When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (Luke 23:33-38 NASB)
All of the Gospels compress details about the crucifixion. To understand what was meant by the term, crucifixion, the execution techniques of the Romans would need to be studied. The point of the writers is not in the details of what Jesus suffers, but how He suffers. The general approach, He was crucified, He was mocked, His clothes were divided among His executioners, all provide a picture of how He suffers. He forgives. Even as He is being tortured, He forgives.
Luke, with the other writers preserves the irony of the mocking, that He saved others, but now can’t save Himself. The reality that Jesus is dying to save the whole of humanity draws these comments from the ignorant people He’s dying to save. He suffers that too. He is suffering to save them, the ones mocking Him. And, in their mocking, dare Him to come down off the cross, an action that would have prevented their salvation.
The Romans put signs above those being executed listing their crimes. This was to be a deterrent to others who would commit the same crimes. Above Jesus’ head was “The King of the Jews”. It was in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. No one visiting for the festival could miss it. There, at the Passover, the pilgrims would know their King was being executed. And He was being executed because His people rejected Him. The Romans couldn’t care less, Jesus was just one less member of an unruly troublesome people. And so, they joined in the mocking of the condemned, the One dying for their sins.
The soldiers at the foot of the cross, the crowd witnessing the torture of the Son of Man, the ones looking on either close or from afar, it was for these Jesus dies. It was for the ones before He suffered. It was for us He was tortured to death. And still the world mocks. Where, among the crowds, are we? Weeping from a distance? Standing near enough to hear in shock? Or are we hiding our faces from what is happening? Are we in a room in Jerusalem as Jesus hangs on a cross, atop a skull, outside the walls?
Where are you? I’m weeping, but that’s what I do, I weep in His presence. It’s how I know I’m there.