OceanSide church of Christ

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The Taunting, The Thieves, and The Thick Darkness

Matthew 27:39-45; mark 15:29-33; Luke 23:39-45

Victor M. Eskew




A.    In our previous lesson, Jesus was crucified between two thieves.


B.      The chief rulers and soldiers mocked and ridiculed Jesus.


C.     He spoke His first of seven sayings.  He said:  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).


D.    Mark’s gospel reveals that the crucifixion began about “the third hour” (Mark 15:25).  In our lesson this evening, we will examine the events that took place between the third and sixth hour that Friday.


E.      Our series is entitled:  “The Sayings of the Crucifixion.”  Our subtitle is:  “The Taunting, The Thieves, and The Thick Darkness.”


I.             THE TAUNTING (Matt. 27:39-44; Mark 15:29-32)


A.     Matthew and Mark record the taunting of the crowd that assembled at the base of the cross of Calvary.


B.      The Antagonists:  There were three main groups of people who are mentioned.

1.        “And they that passed by reviled him” (Matt. 27:39; Mark 15:29).

a.       Jesus had been crucified just outside the gates of the city of Jerusalem.

b.      Those coming in and out of the city would have been able to make a quick detour and see the criminals who had been crucified that day.

c.       Remember, Pilate wrote the accusation that was put above the head of Jesus in three languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, so that all who passed by could read it.

d.      Both Matthew and Mark note that they were “wagging their heads.”

a)      To wag the head means to shake the head.

b)     They not only mocked Jesus with their words, but also with their body motions.

2.       “Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes, and elders…” (Matt. 27:41; Mark 15:31).

a.       These should have been the greatest allies of Jesus. 

1)       They studied and knew the Law.

2)      They should have been the first to recognize that the claims of Jesus were true.

b.      They had become Jesus’ greatest enemies.  In fact, they were responsible for Jesus’ being on the cross.

3.       “The thieves also which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth” (Matt. 27:44; Mark 15:32).

a.       These men were guilty of the crimes they committed.

b.      Even if Jesus were a criminal, they should have been sympathetic to the end that Jesus was suffering, but they were not. 


C.     The Articulations:

1.        A point made previously (Matt. 27:39; Mark 15:29-30)

a.       Jesus had been involved in His earthly ministry for 3 to 3-1/2 years.

b.      Many of the Jews had heard Jesus on previous occasions. 

c.       One of the statements Jesus made was now used against Him.


Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself.

d.      Jesus had made this statement after His first cleansing of the temple (John 2:19).

1)       Jesus spoke of the temple of His body (John 2:21).

2)      The Jews thought He was referring to Herod’s temple which had taken 46 years to build.

e.       After all of this time, they still did not understand His words. 

1)       If you can destroy the temple and build it in three days, surely you can save yourself from this cross.

2.       The proclamation made plainly (Matt. 27:40, 43).

a.       One of the bold claims of Jesus is that He was the Son of God.

b.      The Jews understood that this meant that He was claiming to be deity.

c.       Thus, they said:  “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

d.      If He were God, He had the power to take Himself off of the cross. 

e.       Why would the Son of God allow Himself to continue to hang and suffer on a cross.

3.       The practice made public (Matt. 27:42; Mark 15:31).

a.       Jesus had come into the world to save sinners (Luke 19:10).

b.      There were times when Jesus forgave the sins of others: 

1)       To the man sick of palsy, He said:  “Thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matt. 9:2).

2)      To the woman taken in adultery, He said:  “”Neither do I condemn thee” (John 8:11).

c.       If He could save others, surely He should be able to save Himself.

4.       The position made prominent (Matt. 27:42; Mark 15:32)

a.       As Jesus’ ministry developed, all came to know that He proclaimed to be the coming Messiah of the Old Testament.

b.      The Jews had been awaiting a king.  Jesus said that He was that King.

c.       Now, the rulers mocked Him, saying:  “Let Christ the King of Israel descend from the cross, that we may see and believe.”

d.      Again, His claims were great.  Thus, they challenged Him to prove to them that He was who He said he was.

5.       A particular made perpetually (Matt. 27:42)

a.       Jesus’ faith in His heaven Father is not something that was hidden from view.

b.      The Jewish leaders now us it against Jesus.

c.       “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him.”

d.      Little did these Jews know just how close the Father was to His Son (See Isa. 53:11).


He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied…


II.           THE THIEVES (Matt. 27:44; Mark 15:32b; Luke 23:39-42)


A.    As we enter into this point, remember that we are speaking of a time span of some three hours that all of these taunts of the people were cast upon Jesus.


B.      Matthew tells us that the thieves were doing the same thing (Matt. 27:44).


The thieves also which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.


1.        While the people and Jewish leaders were mocking Jesus, so were the thieves.

2.       Remember that they, too, were crucified with Jesus.

a.       They had nails in their hands and feet.

b.      To speak, they had to muster the effort to lift themselves to take in air and lower themselves to speak.

c.       Question:  Did their taunting of another make them feel better about themselves?


C.     Luke’s gospel is the only one that gives us a detailed account about the thieves.  In his narrative, something remarkable happens (Luke 23:39-42).

1.        The railing (Luke 23:39)


And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us.


2.       The repentance (Luke 23:40-41)


But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeking thou art in the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds:  but this man hath done nothing amiss.


a.       This thief’s repentance began with a recognition.

1)       He was a guilty criminal.

2)      Jesus was an innocent man.

3)      NOTE:  We do not know what caused this change of heart. 

a)      Could it have been the words that Jesus first spoke, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”?

b)     I heard a preacher on one occasion who said that the Greek language indicates that Jesus repeated these words over and over and over.

b.      His change of heart brought a rebuke upon the other thief. 

1)       “Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?”

2)      Repentance brings forth fruit.

3.       The request (Luke 23:42).


And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.


a.       The thief knew something about the kingdom.

1)       He could have heard the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus on the subject.

2)      NOTE:  He may have even been one of those in the past who had been baptized in the Jordan River (See Mark 1:5).  There is no way to prove this assertion, and there is no way to disprove it.

b.      Most likely he was of the opinion that the kingdom would be a physical kingdom. 

1)       He wanted to be a part of that kingdom. 

2)      It was a noble request based on his limited knowledge.

4.       The reward (Luke 23:43)


And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day thou shalt be with me in paradise.


a.       Up to that point in time, the thief’s end would have been torment

b.      Because of his faith, Jesus promised that he would be with Jesus in paradise.

1)       Paradise

a)      Strong (3857):  a park, an Eden, a place of future happiness

b)     Thayer:  a garden, a pleasure ground, the part of Hades which was thought by the later Jews to be the abode of the souls of pious until the resurrection

2)      In the unseen realm of the dead called “hades,” there are two compartments:  torments and paradise. 

a)      The evil go to torment and the righteous enter paradise.

b)     The thief was promised that he would be in paradise with Jesus.

c.       A faith only argument

1)       Those who believe in salvation by faith only constantly point to the thief on the cross as an example of salvation by faith only.

2)      Several answers:

a)      He was not saved by faith only.  He also repented.

b)     He may have been baptized with John’s baptism since he had knowledge of the kingdom.

c)      He was saved before the New Covenant came into effect.  It came into effect after the death of Jesus (Heb. 9:15-17).  The New Covenant does require baptism (Mark 16:16).

d)     While on earth, Jesus was free to forgive sins in any manner He desired (Matt. 9:6; Mark 2:10).


III.         THE THICK DARKNESS (Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44-45)


And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.


A.    The length of the darkness:  3 hours, from the sixth hour (noon) until the ninth hour (3:00 p.m).


B.      Darkness

1.        Definition:

a.       Strong (4655):  shadiness

b.      Thayer:  darkness, of night darkness

2.       It was a darkness that was not supposed to be present.

It was a darkness that fell when the sun was reaching its zenith.

It was a darkness that had to be a miracle.

It was a darkness that could halt much of the jeering that was taking place.

It was a darkness that would send many in the crowds to their homes.
It was a darkness that could have caused concern and fear in many.


C.     The extent of the darkness

1.        Matthew and Mark say the darkness was over “the whole land.”  Luke says that “there was darkness over all the earth.”

2.       Most commentators believe that the darkness was felt in the land of Judea, not the entire globe.


D.    A couple of thoughts:

1.        It is fitting that darkness prevailed on the land.  It was the darkest hour in the history of humanity.  The Son of God was rejected, and He was dying for the sins of the world.

2.       Robertson stated:  “One need not be disturbed if nature showed its sympathy with the tragedy of the dying of the Creator on the Cross (Rom_8:22), groaning and travailing until now” (e-sword).


E.      Luke adds another interesting fact to what happened when the darkness fell (Luke 23:45).


And the sun was darkened, and the vail of the temple was rent in the midst.


1.        This vail was the one the separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.

2.       Matthew and Mark put this event a little later.  Thus, we will come back to it then.




A.    We have seen mankind at his worst this evening.  People, religious leaders, and criminals all mocking and railing the Son of God.


B.      We have seen a human heart changed and brought to repentance.  The thief would die and be in the same comfort that Lazarus found himself in when he died (See Luke 16:25).


C.     We have seen a darkness rest upon a land, a darkness that was emblematic of the darkness of the event that was happening on that occasion, the crucifixion of the Son of God.