Luke presents a more well-rounded picture of Jesus’ crucifixion than Matthew and Mark because he describes not only the people who persecuted Him, but also the people who mourned for Him. Luke records that “there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him” as He carried His cross (23:27). There is also more detail about the two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus; Matthew and Mark don’t mention that one of them changed his mind and defended Jesus. Finally, after Christ’s death, Luke writes that “all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts” (23:48).
However, the onlookers’ sympathy and sorrow did not translate into action. “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!'” (Luke 23:35). The people stood silently and watched as Jesus was tormented by His enemies. They were sad to see the Christ suffer but not willing to act in response. The only one — the only one — to speak up for Jesus was the miserable thief crucified next to Him.
This cuts me to the heart because I see myself among the crowds. I watch safely from the comfort of my easy life as the kingdom of God is advanced by blood and tears. I hate the comfort that surrounds me and to which I cling. I hate the cold and gray deadness my heart often feels toward my crucified Lord.
Last weekend, while I was down in Washington, D.C., I stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and reflected on how I would react if God brought the United States of America to an end. I was saddened to find that the thing which worried me the most was not an end to the beautiful things of our nation — freedom, equality, and justice — but an end to the comfort and ease that it affords. I cling fiercely to the lethargic state of mind that I hate so much.
Jesus calls us to suffer — to identify with Him. But I can barely convince myself to kneel down in prayer and worship Him each day. I say this with a great deal of shame. May God have mercy on me, and like the dying thief, may I be crucified with my Savior.