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Jesus suffers and dies
Judas agrees to betray Jesus
Luke chapter 22, verses 1-6
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.
The chief festival of the Jews is the Passover. It is celebrated at the sundown that marks the beginning of the 15th of Nisan, the first month in the calendar year (roughly our March/April). The passover lamb was slain in the late afternoon of the 14th of Nisan and was roasted and eaten in a family circle at sundown. Not only was unleavened bread eaten with the meal, but unleavened bread continued to be eaten for seven days thereafter, hence the name “the Feast of Unleavened Bread.” Since the Jewish month begins with the new moon, the Passover is always celebrated when the moon is full.
These holy days brought many pilgrims to Jerusalem. The chief priests and teachers of the law feared that this might make it all the more difficult to get rid of Jesus. He had the support of the common people, some of whom would be coming from his native Galilee. They are very pleased when one of the Twelve, Judas Iscariot, comes forward with the offer to betray Jesus. A deal is struck; Judas is paid thirty silver coins (Matthew chapter 26, verse 15), and he begins watching for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to the authorities when no crowd is present.
There has been much speculation over what prompted Judas to betray Jesus. Some suggest that he was disappointed in Jesus, thinking that Jesus had come to establish an earthly kingdom. Others wonder if perhaps Judas was just after the money. Luke puts his finger on the person behind the scenes: Satan. Jesus had resisted the temptations of the devil in the wilderness (chapter 4, verses 1-13). But now Satan saw an opportune time to try again to overcome Jesus. He makes use of Judas to further his diabolical purpose.
The Last Supper
Luke chapter 22, verses 7-38
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.
Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That is enough,” he replied.
When Jesus was 12 years old, he had gone with Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of the Passover. That was a memorable occasion for him, but it hardly compares in significance to the Passover meal that he celebrates with his disciples on the night before his death on the cross. He says as much to them as they recline at the table: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” This farewell meal has often been called the Last Supper.
This particular Passover is even more important for Christians today because during the meal Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Altar. Each time we celebrate Holy Communion, this meal on the night in which he was betrayed comes to mind. In this sacrament Christ continues to give his true body and blood along with the bread and wine. Here is a preview of the heavenly banquet of salvation.
The Passover celebrates God’s deliverance of the children of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. The Lord told the Israelites to slaughter a lamb at twilight on the 14th day of the month and to put some of the blood on the doorframes of their houses; the lamb was to be roasted and eaten by the families that evening (Exodus chapter 12, verses 1-13). During the night, the angel of death went through the land killing the firstborn in every house of the Egyptians but passing over the Israelite homes that were marked with blood (chapter 12, verse 29 and 30).
Jesus takes the initiative in planning this Passover meal with his disciples. He sends Peter and John into the city and directs them to follow a man carrying a jar of water who will lead them to a large upper room. The sight of a man carrying a jar of water would have been unusual since this was normally something only a woman did. Peter and John make all the preparations. The lamb is killed in the temple courtyard. The unleavened bread, wine, and herbs are obtained. At the appointed hour, Jesus and the rest of the disciples come to the upper room and recline on the couches around the table. The Passover meal consisted of four parts: (1) a preliminary course that included the first cup of wine and dish of herbs; (2) the recital of the Passover story and the drinking of the second cup of wine; (3) the meal proper, beginning with the blessing of the unleavened bread, the eating of the lamb with bitter herbs, and the cup of wine after the meal; (4) the conclusion, with the singing of Psalm 114 through Psalm 118.
Luke mentions two cups of wine. The first (verse 17) is probably the one that comes after the recital of the Passover story, prior to the meal proper. The second cup (verse 20) comes after the supper. What is altogether different about this Passover meal is the significance that Jesus gives to the bread and cup of wine. In giving his disciples the unleavened bread, Jesus says, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” With the bread the disciples receive the true body of Jesus. In giving the second cup, Jesus says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” The Passover meal celebrated the old covenant in which the blood of a lamb was poured out to save people from slavery. The new covenant consists of the pouring out of the blood of Jesus for the sins of the world. Is it any wonder that Jesus desired to eat this meal with his disciples on the night before his sacrifice on the cross!
The disciples are hardly prepared for the words that Jesus speaks as he gives them the bread and wine. And they are even less prepared for the revelation that one of the Twelve will betray the master. That Jesus should die on the cross is part of God’s plan of salvation. But this does not excuse the evil deed of Judas.
The disclosure that one of the Twelve is a traitor provokes a discussion among the disciples. They wonder who among them would do such a thing. Such questioning leads into a heated argument over the question of which of them was the greatest. This is not the first time they have discussed this subject (chapter 9, verse 46). Even after having received the blessed Sacrament, they show themselves to be sinners. Only one of the Twelve actually betrayed Jesus, but all show themselves in need of a Savior.
Jesus certainly does not settle the dispute among the disciples by naming the one who is the greatest. Rather, he tells them how the greatest, or most important, should conduct himself. The disciples of Jesus are not to imitate the kings of the Gentiles and their style of rule. None of the disciples is to be given the impressive-sounding title “Benefactor,” as was done by the Roman caesars. Jesus demonstrated what it meant to be a servant by washing the feet of his disciples at this Passover meal (John chapter 13, verses 3-16). This was only a faint symbol of the ultimate service he would perform by dying on the cross.
The kind of service urged on his disciples by Jesus is not often recognized or rewarded in this world. But Jesus gives the assurance that there will be a heavenly reward for those servants of his who will stand by him and faithfully witness to the good news of God’s kingdom. Jesus makes three promises to his disciples: “I confer on you a kingdom . . . so that you may eat and drink at my table . . . and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” We will have to wait until we reach heaven before we fully realize the significance of these promises.
Although Jesus does not designate one of the apostles as the most important, the history of the early church as recorded in Acts shows us that Peter soon is put into a leadership role (Acts chapter 1, verse 15). This man who left his boat to follow Jesus (chapter 5, verses 1-11) now hears himself addressed with his birthname, “Simon.” Jesus reveals that Satan had asked permission of God to test the faith of all the apostles (“sift you as wheat”). Jesus had prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail and that after his repentance Peter would strengthen his brother apostles. Peter suggests that he needs no special prayers since he is ready to go to prison and even to die with Jesus. How little Peter knows his own weakness is revealed to him by Jesus: three times he will deny his Lord before a new day dawns. Only the prayers of Jesus saved his faith from failing totally.
The farewell speech of Jesus at the Last Supper is drawing to a close—but not without one more look at what the future holds in store for the apostles. When they were still in Galilee, Jesus had sent them out without provisions (chapter 9, verse 3). They were taken care of along the way. But in the mission that will follow Pentecost, the going will not be so easy. The crowds will not be so supportive. They will need purse (money) and bag and swords. In fulfillment of Isaiah chapter 53, verse 12, Jesus will be numbered with outlaws. The apostles must be prepared to face the same kind of treatment.
The disciples at once pick up on the word “sword” that Jesus had used. They inform the Lord Jesus that they have two swords. This statement provokes a reply from Jesus that has been interpreted various ways. It almost sounds as if Jesus is saying that two swords are enough for the task at hand. But since Jesus prohibited the use of the sword at his arrest (Matthew chapter 26, verse 52), this can hardly be his meaning. His mention of the sword is meant simply to warn the disciples that hard and dangerous times lie ahead. His words “That is enough” must be understood as him saying to his disciples, “That is enough of talk like that.” And with that concluding remark, Jesus and his band of followers leave the upper room and make their way to the Mount of Olives.
Jesus prays on the Mount of Olives
Luke chapter 22, verses 39-46
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
The upper room in which Jesus ate the Passover with his disciples is traditionally located in the southwest section of Jerusalem. The walk from there took Jesus down through the Kidron Valley just east of the city and up the Mount of Olives. This was not the first time Jesus had gone here to pray. Luke has already told the reader that during the time Jesus was in Jerusalem, “each night he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives” (chapter 21, verse 37). Now Jesus does nothing to throw Judas off his trail but rather goes as usual to his place of prayer.
When Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, he included the petition “lead us not into temptation” (chapter 11, verse 4). The disciples are now facing the most severe ordeal. The devil will tempt them to give up their faith in Jesus as God’s promised Messiah. Satan has permission to sift them as wheat (chapter 22, verse 31). Both before and after his own anguished emploring prayer to his heavenly Father, Jesus urges his disciples to pray so that they do not succumb to the evil power of Satan and fall into his trap. But, overwhelmed with sorrow, they seek escape from the impending crisis through sleep. They are not strengthened for the encounter that lies ahead.
The prayer of Jesus makes an appeal to his Father: “If you are willing, take this cup from me.” This is the cup of God’s wrath (Isaiah chapter 51, verse 17), the punishment for the sins of the world. Yet what ultimately matters to Jesus is not his own will but the will of his Father. The Father’s answer to his Son is to send an angel to strengthen him. Still his anguish (the Greek here is similar to our word agony) continues, and sweat pours from his body to the ground like drops of blood gushing from a gaping wound. Here, as much as anywhere in the gospel record, the true human nature of Jesus is revealed. There is nothing fake about his sufferings. No human being can fully understand what agony he experienced. “He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah chapter 53, verse 5).
Luke chapter 22, verses 47-53
While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”
Judas had left the Passover meal after receiving from Jesus a piece of bread dipped in the dish; the evangelist John notes: “And it was night” (John chapter 13, verses 26-30). The darkness is broken only by the shining of the Passover moon as Judas leads a crowd of priests, temple officers, and elders along the road to the place where Jesus is praying. Judas had given a sign by which Jesus could be recognized: he would greet Jesus with a kiss. Jesus’ question to Judas calls attention to the hypocrisy of his act.
Seeing the band of armed men, the disciples are ready to put up a fight. They must have recalled the words of Jesus spoken in the upper room about providing themselves with swords (chapter 22, verse 36). One of them (in John chapter 18, verse 10 he is identified as Peter) does not wait for a word from Jesus but strikes at once. The right ear of the high priest’s servant Malchus falls to the ground. What Peter has done is a work of darkness. In compassion, Jesus reverses the evil and heals the ear with a touch. Jesus orders the violence to stop at once.
The nighttime mission of these religious authorities is to arrest someone who had been teaching daily in the temple courts. Jesus questions their need for swords and clubs as if they are dealing with the leader of an armed rebellion. He has an explanation for the entire course of events: “This is your hour—when darkness reigns.” The prince of darkness is having his way for the moment.
Peter disowns Jesus
Luke chapter 22, verses 54-62
Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”
But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.
A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”
Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
After arresting Jesus on the Mount of Olives, the temple authorities take him to the house of the high priest. The traditional location for this house is in the southwest section of Jerusalem not far from the upper room where Jesus had eaten the Passover. Caiaphas was high priest in the years A.D. 18–36, but his father-in-law, Annas, who formerly had been high priest, continued to exert strong influence and took a hand in the interrogation of Jesus (John chapter 18, verses 12 and 13). Luke does not give the details of this nighttime questioning, which are found in Matthew chapter 26, verses 59-66 and Mark chapter 14, verses 55-64.
Peter had declared that he was ready to go to prison and even to die with Jesus (chapter 22, verse 33). He had shown his willingness to defend Jesus with a sword. But he did not reckon with the power of the devil which would cause him to fall into the trap of denying his Lord three times.
As Peter sits by the fire in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, he is recognized by a servant girl. Peter denies that he knows Jesus at all. A second person links Peter with the band of disciples who follow Jesus. His assertion elicits an outright denial from Peter. About an hour later someone remarks that Peter’s accent is that of a Galilean, the province from which Jesus originated. Peter’s third denial is greeted with the shrill crowing of the rooster. A new day has dawned and the prophecy of Jesus has been fulfilled.
At that moment the Lord has the opportunity to look straight into the eyes of Peter. Peter remembers and goes outside and weeps bitterly. These tears of repentance are what Jesus meant by Peter’s turning back (chapter 22, verse 32). This entire incident made Peter a better man, one able to strengthen his brothers.
The soldiers mock Jesus
Luke chapter 22, verses 63-65
The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” And they said many other insulting things to him.
The reign of darkness is clearly shown by the treatment accorded Jesus by those guarding him. They play a game of blindman’s bluff to ridicule his claim of being a prophet (chapter 13, verse 33). What Jesus suffers does fulfill his own prophecy: “They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him” (chapter 18, verse 32). Peter sought to avoid suffering by denying his Lord. Jesus accepts it with no word of complaint. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats” (1st Peter chapter 2, verse 23).
Jesus before the Jewish council
Luke chapter 22, verses 66-71
At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. “If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.”
Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied, “You are right in saying I am.”
Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”
Early Friday morning Jesus is taken from the house of the high priest where he had been interrogated to appear before the Jewish high council, called the Sanhedrin. This body consisted of 71 members including the high priest, who served as president. Its membership was divided between the elders, priests, and teachers of the law (mostly Pharisees). Its meeting hall was either in the southwest area of the inner court of the temple or in a place just west of the temple. The Sanhedrin possessed absolute power in religious matters but could not decree the sentence of death.
The council first questions Jesus as to whether or not he is the Christ. The Jews were looking for the promised Messiah and expected him to give them political freedom. Jesus is the Christ as Peter had confessed (chapter 9, verse 20). But Jesus had forbidden the disciples to make this known since such a claim would be misunderstood. So also here at this trial, Jesus refuses to answer this question. Rather he says that “the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” Jesus often used the title “Son of Man” to describe himself. He directs attention away from the false hope of an earthly Messiah to his heavenly rule as Son of Man at the right hand of God.
The suggestion that Jesus will be seated at the right hand of God provokes the entire council to ask, “Are you then the Son of God?” Jesus does not refuse to answer this question but replies, “You are right in saying I am.” His affirmative answer takes us back to the very beginning of Luke’s gospel when the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (chapter 1, verse 35). For the Jewish council, this claim of Jesus constitutes the grossest form of blasphemy. They are not willing to consider the evidence that supports his assertion. They are intent only on bringing about his death.