Summary: Luke tells the story of the crucifixion from the viewpoint of the participants in the drama. As we see the death of Jesus from their perspective we become aware of the varied responses to the cross.

A Study of the Book of Luke

Sermon # 65

“Responses To The Cross”

Luke 23:26-43

In the last message (Sunday evening) we witnessed that Pilate had determined Jesus to be innocent. It was his desire to release Jesus but the crowd demanded Barabbas, a vicious criminal be pardoned and Pilate caved in to their demand. We now see Jesus as he is led away to be put to death. They lead Him through the streets of Jerusalem, along a route known as the “Via Dolorosa,”- the sorrowful way.” They are headed for a place called Calvary or Golgotha, the place of skull, the location where crucifixions were carried out.

But I don’t want you to think that Jesus as he is lead to the cross is just a helpless victim who is caught up in events he could not control. He is not just a passive victim overwhelmed by superior forces. In John’s account (19:11) Jesus told Pilate "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”

When Peter had thought to defend him at his arrest Jesus had reminded him saying (Matt 26:53), “… do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” What Jesus did, he did willingly. He died as a substitute for you and I. In 1 Peter 2:24 we find, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed.

Luke tells the story of the crucifixion from the viewpoint of the participants in the drama. As we see the death of Jesus from their perspective we become aware of the varied responses to the cross.

It was a part of the prisoner’s humiliation to carry his cross, or at least part of it, to the place of execution. So as Jesus left Pilate’s hall he was carrying either the cross or at least the crossbeam which in it’s self would have weighted 75 to 125 lbs. (John 19:17). At some point he was unable to go on so the soldiers drafted someone to carry the cross for Him.

This is where we are introduced to the first individual’s response to the cross.

Some responded in Ignorance (vv. 25-26)

“Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.”

When you consider all that Jesus had endured, his agonizing hours in the garden at Gethsemane and his numerous beating handed out during the night it is not difficult to imagine Him falling under the weight of the cross. As he stumbles under the load, a man coming in the opposite direction, Simon the Cyrenian was drafted for the job of carrying his cross.

He had traveled over 800 miles to celebrate the Passover and now he had been rendered ceremonially unclean. Taking the cross he had been literally covered by the blood of Jesus and therefore unable to participate in the Passover ceremony. This must have seemed to Simon a great catastrophe. It would have been tragic to the extreme to physically be covered by the blood of Jesus and yet to have died without the spiritual benefits that comes through faith.

We have good reason to believe that Simon was converted because of his encounter with Jesus. Mark identifies him as “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (15:21), two men that Luke assumes that people to whom he is writing will know. Apparently Simon and his two sons became well known in the early church. So perhaps in the very thing that he thought had brought him shame he found his Savior.

Some responded in Ignorance and …

Some Responded in Sorrow (vv. 27-31)

Jesus turns to the weeping mourners and says with compassion (v. 27) “And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. (28) But Jesus, turning to them, said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.

The women react in a perfectly normal way as they weep over the tragedy of Jesus impending death. But as Jesus’ remarks make clear the real tragedy is to misjudge who He is. The real issue goes beyond what He will suffer to what his death will mean to those who reject him. He tells them that the more tragic plight is theirs, not His. As painful as his death will be, He knows what awaits him at resurrection. His future is secure, but unless they repent, theirs is not. The real issue moves beyond what Jesus will suffer to what His death will mean both to those who believe and to those who reject Him. Jesus wants repentance not sympathy.

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