Luke 23:26-49 What Does the Cross Achieve?

26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’, and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

Luke 23:26-49 What Does the Cross Achieve?

Jesus is led away and another takes on his cross.  Maybe Simon of Cyrene is a picture of how multiple nationalities are involved in the crucifixion.  Jesus does not die alone in a corner, he is killed publicly in full view of many.  Various people had a hands-on involvement with what transpired.  They were physically touched with his blood and one man carried his cross.  This man was a north African and would have come from the area which is modern Tripoli.  Multiple races and ethnicities were touched by the event.  This probably lays the foundation for the response to Peter’s sermon on Pentecost.  People who had gathered from all over the world, would then spread the news of Jesus throughout the whole world.  Some people have condemned the Bible’s view of Jewish people, especially as portrayed in the New Testament.  However, if we see the different responses of the condemned on the cross we see one Jewish criminal responding with derision and another responding with acceptance.  No station in life, even that of a man during his execution, precludes him from Jesus’ acceptance.

Darrell Bock commentates on what was achieved by Jesus on the cross:

The New Testament uses many images to describe what the cross is and how we should see it.  It is a ransom (Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:6), a payment for the debt of sin.  It is a substitution – Jesus offers himself in our place (cf. the meaning of Barabbas in the previous sectin; see also Luke 22:18-20; John 6:51-52; Rom. 8:3; 2 Cor.5:21; cf. Isa. 53:10).  It is a propitiation, satsfying the justice of God by dealing with sin (Rom. 3:25).  It represents the “lifting up of Jesus,” and through it Satan is overthrown (John 3:14-15; 8:28; 12:31-32; 18:32).  It is the means by which the church is purchased (Acts 20:28).  It is the sacrifice that ends all other sacrifices for sin (Heb. 8-10).  It is the precursor to the Lord’s being lifted up and seated at God’s side (Acts 2:16-39; Heb. 1:3).  It is the basis on which God sets apart his children as a holy community (1 Peter 1:2, 18-25; 2. 1-11).  On the cross Jesus became a curse for us, a mediator of our guilt before God (Gal. 3:13, 19-20).  There reconciliation takes place between God and humanity, as well as between Jew and Gentile (Rom. 5:8-11; 2 Cor. 5:20-21; Eph 2:11-22; Col. 1:21-22; 2:11-15).  So God can now justify us, that is, declare us righteous before him (Rom. 3:21-31). 

This listing has a matter-of-factness about it that obscures just how amazing and comprehensive this work of Jesus is.  Each of the texts above is rich in imaging only one aspect of the complex work of the cross.

I was challenged recently to consider what Jesus finished on the cross when he said, “It is finished!”  I responded that atonement was my knee-jerk response.  However, atonement is not specifically mentioned in Darrell Bock’s list.  It seems that many of the precursors to atonement that ‘remove the offense’ were taken care of at the cross.  However, the challenge of a local I met in our Hidden Pearl Coffee Shop was,  “I have to take issue with the assertion that Jesus was meaning his work of atonement was completed.  Paul says in Romans 4:25 that Jesus was “raised for our justification.”  So, he could not be referring to the atonement.  The atonement could not be completed until his resurrection.”  So what do you think was finished when Jesus said, “It is finished!”?


That much was accomplished on the cross is without doubt in my mind.  However, I am still daily throwing my burdens and my varying moods at the foot of your cross.  I am bowed in awe by the fortitude of spirit that endures the cross.  I am grateful for all that is mine through the death and resurrection.  I am grateful for all that was removed through your death.  Sin still aches in my flesh, but I am free to nail it to your cross of burden.


  1. Who are the players around Jesus in this death scene?  Why are they there?
  2. What do Jesus’ words teach?
  3. What does the cross attain?
  4. How do you respond to the cross?
  5. What is achieved for the world today by the cross?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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