Chapter 23 includes the trials before Pilate and Herod; his sentencing; and his crucifixion, death and burial. Again, a lot here- let’s highlight a few points.
Jesus’s questioning of Jesus is no accident. Here Pilate asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews, and by 38 there is a sign above Jesus on the Cross that reads: This is the King of the Jews.” Whether Pilate intended or not to make this bold proclamation, that what it is. Pilate is possibly the first person to proclaim Christ as King! That’s how we can remember this man who otherwise sentenced the Savior of the World to death.
Jesus before Herod is a quizzical sort of exchange (vv. 6-12). Herod sort of represents the Jewish establishment that just couldn’t accept who Jesus was. Herod is often portrayed as sort of this bumbling fool who inherited his power from his father. Herod’s dismissal of Jesus is certainly indicative of the three-year history in which Jesus was constantly being questioned and dismissed by the Jewish establishment. As this point in the story, Herod represents the Jewish establishment’s desire to just make Jesus disappear.
We are familiar with the crowd’s reaction at the false trial and subsequent sentencing of Jesus. The same crowds who shouted “Hosanna” at his entry to Jerusalem are now shouting “Crucify him.” The Jewish establishment did its job by creating a conspiracy and stirring up the crowd against Jesus. And of course, notice the pseudo-stoic way in which Jesus responds. He does refute their cries or their accusations. He does not try to defend himself. He offers himself up willingly, freely. There is nothing left for him to except embrace what has been the Father’s plan since the beginning of Time. While they shout for him to be crucified, they do not realize that the Crucifixion will be the pivot point of Salvation History. By killing the King of Life, they have destroyed Death in an instant.
One last act of mercy before his death: Jesus forgives the thief on his right (vv. 39-43). Even at the moment of his death, Jesus extends his mercy and forgiveness to those who profess faith in him. Tradition holds up for us that the name of this thief crucified with and forgiven by the Lord is Dismas- now St. Dismas.
His death marks the end of one time, and in the chapter, at his Resurrection, we behold the dawning of another. Remember, there is no death, there is only life for those who believe in Him.
Point for Prayer
“Lord Jesus, crucified God, the story of your dying remains the most powerful and heart converting of all meditations. Bring me again and again to the Cross where I may experience your saving graces. May your cross continue to change my values and my attitudes into those that you witnessed so powerfully at Calvary. I rest in your love. Amen” (207).
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