December 15 - Luke 23:44-49

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Luke 23:44-49 – The Death of Jesus

Darkness filled the land and the temple’s curtain tore in half. Jesus called out in a loud voice, committing his spirit to God and then he took his last breath.

Luke described these events as tersely as possible. There is little to no extraneous information, there is no detailed description of the suffering of Jesus or people’s reactions to the darkness. We don’t hear about the priests and scribes at the Temple, witnessing the great curtain opening up to the Holy Place. He tells us what is and quickly moves on.

The pain and agony of the crucifixion has no place in Luke’s account. His Gospel was written to encourage those who were Christians, many of whom were Gentiles and he emphasized over and over that Jesus went to his death willingly, that this was part of God’s plan. To fill his reader’s minds with highly descriptive imagery around the crucifixion would distract them from the things Luke felt to be important.

A quick note on the darkness that covered the land. This could not have been a solar eclipse. Passover begins on a full moon and those two occurrences never happen together. This was a divine event. Luke ties this together with the tearing of the temple’s curtain in order to emphasize the eschatological truth of the moment. God declared judgment on humanity for their sins and Jesus Christ took all of that onto himself. At his death, sin no longer separated mankind from the presence of God. The battle was over, the Messiah prevailed.

Victims of crucifixion were weakened to the point of death. Luke, as well as Matthew and Mark, both affirm that Jesus spoke in a loud voice. He used words from Psalm 31:5 – “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” These words were often used by Jews as an evening prayer.

The high point of Luke’s narrative has yet to occur, though. That happens next when a Roman centurion is so moved by what he had just witnessed, that he praised God, declaring the innocence of the man who had died in front of him. The first person to be transformed by the crucifixion was a Gentile. He was the first in a long line of people whose lives would be changed.