What do you do with a dead body? There are all sorts of things people around the world do with death bodies, but the common practice of many is to bury it. It makes sense: you bury dead bodies. In Luke 23.44-49, we witnessed through the lens of Luke’s account the death of Jesus. He is dead and so He must be buried. From Mark (15.44-45) we learn that Pilate is surprised to hear Jesus is dead already and has to consult with a centurion to ensure that in fact Jesus is dead. The centurion, someone who deals in death on a regular basis and can tell dead from alive, confirms the reports Pilate is hearing: Jesus, the king of the Jews, is dead.

This is an important historical fact for a number of reasons. First, there are those who claim Jesus did not die on the cross but merely swooned and in the coolness of the tomb was revived. The evidence points to the contrary – Jesus, according to all accounts, died on the cross. Second, if Jesus does not die on the cross for our sins as he predicted He would, He is false prophet who can no more save than any other false prophet and we are still guilty of our sins. The bottom line is we need Jesus to die on the cross so that He can make propitiation and give His life for ours. Without this, there is no good news saving message; only the terrible news that there is no salvation.

At the death of Jesus, his friends and the women who had minister to Him during His ministry “stood at a distance” (v.49). It would seem they had neither the courage nor the capital to proceed with burial. However, there is one man who seemingly “stood at a distance” during the ministry of Jesus who comes forward from his secret discipleship that He might provide Jesus a proper burial. This man is Joseph of Arimathea.

The Measure of the Man

Luke records for us that Joseph was a man from Arimathea. Commentators seem somewhat divided about this. One authority said that Arimathea’s location is unknown. Another says that it was a famous Jewish town from which Samuel the prophet came – Ramathaim Zophim. Still another gives a more precise location of 20 miles NW of Jerusalem on the border of Judea and Samaria. At any rate, he seems to have taken up residence in Jerusalem since he sat on the council of the Sanhedrin. He is “a good and righteous man” according to Luke who is honorable and respected (Mark 15.43). He is also rich (Matt 27.57) and followed Jesus, although his discipleship was done in secret for fear of the Jews (John 19.38). Luke seems to allude to the discipleship of Joseph by saying that “he was looking for the kingdom of God” (v.51). This is the same kind of language used by Luke in describing two other individuals early in this gospel account: Simeon and Anna (2.25, 38). They were waiting for the redemption and consolation of Israel. So it is with Joseph of Arimathea and it would seem that in his heart of hearts he believed Jesus to be the bringer of the kingdom. As a result, when the Council was casting their vote against Jesus and condemned Him, Joseph was either left out or driven out because the Council had been unanimous (Mark 14.64).

It is interesting that all four gospel writers speak of Joseph of Arimathea in a relatively positive, even ideal manner. One writer put it this way: Matthew calls him rich, the Jewish ideal (?); Mark calls him a respected member of the council, the Roman ideal; Luke calls him a good and just (kalos kagathos), the Greek ideal; and John calls him a disciple of Jesus, the johannine ideal. An interesting tradition about Joseph of Arimathea is that around 63AD he made his way to England and settled in Glastonbury, settling up the first Christian oratory. Whatever the case, it is this man who comes forward to request of Pilate the body of Jesus so that he might bury it. Pilate grants him his request.

The Methods of the Man

As mentioned, he first requested to have the body of Jesus so he might prepare it for burial. Upon receiving permission, he took the body of Jesus down from the cross. No doubt the body is beaten, battered, and bloody. What a picture of a rich man removing the bludgened body of this carpenter from a cross! It may be assumed Joseph had on the garments of a rich man and as he brings the body down they are smeared and spattered with the blood of Jesus. Pure speculation, of course. Next, he wraps the body in fine linen. The word “shroud” is supplied in the English, unnecessarily it would seem since John makes it clear that the body was prepared and wrapped according to the custom of the Jews (John 19.40). That means that the body was “bound hand and foot” as in the case of Lazarus (John 11.44). In addition, there was also a cloth that was used to cover the face also which John records that at the resurrection of Jesus was folded neatly and placed in the corner (John 20.9). Finally, he places the wrapped body of Jesus in a “new tomb” (Matt 27.60) “where no one had ever yet been laid” (Luke 23.53). Calvin says this appropriate and according to the providence of God for Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead” (Col 1.18).

Inasmuch as it was the day of Preparation and the Sabbath was near beginning, the women take note of where Jesus is buried and go home to obeserve the Sabbath. Luke says the Sabbath was dawning. This is an interesting way to saying this and may seem foreign to our minds since we count time midnight to midnight. The Jewish day began at sunset and Luke may be alluding to the time when the lamps were lit. Be careful to notice that the women see where and how the body was laid. There are some who would claim that Sunday morning, the day of the resurrection, these same women went to the wrong tomb. However, Luke careful records that they knew exactly where to go so that they could annoint the body with the spices and ointments they were going to prepare.

It would seem that they had just enough to prepare their spices and ointments just before the Sabbath and would bring them Sunday, following the Sabbath (see Mark 16.1). Nicodemus had brought and presented some spices he had (John 19.39) and apparently placed those in the tomb with the body to be used by the women later. Everything seems to be done in haste since the Sabbath is fast approaching. There is also a sense in which the women and friends do not expect Jesus to be raised from the dead. He had predicted His death and even the manner of His death (crucifixion) multiple times and in nearly the same breath had said He would be raised on the third day. However, it appears all this is forgot and gives way to the grief and sorrow of Jesus’ death.

“On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (v.56b). Here is the final time the followers of Jesus would observe the Sabbath, not according to the traditions of their fathers, but according to the Law of Moses, even the commandment of God. This is of course the fourth commandment given in the Law. J. C. Ryle, though, has an interesting obeservation concerning the Sabbath and the Christian: “Let us not doubt that the Apostles were taught by our Lord to change the day [of the Sabbath] from the last day of the week to the first…Above all, let us regard the Sabbath as an institution of primary importance to man’s soul, and contend earnestly for its preservation amongst us in all its integrity. It is good for the body, mind, and soul. It is good for the nation which observes it, and for the church which gives it honor. It is but a few steps from ‘no Sabbath’ to ‘no God.’ The man who would make the Sabbath a day for business and pleasure, is an enemy to the best interests of his fellow-creatures.”

The Crucifixion, pt.3

Many people base their salvation upon a thread of Scriptures pertaining to “faith-only” and usually tie it together with the present account in Luke 23.39-43, the thief on the cross. Usually, their contention is that the thief was saved because of his faith and accepted Jesus as his personal Savior. Therefore, all a person needs to do today to be saved is put their faith in Jesus. Unfortunately, this one example of a man saved under the old covenant just prior to the death of Jesus does not square with what Scripture says about salvation under the new covenant. Nor is it consistent with every example of a person being saved by the apostolic preaching. Therefore, a person desiring to know what they must do to be saved (a common question in the New Testament book of Acts also authored by Luke) must look elsewhere for that answer.

Why then does Luke include this unique incident of a contrite criminal? To confuse millions of Bible readers about how one obtains salvation? Nay, verily. Instead, Luke includes this incident to make a striking contrast. Those who are reviling Him, be it the Jewish authorities, the Roman soldiers, or the other criminal are calling on Jesus to “save himself” (v.35, 37, 39). It seems Luke highlights the fact that the cross is for the salvation of others, indeed, all of mankind (A theme of Luke’s; cf. 1.79; 2.31-32 7.1-10, esp.v.9). Further, Jesus is fulfilling His mission in providing salvation through the cross from the emarginated in society, even the prisoners and ciminals (cf. 1.52; 4.18-19; 7.22-23). This passage was not written to explain to people what they must do to be saved; it is written to show that Jesus never lost sight of the mission of Messiah even during the agony of the crucifixion.

All the voices are yelling, “Save yourself.” That’s not the point. The point is that Jesus through His substitutionary death on the cross is saving others. Even in this moment of His greatest weakness, as it were, He is accomplishing His greatest work: salvation for all mankind.

The Reviling

Many believe that both of the criminals began their final moments on their respective crosses by railing at the Son of God, joining in with the rest of those who mocked Jesus. This much can be gleaned from the parallel accounts (Matt 27.44; Mark 15.32). However, Luke records that one of the thieves had a change of heart, repentance. Key figures in church history such as Athanasius, Origen, Hilary, Chrysostrom, Theophylact, and Euthymius have held much the same view. Both of these thieves had crucified near Jesus, presumably equidistant and therefore were equally near Jesus. Both no doubt heard Jesus’ various sayings and had beheld His unjust suffering those six hours on the cross. Both were wicked men in need of salvation. Both were suffering acute pain and quickly approaching death. Both had equal opportunity to respond to the Messiah. Yet only one has a change of heart.

The one criminal is railing at Jesus, heaping up further insults on the Son of God. The tense of this verb indicates that this is something he kept on doing, as if he were continuing his activities which began at the first on the cross. The word itself is a form of the word for which we get “blasphemy.” This gives us an idea of the insults and slander which this man was speaking to Jesus. Part of the blasphemy is recorded by Luke: “Are you not the Christ?” This is a rhetorical question, the criminal expecting an affirmative answer. Of course you are the Christ and therefore you should be able to save yourself and us.

The Rebuke

“But the other rebuked him.” In this action, we see this criminal’s repentance which will be dealt with more in detail in a moment. But he rebukes his fellow criminal: “Do you not fear God?” God, the just judge; shortly these men will stand before the throne of God and give an account for what they have done. It is interesting that the thief then says their punishment is them “receiving the due reward of our deeds.” In other words, this is justice, which the thief says in v.41. Hence, he connects God and justice in nearly the same breath. God is a God of justice, pouring out His judgment on nations in history and at the end will justly judge each man. This criminal says it is God’s justice that they hang on their crosses, but Jesus is different: He “has done nothing wrong.” Here is a critical theological point: as Jesus hangs on the cross, the One who knew no sin becomes sin on our behalf (2 Cor 5.21). He is taking upon Himself the just judgment of God. In other words, God is justly judging our sins, meting out in due measure His wrath, punishing our sins through the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus.

The Repentance

There are a number of reasons put forth by scholars as to why this criminal did repent. J. C. Ryle in his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels lists several of the reasons scholarship has put forth as to why this was: “Some say, as Bengel, that he was a Gentile; and some as Scott, that he was a Jew. – Some thin, as Suarez, that he had heard our Lord preach, and seen Him work miracles at some former period. – Some think, as Euthymius, that he had heard our Lord’s answers to Pilate, and been struck by them and so learned to believe in our Lord’s kingdom. – Some think, as Stier, that he was struck by the title put over our Lord’s head on the cross. – Some think, as Theophylact, that he was pricked to the heart by hearing our Lord’s prayer for His enemies, and by seeing our Lord’s patience under suffering.” Ryle accurately notes: “All these are purely conjectural ideas.” Luke records precious little concerning what they dying man thinks of Jesus and why he repents. But it would seem to be based upon his knowledge of the innocent man hanging before him that he makes a request.

The Request

What did this criminal know about Jesus? The criminal knows Jesus’ identity. “Jesus.” The name itself means “salvation.” And here is a criminal, nearing death, conscious of need for freedom from the great sins on his record and he turns to Jesus for salvation. This implies this man was familiar with the fact that Jesus could do something about his sins. Perhaps word had even reached the ears of this criminal that there is a man who forgives sins: Jesus of Nazareth.Some later manuscripts add the word “Lord” after “Jesus” but this seems to be an interpolation added later. The criminal knows Jesus’ intelligence. “Remember me” is the criminal’s plea. This implies this man is aware of Jesus ability to grant him divine favor, even the favor of a just God. He also seems to have some idea that Jesus will know him in the after and identify as a person who died in faith. The criminal knows Jesus’ instruction. “Your kingdom,” that is Jesus’ kingdom. Now it could be argued that the criminal knew Jesus had claimed to be a king because on a placard above the cross was written “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” in three languages. But inferred is the man’s knowledge of the Messianic kingdom and Jesus coming “into” His kingdom, that is His rule and reign as the church’s cosmic sovereign ruler. Implied also is the Lordship of Jesus, ruling over His kingdom. Again, perhaps word of the Messiah has reached the ears of this criminal and kingdom thoughts have been planted as seeds finally sprouting vines of faith.

The Reward

Because of the faith this criminal manifests, Jesus has a rewarding declaration for him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Truly” is “amen” in the Greek. “So be it.” “You” is emphatic; “you, even you.” “Today” for some reason is tricky with many scholars but means, simply, “today.” Not tomorrow, next week, or two thousand years yet future from when Jesus spoke these words. “Before the sun yet scorching the their tortured bodies set” (Pulpit). “Paradise” –  This is the only occasion Jesus speaks of the resting place for the righteous in this language. It conjured up, for the Jews, thoughts of perfect Eden before the fall and “Abraham’s bosom” which we have seen Jesus use earlier in Luke (16.22). It probably refers to the place where God dwells (see 2 Cor 12.4) but if nothing else, it points to a splendid place of bliss and the pleasure of fellowship with God.

Again, this is not an account to point to establish doctrine concerning salvation for people under the new covenant. Luke deals with that in his next volume Acts. What we should take away from this account is that indeed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and has the ability to forgive sins, something we have seen Him do earlier in Luke (5.20; 7.48). Here is a pentient criminal whom Jesus uses to once more demonstrate His authority and power.

The Crucifixion, pt.2

As we continue through the crucifixion scene, we cannot but see that multiple prophecies are finding their fulfillment in the historical account of Jesus’ death. Intermingled with these prophetic fulfillments is the Christ’s cries from the cross, petitions even to heaven itself for the people performing this heinous deed.

Numbered with the Transgressors

Luke especially points this out and is the only gospel writer who gives us the details concerning the dialogue between Jesus and one of these criminals in particular. The word “criminal” is actually a contraction of two words in Greek, one meaning “evil” (kakon) and the other “work” (ergos) and is variously translated “criminal” or “malefactor.” Literally these are “evil doers” (Gk. kakourgoi). These are bad men receiving their due punishment. Between these evil doers is crucified the sinless Son of God. Isaiah records how the suffering Servant would be “numbered with the transgressors” (Isa 53.12b) and how through that action he would “make intercession for the transgressors” by bearing “the sin of many.” Jesus, in the upper room scene with His disciples, when He institutes the Lord’s Supper has already pointed to the vicarious nature of His death: “this is my blood of the [new] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26.28, ESV. Emphasis mine). All of this prophecy, from Isaiah to Jesus, finds its fulfillment here in the crucifixion.

Nailed to a Cross

As mentioned in Part 1, the manner in which Jesus was to be killed, namely crucifixion, was prophecied nearly a millenium before Jesus lived in Psalm 22.16: “they have pierced my hands and feet.” This is a prophetic picture of crucifixion. Two thousand years removed from the first century Roman Empire, this cruel form of torturous death has lost its impact upon the human psyche. The cross was not a warm, fuzzy, friendly image in the early church. Indeed, for nearly a millenium the cross was not the main symbol of Christianity as it is today. People understood what crucifixion was all about. The Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero (102-43 BC) called crucifixion “a most cruel and disgusting punishment.” He went on to say, “It is a crime to put a Roman citizen in chains, it is an enormity to flog one, sheer murder to slay one; what, then, shall I say of crucifixion? It is impossible to find the word for such an abomination.” He goes on to say, “Let the very mention of the cross be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears.” Jewish historian Josephus called it “the most wretched of deaths.” Indeed, under Jewish law, being hung on a tree was a curse (see Gal 3.13 where Paul quotes Deut 21.23). It was an ugly, miserable, horrible way to die.

And yet, it should be noted that the gospel writers spend very little time dealing with the actual practice of crucifixion. Luke puts forth very simply that Jesus was crucified with next to no emphasis on the actual suffering and torment of crucifixion. The primary focus concerning the sacrifice of Christ is that 1) it happened, really and truly and 2) there are real benefits and significance for mankind as a result of the death of Jesus. Further, by comparison, the majority of the focus in the gospel narratives is on the life and teachings of Jesus as well as presenting the actual, factual resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, the crucifixion scene (i.e. the death of Jesus) seems to be pointing forward to Sunday morning when the tomb is empty (i.e. the resurrection of Jesus).

Jesus is crucified at the place called the Skull (or “Calvary,” KJV which translates it such from the Latin calvaria). In Aramaic, it is Golgotha (see John 19.17). Most scholars say this hill is north of Jerusalem looks like a skull and is therefore named appropriately. It should be noted, though, there is a tradition that this is the place where, after vanquishing his opponent, David came and buried the skull of Goliath. Yet another tradition says this is the place where Adam’s skull was buried. But is seems most likely the hill was named for what it resembled: a skull. “There they crucified Him.” The statement is brief yet sums up the entire event. One criminal is to His right, the other on His left. Here, heaven’s love and heaven’s justice will meet and the problem of sin will be settled.

Casting Lots for His Garments

Luke records a unique of Jesus from the cross in v.34: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Here is a prayer, short and simple, from the lips of Jesus. He prays the Father forgive “them.” Who? The Jews? The Romans? Either or both seems to be acceptable. As Barnes points out the Romans did not know that they were crucifying the Son of God and the Jews did not know that they were yet filling up the cup of God’s wrath. Even while the mobs cry “Crucify Him” Jesus crys out to the Father “Forgive them.”

Meanwhile, at the foot of the cross, the Roman soldiers are busy gambling for the clothing of Jesus. Yet another prophecy is fulfilled from Psalm 22.18: “they divide my garments among them,/ and for my clothing they cast lots.” The garments, history tells us, were the clothing of a simple man, even a poor man. Modern-day televangelists want people to believe that Jesus had a big house, drove a Rolls Royce, and wore designer clothing (Prosperity preachers Dr. Apostle Frederick K. C. Price, Creflo Dollar, John Hagee, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Copeland, et al). John Chrysostrom says this detail is added to show the poorness of the Lord’s clothing. In other words, He wore dressed in simple fashion.

Wagging their Heads

In verse 35 we have yet another fulfilled prophecy as Luke alludes to Psalm 22.7-8. Indeed, Matthew records this account and the words of the rulers are nearly identical to the words of David (see Matt 27.39, 43). There is a marked difference between the people (who seem to have comprised the bulk of the crowds calling for Jesus’ crucifixion) and the rulers. The people are nearby just standing and watching all of this. What was going on in their hearts and minds? Remorse? Guilt? Memories of this great Teacher? The triumphal entry just days earlier? However, the rulers of the people scoff and deride Jesus, calling upon Him to “save himself” from His present predicament. They call Him the “Christ of God.” This term has come up in Luke previously (9.20) when Peter called Jesus this same thing. No doubt they were calling Him this in that Jesus, less than 24 hours previous, had stood trial and acknowledged as much before them (22.67, 70). “His Chosen One” is unique to Luke’s account of the crucifixion. It is a term that speaks of divine favor, something that the Son of God would no doubt have. The rulers draw even more attention to the fact of Jesus’ unheard of claims and his present plight on the cross.

But the jeering does not stop with the Jewish authorities. Even the Roman soldiers (v.36), the executioners themselves, join in the ridicule, mocking Jesus as He hangs on the cross. There is yet further fulfillment of prophecy from Psalm 69.21: “for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” The soldiers, Luke tells us, did just this when they offered him “sour wine.” This was cheap wine, really vinegar wine heavily diluted with water and gall. Luke is the only gospel writer to mention that there was mocking that accompanied the offering of sour wine to Jesus. Their mocking is simple but sadistic: “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” The “if” can also be translated “since.” Having the placard posted over Jesus on the cross (v.38) would point them to an understanding that this man has claimed to be someone great. Therefore, since He is a King, he should be able to save himself.

Verse 38 presents an interesting historical note. All four gospel accounts mention a placard with an inscription and while “the four reports of the inscription slightly differ verbally” there is no difference “substantially” (Pulpit Commentary). Some of the oldest manuscripts do not have part of v.38 (“in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew”) but that this was an historical fact is evident because John records (John 19.19) and no authorities dispute this. The message on the placard is the crime for which the condemned is dying. In Jesus’ case, He claimed to be “The King of the Jews.”

These are several of the prophecies we find fulfilled directly in the historical crucifixion of Jesus. Now Luke will shift focus to an incident duirng the crrucifixion which is cause for much misunderstand pertaining to salvific matters. What’s next is Luke’s account of the thief on the cross.

The Crucifixion, pt.1

Recently, a televangelist told his audience of thousands (possibly millions across the country and around the world) that Jesus never told His disciples he was going to die on a cross, i.e. by crucifixion. What a monstrous display of biblical illiteracy! And this from a guy who has his own television broadcast seen world wide!! This particular pastor (Fred Price Jr., son of Apostle Frederick K. C. Price, pastors of the Crenshaw Christian Center) even had the audacity to claim he had researched this and would not say this if he had not researched it. My advise to this ignorant pastor: read your Bible.

For if you read your Bible, even just a cursory reading of the gospel accounts will tell you otherwise. On multiple occasions Jesus has pointed His disciples to even to the mode of death, crucifixion (See Matt 16.21, 24; 20.19; Luke 9.22-23; 24.6-7; cf. Mark 8.31, 34; 9.31; 10.33-34; Luke 18.32-33, et al). Further, even if Jesus was silent about the specifics of His death, God was not silent and prophecied centuries before crucifixion was invented in the mind of man as a torturous mode of death and nearly a millenium before Jesus ever walked the earth that Messiah would die by crucifixion (see Psalm 22.16). Again, to all the televangelists: read your Bible.

No, Jesus has been predicting exactly what will happen to Him in Jerusalem by the Jewish and Roman authorities: He would be crucified. Luke records this dreadful deed in 23.26-43. First, in verses 26-31, we run into several people on the way to the crucifixion site.

The Man

We meet a man named Simon of Cyrene, a town in North Africa. This man is a long way from home, no doubt one of the Passover pilgrims in Jerusalem for the Feast. There is precious little we know about this man and what happened to him once he finished carrying the cross to the site. Mark tells us he was father to two sons, “Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15.21). Most scholars believe that Mark wrote his gospel, aided by the apostle Peter (an eyewitness) and the Holy Spirit, to or for the church in Rome. Hence, Mark includes this specific detail about Simon of Cyrene being the father of Alexander and Rufus as if to say, “If you have any questions, just ask these men who’s dad was there and actually carried the cross.” It is interesting that in Romans 16.13 Paul greets a man in the Roman church named Rufus and his mother. Is this the same Rufus? It is possible, but any attempts to draw a hard line connecting them is purely speculation. Nevertheless, if nothing else, it would seem that Simon’s sons went on to be leaders in the early church. Were they influenced by their father, himself impacted by what he experienced when he carried the cross of a condemned man named Jesus?

Simon was coming in from the country. It seems that Jerusalem, crowded with Jews from all over the Empire, yet again has no room in the inn for anyone, Simon of Cyrene included. Hence, he forced to lodge outside the city in a nearby village and “commutes” as it were to Jerusalem for the Feast. Perhaps on this occasion he was on his way to the Temple or to the Cyrenian synagogue, which Jerusalem had. Cyrene was an important city with a large number of Jewish residents. So when they had to come from Cyrene to Jerusalem for the various feasts, they had a place to gather.

Simon is “seized” by the Romans and “compelled” to carry the cross of Christ. Jesus has been weakened by the last 24 hours and perhaps especially the scourging He has endured has taken its toll. So the soldiers lay hold of Simon had force him to go “the extra mile” as it were. The cross is laid on him and he follows Jesus as Jesus walks. Scholars reading from historians of antiquity say that the condemned often had a white sign hung about their necks which read their charges and what they had been condemned of. Perhaps Jesus has a similar sign and this is what is affixed later to the cross.

The Maidens

Luke is careful to note that this whole episode was not done in secret where no one could see; in fact, when Jesus is before Pilate there are substantial crowds of people (23.4, 13) present. Here again we see there is “a great multitue of the people” who are following along this deadly processional to Golgotha. But Luke, as he has done throughout this gospel account (1.39-52; 2.36-38; 7.11-15, 37-50; 8.1-3; 10.38-42; 11.27; 13.11-16), highlights some women who are walking along with Jesus. These women are crying out, wailing loudly, beating their breasts or smiting themselves as they go. Perhaps He sees the faces of some of the women He has known during His ministry: Mary and Martha, Joanna, Mary Magdalene. Did He see His mother’s face in the crowd? She was present at the cross (John 19.25-27).

Nevertheless, Jesus sees these women and turns to them, a dramatic gesture in the midst of chaos, and imparts some teaching about what is to come. First, He says stop weeping for Him. What? But Jesus is one His way to death. True, but Jesus knows something even worse is yet to come. Stop weeping for Jesus. Second, start weeping for yourselves and your children. When I was little if I cried over something I wanted but did not get, my dad would tell me to “dry it up or I will give you something to cry about!” Jesus does something similar; He tells them exactly what to cry about. Third, He explains why: There are some bad, terrible, horrible things come down Jerusalem’s way. In fact, it will be a blessing to have been barren and not had children when this time comes. People will be calling for mountains and hills to fall and cover them from the terror and horror of what is coming. “They” in v.29-30 seems to be the people who have called for the death of Jesus – the religious leaders and other various people of Jerusalem, the crowds. And all the judgment coming upon them would spill over onto all of Jerusalem. Hence, these “Daughters of Jerusalem” who belong to Jerusalem proper do have something to weep, lament, and beat their breasts over: the coming destruction of Jerusalem, heaven’s exclamation point on the grand scheme of redemption.

Finally, there is this cryptic word from Jesus in v.31: “For if they do these when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” What’s this all about? It seems to be a common proverb used as an explanation of what Jesus has just said. Various interpretations abound. Leon Morris in his commentary on Luke offers several which all seem plausible. Morris writes: “If the innocent Jesus suffered thus, what will the fate of the guilty Jews? If the Romans treat thus One whom they admit to be innocent, what will they do to the guilty? If the Jews treat like this Jesus who had come to bring salvation, what will be their punishment for destroying him? If the Jews behave like this before their wickedness reaches its consummation, what will they be like when it does? If grief is aroursed by the present events, what will it be when the subsequent disaster strikes?” Farrar adds: “If they act thus to me, the Innocent and the Holy, what shall be the fate of these, the guilty and false.” Inasmuch as Jesus addressed these Jewish women and it was the Jewish who so vehemently sought his death, this proverb from Jesus seems targeted for the Jews. The “wood” when he spoke this proverb is “green,” that is hard to burn. But its drying. Even as Jesus marches to Golgotha, the wood is drying. And when it is dry, what will happen? We, looking back into history, know exactly what happen when Jerusalem’s time in AD 70.

Jesus on Trial, pt.3

We now approach the final trial Luke records in his gospel, indeed, this is the final trial of Jesus. According to John Lawrence, Jesus has a total of six trials (see The Six Trials of Jesus) and this, then would be the sixth. During this final trial, Jesus stands before Pilate once again; Pilate is the person who has the authority to condemn Jesus to death. In this final scene recorded in Luke 23.13-25, Pilate calls together all of the key players: the chief priests (who have been very instrumental in bringing this to its conclusion), the rulers (the members of the Sanhedrin) and also “the people.” One commentator writes that Pilate includes the people (or crowds, see v.4) in the hopes that Jesus might find some friend, someone who will side with Him and rescue Him.

Pilate’s Declaration

Pilate states the charges brought against Jesus, the very charges the Jewish leaders brought in verse 2: Jesus is misleading the people. That is, Jesus is inciting them to riot and revolt against the Roman government. Of course, this charge is erroneous and so Pilate explains that after careful evaluation of the man Jesus, he finds Jesus “Not guilty.” Not only that, but Herod has come to same conclusion: “Not guilty.” They found “nothing” and in the Greek this is emphatic. Not a single charge has stuck. Jesus has done nothing deserving death or any other punishment for that matter. In spite of all this, Pilate makes a startling declaration: “I will therefore punish and release him” (ESV). What?! Jesus is “Not guilty.” There is absolute nothing to punish Him. Nevertheless, it was often Roman custom to inflict a light beating as a warning to take heed to future conduct. But this punishment is not just a slap on the wrist; elsewhere in the gospel accounts (Matt 27.26; Mark 15.15; John 19.1) we know that this was a Roman scourging. It was brutal, vicious, cruel. While the Jews had the rule of “forty minus one” the Romans had no limit. This was shame heaped upon more shame. Once Jesus has been flogged, then He will be released. Pilate has spoken.

The People’s Demand

But the people collectively, chief priests and rulers no doubt leading the charge, raise their voice and cry out that a murderer and true insurrectionist be released instead of Jesus. The only thing that will do with Jesus is death. So “Away with this man” to death and give us the criminal. He was a robber (John 18.40), a murder and insurrectionist (Luke 23.19; Mark 15.7), and a notorius prisoner (Matt 27.16). This was a bad man who had done very bad things. According to tradition, he had the surname “Jesus.” Interesting, if tradition is true, we have Jesus the “son of his father” (that’s what Barabbas means) and Jesus the Son of the Father standing before the howling mob and they cry out for criminal and condemn the Christ. Everything that Jesus Christ endures, the savage beating, mocking, punishment, and crucifxion were rightly due to Barabbas. Yet he is free to go. Another has taken his place: Jesus of Nazareth. Barabbas, did you get it? I wonder if he ever realized how great a sacrifice was made for him that day not only physcially, but also spiritually. Christ on the cross is not just taking the punishment due a criminal held by Pilate, but Jesus is dying for the sins of the whole world. Christian, do we get it? The punishment rightfully due was place on Him and He took it. He drank the cup of God’s wrath dry so that we would not have to. He was our substitute. A death needed to take place for our sins and Jesus takes our place; we go free, released from our sins.

Pilate seems to want to do the right thing, he wants to release Jesus and he has been trying to do everything he can to do just that. It is incredible that this goes on for so long and one wonders why he didn’t just say, “Enough” and let Jesus walk out free and clear. But then you read this in Mark: “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for Barabbas and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (15.15, italics mine). Pilate was a people pleaser; while on the one hand he wanted to do what was right and release Jesus (Luke 23.20) equally important was making sure the crowds were happy. It is impossible to please everyone and Pilate learns this when he condemns an innocent man to death. The people cry all the louder, “Crucify, Crucify him!” Though he tries desperately to once more to release Jesus after punishing Him, the crowd cries even louder and with more urgency, “Crucify, Crucify him!!” It has reached a frenzied, fever pitch. “And their voices prevailed.” The people have won.

Pilate’s Decision

Pilate sits on his seat of judgment (John 19.13) and renders his final sentence: he turns Jesus over to be crucified. He gives them what they want – an insurrectionist in place of the innocent and they are free to do as they will with Jesus. Luke has had us marching us with Jesus down this path for some time. We might even trace its origin to 9.51 where Jesus set His face resolutely toward Jerusalem. And now comes the final grim chapter in the life of Jesus. The will of the Jewish people, especially the chief priests and rulers, is to crucify Jesus.

Jesus on Trial, pt.2

Herod Antipas was a true scab. He was the same Herod who had John the Baptist beheaded and was, when Jesus came to see him, living in open incest with Herodias, “his brother’s wife” (Luke 3.19). To this indulgent man is Jesus sent to stand trial. But this resembles Kangaroo Court than anything else. Godet says, “Jesus was to Herod Antipas what a juggler is to a sated court – an object of curiousity.” Luke tells us that Herod was “very glad” to see Jesus because he had been desiring to see the miracle worker for some time (see Luke 9.9). Why did Herod wish to see Jesus? To hear another sermon about righteousness and the coming judgment? To hear the good news of the kingdom? Nay verily. He wanted to see a miracle (Luek 23.8). He had hoped to see some sign…and would continue to hope when Jesus leaves for Jesus does not kowtow to the demands of this indulgent ruler.

Herod asks questions of Jesus. What exactly these questions were would be pure speculation as they are not recorded. No doubt some of them focused on the charges brought by His accusers. Others may have been of a more frivilous nature. Nevertheless, Jesus is silent before Herod. I believe we see fulfillment of prophecy here. Isaiah says, “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” speaking of the servant of the Lord (53.7b). Heavily Messianic, Isaiah 53 especially speaks to the suffering of Messiah, but it would seem this verse points to when Jesus is on trial and opens not his mouth, refusing to answer a single word. Indeed, there is no need; the charges are of such a nature and the witness of such a caliber that there is nothing to the charges.

This silence infuriates his accusers, driving them mad with white hot rage. His enemies, with one voice as it were,  continue to hurl accusation, “vehemently accusing” Jesus. The wording used here points to a body that is well-tuned and seems to point to the unity of these enemies of Jesus in their attempts to charge Jesus. Its as if they’ve rehearsed this for some time to make sure their stories and charges are all in harmony. If nothing else, even if their charges conflict and Herod can see through, we know they were united in goal: the death of Jesus.

Herod pours even greater insult over the situation with his soldiers as they treat Jesus “with contempt and mocked him.” When it says they “treated him with contempt” this is the idea of treating someone as if they were nothing, a zero. It really is insulting; they treat him as a know nothing, worthless religious enthusiast not even worth the ground He stands on. Its shameful what Herod does, but how many people do the same today? Certainly we can point to atheist websites and material, skeptical journals and discourses which mocked the Holy One. But how many “Christian Atheists” (to use a term coined by Craig Groeshel) live their lives as if Christ is worthless. They “claim” Him as Lord yet they crown “self” as King. The only time Jesus’ stock rises above zero in their life is one hour Sunday morning, if that. Everytime we decide we are going to what we want to do even when it conflicts with God’s Word and Christ’s Will, we treat the Savior with contempt. He means absolutely nothing to us if He does not mean absolutely everything.

Jesus is also mocked by Herod. That is, He is laughed at, ridiculed, and made fun of. Yet another detestable, dispicable display by a decadent dictator. Surely this goes hand in glove with their arraying of Jesus in “spledid clothing.” Clarke in his commentary believes the word “splendid” or “gorgeous” perhaps points to the brilliance or whiteness of the robe. It was the custom of Jewish dignitaries to wear white robes and Clarke this is what Jesus was clothed with. Herod does not realize that he points this royal robe upon the true King of Kings and the one able to give him a true white robe (Rev 3.4-5). Having thus adorned Jesus, Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate.

Luke adds a sort of epilogue onto this account focusing on Herod. In verse 12, we find out that because of this gesture by Pilate (recognizing the jurisdiction of Herod), Herod and he become bosom buddies. Previously, there was some hostility, history being silent concerning its origin, though some do point to the slaying of Galileans as a possiblity (Luke 13.1, 2). But they unite against God’s anointed and forge a fast friendship. “How often has the strange sad scene been reproduced in the world’s story since! Worldly men apparently irreconcilable meet together in friendship when opportunity offers itself for wounding Christ!” (Pulpit Commentary, Luke, p.236) One writer concludes, “In all this horrible picture, no figure appears so ignominious as Herod.” Indeed, seeing the graphic picture painted by Luke in this account, one would have to agree.

Jesus on Trial, pt.1

I have never been accused of something so that I had to go to court and appear before a judge. I’ve never served on a jury in court. In fact, the closest thing I’ve come is when I was summoned for jury duty near Christmas one year and was not waiting more than 20 minutes when they announced we could go home, have a merry Christmas. As we turn our attention to Luke 23, Jesus, who has been convicted by the Sanhedrin for blasphemy, is brought to trial before Pilate (v.1-5). Who is Pilate? He is Pontius Pilate, a Roman kinght and procurator of Judea (one who collects revenue) who held this office from 28-36 AD. In 36 AD he was removed from office in disgrace, the Emperor entirely unhappy with Pilate’s rule.

Jesus was convicted of blasphemy, however, blasphemy is not a charge serious enough to warrant death under Roman law. Hence, the Jews bring Jesus to Pilate with three different charges. They call Jesus “this man,” further pointing to the contempt with which they view Jesus. They claim:

1. Jesus is misleading (or perverting) our (the Jews) nation. In other words, they charge Jesus with leading the whole nation of Israel from the kind of behavior the Romans demand under pax romano. The idea is that Jesus has been inciting the people to riot and rise up against the Roman government.

2. Jesus is forbidding the Jews to give tribute to Caesar. Tribute is taxes. So Pilate, being the revenue collector of Judea, would have heard this charge. However, as Adam Clarke puts it, “These were the falsest slanders that could be invented.” Indeed, just days before in the life of Jesus He had confounded perhaps the same chief priests and scribes when He, looking upon a denarius, had proclaimed “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Luke 20.25).  Since the money had Caesar’s face on it, it must His. Further, in the life of Jesus, as recorded by Matthew a former tax-collector, we see Jesus paying the temple tax (Matt 17.24-27). Albeit, taxes to Caesar may be another thing, the fact stands that Jesus paid His taxes and taught others to do the same both in word and deed.

3. Jesus is calling Himself Christ the king. Couched in this, though tangled a bit, is the blasphemy charge the Sanhedrin has convicted Jesus of in 22.66-71. But they have cunningly worded it so as to make sound as though Jesus is an insurrectionist. While the charge may be true, it is false in the way they meant it. Jesus Himself says elsewhere that He is king of a kingdom “not of this world” (John 18.36). The Sanhedrin, though, wants to and does set Jesus up as a rival of Caesar’s earthly throne. Pilate would understand that is their meaning when they call Christ “king.”

Pilate privately questions Jesus about His kingship. For more on this, you can read John’s account of the lengthy discussion between Jesus and Pilate (John 18.33-38). Luke only records one question Pilate asks Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answers, “You have said so.” Again, as seen in 22.70, this is not Jesus giving what some term “reluctant assent.” Jesus is not saying, “Well, that’s what you say or think” or “Those are your words not mine.” This was a rabbinic way of affirming what someone has spoken. This is not a “reluctant assent” but a “real affirmative.” It is in essence a “Yes” answer. And in John’s extended account, we see exactly what Jesus means in it.

Pilate comes out of this private meeting with Jesus and announces for everyone to hear (“crowds,” v.4), “I find no guilt in this man.” Pilate is not dummy; he can see through the malice and hatred of the Jews that there is no capital charge that would warrant Jesus’ presence before him. Indeed, the word used for “guilt” or “cause” is a word which means the author or one responsible for a particular thing. Pilate knows Jesus is not the cause of this ruckus but the Sanhedrin have orchestrated this whole ordeal.

But the Sanhedrin is relentless and presses the issue, adding strength and vehemence to it. They keep after Pilate about Jesus stirring up the people all over Judea, “from Galilee even.” Galilee seems to strike a note with Pilate and sees a possible way of escape. He asks if Jesus is from Galilee which He is. Therefore, he is under Herod Antipas’s jurisdiction and must be heard by him. Perhaps to get these Jews out of his hair or to pay some kind of tribute to Herod, Pilate dismisses the group to go see Herod, who is in Jerusalem at this time.

Jesus Interrogated

In his commentary on Mark, Burton Coffman suggests that there are six mockings of Jesus: 1) by the High Priest’s servants, 2) by Herod Antipas, 3) by the soldiers of the Roman garrison, 4) by the general public, 5) by the priests and scribes, 6) by the two crucifed thieves (see Coffman’s Commentary on Mark 15.16). There can be no doubt our Savior endure much ridicule and reviling as the our of His death draws near. In Luke 22.63-71, we find one of these times of mocking as well as a beating which Jesus endures at this time by those men who have custody of Him. He is asked three questions during this time.

Question 1: Who is striking you?

The first of these questions in in verse 63-65 where Jesus is mocked “as they beat him.” He is blindfolded and struck presumably about the face, although the text is no specfic. These men who are holding Jesus are probably Jewish, no doubt officers of the temple guard (v.4). Their cruelty knows no bounds and their hatred is on clear display. As the beating continues, with their mocks and blasphemies, their railings, they pose a question: “Who is it that struck you?” This is a sick and twisted game these Jews are playing with Jesus. “Prophesy” they demand. Indeed, He is a prophet, but these men are blinded to this, caught in their devious desires of degrading the Son of God.

Here we see a defining characteristic of Jesus and a quality He exhorted for His disciples to have: meekness. Meekness is not weakness; it is strength and power under control. Most illustrations focus on a wild horse that is broken or a Corvette driving the speed limit. Here is Jesus, the cosmic sovereign Creator of the universe refusing to fight back, refusing to zap these cruel men out of His universe or blast them out of existence. Here is true meekness. See, a broken wild horse will buck when you stick an ice pick in its neck; but the Son of God will take three “ice picks” (probably more like railroad spikes) in His flesh before this is finished.

Question 2: Are you the Christ?

From the cudgelling to the courtroom, Jesus is taken once again before the Jewish authorities. Early daylight is dawning as the assembly of the elders came together. This group is composed of the elders of the people, the chief priests and scribes. Collectively, these three comprise the Sanhedrin. Roman rule had striped them of their ability to carry out captial punishment, hence, their bringing Jesus before Pilate (23.1-5). Here, in their secret council meeting, they ask Jesus the second question: “Are you the Christ?” This question has political implications inasmuch as this is a claim to Messianic royalty.

Jesus answers their question with a statement (v.67b-69). “If I tell you, you will no believe.” You who have seen my life, heard my teachings, and seen the works and signs, even if I tell you, you will not believe. “If I ask you, you will not answer.” In essence Jesus is saying they’ve made up their mind and determined that no matter what He answers, affirmative or negative, they will put Him to death. Verse 69, though, is basically an answer in and of itself: this is a direct claim to divine glory. To sit at the right hand of the power of God as the Son of Man is that special claim to be vested with the same absolute dominion as Him who sits on the throne. And these men knew what these words from Jesus meant, there was no mistaking it: Jesus has claimed to be the Messiah.

Question 3: Are you the Son of God?

So there is one final question they have which really builds on what they have been asking. “All” of them ask, insist that Jesus answer this last question: “Are you the Son of God, then?” “Then” because they understood the preceeding verses as a Messianic claim. But this is a good question which every person must ask and answer: Is Jesus the Son of God? When you weigh the evidence, not only the claims Jesus made but eh miracles he performed to back up His word; when you look upon the love, compassion, mercy, and grace of this man; when you consider the brilliant clarity of His teachings and the authority with which He taught; when you examine the purity of His life and conduct while on earth; when you look fully into narrative recorded in the pages of the New Testament, what do you say about Jesus? Is He the Son of God?

Jesus says, “You say that I am.” This is not a sophomoric, smart-aleck response from Jesus; Coffman says the force of this is “Yes, at last you have seen the point of what I am saying!” It was a statement used often by rabbis when the one who is interrogated accepts his own affirmation of the question put to him. It is as plain an assertion of Jesus that He is divine as any in Scripture. Indeed, verse 71 shows that the Sanhedrin understood the import of Jesus’ words: they had sufficient evidence against to make their ruling – death. “We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” In their minds, He is guilty of blasphemy and worthy of death. But again, they have no power to execute men since this has been taken from them by Rome. So if they would put Jesus to death, they must seek a Roman execution. Enter Pontius Pilate.

Last Supper with Jesus, pt.3

Supper is nearly over. It is nearly time for Jesus to head out to the garden where He will be arrested. But before He goes, He has some final words for His disciples including a startling revelation and prophecy concerning His disciples, especially Peter. In Luke 22.31-38, we have the final discourse of Jesus around the supper table.

The Savior’s Prophecy concerning Peter

“Simon, Simon” is a for emphasis. We saw this earlier in the Gospel of Luke (cf. 10.41) when Jesus addressed Martha. The redoubling is emphatic. And notice that Jesus calls Peter by his “old” name: Simon. It has been said that this name means “pebble” as opposed to Peter which means “rock” or “stone.” Could Jesus be subtly reminding and even repremanding Peter concerning what is coming, that he will act like a pebble, not a rock. Possibly. Or is it understood that Simon and Peter both refer to the same person and are interchangable? Inasmuch as Jesus seems to make no distinction between the two when addressing Peter and his impending fall (v.31, 34: He is Simon, then Peter and in both verses Jesus addresses Peter fall), there does not seem to be a necessity to make that distinction.

The startling revelation Jesus has for Simon is that “Satan has demanded to have you.” Several things should be noted here: first, “you” in this verse (v.31, used twice) is plural in the original language. It is something akin to “y’all” in Texas. Hence, Satan has asked not for Simon Peter only, but for the whole group of disciples. Second, Satan asked to have them for himself. At first blush this would seem incredulous. But when you read that phrase, think Job in the Old Testament when Satan appeared before God and God doted on Job as being a man unlike any other on earth. And Satan asked to try him. That’s what we have here: Jesus knows what is ahead for this band of followers and knows that Satan wants to pick them apart like he did Job. There is coming a time of testing for His disciples and indeed has come upon them. Satan has tempted Judas and won him to the kingdom of darkness. Will others follow?

Jesus, though, assures them that He has been praying for them in v.32. This word has do with begging and pleading. Think of all the times Jesus went off to a lonely place to pray (4.42; 6.12; 9.29; 11.1; et al) which was a common practice in the ministry of Jesus. How often did the Lord wrestle in prayer and plead of the Father on behalf of His disciples? It should be noted that Jesus speaks specifically to Peter; the pronoun “you” in v.32 is singular. Others say that this singular use of the “you” is really Jesus speaking to the group as a whole, a single unit. Whatever the case, no doubt Jesus has prayed concerning all of them and their faith, that it “may not fail.” Would they all fall? Certainly. All desert Jesus in the garden. But Peter’s would be especially great, this noted in Jesus’ words in v.34. But his fall would not bring hopeless despair but deep remorse and repentance. He would return, change his beliefs and ways, and turn back to God. When he has done that he is to “strengthen your brothers.” Establish them and make their conviction stronger.

Peter, it would appear since the Greek simply says “he,” speaks up and says that he’s ready for confinement and crucifixion with Jesus. But Jesus knows (someone has called Jesus “the Heart-reader”) and makes a startling prophecy concerning Peter. “The rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that know me.” There is no article in the Greek before “rooster” which paints the picture even more graphically – before any rooster crows this day. There is some difficulty in Mark’s account inasmuch as he says the rooster will not crow twice before Peter’s denials but there is no contradiction if you consider that Mark is perhaps more specific (some say Mark used Peter as a source of information and who would know better than Peter) and the other gospel writers are not specific or the word “twice” in Mark is a scribal addition. Nevertheless, the strength of the denial should not be overlooked – “utterly deny.” Certainly, Petrer’s denial of even knowing Jesus would fit this.

The Scripture’s Prophecy concerning Jesus

Jesus now reminds of the provincial care of God in their lives. He refers them to earlier in their work when he sent them out. This is recorded in Luke 10.1ff when they went out without moneybag, knapsack, or sandals. So Jesus reminds them of this and asks if they lacked anything. They admit that they lacked nothing, hence they were supplied in their needs. Unfortunately, televangelists and health/wealth propsperity preachers love to twist Scriptures like these to say God will grant all your wants. This is not what Jesus is saying at all. And when you read the account which Jesus points to in Luke 10, this becomes clear that what was needed (food, drink, shelter) was met by the providence of God.

Now, though, Jesus addresses them concerning those very things they were not to have before. Grab those things and even a sword. Sell your cloak and buy a sword with the money. What’s that about? It would seem this is a warning of things to come. Before they had their needs met by people in the town or villiage they visited. Now it would be different. They would not be greeted with open arms and would have to supply their own need. The sword appears to metaphor for the defense of the message. Indeed, the word of Jude fit appropriately: “Contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Those things they did not need (money, clothes) will no longer be supplied, but instead they will have to supply it from their own means. Before they may have been greeted and treated well, now they may have to reasonably defend themselves. This seems to be the force of the words of Jesus in light of His overall teaching and what we see later in the garden when Peter tries to use a sword.

The reason it will be like this and the attitude of people will be different toward the disciples is because of what Jesus will do in fulfilling the Scriptures. The message of the cross will be a stumbling block to Jews and offensive to Gentiles (1 Cor 1.23). When Jesus quotes from Isaiah 53.12 in Luke 22.37, He is pointing toward His impending suffering on the cross. He would be numbered with transgressors in His death inasmuch as He was crucified between two theives. Those things written in the past which came from the lips of God are binding. When God spoke them, He was legislating human history and speaking as the One who is outside space and time, who can declare the end from the beginning. And so even as Jesus speaks these words, they find fulfillment (presently) and will find fulfillment (future) in the crucifixion. And the “me” in this passage is emphatic. Jesus and only Jesus can fulfill these prophecies.

The disciples hear about swords and someone takes inventory of their supply. They seem to miss the who part about fulfillment of the prophecy in Jesus and also the figurative nature of the bags, sacks, and swords Jesus was referring to. They have two swords and almost seem proud of it, like children who are showing off their toys. And their seems to some anticipation in their exclamation, like “finally, we get to do what we’ve been waiting for” or “finally, Jesus will start acting like the Messiah we have been waiting for.” Jesus’ words of “It is enough” seem to be His way of closing the subject for now. They’ve missed it. And so for now the case will shut to be reopened in the garden when Peter will use a sword to try and take off the head of the high priest’s servant and Jesus will impart one more lesson about the sword. But for now, “It is enough.”

Supper is over. Lessons and traditions have been imparted. Some of them have been missed, but some of them haven’t. All that is fuzzy or vague will come to light and be clear in a short time. But next we will see Jesus take yet another step deeper into the darkness that surrounds His final hours before the cross. Next we move into the garden.

Last Supper with Jesus, pt. 1

As the days speed by in the life of Jesus, we come ever closer to His final hour. Judas has agreed to betray Him (read here) and clock is ticking. But before He departs from this world, He has some final instruction and institutions He will impart to His disciples. Most Christians are familiar with this passage (Luke 22.7-23) because of the scene in which Jesus introduces and institutes the Lord’s Supper. However, there is a lot of theological significance in back of this meal and roots that stretch into the Old Testament.

The Mission for the Upper Room

We’ve seen how in v.1 the Feast of Unleavened Bread was drawing nigh. Now the day of Unleavened Bread has arrived. Most scholars agree this was a day when the Jewish purged their houses of all leaven in preparation for the feast which lasted about seven days (cf. 2 Chron 30.22). It was also on this day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrficed and then the meal (supper) was also eaten. It should be noted that there is a distinction between the Passover meal (one night in which the lamb was slaughtered at twilight, see Exodus 12.6) and the entire Feast of Unleavened Bread (which lasted for seven days, see Exodus 12.18). This is an important to make in order to understand the harmony in the Gospel accounts.

Nevertheless, it was on this day (most authorities say Thursday), Jesus sends Peter and John on a mission to “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we might eat it.” Some commentators say Jesus is here eating the meal in anticipation of his death; this will be one final supper with his disciples. Certainly a possiblity. However, as we move deeper into to the chapter, we do see there is new significance attached to the Passover. Indeed, Jesus takes what these Jews had always known and attaches new meaning to these symbols.

The two disciples ask Jesus where they were to prepare the meal to which Jesus in essence replies, “Follow the man with the jar.” This man would lead to the large upper room where they could eat the supper and also Jesus could impart some final instruction and teaching (He is the Teacher, v.11) to the disciples (John 13-16). Peter and John do what Jesus says and find everything just He said they would (v.13) and so prepared the Passover.

The Meal in the Upper Room

At last, the hour comes when it is time for Jesus to recline at the table and eat this meal with His apostles (v.14). Jesus tells them that he has “earnestly desired to eat this Passover” with them before His suffering. It would seem this is Jesus, knowing His time had come (John 13.1), had a great desire to eat this meal with them. This almost seems like an explanation of why they are doing what they are doing. Of course, while this meal looked back to the great deliverance that God brought for Israel when leaving Egypt, this same meal pointed forward to an even greater deliverance, an even greater exodus (see Luke 9.31) which Jesus would lead in bringing many people out of bondage to sin. This was effected by his sacrifice on the cross, that is, His suffering which is merely hourse away. Others have said there are other reason for the Lord’s earnest desire. One is that these were His dear friends which He was about to leave. Another is that He is their divine Master or Teacher who is delivering His “last lecture.” And also, Jesus is the Founder of the greatest religion on this occassion He sought to transform this memorial supper to have Kingdom significance.

Jesus further explains that He will not eat this meal again “until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (v.16). This same idea seems to be restated in v.18: “I will not drink the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Jesus has been preaching the kingdom since the beginning of His ministry (see Matthew 4.17; Luke 4.43). As discussed before, the kingdom of God is the rule or reign of God. Elsewhere in Scripture, you will find that the kingdom of God has always existed and always will exist  and is over everything (Psa 22.28; 145.13; et al.). What does Jesus mean, then, when He speaks of the kingdom’s coming being yet future? This has to do with the entrance of men and women into that everlasting kingdom when they humbly bow the knee to the King of Kings and become citizens of the kingdom. While every man, woman, and child lives under the cosmic sovereign rule of God, not all are citizens of kingdom with the King ruling from the throne of their hearts. Those people who submit their will to the will of God and obey the decrees of the King simultaneously become part of the body of Christ, the church. Hence, the church is composed of kingdom subjects or citizens. One cannot properly speak of being a citizen of the kingdom, a subject to the King, and not be a member of Christ’s church. It is in the church, among His subjects, that Christ dines with His subjects in communion, the Lord’s Supper.

At this point, Jesus takes a cup and tells His disciples, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.” Scholars call this “the cup of blessing” which was to be drank after the Passover lamb had been eaten. H. Leo Boles in his commentary on Luke writes, “A cup was passed at different intervals; they would eat for a while, then pass the large cup or vessel that contained the wine, and each one would fill his cup, and as they drank, different scriptures would be recited.” By His actions and words, it would seem Jesus is writing the final chapter of the Passover as the Jews knew. There is yet a Passover lamb, indeed, the spotless Lamb of God who was to be sacrificed for the remission of sins (Matt 26.28): Jesus the Christ.

Then Jesus, in the midst of the Passover meal, takes these symbols and attaches new meaning to them. First, he takes the bread and gives thanks for it. The bread Jesus calls His body. It should be noted that there is a textual issue in v.19b-20. You will note that some Bibles have a footnote which reads something like, “Some manuscripts omit, in whole or in part, verse 19b-20”; so reads the ESV. While this is true, only one of the earliest Greek manuscripts omits it and Justin Martyr (early church apologist) accepted these words are part of Luke’s account (c.150 AD). Other later manuscripts may have omitted them because of the issue with Jesus taking the cup first, then the bread. Nevertheless, Jesus txplains His body is given for “you.” Contextually, Jesus is speaking to His twelve apostles. This is the same language used in v.20 when Jesus is speaking of the cup and the fruit of the vine: it is poured out for “you.” Again, contextually, this is spoken for His apostles. However, in Matthew’s account Jesus speaks of the blood being poured for “many” (Matt 26.28). Which is it? Yes. Both. Christ came to be the Savior of the world (John 4.42; 1 John 4.14),, which includes His apostles and everyone else who might coem to Him by faith.

There has been much discussion around the statements of Jesus “This is my body” and “This is my blood” (Matt 26.28). Is this to be taken literal? Usually, those who interpret this passage as literal will run to John 6.55 which says “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” However, that is dishonest to the Synoptic Gospel accounts of the Lord’s Supper and rips John 6.55 from its context where Jesus is speaking about fellowship with Him (and ultimately with God); merely read the next verse (John 6.56, “…abides in me…” is fellowship language). So, are these statements literal? Or are they to be understood as figurative? That is, the bread Jesus takes and breaks signifies His body and the fruit of the vine in the cup signifies the blood of Christ. Jesus is not advocating cannibalism. In fact, in early church history, the church was accused of cannibalism and they argued against that erroneous rumor. There are similar statements found in Scripture: “The seven good are seven years” (Gen 41.26); “the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom” (Matt 13.38); “Hagar is mout Sinai” (Gal 4.25). All of these former things signify the latter. Jesus employs the same metaphorical language when instituting the Lord’s Supper. This point is driven home further in Luke’s account where Jesus says, “This cup…is the new covenant in my blood.” So is the cup literally the new covenant, some kind of holy grail? Nay, verily. But what’s in the cup bears significance touching the new covenant. No, these statements of Jesus should not be understood as literal.

One final note: “Do this in remembrance of me.” I believe it is significant that Jesus does not say “in remembrance of my death.” Jesus says “in remembrance of me.” Certainly His death is of vital importance to the Christian and His death is a part of His life. But it would seem that Jesus wants us to remember His entire life. Don’t misunderstand; the death of Christ on the cross is of vital importance to every Christian. But just as important, and to a degree more important, is the resurrection, the miracles, the virgin birth, the sinless life, and everything else contained in the gospel accounts.