Luke 23: 26-32 – Way of the Cross


The Lukan account does not mention the scourging or the mistreatment of Jesus by the Roman soldiers (cf. Mk 15: 15-20). The evangelist’s sensitivity and devotion do not permit him to retain the crude aspects of the Passion of Jesus. After Jesus was delivered up to the Jews (Lk 23: 24-25), the journey to the place of execution begins, according to evangelist Luke. Luke alone describes Jesus’ way to the Cross at some length. He begins his journey with Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross behind, and the multitude of people and wailing women accompanying. Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem and utters a prophetic statement concerning the fate of Jerusalem. The narrative ends with the notice that two criminals also were being led away to be put to death.

They led Jesus away (Lk 23: 26). Luke does not say that the Roman soldiers were the ones who led Jesus away to be crucified. The Lukan reference, most probably, is to the chief priests, leaders, and the people who demanded Jesus’ death and to whom Pilate handed over Jesus. Luke says that they laid the cross on Simon of Cyrene to carry it behind Jesus. It was the normal custom for a man condemned to death by crucifixion to carry his own cross to the place of crucifixion. Probably, Jesus was already too weak to be able to carry the cross. But the phrase “carry the Cross behind Jesus” is demanded of a disciple as it alludes to Jesus’ saying about discipleship (cf. Lk 9: 23; 14: 27). Simon thus becomes an example to all Jesus’ disciples. Mention is also made of mourning women who followed Jesus (Lk 23: 27). Their identity is not disclosed but the focus of attention is on their attitude.

The Lukan description of Jesus’ “procession” to the place of his death (Lk 23: 26-32) is striking contrast with his narrative of Jesus’ solemn procession and entry into Jerusalem in Luke 19: 36-38, 41-44. The contrast can be seen in the following layout:


Procession to the City of JerusalemLuke 19: 36-38, 41-44

Luke 19: 36-37 – Jesus solemnly enters the city of Jerusalem.

Luke 19: 38 – Jesus hailed and greeted as King.

Luke 19: 37 – The enthusiastic crowd rejoice and praise God.

Luke 19: 41-44 – Jesus prophetically forecasts the fate of the city of Jerusalem.


Procession of the CrossLuke 23: 26-31

Luke 23: 26 – Jesus is led out of the city of Jerusalem.

Luke 23: 26 – Jesus is condemned to be crucified as King.

Luke 23: 27 – Accompanied by a multitude and women who bewail and lament.

Luke 23: 29-31 – Jesus’ prophetic utterance about the fate of the city of Jerusalem.

At his solemn entry into Jerusalem Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, and addressed the city directly, foretelling its impending destruction (cf. Lk 19: 41-44). At his exit from the city on his way to the Cross, Jesus addresses the mourning women and foretells the fate of the city (Lk 23: 28-31). These women are not Jesus’ followers (cf. Lk 23: 55) but the inhabitants of Jerusalem – “daughters of Jerusalem.” Jesus’ words would probably mean: “do not weep so much for men as for yourselves and your children;” and this is because of the impending fate of Jerusalem. The saying in Luke 23: 29 has the form of a beatitude, but it reverses the normal Jewish belief that barrenness is a curse or a reproach (cf. Lk 1: 25). Here in Jesus’ saying is a blessing because of the impending disaster. The imageries in Luke 23: 30 are drawn from prophet Hosea 10: 8 and can be thought of as a wish to escape the disaster even by means of a natural calamity. The saying in Luke 23: 31, in the form of a proverb, is Jesus’ concluding comment and a warning. The meaning of this enigmatic saying is not readily understood. The contrast is between the green wood, which does not easily catch fire, and the dry wood which is easily combustible. The sense of the proverb may be understood as follows: if the green wood (the innocent Jesus) suffers so much, what will happen to the dry wood (the guilty Jews/people of Jerusalem)? In other words, the proverb can be understood as Jesus’ warning about God’s punishment on Jerusalem.


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