Lesson 5: Holy Week

The Gospel of John makes explicit what all the Gospels assume—that is, the cross is not a defeat, but the victory of our God.

– Stanley Hauerwas

Devotion: Read Luke 23:26-56. Is the cross a sign of weakness or strength? To have power means having the ability to act as you desire. In the world, power is almost always used for self-interest. The leaders sneer at Jesus for the same reason the soldiers mock him. They assume that if he had power, he would use it to preserve his own life. “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” They view him as a powerless failure who does not threaten them. They cannot comprehend that he chooses self-sacrifice for the good of others. Jesus gives us a new way of looking at the world and our power. In the reign of God, power is to be used to serve others, not self. Self-sacrifice may be required to ensure the good of the other. To the world, the cross represents defeat and weakness. For those choosing to follow Christ, the cross is the most power-filled victory the world has ever witnessed.

Personal Worship Option: Reflect on 1 John 3:16: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” Spend time in silence and prayer, reflecting on the death of Jesus as a sign of God’s love for you.  

Dig A Little Deeper:

23:26 Scourging and beating (22:63-64) has made it impossible for Jesus to physically carry the cross. This physical toll on his body results in his death prior to the others hanging near him (Jn 19:31-33).

23:27 Compare this passage to Zechariah 12:10. Jesus’ response to them shows his ability to empathize with those around him, even in this extreme situation (23:34). His words once again refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

23:30 Jesus quotes Hosea 10:8 and a local proverb. Both are images portraying the horror that is to come to the city.

23:33 Luke does not use the formal name “Golgotha” but only the translation “the Skull.”

23:34 This saying is found only in Luke, as is his statement of paradise to the criminal and “Abba, into your hands…(23:46.) John reports “woman behold your son—son, behold your mother (Jn 19:26-27); “I thirst” (Jn 19:28); and “it is finished” (Jn 19:29-30). Matthew and Mark both report “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34).  

23:38 The official charge against Jesus is that he was a rival to Rome, claiming to be “king of the Jews.” Ironically, this charge is accurate, although in a way different than they understand.

23:43 The criminal who repents and seeks entry into Jesus’ kingdom is the only person in the New Testament who is promised Paradise (“protected garden”). That term refers to a home for the righteous (2 Cor 12:2-4). Consider for a moment what this man knows and does not know about Jesus? What does his request teach us about faith? About repentance, forgiveness, and salvation?

23:44 Jesus dies at three in the afternoon. He had been on the cross for 6 hours, having been crucified at 9 am (Mk 15:25).

23:45 The darkness at noon gives the impression the cosmos grieves Jesus’ death. Creation recognizes Christ when humanity does not. Likewise, the tearing of the curtain in the Temple hanging between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies (Ex 26:31-37) is interpreted as a supernatural act of God proclaiming both 1) entry into God’s Holy of Holies is open because Jesus provides access to all and 2) God has abandoned the Temple in a sign of judgment for the death of Jesus.

23:46 Jesus quotes Psalm 31:6, adding the word “Abba.”

23:47 Like the criminal on the cross, the centurion represents a neutral observer, not swayed by previous encounters with Jesus. His authentic response of praise and celebrating Jesus’ righteousness is a witness to the power of Jesus’ humility in death. Likewise the crowd which has been mocking him now turns to their own grief.

23:49 The presence of the women here and 23:55-56 not only shows their faithfulness. It establishes their knowledge of the tomb and the reason for returning on Sunday, the day following Sabbath (23:56). This makes them credible witnesses to the resurrection.

23:50 Most likely Joseph is a member of the early Church and has shared the elements of his testimony. Once again, this provides corroboration for the resurrection story. In caring for the corpse, Joseph becomes ritually unclean and unable to participate in Temple activities.

23:53 The comment about a new tomb refers to the standard practice of tombs being used repeatedly. After decomposition, the bones of the deceased are stored in an ossuary and the tomb reused. Luke is reassuring his readers that Jesus’ body could not have been mixed up with other remains and removed, undermining the resurrection story.

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