cups of red wine served at the Passover meal, called the Cup of Forgiveness. It was to be followed by the 3rd cup, called the Cup of Blessing or Redemption. St. Paul calls the cup offered as Jesus' Precious Blood the "Cup of Blessing" and in some translations "the Blessing Cup" in 1 Corinthians 10:16 (literal translation in the Greek text is "cup of Blessing"). It is significant that Jesus swore that He would not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God is established in verse 18. This vow is similar to His vow not eat the sacred meal of the Passover again until the New Covenant Passover was fulfilled in the Kingdom of God (Lk 22:16). His words "again" or "from now on" suggests that He drank from the Cup of Forgiveness, as did all the others assembled in the room, even Judas.

In the order of the meal, everyone present sang the last line of Psalm 114 and then everyone drank from the Cup of Forgiveness (the second of the four cups of the ritual meal). It was now time for the second ritual hand washing in preparation for taking up and eating the unleavened bread—the first ritual hand washing was probably when Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles at the beginning of the meal (Jn 13:3-15). The next part of the ritual was the eating of the prepared rounds of unleavened bread (not what was offered as Jesus' Body). The unleavened bread symbolized the people's covenant holiness and the absence of sin within the community of those who ate this meal under of the atoning sacrifice of the Passover victim. As was the custom, Jesus would have taken up the basket holding the individually wrapped rounds of unleavened bread and prayed over it. Some Rabbis say there were three separate rounds of unleavened bread with each round wrapped separately in its own cloth, stacked one on top of the other and placed in one basket with the middle bread broken in two pieces, while other Rabbis say there were only two wrapped rounds of bread. For Christians, the three separately wrapped rounds of unleavened bread together in one basket symbolize the mystery of the Trinity, a truth not yet revealed to the Old Covenant people of God. The torn middle round of unleavened bread is identified by Christians as the sinless Son of God whose flesh was torn for the sins of man.  

Every food item served that night had a symbolic significance linked to the Exodus liberation and the last meal they ate in Egypt:

  1. The first green bitter herb and salt water symbolized the goodness of God's creation but the bitterness of sin that caused tears and suffering.
  2. The red wine represented the blood of the slain Passover victim, and the four cups represented ways God redeemed His people out of slavery in Egypt in the first Passover (Ex 6:6-7).
  3. The second bitter herb represented the bitterness of slavery in Egypt.
  4. The sweet mixture of the haroset symbolized the sweetness of their redemption.
  5. The unleavened bread the bread they made in hast as they fled out of Egypt (Ex 13:1-10).
  6. The roasted flesh of the Passover lamb or goat kid represented the victim of the first Passover whose flesh they ate as the angel of death Passover their houses in Egypt marked with the blood of the sacrifice on the night of the tenth plague.

A hagigah festival peace offering (the boiled meat of a calf, a male or female sheep) was also consumed if the group was too large for the Passover victim to adequately feed everyone, but eating it came before the Passover victim was offered.

Taking up a round loaf of unleavened bread and holding it in His hands, Jesus broke it into two pieces, thanking God in prayer for both the grain from which the bread was made and for the command to eat it. Next, taking up a piece of the broken unleavened bread, Jesus dipped it into the haroset; folding the fruit mixture with the second bitter herb between the two sides of the bread. This "second dipping" (the first dipping was fresh green herbs in the salted water at the very beginning of the meal) was called the "sop."  The first "sop" was given to the person the host wished to honor that night. The Gospel of John records that the first "sop" was given to Judas who was probably reclining on Jesus' left at the place traditionally reserved for the one to be honored: So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him (Jn 13:26).  Jesus reached out to Judas one final time but Judas rejected Christ, and John's Gospel records that he left the gathering (Jn 13:30).

The communal dish that contained the bitter herb and the haroset fruit mixture was then passed around the table with additional rounds of the unleavened bread. After everyone had dipped the "sop" (Jn 13:26), the hagigah peace offering was brought to the table and was eaten (if the festival peace offering had been made at the time of the Passover sacrifice). Finally the roasted flesh of Passover victim, roasted by fire like a sacrifice, was passed and eaten by those assembled. Jesus would have pronounced a blessing over both the hagigah peace offering and the Passover victim. The meat of the Passover victim had to be carefully roasted and then the meat separated without breaking any of the bones (Ex 12:46). To break a bone of the victim was a grave offense punishable by forty lashes (Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:11C). The meat of the Passover sacrifice had to be the last food consumed; no other food was to be eaten after the flesh of the sacrifice (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:9).  But once again Jesus changed the order of the sacred meal as he took up the bread again and offered it to his disciples saying "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me." 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.  In saying the words "new covenant" those assembled would have immediately thought of the promise of the everlasting covenant promised by Isaiah (Is 55:3; 61:8), and new covenant promised by Jeremiah in the era of the Messiah (Jer 31:31). In the offering of Himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, Jesus began His walk to the Cross that night in the Upper Room in what was the first Eucharistic banquet. He was fulfilling what He promised in the Bread of Life Discourse when He told the crowds "I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world" (Jn 6:51 NJB) ... and "In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Anyone who dies eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person" (Jn 6:53-56 NJB).

Luke 22:21-22 ~ Announcement of His Betrayal
"21 And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table; 22 for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe is that man by whom he is betrayed." 

Jesus makes the startling announcement that He will be betrayed by one of His own and that this will happen according to the will of God. He has already prophesied His death three times, and now His disciples know what was foretold is about to happen and it is one of their number who is a traitor.

Luke 22:23-30 ~ The Role of the Apostles
23 And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed. 24 Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest. 25 He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as 'Benefactors'; 26 but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. 27 For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one seated at table?  I am among you as the one who serves. 28 It is you who have stood by me in my trials; 29 and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Next, Jesus sets the standard for His disciples by telling them that the most humble of them who ranks himself the least in Jesus' kingdom will be considered the "greatest."  He is sending them forth as servants of the Kingdom and not like the arrogant and self-righteous Pharisees and scribes who oppose Jesus. Jesus defines the role of the Apostles as servants of God and His Church-Kingdom on earth, unlike the leaders of the Old Covenant Church who Jesus has condemned for their hypocrisy and arrogance (Lk 11:39-52; 20:45-47). Jesus also promises His disciples that they will be His heirs and will inherit His kingdom and that He will serve them at His table. Jesus serves His disciples at His table of the altar at every Eucharistic celebration of the Mass, but He also promises that He will serve His disciples at the eschatological banquet when He returns to claim His Bride, the Church at the Wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Sanctuary (Rev 19:1-9).

Luke 22:31-46 ~ Simon-Peter's Denial Foretold and Jesus Prays that the Father's Will is Fulfilled
31 "Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers."  33 He said to him, "Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you."  34 But he replied, "I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day you will deny me three times that you know me." 35 He then said to them, "When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals were you in need of anything?"  36 'No, nothing," they replied.'  He said to them, "But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely , 'He was counted among the wicked'; and indeed what was written about me is coming to fulfillment."  38 Then they said, 'Lord, look, there are two swords here.'  But he replied, "It is enough!"  39 Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 When he arrived at the place he said to them, "Pray that you may not undergo the test." 41 After withdrawing about a stone's throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, 42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still not my will but yours be done."  43 And to strengthen him, an angel from heaven appeared to him. 44 He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them asleep from grief. 46 He said to them, "Why are you sleeping?  Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test."

Jesus warns His Apostles that they will all be tested by Satan and commands Simon-Peter, the Apostle chosen to be His Vicar and to hold the "keys of the Kingdom" (Mt 16:16-19), that when he has recovered from his test, to strengthen his brother Apostles (verse 31). Jesus' instruction to Simon-Peter confirms his primacy within the Apostolic College. Simon-Peter professes his willingness to give his life for Jesus, but Jesus prophesies that Peter will deny Him three times before the cockcrow. The "cockcrow" was the trumpet signal that announced the end of the third night Watch and the beginning of the fourth and last night Watch. It was sounded at 3 AM. Next, Jesus counsels them to be prepared for the coming crisis. The Gospel message that they carried to the Jews on their earlier missionary journey was well received and their material needs were met by those receptive to their message (Lk 9:1-6; 10:1-20), but now the climate is hostile and they will need to defend and care for themselves and their loved ones.

Jesus assures His disciples that the coming crisis is in fulfillment of what was prophesied in the Scriptures, saying, "37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, 'He was counted among the wicked'; and indeed what was written about me is coming to fulfillment."  The fulfillment passage Jesus quotes is from Isaiah 53:12, from the fourth Servant's Song.

Then, at the conclusion of the Passover meal, they left the Upper Room in Jerusalem. The other Gospels record that they sang a hymn before leaving but there is no mention of the fourth communal cup that officially closed the ritual meal—Jesus could not drink from it because He swore not to drink wine until He came into His kingdom (Lk 22:18). They crossed the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives east of the city. Jesus led the disciples to a garden called Gethsemane (Mt 26:36; Jn 18:1), and He asked the disciples to pray with Him in preparation for the crisis that is about to come upon all of them.  He withdrew a little apart from them and offered His prayer of submission to the will of the Father. Jesus' prayer reminds us that He was fully God but also fully man and in His humanity He was in anguish over the suffering He was going to endure. Evidence of His anguish is recorded in Luke's statement that drops of blood fell from the sweat of His face. This is a condition identified by physicians as hematidrosis, blood pigments in sweat from extreme stress.

Jesus accepted upon Himself God's judgment for a sinful humanity.  When the time came for Jesus to fulfill the Father's plan, He shows us the depth of His love. Through His human will, the divine will of the Father is perfectly fulfilled once and for all time (CCC 2824). He freely submitted Himself to the Father's will, and in His prayer of agony He completely consented to God's plan: not my will but yours be done (Lk 22:42b; CCC 2605). This is the cup of suffering to which Jesus will submit Himself. He will take up the "cup of God's wrath" for the sake of mankind's salvation (see 2 Cor 5:14-14 and 1 Jn 1:7-10; 2:1-2). This is the same "cup" He spoke of in Matthew 20:22-23; 26:39, 42; Mark 10:38-39; 14:36 and John 18:11.

Luke 22:43, And to strengthen him, an angel from heaven appeared to him. Angels have been part of Jesus' mission since His birth (i.e., Mt 1:20; 2:13; Mk 1:13; Lk 1:11-20, 26-38; 2:9-15).

Luke 22:45-46, When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. 46 He said to them, "Why are you sleeping?  Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test."
Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and His last week debating with the religious leaders has been a great success. However, He has told His disciples again that He will be betrayed (Lk 22:21-22) and that they will be tested by Satan (Lk 22:31). Perhaps they now realize the three predictions of His death will indeed be fulfilled and this is the cause of their grief.

Luke 22:47-53 ~ Jesus' arrest
47 While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him. 48 Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"  49 His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked, "Lord shall we strike with a sword?"  50 And one of them struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said in reply, "Stop, no more of this?"  Then he touched the servant and healed him. 52 And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards and elders who had come for him, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?  53 Day after day I was with you in the Temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness."

Judas is accompanied by the some of the chief priests, the Temple guards and Roman soldiers led by an officer (Lk 22:50, 52 and Jn 18:3, 19). Chief priests are the ordained priesthood while the Levites are the lesser ministers of the Sanctuary who serve the chief priests (Num 3:5-10). A member of the crowd was the High Priest's servant. The Gospel of John includes the information that a cohort of Roman soldiers accompanied the guards of the chief priests, who are probably Levitical guards that serve in the Temple. A cohort is a detachment of several hundred Roman soldiers. The chief priests were fearful of attempting to arrest during the festivities with crowds of people who believed in Jesus surrounding Him. While arresting Jesus after midnight on the Mt. of Olives lessens the threat of interference, the chief priests are not taking any chances that His followers or that sympatric pilgrims might be present who could try to prevent His arrest. Perhaps Judas has also reported to the chief priests that some of Jesus' men are armed (Lk 22:38).

Luke 22:47-48, While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him. 48 Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" 
To greet a kinsman with a kiss was customary behavior (Lk 7:45), but Judas' sign to Jesus' enemies in kissing Jesus makes his actions even more repugnant. In the Gospels, Judas only calls Jesus "rabbi," which can be translated "sir" or "teacher" (Mt 26:49). Judas never calls Jesus "Messiah"/Christos or even Kyrios, "Lord," a title that speaks of more than respect—Kyrios it is a title of allegiance between Master and servant; it is an allegiance Judas is unwilling to give. Malchus was servant/slave of the High Priest and St. Peter cut off his ear in his attempt to protect Jesus (Jn 18:10). Earlier Jesus encouraged Peter to take a sword with him before they left for the Mt. of Olives (Lk 22:35-39, 51-52).  Jesus was going to offer one more miracle before His arrest to bring those coming to arrest Him to believe in Him—the healing of the severed ear of the High Priest's servant was one last testimony of the power of the Messiah. In telling Peter to put always his sword, Jesus says to Peter, "Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?" (Jn 18:11), referring to His cup of suffering.  Imagine Peter's shock. Jesus refuses to protect Himself, and He will also not allow Peter to protect Him even though He told him to bring the sword (Lk 22:38). Notice that throughout the arrest sequence that Jesus is completely in control of the events, even controlling His disciples who want to protect Him.

Luke 22:52-53,  And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards and elders who had come for him, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?  53 Day after day I was with you in the Temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness." 
Jesus challenges the religious leaders on their cowardliness in choosing the darkness of the night to arrest Him. It is now the "hour" of His Passion (see Jn 12:23, 27; 13:1) but the choice to reject Jesus as their Messiah and Lord has become a defining "hour" for His enemies. A contrast can be made in this passage between the night and the moral condition of Jesus' enemies. The dark of night is ironically fitting for the "power of darkness" that fills the souls of His adversaries. They are the children of darkness as opposed to the disciples who are children of the Light who is Christ (see Jn 12:35, 46; 13:1).

Luke 22:54-65 ~ Simon-Peter's denial of Christ
54 After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance. 55 They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. 56 When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, "This man too was with him."  57 But he denied it saying, "Woman [gynai], I do not know him."  58 A short while later someone else saw him and said, "You too are one of them"; but Peter answered, "My friend [man = anthrope], I am not."  59 About an hour later, still another insisted, "Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean."  60 But Peter said, "My friend [man = anthrope], I do not know what you are talking about."  Just as he was saying this, [sounded] the [no article] cock crowed [alektorophonia = cockcrow], 61 and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the [no article] cock crows [alektorophonia = cockcrow] today [not in Greek text], you will deny me three times."  62 He went out and began to weep bitterly. 63 The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying, "Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?"  65 And they reviled him in saying many other things against him. [...] = literal translation (Interlinear Bible Greek-English, vol. IV, page 238).

We know from secular sources that the name of the High Priest was Joseph Caiaphas. He was the son-in-law of Annas, a previous high priest (see Mt 26:2, 57; Jn 11:49; 18:13-14, 24, 38; and Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.2.2 [35]).

Luke 22:55,  They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. The Greek text has the word aule', "courtyard, but it could also be translated as "hallway or even palace-room; see the use of the same word in Rev 11:2 but also in the Greek Septuagint of Jer 37:21; 38:26 and 39:14 (Johnson, Gospel of Luke, page 357). It was cold in the early spring of 30 AD (Jn 18:18) and there was a fire.  In John 18:15-16 we are told that another disciple who was known at the household of the high priest went with Peter and it was through him that Peter gained access to the high priest's palace. Most scholars and the Fathers of the Church have identified this unnamed disciple as St. John Zebedee, who identifies himself five times in John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20 as the disciple Jesus loved.  The inspired writer of the fourth Gospel also identifies himself as "this disciple" who is an eyewitness to these events in John 21:24.

It is impossible to know the connection between John and this priestly house, but it is clear that from the time of Jesus' arrest only "the other"/"the beloved disciple" continues to follow Jesus to the cross and to the tomb. It is also important to note that the unnamed disciple is clearly distinguished from but also associated with Peter in John's Gospel chapters 18-21. The close association between Peter and this unnamed disciple also mirrors the close association recorded in John 13:24; 20:2-10; and in Luke 22:8; Acts 3:1 and 8:14 between St. Peter and St. John Zebedee the Apostle.

While Jesus is facing His ordeal inside the palace of the high priest, St. Peter, His Vicar, is facing his own ordeal in the courtyard. Peter is questioned and refuses to acknowledge his connection to Jesus three times (Mt 27:69-75; Mk 14:66-72 and Jn 18:26). In Luke's Gospel he is questioned by a young woman servant in the courtyard as he sat by the fire, by a man, and an hour later for the third time by a man who probably recognized Peter's Galilean accent.  Peter is challenged by servants of both genders: a woman and two men. The second man points out that he is a Galilean, either by his accent, or his manner of dress, or both. In the Gospel of St. John, one of the people who accused Peter of being one of Jesus' disciples is a relative of the slave/servant of the high priest who Peter wounded when Jesus was arrested (Jn 18:26).

Luke 22:60, But Peter said, "My friend, I do not know what you are talking about."  Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed,
Notice that Luke provides an approximate length of time that Jesus is held by the Sanhedrin—at the time of Peter's last denial, he hears "the sound of the cockcrow" (Lk 22:59). An earlier betrayal took place in this same courtyard on Wednesday when the chief priests, scribes and elders gathered together in the courtyard of the high priest's palace and agreed to arrest Jesus by treachery and to put Him to death (Mt 26:3). When Peter hears the "cockcrow" it reminds him of Jesus' prophecy that he will deny the Lord three times.

There is no article associated with the Greek word for cockcrow in verses 60 and 61. The word "cockcrow" in Greek is formed from the Greek word for "cock" alektor and the word for "sound" phoneo. In Greek alektorophonia was a trumpet signal that announced the end of the third watch and the beginning of the fourth and last night watch at 3 AM. The "cockcrow" Peter heard must be the trumpet blast signaling the end of the third watch that was given at the Temple (Mishnah: Sukkot, 5:4; M. Yoma, 1:8) and at the Roman fortress called the Antonia. The Romans called the trumpet blast at the end of the Third Watch the "gallicinium," in Latin, "cockcrow."

In 1st century AD Jerusalem, as in all the cities of the Roman Empire, the nighttime hours were divided into four time periods called "Watches":

Watch Time
#1: Evening watch Sundown to 9PM
#2: Midnight watch 9 PM to Midnight
#3: Cockcrow watch Midnight to 3 AM
#4: Dawn watch 3 AM to Dawn

The Third Watch was from Midnight to 3 AM. If Jesus was identifying the time of Peter's last denial at the time a rooster crow was heard, it could not be a specific time—roosters are notoriously unpredictable in their crowing. There was also a rabbinic ordinance against keeping chickens within the walls of the Holy City because it was feared that their scratching would produce "unclean things," thereby violating the purity laws (J. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, page 47, note 44).   However, if Jesus was referring to the gallicinium in Latin or alektorophonia in Greek in Luke 22:34, His time reference was to the trumpet call of the "cockcrow" that was a precise military signal (Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John, page 828).   

At the close of the Third Watch a signal was given by the both the Roman guards at the Antonia Fortress next to the Temple and by the Temple guards to signal the end of the Watch and the change of the guard.   Mark records that Jesus told Peter he would betray Him before the cockcrows twice (Mk 14:30), and in the high priest's courtyard, as Peter denied Christ the third time Mark records Peter heard the second "cockcrow" (Mk 14:30 and 72). Jesus named the four night watches in Mark 13:35, "Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning." It was the end of the Third Watch called "Cockcrow Watch" that lasted from midnight to 3 AM when Peter denied Christ for the third time.

Luke 22:61-62 ... and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times."  62 He went out and began to weep bitterly.

This dramatic moment is only recorded in St. Luke's Gospel.  In the Greek text the verb is emblepo, meaning "o stare at intently."   It is the same word found in Luke 20:17 and the double use of Jesus' title "Lord" contributes to the pathos of the moment. That Peter "wept bitterly" may be related to several Old Testament passages where weeping is a sign of defeat, failure, ruin or loss (Is 22:4 LXX; 33:7 LXX; Ez 27:30 LXX).

Peter's realization of his sin and his bitter weeping is the beginning of his repentance. But why was it necessary for Peter to face this ordeal?  He was the first to profess Jesus as his Lord Messiah, the only Apostle brave enough to attempt to walk on the stormy sea to Jesus, and he was ready to defend Jesus with his life. This fisherman was physically and spiritually courageous. Perhaps Peter needed to experience the despair of the sinner to have enough compassion to be the kind of leader Jesus needed to guide the ship of His Church. If Peter only saw sinners as the weak and despised, he would not have had the love for sinners he needed to properly shepherd the flock of the New Covenant Church. If Christ could forgive him for his thrice-time betrayal and still love him, how could Peter deny Christ's forgiveness and the Church's love to those sinners seeking forgiveness and reconciliation?

Luke 22:63-65, The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying, "Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?"  65 And they reviled him in saying many other things against him.

Jesus prophesied that the religious authorities would mistreat Him as they have abused God's prophets throughout salvation history (Lk 18:32; Mt 23:35; 1 Kng 22:24; 2 Chr 24:20-21; Jer 20:1-2; 26:7-8, 20-23).

Luke 22:66-71 ~ Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin
66 When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin. 67 They said, "If you are the Messiah, tell us," but he replied to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I question, you will not respond. 69 But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God."  70 They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?"  He replied to them, "You say that I am."  71 Then they said, "What further need have we for testimony?  We have heard it from his own mouth."
The "council of elders" is the Sanhedrin—the Jewish high law court that tired religious and civil cases. Luke's account does not have the dramatic details that are present in the other Gospels (see Mt 26:57-68 and Mk 14:53-65). Luke's account does not have the dramatic details that are present in the other Gospels (see Mt 26:57-68 and Mk 14:53-65). Missing are the false witnesses who could not agree (Mt 26:59-60a), the charge by two witnesses that agreed Jesus said He would destroy the Temple and within three days rebuild it (Mt 26:60b-61), the high priest ordering Jesus under oath before God to say if He was the Messiah ("anointed one"), the Son of God (Mt 26:63), and the high priest tearing his robes as he condemns Jesus of blasphemy after Jesus admitted He is the Messiah, quoting from Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1 (Mt 26:64-66).

Luke 22:67-68, They said, "If you are the Messiah, tell us," but he replied to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I question, you will not respond.
Luke only uses the title "Messiah" in 4:41, 9:20 and in 22:67.  In all Jesus' other exchanges with the religious leaders, when He has proved them wrong or eluded their traps, they have had no response or refuse to answer His questions (for example Lk 20:3-7and 25-26).

 Then Jesus then tells them: "... but from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God."  He does respond by alluding to two Old Testament passages. The first is Daniel 7:13-14 in which the divine Messiah is called one who looks like "a son of Man," meaning a human being, who came on the clouds of heaven to God to receive power and domination over all nations.  The second passage He alludes to is Psalm 110:1. Psalm 110:1 is the passage Jesus challenged them on concerning the correct understanding of Scripture in Luke 20:41-44: The Lord said to my lord, "Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool."  Since Jesus has already taught that David was referring not to his son but to the Messiah who is greater, He is obviously using this psalm passage to identify Himself as the Messiah as well as the Daniel passage. Both passages refer to Jesus' role in the Kingdom of God after His Resurrection and Ascension.

Luke 22:70-71, They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?"  He replied to them, "You say that I am."  71 Then they said, "What further need have we for testimony?  We have heard it from his own mouth."
Jesus has claimed that He is the Messiah by alluding to the two Scripture passages in verse 69, and now He has used the Divine Name for Himself when He says: "You say that I AM." Compare Jesus' ego eimi in verse 70 to God's pronouncement of the Divine Name to Moses in the Septuagint Greek of Exodus 3:14: God replied, "I am who am" [ego eimi ho on].  Then he added "This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM [ego eimi] sent me to you." In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark the charge of blasphemy is pronounced against Jesus at this time (Mt 26:65; Mk 14:63).

Luke does not record the false witnesses that are in the other Gospel accounts of Jesus' trial (see Mt 26:60-61; Mk 14:56-59). It was absolutely forbidden under the Law to provide false testimony, and if false testimony was proved the penalty was death (Ex 20:16; Lev 19:12; Dt 5:20; 19:16-18). Everything about Jesus' trial was illegal:

Jesus' Illegal Trial by the Jewish Sanhedrin
Illegality Scripture
There was a clandestine meeting of the high court. Mt 26:57; Mk 14:53; Lk 22:66
It was not an impartial court; the verdict against Jesus was already decided. Mt 26:3-4, 59; Mk 14:1, 55; Lk 22:1-2; Jn 11:49-50; 18:13
False witnesses were called to testify against Jesus, but their testimony did not agree. The council violated the commandment against bearing false witness in the Ten Commandments. Mt 26:60-61; Mk 14:56-59; Ex 20:16; Lev 19:12; Dt 5:20; 19:16-18
No witnesses were called to support Jesus.  
The charge of threatening the Temple was brought against Jesus and then the charge was changed to blasphemy. Mt 26:61, 65; Mk 14:63-64; Jn 19:7
Michal E. Hunt © copyright 2012

Jesus was charged with blasphemy, but technically He was not guilty of the charge of blaspheming God's name under the prohibition and the case cited in the Torah (Lev 24:11-16). Instead they find Him guilty of claiming to be equal to God (Lk 5:21-24).

From the Crucifixion to the Ascension

 

The Jewish daylight hours was divided into 12 seasonal hours beginning at dawn (Jn 11:9). Roman time, which is also modern time, began with the new day at midnight and with dawn the beginning of the 6th hour. Noon was the 6th hour Jewish time and the 12th hour Roman time. When John 19:14 records that it was about the 6th hour when Jesus was with Pilate, it is Roman time between 6-7 AM—in agreement with the Synoptic Gospels.

Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead (1 Thes 4:13-17; 2 Thes 1:7-10; 2:1-12; 1 Cor 15:22-28).

Luke 23:1-5 ~ Jesus is taken to Pilate
1 Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought him before Pilate. 2 They brought charges against him, saying, "We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah, a king."  3 Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"  He said in reply, "You say so."  4 Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, "I find this man not guilty."  5 But they were adamant and said, "He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here."   

Luke 23:1, Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought him before Pilate. That Luke says the "whole assembly" brought Jesus to the Roman governor suggests that the entire 72 members of the Sanhedrin were convened for Jesus' trial (Mishnah: Sanhedrin, 1:6). The chief priests and elders wanted to condemn Jesus to death, but they did not have the power to publically execute Jesus, and they were afraid of the enmity of the crowds who believed Jesus was the Messiah. As soon as dawn broke they officially condemned Jesus and took Him to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.  He was visiting in the city from his headquarters in Caesarea Maritima on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and was probably staying at the Jerusalem Herodian palace along with Herod Antipas. Pontius Pilate was a member of the Roman equestrian class and had ruled Judea as the Roman Prefect since 26 AD.  He was to become the second longest ruling governor of the province, being relieved of his duties in 36 AD.

There are two reasons why the religious leaders took Jesus to the Roman governor to condemn Jesus to death. The Sanhedrin did not have the power to condemn Jesus to death. They also didn't want to turn Him into a martyr. They needed the Roman Empire to condemn Him as a common criminal and execute Him to discredit Him with the people (Jn 19:31 and Mt 26:4).

Luke 23:2, They brought charges against him, saying, "We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah, a king."
...the Messiah, a king can also be translated "an anointed king."  In accusing Jesus of "misleading our people" here and in verse 14, they are accusing Jesus of being a false prophet (see Jer 23:32). They accused Jesus of urging the people not to pay the Roman tax, which was untrue since He told them in Luke 20:20-25 to pay the Romans the Roman coin that bore Caesar's image. He never urged the people to revolt against Rome. Jesus identified Himself as the Son of God, but it was the people who proclaimed Him as King of the Jews (Lk 19:38)—it was never a claim Jesus made directly for Himself, although He did speak of Himself in the terms of kingship in Luke 19:11-27.

Luke 23:3, Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"  He said in reply, "You say so." 
Pilates question to Jesus is the same in all four Gospels (Mt 27:11; Mk 15:2; Jn 18:33). "You say so" is not a denial but neither is it an acknowledgement; it is similar to His response to the Sanhedrin in Luke 22:70 but without the use of the Divine Name. Jesus point is that this is the charge made against Him.

Luke 23:4, Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, "I find this man not guilty."
Pilate announces to Jesus' accusers that there is no evidence to support the charge of treason against the Roman Empire. The literal Greek can be translated "I find no fault in this man."

In the Jerusalem Temple the chief priests were preparing for the morning liturgy of the Tamid sacrifice and the compulsory Sacred Assembly on the first day of Unleavened Bread and its associated sacrifices (Num 28:17-25). At the trumpet signal of the "cockcrow" a priest began to cleanse the altar of sacrifice while his brother priests rose, bathed and dressed in their liturgical garments (Mishnah: Tamid, 1:2). At dawn as Jesus was sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin and taken to Pilate, the unblemished male lamb of the morning Tamid was being led from the Lamb Chamber to be tied near the altar for its perfection to be judged by the High Priest, Joseph Caiaphas (or his representative) who then pronounced it "without fault" and suitable for sacrifice, even though its perfection had been judged the night before: The Superintendent said to them [the other chief priests], "Go and see whether the time for carrying out the act of slaughter [sacrifice] has come."  If it had come, the one who sees it says, "It is daylight." ... He said to them, "Go and bring a lamb from the lamb office."  ... They gave the lamb which was to be the daily whole offering a drink from a golden cup. Even though it was inspected the preceding night, they inspect it again by the light of the torches (Mishnah: Tamid, 3:3-3:4).

Just as Jesus, the Lamb of God, was judged at dawn so was the unblemished Tamid lamb judged as "without fault" before the morning liturgical worship service at the Temple. It is ironic that as the Tamid lamb was judged to be perfect and ready for sacrifice by the high priest's representative, the high priest was condemning Jesus and judging Him ready for sacrifice. It was a pagan Roman Governor who judged Jesus to be "without fault."  

In addition to the Tamid lamb and the communal sacrifices on the first day of Unleavened Bread (Num 28:17-25), the people who were in a ritually "clean" state were expected to bring their individual festival communion sacrifices (hagigah) that they would eat together in groups of family and friends in the city that day; these they brought to the Temple at 9 AM. The hagigah peace offering could not be offered by a person who had become ritually defiled (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6.3), and it was because of this prohibition that the chief priests and elders had refused to enter Pilate's Praetorium (Jn 18:28; Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 200). Luke 23:5, But they were adamant and said, "He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here."   
The words "from the Galilee where he began even to here" follows the description of St. Luke's Gospel narrative. The mention of the Galilee is also an introduction to what Pilate does next.

Luke 23:6-16 ~ Pilate sends Jesus to Herod who returns Jesus to Pilate
6 On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; 7 and upon learning that he was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time. 8 Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. 9 He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly. 11 Even Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly. 13 Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people 14 and said to them, "You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, 15 nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. 16 Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him."

In the provinces over which the Roman state ruled directly, only the Romans had the power over life and death. However, Herod Antipas was able to execute St. John the Baptist because he directly ruled the Galilee and Perea, even though he was a vassal of the Romans. It was for this reason that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod since he was told Jesus was from the Galilee (Lk 23:5). If they were both staying in the palace, which most Bible scholars assume, Jesus was passed between the courts of the two rulers fairly quickly.
Herod Antipas, who professed to be a Jew, was in Jerusalem to attend the Passover meal and the required Temple services for the week of Unleavened Bread.

A prophecy from Isaiah's fourth Servant Song was fulfilled in Jesus' refusal to speak to Herod Antipas and in His suffering abuse at the hands of the chief priests, elders and Herod's soldiers (Lk 23:9-11 and Is 53). All of Isaiah 53 is fulfilled in Christ's Passion, but verses 4 and 7-8 are fulfilled in Jesus' encounter with Herod Antipas.

Luke 13:12, Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly.
St. Luke demonstrates a good sense of Hellenistic culture in the first century AD. Pilate's recognition of Herod Antipas' authority over citizens of the Galilee signified his acceptance of Herod as an equal and therefore capable of being a friend. The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote "friendship is equality" (Nichomachean Ethics, 9.4.5).

Luke 23:14, [Pilate] said to them, "You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him...
Pilate's failure to "find" guilt in Jesus contradicts the accusation of Jesus' enemies in 23:2.

Luke 23:18-25 ~ Pilate sentences Jesus to Death
18 But all together they shouted out, "Away with this man!  Release Barabbas to us."  19 Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder. 20 Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, 21 but they continued their shouting, "Crucify him!  Crucify him!"  22 Pilate addressed them a third time, "What evil had this man done?  I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him."  23 With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. 24 The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. 25 So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.

Three times in 23:4, 14-15 and 22 Pilate pronounced Jesus "without guilt".  It is sadly ironic that Barabbas was released instead of Jesus Christ. Also see Mt 27:17: So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them "Which one do you want me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus called Messiah?" Jesus Christ is the righteous Son of God the Father, but His own kinsmen preferred Jesus Barabbas (whose surname means "son of the father") the murderer. Pilate realized the reason was envy/jealousy. It was the same sin that led to the death of Abel by his brother (see Gen 4:3-8; Mt 27:18).

St. Matthew records:  When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood. Look to it yourselves."  25 And the whole people said in reply, "His blood be upon us and upon our children" (Mt 27:24-26). It was a Roman officials' duty to keep order in the Provinces and bring in the taxes that kept the empire alive. When the Jews threaten a riot, as an act of self-preservation, Pilate submits to the verdict of the crowd but in a symbolic act he washes his hands as a sign that he does not concede that Jesus deserves to die. The Jews clearly understood Pilate's symbolic act in protesting Jesus' innocence (see Dt 21:6-9; Ps 26:5-11 [especially verse 6] and Is 1:15-17).

Pilate had offered to have Jesus scourged in an unsuccessful attempt to satisfy the Jewish leaders and to be able to release Jesus (Lk 23:22).   After pronouncing the death sentence, Pilate will send Jesus to be scourged according to custom (Jn 19:1-4). The scourging of a criminal before execution was the established practice. The idea was to make a deep impression on those who witnessed the execution to prevent the repetition of the kinds of crimes against the state that necessitated crucifixion. Crucifixion was invented by the Persians, adopted by the Greeks and made into a horrific art by the Romans. It was reserved for only foreign criminals, never for a Roman citizen, and was devised to prolong suffering as long as possible before death.

Perhaps the blood thirsty crowd at Jesus' trial were men and woman recruited by the Jewish leaders. Jesus had many supporters—His supporters were so numerous that the religious leaders were afraid to arrest Jesus during the day when so many people were listening to Jesus teach (Lk 19:47-48; 20:9; 22:2, 6). Jesus Himself mentioned this when He was arrested (Lk 22:53). In these early morning hours, those who believed Jesus was the Messiah were probably still in bed after the long night celebrating the sacred feast of Unleavened Bread and in the morning they will attend required Holy Day morning worship service that began at the third hour/9 AM.

Luke 23:26-32 ~ Jesus carries His Cross to Golgotha
26 As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. 28 Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, 29 for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, 'blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.'  30 At that time people will say to the mountains, 'Fall upon us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!'  31 for if these things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"  32 Now two others, both criminals were led away with him to be executed.  (Underlining indicates references or quotations from Old Testament passages from the books of the prophets).

Those condemned to crucifixion were usually tied to a wooden crossbeam and were forced to carry it to the site of execution. Perhaps Jesus had become too weak from His scourging to carry His crossbeam the entire distance. The Roman soldiers impressed a man named Simon who was a native of the city of Cyrene into service. Simon's city of Cyrene in North Africa is located in what is today the modern state of Libya. The Gospels of Mark and Luke include the information that Simon lived in the "countryside," presumably of Judea (Mk 15:21; Lk 23:26). It is possible that he was a Jewish pilgrim, but St. Ephraim (306-363/73) wrote that Simon was a Gentile and thought it ironic that he should bear the burden of the Cross behind Jesus like a disciple. The Gentiles would indeed carry their witness of the Cross to the "ends of the earth" in professing Christ (Commentary on Titian's Diatessaron, 20.20).

Luke 23:27, A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him.
A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who were probably the women disciples from the Galilee who will be named as witnesses to the crucifixion. God will reward the women disciples for their faithfulness in standing by Jesus in His hours of suffering. There were also two criminals who were condemned to death that were being led away with Him.

Luke 23:28-29  Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, 29 for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, 'blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed'
Jesus is referring to "the days of punishment" He prophesied in Luke 21:5-38 when Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies and will be completely destroyed. Jesus tells the women of Jerusalem not to weep for Him but for themselves and their children, alluding to the Day of Judgment which will fall upon Jerusalem in 70 AD, when His prophecies concerning Jerusalem's destruction and the destruction of the Temple are historically fulfilled.  Bible scholars who insisted that Jerusalem and the Temple were already destroyed by the time Luke wrote his Gospel (and the other Gospels) because Luke's account of Jesus' prophecies are so accurate, are denying the power of predictive prophecy. If the events had already taken place, surely the Gospel writers would have included that Jesus' prophecies had been fulfilled, as they included that Old Testament prophecies had been fulfilled in the Advent of Christ.

That Jesus' calls these women "daughters of Jerusalem" is probably connected to a prophecy by the prophet Ezekiel. He may be identifying these "daughters" who love and mourn Him with the righteous daughters of Jerusalem who will survive to console the survivors of the destruction of the city by the Babylonians prophesied by Ezekiel:  Thus says the Lord GOD: Even though I send Jerusalem my four cruel punishments, the sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast, still some survivors shall be left in it who will bring out sons and daughters; when they come out to you, you shall see their conduct and their actions and be consoled regarding the evil I have brought on Jerusalem all that I have brought upon it. They shall console you when you see their conduct and actions, for you shall then know that it was not without reason that I did to it what I did, says the Lord GOD [Yahweh] (Ez 14:21-23).  The Christian sons and daughters of God did survive the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Next Jesus quotes to parts of two passages from the book of the prophet Hosea the women, concerning the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, and another prophecy from the book of the prophet Ezekiel concerning the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC. Jesus is comparing the coming judgment on Jerusalem by referring to the judgment prophecies of the prophet Hosea concerning the judgment against the descendants of the children of Israel for their apostasy in the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians (722 BC) and the prophecies of the prophet Ezekiel concerning the destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians (587/6 BC).

Hosea began his prophetic career in the middle years of the rule of King Jeroboam II of the Northern Kingdom Israel (786-746 BC). The first reference in Luke 23:29 is to Hosea's judgment prophecy against "Ephraim" (the Northern Kingdom) in Hosea 9:14: Give them, O LORD!  Give them what? Give them an unfruitful womb, and dry breasts! (underlining added to identify the wording of the Old Testament passage). The prophecy is a reversal of the blessing of fertility for Israel's covenant obedience (Dt 28:5) and also to Jacob's blessing for Joseph's that was extended his "firstborn [in  rank] son"—to Ephraim's descendants—the Kingdom of Northern Israel (Gen 48:13-19; 49:25).

Then He says, "30 At that time people will say to the mountains, 'Fall upon us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!'" Once again Jesus quotes from the book of the prophet Hosea; this time He quotes from Hosea 10:8 using the expression of agony and despair that Hosea said the doomed people of Israel will cry out at their hour of judgment: The king of Samaria shall disappear, like foam upon the waters.  The high places of Aven shall be destroyed, the sin of Israel; thorns and thistles shall overgrow their altars. Then they shall cry out to the mountains, "Cover us!" and to the hills, "Fall upon us!" (underlining added for part of verse quoted by Jesus). Samaria was the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. "The high places of Aven" refer to the Northern Kingdom's practice of importing Egyptian golden calf idol worship (1 Kng 12:28-32). Aven is another name for On (Heliopolis in Greek) in Egypt, a site for the worship of the Apis bull. The golden calf the Israelites made (Ex 32:1-6) was a probably a representation of this Egyptian deity from the Delta of Egypt (also see Ez 30:17 and Amos 1:5). They rejected Yahweh their divine king in favor of false gods just as the Jews have rejected their true king, Jesus the Davidic heir and Son of God, in favor of the false god Augustus Caesar and his son Tiberius (Jn 19:15).

The resending of the blessing of fertility in Hosea 9:14b and the curse of thorns and thistles in Hosea 10:8 is an echo of God's first blessing for mankind's fertility in Genesis 1:28 and also the curse judgment on Adam after the Fall in 3:18 that thorns and thistles will curse man's productivity. The prophet Hosea applied the resending of the blessing of fertility and the curse of Adam to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Jesus' point in quoting from these two prophesies from the prophet Hosea concerning God's judgment against the Northern Kingdom of Israel that was destroyed by the Assyrians about forty years after Hosea's prophecies in 722 BC is that the people of the Northern Kingdom failed to heed the warning of God's prophet, just as the people of Jerusalem have failed to heed Jesus' judgment warnings in His last week of teaching at the Jerusalem Temple. Hosea's judgment prophecies against the Northern Kingdom of Israel for the people's apostasy in turning away from Yahweh to worship false gods is the same kind of judgment that will fall upon Jerusalem for the rejection of their God and Messiah. The "daughters of Jerusalem" need to be prepared to mourn for themselves and their people.

Finally, He tells the women "31 for if these things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" making a reference to the prophecies of Ezekiel, especially Ezekiel 21:3.

Read the prophecy in Ezekiel concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in Ezekiel 21:1-28; especially Jesus' reference to 21:3, and ask yourself:

  1. Why does Jesus refer to these passages and what does it have to do with His crucifixion and the coming judgment on Jerusalem? 
  2. What are "these things" (it is the same wording as the Greek text of Luke 21:7: Teacher, when will these things happen?)
  3. What is the "wood"? 
  4. What comparison is Jesus making between green wood and dry wood in His warning to the women? 

Hint: dry wood is meant for burning but green wood is not suitable for burning. Jerusalem will be destroyed by fire in the summer of 70 AD, forty years after Jesus' crucifixion (Eusebius, Church History, III.7.9).

Answer:

  1. His rejection and crucifixion by the religious leaders and some of the people of Jerusalem will bring God's divine judgment on Jerusalem that Jesus prophesied in Luke 21:5-36. Jesus is using these Old Testament prophecies on the destruction of Jerusalem as a waning.
  2. "These things" are the unfolding events.
  3. The "wood" is a symbol for Jerusalem.
  4. As long as the city is "green wood" that is not yet ready for the fire of divine judgment, there is yet time for the people to repent and embrace their Messiah. However, continued rebellion against God's plan for man's salvation in the final rejection of the Messiah, will make Jerusalem into "dry wood" and ready for the fire of judgment which will take place in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by fire in the summer of 70 AD.

Luke 23:32  Now two others, both criminals were led away with him to be executed.
Like God's suffering Servant in Isaiah 53:12, Jesus was "counted among the wicked" in God's plan for Him to take away the sins of many and win pardon for their offenses.

Luke 23:33-38 ~ Jesus' arrives at Golgotha
33 When they came to the place called the Skull [Kranion], they crucified him and the two criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."  35 They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, "He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God."  36 Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine 37 they called out, "If you are King of the Jews, save yourself."  38 Above him there was an inscription that read, "This is the King of the Jews." 

Golgotha is the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic name of the crucifixion site that was called gulgulta, meaning "skull."  The identification of the crucifixion site as Golgotha is found in Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22 and in John 19:17. St. Luke gives the name of the site as Kranion (Lk 23:33), the Greek word for "skull."  The name Calvary comes to us from the Rheims New Testament translation of the Latin Vulgate, calvariae locus, which is the Latin translation of the Greek kraniou topos, "place of the skull;" in Latin the word for skull is calvaria. Matthew 27:32 and Mark 15:21 explicitly state the site was outside the city walls; the Gospel of John says it is near the city (Jn 19:20).   We know it was close enough to the city for the on-lookers to read the trilingual plaque that Pilate ordered to be place on Jesus' cross, probably as they looked down upon scene of Jesus' crucifixion from the top of the city wall. Excavations beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulcher revealed burials that were centuries older than when Jesus was crucified and suggest that the name "skull" was given to the site because it was an ancient graveyard.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke only record that the darkness was from noon (the 6th hour Jewish time) to 3 PM (the ninth hour Jewish time). St. Mark is the only Gospel writer who records the time Jesus was placed on the Cross: It was the third hour [9 AM] when they crucified him (Mk 15:25), and Darkness came over the whole land from the 6th hour until the ninth hour (Mk 15:33; IBHE, vol. IV). The "third hour" Jewish time when Jesus was crucified was also when the first Tamid lamb was sacrificed in the Temple and its blood splashed against the sacrificial altar as the Levites blew the silver trumpets and the Temple doors were opened for the morning worship service (Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 108). That morning was a compulsory Sacred Assembly and all religious Jews would be in attendance at the Temple, this includes the majority of Jesus' supporters who had no idea concerning the events unfolding at Golgotha. Hanging Jesus from the Cross was exactly what the chief priests wanted to discredit Jesus with the people—only a man "cursed by God" would be hung on a tree (Dt 21:22-23). But they wanted to accomplish this without a riot from Jesus' supporters.

Jesus' enemies fulfilling God's promise to Abraham (see Gen 22:15-18; Gal 3:13, 29). It was the means by which God's promise of a world-wide blessing was going to be extended to all mankind. St. Paul wrote: Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree," that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Gal 3:13-14).

The Crucifixion of the Messiah

Luke 23:34a Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
St. Luke continues to show that Jesus is completely in charge of His fate. With His full consent, Jesus entrusts the unfolding events of His sacrificial death into the Father's hands (Jn 10:17-18; Eph 5:2). He understands that His enemies are sinning in ignorance, and He shows mercy to them by praying for them from the Cross (1 Pt 2:23). His statement recalls Isaiah 53:12 and is the same view of His death that is repeated by St. Peter in Acts 3:17; 13:27, and by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:8. In his martyrdom, St. Stephen will follow Jesus' example (Acts 7:60), and it is reported that in his martyrdom St. James of Jerusalem spoke the same words of forgiveness before he died (Eusebius, Church History, II.23.16). St. Peter in 1 Peter 2:21-25 will teach that all Christians should follow the same spirit of forgiveness.

This is the first of seven statements Jesus will make from the altar of the Cross. Two of His statements are quotations from the Psalms of David.

Jesus Last Seven Statements from the Cross
Statement Scripture
1. "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Lk 23:34
2. "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Lk 23:42
3. "Woman, behold, your son"... "Behold, your mother." Jn 19:26-27
4. "Eli, Eli lema sabachthani," "My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?" ~ Hebrew Mt 27:46 (*Ps 22:1a quoted in Hebrew)
"Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani," "My God, My God, why have your forsaken me?" ~ Aramaic* Mk 15:34 (Jesus quoted from Ps 22:1/2a in Aramaic)
5. "I thirst." Jn 19:28
6. "It is fulfilled."+ Jn 19:30
7. "Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit."+ Lk 23:46 (Ps 31:5/6 quoted)
Michal E. Hunt © copyright 2012

*Jesus has alluded to Psalm 22 in Mt 27:35, 39 and 43.  Matthew records the Hebrew as it would have been written in the Hebrew scroll of Psalm 22, while Mark records Jesus' actual Aramaic statement.
+It is hard to know which of these two statements are His last words from the Cross were.

Luke 23:34b They divided his garments by casting lots.
Jesus' garments were divided among the soldiers. The Roman soldiers divided Jesus' four garments, and they cast lots for the expensive seamless tunic like the priests wore in liturgical service (Jn 19:23-24).  In doing this the Roman soldiers were fulfilling the prophecy in Psalm 22:19. Psalm 22, written by King David in the 10th century BC, is a description of David's sufferings but the psalm is also a graphic description and prediction of Jesus' crucifixion long before the Persians ever invented crucifixion as a form of capital punishment. Included in Psalm 22 is the prediction that lots would be casted for Jesus' garments, an event that was not part of David's history.
In Psalm 22:17-19, Jesus' ancestor King David wrote: Many dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me. So wasted are my hands and feet that I can count all my bones. They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots. This is fulfilled at Jesus' crucifixion. It was the custom for the soldiers overseeing executions to divide the possession of the condemned. Matthew also records that the Roman soldiers "kept watch" over Him (Mt 27:36). This was customary in order to prevent any attempt to rescue the condemned men.

Jesus' seamless tunic was theologically symbolic of the seamless tunics only worn by the priests serving God in the Temple. As such, the garment is a symbol of Jesus' high priesthood. After His Ascension to the Father, Jesus took His place as High Priest of the Heavenly Sanctuary (Heb 8:1-2). The fact that Jesus wore the seamless garment during the Last Supper and at the crucifixion elevates those events to liturgical sacrifices, since the seamless priestly tunic was to only be worn when offering service to Yahweh (Ez 42:14).

The High Priest dressed in his priestly robes was the symbol of man fully restored in God's image. Jesus is not only our King but also our High Priest, offering the pure and holy sacrifice of Himself to God the Father (Rev 5:6). In Exodus 28:4, Leviticus 16:4 and 21:10 the word chiton in the Greek translation and in Hebrew ketonet is used in reference to the priestly tunic. The priestly robe is described as "a woven piece" in Exodus 28:32. The word seamless (Hebrew = arraphos) is not found in the Greek (Septuagint) translation but Flavius Josephus describes the ankle-length tunic of the high priest as one seamless woven cloth: Now this vesture was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the shoulders and the sides, but it was one long vestment so woven as to have an aperture for the neck [...]; it was also parted where the hands were to come out (Antiquities of the Jews, 3.7.4 [161]; also see The Jewish Wars, 5.5.7 [231]).

It significant that Jesus wore the seamless garment of a high priest at both the Last Supper and His crucifixion (see Ex 28:4; Lev 16:4; Ez 42:14; Heb 2:17; 5:10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1-3; 9:11, 25). That Jesus wore this high priestly garment at the Last Supper implies that it was a liturgical worship service at which Jesus officiated as the New Covenant High Priest of the sacred meal. That He wore this garment at His crucifixion implies that Jesus was acting as the New Covenant High Priest officiating at the offering of His sacrifice on the altar of the Cross for the atonement sanctification of all people. You will recall that at the Last Supper the disciples washed their hands (part of the ritual of the meal) and feet (washed by Jesus in Jn 13:5).  Josephus records that before performing their ministerial duties, priests washed both their hands and feet (Antiquities of the Jews, 3.6.2 [114]), information that adds another liturgical element to the events of the Last Supper.

Luke 23:35 The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, "He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God."  36 Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, "If you are King of the Jews, save yourself."
These repugnant actions by Jesus' tormentors are also described in Psalm 22. In verses 8-9 David wrote: All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me. "You relied on the LORD—let him deliver you if he loves you, let him rescue you." Psalm 22 vividly describes Jesus' suffering and the tormenting posture of the crowd. The scene of Jesus' crucifixion in the Gospels and the enmity toward Jesus by the chief priests, Pharisees, and elders also recalls the condemnation of the righteous by the wicked described in Wisdom 2:12-24.

Jesus had to endure the taunts or challenges of the people, the chief priests, scribes, and elders (also see Mt 27:39-43; Mk 15:29-32):

  1. "Save yourself if you are the Son of God/the Messiah and come down from the cross."
  2. "He saved others; he cannot save himself."
  3. "Come down from the cross and we will believe."
  4. "He trusted in God let him deliver him."
  5. "If you are King of the Jews, save yourself."

The prophecy of Isaiah 53:12 is fulfilled: Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses. And as St. Peter wrote: When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the Cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Pt 2:23-24).

In three verses the people in the crowd challenged Jesus to prove His divinity by saving himself (see Lk 23:35-39):

  1. Verse 35: The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, "He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God."
  2. Verse 37: ... they called out, "If you are King of the Jews, save yourself." 
  3. Verse 39: Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." 

Luke 23:36b, As they approached to offer him wine ...
The other Gospels include the information that the Roman soldiers tried to give Jesus wine mixed with myrrh that was prepared to dull the prisoner's pain (Mk 15:23). The historicity of the Gospel account is confirmed by the 1st AD century historian Josephus who mentioned that wealthy women of Jerusalem provided wine mixed with narcotics for those destined for crucifixion. Jesus will be given more cheap wine to drink just before He surrenders His life (Mt 27:48; Jn 19:28-30). Jesus only tastes the wine but does not drink it. He has sworn at the Last Supper that He will not drink the fruit of the vine until He comes into His kingdom (Mt 26:29 and Lk 22:18).

The small taste of the wine may be to further connect Jesus' perfect sacrifice to the sacrifice of the morning Tamid at the Temple that was given a drink prior to sacrifice (Mishnah: Tamid, 3.4). The Tamid was a sacrifice that had for centuries prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus as the true Tamid (meaning "standing" as in continual or perpetual) Lamb of God, as St. John the Baptist identified Jesus in John 1:29 and 36. St. John could not have been referring to the Passover victim which could be either a lamb or a goat kid and was multiple sacrifices made once a year. The Tamid lamb was a single sacrificed twice daily for the atonement and sanctification of God's covenant people—just as Jesus was a single sacrifice in His humanity and divinity.

Luke 23:38, Above him there was an inscription that read, "This is the King of the Jews." 
The plaque above the head of a condemned criminal stating his crime was a common practice. The Gospel of John provides the additional information that Pilate instructed that "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews" be written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, and it could be easily read by the crowds (Jn 19:20). It was a common Roman practice to post the crime for which a person was being executed and the name of the condemned man. Such a plaque was called in Greek a titulus. Pilate himself ordered the wording of the sign, much to the displeasure of the chief priests.

Luke 23:39-43 ~ Jesus' exchange with the criminals who were crucified with Him
39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us."  40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?  41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man had done nothing criminal."  42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."  43 He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

All four Gospels agree that Jesus was crucified between two criminals (also see Mk 15:27; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:18), but St. Luke is the only Gospel writer to include the story of the penitent criminal. Jesus is situated between two men on an elevation with His arms outstretched on the Cross, commanding the climactic battle between good and evil. The scene is reminiscent of Moses standing on a hill with outstretched arms between Aaron and Hur in the Israelite's battle with the wicked Amalekites (Ex 17:8-13; CCC 440). However, unlike the temporal consequences of Moses' battle, the outcome of Jesus' battle has cosmic and eternal implications. Jesus promised salvation to one of the criminals because his act of righteousness in defending Jesus, his penance in acknowledging his sins, and his profession of faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah and Davidic king has won him Jesus' promise of eternal salvation.

"Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
This is Jesus' second statement from the altar of the Cross. According to the ancient non-canonical document entitled "The Gospel of Nicodemus," the name of the criminal on the right was Didymus and the criminal on the left was Gestas. It cannot be said that these were their real names and may have only been the names given them for the sake of the story.

The Gospel of John also records Jesus' words to His mother and the beloved disciple (believed to be St. John Zebedee) in which He makes St. John responsible for the care of His mother. This would have been unthinkable if Mary had other sons and daughters, and this tradition supports 2,000 years of Church teaching and tradition that Jesus was Mary's only child (CCC 499-500). Jesus' exchange with His mother and the beloved disciple is Jesus' third statement from the Cross.

Luke 23:44-49 ~ The death of the Christ
44 Now it was about noon [the sixth hour] and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon [the ninth hour] 45 because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"; and when he had said this he breathed his last. 47 The centurion who witnessed what had happened, glorified God and said, "This man was innocent beyond a doubt."  48 When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; 49 but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.

Jesus was crucified at the third hour Jewish time, our 9 AM (Mk 15:25), and now darkness engulfs the "whole land" until the ninth hour, 3 PM.  Luke's account of the eclipse from noon to 3 PM is in agreement with the Gospels of Matthew (Mt 27:45-50) and Mark (Mk 15:33-37). These events are all unfolding on the 15th day of the month of Nisan according to the lunar calendar during a full moon cycle. An eclipse of the sun at this time is an unexplainable phenomenon; there cannot be an eclipse of the sun during a full moon cycle. However, the unexplainable event of the total eclipse was noted by secular writers like the Roman historian Thallus and the Greek historian Phlegon (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1).

In the Temple the morning liturgy was continuing after the sacrificial offering of the Tamid lamb, the flour offering and wafer of the High Priest and the libation of wine, afterward came the additional communal sacrifices for the Sacred Assembly of the feast (Num 28:17-23) and the many hagigah communion offerings of the people that were taken back into the city for the day's meal. At noon the second Tamid lamb has been brought out and tied near the altar and given a drink. With the eclipse, the only light would have been from the altar fire consuming the whole burnt offerings. The sacred ritual required the incense to be burned in the morning service before the Tamid lamb was placed on the altar; however, in the afternoon service the incense was burned in the Holy Place after the lamb was place on the altar—making the two lambs a single sacrifice.   At three in the afternoon the second Tamid lamb was sacrificed as the chief priest ministered in the Holy Place of the Temple, checking the oil in the lamps of the golden Menorah and cleaning the ash from the golden Altar of Incense that stood in front of the curtain that shielded the Holy of Holies in preparation for the burning of the incense in the final rituals of the worship service. Imagine the shock of those chief priests as the earthquake struck and the curtain that covered the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom (Mt 27:51). At that same moment, Jesus was speaking His last words from the cross before He offered up His life. Jesus suffered on the Cross for the sins of mankind seven hours as the ancients counted from 9 AM to 3 PM, counting without a zero-place value in the same way three days in the tomb was reckoned (see Mk 15:25 and 32).

In writing about the significance of the Tamid sacrifice as the premier sacrifice in the liturgy of worship for the Jews, Philo of Alexandria (died 37 AD) wrote: Accordingly, it is commanded that every day the priests should offer up two lambs, one at the dawn of the day, and the other in the evening [afternoon]; each of them being a sacrifice of thanksgiving; the one for the kindnesses which have been bestowed during the day, and the other for the mercies which have been vouchsafed in the night, which God is incessantly and uninterruptedly pouring upon the race of men (The Works of Philo, Special Laws, I.35 [169]; emphasis added; Jewish "evening" is our afternoon).

What is the link between Jesus' Passion and death and the single sacrifice of the Tamid lambs that were offered up daily for the atonement and sanctification of mankind? The single sacrifice of the two unblemished male Tamid lambs perfectly coincided with Jesus' Passion and death. The two lambs offered in a single sacrifice of the Tamid prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who, as fully man and fully God, was offered as a single unblemished sacrifice for the atonement and sanctification of mankind. Jesus was condemned and judged worthy of sacrifice by the Sanhedrin at dawn as the first Tamid lamb was judged worthy of sacrifice. Jesus was crucified at 9 AM as the morning Tamid lamb was slaughtered at the altar. The world turned dark as the second lamb was led out at noon. The second lamb was sacrificed at 3 PM as Jesus gave up His life on the altar of the Cross.

The daily sacrifice of the Tamid was ordained as the first and most important sacrifice of the Sinai Covenant in Exodus 29:38-43. All other sacrifices were to be made in "addition to" the Tamid (stated fifteen times in Num 28-29). ...but did still twice each day, in the morning and about the ninth hour, offer their sacrifices on the altar (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.3/65). Jewish-Christian scholar Alfred Edersheim: According to general agreement, the morning sacrifice was brought at the third hour, corresponding to our nine o'clock (The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 108).

Jesus fulfills the Tamid—the sacrifice of the atonement and sanctification:

  1. He was condemned at dawn as the first lamb was led to the altar.
  2. He was crucified at the third hour/9 AM as the first lamb was sacrificed.
  3. Darkness came over the whole land at noon as the second lamb was led to the altar.
  4. The second Tamid lamb was sacrificed at the ninth hour/3 PM as Jesus gave up His life on the altar of the Cross.
  5. The Tamid was the single sacrifice of two lambs; Jesus, the Lamb of God is the single sacrifice of He who is fully human and fully divine.

Luke 23:47  The centurion who witnessed what had happened, glorified God and said, "This man was innocent beyond a doubt."  The centurion's statement can also be translated "This man was righteous..."  This Roman officer is the first Gentile to both profess Jesus' innocence and acknowledge His death a work of God:

Luke 23:50-56 ~ The burial of Jesus
50 Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, had not consented to their plan of action. 51 He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried. 54 It was the day of preparation, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55 The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, 56 they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

"Preparation day" was Friday, the day one prepared for the Sabbath (Saturday) rest that began at sundown (see Mk 15:42; Lk 23:54; Jn 19:31)

53 After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried.
The Law of the Sinai Covenant demanded that the corpse of an executed man could not be placed in a tomb already in use. It would defile the bones already in the tomb. The body of an executed person or any who died violently was not washed—the blood had to remain with the body. That the Shroud of Turin displays the blood of the crucifixion victim is historically accurate. The women did not have enough time to prepare spices and ointments for the body because it was already nearing sundown. No work could be performed on the Sabbath, not even attending to the burial of a family member.

According to forensic pathologist Dr. Zugibe, one of those scientists who personally examined the Shroud of Turin, the spot in which the nails were placed in the hands of the crucifixion victim wrapped in the Shroud is at the base of the hand's thenar furrow. If you put the tip of your thumb on the tip of your little finger, the crease that is formed in your palm is the thenar furrow.  If a nail is pierced through its base, that nail will exit at the back of the hand in the indentation at the wrist, which can be felt, when the hand is flexed backward. This collection of bones in the hand and wrist is a very solid spot and a nail at that angle will easily support the amount of weight generated by an upright body whose feet are supported.  Dr. Zugibe's investigation supports that the Shroud of Turin's image indicates evidence of a practice in crucifixion that supports the tradition that the nails entered Jesus' lower palms and exited the back of the wrist. In ancient times the wrist was considered to be part of the hands; see Acts 12:7 where the "chains fell from his [Peter's] hands."  Surely the chains were on Peter's wrists; and they were miraculously removed and he was set free just as Jesus' death and resurrection sets us free from the bonds of sin.

Catechism references:
Isaiah 50:4-7 (CCC 713); 50:4 (CCC 141)
Psalm 22 (CCC 304); 22:2 (CCC 603); 22:2 (CCC 2605)
Philippians 2:6-11 (CCC 2641, 2667); 2:6-9 (CCC 1850); 2:6 (CCC 449); 2:7 (CCC 472, 602, 705, 713, 876, 1224); 2:8-9 (CCC 908); 2:8 (CCC 411, 612, 623); 2:9-11 (CCC 434); 2:10-11 (CCC 201); 2:10 (CCC 633, 635)
Luke 22:15-16 (CCC 1130); 22:15 (CCC 607); 22:18 (CCC 1403); 22:19-20 (CCC 1365); 22:19 (CCC 610, 611, 621, 1328, 1381); 22:20 (CCC 612); 22:26-27 (CCC 894); 22:27 (CCC 1570); 22:28-30 (CCC 787); 22:29-30 (CCC 551); 22:30 (CCC 765); 22:31-32 (CCC 641, 643); 22:32 (CCC 162, 552, 2600); 22:40 (CCC 2612); 22:41-44 (CCC 2600); 22:42 (CCC 532, 2605, 2824);  22:43 (CCC 333); 22:44 (CCC 2806); 22:46 (CCC 2612); 22:61 (CCC 1429); 22:70 (CCC 443)
Luke 23:2 (CCC 596); 23:19 (CCC 596); 23:28 (CCC 2635); 23:34 (CCC 591, 597, 2605, 2635); 23:39-43 (CCC 440, 2616); 23:40-43 (CCC 2266); 23:43 (CCC 1021); 23:46 (CCC 730, 1011, 2045); 23:47 (CCC 441)  

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2016