Turn to Luke 23:32-38. This brief section describes the beginning of the crucifixion itself, and it's very interesting that, as to the details of what Jesus underwent physically on the cross, Luke tells us this in three words: “They crucified Him.” We know something of the physical torment that people went through who were crucified, but Luke doesn't draw our attention to that. He does draw our attention to other things, and I want you to be on the lookout for them.

The first thing that you’ll see in this passage is Jesus’ fulfillment of Scripture. At least twice Luke takes us back to passages in the Old Testament that Jesus fulfilled in this event. Secondly, in this passage Luke draws our attention to the person of Christ. Interestingly, he does it through the mocking words of His enemies. Third, Luke draws our attention to what Jesus was doing for us on the cross. So let’s look at those things together.

I. Jesus Fulfills Scripture

The first thing Luke wants us to understand as we look at the cross is this is God's plan. Jesus is not on the cross because God's plan stopped working. It is God's providence; it is His way of salvation. Luke explains that to you by showing that what Jesus is doing here is precisely what Scripture had prophesied the Messiah would do. He goes out of his way to tell you that, when Jesus goes to Golgotha, He goes there in the company of criminals, and He’s surrounded by those who mock Him. Yet He is there to forgive transgressors. All this is in fulfillment of Scripture.

Turn to Isaiah 53:12, a passage written 600 years before these events. The second half of that verse reads, “He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors.” Luke puts Him right in between the transgressors. It goes on, “Yet He bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.” Jesus prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they have no idea what they’re doing and who they’re doing this to.”

There’s also Psalm 22. If you’ll look at verses 16 and following, we read, “For dogs encompass Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me; they have pierced My hands and feet; I can count all My bones; they stare and gloat over Me; they divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” They crucified Him, they cast lots to divide His garments, the rulers scoffed at Him, the soldiers mocked Him, and Luke is saying this is exactly what was prophesied. This is the plan of God for your salvation.

That’s important for us to understand when we ourselves encounter dark providences in our lives, things that come into our experience where we’re tempted to say, “Has God forgotten me?” Remember James’ words, “Count it all joy, brothers, when you encounter various trials,” and Paul's words, “God works all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Do you believe in God's providential plan for you when you encounter various trials? Luke wants us to believe God's providential plan when we look at the cross. God was not caught off guard. It was going exactly as He planned, and He had written it down hundreds of years before.

II. Jesus’ Person is Acknowledged

Luke also wants us to understand, even in the mocking, ironic words of His enemies, who Jesus is. You can't understand the cross until you understand who's on it, so Luke puts the words that point us in the direction of the truth in the mouths of those who were mocking. Notice in verse 35 the people are standing by watching, but it's the rulers who are scoffing. The people who ought to know better are leading in the scoffing. And they say in mocking words, “If You’re the Messiah of God, surely You can save Yourself! After all, You came to save us, right? You’re the Messiah! Surely You can save Yourself!” Of course they don't mean a word of it, but Luke wants you to understand it's true.

The soldiers are in on it too. Look at verses 36 and 37. “If You’re the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” They are the ones who affixed the words above Jesus, “This is the King of the Jews.” In crucifixions it was normal to attach a description of the crime above the criminal. Remember, when they brought Jesus to Pilate, the Sanhedrin charged Him with claiming to be King of the Jews, implying that He was a revolutionary who was guilty of treason and insurrection. So that's attached above His head, and they begin to mock Him. “If You’re the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” And He was, in fact, not just the King of the Jews but the King of the world, the One who holds all things together, the Word who spoke the world into being. Luke wants you to understand that because you won't understand the cross until you understand who Jesus is. And even His enemies, unwittingly and unbelievingly, acknowledge exactly who He is.

III. Jesus’ Work is Described

But that's not the last of it, or even the most important of it, because Luke describes for us the work of Jesus on the cross. Notice how he gets at this. Right after he tells us that “they crucified Him,” in verse 34 Jesus utters a prayer, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” That prayer tells you why Jesus is on the cross. He's there to forgive us. He is there so that all who rest and trust on Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel can be forgiven and accepted by God.

And you even get that in the mocking words of the rulers. Look at those words down in verse 35. “He saved others; let Him save Himself!” Now, they’re trying to get to the second part of that clause. They’re wanting to mock Him that He can't save Himself, but notice what He did. “He saved others!” Yes He did; that's the Savior on the tree, and the way that He is the Savior is that He is the way that our sins are forgiven. That's what He's doing on the cross. The reason that the Lord's Anointed is on the cross is for forgiveness.

One day, before the entirety of resurrected humanity, your heavenly Father will stand before the assembled universe and say, “This person is forgiven. No matter what you have done, no matter who you are, you are forgiven because of My Son. And not only that, I want you to be My child. I want you to be a co-inheritor with My Son, Jesus Christ. I want all that is Mine to be yours, and I want you to be My friend forever.” And He’ll say that because of what Jesus did on this tree. For all who look to Him, He provides all the forgiveness that we need. Luke wants us to understand when Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them,” that when you look to Him in faith you will be forgiven. The grace that God offers in the Gospel is all the grace that we need.