Whenever we come to consider the Word of God, and Luke 23 is no exception, we must ask ourselves: “What is the Word actually saying and what are we expected to glean from the account?” In the chapter before us one thing you will notice is the scant detail that Luke provides of the physical sufferings inflicted on our Lord. In verses 16 and 22 Pilate threatens to “chastise” him, and in verse 33 it is recorded that “they crucified him”. That’s all that Luke records of the physical sufferings of our Lord. Our Lord endured additional abuse such as smiting, spitting, buffeting, the “crown of thorns” and physical exhaustion, but none of these are mentioned in Luke’s gospel.

Most of Luke 23, in fact, outlines the interaction between our Lord and other people throughout this stressful period. For example:

  • during the trial we witness the Lord’s reaction before Pilate and then Herod;
  • we see the Lord’s appearance causing a reconciliation between Pilate and Herod (v12); we observe his silence at the hands of Herod’s soldiers when they mocked him (v11);
  • we hear of the clamour of the Jewish leaders who called out for his crucifixion (v21);
  • on the way to crucifixion, we are introduced to Simon the Cyrenian (v26);
  • we hear Christ’s application of prophecy, showing that his mind was not on his own sufferings but on the fulfilment of the purpose of God and the sufferings others would endure (v28-31);
  • even while he was on the cross we observe his care for others (v34);
  • we marvel at the faith of the repentant thief (v39-43);
  • we listen to the testimony of the centurion, who acknowledged the Lord’s righteousness (v47); and
  • after he died, we have the actions of others described, particularly the care bestowed upon his body by faithful Joseph of Arimathea at the cost of defiling himself and being unable to keep the Passover the next day.

When you think about the attention given to the interactions and relationships Christ had with all these people, it isn’t surprising, because that’s the focus throughout the book of Luke. The good news of the gospel is not just the good news of the victory of Christ; that the Son of God came and conquered sin and died sinless and so conquered the grave; but it is about the people that either responded to the gospel or fought against it. It is about the people that were healed by our Lord’s miracles, and about the attitude of our Lord and the attitude of the people with whom he interacted. This included the response of the thief on the left side of the cross compared with the attitude of the thief on the right side.

All these interactions are recorded for us so that we might consider our own reactions; our own response to the teaching of Christ and our interactions with other people.

Luke also has a number of themes that run through his gospel. Two of the key ones are as follows:

  1. He reveals God’s love for sinners, a love that caused Him to send His Son into the world “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10; cf. 15:1-32). Luke gives particular attention to the outcasts of Jewish society: Gentiles, Samaritans, women, tax collectors, and lepers — showing that God offers forgiveness to all and to repentant sinners, including the repentant thief on the cross (3:3; 5:20- 25; 6:37; 7:41-50; 11:4; 12:10; 17:3-4; 18:13-14; 24:47).
  2. Luke pays particular attention to joy (1:14,44,47,58; 2:10; 6:23; 13:17; 15:5-10,22-32; 24:52). Only Luke records the five tributes of praise connected with Christ’s birth: those of Elisabeth (1:41-45), Mary (1:46-55), Zacharias (1:67-79), the angels who announced Christ’s birth (2:13-14), and of Simeon (2:25-32).

We must never belittle the death of our Lord in any way. It reflected the greatest gift of love a person can give, that is, to lay down one’s life for their friends. But what God also wants us to learn from this 23rd chapter of Luke is our Lord’s attitude in the face of such evil.

Take, for example, his attitude toward the world. He had overcome the world (John 16:33).This gives us cause to reflect upon our attitude towards the world and whether we are prepared to make the same sacrifice to overcome it.

His care for others forces us to consider our attitude towards our brethren, and our attitude toward the opportunities of service to God. In our Lord we see the ultimate example of this; the extreme tests that we hope we will never be faced with. But the point is, if our Lord could remain faithful to his purpose and show such care for others under such extreme duress, shouldn’t we do the same, particularly when our trials pale into insignificance compared to his?

So how was our Lord’s attitude illustrated in this chapter?

  • He refused to respond in kind. He bore all the reproaches of his enemies without lashing out and retaliating. When they spat on Christ, they were spitting on all things godly, and yet he refused to be provoked into sinning.
  • He endured the shame and suffering. He wasn’t afraid of the mocking he received while doing what was right in standing up for God’s principles. King Saul fell on his sword so he wouldn’t be mocked. Zedekiah refused to heed the word of God lest he be mocked, but Christ did what was right—fully knowing he would be laughed to scorn.
  • He thought upon the people surrounding him and warned them of their future sufferings at the hands of the Romans rather than focusing on his own plight, even when he was about to suffer an excruciating death.
  • He prayed for those crucifying Him.
  • He yielded himself up to do the will of his Father. There is not one suggestion that he resisted the evil. Everything he did was to uphold his Father’s honour.

He lived the principle outlined by Paul: “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). We must emulate that same spirit. “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col 3:23); so, whether it is teaching Sunday school, or delivering a public lecture, or providing supper for Junior CYC, or even hosting CYC, or being doorman, or mowing the lawns, or catering for the ecclesia, we must always do our best as unto Christ. We should not be providing mediocre service to our Lord. We need to think about what our brethren, young people and children need, not the minimum we need to give. Our Lord gave his all for the ecclesia (Eph 5:25). Should we be any different?

There is a danger that we can think Christ has achieved the victory, so we just have to sit and wait for our salvation. But that would miss the point, wouldn’t it. These interactions between Christ and the people around Him are written to change us to be more like Him.

When we see others doing their best in God’s service, not only is God glorified but it is encouraging for others. We ought to be thankful when:

  • the cleaning team has the hall clean and tidy;
  • someone has thoughtfully watered the plants;
  • the brother on recording is there with the laptop ready to record and to accept those that are relying on Skype to join with the ecclesia;
  • the presider is organised and has duties allocated and knows what is going on;
  • the organist is ready to go with meditations playing from five minutes before the event starts;
  • the speaking brother has thoroughly prepared his presentation;
  • the lecturer has the overhead projector connected to his computer and is ready well in advance of the commencement time;
  • the reader has read through the passage and is ready to read with clarity and conviction;
  • the audience has done its best to support all the ecclesial events during the week;
  • families are there well before start-time and stay to discuss the presentation and encourage others at the conclusion;
  • the sisters on supper have prepared suitable refreshments;
  • everyone present is making an effort to communicate with others, to include everyone whether visitors or people in our ecclesia that don’t have families in the truth; and
  • people that can’t make it that week are praying for the success of the event and for the brethren

This is the service we should give—and what could be so important that we don’t give it? Our heartfelt committed service is a reflection of our appreciation for the Lord’s work of salvation on our behalf. In Luke 23 we have the example of God’s Son caring for others. This should stir us up to be more like him; to give our best for God in His service and for our brethren, sacrificing of ourselves as necessary to best glorify God in our lives even if we are mocked for it, as our Lord was.

Christ didn’t do what he did for personal pride—he wasn’t motivated to act to save face or avoid being mocked, or to avoid making any sacrifice of his own pleasures. He did what was right, what best glorified God. He knew what was right and he set his face steadfastly to do it, and that is the attitude that we need to learn.

We only have 24 hours in each day, and we all are limited to a greater or lesser extent in what we can do. But we need to seize any opportunity we can to glorify God and fulfil our obligations towards our ecclesia, or our spouse or our families. Christ said that what we do to his brethren, we do to him (Matt 25:40).

The prophet Malachi spoke out against bringing imperfect sacrifices before God: “And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts” (Mal 1:8). Are we bringing a lame offering in our service and just laughing it off ? If we are, then perhaps it is an indication that our heart has not been moved by the Lord’s example.

What if an exhorting brother commenced an exhortation by saying something like, “Good morning brothers and sisters. I have to apologise that I haven’t had much time to prepare this exhortation because I have been really busy…”? What a disappointment and sinking feeling that would produce. It would be so discouraging. Should we not consider our service to our God, to our families, and to our brethren worthy of every effort in giving it proper preparation? By doing our best, not only does it glorify God, but it encourages and enthuses others likewise. Our Lord did not bring a “lame” offering, but an offering without spot and blemish; fully dedicated to serve his God and manifest a godly love for his brethren.

The lesson is illustrated powerfully at each Memorial Meeting we attend. Christ did not just break the bread and drink from the cup, he passed it to his brethren to share, and that goes for us also. We are not mere spectators in the sacrifice of Christ, as if we are remote from what Christ did. We partake of it, share in it, and are encouraged to show that same spirit of selflessness in our dedication to the glory of God and our care for others as Christ showed. Our Lord was willing to be crucified to glorify God and bring many sons to glory—what are we willing to give to do the same?