Luke 22-24 22:1-6 The conspiracy to kill Jesus As Passover nears, and Jerusalem is filled with Jewish pilgrims and themes of liberation from bondage, the religious leaders at the Temple want Jesus eliminated “because they feared the people.” Jesus was seen as the possible leader of an uprising. At the same time, we know from Mark that they didn’t want to arrest Jesus in public during Passover because that could ignite the people as well (Mark 14:2).
An important part of the Passover was the killing of the paschal lambs for the Passover meal (look ahead to Luke 22:7) – Jesus’ death in this context reminds us of John the Baptist’s acclamation of Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
At this time, the Apostle Judas, who has come under the influence of Satan, goes to the religious leaders and agrees to betray Jesus to them in a way that meets their needs, that is, “in the absence of a crowd.” They agree to pay him for this. The Gospel of John tells us that Judas was a leading voice among those angered by the expensive ointment that a woman used to honor Jesus rather than selling it to raise money for the poor (John 12:4-5; Luke 7:37-39; Matthew 26:6-16). John also goes on to say that greed was a motive; Judas kept the Apostles’ funds and used to steal from them.
The overall picture of Judas is of someone who wanted to be good and noble, but was undone by his character flaws, which gave Satan the ability to manipulate him. Later, Peter will say that Judas’ fate fulfilled Old Testament prophecies in Psalms 69 and 109 (Acts 1:15-20).
22:7-38 The Last Supper Verse 7 establishes the message of an appointed sacrifice – the lamb (notice how Luke uses the singular there) “had to be sacrificed” at this time. Jesus is about to fulfill the entire sacrificial system.
Jesus sends Peter and John to set up the Passover meal. They will find a guide who will lead them to a house, where the owner has already been moved to set aside a special room for them. These anonymous characters are fascinating – had Jesus spoken with them during his time in the city, or did they receive visions like Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, Simeon and Anna around the birth of Jesus at the start of Luke? We don’t know from the text. Also, the man carrying a jar of water is easy to spot – usually women would be doing that job so a man would stick out to Peter and John.
Jesus and the 12 Apostles are reclining at a table. This was typical in those days – the table was low and people sat on cushions around it.
At verse 17, Luke notes the passing of a first cup of wine, as a kind of farewell gesture. None of the other Gospels mention this.
Verses 19 and 20 are “The Words of Institution.” We say a version of them every Sunday at the altar. In the global Anglican Communion, Resolution 11 of the Lambeth Conference of 1888 says that these words are essential in valid celebrations of Holy Communion – “The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself--Baptism and the Supper of the Lord
--ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.”
In verses 21-23, Jesus warns of his coming betrayal by one of the Apostles. In the other Gospels, this takes place before the sharing of the bread and cup. The Apostles wonder which of them it could be…
…but in verse 24, they quickly shift into an argument about which of them will have top spots in the (earthly) kingdom they think that Jesus is about to start. Jesus corrects them, telling them to serve one another. Then he reassures them that because they are with him, they will all be honored in the Kingdom that the heavenly Father will establish.
In verses 31-34, a similar discussion of correction and reassurance is offered to Peter. Jesus foretells that Peter will deny him, but also that this is a “sifting by Satan” which will cause temporary pain but be overcome by Jesus’ prayers in advance. Because Jesus has prayed for Peter, the denial will not stop Peter from emerging later as a servant-leader of the Apostles.
In verses 35-38, Jesus announces that his coming arrest will fulfill Isaiah 53:12, in which God’s suffering servant must be “numbered among transgressors” (that is, treated as a criminal.) He emphasizes this by telling his disciples to carry all the supplies upon which they had relied upon God while traveling with him – personal money bag, supplies and even a sword for self-defense. This overturns his instruction in Luke 9:3 – he must be numbered among worldly sinners rather than “saints” in order to fulfill the prophecy.
22:39-53 Jesus’ prayer and arrest on the Mount of Olives After the Passover meal, Jesus and the Apostles cross the Kidron Valley to the east of Jerusalem and go up on the Mount of Olives. As his friends grow drowsy, he prays in great anxiety, asking if it is possible to get out of the suffering that is coming. His sweat is “like great drops of blood.” This can be symbolic language (“like”), but there is an actual condition called “hematidrosis” in which extreme duress can cause capillaries to burst and blood mingles with sweat. In either case, it is clear that Jesus must fight through great inner agony to complete his mission.
Verses 47-53 detail the arrest of Jesus. Judas leads an armed group into the garden (a grove of olive trees). These are likely Temple Police, an armed Jewish unit permitted by the Romans to maintain security and order within the Temple. A servant of the High Priest is among them, indicating that the religious leaders are intimately involved in the operation.
The Apostles are willing to fight for Jesus, and one injures the High Priest’s servant. Jesus tells them to stand down, heals the injured man, and says that for the moment, “the power of darkness” is in charge.
22:54-71 Jesus under custody and trial by the religious leaders Jesus is taken back into Jerusalem.
Verses 54-62 contain one of the most heartbreaking scenes in Scripture, as Peter summons the courage to go into the hostile environment where Jesus is being held, but loses his nerve and denies knowing his Lord. His bitter tears are familiar to all Christians with experience of intending to do the right thing but failing in the face of opposition or temptation. Later, Paul will write, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19) As our Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Common Prayer reminds us, repentance is not for IF we fall into sin, but “whenever” we do. We all have our Peter moments. Remember the reassurance that Jesus gave Peter at the Last Supper, though – “I have prayed for you.” Jesus is greater than our failures. The Temple Police abuse Jesus overnight (verses 62-63). Luke acknowledges that Jesus is divine, calling their abuse “blasphemy.” Blasphemy refers to insults/disrespect toward God. Ironically, when his religious trial is held in the morning, Jesus is declared guilty of blasphemy because he claims to be the Son of God (verses 66-71). 23:1-5 Jesus’ first appearance before Pilate The religious authorities have no power to formally execute Jesus, and handing him over to a mob for stoning works against their desire to keep a lid on things in Jerusalem. So they hand him over to the Roman Governor, Pilate, who can crucify people. Notice in verse 5 how they drop their concern about religious matters (for which the Romans cared little) and instead portray Jesus as a threat to public order. 23:6-25 Jesus sent to Herod, then a second appearance before Pilate Pilate doesn’t really want to deal with what seems to him a trivial matter, and as an “out” sends Jesus to the Jewish regent-king (a nominal Jewish king under Roman authority) to see if the problem can be taken off his hands. Herod wants to see Jesus work some signs but is quickly disappointed. In verses 11 and 12, he puts Jesus in fancy clothing to mock his “kingship,” and sends him back to Pilate. Pilate is so amused by this cruel gesture that it actually helps thaw out his previously frosty relationship with Herod. Nevertheless, Pilate is a stickler for Roman rules and finds no capital offense. He wants to have Jesus flogged and released. The religious leaders and a growing crowd of supporters continue to call for crucifixion, the humiliating Roman form of punishment which will also allow the religious leaders to claim some bit of legal distance from the act (“It was a Roman decision, after all.”) They ask clemency for Barabbas, a Jewish rebel leader, and the crowd becomes increasingly loud. Pilate, influenced by the demonstration, gives in and sentences Jesus to die. 23:26-49 The Crucifixion Luke records Simon of Cyrene being forced to help carry the cross, and also Jesus’ short, painful conversation with the women of Jerusalem, warning them of worse times to come for the city (the Romans besieged Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple after a Jewish uprising in 70 AD). Jesus is crucified between two criminals (more fulfillment of Isaiah 53:12). Luke tells us Jesus’ words of mercy for those who killed him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (23:34). Luke alone relates the conversation between Jesus and the two crucified criminals, one of whom joins in the general mockery of the Lord and the other who is penitent and asks Jesus for mercy. The latter receives the promise, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (verse 43). (It is the church’s understanding that our spirit appears before God immediately, while our mortal remains do not – spirit and “resurrection body” are made complete when Jesus returns to bring the new heavens and new earth. Thus we can say that someone is “in heaven” even as we put flowers on the grave that holds their earthly body.)
In 22:53, Jesus said that “the power of darkness” was in charge when he was arrested. Beginning in 23:44, as Jesus is on the cross, darkness takes over, even though it is midday (the “sixth hour” is Noon – six hours after sunup.) The sky darkens from Noon – 3 pm. The great curtain that covers the Holy of Holies in the Temple rips. As Jesus dies, commending himself into the Father’s hands, the Roman officer in charge of the execution detail and even many in the crowd recognize that Jesus did not deserve death. The women who had followed Jesus from the beginning of his ministry in Galilee stay close. 23:50-56 The burial of Jesus Joseph of Arimathea, a religious leader who was sympathetic to Jesus, sees to his burial. The women who had followed Jesus note the location, and go to prepare materials for proper reverence to his body. They must delay a day before going back, because the Sabbath is under way and no work can be done. 24:1-12 The empty tomb When the woman come to the tomb, it is open and there is no body. Two angelic figures tell them that Jesus is risen from the dead, and remind them of his earlier promises to do so. The women report this to the Apostles, who do not believe them, although Peter at least goes and sees the empty tomb and starts to wonder. 24:13-35 The appearance on the road to Emmaus Jesus appears to two disciples who have given up on his cause and are heading home. Remarkably, they cannot recognize him. (The Bible is always mysterious about the resurrection body). He challenges them by pointing out all of the Old Testament prophesies about how the Messiah would have to suffer and face rejection. Because it is near dark, the two urge the “stranger” to shelter with them for the night, which would be the normal and safe thing to do. As they sit to eat, Jesus blesses and breaks bread, they recognize him, and he disappears. The get up, even though it is dark and dangerous for travel, and go back to Jerusalem. They tell the Apostles what’s happened – that Jesus has appeared to them. It is revealed (v. 35) that Jesus has appeared to Peter (Simon) as well. 24:36-49 The risen Lord appears Jesus joins the gathering and reassures them. He shows them his wounds from the crucifixion and he eats with them. He “opens their minds to understand the scriptures” (verse 45 - aren’t you glad you’re in Bible Study?), commissions them to be his witnesses in the world (verses 47-48), and promises them that they will be receiving divine power for the work (verse 49). They are to wait in the city (Jerusalem) until this takes place (this will be revealed in Luke’s second book, Acts, about the Day of Pentecost). 24:50-53 The Ascension Jesus takes them outside of the city, blesses them, and then ascends into heaven. They return to Jerusalem to begin the wait for divine power – but their waiting is active, “continually in the Temple blessing God.” They pray thankfully and expectantly, knowing that Jesus has always fulfilled all of the promises of the Old Testament and those that he spoke to them in his earthly ministry.