The religious leaders who had been plotting against Jesus found their opportunity when Judas Iscariot approached them with an offer to betray Jesus. Judas wanted the money. The Passover was held on the 15th of Nisan (March-April) in the Jewish calendar and was immediately followed by the seven day festival of unleavened bread, sometimes also called Passover. The evil one had previously tempted Jesus and had been waiting for this opportunity. Jesus celebrated the traditional Jewish Passover but transformed it with reference to His own sacrificial death as the Passover lamb. He also prepared His disciples for His coming death and the leadership role they would assume over His church. The Passover lamb was sacrificed at twilight and Passover was celebrated in the evening. Jesus instructed the disciples to look for a man carrying a jar of water. This would have been an unusual sight because it was the women who carried water. Jesus and His disciples shared the Passover meal, with Jesus taking an old and traditional meal and turning it into something new…the new covenant. This celebration has as its goal the Messianic banquet. Jesus’ death as the true Passover lamb inaugurated the kingdom of God that will be complete at the second coming of Jesus. Using the bread and cup as symbols of His body and blood, Jesus instituted the communion service that the disciples were to practice in remembrance of His death.
God’s covenants in the Old Testament were confirmed with the blood of a sacrifice. Jesus’ death established the new covenant that God had promised His people. It was His blood that was the blood of this sacrifice. Though wicked men betrayed and killed Jesus, it was part of God’s sovereign plan to accomplish salvation. Judas suffered guilt, condemnation, and a gruesome death for betraying Jesus. The friends of the people referenced in verse 25, translates a Greek word that refers to the practice of rulers bestowing gifts and favors on their subjects to gain loyalty and honor. Jesus contrasted the world’s leadership style; military power, coercion, and bribery, with His own servant leadership in sacrificing Himself for others. Jesus defined true leadership as service, meeting the needs of others and empowering them to be all that God has called them to be. This statement was striking in a culture for which status and power were central to everything. Jesus promised the disciples future blessing and authority. The disciples were promised a seat at the banquet of victory and the right to help Jesus rule over Israel on His return.
Jesus predicted Peter’s denial though Peter denied vehemently that it could happen. He began by telling Peter that the evil one had asked to sift the disciples like wheat. Wheat was sifted through a sieve to separate the grain from the chaff. It is an image of extreme testing, not only for Peter but for all of the disciples. But in verse 32 the you is singular, and it refers to Peter restoration after his denial of Jesus. Peter was sure he could bear what Jesus could bear and that he could suffer any trials that came along. Peter would indeed end up in prison, and he would be crucified in Rome. And Jesus predicted Peter’s three time denial. We read earlier that Jesus sent the disciples and told them to take nothing extra with the. As they traveled. They were to depend completely on the hospitality of the people and of the Lord. Now Jesus is urging them to take money and a travelers bag as well as a sword. Going to Israel’s villages was pretty safe but now the disciples would be traveling farther away and the days would be dangerous, both inside of Israel and without. The sword was probably metaphorical. Jesus wouldn’t call for His followers to take up arms. They were to prepare for the rejection that would come. The disciples misunderstood Jesus’ instructions about the swords and indicated they had two weapons with which to fight.
Notice that Luke tells us that Jesus went as usual to the Mount of Olives to pray. Maybe Jesus and the disciples went there often and Jesus prayed. It could be that the disciples often fell asleep there so the night of Jesus’ betrayal didn’t seem any different to them. They fell asleep while Jesus waged one of the hardest battles of His human life. Jesus felt all the emotions of His humanity, including fear and anxiety. It is Luke who records that there in the garden angels came and ministered to Jesus. His agonized prayer is contrasted with the disciples failure to be vigilant against temptation. After Jesus is arrested He is taken to the house of the high priest. It could have been Caiaphas the current high priest or Annas the former high priest. Peter had followed along at a distance and was now warming himself at the fire with everyone else. Peter had a Galilean accent and the people around the fire thought he was part of Jesus’s entourage. Peter denied he knew Jesus; once, then again, and finally a third time. When he denied knowing Jesus for the third time the rooster crowed…and Jesus looked right at Peter. This passage always makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Imaging having been so boastful as Peter and then failing. Jesus is mocked and beaten repeatedly over the course of His “trial” . The Sanhedrin had met and found Jesus to be guilty of blasphemy. However, they could not administer capital punishment so they had to involve the hated Romans. First Jesus was taken to Pilate and then Herod, and back to Pilate. Jesus admitted to being the Son of God. Herod was anxious to finally meet Jesus because he too was hoping for a miraculous show, just like many of the people who had followed Him. Jesus stood silent before Herod. For once Herod and a Pilate were on the same page but only because they both hated the Jews and they weren’t too crazy about Jesus either. Pilate did not want to be involved in the judging and sentencing of Jesus. He believed Jesus to be innocent and he spent hours looking for ways to free Him. But Pilate was also afraid of the Jews and he didn’t want a riot on his hands so he acquiesced, set Barabbas free, and handed Jesus over for crucifixion.
Crucifixion had become a spectator sport. The crowd roared its approval at Jesus’ sentencing. People lined the Via Dolorosa to watch and jeer at Jesus and the other two criminals. Even as Jesus was being led to His death He was warning the people of the horrors that would come in 66-70 A.D. It would be better to be childless than to watch the children starve to death. Death would be better than the extended agony and suffering the people would experience. And if the Romans would crucify an innocent man when the tree was green; in other words during a time of relative peace, what more horrible things would they do when the tree was dry. That means the land had become a tinder box of revolution. During the siege of Jerusalem the Romans crucified thousands of Jews outside of the city. Jesus was executed with two criminals, one on each side of Him. Jesus could have called down legions of angels to smite those who had abused Him and were crucifying Him. Instead He forgave all of them. The crowds continued to mock Jesus. But this day was a significant day. They were approaching the sabbath and Jewish law stated that bodies had to be buried before sundown. Jesus died quickly but He had been beaten to within an inch of His life before He was nailed to the cross. The two criminals had their legs broken to hasten their death. In many cases no one came to claim the bodies so the Romans took them down off the cross and tossed them over the hill onto an ever increasing pile of corpses and bones. One of the criminals saw who Jesus was and asked that Jesus remember when He came into His kingdom. Jesus’ response? Today you will be with me in Paradise. It was dark for three hours, symbolizing both sorrow and judgement. Perhaps it was during those three hours that Jesus drank the cup and His cry that it is finished meant he had withstood the wrath of God’s cup so our sins would be forgiven. The temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. This symbolized a renewed access to God the Father through the death of Jesus the Son. Jesus gave up His Spirit and died. The centurion on duty proclaimed that this was the Son of God and the man was innocent. The soldiers who worked at Golgotha that day were probably never the same again. All the people watching went home in great sorrow.
Joseph of Arimathea, who was a closet believer in Jesus, went to Pilate to ask permission to take Jesus’ body down and bury it. Usually the Romans liked to leave the bodies on the cross until they were rotting. It was part of the horror of crucifixion. But Pilate knew Jesus as innocent and he also knew that Joseph was a man of influence and prestige in the Sanhedrin. It was almost time for the sabbath and Joseph had to hurry. The women who had been at the foot of the cross watched Joseph as he took Jesus down, wrapped Him in a cloth and placed Him in a brand new tomb. The women would come back after the sabbath and give Jesus the attention He needed for a proper burial.
The women were the first at the tomb as soon as the sabbath was over. The women were the first to hear the announcement that Jesus was not there but He had risen. The angels announced that Jesus was not there but had been raised from the dead. The women didn’t need to anoint Him! The women returned from the tomb with their news, and the disciples didn’t believe them. That was not uncommon in that day. Women were not considered reliable witnesses and therefore they couldn’t be trusted to bring correct information. Peter went to the tomb to check it out and found things just as the women had shared. Verses 13-34 are Luke’s most important contribution to the resurrection account. Two of Jesus’ followers had been in Jerusalem for the Passover and had witnessed all that had happened. Now they were heading home. No doubt their heads hung down and their shoulders slumped. Jesus joined them as they walked, asking questions. God kept them from recognizing Jesus. It seemed they were the only people in Jerusalem who had not heard about all that had happened to Jesus.
In Luke’s gospel Jesus is often portrayed as a prophet. The disciples were certain He was. But the leading religious authorities had been threatened by Jesus’ power and had turned Him over to be crucified. These disciples were absolutely crushed that Jesus wasn’t the one they had thought. But as they walked Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from scripture the things concerning Himself. When they arrived at their village they invited this man to spend the night with them. It wouldn’t be safe to travel in the dark. They sat down to eat and Jesus took the bread and blessed it and their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. And He disappeared. Then Jesus appeared to the disciples and they were shocked and awed. To prove He was not a ghost Jesus asked for, and ate fish. Then Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to understand the scriptures. Luke ends with Jesus promising the disciples that they were to stay put because He would send the Holy Spirit just as God the Father had promised. But they were to stay in Jerusalem until that happened. After that Jesus led them to Bethany, blessed them and ascended into heaven. The disciples spent every day in the temple filled with great joy. They spent all of their time in the temple praising God for all He had done. The disciples sorrow over Jesus’ death had been totally reversed. Now they awaited the promise of God with joy. Luke’s account continues with the Book of Acts. There He records the disciples’ initial response to Jesus’ commission to preach to all nations.
In His Grip