Crucifixion and Death
A nd when they came to the place which is called the Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, "Certainly this man was innocent!" And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance and saw these things.
Luke 23: 33-49.
Crucifixion and Death
The early church thought long and hard about the death of Jesus. The vile atrocity of a crucifixion would be familiar to people. It was known as the most cruel and humiliating form of killing that could be devised. To an extent beyond our comprehension the early Christians would be well aware of the theatrical barbarism of such a death which was confined to slaves and non-Roman citizens. This could not be disguised as deep thinkers sought to draw strands of meaning from the event. However, they did not pursue fundamentally different paths as the teaching of the Gospel authors is much the same in all cases.
Mark, the first Gospel to be written, presents the death in its unvarnished awfulness and lets it speak for itself. The message he implies is the comforting presence of God in the darkest moments of human experience. John, the last Gospel, explores an extraordinary irony. The mocking trappings of royalty reveal, as few things could, the intensity of divine love reaching to draw all people together.
For Luke, the dying Jesus draws to a climax characteristics of his ministry which was built around the theme of a journey to Jerusalem, Lk.9.51. That journey continues to its fulfillment when Jesus on the Cross hands over his life to the Father. Jesus had pity on that widow from Nain, Lk.7.11-17; he crafted wonderful stories of forgiveness, understanding and care such as the Pharisee and the Publican, Lk.18.9-14, the Prodigal Son, Lk.15.11-32, and the Good Samaritan, Lk.10.29-37 which are only found in Luke. The same Jesus transcends his personal agony to forgive his executioners which would include the Jewish authorities, Lk. 23.34. and speaks kindly to the repentant thief, Lk. 23.43. In the inhumanity of the Cross, there is a divine humanity of forgiveness which excludes no one.
The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are really one book. In the Gospel Jesus pursues his individual ministry; he continues this through the Church in the Acts of the Apostles. The threefold account of the conversion of Paul enshrines the question of Saul, Saul why do you persecute me? Acts 9.4; 22.7; 26.14. The Spirit anoints Jesus for ministry at the River Jordan and does the same for the community at Pentecost, Acts 2.1-12. Similarly, the words of Stephen at his death parallel those of Jesus at his execution, Acts 7.55-60. The death of a Christian finds meaning in the death of Christ.
This is the Story of Jesus drawn from the four Evangelists
Gospel passages accompanied by a number of brief commentaries