Luke 23: 44 – 56 The death of Jesus and the burial of Jesus
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then 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. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
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One of the key verses of this passage is v.49: But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
St Luke clearly feels that it’s extremely important to reassure his readers that the events he is describing are true, and happened in the way he describes. He has said from the start that he himself was not an eye-witness, so how does he know the detail of the crucifixion? This verse is the clue, particularly the phrase “including the women.”
There is considerable evidence that suggests that St Luke had access to Jesus’ mother Mary’s memories of the events of Jesus’ life. Indeed, it is quite likely that he heard them face to face from Mary herself.
St Luke reports that as he died, Jesus said ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’
This affirms that Jesus was fully human. It was necessary for him to commit his spirit to the Father, because as a human he had been separate from the Father. I do not believe that Jesus knew precisely what was coming next; he was fully human; he had to trust in God, just like the rest of us. And, having suffered the worst things that humans can do – betrayal, abandonment, denial, wrongful accusation, injustice, torture and death – having suffered all these, his faith in a loving God is unbroken. He can say ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’
Jesus has reached the end of a blameless life, totally dedicated to God’s will, and yet his life closes in isolation and agony on a Roman cross. It seems that sin has won.
Similarly, when we look at the world it can sometimes look very bleak, as though human sin is triumphant.
But Jesus, in these last few seconds, can say, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’
Sin does not win. Jesus died trusting the Father totally, because he knew the nature of the Father. The closer we can cling to God, the greater our trust in him will become.
The last six verses of this passage describe the burial of Jesus. Here, too, we have a verse about the women. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.
Once again, St Luke wants us to know that the burial was witnessed. There was no question of Jesus’ body being removed and buried somewhere unknown to the disciples; the women followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how Jesus’ body was laid in it. Jesus’ body was not stolen and smuggled away; it was laid in a tomb close to Jerusalem. The women saw it lying there, before going home and preparing spices and perfumes to anoint the body. They couldn’t go immediately to prepare Jesus’ body, though, because it was the Sabbath.
They had to wait…
Thank you for courage and trust and obedience that Jesus showed as he died. Help us to follow him wherever you choose to send us.
In Jesus’ name, Amen