Life-Study of Lukeby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider the crucifixion of the Man-Savior (23:26-49). Throughout the last nineteen centuries there have been many studies of the Lord’s death. For what purpose did the Lord Jesus die, and who actually put Him to death? In other words, why did He die, and who killed Him? Even certain Jewish scholars have been seeking answers to these questions. Even genuine and faithful Christians, those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus, may not have a full knowledge of the purpose of His death and of who killed Him. I am concerned that some among us, both young and old, do not know who killed the Lord Jesus.
How would you answer the question concerning who killed the Man-Savior? Some may say that we killed Him and others, that God killed Him. Others may say that the Lord was put to death by religion and politics, or that He was killed by our sin. We should not try to answer this question by our imagination. Instead, we need to come to the honest and accurate record of the Scriptures, especially the record in the Gospel of Luke. As Luke himself says, he “followed all things accurately from the first” (1:3). Therefore, Luke’s account may be regarded as reliable.
As we read the record in this Gospel, we see that the Lord Jesus was put on the cross by man. He was accused by the religious leaders, sentenced to death by Roman rulers, especially Pilate, and then put on the cross by the Roman soldiers.
In 23:26-43 we see that on the cross the Man-Savior suffered the persecution of men. He was mocked and ridiculed by both the Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers. “And the people stood by, looking on. And the rulers were even sneering and saying, He saved others, let him save himself if this is the Christ of God, the Chosen One! And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him and offering Him vinegar” (vv. 35-36).
The Lord Jesus was put on the cross at nine o’clock in the morning and remained there until three o’clock in the afternoon. This means that He was on the cross for six hours. These six hours may be divided into two groups of three hours each: the first from nine o’clock until noon, and the second from noon until three o’clock in the afternoon. During the first three hours, the Man-Savior suffered the persecution of men. The religious people ridiculed Him, and the Roman soldiers mocked Him. Even “one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (v. 39). Therefore, during the first three hours on the cross, the Lord was a victim of human persecution, and He suffered this persecution as a martyr.
In 23:44-49 we see that, during the second period of the six hours on the cross, the Man-Savior suffered the judgment of God for sinners to accomplish the vicarious death for them. Therefore, in 23:26-49 we see two aspects of the Lord’s death: the aspect of man’s persecution and the aspect of God’s judgment. First the Lord Jesus suffered man’s persecution, and He suffered this as a martyr, not as the Redeemer. Then, as the Redeemer, no longer as a martyr suffering persecution, He suffered God’s judgment for us, the sinners.
Luke 23:44 and 45a say, “And it was already about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, the sun’s light failing.” Instead of “The sun’s light failing,” some manuscripts read, “And the sun was darkened.” The sixth hour mentioned in verse 44 was, according to our way of reckoning time, twelve o’clock noon.
According to Matthew 27:45, darkness was over all the land from the sixth hour until the ninth hour, that is, from twelve o’clock noon until three o’clock in the afternoon. Who caused darkness to come over the land? Of course, the high priest, Pilate, and the Roman soldiers were not able to do this. The only one who could cause darkness to come at noon was God.
This darkness was an indication that the righteous God had come in to judge the Lord Jesus as our Substitute and Redeemer. He was the unique, universal Substitute for mankind. From nine o’clock until noon, He was persecuted by the Jews and Romans as a martyr. But from noon until three o’clock He was dying not as a martyr, but as the Substitute for sinners. Because God recognized Him as our Redeemer, God came in to judge Him. This means that during the last three hours the Lord was on the cross, He was judged by God for the accomplishment of our redemption. It was during this time that God counted Him as our suffering Substitute for sin (Isa. 53:10). Darkness came over all the land because our sin and sins and all negative things were being dealt with. God even forsook Him (Matt. 27:46) because of our sin.
Actually the Lord’s persecutors did not kill Him. While He was under their persecution, He was still alive. After the Lord suffered this persecution for three hours, God came in to put Him to death. The darkness that came over the land was a sign of God’s coming in. Luke tells us that the darkness came over the whole land, not merely over Jerusalem or Mount Zion. God caused the sun’s light to fail.
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