Luke 23:26-56: Jesus' Last Words on Calvary; the Aftermath of His Death

26As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' 30Then they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!" ' 31For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

32Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One."

36The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."

38There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

40But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

42Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

43Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

44It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, "Surely this was a righteous man." 48When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

50Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. 53Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.


A. The real tragedy related to Jesus’ death is not mourning for Him upon reflection of it, but to misjudge Him and to be judged accordingly.

”do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.” (v.28) When we compare what Jesus says to the women from verses 28 to 31 to what He speaks of earlier in 19:41-44 and 21:20-24, we can infer that He is making one last prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

The words of Jesus to the mourning women – particularly verses 29 and 30 – may sound very harsh on the surface, but there’s no evidence to suggest that these women were truly disciples of Jesus. They may even have been only “professional” mourners, since these were often a fixture of “wailing” ceremonies following a Jew’s death (see Matt. 9:23-24).

”For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (v. 31) This is a strange statement, to our ears anyway. Several interpretations have been made of it; the following quotation provides what I believe to be its likely meaning: “This was probably a common proverb. Jesus’ meaning seems to be this: If the Romans would perpetrate such atrocities on Jesus (the “green wood” – young, strong and a source of life), what would they do to the Jewish nation (the “dry wood” – old, barren, and ripe for judgment?” (MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1564).

Jesus, even in the midst of His impending death, knew of the joy set before Him and so willingly endured the cross (Heb 12:2). Not long after this, He would be reunited with God the Father (v. 46, Jn 20:17) and sit at His right hand (Heb 12:2).

But Jerusalem, because she “did not recognize the time of God’s coming” to her, will be “dash(ed)…to the ground”, without even children being spared (Luke 19:41-44). This judgment is sobering, not only because of what it means in itself, but also for the picture it provides of the judgment God will bring, at the end of time, upon all who reject Jesus – both Jews and Gentiles (Rom 2:8-9; 2 Thes 1:8-10).

Reflection question: How often do you reflect on the attribute of God as judge? Why is it essential for us not to lose sight of this?

B. Jesus’ compassion for sinners is unwavering.

v. 34 – “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” – even at the very moment of his crucifixion, Jesus shows more concern for the lost state of sinners than for His own plight. It may have been that this prayer was used by God to bring massive numbers to faith on the day of Pentecost, during Peter’s address to the crowds (Acts 2:14-41). Already we can see some indications of repentance on the part of many people who are watching Jesus in His final hours (vv. 47-48).

v. 43 – “I tell you the truth – today, you will be with me in paradise” – the brief account of the penitent thief (vv. 39-43), which ends with this promise of Jesus, demonstrates that it’s never too late for someone on the brink of death to come to faith, by the power of God. Of course, such an individual must show the marks of repentance of faith, which this thief did: he acknowledged his guilt (v. 40), declared Jesus’ faultlessness (v. 40), proclaimed Jesus’ lordship by referencing His kingdom (v. 42), and showed humility by asking only to be remembered (v. 42).

Reflection question: Am I growing more and more like Christ in the way I view people, especially in yearning for the redemption of those who don’t know Him?

C. Words of hostility and hatred toward Jesus can sometimes have an ironic flavour which still gives glory to God.

“Save yourself and us” – v. 35, 36, 39 – while these words were spoken with mere mockery, the LORD was pleased to bring them to fulfillment: Jesus did indeed, in a short time, raise Himself from the dead as He predicted back in Jn 2:18-22; and He then provided – and continues to provide, to this day – salvation for all who call upon Him (Lk 19:10, Rom 10:12-13; 1 Tim 1:15).

D. There are always seemingly ordinary individuals who deserve special attention for their faith-driven courage, because they break ranks with the world and are thus used by God for special purposes.

Continuing in his trend to turn the attention of his readers toward ordinary individuals, Luke the doctor puts the spotlight on Joseph of Arimathea. Luke wants us to take notice of the fact that “he had not consented to (the Council’s) decision and action”. Though history books likely would have never mentioned him, this man is singled out in Scripture for the courage that comes from faith. Thus God was pleased to use him to do the essential task of burying our Lord’s body in a freshly-cut tomb (v. 53).