Luke 23:1-49

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

The story of Jesus' trial before Pilate and his crucifixion and death was heard in its original context in the framework of the experiences of Luke's audience. Luke's audience was predominately Hellenistic Jews who were citizens of the various cities of the Roman Empire around the Mediterranean. As they listened to Luke, they would have been aware of stories from their cultural background.

They knew, for example, the story of the martyrdom of Eleazar (2 Maccabees 6) and of a Jewish mother and her seven sons (2 Maccabees 7). It was a story that was told with horror at the unjust treatment that was received by Jews at the hands of the Gentiles. It is part of the background of Luke 23. I suggest that you read it as preparation for telling the story of Jesus' passion.

Another part of the background that is absolutely essential to realize is that Luke's story was told and heard in the context of the aftermath of the Jewish war. Luke describes that horrendous event explicitly in Jesus' last discourse with the disciples in Luke 21 (see especially verses 20-24). The section of signs and persecutions and the destruction of Jerusalem are a description of what happened some 15-20 years before the composition and distribution of Luke's story. That is, Jesus' prophecy had been fulfilled in the recent experience of Luke's audiences.

The war was an enormous tragedy. All of Luke's listeners remembered the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the murder by the Roman armies of ten's of thousands of innocent Jews, and the enslavement of a whole generation. These young Jews were taken to Rome, marched in the triumph of Vespasian and Titus, and then sold as slaves in the mines, as rowers on the ships, or as sex slaves throughout the Roman empire.

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