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Home > Commentaries > Barnes' Notes > Luke > Chapter 23

Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

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Verse 1. See Barnes "Matthew 27:1,2".

{a} "the whole multitude" Matthew 27:2,11; Mark 15:1; John 18:28

Verse 2. This fellow. The word fellow is not in the original. It conveys a notion of contempt, which no doubt they felt, but which is not expressed in the Greek, and which it is not proper should be expressed in the translation. It might be translated, "We found this man."

Perverting the nation. That is, exciting them to sedition and tumults. This was a mere wanton accusation, but it was plausible before a Roman magistrate; for,

1st. The Galileans, as Josephus testifies, were prone to seditions and tumults.

2nd. Jesus drew multitudes after him, and they thought it was easy to show that this was itself promoting tumults and seditions.

Forbidding, &c. About their charges they were very cautious and cunning. They did not say that he taught that men should not give tribute--that would have been too gross a charge, and would have been easily refuted; but it was an inference which they drew. They said it followed from his doctrine. He professed to be a king. They inferred, therefore, if he was a king, that he must hold that it was not right to acknowledge allegiance to any foreign prince; and if they could make this out, they supposed that Pilate must condemn him of course.

Tribute. Taxes.

Caesar. The Roman emperor, called also Tiberius. The name Caesar was common to the Roman emperors, as Pharaoh was to the Egyptian kings. All the kings of Egypt were called Pharaoh, or the Pharaoh; so all the Roman emperors were called Caesar.

{b} "accuse him" Zechariah 11:8
{c} "We found this fellow" Luke 23:5; Acts 16:20,21; 17:6,7
{d} "forbidding to give tribute" Matthew 17:27; 22:21; Mark 12:17
{e} "he himself is Christ a king" John 18:36; 19:12

Verse 3. See Barnes "Matthew 27:11"

{f} "And he answered" 1 Timothy 6:13

Verse 4. I find no fault. I see no evidence that he is guilty of what you charge him with. This was after Pilate had taken Jesus into the judgment-hall by himself and examined him privately, and had been satisfied in regard to the nature of his kingdom. See John 18:33-38. He was then satisfied that though he claimed to be a king, yet his kingdom was not of this world, and that his claims did not interfere with those of Caesar.

{g} "I find no fault" John 18:38; 19:4; Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22

Verse 5. The more fierce. The more urgent and pressing. They saw that there was a prospect of losing their cause, and they attempted to press on Pilate the point that would be most likely now to affect him. Pilate had, in fact, acquitted him of the charge of being an enemy to Caesar, and they therefore urged the other point more vehemently.

Stirreth up the people. Excites them to tumult and sedition.

All Jewry. All Judea.

From Galilee to this place. To Jerusalem-that is, throughout the whole country. It is not merely in one place, but from one end of the land to the other.

{h} "more fierce" Psalms 57:4

Verse 6. Whether he were a Galilean. He asked this because, if he was, he properly belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, who reigned over Galilee.

Verse 7. Herod's jurisdiction. Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great. This was the same Herod that put John the Baptist to death. Jesus had passed the most of his life in the part of the country where he ruled, and it was therefore considered that he belonged to his jurisdiction--that is, that it belonged to Herod, not to Pilate, to try this cause.

{i} "Herod's jurisdiction" Luke 3:1

Verse 8. No Barnes text on this verse.

{k} "for he was desirous" Luke 9:9
{l} "because he had heard" Matthew 14:1; Mark 6:14
{m} "and he hoped" 2 Kings 5:11

Verse 9. No Barnes text on this verse.

{n} "but he answered" Psalms 38:13,14; 39:1,9; Isaiah 53:7

Verse 10. Vehemently accused him. Violently or unjustly accused him, endeavouring to make it appear that he had been guilty of sedition in Herod's province.

Verse 11. Herod with his men of war. With his soldiers, or his bodyguard. It is probable that in travelling he had a guard to attend him constantly.

Set him at nought. Treated him with contempt and ridicule.

A gorgeous robe. A white or shining robe, for this is the meaning of the original. The Roman princes wore purple robes, and Pilate therefore put such a robe on Jesus. The Jewish kings wore a white robe, which was often rendered very shining or gorgeous by much tinsel or silver interwoven. Josephus says that the robe which Agrippa wore was so bright with silver that when the sun shone on it, it so dazzled the eyes that it was difficult to look on it. The Jews and Romans therefore decked him in the manner appropriate to their own country, for purposes of mockery. All this was unlawful and malicious, as there was not the least evidence of his guilt.

Sent him to Pilate. It was by the interchange of these civilities that they were made friends. It would seem that Pilate sent him to Herod as a token of civility and respect, and with a design, perhaps, of putting an end to their quarrel. Herod returned the civility, and it resulted in their reconciliation.

{o} "set him at nought" Isaiah 49:7; 53:3
{p} "gorgeous robe" John 19:5

Verse 12. Made friends together, &c. What had been the cause of their quarrel is unknown. It is Commonly supposed that it was Pilate's slaying the Galileans in Jerusalem, as related in Luke 13:1,2. The occasion of their reconciliation seems to have been the civility and respect which Pilate showed to Herod in this case. It was not because they were united in hating Jesus, as is often the case with wicked men, for Pilate was certainly desirous of releasing him, and both considered him merely as an object of ridicule and sport. It is true, however, that wicked men, at variance in other things, are often united in opposing and ridiculing Christ and his followers; and that enmities of long standing are sometimes made up, and the most opposite characters brought together, simply to oppose religion. Comp. Psalms 83:5-7.

{q} "friends" Acts 4:27

Verse 13. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 14. No Barnes text on this verse.

{r} "behold, I" Luke 23:4

Verse 15. Nothing worthy of death is done unto him. Deserving of death. The charges are not proved against him. They had had every opportunity of proving them, first before Pilate and then before Herod, unjustly subjecting him to trial before two men in succession, and thus giving them a double opportunity of condemning him, and yet, after all, he was declared by both to be innocent. There could be no better evidence that he was innocent.

Verse 16. I will therefore chastise him. The word chastise here means to scourge or to whip. This was usually done before capital punishment, to increase the sufferings of the man condemned. It is not easy to see the reason why, if Pilate supposed Jesus to be innocent, he should propose publicly to scourge him. It was as really unjust to do that as it was to crucify him. But probably he expected by this to conciliate the minds of his accusers; to show them that he was willing to gratify them if it could be done with propriety; and perhaps he expected that by seeing him whipped and disgraced, and condemned to ridicule, to contempt, and to suffering, they would be satisfied. It is farther remarked that among the Romans it was competent for a magistrate to inflict a slight punishment on a man when a charge of gross offence was not fully made out, or where there was not sufficient testimony to substantiate the precise charge alleged. All this shows,

1st. the palpable injustice of our Lord's condemnation;

2nd. the persevering malice and obstinacy of the Jews; and,

3rd. the want of firmness in Pilate. He should have released him at once; but the love of popularity led him to the murder of the Son of God. Man should do his duty in all situations; and he that, like Pilate, seeks only for public favour and popularity, will assuredly be led into crime.

{s} "chastise" Isaiah 53:5

Verse 17. See Barnes "Matthew 27:15"

Verses 18-23. See Barnes "Matthew 27:20", also Matthew 27:21-23

Verse 19. No Barnes text on this verse.

{t} "for murder" Acts 3:14

Verse 20. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 21. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 22. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verses 23-25. See Barnes "Matthew 27:26"

{u} "were instant" Psalms 22:12; Luke 23:5

Verse 24. No Barnes text on this verse.

{1} "gave sentence", or "assented"
{v} "as they required" Exodus 23:2

Verse 25. No Barnes text on this verse.

{w} "released unto them" Acts 3:14

Verse 26. See Barnes "Matthew 27:32".

After Jesus. Probably to bear one end of the cross. Jesus was feeble and unable to bear it alone, and they compelled Simon to help him.

{x} "as they led him away" Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; John 19:17

Verse 27. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 28. Daughters of Jerusalem. Women of Jerusalem. This was a common mode of speaking among the Hebrews.

Weep for yourselves, &c. This refers to the calamities that were about to come upon them in the desolation of their city by the Romans.

Verse 29. No Barnes text on this verse.

{y} "behold, the days" Matthew 24:19; Luke 21:23

Verse 30. To the mountains, Fall on us, &c. This is an image of great calamities and judgments. So great will be the calamities that they will seek for shelter from the storm, and will call on the hills to protect them. The same figure is used respecting the wicked in the day of judgment in Revelation 6:16,17. Compare also Isaiah 2:21

{z} "Then shall they begin" Isaiah 2:19; Hosea 10:8; Revelation 16:6; 9:6

Verse 31. For if they do these things in a green tree, & c. This seems to be a proverbial expression. A green tree is not easily set on fire; a dry one is easily kindled and burns rapidly; and the meaning of the passage is--

"If they, the Romans, do these things to me, who am innocent and blameless; if they punish me in this manner in the face of justice, what will they not do in relation to this guilty nation? What security have they that heavier judgments will not come upon them? What desolations and woes may not be expected when injustice and oppression have taken the place of justice, and have set up a rule over this wicked people?"

Our Lord alludes, evidently, to the calamities that would come upon them by the Romans in the destruction of their city and temple. The passage may be applied, however, without impropriety, and with great beauty and force, to the punishment of the wicked in the future world. Thus applied, it means that the sufferings of the Saviour, as compared with the sufferings of the guilty, were like the burning of a green tree as compared with the burning of one that is dry. A green tree is not adapted to burn; a dry one is. So the Saviour --innocent, pure, and holy--stood in relation to suffering. There were sufferings which an innocent being could not endure. There was remorse of conscience, the sense of guilt, punishment properly so called, and the eternity of woes. He had the consciousness of innocence, and he would not suffer for ever. He had no passions to be enkindled that would rage and ruin the soul. The sinner is adapted to sufferings, like a dry tree to the fire. He is guilty, and will suffer all the horrors of remorse of conscience. He will be punished literally. He has raging and impetuous passions, and they will be enkindled in hell, and will rage for ever and ever. The meaning is, that if the innocent Saviour suffered so much, the sufferings of the sinner for ever in hell must be more unspeakably dreadful. Yet Who could endure the sufferings of the Redeemer on the cross for a single day? Who could bear them for ever and ever, aggravated by all the horrors of a guilty conscience, and all the terrors of unrestrained anger, and hate, and fear, and wrath? Why WILL the wicked die?

{a} "For if they" Proverbs 11:31; Jeremiah 25:29; Ezekiel 20:47; 21:4; 1 Peter 4:17

Verses 32,33. See Barnes "Matthew 27:35" See Barnes "Matthew 27:38"

Verse 32. No Barnes text on this verse.

{b} "malefactors" Isaiah 53:12

Verse 33. No Barnes text on this verse.

{2} "Calvary", or "the place of a skull"

Verse 34. Father, forgive them. This is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:12: He made intercession for the transgressors. The prayer was offered for those who were guilty of putting him to death. It is not quite certain whether he referred to the Jews or to the Roman soldiers. Perhaps he referred to both. The Romans knew not what they did, as they were really ignorant that he was the Son of God, and as they were merely obeying the command of their rulers. The Jews knew, indeed, that he was innocent, and they had evidence, if they would have looked at it, that he was the Messiah; but they did not know what would be the effect of their guilt; they did not know what judgments and calamities they were bringing down upon their country. It may be added, also, that, though they had abundant evidence, if they would look at it, that he was the Messiah, and enough to leave them without excuse, yet they did not, in fact, believe that he was the Saviour promised by the prophets, and had not, in fact, any proper sense of his rank and dignity as "the Lord of glory." If they had had, they would not have crucified him, as we cannot suppose that they would knowingly put to death their own Messiah, the hope of the nation, and him who had been so long promised to the fathers. See Barnes "1 Corinthians 2:8". We may learn from this prayer--

1st. The duty of praying for our enemies, even when they are endeavouring most to injure us.

2nd. The thing for which we should pray for them is that God would pardon them and give them better minds.

3rd. The power and excellence of the Christian religion. No other religion teaches men to pray for the forgiveness of enemies; no other disposes them to do it. Men of the world seek for revenge; the Christian bears reproaches and persecutions with patience, and prays that God would pardon those who injure them, and save them from their sins.

4th. The greatest sinners, through the intercession of Jesus, may obtain pardon. God heard him, and still hears him always, and there is no reason to doubt that many of his enemies and murderers obtained forgiveness and life. Comp. Acts 2:37; 42; 43; 7:7; 14:1.

They know not what they do. It was done through ignorance, Acts 3:17. Paul says that,

"had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory,"
1 Corinthians 2:8. Ignorance does not excuse altogether a crime if the ignorance be wilful, but it diminishes its guilt. They had evidence; they might have learned his character; they might have known what they were doing, and they might be held answerable for all this. But Jesus here shows the compassion of his heart, and as they were really ignorant, whatever might have been the cause of their ignorance, he implores God to pardon them. He even urges it as a reason why they should be pardoned, that they were ignorant of what they were doing; and though men are often guilty for their ignorance, yet God often in compassion overlooks it, averts his anger, and grants them the blessings of pardon and life. So he forgave Paul, for he
"did it in ignorance, in unbelief,"
1 Timothy 1:13. So God winked at the ignorance of the Gentiles, Acts 17:30. Yet this is no excuse, and no evidence of safety, for those who in our day contemptuously put away from them and their children the means of instruction.

{c} "Father, forgive them" Matthew 5:44; Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 4:12

Verses 35-39. See Barnes "Matthew 27:41", also Matthew 27:42-44

Verse 35. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 36. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 37. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 38. In letters of Greek, &c. See Barnes "Matthew 27:37"

Verse 39. One of the malefactors. Matthew 27:44 says "the thieves-- cast the same in his teeth." See the apparent contradiction in these statements reconciled in the Notes on that place.

If thou be Christ. If thou art the Messiah; if thou art what thou dost pretend to be. This is a taunt or reproach of the same kind as that of the priests in Luke 23:35.

Save thyself and us. Save our lives. Deliver us from the cross. This man did not seek for salvation truly; he asked not to be delivered from his sins; if he had, Jesus would also have heard him. Men often, in sickness and affliction, call upon God. They are earnest in prayer. They ask of God to save them, but it is only to save them from temporal death. It is not to be saved from their sins, and the consequence is, that when God does raise them up, they forget their promises, and live as they did before, as this robber would have done if Jesus had heard his prayer and delivered him from the cross.

{e} "one of the malefactors" Luke 17:34-36

Verse 40. Dost not thou fear God, &c. You are condemned to die as well as he. It is improper for you to rail on him as the rulers and Romans do. God is just, and you are hastening to his bar, and you should therefore fear him, and fear that he will punish you for railing on this innocent man.

Same condemnation. Condemnation to death; not death for the same thing, but the same kind of death.

{f} "Dost not thou" Psalms 36:1
{g} "thou art in the same condition" Jeremiah 5:3

Verse 41. Due reward for our deeds. The proper punishment for our crimes. They had been highwaymen, and it was just that they should die.

{h} "hath done nothing amiss" 1 Peter 1:19.

Verse 42. Remember me. This is a phrase praying for favour, or asking him to grant him an interest in his kingdom, or to acknowledge him as one of his followers. It implied that he believed that Jesus was what he claimed to be--the Messiah; that, though he was dying with them, yet he would set up his kingdom; and that he had full power to bless him, though about to expire. It is possible that this man might have heard him preach before his crucifixion, and have learned there the nature of his kingdom; or it may have been that while on the cross Jesus had taken occasion to acquaint them with the nature of his kingdom. While he might have been doing this, one of the malefactors may have continued to rail on him while the other became truly penitent. Such a result of preaching the gospel would not have been unlike what has often occurred since, where, while the gospel has been proclaimed, one has been "taken and another left;" one has been melted to repentance, another has been more hardened in guilt. The promise which follows shows that this prayer was answered. This was a case of repentance in the last hour, the trying hour of death; and it has been remarked that one was brought to repentance there, to show that no one should despair on a dying bed; and but one, that none should be presumptuous and delay repentance to that awful moment.

When thou comest, &c. It is impossible now to fix the precise idea which this robber had of Christ's coming. Whether it was that he expected that he would rise from the dead, as some of the Jews supposed the Messiah would; or whether he referred to the day of judgment; or whether to an immediate translation to his kingdom in the heavens, we cannot tell. All that we know is, that he fully believed him to be the Messiah, and that he desired to obtain an interest in that kingdom which he knew he would establish.

{i} "Lord" Psalms 106:4,5; Romans 10:9,10; 1 Corinthians 6:10,11

Verse 43. Today, &c. It is not probable that the dying thief expected that his prayer would be so soon answeyed. It is rather to be supposed that he looked to some future period when the Messiah would rise or would return; but Jesus told him that his prayer would be answered that very day, implying, evidently, that it would be immediately at death. This is the more remarkable, as those who were crucified commonly lingered for several days on the cross before they died; but Jesus foresaw that measures would be taken to hasten their death, and assured him that that day he should receive an answer to his prayer and be with him in his kingdom.

Paradise. This is a word of Persian origin, and means a garden, particularly a garden of pleasure, filled with trees, and shrubs, and fountains, and flowers. In hot climates such gardens were peculiarly pleasant, and hence they were attached to the mansions of the rich and to the palaces of princes. The word came thus to denote any place of happiness, and was used particularly to denotes the abodes of the blessed in another world. The Romans spoke of their Elysium, and the Greeks of the gardens of Hesperides, where the trees bore golden fruit. The garden of Eden means, also, the garden of pleasure, and in Genesis 2:8 the Septuagint renders the word Eden by Paradise. Hence this name in the Scriptures comes to denote the abodes of the blessed in the other world. See Barnes "2 Corinthians 12:4". The Jews supposed that the souls of the righteous would be received into such a place, and those of the wicked cast down to Gehenna until the time of the judgment. They had many fables about this state which it is unnecessary to repeat. The plain meaning of the passage is,

"To-day thou shalt be made happy, or be received to a state of blessedness with me after death."
It is to be remarked that Christ says nothing about the p1ace where it should be, nor of the condition of those there, excepting that it is a place of blessedness, and that its happiness is to commence immediately after death (see also Philippians 1:23); but from the narrative we may learn--

1st. That the soul will exist separately from the body; for, while the thief and the Saviour would be in Paradise, their bodies would be on the cross or in the grave.

2nd. That immediately after death--the same day--the souls of the righteous will be made happy. They will feel that they are secure; they will be received among the just; and they will have the assurance of a glorious immortality.

3rd. That state will differ from the condition of the wicked. The promise was made to but one on the cross, and there is no evidence whatever that the other entered there. See also the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31.

4th. It is the chief glory of this state and of heaven to be permitted to see Jesus Christ and to be with him: "Thou shalt be with me." "I desire to depart and to be with Christ," Philippians 1:23; Revelation 21:23; 5:9-14.

{k} "verily" Romans 5:20,21

Verses 44-46. See Barnes "Matthew 27:45", also Matthew 27:46-50.

Verse 44. No Barnes text on this verse.

{3} "darkness over all the earth" or, "land"

Verse 45. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 46. No Barnes text on this verse.

{m} "Father, into" Psalms 31:5; 1 Peter 2:23
{n} "and having said thus" Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; John 19:30

Verses 47-49. See Barnes "Matthew 27:52", also Matthew 27:53-55

Verse 47. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 48. The things which were done. The earthquake, the darkness, and the sufferings of Jesus.

Smote their breasts. In token of alarm, fear, and anguish. They saw the judgments of God; they saw the guilt of the rulers; and they feared the further displeasure of the Almighty.

Verse 49. No Barnes text on this verse.

{o} "stood afar off" Psalms 38:11; 142:4

Verse 50. See Barnes "Matthew 27:57", also Matthew 27:58-61 See Barnes "Mark 15:42", also Mark 15:43-47.

Verse 51. No Barnes text on this verse.

{p} "who also himself" Mark 15:43; Luke 2:25,38

Verse 52. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 53. No Barnes text on this verse.

{q} "laid it in" Isaiah 53:9

Verse 54. No Barnes text on this verse.

{r} "the preparation" Matthew 27:62

Verse 55. No Barnes text on this verse.

{s} "women also" Luke 8:2; Luke 23:49

Verse 56. No Barnes text on this verse.

{t} "prepared spices" Mark 16:1
{u} "according to" Exodus 20:8-10


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 23". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bnn/view.cgi?book=lu&chapter=023>.  

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