April 2 – Don’t Threaten

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.

Luke 23:35


Jesus “did not threaten” in the face of incredible suffering (1 Pet. 2:23). He was spit on, His beard was pulled out, a crown of thorns was crushed onto His head, and nails were driven through His flesh to pin Him to a cross. In any other person, such unjust treatment would have caused feelings of retaliation to well up and burst out, but not Christ. He was the Son of God—creator and sustainer of the universe, holy and sinless—with the power to send His tormentors into eternal flames.

Yet Jesus never threatened His executioners with impending judgment; instead He forgave them. Christ died for sinners, including those who persecuted Him. He knew the glory of salvation could be reached only through the path of suffering, so He accepted His suffering without bitterness, anger, or a spirit of retaliation. May you respond as well to your suffering.[1]

The crowd at Calvary consisted of four distinct groups. First were the common people, who stood by looking on as the comedy staged by their leaders and the Romans played out. They might have been expected to be more sympathetic to Christ than the religious leaders, soldiers, and two thieves crucified with Him. After all, just a few days earlier they had hailed Jesus as the Messiah at the triumphal entry. They had also enthusiastically received His teaching in earlier days (Luke 19:47–48).

But during Christ’s trial before Pilate, the leaders had managed to turn the people against Him and persuade them to call for His crucifixion (Matt. 27:20–23). Now they had joined in the farcical game and were mercilessly hurling abuse and venomous sarcasm at Him (Matt. 27:39–40).

The rulers were insulting, taunting, and sneering at Christ to mock His claim to be the Messiah. The Greek verb translated sneering literally means to turn up one’s nose in derision. Disdaining even to speak to Him, they said to the crowd, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” This sarcastic disdain was predicted in Psalm 22:7–8: “All who see me sneer at me; they separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying, ‘Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him; let Him rescue him, because He delights in him.’ ” As Paul would later write, a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block to the Jews (1 Cor. 1:23).[2]

35 It is difficult to know whether the connective “and … even” (de kai, possibly “but even” or “but also”) identifies the “people” (laos, GK 3295) with the sneering of the rulers or whether Luke intends the reader to understand the role of the “people” still to be passive rather than hostile, while everyone else—“even” the rulers—sneered. The NIV takes it in the latter sense, which is probably correct. The word “saved” (esōsen, GK 5392) does not mean that the rulers believed in the claim of Jesus to forgive people but alludes to his reputation for restoring the sick and disturbed (cf. Ps 22:8–9). The lack of understanding of those uttering the words is made clear by the fact that Jesus “saves” others precisely by not “saving” himself (9:22; 17:25; so Crump, 87). Instead of the words “king of Israel” (Mt 27:42; Mk 15:32), Luke has “Christ of God, the Chosen One,” which is consistent with his frequent presentation of Jesus as a prophet chosen by God. (Compare the words “whom I have chosen,” which occur only in Luke’s version of the transfiguration, in 9:35; cf. Isa 42:1.)[3]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 107). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. (2014). Luke 18–24 (p. 382). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[3] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 333). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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