Luke 23:44-56               “The Meaning of Christ’s Death”


            I know that we are in Luke right now, but I need for us to right off get a Word from the Gospel of John. Please turn with me to John 15:12 and on: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. . . .” Then, Jesus goes on to say that he counts all of his disciples as friends for whom he is willing out of love to lay down his life.

            This is the very basis of our Christian understanding that is also marked in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son. . . .” This is for the meaning of Christ’s death on the Cross for us.

            I recall a conversation I had with a youth once. She was forlorn. She did not know if she had any friends at all in high school. So, I asked her this question: “Do you have anyone in your life for whom you would die?” I also noted to her that I did not expect her to die, but that it was an important hypothetical question. She gave it some thought and really after a long time of thinking, she said that she would die for her little sister and for her mother and grandmother. Then, she thought about it some more. Okay, she would die for her best friend, and then maybe for two other friends. Wow, we were making good progress. She had friends! Of course, then she had to state, “I do not think that they would die for me, however!”

            I want to shift this argument now to the concept of the Almighty God: Would you all here today sacrifice unto death for God in heaven? Do you love God that much that your own life is secondary to that divine love? Again, this is hypothetical! And now, let us turn the question around, does God love you enough that God would die for you? Jesus did die on the Cross out of love for you!


Last week in the sermon I mentioned everyone there at the Cross where Jesus was crucified were waiting for God to break through in that moment. I promised that we would see that in this week’s reading. At the sixth hour according to the sundial, that would be high noon for us people who like to watch old Western movies on television, the sun is blotted out. Darkness obscures the earth. That is quite unexpected!

            Not far from Golgotha where these malefactors are being killed, in the Holiest of Holies the curtain or veil behind which God is rumored in Jewish tradition to be seated upon the mercy seat atop the Ark of the Covenant is torn right down the middle from the top down–as if by God’s very hand.

            God does not want to be behind a veil anymore with His people. God is no longer sitting on the mercy seat atop the Ark. God is in the person of Jesus who is dying out of God’s love for us. WE can see God’s love for us face-to-face in the sacrifice of Jesus.


            Jesus in His last breath speaks up towards heaven: “Father, I commend my spirit into your hands.” Here again we have this word that we hardly ever use today. What does it mean “to commend”?  In the middle of the Greek word παρατιθειν you may hear the word “tithe.” This means to “honor and entrust.” In the church we just do not simply “give” our offerings to the ministry. We honor God in our giving and we entrust our offering to the ministry of Jesus. Jesus is therefore trusting and honoring God to his very last breath.

            This idea is not part of our modern American culture. It used to be. We used to honor and trust our national leaders. We used to honor and trust our teachers. We used to honor and trust our physicians. We used to honor and trust our judges. We still call our judges “Your Honor” in court but then do anything but honor the law that the judge represents.

            It is my hope that at least in my final moments, when I utter my last statement, and when my last breath leaves me, that I will be able to honor my God. I pray that this honor will be the first thing that God hears cross my lips as I enter into the heavenly realm.

            I do not believe that there is another organization on this island that is specific to that very task of commending unto God. When you tithe, offer yourself up to God, you have not just given alms to another charitable organization, but this day your souls have been commended unto God for the ministry of Jesus Christ.

            It is my hope that we commend our own lives to God not just at the time of death, but that we commend ourselves to honor God in all we do on a day-to-day basis. I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “. . . .You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So, Glorify God in your body.” Jesus lived unto his last breath to honor God. That was the price that was paid for our eternal salvation.

            Did you know that the word “excruciating” literally means the pain felt on the Cross? Even if your life feels as if it is excruciating right now, take the example of Christ over your life and give honor back to Him. Commend your life to God right now.


            We have two examples from our Scripture in Luke today of people who commend their lives to God. They have felt the love of God in the moment while others have only known hate. I want to lift out those characters again as we have been doing these last two weeks. The first is a centurion of the Roman army who has witnessed Jesus being nailed to the Cross and saw him take his last breath. The bible does not give his name, but tradition gives him the name of Loginos. You hear the word “Logos” in his name. He does not just “say” that Jesus was innocent. The Greek word here is “Legei,” which means “to tell” or “to command.” You must imagine that when a Roman Centurion tells you that Jesus was innocent, then he is almost commanding that. He was sainted, by the way.

            We are never quite sure how it was that when Saint Paul finally comes to Rome, the streets are lined with Christian believers who treat him like a hero. He is almost given a parade! How is it that there are Christians in Rome even before Saint Paul or Saint Peter get to evangelize there? One of the theories is of course that the Romans who saw Jesus also came to believe and eventually were called back to Rome. Saint Longines would have been one of those Romans along with his company of one hundred soldiers.

            This was a great comfort to the people who are hearing this from Luke’s Gospel, who were predominantly Greco-Roman. This should be a great comfort to us too that even Roman leadership from Pilate to Loginos knew that Jesus was innocent–and that God was doing something through Jesus.


            The other person here is Joseph of Arimithea. He is the one and only member of the Jewish Council that did not condemn Jesus to the Cross. He stood up and opposed the very idea of killing a Jewish rabbi when He had done really nothing wrong at all. I can just imagine how hard it must have been for Joseph not to go along with the crowd. It was indeed difficult for him to make the gestures he did for the burial of Jesus. He must have been very important that he could get permission to take the body after death.

            But, for both Loginos and Joseph of Arimithea we are left asking ourselves that question: “If they had believed in Jesus as the Son of God, why would they not have done more to stop the crucifixion?” Why did they not take a stand before Jesus breathed his last and commended up his Spirit to God? So, God will give his only begotten Son for you, and you all just kind of sit back and watch that happen; thereafter, make a few perfunctory statements about his innocence?

            If you really love God as much as God loves you, what does that mean in your life? What greater love does a man have for his friend than to give up his life?! The meaning of Christ’s death is that this is a sacrifice made out of love for us! If someone sacrifices his or her life for you, how do you respond? Hopefully with an equal measure of love!