2010 Good Friday Sermon: “Criminal, Centurion, and Council Member” by Rick Hogaboam

Posted: April 2, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Biblical Studies, Luke, Sermons
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Luke 23:32-53 “A Criminal, Centurion, and Council Member”

Preached by Pastor Rick Hogaboam at Sovereign Grace Fellowship (ID) on April 2, 2010

Luke 23:32-49 (ESV)

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 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!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

Criminal and centurion get saved because they realized the significance. Joseph of Arimathea is also good news in the story. Everyone else, who is enslaved to self-preservation, could never figure why one wouldn’t save themselves. Not the type of leader they want to serve.

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

–          23:33 The place called the Skull. As usual Luke omitted the Aramaic term found in his Markan source (cf. 22:39; see Introduction 3). The word for skull in Greek is Kranion; in Aramaic, Golgotha (Mark 15:22; Matt 27:33; John 19:17); and in Latin, Calvariae, i.e., Calvary. The place probably was so-called because it looked like a skull. This is most likely the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day this site was outside the walled city.[1]

–          Jesus is here proclaiming forgiveness upon the very ones putting Him on the cross, and yet they were at the same time fulfilling the mission for which Jesus came, to die for our sins. Ancient writers loved irony and Luke here presents the incredible scandalous irony of the cross. Ion fact, Jesus’ prayer is answered by His death, and only made possible because of His death.

  • Some accuse Luke of not having a theology of the cross, yet I think he does in presenting Jesus’ intercession for His enemies, which is a big theme for Luke. He reaches out to outcasts and the most unlikely recipients of salvation
  • “criminals” – laystai, could refer to revolutionaries, think them robbers.

35 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!”

–          These rulers sound much like Satan from Luke 4 when Jesus was tempted. Satan appealed to Jesus to save Himself and abandon the mission to save others.

–          Matt and Mk only mention 1 taunt, whereas Luke records 3 taunts. The irony is that salvation will only come through brokenness and death, not a triumphant display of power, that waits till Sunday in the resurrection and then later in the ascension.

–          The key verb mock (ἐκμυκτηρίζω, ekmyktērizō, lit., to turn up one’s nose, to sneer) alludes to Ps. 22:7[2]

  • Psalm 22:7 (ESV) 7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;

36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

–          This is the second taunt from the soldiers. Again, similar strand of “save yourself”

–          Offers wine, some debate if they were being helpful by showing some decency or if this was otherwise part of their mockery in that the soldiers here had the power to offer help.

–          Inscription notes the offense for the crucifixion.

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

–          This is the third taunt, first from Jewish leaders, then Roman soldiers, and now a criminal on a cross. Can it get any worse when a thug, having committed a crime worthy of death, wishes to join in with the mocking? Jesus is probably wondering, “what next?”, are the animals going to start mocking him.

–          Luke is emphasizing how Jesus bore reproach from all representative sectors, the religious leaders, political leaders, and even criminals.

–          Luke will also record how one person from each sector is unlike the others

–          Here we see the first positive response from the other prisoner:

  • “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
  • “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
    • Should we not all fear God? Are we not all condemned in God’s eyes for our sins?
    • All of humanity is represented in this condemned criminal.
    • Do you see yourself hanging on a cross, justly condemned to death, deserving nothing other than the cross upon which you hang?
    • Jesus doesn’t want some impressive greeting where we come off better than we really are, a simple “Jesus, will you save me a sinner?” will do just fine.
    • Luke records an earlier parable that is relevant to what we see on the cross:
      • Luke 18:9–14 (ESV) 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
      • This parable was fulfilled in the mocking of the Jewish leaders, thinking they were in no need of Jesus, and here the simple plea from a dying, condemned criminal.
      • There are many criminals seeking a pardon and/or stay in execution. Motions are filed, lawyers are involved. WHEREAS,  a pardon from Jesus is just a plea away

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”

–          The sixth hour was noon on their accounting of time. So from noon to 3 pm, darkness came over the land. The sun’s light failing seems to be more than just some clouds blocking its light, as that would be a common occurrence. Cataclysmic signs are taking place with the darkness, curtain in the temple tearing into two, etc.  The Father is vindicating His Son and in a way is offering His response to the people’s mocking. The Father answers on behalf of the Son.

–          Luke records Jesus’ last words as a committal to the Father.  A prayer of trust!!!

–          We have our second positive response from the centurion:

  • 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”
    • Praised – same word for doxology or praise
    • Innocent – dikaios, which means righteous or innocent
      • There is great hope in this story. You can be one who has hated Jesus and yet you can praise him this evening. Paul was once Saul and yet he became an apostle.
      • Are you heard-hearted this evening? Perhaps even like the soldiers who mocked Jesus, wishing Him dead? I would encourage you to look at Jesus one more time and honestly ask yourself if he is deserving of your scorn and hate.
      • For those who are neutral on this whole matter, there is no one neutral in this story. You either mock Jesus or worship Him. As C.S. Lewis said, He doesn’t give us the option of a mild admiration.

The third positive response comes from Joseph of Arimathea, whom Luke reckons as a good and righteous man.

–          Luke 23:50–53 (ESV) 50 Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid.

By God’s grace, this man didn’t get caught up in the mob mentality of religious zeal. The council was WRONG!!! It is a miracle for one to have the eyes to see wrong and walk away from it. He say the truth in the matter and did something about it.


[1] Stein, R. H. (2001). Vol. 24: Luke (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (588). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Bock, D. L. (1996). Luke Volume 2: 9:51-24:53. Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament (1851). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.

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