Facebook Icon Instagram Icon Twitter Icon

Is This The End?

May 28, 2023

Is This The End?

Passage: Luke 23:26-56
Service Type:

Is This the End?

LUKE 23:26-56


Welcome/Introduction -


I know you’ve all had let-downs in life; disappointments, right?  We’ve all had moments where things didn’t go the way we expected them to go. One of those moments for Jodi and I had recently was a pickup truck we bought. We had been looking for a truck for a long time, so we prayed and prayed, and looked online, and found one, a private sale, down in Mt Pleasant that looked like what we wanted. He wanted $5500, which fit our price range, so we drove down one afternoon, took it for a drive, and decided this was what we’d been praying for.  I drove it straight to the gas station to fill it up before we headed home, and when I went to start the truck, it made the most horrific screeching noise I’d ever heard. Sounded like a witch being boiled alive in oil. The guy we bought it from warned us about this, so we knew the starter might need some work. Just didn’t expect that everyone within three miles of the gas station would also know that the starter might need some work. 


About 2 weeks later, we took it on a road trip pulling a trailer to Missouri. On the way down, I stopped for gas again, and when I checked the chains and the hitch of the trailer, I noticed there was oil on the chains. So I looked up under the engine of the truck and sure enough, there was oil leaking out of the engine blowing back onto the chains. 


Well, we’re 6 hours from home, so I bought some oil, checked levels, added some and we booked it for home with oil flying out the bottom the whole way. 


Got home, took it to the shop, fix the oil leak and the starter, and about 3 days later the mechanic called me back and said, okay, here’s what I have… this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and this all need replaced. I gulped and said, how much is that gonna cost? He said, well, with this, this and this, uh, this and this, that’s $4600. I said what about the starter? Oh, I didn’t even include that. Closer to $5200. I’m like, uh, I need to go cry about this for a minute, I’ll call you back. 


And all these thoughts come rushing through your head all at once…everything from “is my mechanic trying to rip me off,” to “did the guy we bought this from just completely hose us?” all the way to “God, we thought we heard from you. Maybe it was YOU who completely hosed us?” But the reality is, we have these let-down kind of moments in our lives where things didn’t pan out according to our expectations. 


Last week, we sort of hit on this vulnerability that I think if we were actually honest we’ve all experienced, and that is that at some moment in our lives, we’ve been a little disappointed with Jesus. That we had certain expectations for what faith in him would look like, and how he would respond to our faith, and which parts of life would be better or easier now that we’re walking with him – that sort of thing.  


I think that’s where we find this crowd and the women following Jesus to the cross here in verse 27. This was the Messiah they had prayed for. This wasn’t just a truck they wanted – for Generation after generation after generation after generation, for several thousand years, parents have been passing down to their children, rabbis passing down to their students, the promise made to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden – one day, son. One day, daughter. One day, Yahweh will send someone who will crush our enemies. 


One day He’ll send a king who will restore Israel. He’ll make all things new. He’ll free us from oppression and humiliation. He’ll rescue us from the lies of the serpent. The Holy Spirit won’t just fill specific people – he will be poured out on young and old, men and women, they’ll prophecy, they’ll dream dreams. Yahweh will repay all the years that have been stolen from us by these invading armies. The Messiah will come and the government will be on his shoulders. The struggle will be over finally… and we thought Jesus was that man – the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Deliverer.


But here he is, surrounded by Roman soldiers, so beaten and bloody and weak that they have to give the cross beam to someone else to carry. This isn’t just that these women feel bad for him and the pain he’s enduring. This really feels like the end of the line for Israel. In their minds, He was supposed to take out the Romans, but instead, they snuck up on him out at the Mt of Olives, captured him at night, and when he dies, the dream dies with him. Hope dies with him. Rescue dies with him. 


It’s like you’re drowning and the rescue boat turns around to head the other way.  (6:30)


Surprisingly, in verse 28-31, Jesus finds enough strength to speak to the women, quoting the prophet Hosea, and say to them, “I’m not the one you should be weeping for.  You should be much more concerned about yourselves, because judgment is coming for the sins of this nation, including this sin of murdering the Messiah, and you’re going to be caught in the middle of it. You’re going to envy the women who never had children, because it will be doubly painful to watch your children get caught up in what’s coming. If they’re doing this now when God is protecting you, imagine what they’ll do when that protection is gone!”


32 Two others ​— ​criminals ​— ​were also led away to be executed with him. 33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. 


This is a whirlwind of an execution! I wasn’t even there and it makes my head spin. But it had to be done very quickly. The religious leaders have been concerned about the crowds all along, right? So they have to get this man arrested and on the cross before the crowds know what’s going on, and it appears that’s what has happened. 


Think about these last 12 hours… After dark on Thursday evening, Jesus ate the Passover meal with his twelve apostles. During the meal, the emotional roller coaster begins as he drops the bomb that someone in the room is going to betray him. That’ll ruin dinner. Then, they walked out of the city to the Mt of Olives at what 10, 11 at night? When they get to their camp, Jesus prayed fervently, while trying to get the disciples to not fall asleep. I’m guessing at midnight or soon after, Judas shows up with the religious leaders to arrest Jesus. They drag Jesus back into the city to do the mockery of a trial at the high priest's house where Peter denies Jesus 3x. 


Then it’s off to see Pilate who, after a short formality, sends Jesus to Herod. About this time, the rest of the 12 disciples get word that, after he saw what was happening to Jesus, Judas took his own life. Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate digs through the prison, finds a guy named Barabbas, and proposes a prisoner exchange, which the crowd refuses. And after seeing that his arguments don’t work, orders Jesus whipped and beaten and prepared for execution – and according to Mark’s gospel, at 9:00 in the morning, Jesus is nailed to a cross. 


The words of Isaiah 53 have come to pass – He was counted among the lawless, meaning he was treated like a criminal. Jesus said back at the Passover meal that this must happen, and less than 12 hours later, it has been fulfilled. Jesus, the perfectly holy, perfectly sinless Son of God is treated by his own creation like a criminal. John 1:10-11 says it like this: He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  And yet, even from the cross, verse 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” 


If that part is true, and we would all agree it is, then there is no excuse I can ever give to not forgive someone who has wronged me. There is zero place for me to say, “but you don’t know what they did!” Or “But in our situation, it’s really tough to forgive.” Or, “I just don’t think I’m ready to forgive just yet.” Even in excruciating pain, Jesus is still at work, still praying for his enemies, still concerned about the eternal well-being of those who are carrying out his execution. Still leading the way for you and me to follow him, walking in his footsteps. 


Forgiving those who have hurt us, or even those who are currently hurting us is a necessary part of carrying our cross, and if we’re going to follow Jesus, this part is not optional. We don’t get the option of being a follower of Jesus and hanging onto bitterness. 


In verse 35 the word around Jerusalem has obviously spread, because a crowd has been gathering. Luke only records a few selective things from these hours that Jesus hung on the cross, but what we find here is that there are four different groups of people here at the cross with very different reactions to what is going on: 

  1. v35: The crowd, or the people who stand watching. Just 5 days ago or so, they were cheering as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, singing at the top of their lungs, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” They hurried to the temple every morning to hear him teach. They stayed all day with him until he left in the evening. So they got up early this morning and went to the temple to hear Jesus speak, and he wasn’t there. They couldn’t figure out why until they heard the commotion as the word began to get around town. Probably hundreds of people are standing here stunned. Disappointed. Shocked. No doubt feeling like something is wrong, desperate for information about how Jesus got from teaching in the temple every day to being crucified, all in one night. Some may even be considering how they could attack and overpower the soldiers to get Jesus out of there. The dots just don’t line up.
  2. V35: The religious leaders, who are just on top of the world right now, making jokes with each other – The Chosen One doesn’t look so chosen to me right now! Let’s see him get out of this one! haha. They are celebrating their victory, and already plotting what to do about Jesus’ claim that he will rise on the third day, planning another meeting with Pilate to talk about it. 
  3. V36-37: The soldiers who offer him sour wine – essentially a type of sour wine vinegar. According to one commentator, this kind of wine vinegar was enjoyed by soldiers and field workers because it quenched thirst better than water, and was cheap. So they were offering him a drink, a kind of hydration that would actually extend Jesus’ suffering a bit more…which he drank. This went along with their own mockery – “Here, drink this… this will give you more time to figure out how to get down from there if you’re really the Messiah.”


Back in Luke 4, Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness with a couple options to prove that he was the Messiah, including jumping off of a high building and not getting hurt. The temptation was to the effect that, hey, you want everyone to know you’re the Messiah, right? You want to make sure people see you for who you really are, right? So do something otherworldly, and people will know!  Now here Jesus faces the same temptation again. If you are the Messiah, you would want people to know that… so get off the cross. That’ll show them the real you!

Apparently one of the criminals (thats the fourth group here at the cross), one of the criminals hanging there felt the same way. V39…“Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us! ”


Here’s he irony: These religious, the soldiers, and this criminal think that Jesus would prove himself to be the real savior if he could get himself off the cross. But the irony is that Jesus WAS proving himself to be the real Savior by STAYING on it! If he saves himself and comes down, it’s all over. Not just the plan of redemption – Everything would be done (Sproul, 410-411). 


The second criminal at some point here saw something about Jesus that no one else did. verse  40 …“Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


There are so many different things wrapped up in that last sentence that should be very comforting for the believer, but we’ll look at four of them.

  1. The simplicity of salvation. 
    1. This criminal hanging next to Jesus didn’t pray a certain prayer. He was never baptized. We don’t even know how much of the Bible he knew. But here he is, recognizing that the punishment he is experiencing is just; it’s deserved. He confesses his sin. The Holy Spirit had opened his eyes to see that this man hanging between him and the other criminal was the Son of God, that he would one day inaugurate a new kingdom, and that only by Jesus’ mercy could he be saved. 
    2. What we learn: Anyone who adds more hoops to jump through in order for someone to be saved has corrupted the truth. 

  • Salvation is by faith, not by works. 
    1. This man next to Jesus was either tied or nailed to a board where he would remain until he died. He was not leaving until he physically could not breathe anymore. There was not a single good thing he was now able to do for God. Not a single effort he could give to the kingdom of heaven that could prove he deserved to be in paradise. 
    2. What we learn: Entrance to heaven is not dependent upon what you are able to accomplish for the kingdom in this life. 
    3. There is a preacher named Alistair Begg who imagined the scene in heaven when this criminal reached the pearly gates. He imagined that the angel at the gates or whatever says, “Okay, what are you doing here?” The man says “I don’t know.” The angel says “what do you mean you don’t know?” Man says, “I don’t know.” Angel - Hmm. Okay, well, let me ask you a few questions – where do you stand on the topic of justification by faith? The guy says, “I’ve never heard of it.” What church are you a member of? “None.” “What do you believe about scripture? Predestination or Free Will? Are you Continuationist or Cessasionalist?” The man blankly stares. Finally the angel says, “Okay… seriously, how did you get here? The guy says, “The man on the middle cross said I could come!” 
      1. If that scene were to be real and the angel asks us how did we get here, and we start the sentences in the first person, we’re already in trouble. Because I believed, because I went to church, because I know doctrine really well. 
      2. We are not saved because we did something. We’re saved by faith in what Jesus did.


  1. When a believer dies, they are immediately in paradise.
    1. When Jesus begins his sentence with the words ‘I tell you the truth’, what comes next is very important. So Jesus really is saying to this thief, ‘As soon as we pass through this pain into death, we’re going together to paradise.’ 
    2. What we learn: When those who have put their trust in Christ die, immediately their souls go to be with the Lord, to know his presence, and to wait for the resurrection of the body. We cross the valley of death into something far more wonderful than anything we can possibly enjoy here. Our Lord, in speaking to this thief, speaks also to all who put their trust in him, and promises his presence with them in paradise the moment that they die (Sproul, 412-413).


For three hours, Jesus hung on that cross in agony, and then around noon, verse 44, some wild stuff started happening. For the next three hours, the sun went out. It was nighttime in the middle of the day. That would have caught your attention for sure, whether you were at the temple worshiping, the marketplace buying and selling, out in the lake or the field working, in the house or the school – everyone would have experienced the darkness. “The three hours of darkness was a miracle. It was not an eclipse. It was a God-sent darkness that clouded the cross as the Son of God was made sin for us. Back in Exodus 10, when Israel was in Egypt, there were three days of darkness before the lambs were killed for the first Passover. Here in Luke, three hours of darkness happen before the True Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, dies (Wiersbe, 276).


And then, after 6 hours on the cross, around 3pm – v 45 – The curtain of the sanctuary was split down the middle. 46 And Jesus called out with a loud voice quoting Psalm 31,“Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” Saying this, he breathed his last. (26:00)


If you’re familiar with this story or familiar with the Bible, you may know the significance of the curtain being split. But I don’t want to assume, so very briefly, the temple was set up like this… here’s the blueprint. So, as you come in the entrance, the first large area is the court of women and Gentiles, meaning that’s as far in as they could go. The second area is the court of Israel, where Jewish men could worship, and then the Holy Place was for the priests only. You have the altar and some other important objects in there… but then in the very inmost part is the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place, this is where the cloud of God’s presence would tangibly be. God’s actual presence right there in that room. Yahweh. The God of heaven and earth would confine his presence to that room.  


Since no one can see the face of God and live, thanks to sin, there was a huge curtain that hung right here between the Holy Place with the altar and such, and the presence of God… a veil that kept the people from staring directly at God. Once a year, on one specific Jewish holiday called Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, the High Priest for that year was required to go behind the veil to burn incense in the presence of God and sprinkle blood. They had a lot of purifying rituals to go through before they could do this, but there was always the possibility of death for that priest as they stood face to face with the living God. 


Even as they offered sacrifices right outside the curtain, it had to be slightly terrifying that on the other side of that curtain was a living cloud that was the presence of the very God of heaven and earth. Yahweh, right there! These people understood the fear of the Lord. There was nothing casual about this. 


Then one Friday afternoon after Passover, as Jesus is crucified on a hill outside of Jerusalem, all of a sudden, anyone in or near the temple would have heard a huge ripping sound as that huge veil that separates people from the presence of God is ripped open down the middle. 


I think anyone standing there would have shrieked in horror, hiding their faces, fully expecting to die. But they didn’t. Because God wasn’t there anymore. The veil being torn that afternoon had some massive significance, and that’s part one. 


    1. Yahweh has left the building: This one is easy to overlook, but we cannot divorce the story of  Jesus from the story of Israel. His coming to earth was not only to forgive you and me of our sins. He came to be a new covenant between God and people. His death brought judgment on Israel for their failure to follow the heart of God throughout the centuries. The curtain tore as a tangible sign that God’s presence had left the temple for good because of the corruption that had been taking place there. The earthly temple and its significance in the worship of God’s people had reached the finish line. God would not live here anymore.

    2. New Access to the Father in Christ: 
      1. Every high priest lost their job that day. The sacrificial system was no longer needed. Christ’s body was the once and for all sacrifice. This building, its officials, and its operations were no longer necessary. You will never again need another human being to go between you and God. The torn curtain reveals that all believers have fresh, unparalleled access to God. According to the apostle John, Jesus himself is the new temple—the new Most Holy Place—with no curtain barring us from personally knowing him.

        Gentiles and women are no longer limited in their worship. The poor, the sick, the terminally ill are no longer outcasts. Every person who is united to Christ by faith now functions as a priest, able to serve and speak directly with Yahweh and serve others in everything we do. 
      2. The thief on the cross led the way to this new reality. He didn’t need a priest to talk to Jesus for him. He didn’t need to belong to some religious system. He had direct access to Jesus, and when the curtain was torn, that same access was opened to all of us.

  • A Heavenly Reality: Someday it would be fun to preach through the book of Hebrews so we can talk more about this in depth, but Hebrews tells how the earthly Temple was just a sketch of the heavenly places. That the Holiest Place in the earthly temple with a part of God’s presence was a tiny sketch of the true Holy Place in the heavens where God lives in his fullness. On earth only one high priest could go behind the curtain. 
  • And now, Hebrews 9:11, Christ has appeared as the high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), he entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of bulls and goats, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 
  • Over to Hebrews 10:19 – … [Jesus] has inaugurated for us a new and living way through the curtain (that is his flesh) – and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean…
    1. In other words – Jesus’ body was the true curtain in the heavenly temple. When his body was opened up by whips and nails and thorns, it gave sinners true access to the presence of God! Jesus was the curtain, Jesus was the sacrifice, Jesus was and is the high priest who serves the Father. The whole temple is Jesus! Revelation 21:22 says there is no physical temple in the fully realized kingdom of God, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple (Lanier). 


This whole thing is about worship! The temple was designed for worship, but the death of Jesus changed all that. The sacrificial system is done with the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus…that’s why you don’t see any goats or sheep here this morning. The high priesthood is done. We’re all priests who serve in the presence of God now, 1 Peter says. You may get up on Sunday morning and say you’re going to the house of God today, but really the house of God anywhere 2-3 or more believers have gathered in his name. 


So the veil in the temple is torn, full access to God is now gifted to anyone who looks at Jesus for life, and the shift is already on, because not 10 seconds later, 47 When the centurion saw what happened, he began to glorify God, saying, “This man really was righteous!”  A gentile. A Roman. The enemy. Not in the temple. No high priest was around to serve him. He saw the Jews mocking. He saw the soldiers gambling and teasing Jesus with wine that would not help his situation. He heard the two criminals arguing over the identity and power of this man on the center cross. He heard Jesus’ promise to the thief and his commitment of himself into the Father’s hands. He knew that an innocent victim had suffered capital punishment (Butler, 397). 


The first two people to see the crucified Christ for who he really was were a criminal and a Roman centurion. Why? 


V 48, all The crowds head home in grief. The women went home to prepare spices and perfumes to properly embalm his body. Remember… 24 hours ago, Jesus was eating the Passover dinner and no one had a clue what was going to happen. There was no time to prepare for his burial, and since the Sabbath started Friday evening at dusk, they couldn’t touch a dead body at this point, and as obedient Jews, they weren’t going to defile themselves. They’d make the embalming stuff at home that night, and come back on Sunday, the first day of the week, open the tomb and take care of his body then. But for now, there’s nothing to do but get ready for the Sabbath. A full 24 hours of rest, doing no work. A full day to replay things over and over in your minds. A full day to think. To be silent. To wait. 


God finished the work of the “old Creation” in six days, and then He rested on the seventh day and called it the Sabbath. Jesus finished the work of the “new Creation” in six hours on the cross, and then He rested (Wiersbe, 277).





Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988)


R. C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999)


Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 


Greg Lanier, Curtain Torn in Two: What Did the Tearing of the Veil Accomplish? April 2, 2021,

 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/veil-torn-jesus-cross/ (accessed May 25, 2023).


Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996)