Day 32

The Death of Jesus

from the Luke reading plan


Luke 23:1-56, Psalm 38:20-21, Acts 4:23-31

BY Guest Writer

On September 11, 1934, theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the following words in a letter to a friend:

“We must finally stop appealing to theology to justify our reserved silence about what the state is doing—for that is nothing but fear. ‘Open your mouth for the one who is voiceless’—for who in the church today still remembers that that is the least of the Bible’s demands in times such as these?”

Bonhoeffer penned this plea as the Nazi regime was gaining power, the death toll was growing, and many of his fellow Christians remained silent. He watched in horror as the German church failed to speak up and do what was right, choosing instead the false innocence of silence.

Eighty-five years later, it is easy to look back and judge. It’s easy to wonder how Christians in Germany failed so miserably. And yet, to do so is to deny one of the most common tactics of sin: shifting blame.

Blame-shifting is a thread that runs throughout Jesus’s trial in Luke 23. Pilate knows Jesus is innocent, and he does not want to execute him, and so he hands Jesus off to Herod (v.7). Herod, in turn, sends Jesus back to Pilate (v.11). Pilate then appeals to Jesus’s accusers, suggesting that a lesser punishment would be appropriate (v.16–20). But the crowds are unsatisfied. They will settle for nothing less than the death penalty. For a third time, Pilate pleads with the crowd to be reasonable (v.22), but they will not be dissuaded. Finally, Pilate finally hands Jesus over to them.

It would have been easy for Pilate to blame the crowd for Jesus’s fate. After all, he spoke up—multiple times!—but they insisted. What more could he have done? It also would have been easy for Herod to blame Pilate. After all, he didn’t kill the man. He simply handed him over to someone else.

This is what sin does. It shifts blame while insisting on its own innocence: So long as I wasn’t the one nailing Jesus to the cross, or rounding up my Jewish neighbors, or leading the lynch mob—I am innocent.

However, when we read the story of Pilate, we are reminded that God holds us to a far higher standard. The story of Pilate chastens us with the truth that a holiness built on omission, inaction, and looking the other way is no holiness at all.

In Stuart Townend’s famous hymn, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” he describes the events of Luke 23 this way:

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.

It’s difficult to imagine mocking our beloved Jesus. It’s nearly impossible to envision a time when we might look into His heartbroken eyes and jeer, impossible to imagine that we might be included among those for whom He prayed, saying, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (v.34). But the tragic story of Pilate reminds us that sometimes the loudest act of abandonment is choosing to say nothing at all.

Sharon Hodde Miller leads Bright City Church in Durham, NC with her husband Ike. She also holds a PhD on women and calling, and is the author of Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You.

Post Comments (62)

62 thoughts on "The Death of Jesus"

  1. Steph C says:

    “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!’” (Lk 23:35) He refused to save Himself because He came to save us. He could’ve come down off the cross. But He chose to stay. To suffer. To die. For you and me.

  2. Natalia Phillips says:

    Father forgive them!
    Jesus died to save us, and Luke 23:24 is a prime example of this. While suffering at the hands of the people, Jesus still had the strength and tenacity to cry out on our behalf. Forgive them even though the persecute me. Forgive them even though they mock me. Forgive them even though they are not evil. Forgive them because you first loved them and taught me in the flesh to love them also.

  3. Jamila Isbell says:

    As a brown-skinned woman, I read this and thought how many churches don’t openly stand against racism. I thought about how many people who consider themselves white don’t speak up when they are amongst someone who is slandering or saying horrible things about an ethic group. To get past racism is to talk about it and not stand for it when ignorance is shown. It breaks my heart how many churches stand by and do nothing. Do not remain silent. If you know someone who is of brown skin, speak to them, ask questions, gain understanding of what it was like for them growing up. We actually appreciate it so much when someone does it :) Let’s stop the sin or racism.

    1. Emily W says:

      Prayers we as the church speak boldly!

    2. Jamila Isbell says:

      “Of” racism. Not “or”

    3. Sharon Smith says:

      Jamila~ well said! I feel the church needs to integrate more with open dialogue and cultural events ~ sharing in music and art from various ethnicities so we can begin to understand each other through love of music, art, food and life events! The more we share in these cross cultural happenings the more we come together and ban the fear and negativity towards one another ! Let’s begin the dialogue!

  4. Chelsea V says:

    How often do I choose something so much less than Jesus? I beg and plead to have certain things my way instead of jesus’ way. How many times have I asked and been given things that I thought would please me, make me whole, happy, secure instead of the only one who can bring wholeness? I’ve traded in for so much less when I could have the whole world (Jesus).

    23But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

  5. valerie says:

    Tina, sending you a virtual hug right now as well as lifting you up in prayer.

  6. Julie Whitacre says:

    “The false innocence of silence” – !!!! Jesus is allowing me to hear his voice more clearly, and to speak with boldness, without the fear of damaging my reputation, or losing my appearance of innocence by saying the wrong thing. It’s really hard, though! I realize how much I have agreed with the fear of man, and the accuser, instead of Jesus. It is so good to agree with Jesus, and to start walking the bumpy and messy road of speaking up when he presses me to do it❤️ Please pray for me!

  7. Krystle says:

    Tina, I’m so sorry for your loss. I will be praying for you and your family, that you’ll have peace in this dark time, and you’ll be comforted by the power of the Holy Spirit. ❤️

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