Luke 23 - Sayings From The Cross

Luke 23 – July 27

There are seven times that Jesus spoke from the cross. They are spread across the four gospels as each author takes a slightly different focus of the final hours. Over the course of six agonizing hours, these are the seven sayings of Jesus in chronological order.

  1. Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
  2. Luke 23:43, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
  3. John 19:26-27, …he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”
  4. Matt. 27:46, ““Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
  5. John 19:28, “I thirst.”
  6. John 19:30, “It is finished!”
  7. Luke 23:46, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”

Today we are just going to set our attention very briefly on the three of these sayings found in Luke 23.

Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

In Isaiah 53:12 we are told that the Messiah would “make intercession for the transgressors.” Intercession is a form of prayer where you plead on behalf of another. It is certainly true that the intercessory prayers of Jesus continue for us even now from heaven (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). However, Isaiah 53 makes it very clear that this intercession would occur at the time the Messiah would take place as He bore the sins of many. Here we see that the Lord Jesus called out for the Father to forgive transgressors even as He Himself “poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors…” (Isaiah 53:12) With these words we see the heart of a good King. Let me share with you an extended quote that I found helpful from A. W. Pink regarding this notion of sinning in ignorance.

“Sin is always sin in the sight of God — whether we are conscious of it or not. Sins of ignorance need atonement just as truly as do conscious sins. God is holy, and He will not lower His standard of righteousness to the level of our ignorance. Ignorance is not innocence. As a matter of fact, ignorance is more culpable now than it was in the days of Moses. We have no excuse for our ignorance. God has clearly and fully revealed His will. The Bible is in our hands, and we cannot plead ignorance of its contents except to condemn our laziness. God has spoken, and by His Word we shall be judged. And yet the fact remains that we are ignorant of many things, and the fault and blame are ours. And this does not minimize the enormity of our guilt. Sins of ignorance need divine forgiveness, as our Lord’s prayer here plainly shows. Learn then how high is God’s standard, how great is our need, and praise Him for an atonement of infinite sufficiency, which cleanseth from all sin.”

With this saying from the cross, Jesus teaches us how to forgive from the heart. He is the only one who has ever been completely innocent, yet He could love His enemies and pray for those who persecuted Him.

Luke 23:43, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus was crucified between two insurrectionists. It is likely that these two men had some affiliation with Barabbas who was set free. (We will focus on him another time.) Both of those men deserved to die. One of the men mockingly accused Jesus by saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” This is not an honest cry for help. Consider that this was an insult hurled at Jesus by passing travelers (Matt. 27:40, Mark 15:30) as well as by the soldiers (Luke 23:37). The first criminal jumped on the bandwagon to mock Jesus. Even with his dying words that man could not help but speak with vitriol toward the Savior. John MacArthur notes the irony of this situation. “Jesus was being mocked because He could not save Himself, yet He saved others, including the [other] thief, by not saving Himself.”

The other man, however, saw in Jesus a place to go for forgiveness. He recognized that he was truly a sinner who was condemned not only by the Romans but by God Himself. He could see the incalculable difference between his track record of wickedness and Jesus who “has done nothing wrong.” Notice three things that this man understood about Jesus.

  1. Jesus was sinless
  2. Jesus could save him
  3. Jesus' kingdom would be established AFTER Jesus’ death

One thief rejected Jesus to the end. The other turned and sought the opportunity to be a disciple with humility. Jesus never turns anyone like that away. In reality, we were once all on death row. We all have limited time before the judgment. But, for any that seek to find mercy in Christ, they will find it. And the day that we close our eyes in death, we will open them to see Jesus waiting there with open arms.

Luke 23:46, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”

Notice the setting. The sky has become dark. Luke literally tells us that “the sun’s light failed.” Creation itself was more aware of the terrible nature of the crucifixion than those who watched on. Jesus had already declared, “It is finished!” This saying likely took place just moments later. It is a beautiful picture of the surety Christ had that He would soon be reunited to a perfect relationship with the Father. Jesus always displayed a life of perfect submission to the Father. However, at the cross Jesus bore the sins of His people. Instead of feeling the love He had always experienced from the Father, He instead suffered the wrath of God. Even so, Jesus knew that the Father would vindicate Him, receive Him, and restore Him after His death. With this final saying, Jesus instructs us how we are to die. When that time comes, we can close our eyes one last time with full assurance that our spirit is being set into the palms of our Good Father for eternity.