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In the last essay we studied Luke 23:50-24:12 in which we saw the burial and resurrection of Jesus. In this essay we are studying Luke 24:13-53, which will conclude our study of the Gospel of Luke. In a week or so we will go to the Old Testament for a new series, which will be a study of the book of Isaiah
In 24:13-24 we find the story of two of Jesus’ disciples on the Emmaus road. The name of one was Cleopas, but the name of the other is not revealed. They were returning sadly to Emmaus following the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. They were discussing recent events in Jerusalem when Jesus approached from behind and joined them. But Luke tells us, “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (v. 16). Apparently Jesus did not want to be reognized; and with his resurrection body, he could keep others from recognizing him.
Jesus had overheard some of their conversation, so he asked what they were talking about. Cleopas answered him with a bit of incredulity. Are you the only person that doesn’t know the things that happened in Jerusalem in recent days (v. 18)? Jesus asked, “What things? And Cleopas told him (vv. 19-20). Notice that Cleopas described Jesus as a mighty “prophet,” rather than as the Son of God or the Messiah. Then Cleopas told Jesus what their hope had been, namely, “we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (v. 21). But those hopes were dashed with the death of Jesus.
Next, Cleopas added that it was now the third day since Jesus’ death. That tells us that it was Sunday, resurrection day. Cleopas went on to tell Jesus that some women of their group had gone to the tomb that morning and not only had found the tomb empty, but also had seen two angels who told them Jesus was alive (v. 23). Cleopas and his friend apparently were among those who did not believe the women’s story, even though a couple of disciples had checked out the empty tomb (v. 24).
In verses 25-27 we see that Jesus chided the two disciples for being so slow to believe what the Bible had to say about the suffering of the Messiah (vv. 25-26). And then Jesus gave one of the greatest Bible studies ever given. How I would like to have heard that Old Testament study of all that Moses and the prophets had to say about Jesus! Remember, it was a seven-mile journey to Emmaus, so there was plenty of time for an in-depth study.
In verses 28-35 we see that when they reached Emmaus, Jesus would of walked on had they not invited him to stay. Jesus never forces his presence on anyone. But they did invite him in, and he accepted. When mealtime came, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. “Then their eyes were opened”. And they realized that the stranger they were entertaining was the risen Jesus. But without explanation Jesus chose that moment to disappear (vv. 30-31).
Their immediate response was to speak of a kind of heart-warming experience they had as Jesus had taught them along the road, “Were not our hearts burning within us?” It reminds me of John Wesley’s heart-warming experience on Aldersgate Street in London in May of 1738.
Well, they could not keep this news to themselves, so that same hour they headed back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven and other believers gathered together. They learned from them that Jesus had made an appearance to Peter, and then they shared their story.
Verses 36-43 tell us that while the disciples still were discussing these events, Jesus appeared among them and greeted them. Their reaction is interesting. They were terrified and thought they wee seeing a ghost. Jesus asked them why they were fearful and doubtful. And he proceeded to show them the reality of his resurrection body. He showed them that his body bore the marks of his crucifixion and that it was made up of flesh and bones. Then seeing that they still were wondering, he asked for food. They gave him apiece of fish, and he ate it.
In verses 44-49 we see that once Jesus satisfied the disciples that he was not a ghost, he reminded them that he earlier had taught them that the Old Testament contained prophecies about him and that each of those prophecies must be fulfilled (v. 44). Then he essentially repeated the Bible study he had given to the two on the Emmaus road (vv. 45-47), though it appears he went a bit further. He not only reviewed the scriptures that taught about his death and resurrection, but he also showed them scriptures that taught, or at least implied, that the message of repentance and forgiveness was to be preached to all the world, beginning from Jerusalem.
In verse 48 Jesus implied that the disciples had the responsibility to do the proclaiming to the world. They were the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ public ministry. Thus they were best qualified to preach about him, and about his teachings.
Notice that Luke does not include the so-called Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20. That more explicit call to mission took place in Galilee a little later on. Jesus told them on that occasion, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
But the disciples were not to go charging straight out to preach in their current spiritual condition. Look at verse 49, “I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” The disciples were not yet spiritually strong enough to carry out the task to which they had been called. They needed “power form on high.” In Acts 1:4-5 Luke identifies this “promise o the Father,” this power from on high, as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Those two verses read, “”While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
In verses 50-53 we see that Luke telescoped his account here. In this shortened version, it appears that Jesus ascended into heaven on that first Easter day. But we know from Acts 1:3 that Jesus made resurrection appearances to various disciples for forty days before his Ascension. Acts 1:3 also demonstrates that Luke knew about the forty days. We do not know why he chose to telescope things at the end of his Gospel.
On the day of his ascension, Jesus led the disciples to Bethany, where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived, though they are not mentioned here. Then Jesus blessed them. And Luke says that Jesus “withdrew from them,” that is, ascended into heaven. Then we are told that the disciples worshiped Jesus before returning to Jerusalem. Acts 1:12 tells us that they returned to Jerusalem via the Mount of Olives. Luke concludes his Gospel by telling us that the disciples continually blessed God in the temple.
In the last essay we studied Luke 23:26-49. In this essay we are studying 23:50-24:12 in which we shall see the burial of Jesus, and the first part of Luke’s record of the resurrection of Jesus. In verses 50-56 we are introduced to a man named Joseph. We are told several things about him. He was “a good and righteous man;” he was a member of the Sanhedrin; he did not agree with the Sanhedrin’s “plan and action” against Jesus; he came from the town of Arimathea; and he was expectantly waiting for the kingdom of God (vv. 50-51). Matthew adds that Joseph was rich (Mt. 27:57). It’s hard to say whether or not Joseph was a real believer in Jesus, but at the very least he had great respect for him.
Next, we are told that Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body so that he could give him a decent burial. He wrapped the body in a linen cloth and buried it in a new rock-hewn tomb (vv. 52-53). “It was the day of preparation and the Sabbath was beginning.” The NIV’s translation of the last clause is much better: “The Sabbath was about to begin.” The point is the Sabbath hadn’t yet begun.
The “day of Preparation” is a technical term for the day before the Sabbath. Every Friday was the Day of Preparation, because the Jews prepared for the Sabbath every Friday. And the Sabbath would begin at sundown on Friday. John in his Gospel (Jn. 19:31-33) tells us that the Jews did not want the bodies hanging on the crosses on the Sabbath. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the men on the crosses broken in order to hasten their deaths. That was a very effective way of hastening death, because with broken legs, not only was there added trauma, but they no longer could use their legs to raise themselves up enough to breathe. Pilate was agreeable to this, because the Romans had made that concession to the Jews’ religious sensibilities. The soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals, but when they came to Jesus, he already was dead.
Luke in verses 55-56 concludes the account with a note about how Jesus’ women disciples followed Joseph to the tomb and saw where and how Jesus’ body was laid. Then they returned to Jerusalem to prepare spices and ointments to anoint his body. But when the Sabbath began, they rested, as required by the law.
Now there is one more piece of information that Matthew provides in his chapter 27, verses 62-66. In that paragraph, Matthew tells us that the Jewish leaders were fearful that the disciples of Jesus would steal the body and declare a resurrection. So they got Pilate’s permission to seal the tomb and to place guards there. Make a mental note, because we will need this information later.
Now we are ready to take up the resurrection of Jesus. But before we do that, I want to make three basic points about the resurrection that evangelical Christians agree on. First, it was an historical event. That is, it really happened in history. Jesus not only was a real person who died a real death; he also really came out of the tomb. The apostle Paul says that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, “then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain … If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:14-17).
But Jesus did rise from the dead. Death could not stop him; the grave could not hold him; Satan could not destroy him. And that makes the cross a symbol of victory rather than defeat, of love rather than hate, of life rather than death.
The resurrection not only was an historical event, second, it was not resuscitation. Resuscitation is the bringing of a person who has just died back to physical life by various means. Paramedics and emergency room doctors frequently resuscitate people. But that is not what happens in resurrection. Resurrection is the raising of a dead person to a whole new kind of existence. It is not a raising someone to the same kind of physical life that the person lived before dying, as was the case with Lazarus in John 11. Rather it is a kind of life that the raised person never lived before. To this point, only one person has been resurrected, the Lord Jesus.
And that leads us to the third point about the resurrection; namely, that Jesus’ resurrection existence was unique. Since Jesus is the only person who has been resurrected, his resurrection body is the only one we have as an example. So let’s look at it.
He was in human form, and yet his body was no longer the same. He could appear and disappear at will, sometimes making appearances in locked rooms.
He was recognizable, but not necessarily immediately. Sometimes his voice, or the nail prints, or a familiar way of breaking bread were vehicles of recognition. He still was Jesus and was recognizable as such, but he was noticeably different.
For example, Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus in the garden until he called her by name. And the two disciples on the Emmaus Road did not recognize him, even though he walked along the road with them for some distance and taught them from the Scriptures. It was only at supper when he broke the bread and blessed it that they recognized him. So Jesus’ resurrection was an historical event; it was not a resuscitation; and it was unique.
In 24:1-12 we see the story of the women going to the tomb and finding it empty. Mark in his parallel (16:1-2) names several women who were present: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James (perhaps James the son of Alphaeus among the Twelve), and Salome (the wife of Zebedee, mother of James and John). Luke in verse 10 informs us that others were present. He mentions Joanna and “other women” in addition to the two Marys already named. Joanna probably was the Joanna identified by Luke back in chapter eight, verse three, as the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza. Thus there were at least five women present, perhaps more.
It is obvious that the women were not anticipating the resurrection. They had brought spices to anoint the body. That was a standard burial practice in the culture. But they had been unable to do it on Friday when Jesus was buried because of the onset of Sabbath at sunset. Thus at dawn on Sunday morning they were coming to do it.
Jesus clearly had taught the disciples that he would die and rise on the third day, but it had not sunk into their belief systems. All four Gospels bear witness to the scattering of Jesus’ disciples after the crucifixion, with their hopes shattered. None of them seems to have been expecting a resurrection.
At this point Matthew gives us information that the others do not. In Matthew 28:2-3 he tells us that while the women were on their way to the tomb an angel descended from heaven to open the tomb. The earth shook in a quake; and the guards fell as though dead. Now it is important to realize that the angel didn’t open the tomb so Jesus could get out. He opened it so the women could get in.
Mark tells us that the women had no knowledge of the sealing of the tomb and the placing of the guards, because they were surprised to find the stone already rolled away (Mk. 16:3-4). Luke explicitly says that the body was not there (v. 2).
Now with Mark’s verse five and parallels we see a significant difference in the reports of the details. Mark reports that the women saw “a young man.” Matthew on the other hand says they saw “an angel,” presumably the same angel that had rolled back the stone. And Luke reports “two men.” Actually this isn’t as much of a problem as it might seem on the surface. The white clothing of the “young man” is standard for angels; and he gave the women a revelation, which is the role of an angel. So that harmonizes Mark with Matthew. One can identify the “two men of Luke’s account as angels for the same reasons as the “young man” in Mark, so the only real difference is the number–two instead of one. Interestingly the Gospel of John reports “two angels” (Jn. 20:12), which supports both Luke’s report of two and that they were angels. The only thing one can do with this difference is to assume that there were two angels involved, and that Matthew and Mark reported only one.
According to Luke, the women saw two men. When one looks at all the parallels, it is clear that the two men were angels. The angels terrified the women, but they calmed the women down and gave them a revelation. Jesus was not there. He had risen (vv. 4-5).
Now then, we must realize that the empty tomb in and of itself did not prove anything. It merely indicated that the body was gone. That is why the angels gave the revelation. Having been assured that Jesus was alive, and reminded about Jesus’ earlier teachings (v. 8) about his death and resurrection, the women returned to the eleven and told them everything. But the eleven did not believe them (v. 11).
But Peter was intrigued enough to run to the tomb to see for himself (v. 12). The Gospel of John tells us that John went with Peter to the tomb (Jn. 20:1-10).
In our last essay we studied Luke 22:66-23:25 in which we saw the trials of Jesus before the Jewish Council, Pilate and Herod. In this essay we are studying 23:26-49 in which we find the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Death by crucifixion was one of the cruelest and most degrading forms of execution ever devised by humanity. Normally the criminal was stripped naked. And after being scourged, his outstretched arms were nailed or tied to the crossbeam. The crossbeam was then lifted up with the body on it and fastened to an upright stake already sunk into the earth. The feet were then nailed to the upright beam, which had a block of wood attached to it that served as a sort of saddle for the victim’s body. That enabled the weight of the body to rest on the wooden block.
Crucifixion was largely death by exhaustion. It caused a burning fever, extreme thirst, stiffening of the joints, and great pain. The agony would increase hour by hour; and many victims would suffer for a couple of days before expiring. Often it was a build-up of fluid in the lungs that finally did the victims in.
The Romans learned the practice from the Carthaginians, who had learned it from the Persians. The Romans reserved crucifixion for slaves and the worst of criminals who were not citizens of Rome. Such a death would have been unthinkable for a Roman citizen, regardless of the crime committed.
It was standard practice to carry out executions outside city walls. But it was done near a busy road so that a maximum number of people could observe it and be deterred from committing the same crime. An officer and four soldiers carried out the sentence. The officer walked to the place of execution ahead of the soldiers and the condemned man. He carried a placard that stated the crime committed by the criminal. The purpose of the placard was deterrence. The Romans wanted everyone to know that such crimes would result in crucifixion.
The location of Jesus’ execution was a place called “Golgotha” in Aramaic. The word means “a skull.” The word “Calvary,” which we hear so often in relation to this place is the Latin word for “skull.” As we see in Luke (v. 26), somewhere along the route to Calvary, the Romans forced a man, Simon of Cyrene, to carry Jesus’ cross, apparently because Jesus no longer had the strength to carry it himself.
Verses 27-31 are not found in Mark or Matthew. In them Luke tells us that a large crowd followed the procession, and certain women were wailing for Jesus. But he turned to them and told them not to weep for him but for themselves and their children. He knew that a time was coming when there would be such suffering that the women of Jerusalem would wish they had not had children, perhaps a reference to the coming horrors of the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70. The idea set forth in the saying in verse 31 about green and dry wood is that if the Romans were crucifying Jesus (the green wood that does not burn easily), what would happen to the Jews (the dry wood that does burn easily).
Next, in verses 33-38, comes the crucifixion itself. Mark (15:23) and Matthew (27:34) tell us something at this point that Luke does not. According to Jewish tradition respected women of Jerusalem provided a narcotic drink to those condemned to death in order to deaden the excruciating pain. When Jesus arrived at Golgotha he was offered, presumably by the women since this was a Jewish rather than a Roman custom, wine mixed with myrrh. But he refused it, choosing to endure the suffering with full consciousness as he fulfilled his Father’s will.
Jesus’ statement from the cross in 23:34 is recorded only in Luke: “Father, forgive them: for they do not know what they are doing.” This prayer of forgiveness by Jesus was one of the most, if not the most, profound statements in history. There he was, hanging on a cross, being executed in the most cruel, horrible manner possible. And yet he prayed for forgiveness for his executioners. If nothing else Jesus said or did would convince us that he believed what he taught about loving enemies, this ought to do it.
The standard items of clothing were the inner garment, the outer robe, sandals, a belt (sometimes translated “girdle”), and a head covering. The soldiers who carried out the executions traditionally were given the clothing of the victims. It was a small “perk” for doing a “dirty” job. In this case the soldiers decided to gamble for who got which pieces.
Mark (15:25) tells us that Jesus was crucified at the third hour, which would be 9:00 o’clock in the morning. This raises an interpretive problem, because it is in apparent conflict with John 19:14-16, where it is said that Pilate pronounced his verdict at “about the sixth hour,” which would be at noon. There are a number of complex solutions, or attempted solutions, to the problem. I will not rehearse them, because it would divert us from our primary purpose.
You will notice in verses 35-37 that both the Jewish leaders and the soldiers taunted Jesus. Mark (15:29-30) tells us that passers by also derided Jesus. And they contemptuously challenged Jesus to save himself from the cross if he was God’s Messiah.
In verse 39 we see that one of the two thieves crucified with Jesus also taunted him. But the other became repentant. The repentant thief understood that they were about to meet God. And he also understood that he was deserving of his fate, whereas Jesus was not. That was why he said to the unrepentant one, “Do you not fear God?” To “fear God” in this context means to fear his judgment. Thus the repentant thief became another witness to Jesus’ innocence in the Lukan account (Pilate and Herod Antipas were the others: Lk. 23:14-15.)
The repentant thief asked to be remembered at the Messiah’s second coming. But he received much more than he asked. He received heaven when he died that day: “today you will be with me in Paradise,” said Jesus.
In verse 44 we are told that darkness came over the land for three hours. Some have wanted to explain the darkness as a solar eclipse, and then became upset to learn that a solar eclipse is impossible at Passover time. This was not a solar eclipse. The darkness was miraculous. And it was symbolic. You may remember that there was a plague of darkness over Egypt prior to the Exodus, which also was at Passover. That miraculous darkness symbolized the spiritual darkness of Egypt. The miraculous darkness at Jesus’ death symbolized the spiritual darkness of the world as he died at the world’s hands.
Notice that the temple veil was torn in two (v. 45). Mark (15:38) and Matthew (27:51) tell us that it was torn from top to bottom suggesting that God did the tearing. And God’s message was plain. He was finished with the Old Covenant and temple worship.
The report of the tearing of the temple veil has a difficulty associated with it. There are two possibilities for the veil in question. One possibility is that it was the outer veil that separated the court of women from the Holy Place. That veil was visible to the Jewish public; and if that were the veil in question, then the tearing of the veil was a public symbol of God’s tearing of his old way of relating to the people. It was a symbolic way of saying I don’t live here any more. I will relate to my people in a new way in the future.
The second possibility is that it was the inner veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. In that case, the symbolism would have been similar, though more forceful. The symbolism of God’s rejection of temple worship would have been more powerful, because the Holy of Holies was the place where God actually dwelled. Moreover the rending of that veil would have strongly symbolized the free access by all to God under the new covenant. The Book of Hebrews emphasizes that aspect. Under the Old Covenant only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies once each year. But under the new covenant all can enter at any time.
Although it is impossible to know with certainty which veil was torn, I prefer the outer veil suggestion, because only a few priests would have seen it had it been the inner veil. And they would have gone to great lengths to keep the event quiet. Such would not have been possible with the outer veil. Everyone would have known about it. And that was God’s intention.
Mark and Matthew tell us of a word from the cross that Luke does not tell us. They say that at three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This so-called “cry of dereliction” is a quotation from PS. 22:1. Some interpreters have been uncomfortable with Jesus’ statement, because they cannot understand how God could abandon his Son in this situation. So they seek ways to soften the meaning. But we must never forget that Jesus was suffering the consequences of our sin on the cross. Paul tells us that Jesus in a sense became sin on the cross. He was suffering the full extent of our alienation from God. His cry expressed the unfathomable pain of real abandonment by the Father. This was the cost of providing “a ransom for the many” (Mk. 10:45). This was the price of sin paid in full.
It was at that point that Jesus died. And as he died he uttered a loud cry. Luke alone provides the saying: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (v. 46). At this point Matthew provides additional information. In Matthew 27:52-53 certain persons were raised from the dead. There was an earthquake, or a supernatural movement of the earth that resembled an earthquake. And certain saints, perhaps martyrs, were raised from the dead. This event is disturbing to some readers. They don’t see the purpose of it.
In reality, there isn’t a lot that can be said about the event. We cannot be certain what God’s purpose was. Nor can we know exactly who the persons were, though they had to be Old Covenant saints. . However we can rest assured that they were brought back to physical life, as was Lazarus. That is, they were not resurrected in the sense that Jesus was. Rather as a sign of some kind, they were restored to physical life. The Greek of verse 53 is a bit ambiguous. Therefore it is uncertain whether Matthew meant they came out of their tombs after the resurrection of Jesus, or that they didn’t enter the city until after the resurrection.
Now coming back to Luke, look at his verse 47. The centurion evidently was the Roman officer who superintended the execution of Jesus. He undoubtedly realized that Jesus had not died the normal death of crucified men. Indeed the centurion was so impressed by the way Jesus handled himself on the cross and died, he spontaneously confessed Jesus as the Son of God.
In our last essay we studied Luke 22:39-65 in which we saw Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer, his arrest, Peter’s denial, and the abuse of Jesus. In this essay we are studying Luke 22:66-23:25. The council mentioned in verse 66 would have been the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was a group of Jewish elders, priests, and scribes to whom the Romans gave authority to rule over religious matters in Israel. Notice in verse 66 that Luke says the Sanhedrin met at dawn, a common time to begin the business day in that culture. Some scholars, because of Mark’s account, suggest that the Sanhedrin met twice, once during the night at the house of Caiaphas, and once at dawn in their official meeting place. Mark mentions the council (Mk. 14: 55) and describes a formal hearing with the calling of witnesses. Luke does not give any such details. According to this theory, since the Sanhedrin was not permitted to do official business during the night, they met a second time at dawn to make official what they had decided during the night. Others, like Howard Marshall, believe that the Sanhedrin probably only met once at dawn. I lean toward the two meetings theory.
Luke records only the key exchanges between the Sanhedrin and Jesus. They asked him if he was the Messiah, the Christ. And he countered that they would not believe him if he told them. He also told them that they would not answer his questions, because that had been his experience in previous encounters with the Jewish authorities. In other words, honest dialogue was not possible.
Then Jesus, using his favorite self-designation, Son of Man, declared that he would soon be seated at the “right hand of the power of God.” So they asked him if he was the Son of God, and he replied vaguely, “You say that I am.” However, Greek and Hebrew scholars say that the Rabbinic language that underlies this statement suggests an agreement with the content of the question asked. That is to say, the expression affirms the content of the question. In other words Jesus was agreeing that he is the Son of God. Verse 71 indicates the truth of this, because the Sanhedrin understood his answer that way: “What further testimony do we need?” they responded. “We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
Next, the Jewish authorities took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman Procurator. As I noted earlier, the Sanhedrin had jurisdiction only over religious matters. And the worst punishment they could hand out was expulsion from the synagogue or flogging. Only the Romans could impose the death penalty, which was what the Sanhedrin leaders wanted. So as we see in 23:1-5, they brought Jesus to Pilate with trumped up charges in order to secure a judgment of death. All the Gospels indicate that crowds accompanied the Sanhedrin to the Praetorium. Whether they gathered spontaneously, or were stirred up by the religious authorities is not clear. In Luke the crowds are mentioned in verse four.
Luke tells us that the Sanhedrin’s charges were threefold. First, they claimed that Jesus was perverting their nation. What they meant by that is not explained, but the word translated “perverting” also means to “mislead.” The idea seems to be that Jesus was leading the nation in a wrong direction, that he was undermining her in some underhanded way. Of course that was not true.
Second, they accused Jesus of forbidding Jews to pay taxes to Rome. We know from chapter 20, verses 20-26, that this charge was an outright lie. In a direct answer to a question about taxes, Jesus had taught that they should “give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 25).
Third, they accused Jesus of claiming he was “Messiah, a king.” It also could be translated “an anointed king.” Of course it was the king part that the Jews wanted Pilate to hear. They wanted him to think that Jesus was setting himself up as a rival to the Roman emperor.
Pilate was not impressed by any of these charges. Luke tells us only one thing that Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” And he answered with the same kind of language he had used when he was before the Sanhedrin, “You say so.”
In verse five the Sanhedrin implied that Jesus was a revolutionary by reminding Pilate that he began his movement in Galilee and brought it to the gates of Jerusalem, which had been the pattern of previous revolutionary movements.
Verses 6-12 are found only in Luke. Therefore he is the only Gospel writer who tells us about Jesus’ hearing before Herod. Luke tells us that when Pilate heard that Jesus had begun his movement in Galilee, he asked if Jesus was a Galilean. As you know Jesus was born in Judea, but he grew up in Galilee, and much of his ministry took place there. When it was confirmed that Jesus was a Galilean, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great, whom the Romans had made king of Galilee and Perea. Herod conveniently happened to be in Jerusalem for the Jewish feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. And Pilate wanted Herod’s opinion of the situation.
Verse 10 tells us that the Jewish religious authorities accompanied Jesus to his hearing before Herod, and continued to make accusations. Herod was glad to oblige Pilate, because he had wanted to see Jesus for a long time. He had heard about Jesus’ ministry, and he especially hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle (v. 8). But Herod was disappointed. Jesus not only did not perform a miracle, he refused to answer Herod’s questions (v. 9). So Herod and his soldiers mocked Jesus and sent him back to Pilate (v. 11). Notice that Herod did not accept the charges against Jesus. He thought him only worthy of mockery.
In verses 13-25 we see that after Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate, Pilate called the Jewish authorities together to render his verdict. He tells to them that neither he nor Herod found Jesus guilty of the charges they had made against him. Then he announced his intention to have Jesus flogged and released (vv. 13-17).
But the Jews rejected that decision! They demanded that Pilate release Barabbas instead. Now Barabbas was an insurrectionist and murderer. But they wanted Barabbas released instead of the innocent Jesus (vv. 18-19).
Mark and Matthew give us more details. They tell us that the governor customarily released a prisoner during the feast. Although Jesus should have been released simply because he was innocent, it seems that Pilate thought the people might be less resistant if they thought he was releasing Jesus as though he were guilty. So Pilate suggested that Jesus be the one released to celebrate the feast. But that was not acceptable. The Jewish leaders stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas (Mk. 15:6-11; Mt. 27:27:1-21).
In verse 20 Pilate told the crowd again that Jesus was innocent and that he wanted to release Jesus. But again the crowd shouted, “Crucify, crucify him.” In verse 22, Pilate tried a third time to reason with the crowd. Once again he pronounced Jesus’ innocence and announced his intention to flog and release him. But once again the crowd shouted loudly that they wanted Jesus crucified. And as Luke notes at the end of verse 23, “their voices prevailed.” So Pilate caved in. He released Barabbas and handed Jesus over for crucifixion.
The Gospel of John, in John 19:28-19:16, gives us many more details regarding the interaction between Pilate, Jesus and the Jews. We won’t take time to look closely at John’s account, but we want to get the main things, which agree with the Synoptic accounts. According to John, Pilate examined Jesus inside the Praetorium, while the Jews stayed outside (18:28). And Pilate went back and forth between the outside and inside, between the Jews and Jesus. In that process of going back and forth, Pilate three times declared to the Jews that he found no case against Jesus (vv. 18:38; 19:4; 19:6). And when the Jews began to demand the release of Barabbas, Pilate had Jesus flogged, as he had said he would (19:1). But in the end, for political reasons Pilate caved into the demands of the crowds and the Jewish leaders, (19:12-16).
Now John and history tell us a bit about those political reasons. Unfortunately for Pilate he already was in some political “hot water” with Rome due to some earlier decisions he had made. For example, on his very first visit to Jerusalem as prefect he came with the usual Roman standards, that is banners. Now the Roman flagpoles had little busts of the emperor on top. The idea was to promote the idea that the emperor was divine. Now one of the concessions the Romans had made to Jewish religious sensibilities was to remove the little busts from their flagpoles on such occasions so that the Jews would not be scandalized by the Roman standards. But Pilate, on that first visit, refused to remove the busts. Therefore he got off on the wrong foot with the Jews, and they reported him to Rome.
Later on Pilate did a similar thing that created another mess. He had honorary shields made for his soldiers that honored the emperor as a god, and then he had the soldiers display the shields. Why that was so important to Pilate I don’t know; but he got into a conflict with the Jews about it. And he stubbornly refused to relent. In the end Rome had to order Pilate to remove the shields.
On another occasion Pilate, in order to improve the water supply in Jerusalem, took money from the Jewish temple to help finance a new aqueduct. That was not a good decision. The Jews made a big stink about that all the way to Rome.
So Pilate already was in trouble with Rome. The Jews knew that, and they parlayed it into getting their way with Jesus. They threatened to tell Rome that Pilate was refusing to take action against a man who was claiming to be king in place of Caesar. Therefore Pilate crumbled, and gave them what they wanted.
In our last essay we studied Luke 22:21-38. In this essay we are studying Luke 22:39-65. In verses 39-46 Luke tells us about an anguishing prayer by Jesus. Luke describes Jesus’ place of prayer as the Mount of Olives, whereas Mark and Matthew are more specific. They name the place as Gethsemane (Mk. 14:32), which was a garden located on the Mount of Olives. Also Luke does not mention the fact that Jesus took Peter, James, and John a little further into the garden than the other disciples, as Mark and Matthew do (Mk. 14:33-34; Mt. 26:36-37).
However in verse 40 Luke records something said by Jesus that Matthew and Mark omit, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Luke obviously thought this was important, because he reports in verse 46 that Jesus repeated the command at the end of the Gethsemane experience.
The word translated “trial” also can be translated “temptation.” Thus Jesus was ordering the disciples to pray that they would not have to face the kind of trial or temptation that he was facing that night. Jesus said that because he was facing humiliation, torture, and death; and even though he was God in the flesh, he was having a difficult time dealing with it. Therefore he didn’t want the disciples to have to face such a difficult test. We all know the outcome for Jesus. He wanted to avoid the cup of suffering that the Father had appointed for him, but he yielded to the Father’s will in the matter. The lesson here for us is that we must learn to yield to the Father’s will in all things, no matter how distasteful or difficult it may seem.
Mark and Matthew provide a more detailed account than Luke. They tell us that Jesus prayed three times, rather than once; and each time afterwards he found the disciples sleeping rather than praying. The appearance of an angel (v. 43) seems to have helped Jesus to pray more earnestly, and he overcame the temptation by even more intense prayer in which “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down.” Luke did not say that Jesus sweat actual drops of blood. Rather his sweat drops either resembled drops of blood, or they fell like drops of blood. Many people testify that angels have helped them in times of great temptation or test? And I would not discount those testimonies.
Notice that Luke attributes the disciples’ sleeping to their grief. I don’t know what that is supposed to mean. The events that would make them deeply grieve had not yet happened. At any rate, Jesus has no sympathy for that. He tells them to get up and pray. Then the account abruptly ends with the arrival of a crowd led by Judas.
Verses 47-53 tell us what happened once the crowd arrived. Judas had arranged with the Jewish authorities to betray Jesus with a kiss of greeting. Therefore the kiss would have appeared perfectly natural. Mark relates that when Judas approached Jesus, he addressed him as Rabbi and then kissed him. Luke simply says that Judas drew near to Jesus and kissed him. Jesus immediately recognized that the kiss was the sign of betrayal and rebuked Judas for using the sign of friendship for that purpose.
Seeing the intent of Judas and the crowd, the disciples asked if they should defend him with their swords; but then, one of them, without permission, struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. Jesus immediately rebuked the violent act and quickly healed the man’s ear.
As you can see, Luke does not name the disciple who drew the sword or the servant whose ear was cut off. But John, in his Gospel, does. Peter swung the sword, and the name of the high priest’s servant was Malchus (Jn. 18:10-11).
Now then, we saw Jesus rebuke Judas for betraying him with a kiss. And we saw him rebuke Peter for using violence. Next in verses 52-53 we see him rebuking those who have come to arrest him for treating him like a criminal. He reminds them that he taught openly in the temple day after day, and they did nothing to him. But now, they were acting according to their sinful natures. They came to arrest him under cover of darkness, and it was because they were under the power of darkness.
At the end of the story, Mark and Matthew tell us something that Luke does not. They tell us that the disciples all deserted Jesus and fled into the night.
Next, in verses 54-62, we see the three-fold denial of Jesus by Peter. In order to get the full story here, we must take information from all four Gospels. First of all, we learn from John 18:13 that immediately after his arrest, Jesus was taken to the house of Annas. Annas who had been high priest before Caiaphas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas. John goes on to tell us that Annas questioned Jesus (Jn. 18:19-23)
Then second, the authorities took Jesus to the house of Caiaphas (Jn. 18:24). It was at this point that Peter’s denials took place. As you can see here in Luke, Peter denied Jesus three times, just as Jesus had predicted (Lk. 22:55-60a). At the moment of the third denial, the cock crowed, again as Jesus had predicted. Jesus, who was on his way from the house of Annas to that of Caiaphas, looked at Peter and caught his eye. Then Luke tells us that Peter went out and wept bitterly (60b-62).
In order for these accounts to fit together, it appears that the houses of Annas and Caiaphas were in a single complex, separated by a large courtyard. Peter, who had followed after Jesus and the arresting party, came into the courtyard and found a place near a fire that had been built there (vv. 54-55).
According to Luke’s account, a servant girl saw Peter sitting by the fire and accused him of being with Jesus in the garden, but Peter denied knowing Jesus (vv. 56-57). A little later a man accused Peter of being one of them, meaning one of Jesus’ disciples. But Peter denied it (v. 58). Then an hour later, another man accused Peter of being with Jesus, and again Peter denied it, saying, “Man I do not know what you are talking about” (vv. 59-60).
At that very moment the cock crowed. Also at that very moment Jesus was being taken across the courtyard from the house of Annas to the house of Caiaphas. That enabled Jesus to catch the eye of Peter. Of course Peter immediately was filled with remorse for having fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy that Peter would deny him three times before the cock crowed. Luke tells us that Peter left the courtyard and wept bitterly.
In verses 63-65 Luke records the abuse and mocking by the men who were holding Jesus. They beat him and mocked him by blindfolding him and demanding that he tell them which of them was striking him. Luke also says that they heaped many other insults on Jesus. Mark and Matthew both mention that they spit on Jesus, though Matthew is more specific, saying that they spit in Jesus’ face.
Interestingly, these verses about the mocking and abuse are in a different place in Mark and Matthew from their place in Luke. Mark and Matthew tell about this abuse after Jesus’ hearing before the council (Mk. 14:66-67; Mt. 26:67-68). Luke records it here before Jesus’ met with the council. This is simply one of many differences of order of events in the Gospels.