This chapter begins the last main section in our outline of Luke's gospel.
- The beginning - 1:1-3:38
- Jesus in Galilee - 4:1-9:50
- Jesus facing Jerusalem - 9:51-18:30
- Jesus entering Jerusalem - 18:31-21:38
- The Consummation - 22:1-24:53
We will now examine Luke's description of events from the preparation of the Passover to Jesus' second appearance before Pilate.
Jesus' Final Hours with the Apostles – Luke 22:1-62
The first thing to notice about the entire "Consummation" section is that Luke's gospel has very little original information exclusive to his record. Only Jesus' brief appearance before Herod is found only in Luke's gospel. Everything else from Luke 22:1-24:53 is also found in Matthew, Mark and in some instances in John as well since John was an eye-witness of these events. John could be writing from his memory of events or sampling key events from Matthew, Mark or even Luke's record since John wrote his gospel last.
Preparing the Passover (22:1-13)
1Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. 2The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people.
- Luke 22:1-2
In two simple verses Luke establishes both the time of the year and time in Jesus' ministry arc.
1. Time of year: Feast of Unleavened Bread - Passover
It was the time in the year and festival calendar for Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread which are mentioned together but are separate things. The Passover observance was limited to one 24-hour period and it commemorated the night when the angel of death struck down every first born human and animal in Egypt but spared the Jews who were living in slavery there at that time (Exodus 12:1-14). God had warned the Jews of this event and promised that every family that sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial lamb on the doorposts of their dwellings, and ate the sacrificial meal in the safety of their homes, would be spared. When the angel of death came and saw the blood of the lamb, he would "pass over" that house and not exact judgment.
When the Jews were freed from slavery, God commanded Moses to instruct the people to commemorate this incident by sharing a Passover meal consisting of the same elements that they had eaten on the original night: the sacrificial lamb, the unleavened bread (unleavened because in their haste to leave Egypt there was no time for the bread to rise as in the normal baking process), bitter herbs were herbs that had a harsh or bitter taste (chicory, wild lettuce, coriander, dandelion), these were eaten as a reminder of the harsh treatment the Jews experienced in Egyptian captivity.
Later on, when the Jews arrived and settled in the Promised Land, several cups of wine were added to the meal symbolizing the happiness and prosperity of the Promised Land.
The meal was conducted as a ceremony with the father or chief person leading the people around the table (he would first eat of the meat and they would follow; he would dip the unleavened bread into the bitter herbs and they would do likewise; he would take his cup of wine and offer a blessing and the others would Amen and drink). In a family situation at some point a younger person would ask the father to explain the meaning of the meal and this would permit the leader an opportunity to teach the family about the history and significance of this commemorative event.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was part of the Passover commanded by God and fell on the day after Passover. The day before Passover was known as the day of Preparation where the Jews prepared for both the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread by cleaning their homes, preparing the lamb and meal, and removing all forms of leaven in the house. Leaven signified decay and sin, and this exercise reflected a person's desire to root out and eliminate sin in their lives.
14'Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. 15Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.
- Exodus 12:14-15
For seven days after the Passover the people celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread with convocations at the temple and refraining from eating bread with leaven. These were the first feasts given to the Jews to celebrate in the first month of their religious calendar (Nissan=March/April).
Luke situates the time of year (spring) and religious significance against which the following events would take place: Jewish Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread (a time when Jews recalled their rescue by God and their devotion to purity and obedience to the will of God).
2. The Arc of Jesus' Ministry
Luke describes the intent of the Jewish religious leaders and their motivation. They planned to have Jesus killed since they had failed in trying to debate Him, humiliate Him or trap Him in some inconsistency. They feared that continued unrest among the people would lead to their rejection in favor of Jesus, or a military solution imposed upon them by their Roman superiors. Either way, Jesus and those who followed Him jeopardized their positions. Their firm intent to have Him killed meant that His teaching and performance of miracles were about to end and the final stage of His ministry that included His death, burial and resurrection was about to begin.
In verses 3-6, Luke shows that the plot to kill Him was gaining momentum as Judas, succumbing to his doubts and greed, joined forces with the Jewish leaders in the plan to arrest Jesus.
They were glad and agreed to give him money.
- Luke 22:5
Note that in verse 5, Luke reports two things:
- The plotters were glad. They rejoiced in the plan.
- The leaders agreed to give Judas money. This was his idea and Matthew tells us that he was paid right then and there.
Judas then attended the Passover meal with the money in his bag, seeking at this point how he would betray the Lord.
In verses 7-13, Jesus sends only two to prepare the lamb because Temple rules limited the number of those who presented Passover lambs to two persons. Peter and John's sense of self-importance may have been heightened because of their selection to carry out this task, and set up the room and seating arrangements for the meal. We get a hint of this later on when a dispute arises among the Apostles about rank and position.
The Lord's Supper (Luke 22:14-23)
14When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 17And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; 18for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes."
- Luke 22:14-18
Once again Jesus reminds them of His imminent death linked so closely to the symbolism of the Passover meal. He was the true sacrificial lamb whose blood would shield all believers from final and eternal death. He was eager to eat this particular Passover meal because it was to be the last symbolic meal preparing the people for the true lamb sacrificed for sin.
Note that the Lord takes a cup of wine and gives thanks. This was one of the four or five cups shared where the father or host would offer a blessing which Jesus does.
19And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 20And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
- Luke 22:19-20
There are three main teachings about the meaning of Jesus' words regarding the Lord's Supper (Communion) here:
A Catholic teaching says that the bread and wine are miraculously transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ, only the appearance of bread and wine remain. This teaching stems from the words in verse 19 where Jesus says, "This is my body" and in Matthew 26:28, "This is my blood." Roman Catholics interpret these expressions literally.
A primarily Lutheran teaching which says that the bread and wine at communion remain physical elements but the body and blood of Jesus co-exist with the bread and wine at communion. Based on the same premise (this is my body, blood) with a different conclusion (originally developed by Martin Luther).
A simple ritual with bread representing Jesus' body, and wine His blood, taken to remember His sacrifice for believers. This teaching based on verse 19, "Do this in remembrance of Me." In this verse we have both the command (do this) and the reason (in remembrance). We reject the other two reasons because they are based on faulty understanding of Jesus' use of metaphors in His teaching method. He said, "I am the door" in John 10:7 and "I am the vine" in John 15:5. Did He literally mean that He was a wooden door or a plant? In the same way, the Lord uses the bread and wine as metaphors for His body and blood offered on the cross, a sacrifice we as Christians remember each Lord's day (Sunday) by partaking of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine.
In verses 21-23, Luke summarizes the reaction of the Apostles when Jesus declares that there is a traitor among them. He spends little time reviewing the response of the Apostles and departure of Judas preferring instead to devote a long passage to a dispute among the 11 (Judas having left before the Lord's supper was given, John 13:30).
Who is the Greatest (22:24-38)
This section begins with a dispute about who is the greatest among the Apostles, an argument that could have been caused by Peter and John's seating arrangements (since they set the table and places). They may have taken the most honored positions for themselves: to the right and left of Jesus.
Again, Luke summarizes Jesus' repeated teaching on this topic: that in the kingdom the greatest are the least and those who serve others. In verses 28-38, He reassures them that they are destined for greatness in the kingdom of heaven but before that happens, Peter will be tested by Satan and will ultimately deny Jesus. He also tells them that they will be without His protection and He will be killed.
The Passion, Part I – Luke 22:39-23:25
Once Jesus and the remaining 11 Apostles leave the upper room and head for the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord's "Passion" begins.
The term Passion comes from the Latin word Passionem (suffering/enduring) and is used to refer to His suffering and death on the cross. There are 10 major events that occur during Jesus' Passion:
- Jesus prays in Gethsemane
- Jesus' betrayal and arrest
- Peter's denial of Jesus
- Jesus before Annas, before the High Priest Caiaphas and other Jewish leaders
- Jesus before the Governor, Pilate - 1
- Jesus before King Herod
- Jesus before the Governor, Pilate - 2
- Jesus tortured and bears the cross
- Jesus' death on the cross
- Jesus is laid in the tomb
We will briefly review the events from the Garden to Jesus' final appearance before Pilate which ultimately led to His condemnation and death. We will then conclude our study of Luke's gospel in the next and final chapter.
1. Gethsemane (22:39-46)
Luke provides an abbreviated version of this event which mentions only one rebuke to the Apostles for sleeping and not the three described by Matthew (Matthew 26:36-46). Luke is the only gospel to record that His sweat turned into drops of blood (hematidrosis) and that an angel appeared to comfort Him in this hour of trial. The point to note here is that this was a test of faith and obedience for Jesus' human nature, not His divine one. The human part of Jesus had to accept the will of the Father.
2. Jesus' Betrayal and Arrest (22:47-53)
Judas, accompanied by a great number of soldiers along with a crowd of onlookers, makes his way to the spot in the garden where Jesus and His Apostles are located. The traitorous Apostle steps forward to kiss Jesus (a pre-arranged sign to point out the one to be arrested). Lenski, the Greek commentator, writes that the verbs which Matthew and Mark use to describe the kiss suggests that Judas was repeatedly kissing Jesus. Luke notes that Jesus offers Himself to His captors (to protect the Apostles with Him) even as they make an attempt at defending Him. John says that Peter struck Malchus, the High Priest's servant and cut off his ear. Luke reports that Jesus then healed this slave of his injury (verse 51).
Jesus' only response to Judas is to question the method and seriousness of his treachery; you betray the Son of Man (divine Messiah) using a false act of love and friendship: a kiss? This was both a comment and judgment on Judas.
3. Peter's Denial (22:54-62)
Peter, along with another disciple (unknown) follow the soldiers and the crowd to Caiaphas' courtyard to witness the interrogation of Jesus by the High Priest and other leaders. Peter is in danger because he is a known Apostle and because he injured the High Priest's slave. He is also vulnerable because his Galilean accent gives him away as one from the same region as Jesus. As the Lord predicted, Peter denies his knowledge of and association with Jesus when pressured by different people in the courtyard. That night two of Jesus' Apostles actually denied Him and the other 10 ran away in fear. However, only one of the deniers would eventually be restored and I'll explain why at the end of this chapter.
4. Jesus Before Caiaphas and the Council
63Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him and beating Him, 64and they blindfolded Him and were asking Him, saying, "Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?" 65And they were saying many other things against Him, blaspheming. 66When it was day, the Council of elders of the people assembled, both chief priests and scribes, and they led Him away to their council chamber, saying, 67"If You are the Christ, tell us." But He said to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe; 68and if I ask a question, you will not answer. 69But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." 70And they all said, "Are You the Son of God, then?" And He said to them, "Yes, I am." 71Then they said, "What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth."
- Luke 22:63-71
There were two sessions of the Sanhedrin/Council (71 elders, judges and priests) required when deciding capital cases (involving the death penalty) and these sessions were to be separated by a one day recess.
John 18:13 says that Jesus was first questioned by Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the High Priest, who had previously served as high priest. Luke only records the two illegal meetings where Jesus was not only charged but was also mocked and tortured by actual members of the Sanhedrin. It's as if the judge in a trial permitted the jury to make fun of and torture the accused in open court.
Both meetings were illegal for many reasons, here are two:
- They were held in the middle of the night. This was not permitted according to law.
- They did not allow a 24-hour recess between the first and second meeting where the death penalty was pronounced.
Both Matthew and Mark record that many false witnesses and accusers were brought forward, but Jesus remained silent throughout the trials and abuse. Only when directly asked if He was indeed the Messiah did Jesus reply in the affirmative because even though His opponents and Apostles denied Him, He could not deny this truth about Himself, even if it meant His sure death.
5. Jesus Before Pilate - 1
Having obtained the evidence necessary for an execution according to Jewish Law (Jesus claiming that He was the divine Messiah), the Jewish leaders bring Jesus to Pilate (since only the Romans could carry out an execution).
1Then the whole body of them got up and brought Him before Pilate. 2And they began to accuse Him, saying, "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King." 3So Pilate asked Him, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?" And He answered him and said, "It is as you say." 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no guilt in this man." 5But they kept on insisting, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place." 6When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that He belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time.
- Luke 23:1-7
The accusations and lies rehearsed at the trials before the Sanhedrin are now repeated before the Roman Prefect or Governor of the province of Judea, Pontius Pilate.
- Pontius - His family name from a tribe in south-central Italy.
- Pilate - His title, procurator - someone employed by the Roman Emperor to manage finances and taxes.
Pilate finds no grounds for execution but recognizes that a decision for or against Jesus will cause trouble either way, so he hands the matter off to Herod, a subordinate ruler (tetrarch=ruler of a quarter) who was responsible for the northern region of Galilee where Jesus was from.
6. Jesus Before Herod (23:8-12)
Herod was not interested in judging or executing Jesus for similar reasons that Pilate had. After all, Jesus came from the north and His base of support was there as well. Herod was curious to see a miracle but when Jesus refused even to answer any of his questions, Herod had him mocked and abused, and sent back to Pilate.
7. Jesus Before Pilate - 2
13Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14and said to them, "You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. 15No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. 16Therefore I will punish Him and release Him." 17[Now he was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.] 18But they cried out all together, saying, "Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!" 19(He was one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection made in the city, and for murder.) 20Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, 21but they kept on calling out, saying, "Crucify, crucify Him!" 22And he said to them the third time, "Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him." 23But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail. 24And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted.
- Luke 23:13-24
Luke is fairly dispassionate in his record describing, as a journalist might report, the three attempts by Pilate to set Jesus free and each time being overruled by the Jewish leaders and the rabble they had assembled. Luke presents the events of the trial but makes no mention of motives other than the fact that by Law, Jesus was not a candidate for execution. He leaves to Matthew the observation that Pilate knew that the Jews were trying to have Jesus executed out of envy. He describes a Roman official who gives in to the mob's demands out of a desire to curry favor with the people (Mark 15:14) and fear that the Jewish leaders would cause trouble for him with his superiors in Rome (John 19:12).
In keeping with his factual style, Luke summarizes the outcome of this momentous event with a few simple words.
And he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will.
- Luke 23:25
We will review the last three events in the Passion narrative in the next chapter.
Coda: the difference between Judas and Peter.
1. Judas - This Apostle's denial and betrayal of Jesus was motivated by disbelief (he did not believe Jesus was the divine Messiah) and greed (he wanted compensation for his evil deed). Because he had no faith, his remorse led to despair and its natural end: suicide.
2. Peter - Peter's denial of Jesus was caused by fear (threat of arrest and death) and pride (he thought he was strong). His sorrow and repentance led to restoration because despite his human weaknesses, he believed.
Faith is what determined the outcome of both Judas and Peter, and will do so for the outcome of our lives as well.