Luke’s Gospel rings with notes that have sounded especially sweet to Gentile ears.  He wrote to a Greek friend, Theophilus (1.1-4); traced Jesus’ genealogy to Adam, not Abraham (cf. Matt 1.2); recorded parables that emphasized Jesus’ heart for outsiders—like tax collectors and sinners (Luke 15); and uniquely portrayed Jesus’ call upon the tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19).  It may be that this theme reached its pinnacle in Luke’s account of Jesus’ post-resurrection dialogue with Cleopas, most likely a Greek, and his friend as they walked to Emmaus.  In accord with the other Gospels, Luke closes his biography of Jesus’ life by detailing the events of His trial and the reality of His resurrection.  As a bridge to the second volume of his work, Luke provides an account of Jesus’ ascension (24.50-53)—a scene he expanded in Acts 1.9-11.  

Luke 23 details the crucifixion of Jesus, emphasizing especially the influence of the Jewish leadership over the Roman leaders, and His burial:

  1. Jesus’ trial and crucifixion were arranged by the highly influential Jewish leadership (vv. 1-25).  Luke records that Jesus’ proclamation, “the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God” (22.69; cf. Dan 7.13), was enough testimony for the Sanhedrin to accuse Him before Pilate (vv. 2-5//Matt 27.11-14//Mark 15.2-5).  But there, they expanded their charges, saying, “We found this man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is the Messiah, a King” (v. 2).  While Pilate initially sought to release Jesus, when he discovered that Jesus’ hometown was in Herod’s jurisdiction, Pilate sent Jesus to him (vv. 6-12).  While Herod hoped to watch Jesus perform a miracle, he was disappointed—and could not even find a reason to charge Jesus with a crime.  At this point in the chapter Luke set forth the degree to which the Jewish leadership influenced Pilate during this period of history; although the governor of Judea, and Herod—who had become a political comrade—agreed that Jesus was innocent of the charges levied by the Sanhedrin, the cries of the Jewish leadership won the day.  Barabbas was released and Jesus bound (vv. 17-25//Matt 27.15-26//Mark 15.6-15)
  2. Many witnessed Jesus’ death and burial—including women, and Joseph of Arimathea (vv. 26-56).  While many women lamented when Jesus was led away, He lamented for them (vv. 26-32//Matt 27.31-32//Mark 15.20-21).  Luke emphasizes the grief and agony in the hearts of, “His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19.25).  Jesus addressed them as “Daughters of Jerusalem” (v. 28), and warned them of the difficulty to come, saying: “If they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (v. 31).  The situation in Jerusalem would deteriorate to the point of fulfilling the prophecy of Hosea: “They will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’”(v. 30; Hosea 10.8).  These women were steadfast in their commitment to the Messiah—even watching as He was crucified between two criminals (vv. 33-49//Matt 27.33-56//Mark 15.22-41).  From the cross Jesus spoke His final words—Scripture.  He quoted a lament, Psalm 31, where David felt surrounded by his enemies and cried out: “You will free me from the net that is secretly set for me, for You are my refuge.  Into Your hands I entrust my spirit; You redeem me, LORD, God of truth” (vv. 4-5; cf. Luke 23.46).  What the Jewish leadership had arranged by deception, Jesus understood to be from God, and entrusted Himself to the Father.  Once Jesus had expired, the women took special note of the place where He was buried, in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea; returning home, “they prepared spices and perfumes.  And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” (v. 56).

According to Luke, the resurrected Jesus immediately testified to the fact that He was the Messiah (ch 24).  The author’s evangelical thrust is noticed again in how he arranged the events following Jesus’ resurrection (vv. 1-12//Matt 28.1-10//Mark 16.1-11//John 20.1-18).  When the women came to the tomb with their burial spices (vv. 10-11//Matt, they found the stone rolled away, and two angelic figures waiting to greet them.  The women returned to the disciples with the good news, and while many of the apostles thought “these words seemed like nonsense” (v. 11), Peter reacted faithfully to the report of the women and went to investigate the tomb and was likewise amazed at what had happened (v. 12).  More amazing perhaps is Luke’s account of Jesus Himself testifying to what the Old Testament predicted about Him (vv. 13-35).  Jesus met Cleopas and his friend as they were traveling away from Jerusalem, discouraged because of what they had seen at the Passover festival.  Jesus’ initial testimony to them began with a question: “Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?” (v. 26).  Luke reports that Jesus then “interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (v. 27), and fully revealed Himself to them as they broke bread (vv. 30-31).  After Jesus suddenly disappeared from their sight, they scurried to Jerusalem, where Jesus met both the Emmaus travelers and the apostles!  His witness to them included eating in their presence (vv. 41-42), and again explaining His death and resurrection as the fulfillment of all that was written “in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms” (v. 44).  

From the initial lines of Luke’s Gospel, the reader is aware that they are entering into a celebration of Jesus’ life.  The last chapter of Luke’s Gospel thus provides a unique opportunity to understand Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures (cf. esp vv. 27, 44) and the foundation of the New Testament.  The Scriptures are a storyline, each book contributing to the message of His coming, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return.

*For a complete list of references, please see