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 (63)

63 thoughts on "The Death of Jesus"

  1. Lauren Decker says:

    This is a very powerful message especially with what is going on in our world right now. With NY, CA and all over the world. We must speak up for the voiceless and our hearts must break for what breaks His.

  2. Rachel Martinez says:

    The church continues to remain quiet on many big issues to avoid “stepping on toes”. No wonder the world has so much resentment toward the church today. We need to be the “light of the world” and rise up to action on more social justice problems. Instead of pushing personal agendas we should be pushing grace and love. I am speaking for myself as well. Love to you sisters!

    1. Jamila Isbell says:

      So true Rachel! There are so many topics that needs to be addressed. As a brown-skinned woman, I am more sensitive to racism needing to be spoken out against as well. Churches need to not remain silent.

  3. Angie says:

    Jesus, our example. (Looking even only at this passage)

    Sometimes he spoke. So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.”
    Sometimes he was silent. Herod was very glad to see Jesus: for a long time he had wanted to see him because he had heard about him and was hoping to see some miracle performed by him. So he kept asking him questions, but Jesus did not answer him.

    Sometimes he allowed help from others. As they led him away, they seized Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, and laid the cross on him to carry behind Jesus.
    Sometimes he helped others. A large crowd of people followed him, including women who were mourning and lamenting him. But turning to them, Jesus said, … (whether these were hired mourners or not, Jesus’ thoughts were on how his words might still reach out to them).

    Sometimes he was mocked. Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
    Sometimes he was revered. But the other answered, rebuking him:…Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

    Always he was committed. And Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” Saying this, he breathed his last.

    I want to be like Jesus.
    I find myself like Pilate (wanting to please), Herod (wanting to be entertained), Simon (seized to serve), the mourning women (whining), and the criminals (prove yourself and do something good for me while you are at it Jesus, or Wow, you really are God, please remember me).

    After the fact: After Jesus death the people realized the obvious, The Centurian said, “This man really was righteous.” All the crowds that had gathered for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, went home, striking their chests. (Too often, after the fact, I get the obvious also either admitting Truth, or beating myself up because I missed it.)

    Then…there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin, who had not agreed with their plan and action…was looking forward to the kingdom of God…asked for Jesus’s body. Taking it down, he wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever been placed. (He was a follower of Jesus and stood against what was taking place, although he was unable to prevent it (which would not have been God’s plan anyway). He did what he could…helped with the body of the one he loved, and gave what was needed.)

    The watching women got the spices and perfumes ready for after the Sabbath. (These were the “Marthas…”)

    And now, Lord, consider the times, and grant that we may be your servants and speak your truth with all boldness, while Stretch out our hands in Your power for healing, kindness, goodness, and love; the signs and wonders performed in the name of Your holy Son, Jesus Christ. Fill us with your Holy Spirit to live boldly for You, not for ourselves.

    Amen.

  4. Anne says:

    A little poem that I had framed after my mother went to heaven. Its truth has comforted me since my daddy went to heaven too.
    “Death can hide but not divide.
    Thou art but on Christ’s other side.
    Thou with Christ and Christ in me,
    United still in Him are we.”

    With love and prayers, Tina

    1. Rhonni_l S says:

      Thats beautiful ❤

  5. GramsieSue says:

    Oh Tina, what a difficult time for you. I’m lifting you in prayer to the One who carries us through these sorrows. You are a blessing to all of us and to know your heart is breaking, breaks mine as well. Hugs to you across the pond, sweet sister. ❤️

  6. Mari V says:

    What struck me today is when Sharon said at the end of our devotion. “Sometimes the loudest act of a abandonment is to choosing to say nothing at all”. I know I’ve been guilty of this. Sometimes it’s because I don’t know what to say. May I draw strength from Christ who gives me strength to do it all. Philippians 4:13.

  7. Alexis says:

    Tina, I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my mom almost 9years ago. I miss her everyday and can’t wait to see her again in heaven. I’m praying that your heart be comforted.

  8. Maura says:

    Thankful for His unfailing love. For all the Saints that have stood in Jesus name to proclaim Truth. We are in a battle our Lord has already won. May His words flow from our mouth when we need to speak up. Praying for women and the unborn babies. Jesus may we rise up against these horrific things with you and stand with you in grace for all those who have already been hurt. Protect the babies and women Lord and give us your voice for those who can not speak. In your holy name my Jesus I pray.

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