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By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2019

 

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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:

Quickly Understanding Luke

 

(Volume 2:  Chapters 21 to 22)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-One

 

 

 

God Admires Even More Than the “Big Dollar” Giver, the One Who Gives a Large Proportion of the Little They Have (Luke 21:1-4):  3Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box.  He also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.  He said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For they all offered their gifts out of their wealth.  But she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had to live on.”

 

 

            21:1     And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.  “Looked up” is language suggesting that something about it caught His attention.  Perhaps, in part, it was them doing it melodramatically to impress others at their generosity.  In the parallel account in Mark 14:41 we, not surprisingly, find the assertion of what is only implicit here:  “Many who were rich put in much” (“many of the wealthy threw in large sums,” Weymouth).  There was a profound contrast between them and those who were not well blest financially and were challenged to be able to give anything and Jesus saw an example of this before His very eyes. . . .

            Sidebar:  There were thirteen large chests built with trumpet-shaped openings placed in the Court of the Women through which one could “pour” the gifts.  Some were identified with designations committing certain chests to specific purposes.  The first explicit reference to such being done--and it mentions only one chest being used--was when Jehoiada was high priest and the money was specifically for repairing the Temple (2 Kings 12:9-12).

 

            21:2     and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.  These were monetarily insignificant coins.  The mite (λεπτόν) was the smallest current coin.  Two of these little pieces were the smallest legal offering which could be dropped into the ‘trumpet’ ” (Pulpit Commentary).  Today we would say, “she gave her last penny”--and she had done the ancient equivalent of exactly that.  But God does not judge generosity just by the amount but by the ability even more so.  Or as the apostle Paul said, “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12).  

 

            21:3     So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all.  Standing without an explanation that sounds like an absolutely absurd statement, but there is a very profound way in which it is also absolutely right. . . .

 

            21:4     for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”  It was not the amount that counted to Jesus but the proportion in comparison to her resources.  She had given literally everything she  had, while they had only given what they did not need; the donation would not hurt them in any significant way--if even that much.  For many of the wealthy the Temple gifts were nothing more than what we today would call “public relations contributions.” 

            They made the giver look good and feel good and impress the onlookers.  For them that was what giving was all about.  In the Middle Ages this kind of giving sometimes took the form of providing much of the financing for a new church facility--in which there would be a “shrine” devoted to their “blessed” memory.  Nowadays this is far more associated with giving to secular (but well meaning) charities and their “pay back” is laudatory newspaper coverage and even wider acceptance into the “best” layers of society.  But the mind frame behind it still hasn’t changed all that much.
 

 

Before the Fall of Jerusalem and the Destruction of the Temple, Various False Christs Will Arise and Wars Will Erupt (Luke 21:5-10):  Now while some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and offerings, Jesus said, As for these things that you are gazing at, the days will come when not one stone will be left on another.  All will be torn down!” 

So they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things happen?  And what will be the sign that these things are about to take place?”  He said, “Watch out that you are not misled.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’  Do not follow them!  And when you hear of wars and rebellions, do not be afraid.  For these things must happen first, but the end will not come at once.  10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” 

           

 

            21:5     Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said.  The temple was famed for its physical beauty--for the high quality of its stones and construction as well as the adornments that had been placed upon it.  Hence it was not surprising that some of those with Jesus were admiring it.  Whether it was their first visit or only the most recent, the hard work and craftsmanship would continue to impress.

            To them the language would be self-explanatory from what they saw in front of them and for decades later as well, but not so to us at a distance of two millenniums.  Beautiful stones” refers to the visually impressive ‘bevelled blocks of stone, of which some are described as having been forty cubits long and ten high; double cloisters; monolithic columns; alternate slabs of red and white marble” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).  The “donations” included such things “as the golden chain of Agrippa; gifts of Ptolemy Philadelphus, Augustus, Helen of Adiabene, and crowns, shields, goblets, &c.; the golden vine with its vast clusters given by Herod. . . .  Hence Tacitus calls it ‘a temple of immense opulence . . .’ ” (Cambridge Bible ). 

 

            21:6     “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”  This happened in 70 A.D. when the Romans had to militarily take the Temple and rout the final rebels against their regime.  If the rebellion had not lasted so long, if the rebels had not been willing to pollute what they claimed they regarded as holy, perhaps it would have been different . . . especially since the head of military operations--Titus--wished to spare it.  But by Divine foreknowledge Jesus knew it would not work out that way. 

            And the destruction affected not just the Temple itself.  Josephus, writing upon the utter demolition of the city and temple, says that, with the exception of Herod’s three great towers and part of the western wall, the whole circuit of the city was so thoroughly leveled and dug up that no one visiting it would believe that it had ever been inhabited” (Pulpit Commentary).

 

            21:7     So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be?  And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?”  This was not the kind of message any Jew wanted to hear.  So this was a natural question to raise.  And the natural one to accompany it was about what the indications (“sign”) of its nearness would be.  Using these questions as a jumping off point, Jesus describes the conditions that would arise between His own day and then. . . .  Carefully omitting any specific answer to the “date” question. 

            In a very real sense, these are far more important.  These are the direct evidences warning that the time is approaching.  A specific date can, in a very real way, be dismissed and placed in the back of the mind till a year or less ahead of the event.  But by emphasizing the signs pointing to it, those signs will be looked for and, when they occur, become renewed warnings that the fulfillment grows ever nearer. 

 

            21:8     And He said:  “Take heed that you not be deceived.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’  Therefore do not go after them.  Jesus stresses that there will not be merely a “sign” (they had used the singular tense in verse 7), but actually a number.  First would be individuals falsely claiming to have come “in My name” and He seems to have two categories of individuals in mind. 

            The claim “I am He” suggests individuals falsely claiming to be the Christ--either with Jesus particularly in mind or as the “real” Christ--i.e., deniers that Jesus had actually been such.  In contrast, “The time has drawn near” (when it hadn’t yet) suggests individuals falsely claiming to be His prophets or teachers.  There would be more than a few troubling events in the interim and some could easily be taken by these men as a clear indication that the worst was just about to occur--even though it wasn’t.  The mentality of trying to “outguess the Lord” still continues of the Second Coming:  In 75 years of life how many “the end is about to occur” have I lived through from pious but uninformed Biblical “interpreters!”  

 

            21:9     But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”  In addition to delusionary religious teachings (verse 8), there would be a number of “wars and commotions.”  These would be terrifying to those immediately affected but would provide no evidence that the Temple disaster was yet imminent (“immediate”).  This warning also shows that areas outside of geographic Palestine were going to be facing pain and suffering in the period leading up to the Jerusalem disaster.

            Sidebar on “commotions” [“tumults,” ESV; “disturbances,” NASB; “revolutions,” GW]:  akatastasias, conditions of instability and rottenness, the opposite to peace. . . .  Such commotions were the massacre of 20,000 Jews in their fight with the Gentiles at Caesarea; the assassinations or suicides of Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius; the [Roman] civil wars, &c.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)   

           

            21:10   Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  Again an emphasis on how the turmoils that would arise did not affect just Israel.  There would be bad times in a variety of places.  The Roman historian Tacitus wrote:  “It was a time rich in disasters, horrible with battles, torn with seditions, savage even in peace itself.” 

 

 

Before the Fall of Jerusalem, Major Natural Disasters Will Occur and Followers of Jesus Persecuted and Even Killed (Luke 21:11-19):  11 There will be great earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven.  12 But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 

13 This will be a time for you to serve as witnesses.  14 Therefore be resolved not to rehearse ahead of time how to make your defense.  15 For I will give you the words along with the wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 

16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will have some of you put to death.  17 You will be hated by everyone because of my name.  18 Yet not a hair of your head will perish.  19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.”  

 

 

            21:11   And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.  “Various places” provides an important interpretive clue:  Jesus is not talking just about the immediate geographic Palestinian area, but things that might occur anywhere in the known world.  Some of these would be clear cut “natural” phenomena like earthquakes, severe lack of food, and galloping disease.  The latter two would plague the world, either as the side effects of war or independently.  Furthermore there were phenomena that one simply didn’t know how to class:  “fearful sights and great signs” that were seen in the skies. 

            Sidebar on physical phenomena throughout the world in the years preceding the fall of Jerusalem:  Great earthquakes:  These seem to have been very frequent during the period; we hear of them in Palestine, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Crete, Syria.  Famines and pestilences:  The Jewish and pagan historians of this time - Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, and others - enumerate several memorable instances of these scourges in this eventful time.”  (Pulpit Commentary)

            Sidebar on the strange phenomena in Jerusalem in particular--As recorded by Josephus, the Jewish historian:  “There was a comet in the form of a fiery sword, which for a year together did hang over the city.  Before the first revolt and war, the people being gathered together to the feast of unleavened bread, on the 8th of April, at the 9th hour of the night, there was as much light about the altar and temple as if it had been bright day.  This remained half an hour.  At the same festival, the inner gate of the temple on the east side, being of massy brass, which required at least twenty men to shut it, was seen at midnight to open of its own accord.

            “Not long after the feast-days, on the 21st of May, before the sun set, were seen in the air chariots and armies in battle array, passing along in the clouds and investing the city.  And upon the feast of Pentecost, at night, the priests, going into the inner temple to attend their wonted service, said, they first felt the place to move and tremble: after that they heard a voice which said, Let us depart hence. 

            But that which was most wonderful of all, one Jesus, the son of Ananus, of the common people, four years before the war began, when the city flourished in peace and riches, coming to the celebration of the feast of tabernacles at Jerusalem, suddenly began to cry out thus: A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the temple, a voice against men and women newly married, a voice against all this people.  And thus crying, day and night, he went about all the streets of the city. 

            “[Josephus adds] that he was scourged by some of the nobility, but, without speaking a word for himself, he persevered crying as before; that he was carried before Albinus, the Roman general, who caused him to be beaten till his bones appeared.  But that he neither entreated nor wept, but, as well as he could, framing a weeping voice, he cried at every stroke, Wo, wo to Jerusalem that he went on thus crying, chiefly upon holydays, for the space of seven years and five months, till in the time of the siege, beholding what he had foretold, he ceased.  [And that then, once again going about the city, on the wall] he cried with a loud voice, Wo, wo to the city, temple, and people; and lastly he said, Wo also to myself.  Which words were no sooner uttered, than a stone thrown out of an engine [catapult] smote him, and so he yielded up the ghost, lamenting them all.  (Benson Commentary)  

           

            21:12   But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons.  You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.  Even before these things happened, the Jesus movement would have gone through persecution.  Some would have been tried in the self-governing synagogues and others would have been cast into prison by the government.  In the latter cases, some would be tried not just before comparatively anonymous political “nobodies” but before actual “kings and rulers” as well--all because of their discipleship to Christ.

            Before his conversion the apostle Paul built much of his reputation for hyper-orthodoxy by violently persecuting the Christians:  As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3).  He himself later spoke of “how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13).  He rightly describes himself as, at this stage, having been “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (1 Timothy 1:13).

 

            21:13   But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.  Rather than dwelling on the power of life and death these people had, they should look upon it as an opportunity to share what they knew and had seen in regard to Jesus.  Even the most influential in the world would get the opportunity to hear the word about Jesus directly rather than filtered through hostile enemies of His cause.

 

            21:14   Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer.  They should not dwell upon working out what they were to say to such people.  They should have confidence that the good Lord would not leave them bereft of His help and guidance.  He had stood by them so far and would continue to do so in the future.

            The apostles themselves had been taught, much earlier, the reason they would not have to worry about what they said:  Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.  For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-21).  Nor were they only ones in the New Testament we read of who was similarly blessed:  Of the opposition to Stephen in the New Testament we read, “Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.  And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6:9-10). 

 

            21:15   for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.  Instead of worrying, they should trust to the fact that Jesus would give them the words and insight which would be more than adequate to answer the arguments of their foes.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they will convince either their foes or the rulers, but that what they say will be quite adequate in any half-way fair judgment.  If anything else occurs it indicts the blindness of their foes and not their own defenses.

 

            21:16   You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death.  Betrayal due to enemies hardly comes as a surprise, but it can be ten times more painful when it comes from people you trusted and loved:  Parents and kin, more distant “relatives” and ones you once counted as close “friends.”  And from these most horrifying sources will come the unjust accusations and abuse that would cause some of them to unjustly die.

 

            21:17   And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.  In this kind of society in which the world has gone mad with anti-Christianity, it could hardly be shocking that there would be general hatred targeted at them because of their allegiance to Christ.  When Paul was tried before the Roman governor Felix, his prosecutor presented the public image Christianity’s foes had spread everywhere they could:  “We have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5).  Hence it is no surprise that the negative reputation of the movement was already in Rome before Paul arrived there:  “We desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere” (Acts 28:22).  

 

            21:18   But not a hair of your head shall be lost.  We have here a paradox:  Jesus has warned that some of them will--unquestionably--die (verse 16).  Yet in a very real way not even a hair of their head would be lost even if they did die, i.e., they could be absolutely certain they would survive death and enjoy the full rewards of their loyalty to the gospel.

            If one wishes to generalize this paradox from the specific theme that Christians would escape unharmed to the broader context in which the promise appears--the destruction of Jerusalem--that was also true:  This was strikingly fulfilled in the fact that in the calamities of Jerusalem there is reason to believe that no Christian suffered.  Before those calamities came on the city they had fled to Pella, a city on the east of the Jordan” (Albert Barnes' Notes).

 

            21:19   By your patience possess your souls.   “Patience” was to be the hallmark of their life.  They were to avoid panic and unthought out actions that could needlessly expose them to danger.  And without such patience how could they possibly be anything but miserable due to the hostilities facing them in their environment?

            Sidebar:  Most translations interpret “patience” as carrying the connotation of “endurance;” Weymouth embraces the use of both:  “By your patient endurance you will purchase your lives.”  Many translations also embrace that change at the end of the verse or an equivalent such as “gain your lives.” 

 

 

Before the Fall of Jerusalem, the City Will Be Surrounded by Hostile Forces; the Only Hope for Survival Will Be Rapid Flight (Luke 21:20-24):  20 ”But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.  21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.  Those who are inside the city must depart.  Those who are out in the country must not enter it, 22 because these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 

23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days!  For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people.  24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away as captives among all nations.  Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

           

 

            21:20   “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.  The first units arriving could only provide a token barrier to flight, then as numbers rapidly increased a porous “surrounding” of the city was “hardened” by the construction of physical obstacles.  The longer the process proceeded the less opportunity to escape.  But Jesus begins not with a reference to that stage but to what it foreshadowed--“prophesied, foretold,” if you wish--and that was the coming destruction of the city.  The Romans would take it if every Jew had to be killed and every building leveled.  Competing revolutionary factions would make it impossible to negotiate a surrender that would spare the city and these divisions severely hindered its actual defense.  Furthermore the most radical happily burned many of the food supplies lest their internal foes got to use them--the result being a drastic plummeting of the amount left for anyone. 

 

            21:21   Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 

Eusebius records this interesting remark in his Church History (3.5.3):  “But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella.”  This is specified as occurring “before the war.”  However true this may well be, when Jesus depicts the Roman invaders as both in the country (this verse) and surrounding the city (verse 20), this is clearly after the war has broken out.  How do we reconcile this data? 

            The war broke out in August/September of 66 and Jerusalem was not besieged until spring of 70.  Hence Eusebius can best be read as explaining why there would be few Christians left in the city rather than none.  However circumstances (such as business or poverty) likely caused some to remain while others could have been forced to sporadically return because of business or family affairs.  It is this remnant of believers that Jesus seems to have in mind in verse 21. 

            Indeed, not just those in the city but in the broader surrounding area of Judea also needed to flee.  The Romans weren’t in the mood to consider locals as “friendlies” and needed massive involuntary labor to help them construct the siege works.  That meant you if they saw you.  In a normal war-time situation, the natural thing to do was to take refuge behind the protective walls of a city.  In this case, it was the exact opposite of what needed to be done--if you wanted to survive.  

 

            21:22   For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  These would be the “days of vengeance” that would fulfill “all things” written in scripture about them.  This probably refers to the fact that the Old Testament repeatedly described the horrors of war being brought upon the land for the popular refusal to follow God’s laws and purposes--which, at this point, included embracing Jesus as the Messiah.  Indeed, Daniel 9:26-27 specifically links together the rejection of the Messiah and the destruction of the Temple:  He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.  And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate.”

 

            21:23   But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!  For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.  Those who were pregnant or nursing babies would be in particular danger because their condition would make successful flight all the more difficult.  Walking any distance would be difficult for the pregnant woman and if the baby cried out in hunger enemy soldiers might discover both mother and child.  Furthermore the war time pressures would add intense psychological burdens interfering with both.

 

            21:24   And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations.  And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.  Many would be killed by the invaders and many others taken away as slaves.  Josephus speaks of over a million perishing in the siege and the entire war as well as 97,000 being taken away as slaves.

            The final half of the verse can be interpreted in two ways:  Jerusalem would be controlled by the Gentiles until their time in God’s scheme was completed--whether in regard to the Roman control of the city or in a longer historical context.  Or God’s message originally was just to ethnic Jews (the Old Testament) but now (through the New Testament) the message is geared to anyone anywhere who will take the time to listen.  But the time will come when God’s patience has ended and it is time for judgment not only on the Jerusalem of that day but on the entire world as well.

 

 

Before the Fall of Jerusalem, Strange Visual Phenomena Will Occur and the People Will Be Terrified As They See “the Son of Man” Coming in Judgment (Luke 21:25-28):  25 And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth nations will be in distress, anxious over the roaring of the sea and the surging waves.  26 People will be fainting from fear and from the expectation of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power and great glory.  28 But when these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”   

 

 

            21:25   “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring.  The

words can be taken as a traditional rhetorical description of horrifying and overpowering disasters occurring; ones so intense that the mind and emotions can barely cope with them.  With this connotation such imagery can be found in both the New Testament (Revelation 6:12-17) and Old Testament prophetic literature:

 

                          And it shall come to pass in that day,’ says the Lord God, ‘That I will           make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight’ ”      [Amos 8:9]. 

                          And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:  Blood and             fire and pillars of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon      into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord’ ” [Joel     2:30-31] 

                        “ ‘I will also water the land with the flow of your blood, even to the        mountains; and the riverbeds will be full of you.  When I put out your light, I will        cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and       the moon shall not give her light.  All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, and bring darkness upon your land,’ says the Lord God.’ ”

            [Ezekiel 32:6-8]).

 

            Yet literal events were so horrifying and terrifying that they formed a temporal equivalent to such rhetoric:  Remember this was also the time of the “Year of Four Emperors”--actually the 18 months from June 68 to December 69--in which the Romans placed the Jewish Revolt more or less on the “back burner” as they tore up political and social stability in the rest of the Empire in order to determine who was going to get to be the next emperor. 

 

            21:26   men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  During the Year of Four Emperors the very survival of the Empire was challenged.  All the “certainties” of political and social life were shaken to the core.  People would give up hope due to their “fear” of what was already happening and what these implied as to the future.

 

            21:27   Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  While the Romans were destroying both their own and the Jewish world in geographic Palestine, Jesus Himself would be returning--not personally but in a visible and manifest display of His “power” and “glory” as He carried out punitive judgment on both sides.  We easily fall into the trap of thinking that this was simply a judgment on Jerusalem and the people of Israel, but was not the entire Roman Empire being shaken to its core also a judgment on the entire world as well?  Both had failed miserably.

 

            21:28   Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”  Hence the believers--distressed as they would be at what was happening to both the world in general and Jerusalem in particular--would also recognize the paradox in it:  it would be a time when their own “redemption draws near.”  Those locals who had used their religious differences to oppress them were having the foundation of their power destroyed.  Soon it would vanish and they would be saved/“redeemed” from its danger.

 

 

The Fall of Jerusalem and Triumph of the True “Kingdom of God” Will Occur in “This Generation” (Luke 21:29-33):  29 Then he told them a parable:  “Look at the fig tree and all the other trees.  30 When they sprout leaves, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near. 31 So also you, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.  32 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”   

 

 

            21:29-30    When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.  31 Then He spoke to them a parable:  “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.  When they looked at nature, they knew that things would occur in a certain order.  When they could see budding on fig trees and other trees, one automatically knew that summer was imminent rather than distant or at some unknown point in the future . . . and that the trees would inevitably be bearing their fruit not far off as well.  One inevitably followed the other. 

            Sidebar--The appropriateness of this illustration:  The addition is peculiar to St. Luke.  It confirms the impression that the words, which were spoken just before the Passover, when the flush of spring-tide life was seen in every grove and forest, were suggested by what met the eye of the disciples on the Mount of Olives” (Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers).

 

            21:31   So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.  In a similar manner to nature “predicting” the future from the trees budding, when they saw these disasters happening preceding the fall of Jerusalem they would be able to recognize that the triumph of the true “kingdom of God is near”--just as inevitably so as that trees bore fruit after they had started to bud and mature.  Its monotheistic rival was self-destructing in front of their eyes (so to speak) as the Temple was first besieged and then leveled.

            Sidebar:  If anything the wording in the account of this illustration in Mark makes it even more emphatic:  “It is near--at the doors!” (13:29). 

 

            21:32   Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.  Although this event was still in the future it was not but so far distant--only about forty years.  Hence, the current generation would still--in part--be alive when the destruction occurred.

 

            21:33   Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.  In contrast to Jerusalem--which would be destroyed--Jesus’ words would never “pass away.”  The Temple was both temporal and temporary; Jesus’ words were spiritual and eternal.  It would vanish, but His words explaining why it would vanish would not.

 

 

The Coming Catastrophe Will Be So Dangerous and Alarming That They Will Need to Take Special Steps Not To Be Emotionally Overwhelmed by the Danger and Fall into Moral Excess (Luke 21:34-38):  34 ”But be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day close down upon you suddenly like a trap.  35 For it will overtake all who live on the face of the whole earth.  36 But stay alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that must happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 So every day Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, but at night he went and stayed on the Mount of Olives.  38 And all the people came to him early in the morning to listen to him in the temple courts

           

 

            21:34   “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.  The length of time between the current day and these events held the danger of callousness setting in and the wilting away of the preparedness that was necessary.  Hence Jesus warned them not to let their hearts be burdened down with the excesses of “carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life”--things that could easily besiege and overcome many.  Followers of Jesus they might be, but they were still subject to normal human weaknesses.  And there are always pressures and difficulties, spiritual and temporal both, that will disturb the peace of mind and tempt one to “wash it all away” through excess.

 

            21:35   For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  The coming disaster represented a potential trap that could endanger all who lived in the entire land and, in some degree, to the rest of those alive on the “whole earth.”  War, especially prolonged and repeated wars, have an inevitable tendency to wear down the level of acceptable conduct in any society.  Even the one involving Palestine would have demoralizing effects on Jews throughout the world and encourage the worst behavior among Gentiles in their time of victory.  Not to mention the vast amounts of damage and blood shed by the Gentiles among themselves in the Year of Four Emperors (68-69 A.D.).  It was a time of repeated horror and despair--even among the victors.

 

            21:36   Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.  In light of these various dangers, the disciples were to stay constantly alert and to regularly pray that they be able to escape the calamity that was coming.  Their perseverance would enable them to “stand before the Son of Man” uncondemned and without censure.  In other words, they must be prepared to do so both during His ongoing evaluation of their behavior during their lives and also when they stand before Him at the final and great judgment day of all.  For every believer will be there, as the apostle Paul wrote:  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (1 Corinthians 5:10).

 

            21:37   And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet.  During the daylight hours of this final visit to the city, He repeatedly spent the time teaching and discussing various spiritual matters in the Temple complex.  At night He always left the city entirely and “stayed on the mountain called Olivet.”  Not that the location was generally known since it would be hard enough to follow someone through the mammoth crowds of Passover and even more so when one did not want to be followed by hostile foes.  (It is hard to believe anything other than it was His conscious intent to stay out of the sight of His enemies whenever He was not teaching.  To expose Himself to needless danger of arrest before it was time to bring everything to a final conclusion, would have been nothing less than folly, would it not?)  

 

            21:38   Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.  Again the Lord’s dedication to His teaching and preaching is stressed:  The cycle of teaching and resting outside the walls did not occur merely on one day, but was the pattern on several days during this final stay in Jerusalem (see below).  Nor was He one who took His teaching responsibilities loosely for He made it a point to be in the Temple “early in the morning” on each occasion in order to teach as many as possible.

            Sidebar on the chronology of this final week:  The notice is retrospective, applying to ‘Palm Sunday,’ and the Monday and Tuesday in ‘Passion Week.’  After Tuesday evening He never entered the Temple again.  Wednesday and Thursday were spent in absolute and unrecorded retirement, perhaps with His disciples in the house at Bethany, until Thursday evening when He went into Jerusalem again for the Last Supper.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)  Some of this time may have been in the Garden of Gethsemane as well:  Consider John 18:12:  “. . . Jesus often met there with His disciples.”   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Two

 

 

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus Away From the Admiring Crowds (Luke 22:1-6):  1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.  The chief priests and the experts in the law were trying to find some way to execute Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 

Then Satan entered Judas, the one called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.  He went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers of the temple guard how he might betray Jesus, handing him over to them.  They were delighted and arranged to give him money.  So Judas agreed and began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus when no crowd was present.        

           

    

            22:1     Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover.  Luke explains the feast not in terms of its significance to the Jewish community but by its most distinctive characteristic from the standpoint of outsiders--as a period in which leavened bread was prohibited.

            Sidebar on terminology:  This little explanation shows most clearly that Luke is writing mainly for Gentiles.  Strictly speaking the Passover was not co-extensive with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as is clearly stated in Numbers 28:16-17, ‘In the fourteenth day of the first month is the passover . . .and in the fifteenth is the feast’ (Leviticus 23:5-6). . . .  See on the Passover, Exodus 12:11-20.  The Jews of later ages had gradually assumed that a wide difference was intended between the ‘Egyptian passover’ and the ‘permanent passover.’   (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

            22:2     And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.  At this most holy time of the year, the minds of the religious leaders was not on the importance of what was being observed but upon their religio-political need to preserve the power and prestige of their leadership; it was being quite  successfully undermined by this Galilean “upstart.”  The ultimate solution to any problem is to remove it and, when it comes to a human being, to remove it by force.  Vile as such action would be, against less popular individuals it could have been arranged with adequate planning. 

            But Jesus’ great popularity made the open and blunt application of such power impractical.  They recognized, as we today would say it, that “they were playing with fire.”  And the retributive “fire” of mass anger could stop the arrest from being carried out--much less an actual execution.  So they are faced with the very real problem of how do you judicially murder someone in a city full of those sympathetic to His cause.  They found that there was a way and the weakness of one of Jesus’ own apostles would be the tool. 

 

            22:3     Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.  At this time Satan successfully overcame any reservations of the apostle Judas Iscariot and motivated him to betray the Lord.  Satan did not force him to do so; rather he played on his weaknesses and delusions and Judas convinced himself that this was, indeed, the best course.

            Luke does not try to rhetorically hide the significance of this betrayal.  He bluntly lays out the fact that this is one of that special cadre of twelve leaders the Lord had selected.

            Sidebar:  If one wishes a compact reconstruction of how Satan’s encouragement and Judas’ moral weaknesses interacted to produce his betrayal decision, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges makes itself quite useful:  It began in avarice, disappointment, and jealousy; and, when he had long weakened his soul by indulgence in these dark, besetting sins, the imaginary loss of the ‘300 pence’ of which he would have had the disposal (John 12:4-5; Mark 14:10), — the now undisguised announcement of our Lord that He should be not only rejected, but crucified (Matthew 20:19)—the consequent shattering of all Messianic hopes—the growing sense that he was becoming distasteful to his Master and his fellows—the open rebuke which he had drawn on his own head by his hypocritic greed at Bethany (John 12:6)—the rumored hostility of all the most venerated authorities of the nation—all these formed the climax of his temptations:—and then, at last, the tempting opportunity met the susceptible disposition.”

 

            22:4     So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them.  There are “formalities” that must be gone through even for a betrayal.  The two sides must meet and come to an agreement so that there will not be last minute confusion as to what is going on.  The emphasis was not on the “whether” but on the “how”--how to do it in a way that the protective multitudes would not be around (verse 6).

            At this point Jesus and His apostles may well have been residing in a home in Bethany, but there was no guarantee that He would remain there.  It was about two miles outside the city and somewhere closer was far preferable for the arrest.   

 

            22:5     And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.  In light of the danger of a daytime arrest in the presence of large pro-Jesus crowds, the opportunity for a covert capture was hugely appealing.  The fact that the person doing it was one of the inner circle assured that the information would be reliable.  They would have been “glad” to make arrangements with anyone but someone this much of an insider was worth in convenience and safety many times what they were actually offering to pay him. 

            Luke does not bother to tell us how much money was promised.  That fact is actually secondary to the more important truth that he was willing to take a bribe at all. 

 

            22:6     So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.  The actual betrayal and arrest would occur when a good opportunity came.  In this case, a good opportunity meant away from the multitudes that thought so highly of Him.  How quickly this situation would arise was unknowable so the enemies of Jesus did not arrange the details of the prosecution until they had Him safely in hand.  (Word might have leaked out as well.)  Then they would have to move just as quickly lest the arrest stir up a public hue and cry before they could complete their actions. 

            In short, “necessity” motivated the apparent aberrations from Sanhedrin court procedure that are found in the trial and prosecution.  These were numerous and have been discussed by varied commentators.  In all fairness, we do not know whether they all  actually dated back to the time of Jesus nor whether some were more in the line of idealistic guidelines than always actually adhered to.  Even if they did try their best to adhere to them, the intense time pressures under which they were operating inevitably “compelled” them to “short cut” the expected routines.  After all, the execution had to be safely behind by the time of the Passover.  To leave Him rotting in confinement and facing execution the day afterwards was to court nothing short of massive rioting if not outright insurrection.

 

 

Peter and John Sent by Jesus to Prepare the Final Passover (Luke 22:7-13):  Then the day for the feast of Unleavened Bread came, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us to eat.” 

They said to him, “Where do you want us to prepare it?”  10 He said to them, “Listen, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters, 11 and tell the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” ’  12 Then he will show you a large furnished room upstairs. Make preparations there.”  13 So they went and found things just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

 

 

            22:7     Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed.  The day now arrived for the preparations for the Passover--called the “Day of Unleavened Bread” because every piece of leaven was systematically removed from the household.  It was also the day for the killing of the Passover lamb--an essential prerequisite for the observance that would occur that evening.

 

            22:8     And He sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.”  Since the group celebrating the event was going to consist just of the apostles, it was natural that two of those He was closest to would be tasked with making the arrangements.  Only this gospel tells us which two they were.  The arrangement also helped keep Judas from knowing the location beforehand.

 

            22:9     So they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare?”  This shows us that they knew of no specific prearrangements that had been made.  Yet if Jesus had somehow made arrangements about the donkey he had rode into town on, it would be quite natural that He had taken measures for this as well.

 

            22:10   And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters.  He provided neither name nor location.  He simply noted that when they entered Jerusalem they were to follow the first male they saw carrying “a pitcher of water.”  This would stand out, since water carrying was normally done by the women. 

            Sidebar:  That such a man would be the specific individual who would take them where there was available space would seem to require a miracle of foreknowledge since Passover brought such huge crowds that to find one of the few places still left with space would have been extraordinarily difficult otherwise.  If we work from the scenario that this was actually an “early” Passover--the gospel of John depicts how the religious leaders wanted to get the crucifixion over after this observance and before the Passover they planned on observing (cf. John 13:1; 18:28; 19:14)--the odds would be much better but still far too low to occur just by chance. 

 

            22:11   Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”   When the water carrier reached home, they were to tell the owner of the house, that “the Teacher” wished to observe the Passover there.  Either “Teacher” is code language for Jesus in particular--because the language is superb for describing Him to a disciple or because the room had previously been arranged privately by the Lord--or it is invoked simply because it would be a special honor to have anyone recognized as a religious teacher hold the Passover in their home.  

 

            22:12   Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.”  This room met the needs on the grounds that it was (1) “large” enough to hold their group of thirteen and (2) “furnished” with items to make the observance practical:  Carpets, couches, etc.

            Sidebar:  The house which possessed so large an upper chamber must have been one of considerable size, and evidently belonged to a man of some wealth and position, possibly to Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathaea.  That it perhaps belonged to Mark’s family has also been suggested. It had evidently been prepared beforehand for the purpose of the feast, in obedience to a previous direction of Jesus.  ‘Furnished’ (ἐστρωμώνον,) applies specially to carpets spread over the couches for the reception of guests.  [Implied:]  ‘In this large upper chamber thus prepared,’ said the Lord, ‘make the necessary arrangements for the Paschal Supper; procuring and preparing the lamb, the unleavened bread, the herbs, and other customary dishes’ [as the next verse indicates they did.]  It seems probable that this ‘large upper room,’ evidently belonging to a disciple or at least to one friendly to Jesus, was the same room which, in the happier hours after the Resurrection, witnessed the appearance of the Risen to the eleven, and, later, the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.”  (Pulpit Commentary)

 

            22:13   So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.  For folks like you and I this procedure would have produced nothing, but for the Lord everything worked perfectly.  But He had miraculous powers and was ordained by the Father for His redemptive mission to earth.

 

 

The Lord’s Supper Established to Remember Jesus’ Life and Death (Luke 22:14-20):  14 Now when the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table and the apostles joined him.  15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 

17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves.  18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  19 Then he took bread, and after giving 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.”  20 And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

 

 

            22:14   When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.  Passover was not a solitary event.  It was for the entire family or group that chose to observe it together.  “The hour” the observance began was much earlier than most probably assume today:  If the meal was intended to be directly Paschal, this would be ‘between the two evenings’ (Exodus 12:6); a phrase interpreted by the Jews to mean between three and six, and by the Samaritans to mean between twilight and sunset.  Probably Jesus and His disciples, anxious to avoid dangerous notice, would set forth towards dusk” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).

 

            22:15   Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  Jesus had especially wanted this final opportunity of observing the Passover with them because He knew that the worst of His sufferings would begin all too soon.  His enemies would have loved to deny Him this opportunity and He clearly counted it as a victory that they weren’t able to succeed.  Even if it meant doing it a day earlier than they would.

            Sidebar:  “ . . . The Lord and the twelve sat down, or rather reclined on the couches covered with carpets, the tables before them laid with the dishes peculiar to the solemn Passover Supper, each dish telling its part of the old loved story of the great deliverance.  There was the lamb the Paschal victim, and the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread and the reddish sweet conserve of fruits - commemorating, it is said, by its color the hard labors of brick making, one of the chief burdens of the Egyptian bondage - into which [Jesus] dipped the sop, and gave it to the traitor-apostle (John 13:26).  The Lord reclined, probably, at the middle table; John next to him; Peter most likely on the other side; and the others reclining in an order corresponding more or less closely with the threefold division of the twelve into groups of four.”  (Pulpit Commentary) 

 

            22:16   for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”  The symbolism of the Passover lamb was “fulfilled in the kingdom of God,” i.e., the symbolism of the lamb of God being broken for the people of God.  After His death there would no longer be a need for Him to participate for the liberation from captivity to sin that it had foreshadowed had been completely accomplished through His own sacrificial death:  The original Passover had resulted in physical death “passing over” the people; the Passover role carried out by Jesus resulted in spiritual death being removed from the shoulders of the people.

            Sidebar:  The Benson Commentary suggests:  until, &c. — That is, it will be the last time I shall eat with you before I die.  The particle until, used here and Luke 22:18, does not imply that, after the things signified by the Passover were fulfilled, in the gospel dispensation, our Lord was to eat the Passover [again].  It is only a Hebrew form of expression, signifying that the thing mentioned was no more to be done for ever.”

 

            22:17   Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves.  This is apparently one of the ceremonial passings during the Passover observance since the cup drinking that uses the Lord’s Supper rhetoric does not come till later (verse 20).

            Sidebar:  How Passover was observed:  “The main customs of the Jewish Passover are as follows:—(1) Each drinks a cup of wine—‘the cup of consecration’—over which the master of the house pronounces a blessing.  (2) Hands are washed, and a table carried in, on which are placed bitter herbs, cakes of unleavened bread, the Charoseth (a dish made of dates, raisins, and vinegar), the paschal lamb, and the flesh of the Chagigah or feast-offering.  (3) The father dips a morsel of unleavened bread and bitter herbs, about the size of an olive, in the Charoseth, eats it with a benediction, and distributes a similar ‘sop’ to all present.  (4) A second cup of wine is poured out, and the youngest present asks the meaning of the service, to which the father replies.  (5) The first part of the Hallel (Psalms 107—114) is sung.  (6) Grace is said, and a benediction again pronounced; after which the father distributes bitter herbs and unleavened bread dipped in the Charoseth.  (7) The Paschal lamb is eaten, and a third cup of wine handed round.  (8) After another thanksgiving, a fourth cup—the cup of joy—is drunk.  (9) The rest of the Hallel (Psalms 115-118.) is sung.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

            22:18   for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  This would be the last time, He stressed, that He would be partaking of the fruit of the vine prior to the arrival of the kingdom of God.  Since “the fruit of the vine” was regularly consumed--and not just on ritual occasions--this reinforced even more its imminency.  And the closeness of His own death.  “The kingdom of God” here refers not to its establishment but to the arrival of its redemptive power through the shed blood of the Lord.  

            Sidebar:  Although we do read of Jesus eating after His resurrection to prove He had been resurrected (Luke 24:36-43) we, oddly (?), read no reference to His ever drinking anything.

 

            22:19   And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the future the bread was to be broken and partaken of “in remembrance of Me”--of His life, of His death, of His triumph over death.  In remembrance of anything and everything about Jesus.

            Sidebar:  In Matthew 26:26 and Mark 11:22 it is recorded that He “blessed” the bread; both Luke and Paul (1 Corinthians 11:23-24) say He “gave thanks”--showing the two expressions are synonymous.  In both Matthew and Mark “gave thanks” language is used of the fruit of the vine--again indicating the two expressions are intended as synonyms.

 

            22:20   Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.  Note the touch of chronology:  The Supper was instituted “after [the Passover] supper.”  The cup was to be looked upon as “the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”  Just as the first covenant had been sealed by blood so was this one.

            Those ultra-literalists who claim the communion bread literally becomes the flesh of Jesus and the fruit of the vine becomes the literal blood have an obvious problem here:  “this cup is the new covenant in My blood.”  Obviously that has to be figurative or symbolic language; why then would the blood become literal?  Symbolic language designed to carry deep spiritual truth is hardly difficult to find in the Scriptures:  Compare ‘I am the door,’ John 10:7.  ‘That rock was Christ’ 1 Corinthians 10:4.  ‘The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?’  1 Corinthians 10:16.” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

            Sidebar on “the new covenant in My blood:  i.e. ratified by my blood shed for you.  The best comment is Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 9:18-26; 1 Corinthians 11:25.  The other Synoptists have ‘my blood of the New Testament.’   (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)   

 

 

The Apostles Are Warned That One of Them Will Betray Jesus (Luke 22:21-23):  21 But look, the hand of the one who betrays me is with me on the table.  22 For the Son of Man is to go just as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”  23 So they began to question one another as to which of them it could possibly be who would do this.

           

 

            22:21   But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table.   “Betrayal” was hard enough for them to fathom.  Now they had to deal with the shocking assertion that it would be one of their own inner circle.  Having worked together for a long period of time, they were well aware of each other’s weaknesses and faults by now.  But this?

            John 13:18 quotes the Psalms as having special reference to the betrayal of Jesus by a close associate:  Even my own familiar friend [close, ESV, NIV] in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (quoting Psalm 41:9).

            Or if you wish a longer and even more emphatic statement of the same truth and why the closeness of the betrayer had to hurt the Lord even more:  For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it.  Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him.  But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance.  We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng” (Psalm 55:12-14).  

 

            22:22   And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”  Leaving the identity of the betrayer unsettled and unspecified, Jesus stressed that His own death had been “determined”--determined by God’s will.  Or as the apostle Peter publicly preached less than two months later:  Men of Israel, hear these words:  Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:22-24).   

            Although the betrayer was thinking he was furthering his own interest, he was simply the human mechanism to accomplish the death that God Himself viewed as essential for the redemption of the human race.  This did not lesson his guilt, however, since no one had forced him to do it.  It had been his own voluntary decision.  Just as it had been the voluntary decision of the religious leaders who ramroded the conviction through over the severe reservations of the unconvinced governor.

            “Woe to that man by whom He is betrayed”--sometimes the very ambiguity and broadness of such language conveys a threat of retribution more intense than if it were spelled out in intimate detail.  Although the language has Judas specifically in mind, yet it was also a “betrayal” by the religious authorities of every obligation they had.  Hence it seems inescapable that He viewed them also under Divine retaliation as well.  There was a “woe” coming on them as well.  

 

            22:23   Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing.  Jesus had repeatedly proved Himself quite reliable, so there was every reason to believe He would be here as well.  Accusations of one against another are not mentioned.  With so little to go on, their response surely consisted mainly of horrified exclamations of everyone asking--probably simultaneously--whether they were the guilty one (Matthew 26:21-23; Mark 14:18-20).  And then looks of shock and horror on their faces as they were given no answer.  John and Peter later discretely asked who it was and received a visual answer in response (John 13:21-30).

 

 

The Apostles Argue About Which Is the Most Important (Luke 22:24-30):  24 A dispute also started among them over which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.  25 So Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’  26 Not so with you; instead the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves.  27 For who is greater, the one who is seated at the table, or the one who serves?  Is it not the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

28 You are the ones who have remained with me in my trials.  29 Thus I grant to you a kingdom, just as my Father granted to me, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” 

 

 

            22:24   Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.  Somehow they managed to leap from the sadness and bitterness of Jesus’ death to a “dispute” as to which of them “should be considered the greatest” of their number.  Although this was not the first time they had argued over this subject (we find an earlier case in Luke 9:46-47), the timing seems odd for it coming right after Jesus warning of the coming betrayal--but that had been true of the earlier occasion as well!

            Perhaps this is a blatant refusal to take seriously what they had been warned about:  “Our movement is now too large; there are too many supporters.  Betrayal may be a danger, but our victory is still inevitable.  So which of us deserve special prominence after our victory?”

            Perhaps this simply reflects a stubborn mixture of pride and the refusal to dwell upon the betrayal itself.  Perhaps we might even call it “a psychological defense mechanism.”  “It’s better to talk about anything except what Jesus just spoke about!”

 

            22:25   And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’  Jesus had no patience for such nonsense.  Their mentality reflected the worst of the Gentile power seeking culture in which people not only sought power but invented or embraced special titles to describe themselves in their success--to verbally magnify their “greatness” even further. 

            (In light of the rebuke of this rebuked mind frame, do we really believe that God finds the abundance of religious titles that have been manufactured out of whole cloth and without Biblical justification, to be appealing in His sight?  Is it not, rather, blatant arrogance?)

            Sidebar:  Antiochus VII of Syria, and Ptolemy III of Egypt, were examples of kings who had borne the title of Euergetes, or benefactor.  There is apparently an emphasis on ‘are called’ as contrasted with ‘let him become,’ in the next verse.  The world gave the title of ‘benefactor’ to those who were great in power only.  In Christ’s kingdom true greatness was to be attained by benefiting others in the humblest services.”  (Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers)

 

            22:26   But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.  Arrogant efforts to seize visible displays of leadership and title were not to exist among them.  Instead, the one who actually was the “greatest” was to lead with the caution and consideration of one who was young.  Likewise  he who governs” was to govern as if, when all was said and done, he was actually among those who merely “serve.”  Not false pride.  But a tempering of position with responsibility and acknowledgment that others could do the job as well.

 

            22:27   For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves?  Is it not he who sits at the table?  Yet I am among you as the One who serves.  Jesus lived by the same standard He urged on them:  He stripped Himself of His glory, and took on Him the nature of a bondservant by becoming a man like other men” (Philippians 2:7, Weymouth).  Though Jesus was the one who most deserved to set back and leave the hard work to others, He freely and happily took it on His own shoulders.  This was demonstrated throughout His ministry.  He rarely sent them out alone; rather He led them out and the responsibility for the teaching and preaching was on His shoulders.

            At this same Passover Jesus even washed their feet rather than being on the receiving end of such help (John 13:1-17)--demonstrating the blending together of “leadership” with “service” to others.  If you will, leadership was to be expressed through service.

 

            22:28   “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.  Even though He needed to “put them in their place” as to excess pride, He did not want the rebuke to discourage them.  Hence the praise of them for having persevered with Him in spite of the varied “trials” and difficulties He had faced during His ministry:  Lies, misrepresentation, and unjustified animosity for example.  Not coming from a rich background, there surely were also times of limited finances and accommodations sincerely given but extremely modest in comfort.

 

            22:29   And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me.  The kingdom Jesus had was via the gift of the Father and their membership and leadership in it was, similarly, a free will gift of His onto their willing shoulders.  They had not so much “earned” it as been freely “gifted” with it, knowing that they would exercise their talents in a dedicated and sincere manner.

 

            22:30   that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  By being given the kingdom (verse 29), they had also been given the right to live and abide in that kingdom.  This is pictured as having the privilege of “eating and drinking at” the King’s own table--the ultimate sign of royal acceptance and respect.  Walking hand-in-hand with this was their authority to bind and loose how the church and individual Christians were to act (Matthew 18:18)--pictured here under the Old Testament leadership image of sitting as “judges” guiding the new spiritual “tribes of Israel.”

 

 

Peter Insists That He Will Never Turn His Back on Jesus (Luke 22:31-34):  31 Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  33 But Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death!”  34 Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me.”

 

 

            22:31   And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon!   Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.  Although the “you” in the Greek is in the plural--indicating that the point is true of all the apostles--the fact that Jesus specifically addresses Peter argues that he was especially vulnerable.  (Think of Satan targeting Job in particular--Job 1:9-12.)  Although the others did not know it yet, Judas had already been tossed out of the apostolic community--sifted out like the chaff on a winnowing fan--by the temptations that confronted him.  Now the Devil is after the rest and Simon in particular.  

            Jesus can’t interfere with Peter's actions without violating his free will, but He can forewarn Peter.  Which should put Peter on notice to be especially alert.  Peter’s weakness, though, is his very self-confidence and blindness to the potential strength and danger of temptation hitting at a weak moment:  I will never do such a thing (cf. verse 33).  Although we may passionately wish to never give in to weakness, it is arrogance to assume that it is always impossible.  Hence spiritual preparedness is essential on an ongoing basis.     

 

            22:32   But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”  Now comes the paradox of the future:  Jesus had already prayed that “your faith should not fail”--note the past tense--yet it would still occur (in a limited and temporary sense) because he would need to “return to Me [and] strengthen your brethren.” 

            Jesus was concerned not so much that Peter would lapse and play the role of a hypocrite but that the lapse might cause him to totally cast aside all that had gone before . . .  and all his potential for good that lay in the future.  Yet a far different option was also available:  His faith could be compromised, but not destroyed.  By “return[ing]” to Jesus and encouraging the other apostles, he would rebuild the strength of his own faith at the same time.

 

            22:33   But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”  Peter was confident that there was absolutely no chance that such fears were realistic.  Why, he was willing to be imprisoned with Jesus.  He was willing to even die with the Lord.  Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers seems quite justified when it writes:  There is something like a latent tone of indignation as well as devotion.  The disciple half-resented the thought that a special prayer should be necessary for him.”

            Let us not be too harsh on Peter though:  Have we not made the same kind of mistake--judging ourselves to be far stronger or wiser than we actually turned out to be?  And, no doubt, at the moment he spoke, he was fully convinced his words were true.  He blotted out any recognition of his potential for failure--or of past times when it surely had happened. 

            A paradox:  One hallmark of long term success is often the recognition that we can fail while simultaneously doing everything possible to assure that we won’t.  We “cover all the bases” and do all the preparatory work necessary to assure--so far as one can in any human affair--that our success will ultimately be certain no matter what the obstacles.

 

            22:34   Then He said, ”I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”  Since the roosters would start crowing in the early morning hours, Peter’s failures were not in some abstract “tomorrow” but not all that many hours in the future.  That could hardly avoid shocking him even more!

 

 

Jesus Warns Them That Their Traveling Customs Will Need to Change for He Will No Longer Be With Them (Luke 22:35-38):  35 Then Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out with no money bag, or traveler’s bag, or sandals, you didn’t lack anything, did you?”  They replied, “Nothing.”  36 He said to them, “But now, the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag too.  And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.  37 For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted with the transgressors.’  For what is written about me is being fulfilled.”  38 So they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.”  Then he told them, “It is enough.”

           

 

            22:35   And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?”  So they said, “Nothing.”  Jesus had earlier spoken of His death while instituting the Communion.  Now He turns to how they should conduct themselves in their missionary travels after His death:  Note how in the next two verses He takes for granted that preaching and teaching would continue.  That hasn’t even entered their minds yet.  (They can’t even come to terms with the “dying” part!)  But it has that of Jesus. 

            The natural inclination would be to duplicate the practices that occurred during His ministry.  First he points out that following His instructions had not produced any harm; they had lacked nothing of what they needed.  In other words, His advice is reliable and, though it will be different for the future, it will be equally reliable.

 

            22:36   Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.          The future journeys would be over a far wider range and the hospitality far from assured; the potential dangers even greater.  Hence they were now to travel with extra money and a container to carry their additional clothes and provisions.  Even a sword was appropriate to protect themselves against the wilds they would pass through.  Anywhere in Galilee or Judea they would have at least a vague idea of what dangerous animals they might encounter and where they would most likely be.  (Not to mention brigands.)  In the far wider confines they would travel next, none of that could be certain.  It was not so much that they would have to use the sword as they would already have one if there were no other alternative.  In other words “safety first.”

 

            22:37   For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’  For the things concerning Me have an end.”  The fact that they would continue to work in His cause did not change the fact that tragedy must occur first . . . it did not change the fact that scripture--citing Isaiah 53:12--had predicted that the Messiah would be killed just as if He had been a criminal.   (Note how, facing death not many hours in the future, His mind keeps returning to the themes of betrayal and death.  Psychologically this is exactly what we would expect.)

 

            22:38   So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”  And He said to them, “It is enough.”  Peter’s mind is still back upon every one traveling with a sword.  He thinks of what is needed now rather than what would be needed in the future.  Hence he stresses that they already had two swords among them.  (The apostle Peter himself had one of them:  John 18:10.)  Jesus assured him that was quite sufficient for the time being.  First of all, He had no intention for them to be used during the arrest; secondly, against the size of the crowd coming to arrest Jesus the number was blatantly inadequate. 

            The reference to having swords demonstrates two things:  (1) They did not take Jesus’ rules concerning what they took with them when they were sent out to teach under the “limited commission” (Matthew 10:5-16) as having application to their regular practice--which was left up to them individually.  (2)  Of the group only two of them had thought it needful or appropriate to be armed.  Individual judgment would naturally vary about the “when” and “where” it was most appropriate.  A few weapons would be adequate to ward off any likely human or animal danger they might encounter in less populated areas and away from the crowds. 

 

 

On the Mount of Olives, Jesus Prays for an Escape from Death—But Only If the Father Is Willing (Luke 22:39-46):  39 Then Jesus went out and made his way, as he customarily did, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.  40 When he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 

41 He went away from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42 ”Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.” 

[43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.  44 And in his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.] 

45 When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, exhausted from grief.  46 So he said to them, “Why are you sleeping?  Get up and pray that you will not fall into temptation!”

           

 

            22:39   Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.  “As He was accustomed” shows that was His typical or customary place to retreat to for spiritual privacy.  Whether this was unique to this feast day pilgrimage or whether it had occurred during earlier ones as well we are not explicitly informed.  However John 18:2 seems to carry the implication that this was nothing new:  And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples.”  “Often”--not “always.”  Hence Judas’ need to wait until he knew specifically where Jesus would be on this particular night.

            Sidebar:  Why He preferred this particular spot we don’t know, but the ability of both Jesus and the apostles to be separated by a decent distance within it, argues that it must have been a rather large property.  Roughly a mile outside the city, a place on the Mount had to have cost a lot to buy and own.  (Around two miles away on the same Mount were the communities of Bethphage and Bethany--Luke 19:29.)

            Hence the speculation is quite reasonable that it was the property of one of the several rich secret supporters of Jesus.  Sometimes the names of Lazarus or Mark are suggested, but their exact economic status is very speculative.  In contrast, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were both significant religious figures of the time and when they prepared Jesus’ body for the grave they obtained about a hundred pounds of expensive “myrrh and aloe” (John 19:38-42; especially verse 39)--making one of them far more likely owners of the property.      

 

            22:40   When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  Having warned them of His coming arrest and their buckling under the shock of it, He is well aware that weakness can feed on weakness. . . . that failure of nerve can become so overwhelming that there are no reserves left to regain one’s spiritual footing again.  Hence their urgent need to pray that they may avoid fully yielding to the temptation that will be coming their way.

 

            22:41   And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed.  Far enough to be seen but far enough away that His words will at least be softened by the distance--and theirs as well.  A little privacy for Himself as He prayed and privacy for them as well while they did the same.

            Sidebar:  As long ago as Gill’s Exposition of the Bible (New Testament, 1740s) it was estimated as “fifty or sixty feet from the place where they were.”  Interestingly, a 20th century test of non-athletes at one American university found they could throw a baseball roughly fifty feet. 

 

            22:42   saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”  He pled with God to remove “this cup” of suffering and death that was coming His way.  Yet He simultaneously recognized that there was more at stake than His own personal preferences.  Hence the addition of “not My will, but Yours, be done.”  One does not have to like something to recognize that it is for the best and we see that, to a far lesser degree of course, in our own lives:  A major operation is a good example.  It may save our lives but it will be discomforting, painful, and (too often) the recuperation long and painful.

 

            22:43   Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  Although the cup of death could not be removed because it was essential for the redemption of mankind, encouragement could still be given Jesus.  For that purpose an angel “appeared to Him from heaven” to provide Him strength in this time of despair.  His very presence would surely have been comforting.  Any words he spoke even more so.  We speak of “having a shoulder to cry on”--someone who can truly understand one’s anguish and torment.  The angel provided that kind of role that tragic night.

 

            22:44   And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly.  Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.  The agony was not only mental but physical as well.  The sweat poured out in large drops and they looked as if they were blood falling from a wound down to the ground.  The image is of a man who is dying and full well knows it--as if the blood were flowing out of his wound while he yet remains alert.  Not likely literal blood, of course, but a way of visually pointing out to us the intensity of the moment and how the death was now inevitable.  And what it looked like to the apostles from a distance in the moonlight . . .  especially retroactively after seeing the literal blood shed on the cross.

            Sidebar:  Through the centuries there have often been those who thought the language is quite literal--the “bloody sweat” that is occasionally encountered in ancient authors.  The wording is “His sweat became like great drops of blood;” if literal, would not the text read “His sweat became great drops of blood” and the “like” be dropped entirely?  

 

            22:45   When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.  It had been a long Passover day for them--filled with the joy of the observance and the disconcerting stress by Jesus that His death was imminent.  They might not fully understand what was going on--it is clear they did not--yet they could still have the “gut feeling” that near term events were going to bring great sorrow and pain their way--and to their Lord in particular.  Especially since they were not going to bed, even though the hour was late, but taken out to pray.  Something ominous surely was about to happen!

            But the flesh is still weak and rebels at some point.  Sleep is one of the ways we deal with such pressures.  And it was the way they dealt with theirs when tiredness and discouragement wore them out:  They slept out of physical and emotional exhaustion.  Compare Psalms 69:20:  “Insults have broken my heart and I am in despair” (Holman).

 

            22:46   Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep?  Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”  Understandable as sleep was, they still needed to pray.  A time of temptation was mere hours away when this time in the Garden began and they needed to be prepared for it.  But even as Jesus says this (verse 47), they discover that the most they now had time to pray was something extremely brief like, “Father, give me strength and wisdom!”  (If they were awake enough to even do that.)  Their earlier failures to stay awake are omitted as the story now jumps to when the betrayer is at hand.

            Sidebar:  Luke here abbreviates the fuller records given in Matthew 26 [and] Mark 14, from which we find that Jesus thrice came to His Apostles, and thrice found them sleeping (see Isaiah 63:3 [‘I have trodden the winepress alone and from the peoples no one was with me’),—each momentary pause of prayer marking a fresh step in His victorious submission. This was the  Temptation of Jesus by every element of anguish, as He had been tempted in the wilderness by every element of desire.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

 

 

The Arrest:  Judas Identifies Jesus With a Kiss of Greeting; a High Priest’s Servant is Seriously Injured and Jesus Heals Him; the Lord Submits to the Arrest (Luke 22:47-53):  47 While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd appeared, and the man named Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He walked up to Jesus to kiss him.  48 But Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”  49 When those who were around him saw what was about to happen, they said, “Lord, should we use our swords?” 

50 Then one of them struck the high priest’s slave, cutting off his right ear.  51 But Jesus said, “Enough of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.  52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders who had come out to get him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs like you would against an outlaw?  53 Day after day when I was with you in the temple courts, you did not arrest me. But this is your hour, and that of the power of darkness!”

           

 

            22:47   And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him.  The “strong arm” of the arresting party consisted of what we would call “security personnel” from the Temple (see on verse 52) and, quite possibly, some Roman military personnel as well.  (“Cohort” is used in John 18:3, 12 and that usually refers to the Roman military).  

            The size of the crowd was far larger than just these two segments however:  There was a “multitude”--arguing that it is far more than just the armed guards necessary to take Him securely into custody.  You have a number of His religious foes (verse 52) and even those probably “drafted” into the group to give it even greater “bulk.”  (Doesn’t this seem the best explanation of why “the servant of the high priest” [verse 50] is involved at all?)

            We must remember that it is dark and there are twelve men there together and though the torches will give a reasonably good idea of which one is Jesus, the authorities want to be absolutely sure there is no mistake--arresting Him was a potentially risky proposition in itself . . . but can you imagine the popular outrage if it had failed and word spread among the vast multitudes?  Hence the “kiss” of greeting.  A modern “hug” might be the closest cultural equivalent we have in the West.  It is likely that Judas was walking not far in front of the group--the distance so that the other apostles would not immediately panic and run and so that those following could clearly identify which of the those in the Garden was their target for the night.

 

            22:48   But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”  In words that must have stung (because the answer was self-evident to both parties), Jesus challenged him as to his intentions.  A kiss:  the sign of friendship and greeting had been transformed into the sign of rejection and death.  Judas had twisted the fundamental form of greeting of the age from something positive to something abhorrent.

 

            22:49   When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”  Before acting, the apostles enquired of Jesus whether they should use their swords to resist this intrusion.  They recognized that this was properly Jesus’ decision to make as their leader and not theirs to act on impulsively.  Except for one of the two who had weapons (verse 38). . . .

 

            22:50   And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  Peter (John 18:10) went on the attack immediately:  Perhaps he was not one who asked the question in the preceding verse.  Perhaps he simply took it for granted that this was the only prudent course:  What other response could Jesus give than the one he instinctively carried out?  Furthermore prompt action made sense:  If there is going to be violence, let us have it done and over with!  Furthermore, he had insisted that he was willing to die with the Lord (verse 33) and now he immediately proves he meant those words as he takes out and uses his sword.

 

            22:51   But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.”  And He touched his ear and healed him.  Recognizing that His action might be misinterpreted as a further attack, Jesus asked the arrestors to permit him to touch the wounded.  (And implicitly warns the apostles He emphatically does not want any more blood shed.)  He can’t change the ill advised decision of Peter, but He can assure it does no permanent damage to the wounded.  And there is a strange beauty in this:  The last miracle He performs before dying is to help an enemy!

 

            22:52   Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs?  Jesus challenged those come to arrest Him:  They are acting in an absurd manner--here they are acting as if He were a dangerous and violent thief rather than simply a teacher of the people!  Furthermore why do this in the middle of the night when, if they had a legitimate and honorable reason to do so they had already had abundant opportunity. . . .

            Sidebar:  At this point, it is not any Romans present who are addressed but (to use modern terminology) the Jewish police overseeing the good order of the Temple.  The term captains “is used by Luke, and by him only in the New Testament, of the officers who presided over the Levite guardians of the Temple.  Here and in Luke 22:[4] it is used in the plural.  In Acts 4:1 [and] Acts 5:24, we read of ‘the captain of the Temple,’ presumably the chief officer in command.  Such was in earlier times Pashur, the ‘governor of the house of the Lord’ (Jeremiah 20:1).  As watchmen the Levite sentinels carried clubs, and would use them freely against any sacrilegious intruder” (Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers). 

 

            22:53   When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me.  But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”  Their previous opportunities they knew of full well and they probably resented Him even more because His popularity had kept them from acting at that time.  But Jesus sees a very appropriate symbolism to what is happening:  Serving the power of evil it was more than a little appropriate that they did so when acting under cover of the dark.  Darkness as a metaphor for spiritual and moral evil is used repeatedly in the New Testament (for example, John 8:12 and Colossians 1:13).

 

 

In the Courtyard of the High Priest’s Residence, Peter Three Times Denies Having Anything To Do With Jesus (Luke 22:54-62):  54 Then they arrested Jesus, led him away, and brought him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. 55 When they had made a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them.  56 Then a slave girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man was with him too!”  57 But Peter denied it: “Woman, I don’t know him!” 

58 Then a little later someone else saw him and said, “You are one of them too.”  But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”  59 And after about an hour still another insisted, “Certainly this man was with him, because he too is a Galilean.”  60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 

61 Then the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”   62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

           

 

            22:54   Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house.  But Peter followed at a distance.  While Jesus was taken to the home of the high priest, Peter cautiously followed--the distance between them protected against discovery and made it unlikely that they would notice him at all.  For all the weakness he would soon manifest (verses 56-61), there was still a core of strength and bravery.  Otherwise he would not have followed at all:  Remember that he had just tried to chop off the servant’s ear and had probably intended even worse damage than that! 

            Sidebar:  Luke does not tell us details about all three hearings that were held.  Each claimed to be by the authority of--and as representatives of--the entire Sanhedrin: 

            The actual High Priest was Joseph Caiaphas (another form of Kephas), son-in-law of Annas. . . .  The trial of our Lord by the Jews was in three phases—(1) before Annas (John 18:12-18); (2) before Caiaphas (here and Matthew 26:59-68; Mark 14:55-65); (3) before the entire Sanhedrin at dawn (Luke 22:66; Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1).  Each trial might be regarded as supremely important:  Annas, or Hanan son of Seth, was the most influential of the ex-High Priests, and may, as Sagan (Deputy) or Nasi (President), have virtually wielded the sacerdotal power.  The result therefore of a trial before him would involve a fatal praejudicium, since the utmost reverence was paid to his age, wealth, power, and shrewdness.

            “—The second trial was before the most important committee of the Sanhedrin, which might in one sense be called ‘the whole Sanhedrin’ (Mark 14:55), and though it could have no legal validity, being held at night, it served as a sort of anakrisis or preliminary enquiry, which left the final decision only formal.

            “—The third trial was held at dawn before the entire Sanhedrin, and passed the final decree of condemnation against Jesus for blasphemy, which had been already pre-determined.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

            22:55   Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.  In the desire to learn as much as he could of what was going on, he even entered the courtyard of the high priest and joined the rest of the crowd around a fire in an effort to stay warm.  It is a spring night in the mountains so chill would be a quite natural problem.

 

            22:56   And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.”  One of the female servants of the household recognized Peter and argued that he had been in the company of Jesus.  We are told nothing of where and when she had seen the Lord, but in light of His lengthy round of preaching in Jerusalem and other places it is not all that surprising that she had.  What is surprising is that Peter had so stood out in her memory--and that of at least one other person who was present (verse 58).

 

            22:57   But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”  Peter repudiated the claim out of hand, as if he had never had anything to do with Him.  This only provided momentary protection for. . . .

 

            22:58   And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.”  But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”   “A little while” later argues that not much time had gone by.  Perhaps the woman’s challenge had gotten this person thinking until they were convinced that the earlier identification had to be correct.  

 

            22:59   Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”   As recounted here the third challenge is not based upon real evidence but on “guilt by association”--He came from the very place where Jesus was popular.  Therefore he must be a disciple also!  However exaggerated the conclusion, the challenge does indicate that He had such a large number of followers back “home” that it was easy to imagine that any Galilean would be a disciple. 

            It’s a little less exaggerated a conclusion when we supplement this with what we learn in John 18:26:  One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with Him?’   Although Peter denies the accuracy of the claim, the man is still convinced he’s right--here in Mark--because of the Galilean accent.  In effect the man is saying, “My memory may be wrong but you still must be one of His followers due to your accent!”

            Sidebar:  There was at least one major “pocket” of resistance to Jesus in the north:  Nazareth was in Galilee and His home (Luke 1:26; 2:39) yet the locals became so angry that they tried to kill Him (4:14-30).

 

            22:60   But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!”  Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  Being called out a third time had to be scary in its own right.  But a silent condemnation that was far more devastating was about to occur. . . .

            Sidebar:  Minute critics have imagined that they found a ‘difficulty’ here because the Talmud says that cocks and hens, from their scratching in the dung, were regarded as unclean.  But as to this the Talmud contradicts itself, since it often alludes to cocks and hens at Jerusalem (e.g. Berachdth).  Moreover the cock might have belonged to the Roman soldiers in Fort Antonia.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

            22:61   And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”  Jesus heard the crowing and, in the distance, turned and looked at Peter.  Words were not necessary.  A guilty conscience could not hide the impact of Jesus’ prediction coming true before “the rooster crowed.”  Something Peter, in his pride, insisted that could never occur.

 

            22:62   So Peter went out and wept bitterly.  Peter found the opportunity to discretely leave the courtyard and managed to do so without drawing further attention to himself.  For his crying “bitterly” in his self-humiliation in front of witnesses would have produced challenges that he would have been unable to explain or justify.  Indeed could it not be considered “proof positive” that he had lied about being a disciple of Jesus?

            Sidebar:  Not only edakruse, ‘shed tears,’ but eklause, ‘wept aloud;’ and, as St Mark says (Mark 14:72), eklaie, ‘he continued weeping.’ It was more than a mere burst of tears.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

 

Jesus Is Physically and Verbally Abused (Luke 22:63-65):  63 Now the men who were holding Jesus under guard began to mock him and beat him.  64 They blindfolded him and asked him repeatedly, “Prophesy! Who hit you?”  65 They also said many other things against him, reviling him.

 

 

            22:63   Now the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him.  The abuse was both verbal and physical that came from these Jewish clerics.  Matthew 26:67 puts it this way:  “They spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands.”  They could never triumph over Him in argument, but now that they had him literally “tied up” (from the time of His arrest--John 18:12) they could vent their rage over every time their efforts had failed and how they were finding it impossible to make a credible case to take to Pilate.  As in so many other cases, the mere fact that one has the power to do something in no way proves that it is either right or honorable.

            Sidebar:  No less than five forms of beating are referred to by the Evangelists in describing this pathetic scenederontes here (a general term); etupton, ‘they kept smiting;’ paisas in the next verse, implying violence; ekolaphisan, ‘slapped with the open palm,’ Matthew 26:67; errapisan, ‘smote with sticks’ (Ibid.); and rapismasin eballon ['struck with the palms'], Mark 14:65).  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).

 

            22:64   And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, “Prophesy!  Who is the one who struck You?”  This shows that they were well aware of His explicitly and implicitly claiming that the teachings He gave came from God.  He could even anticipate details about a person without having met them previously (for example, the Samaritan woman at the well in John, chapter 6).  “Well,” they cynically demand, “use all those abilities now!  Not, of course, to benefit anyone--but simply for their own amusement.

 

            22:65   And many other things they blasphemously spoke against Him.  The insults were not only numerous (“many”) but were spoken in the most insulting and demeaning ways they could (“blasphemously”).  Being in the residence of the chief clerics, it is unlikely--though not impossible--that they used obscenities against the Lord.  Far more likely it means “insulting” (NIV, WEB, Weymouth) and “reviling” (NET) . . . and those can become quite “creative” without lapsing over the line into outright obscenity!  On the other side of the coin:  The appropriateness of retaining “blasphemously” arises not so much out of strict accuracy, but from who the insults are aimed at . . . the sinless Redeemer.  In that context, how could such verbal extremes avoid rising to that level?

 

 

The Council of Religious Leaders Seek Out the Right Admission or Words to Judge Jesus Worthy of Death (Luke 22:66-71):  66 When day came, the council of the elders of the people gathered together, both the chief priests and the experts in the law.  Then they led Jesus away to their council 67 and said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.”  But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer.  69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 

70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?”  He answered them, “You say that I am.”  71 Then they said, “Why do we need further testimony?  We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”

           

 

            22:66   As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying   Since Sanhedrin meetings were supposed to be during daylight hours, this would allow that formality to be met while also dragging into the picture a significant cross section of the membership to share the blame if the entire project became a fiasco. 

            Whether anyone even partially neutral got invited to the meeting--or anyone who doubted any offenses Jesus might have been guilty of had crossed the line into death penalty territory--is highly questionable.  They wanted guilt--period.  In cases of the least doubt, notification was surely “accidentally” overlooked or “accidentally” delayed by “unreliable servants” until after Jesus was already before Pilate.
             

            22:67   “If You are the Christ, tell us.”  But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe.  Jesus’ words during His ministry were certainly open to the interpretation that He was the Messiah (= “Christ”) of prophecy and there were large numbers both in Galilee and at this year’s Passover quite pleased to embrace the idea.  Jesus responded that the truth didn’t actually matter to them:  Even if “I tell you, you will by no means believe.”  They hadn’t embraced His other teaching; why should they embrace this one?

            However much they might label His various teachings as “blasphemy,” none of that mattered in getting a death verdict from Pilate.  He needed a blatantly criminal or anti-Roman action to justify it and the best opportunity of obtaining it was by getting Jesus to admit His Messianic claims in front of them.  Then they could attempt to hype it into sedition.    

 

            22:68   And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go.  Refusing to answer had been their choice in Luke 20:1-8 and Matthew 22:41-46.  Why go through such futility yet again?  Now there was no room for even a discussion or argument on any point.  They weren’t in the mood to debate.  They were only in the mood to condemn--to death. 

            Sidebar:  “Or let Me go” is omitted by nearly all modern translations on the basis of inadequate documentation.  But it is obvious that if they were not going to answer any question of His they were not going to entertain any idea of letting Him go either. 

 

            22:69   Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”  At the moment they seemed to have the power.  But anything they could do--even securing His death--would not keep “the Son of Man” from ultimately sitting at God’s right hand--the position of honor and recognition.  So any “victory” they gained would actually be illusionary rather than permanent.  They would see His own regal position literally at the Final Judgment and symbolically at the destruction of their city and its Temple.

 

            22:70   Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?”  So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.”  The terminology was now shifted.  If they couldn’t convict Him directly on a Messiahship admission then how about, “Are you then the Son of God?”  “Rightly” is often added to the response, “You say that I am.”  Whether unquestionably being implied or not, they took the charge as being admitted.  After all, He hadn’t denied it; therefore an affirmative response could be read into it.  That is how it sounds from our standpoint; from theirs the conclusion was far more emphatic:  And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. This form of reply is not used in Greek, but is frequent in rabbinic.  By such an answer the one interrogated accepts as his own affirmation the question put to him in its entirety” (Pulpit Commentary).

            Sidebar:  Note how they automatically assumed that claiming to be the (unique) “Son of Man” (verse 69) carried with it the natural assumption that He was also / simultaneously “the Son of God.”  In this kind of context, both expressions carry with it the implication of uniqueness and specialness.    

 

            22:71   And they said, “What further testimony do we need?  For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”  Note how they take “Son of God” (verse 70) to mean more than a mere mortal.  If Jesus was only claiming to be “son of God” in the sense that any human being could, there would have been no grounds for condemnation.  Hence they must be taking the words either as equivalent of “Messiah” (how it is used in Daniel 7:13-14) or as outright supernatural--as God incarnated in a temporary fleshly body (cf. John 1:1, 14). 

            Here in Luke, for example, Jesus explicitly claims the right to forgive sin, a right reserved to God:  When He saw their faith, He said to him, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’  And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, ‘Who is this who speaks blasphemies?  Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ ” (Luke 5:20-21).

            All this makes them feel justified in declaring Jesus worthy of death since the claims can’t be true; if they were true they would be the ones in insurrection against God!  But they still need an excuse to justify insisting that Pilate execute Him.  So far they don’t have it.