Lesson 58

Luke 23

“Lesson 58: Luke 23,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Introduction

The Savior was tried before both Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas. Neither of these men found the Savior guilty of the crimes the Jews accused Him of, but Pilate nevertheless gave Him up to be crucified. Jesus forgave the Roman soldiers who crucified Him and spoke to a thief who was also being crucified. After Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea placed His body in a tomb.

Suggestions for Teaching

Luke 23:1–25

The Savior is tried before Pilate and Herod

Before class, write the following questions on the board:

When have you felt mistreated because of another person’s words or actions?

How did you respond in that situation?

Begin class by inviting students to ponder the questions on the board.

Invite students to look for a truth as they study Luke 23 that will help them know how to respond when they feel mistreated by others.

Remind students that after Jesus had suffered in Gethsemane, the chief priests arrested Him and condemned Him to die. Explain that from that time through His death, Jesus interacted with the following people: Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, a group of faithful women, Roman soldiers, and two thieves who were being crucified on either side of Him. Pontius Pilate was a Roman ruler in the territory of Judea, which included the capital city of Jerusalem; Herod Antipas (who had put John the Baptist to death) ruled the territories of Galilee and Perea under Roman authority (see Luke 3:1).

Divide students into pairs and invite each pair to read Luke 23:1–11 together, looking for the differences between the Savior’s response to Pontius Pilate and His response to Herod Antipas. To help them understand the Savior’s response to Pilate, invite them to also read Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 15:4 (in Mark 15:2, footnote b).

Invite students to discuss with their partners the answers to the following questions:

  • How was Jesus’s response to Pilate different from His response to Herod?

  • Why might Pilate have been surprised by the Savior’s response to him?

  • Why might Herod have been disappointed by the Savior’s silence?

Summarize Luke 23:12–25 by explaining that neither Pilate nor Herod could find fault with Jesus, so Pilate told the multitude that he would punish Jesus and release Him. The people cried for Pilate to release Barabbas instead and demanded that Jesus be crucified. Pilate released Barabbas and gave Jesus up to be crucified. (Note: The account of Jesus before Pilate will be taught in greater detail in the lesson on John 18–19.)

Luke 23:26–56

Jesus is crucified between two thieves

Summarize Luke 23:26–31 by explaining that a large group of faithful women who had been with Him since His ministry in Galilee wept as they followed Jesus while He was led to the place of His crucifixion. Jesus told them not to weep for Him but to weep for the impending destruction that would come upon Jerusalem because the Jews had rejected their King.

Invite a student to read Luke 23:32–34 aloud. Also invite him or her to read Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 23:35 (in Luke 23:34, footnote c). Invite students to follow along, looking for what the Savior did as He was being nailed to the cross.

  • What did the Savior do as He was being nailed to the cross? (You may want to suggest that students mark the Savior’s words recorded in verse 34.)

  • Why is the Savior’s prayer at this moment so remarkable?

  • What principle can we learn from the Savior’s example about how we should respond when others mistreat us? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: We can follow Jesus Christ’s example by choosing to forgive those who mistreat us.)

  • What does it mean to forgive?

You may want to explain that forgiving others does not mean that those who sin against us should not be held accountable for their actions. Nor does it mean that we should put ourselves in situations in which people can continue to mistreat us. Rather, forgiveness means to treat with love those who have mistreated us and to harbor no resentment or anger toward them (see Guide to the Scriptures, “Forgive,” scriptures.lds.org).

Ask students to consider silently whether there is anyone they need to forgive. Acknowledge that at times it can be difficult to forgive another. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley. Ask the class to listen for what they can do if they are struggling to forgive someone.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

“I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. … It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come” (“Of You It Is Required to Forgive,” Ensign, June 1991, 5).

  • What did President Hinckley counsel us to do if we are struggling to forgive someone?

  • How do you think praying for strength can help us to forgive?

Ask students to think of a time when they have forgiven someone. Invite a few students to share their experiences with the class. (Ask them not to share names with the class, and remind them not to share anything too personal.)

Encourage students to follow Jesus Christ’s example and forgive those who have mistreated them. Invite them to pray for the strength and ability to do so.

Summarize Luke 23:35–38 by explaining that Jewish rulers and Roman soldiers mocked the Savior as He hung on the cross.

The Crucifixion

Display the picture The Crucifixion (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 57; see also LDS.org). Invite a student to read Luke 23:39–43 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, looking for how the two thieves who hung on either side of the Savior treated Him.

  • How did each of the two thieves treat the Savior?

  • What might the thief have meant when he said, “We receive the due rewards of our deeds” (verse 41)?

  • How did the Savior respond to this thief when he asked the Savior to remember him in God’s kingdom?

To help students better understand what the Savior meant when He told the thief that he would be with Him in paradise, invite a student to read aloud the following statement:

“In the scriptures, the word paradise is used in different ways. First, it designates a place of peace and happiness in the postmortal spirit world, reserved for those who have been baptized and who have remained faithful (see Alma 40:12; Moroni 10:34). …

“A second use of the word paradise is found in Luke’s account of the Savior’s Crucifixion. … The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that … the Lord actually said that the thief would be with Him in the world of spirits” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 111; see also History of the Church, 5:424–25).

  • According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, where would the thief go after he died? (The spirit world [see Alma 40:11–14].)

  • What truth can we learn from the Savior’s statement that the thief would be with Him in paradise (Luke 23:43)? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: The spirits of all people enter the spirit world at the time of their death.)

Explain that other scriptures can help us better understand what would happen to the thief and others like him in the world of spirits. You may want to suggest that students write Doctrine and Covenants 138:28–32, 58–59 as a cross-reference in the margin of their scriptures next to Luke 23:43.

Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 138 contains a revelation given to President Joseph F. Smith in which the Savior revealed truths about the spirit world. These truths can help us understand what the Savior meant when He said, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Doctrine and Covenants 138:11, 16, 18, 28–32. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior did when He went to the spirit world.

  • What did the Savior do when He went to the spirit world?

  • According to verse 29, where did the Savior not go while He was in the spirit world?

  • What did the Savior organize His righteous messengers to do?

  • What truth can we learn from these verses? (Students may use different words, but they should identify the following truth: Under Jesus Christ’s direction, righteous messengers teach the gospel to those in spirit prison.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Brother Alain A. Petion, former Area Seventy. Ask the class to listen for what the Savior’s message might have done for the criminal on the cross.

Alain A. Petion

“The Savior graciously answered and gave him hope. This criminal likely did not understand that the gospel would be preached to him in the spirit world or that he would be given an opportunity to live according to God in the spirit (see 1 Pet. 4:6; D&C 138:18–34). Truly the Savior cared for the thief who hung beside Him; surely He cares greatly for those who love Him and strive to keep His commandments!” (“Words of Jesus: On the Cross,” Ensign, June 2003, 34).

  • What hope do the words in D&C 138:29–32 give us regarding all those who have died without a knowledge of the gospel?

Explain that even though the gospel would be preached to this thief, he would not automatically be saved in God’s kingdom.

Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 138:58–59 aloud, and ask the class to follow along, looking for what the thief and others in spirit prison would have to do in order to be redeemed.

  • What would the thief, or any other spirit in spirit prison, need to do in order to be redeemed?

  • What will happen to those spirits who repent and accept the temple ordinances performed on their behalf? (Spirits “who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the [temple],” be cleansed through the Atonement, and “receive [their] reward” [D&C 138:58–59].)

  • What can we do to help those spirits who, like the thief, need to be redeemed? (We can complete family history work and participate in temple ordinances for the dead.)

Summarize Luke 23:44–56 by explaining that the Savior died on the cross after He said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (verse 46). Joseph of Arimathea then wrapped the Savior’s body in linen and laid Him in a tomb.

Conclude by testifying of the truths you discussed in this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Luke 22:34. “Father, forgive them”

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency stated one reason why we too should forgive those who offend us:

“We must forgive and bear no malice toward those who offend us. The Savior set the example from the cross: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34). We do not know the hearts of those who offend us” (“That We May Be One,” Ensign, May 1998, 68).

While serving as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder David E. Sorensen taught that when we forgive others, we let go of the past and move with faith and love into the future:

“When someone has hurt us or those we care about, that pain can almost be overwhelming. It can feel as if the pain or the injustice is the most important thing in the world and that we have no choice but to seek vengeance. But Christ, the Prince of Peace, teaches us a better way. It can be very difficult to forgive someone the harm they’ve done us, but when we do, we open ourselves up to a better future. No longer does someone else’s wrongdoing control our course. When we forgive others, it frees us to choose how we will live our own lives. Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies, and we can focus on the future with God’s love in our hearts” (“Forgiveness Will Change Bitterness to Love,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 12).

Luke 23:7–12. “He answered him nothing”

Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote about the exchange between the Savior and Herod:

“Herod began to question the Prisoner; but Jesus remained silent. The chief priests and scribes vehemently voiced their accusations; but not a word was uttered by the Lord. … As far as we know, Herod is … the only being who saw Christ face to face and spoke to Him, yet never heard His voice. … For Herod the fox He had but disdainful and kingly silence. Thoroughly piqued, Herod turned from insulting questions to acts of malignant derision. He and his men-at-arms made sport of the suffering Christ, ‘set him at nought and mocked him’; then in travesty they ‘arrayed him in a gorgeous robe and sent him again to Pilate’ [Luke 23:11]. Herod had found nothing in Jesus to warrant condemnation” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 636).

Luke 23:7–34. The Savior’s response to those who mistreated Him

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared these thoughts on how we might follow the Savior’s example when other people criticize or persecute us:

“When we respond to our accusers as the Savior did, we not only become more Christlike, we invite others to feel His love and follow Him as well.

“To respond in a Christlike way cannot be scripted or based on a formula. The Savior responded differently in every situation. When He was confronted by wicked King Herod, He remained silent. When He stood before Pilate, He bore a simple and powerful testimony of His divinity and purpose. Facing the moneychangers who were defiling the temple, He exercised His divine responsibility to preserve and protect that which was sacred. Lifted up upon a cross, He uttered the incomparable Christian response: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34).

“Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But to ‘love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]’ (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage” (“Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 72).

Luke 23:31. The green tree and the dry tree

“The ‘green tree’ described in Luke 23:31 represents the time of Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry. The Savior’s statement implied that if the oppressors of the Jewish people could carry out such evil acts (see Luke 23:28–30) at a time when Jesus was among them, they would do much worse things to the Jewish people after He was gone—a time represented by the ‘dry tree.’ The Joseph Smith Translation adds a sentence to this verse (see Luke 23:31, footnote b), which describes the destruction that would occur after the Savior’s death” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 188).

Luke 23:46. “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the importance of the Savior’s final words on the cross:

“When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was ‘finished’ [see John 19:30]. Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness, and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ [Luke 23:46]” (“None Were with Him,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 88).