Unflinching Love

Luke 22 & 23

Introduction Question

Author Tim Keller writes,

Love that really changes things and redeems things is always a substitutionary sacrifice. Tim Keller

He refers to the foundational moment of the Harry Potter stories, where his mother Lily sacrifices her life to protect him, and suggests that this resonates with us because all loving parents sacrifice their life — their time, energy and freedom — to protect and nurture their children.

Does the idea that “all life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice” ring true to your experience? Why do you think it is so often painful and costly for us to love other people, and for others to love us?

Read Luke 22:63‑71

The religious leaders interrogate Jesus about who he considers himself to be. Why do you think this is such an issue for them?


Jesus twice answers in a way that puts the focus on what his interrogators think about him. Why do you think he does this?

This intense exchange about Jesus’ identity is full of terms loaded with Old Testament significance. The Jews of Jesus’ day were waiting and hoping for a long-promised king — the Messiah (or ‘Christ’ in Greek) — who would restore Israel as a great kingdom embodying God’s ideals for humanity. Jesus’ own choice of title — ‘The Son of Man’ — is no less provocative. He is invoking an ancient prophecy (Daniel 7:13-14) that envisioned ‘one like a son of man’ reigning with God over the world. The significance of this claim was not lost on the Jewish leaders. The one who reigns at God’s right hand is elsewhere in the Jewish Scriptures declared by God to be his Son. Jesus is claiming to be not just the promised deliverer king, but the rightful ruler of the world and the Son of God. It is on this basis that they condemn him to death.

However, they need Roman authority to institute the death penalty, so Jesus is taken to Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate finds no basis for a charge against him, but sends him to Herod, the regional Jewish monarch, who in turn humiliates Jesus and sends him back to Pilate.

Finally Pilate ends up handing responsibility to the crowd. Elsewhere we learn that it was a tradition for the governor to release a Jewish prisoner on the Passover as a good-will gesture. The crowd are faced with a choice between Jesus, who has stuck to his own teaching of non-violence and love for enemies to the end (see Study C), and Barabbas, a nationalist insurgent who had made a failed attempt to throw off the Romans by force.

Read Luke 23:13‑25

What strikes you about these events? What do you think Luke is emphasising in his telling of them?

Read Luke 23:32‑49

Crucifixion was both brutal and humiliating. For the Romans it served as a public display of failure and weakness designed to discredit those who dared rebel against their authority. For the Jews it had an additional significance: to be ‘hung on a tree’ was to be under God’s curse.


As Jesus hangs on the cross we hear the mockery hurled at him by the rulers, the soldiers and one of the criminals alongside him. What is the logic behind their ridicule? How does it contrast with what Jesus himself says in verse 34?


How is the response of the second criminal different? What could have inspired such a response?


What does Jesus seem to be promising him, and on what basis?


Luke records two very public portents indicating the cosmic significance of what was taking place. Darkness in the Old Testament signalled God’s presence as judge and the tearing of the massive temple curtain includes Jerusalem’s religious system in that judgement. Later, Christians would see additional significance in this event: the barrier separating God and people that the curtain represented was, with Jesus’ death, torn down.

Luke then describes the moment of Jesus’ death itself, and the reaction of the centurion who had presumably led the execution. What do you think might have led him to respond like this?

The centurion’s exclamation is deeply significant. It recalls a famous prophecy spoken by Isaiah 700 years earlier about one described as God’s ‘righteous servant’. In fact, just before his arrest Jesus had pointed to this prophecy as holding the key to the events about to unfold (22:37).

My servant … was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed…
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth…
Because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins Isaiah 53

How does the prophecy resonate with the events Luke describes? What does it say about why Jesus died?

Why does this matter?

The cross, perhaps the most gruesome form of execution ever devised, has become the symbol of the Christian faith. This striking fact speaks of the importance and immense value Christians have always given to Christ’s death. Writing around AD 55, Paul of Tarsus represented early Christian belief when he said:

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. …God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Paul of Tarsus, 2 Corinthians 5:19,21

As the theologian John Stott explains:

… the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. John Stott

Does Jesus’ death make sense with what you’ve seen of his life? Does it fit in with how he explained his own purpose, and with his description and demonstration of God’s character?

How do you feel about the biblical claim that Jesus had to die for us, but that he was glad to die for us?