Battle in the Garden

Posted: February 13, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 22:39-46, “Battle in the Garden”

What should be done to prepare for war? Armies send ahead spies and scouts in order to get as much information as possible. Weapons will be built, troops trained, and plans made long before a single soldier steps foot on the battleground. Without preparation, the battle will be lost. Without preparation, the battle will be over before its begun.

The night prior to the cross, Jesus engaged in battle. Although the majority of His suffering would take place as He actually hung on the cross, it began well before He ever got there. War was coming for the disciples as well. Granted, only Jesus would be arrested that day, soon to die, each of the disciples would face their own crisis of faith – some more than others. This should have been enough to cause the disciples to prepare – to spend their last few minutes remaining with Jesus to do as much advance work as possible. It didn’t happen. Battle was upon them, but they shut down & slept. Temptation was about to smack them right in the face, and they weren’t ready.

It’s not that Jesus hadn’t warned them…He had! On the road to Jerusalem, Jesus told them multiple times of the things that would take place. The Son of Man would be betrayed, suffer, and die – something difficult to believe for these 1st century Jews, but true nonetheless. Of course Jesus also told them the Son of Man would rise from the dead – fantastic news, but still difficult to believe. Once in Jerusalem, Jesus warned them again. That very night at their last supper together celebrating the Passover, Jesus let them know that the one who would betray Him was right there in the midst of them. That got the disciples’ attention for a while…until they descended into a petty argument over their own personal greatness.

In addition to warning them of His suffering, Jesus warned the disciples of their own sufferings to come. Satan wanted to thrash all of them, just as he had done with Judas Iscariot. Simon Peter would soon deny even knowing the Lord (much to his disbelief), and all of the disciples would need to be prepared to face hardships along the road. Life as they knew it was about to change, and change radically. They needed to prepare for battle…they needed to pray.

Christians don’t often think of prayer as doing battle, but that’s exactly what it is (or at least, an aspect of what it is). Sure, we might give lip-service to the idea, but we don’t really believe it. How can that be said so surely? Because if we did, we would do it more. Instead of prayer being the first thing done in the face of crisis, prayer is generally the last. We treat it as the after-effects – the thing you finally do when we’ve run out of all practical options.

Not Jesus. Faced with the mightiest battle of His eternal existence, what’s the one thing Jesus specifically make time to do? Pray. He could have given the disciples a specific strategy of how to handle the soldiers soon to approach. He could have planned with them where to go in Jerusalem during His arrest, or who to talk to among the Sanhedrin that might be an ally to them. We read of none of that. The gospels emphasize one final act of Jesus prior to His arrest: prayer. Jesus knew exactly what He would face in the hours ahead, and He knew the very best work He could do in that moment was to pray.

It needs to be mentioned that Luke’s account of this event is slightly different than Matthew and Mark. John doesn’t mention the prayer in the garden at all, but then again John recorded an earlier prayer of Jesus for Himself, the disciples, and all Christians who would believe. Normally, we’d expect the Synoptic Gospels to line up on an event like this – and although there isn’t any contradiction at all, Luke’s version is different. Luke doesn’t write of the three times of prayer, nor of the repeated chastisement of the disciples. His account is shorter, focusing on Jesus’ instructions to pray & Jesus’ own suffering and work in prayer. What becomes crystal clear for Luke’s readers is that Jesus labored in prayer, and that He wanted His disciples to do the same.

Christian: pray. Do battle & pray like Jesus!

Luke 22:39–46

  • 1st exhortation to pray (39-40)

39 Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.

  1. Although Luke doesn’t mention the Garden of Gethsemane by name, he notes that it was located on the Mount of Olives. Not only was this simply convenient, being right outside the city (and likely where Jesus and the disciples camped every night during the Passover week), but it was a significant prophetic location. Remember that Jesus gave His Olivet Discourse from this same place (though we don’t know whether or not it was actually in the garden). This is the place the Messiah is prophesied to appear in power and glory (Zech 14:4), splitting it in two at the moment of His return. It was only fitting that He would be there in His final hours of freedom prior to His arrest. In His first coming, the King of Israel was arrested and rejected on the Mount of Olives; in His second coming, that is where Israel will see Him and mourn for whom they pierced!
  2. Beyond the location Jesus went is the regularity of how often He went. Luke makes a specific point to note that Jesus “went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed.” Interestingly, the word used for “accustomed” is ἔθος (ethos ~ethic). The word refers to a habit, custom, or established-practice. We use the same word in English to refer to the character or disposition of a community or other group. What is a group or culture known by? That is its ethos. For the Greeks, what was a person’s daily habit or regular practice? That was its ethos. What was Jesus’ habit – what was He known by? Jesus had an ethos of prayer. This is something that Luke has emphasized throughout his gospel. Jesus prayed at His baptism (3:21) – He prayed in the wilderness (5:16) – He prayed all night prior to naming His apostles (6:12) – He prayed on the Mount of Transfiguration (9:28), and more. Jesus prayed so often that His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray in the same way He did (11:1). There’s no doubt that Jesus understood the value of prayer – He established a solid habit of practice!
    1. Is prayer a practice for you? It can be so easy to let prayer slide to something done at dinnertime and bedtime, and no more. We say our normal words, rarely thinking about the content, and then check it off the list saying that we’ve prayed for the day. Have we? Prayer is the privilege of communicating with Almighty God – it’s our opportunity to talk with and spend time with Jesus. 30 seconds at breakfast, lunch, and dinner doesn’t really cut it, does it? A true heart and habit of prayer is more like that of David: Psalm 63:1, “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.” There is a longing – a true need to be in the presence of God, to know Him & learn from Him. When was the last time you were truly thirsty? How refreshing it is to have a drink of cool water! Christian, that is what prayer can be, and what it is to those who appreciate its privilege. So many Christians say that they want to have a better relationship with Jesus, yet spend so little time talking with Him to get that better relationship. Pray! Make it a habit – make it your ethos. A Christian who can be known for his/her life of prayer will be a powerful witness for Jesus indeed.
  3. Specifically, Jesus had a habit of going to this particular place on the Mount of Olives for prayer. When visiting Jerusalem, Jesus regularly went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Apparently, He & the disciples had done this same thing throughout the week, and that didn’t change the night of the Passover. This becomes crucially important when we consider what takes place immediately after prayer: Jesus’ betrayal by Judas Iscariot and His arrest. Judas knew he could find Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane, because that was where Jesus always went to pray. Judas could lead the soldiers straight to Jesus, based on Jesus’ custom/habit of prayer. Judas knew it, and Jesus knew it…and Jesus didn’t change a thing. Once Judas Iscariot left the upper room after the Passover meal, it would have been easy for Jesus to change things up & go someplace where Judas had never been. Jesus could have gone into hiding, but He didn’t. Instead, He stuck to His normal practice knowing exactly what would come as a result. Jesus was a willing sacrifice for us, even to the point of fully presenting Himself to His betrayer.

40 When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

  1. Not only did Jesus have His own habit of prayer, He encouraged it in those with Him. Jesus told the disciples to pray. On one hand, we might think this to be obvious – but it wasn’t. As Matthew & Mark demonstrate, the disciples needed to be told repeatedly to pray, as it was an obvious struggle for them. (It wouldn’t always be this way. After Jesus rose from the dead, the book of Acts shows the disciples praying over & over again. They learned the lesson!)
    1. As for us, we need to be careful not to point too many fingers. Just like the disciples originally struggled to pray, we do too. How many times does God through His word exhort us to pray, and yet we still rarely do it?
    2. Interestingly, most of the Biblical exhortations to pray are found in the New Testament. A simple search on the word “pray” in the Old Testament turns up not instruction, but description. People who are dependent upon their God pray…it’s just what they do.
  2. Jesus gave the disciples a specific reason to pray: “that you may not enter into temptation.” Of all the things they faced that night, the biggest danger? Temptation. Technically, the word could be translated either as “trial” or “temptation,” but the context is clearly that of temptation. After all, there was no avoiding the trials in front of them. Jesus Himself would face an incredible trial head-on. But although Jesus would be tempted, He would not enter into temptation. He wouldn’t give into the thoughts to run and hide, or to call down legions of angels to defend Him. Although Luke never identifies the specific place of prayer on the Mount of Olives as the Garden of Gethsemane, there’s a certain poetic wonder in this place of temptation. The first Adam was tempted in the Garden of Eden and failed miserably. The Last Adam faced temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane and experienced victory!
  3. The disciples, on the other hand, would give into temptation…at least a bit. That much is plain from the events later that night when all the disciples originally fled the scene, and Peter returned only to deny his Lord. Thankfully, they wouldn’t give in all the way, completely giving themselves over to Satan. Even so, their faith would get wrung out like a wet towel, and they would face some of the harshest temptation of their lives to that point. What did they need to do? What was it they did not do? Pray. (But we’re getting ahead…)
  • Jesus’ prayer and struggle (41-44)

41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

  1. Luke doesn’t describe how Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to go further with Him than the other disciples, but he does still note that eventually, Jesus prayed alone. Jesus didn’t need to go far – just “a stone’s throw” – but He did get by Himself in order to do the hard work of prayer.
    1. This isn’t to say that it’s not good to pray with others. It is, and it’s Biblical. The book of Acts notes several times that the disciples prayed together (Acts 1:24, 4:31, 6:6, etc.). But there are other times when it’s necessary pray alone. There are times when it needs to be just you and the Lord, and you do business together. Sometimes when praying with others, it can be easy to start praying for the ears of other people – when we want our language to sound more spiritually impressive, etc. When we’re praying alone with God, all of that stuff is left behind. It is just you and your Savior & God – and you pour out your heart to Him, listening carefully for what He will say back to you in your heart or through His word.
    2. BTW – how do you know when you’ve prayed enough? You’ll know. It is said that the common advice of the Puritans was to “pray until you’ve prayed.” On this DA Carson writes, “What they mean is that Christians should pray long enough and honestly enough, at a single session, to get past the feeling of formalism and unreality that attends not a little praying.” IOW, this gets past the mealtime/bedtime problem of prayer – when we give a few seconds to the Lord perhaps out of respect (but more out of ritual), but don’t give much thought to what it is we’re saying. Praying until we’ve prayed ensures we get past that initial stage, and we pray until we know we’ve gone to the throne of God, and spoken with our King. This sort of prayer is active and engaged – and it’s what prayer always ought to be.
  2. The Bible doesn’t always give us a record of Jesus’ prayers, but when it does, it’s worth close attention! Among other things, there are two aspects of Jesus’ prayer that stand out. First, Jesus prayed honestly. Some read Jesus’ prayer in the Garden and find it shocking. Was Jesus afraid? Did He really consider some other way, avoiding the cross altogether? Although we cannot say what was in the mind of Jesus other than what we read in the Scripture, His prayer ought not to be shocking, but reassuring. Even the Lord Jesus struggled in His heart with what He was about to face. He was troubled by it, and His laid out His troubles before His Father. This is nothing, if not simple honesty. Jesus knew what lay head in His physical suffering – He knew the far worse tortures coming with His spiritual suffering – and He prayed that the Father would remove it from Him. “Take this cup away from Me,” being a reference to the cup of God’s wrath due to all humanity about to be drunk down by Jesus to the dregs. Not even God the Son wanted to face that! This was the reason He had come, but it wasn’t something He looked forward to. Better than anyone, Jesus knows the extent of the wrath of God. We can hardly grasp the vastness of our sin against God, and the punishment that we deserve; not Jesus. Jesus knows every bit of it – and He knows it for every human that has ever lived and will ever live throughout history. It’s no wonder He asked the Father to remove the cup!
    1. Never forget that just as much as Jesus is God, He is also man. Jesus is every bit human as you and me. This is part of the wonder of the incarnation, and the very reason that Jesus could serve as our substitute sacrifice on the cross. If He was something other than human, then He could not be a substitution for another human. If He was something other than God, then His substitution could not be infinite. He has to be both human and divine, and He is. But this plays out in more areas than just the cross. When it comes to His nature, Jesus has both a divine nature and a human nature. ($50 word: theologians refer to this as the hypostatic union.) Examples of this can be seen when Jesus at times exercises His divine omniscience, while at other times He asks questions. Another example can be seen during His wilderness temptations. When Jesus was tempted by Satan after 40 days without food or water, Jesus was truly tempted. It wasn’t a fake temptation, all done for show – not at all! He was tempted in every way that we are, except without sin (Heb 4:15). Obviously, Jesus’ divine nature could not be tempted, but His human nature could. It would seem that the same thing is on display in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, Jesus faced one more temptation, and His honest plea in prayer was for God to remove the cup from Him.
    2. Again, this ought not to be disturbing or shocking, but comforting. After all, if Jesus can be honest in prayer, so can we! We often get a false idea that unless we can pray to God with perfect spiritual maturity, we shouldn’t pray at all. How wrong! As Christians, we can go to God at any time for any reason with any words. For us, the only wrong prayer is the prayer never prayed. If we waited until we had the perfect words to pray, then we might never pray at all! Don’t try to get the perfect phrasing – just be honest. If something comes out that exposes something in your heart, then you can deal with that – but at least you can deal with it with Jesus. Consider Job. He prayed honestly. Eventually he developed a bit of an attitude to repent of, but at least he didn’t cut himself off from God in his suffering. He prayed, even when he didn’t have the right words. As born-again believers, we can do the same thing.
    3. That’s not to say there aren’t any wrong prayers. The most obvious is the one not offered to the true God through Jesus Christ. Only believers in Jesus have the right to come boldly before the throne of grace to find grace and help in our time of need (Heb 4:16). We need to first become Christians before we can petition Christ. (And that invitation is open to all.)
  3. Second, Jesus prayed submissively. This is the balance to His honesty. Jesus could pray as honestly as His human nature felt, if He still submitted Himself to the Divine will and plan (which He did). “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Keep in mind that it’s not that the will of the Son was opposed to that of the Father – only that the human nature of Jesus desired another way, if it was possible. It was not, so the will of God must be done. Human sin demanded a sacrifice, and only the sacrifice of the Son of God would be truly sufficient. The will of God since before the foundation of the world was that the Son would come to strike the head of the serpent, and right every wrong that took place in the Garden of Eden. To the members of the Godhead, the will of God had been clear from the beginning, and had never changed. Thus, Jesus clearly submitted Himself to it. Human nature is weak; God’s will is perfect.
    1. Jesus praying in this way ought to give us great confidence in our praying the same. Our situations may be different, but we’re praying to the same God. Likewise, we’re to pray honestly and submissively. We lay out our requests to God, yet we still ask for His ultimate will to be done. There are some who would claim this to be a cop-out. True faith (they say) would claim a certain situation in Jesus’ name, and demand that God bring it to pass. Let’s be clear: that’s not faith; that’s heresy. That sort of teaching elevates man above God, making God our servant and slave…and it’s not Christian doctrine. God’s God & we’re not. Are we to ask our prayers in faith? Absolutely! Jesus said that whatever we ask in prayer, we are to be believing, that we may receive (Mt 21:22). James wrote that when we ask, we are to ask in faith, without doubting (Jas 1:6). But none of our faith supplants the will of God. True faith is faith in God & in His plan. True faith is submission to God.
  4. Jesus went by Himself to pray, but He didn’t stay by Himself for long. 43…

43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

  1. These two verses unique to Luke, and there are some manuscript issues that cause some to question their authenticity, as to whether or not Luke actually wrote them. That said, they are still found in some of the earliest papyrus copies (though not all), and quoted by many of the Church Fathers. Some suggest that Luke did write the words, but perhaps added later to his gospel. Whatever the case, there’s no question that the Church overall received these verses as inspired by the Holy Spirit, fully belonging with the Biblical record.
  2. Though Jesus was alone, He was never truly alone. He had heavenly help, as an angel ministered to Him in His time of need. Something similar took place after Jesus’ wilderness temptations. The devil temped Jesus three times, and finally left Him – and after he left, Matthew tells us “behold, angels came and ministered to Him,” (Mt 4:11). Although it might seem strange that Jesus would receive help or strength from an angel, this again goes to His dual nature (human & divine). Divinely speaking, God the Son requires no help whatsoever. He is fully sufficient in & of Himself. Humanly speaking, Jesus of Nazareth needed help. His disciples weren’t far away, but they wouldn’t have been any help to Him if they were in arms’ reach, being that they were sleeping the entire time. That’s when God sent an angel. A whole legion could have been sent at a moment’s notice in front of Judas; the moment it was needed most was when Jesus was alone.
    1. Though in a different way, we also receive heavenly help in prayer. Yet we get even better help than an angel: we get God the Son and God the Holy Spirit! One of Jesus’ ongoing ministries to this day is to intercede for the saints, and the Holy Spirit prays for us in groanings we cannot understand. (Heb 7:25, Rom 8:26)
  3. As to why Jesus needed some strength at the moment, it’s because He was in physical and mental agony. When the English says Jesus was “in agony,” that is almost exactly the words of the Greek: ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ. In Greek, the word referred to a mental anguish, though there’s little doubt Jesus struggled physically as well. The fact that “His sweat became like great drops of blood” indicates a medical condition called hematidrosis/hematohidrosis, which has been documented in some persons undergoing extreme distress. Some scholars interpret this differently, as if Jesus was sweating so profusely that it looked like blood dripping from a wound – yet that’s a strange metaphor to make from a doctor (Luke) who routinely dealt with literal blood and medical conditions. It seems best to take Luke at his word, and see this as descriptive; not figurative.
  4. However one interprets the words, the bottom line is this: Jesus was stressed to the limit & He agonized in prayer. He was engaged in battle, and the proof was the blood spilled on the ground. – Again, Christians often don’t think of prayer as active battle, but at certain times that is exactly what it is. Not every time – some prayers are praise-filled worship sessions or simple requests for daily bread. Those prayers are just as Biblical and needed as anything else. But there is also a prayer that is to be done in agony – there’s a prayer that takes place during spiritual battle. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians about the armor of God to be metaphorically worn in spiritual warfare, he wrote very literally of “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,” (Eph 6:18). All prayer, all the time, all in the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s how we fight the battle! How else do we expect to do it? When your world gets rocked, a Christian has but two offensive weapons: the Bible (the sword of the Spirit), and prayer. Someone comes against you at work, what do you do? You could fight back through fleshly means, get upset, get other people mad at you, and probably fail – all while ruining your witness as a Christian. Or you could fight through spiritual means, going to God’s word to remind yourself of what Jesus has to say on the matter, getting counsel from Almighty God – and you can plead your case before His throne, knowing that your Heavenly Father loves you and always watches over His children. When you pray, you take your battles to the Lord, and He is the One who fights for you.
  5. This is what’s available to every born-again Christian, yet so few Christians avail themselves of it. Why? Because they don’t pray. We don’t pray until we’ve prayed – we don’t agonize in prayer. We say a few simple words & go on to something “practical.” Prayer is practical! When done in spiritual battle, prayer can be difficult work. Want proof? Just look to the blood dripping off Jesus’ brow. But again, not everyone does it. Not even Jesus’ own disciples at the time. 45…
  • 2nd exhortation to pray (45-46)

45 When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.

  1. We want to be careful not to put words in the mouth of Jesus & speak when Scripture is silent, but it’s difficult to imagine that Jesus wasn’t at least a little disappointed to find the disciples sleeping. The Synoptic Gospels show Him chastising the 11, particularly Peter (Mk 14:37), but it doesn’t literally speak of His disappointment. Surely He wasn’t surprised by their reaction. By this point, the disciples had been well-warned of the trials that awaited them. John’s gospel goes into great depth of Jesus’ teaching following the Passover meal, warning the disciples of rejection, trial, and tribulation (Jn 14-16). These things left them sorrowful, and they slept. Of course, they weren’t the only ones who were sad! Jesus was sorrowful, even unto death (Mk 14:34). But Jesus didn’t let His sorrow keep Him from prayer; Jesus’ sorrow drove Him to it.
    1. We’ve always got a choice, don’t we? We can always choose how we respond to a certain situation. We can allow ourselves to get overwhelmed & shut down from fear, sorrow, and exhaustion – or we can be proactive with the things we face, and take them to God in prayer.
  2. Beware the things that keep you from prayer! There will always be a distraction – there will always be something else demanding your attention. Don’t let those things take you away from what matters most…and time spent with Jesus in prayer matters most. That’s what we need to remember. Our priorities get all switched around, especially in times of crisis. Like a drowning man, we flail our arms about trying to anything we can to keep our head above water. Yet the way a person gets saved from drowning is to release him/herself to the rescuer. A lifeguard can pull a limp person to the shore; they can’t do anything with someone fighting the whole way. In prayer, we surrender ourselves to Jesus – we release ourselves over to God. The more things that distract us from that, the longer it takes for us to experience the help God offers.
  3. For the disciples (and us), there wasn’t time to waste! They needed to be praying, because there was an urgent need at hand. 46…

46 Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

  1. Notice the repetition! What Jesus said in vs. 40, He repeats in vs. 46. Again, they were about to enter the greatest period of temptation in their lives – perhaps greater than even anything they would face after Jesus rose from the dead (though it’s impossible to say). Prayer should always be a priority, but if there was anytime it should have been prioritized, it was now!
  2. Why would prayer help? Prayer is a guard against temptation. What was the one thing Jesus told the disciples to do in order not to fall into temptation? Contextually, the temptation faced by the disciples was the temptation to deny or totally abandon their faith – that much is clear from the events of the next several hours. And there’s no question that the disciples did struggle with those things, ultimately coming out as conquerors in Christ after His resurrection from the dead. But the principle is true for all of us. What temptations do you face? Maybe you’ve also faced the peer pressures of denying the Lord Jesus. Or maybe your temptations have been more base, such as drugs, sex, or alcohol. Whatever it is that tempts you, pray. Pray! Remember the Lord’s model prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Those aren’t just nice words – that ought to be heartfelt plea, and it is our example to follow. Plead to the Lord for strength – ask to be filled anew with the Holy Spirit – pray for Jesus’ help and intercession. When temptation rears its head, the last thing we want to do is to be left unprepared…we will fall every time.
  3. Just think back to the Garden of Eden. How different would the outcome have been if Adam and Eve had prayed the moment they encountered the serpent. Upon hearing the lies of Satan, they could have called out to God at any point, asking for help or for Him to clear up their confusion. Instead they did, as the disciples did, as we often do – believe we can handle it ourselves through our own strength and understanding…and then suffer the consequences. This is what Jesus would guard us from! He told the disciples to “Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” Should they continue to sleep, they would suffer the arrows of Satan; should they pray, they would know the power of God. Christian: rise and pray!

Conclusion:

While Jesus did battle in the Garden, the disciples slept on the sidelines. While Jesus labored and agonized in prayer, the discipled allowed their sorrow to exhaust them. It’s no wonder that while Jesus was prepared for the hours ahead, the disciples struggled and flailed. If they had but followed the example of their Master, they may have experienced something very different.

Beloved, we cannot afford to neglect the importance of prayer! It can be difficult work, but it is important work. It may just be the most important work you do all day long.

In all of this, don’t miss the reason why Jesus prayed: the cross. Jesus agonized in prayer in order to endure the agony of the cross & to provide a sacrifice for you & me.

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Preparing for the Worst

Posted: February 4, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 22:31-38, “Preparing for the Worst”

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. – The advice is so common that no one quite knows where the phrase originated. Some attribute it to Benjamin Disraeli, the British Prime Minister in the 1870’s, while others date it as far back as 1561 with the first tragic play written in the English language (“The Tragedie of Gorbuduc,” Thomas Norton & Thomas Sackville). Whoever said it first, it’s been said by many since. Be it a general during wartime, or a family preparing for hurricane landfall, the advice is sound. Hope and pray for the best of results, but prepare as if the worst is on the way.

The phrase does not originate in the Bible, but the idea is certainly Biblical. When the patriarch Joseph was Prime Minister of Egypt, he used the years of plentiful harvest to prepare for the years of famine that were coming. Centuries later, when a prophecy was given to Paul of his future arrest in Jerusalem, Paul was still determined to go – fully prepared to not only be arrested, but to die in Jerusalem, if need be. (As it turned out, he would survive for many more years.) These men & others prayed for the best, but they were prepared for the worst.

In a sense, that is what Jesus is doing with the apostles during His final evening with them after the Last Supper. Obviously Jesus knows the future in a way we cannot (apart from divine revelation), but He still prayed for His disciples, desiring the best for them. At the same time, He was fully aware of the worse situations that would come, and He wanted them to be prepared.

It’s important to keep in mind that this is indeed the final night that Jesus had with the disciples. Earlier in the week, Judas Iscariot had planned his conspiracy with the priests, having sold Jesus to them for a pitiful sum of money (30 pieces of silver was less value than a common slave). Jesus knew of the evil planned against Him, yet His own plans did not change. He didn’t go into hiding – He didn’t flee from Jerusalem. Instead, He was wise with the time that was remaining, but still celebrated the Passover with His disciples, just as He had always planned to do.

As it turned out, it was a Passover Seder the disciples would never forget, as Jesus changed the traditional wording of the ritual to show how it pointed to Him. He Himself is the Passover sacrifice – the one whose body was broken and whose blood was shed for the sins of the world. At the same time Jesus did all of this, He warned the disciples once more about the betrayal amongst them that would lead to His arrest and death. 

To no surprise, this got the disciples talking. One moment they’re truly concerned that any one of them might commit such a heinous act of evil, while the next moment they’re arguing about who among the 12 is the greatest of all. Chastising their foolishness, Jesus called them to humility, giving the example of Himself as the One who serves. They (and we) are called to be servants, just like Jesus. It’s up to God to give greatness, and He will do so in His way & His time in His kingdom.

It’s after all of this that Jesus prepares the 11 remaining disciples for the events soon to come. First up would be Peter, who to his dismay, would need to be prepared for the unthinkable: a denial of his Lord and Master. Yet Peter wouldn’t be the only one who would struggle through tribulations in the future – all of the disciples would face hardship and temptation at some point. They needed to be prepared for their trials. They needed to pray for the best, but prepare for the worst.

The good news is that Jesus was there to help them get ready – all they needed to do was listen, believe, and be obedient. Likewise with us. Just like Jesus prepared His disciples, He prepares us. Listen to Him!

Luke 22:31–38

  • Preparation for Denial (31-34)

31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.

  1. The Passover meal may have ended, but Jesus’ time with the disciples that evening went on. Jesus only had a limited time left, and He took advantage of every second. One of the ways He did was to prepare Peter (and all of the disciples for the things that awaited them over the next several hours, and one of the worst was regarding Satan’s “prayer” for Peter. It might seem strange to us that Satan appealed to God, but that’s apparently what happened. Technically, this is less of a prayer than a demand. The Greek word is an emphatic form of asking, the same form of the word used in other literature to “demand the surrender of” certain enemies (TDNT). IOW, Satan wasn’t asking nicely, saying “pretty please” – he was vehemently demanding an opportunity to put Simon Peter to the test and grind him like a kernel of wheat.
    1. Satan didn’t just make his demands for Peter; he wanted all of the disciples. When Jesus said “Satan has asked for you,” the “you” is plural. Satan asked for “all of you.” He already found success with Judas Iscariot, and wanted to do the same with all of them. Peter was simply first in his sights.
  2. Though it’s a demand, it’s still something Satan had to request of God. No matter how much the devil rebels against the Lord, God is still sovereign over the devil. This is evident in the book of Job, where Satan is shown being severely limited by God on how much the devil was allowed to attack Job. It is evident throughout the gospels, when the demons are forced to flee at the command of Jesus. At first glance, it might seem strange – if Satan is so rebellious, why wouldn’t he just do what he wanted, despite whether or not God agreed? But when we think about it, it makes sense. God is completely sovereign over the world. He is the Creator, and it is His creation…including the devil. Because the devil is just as much a created being as everything else, he cannot do more than what God allows. Satan may have a bit of freedom to rebel, but his freedom is limited. 
  3. Even so, we are still at war against the devil. The things Simon Peter were about to face were true battles, but they weren’t going to be one with swords and knives; they could only be fought with prayer and faith. He had a true enemy desiring to take him down – the most powerful enemy imaginable! Satan personally took an interest in the apostles. He was looking to take them down. This hasn’t changed. Satan still wants to destroy the church of Jesus Christ, and he gets personally involved (though in ways we cannot see). Christians face spiritual battles every day, and we need to be prepared for them. The devil (or more likely, his demonic minions) will attack us every chance they get.
    1. How do we fight a spiritual battle? Through spiritual means. Paul, when writing to the Ephesians about the wars we face against demonic powers and principalities (rather than the physical rulers of this world), told them to take up the full armor of God: Ephesians 6:14–18, “(14) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (15) and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (16) above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; (18) praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—” Is it literal armor? No – Paul writes in an extended metaphor using figurative language. But the battle is real, and so is the protection offered by God. Jesus does not leave us unprepared for the trials we face. Confronted by lies, we remember that we are grounded in the truth, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We hold fast to our faith in Jesus, no matter what is thrown at us, protected by our salvation, and fighting back with the word of God and prayer. Satan may want to sift us, but our Jesus has already saved us – and He has given us everything we need to hold up during the worst battles of our lives.
  4. The apostle certainly would face a battle, and it wouldn’t be one in which he’d leave unscathed. Note: it’s “Simon”; not Peter. We want to be careful not to make more of this than what it is, but it’s interesting that when the apostle spoke in faith, Jesus gave him the name Peter; when he acted in his flesh, it was “Simon,” more often than not. Peter hadn’t yet spoken a word, but Jesus knew what was coming – both in the ensuing argument, and in the next several hours. Simon Peter would act less like Peter, and more like Simon. We’ve all been there – we’ve all had times when we’ve reverted back to our flesh. Simon Peter was simply the first among us as the church to do it.
  5. Even so, Jesus still loved him and prayed for him. 32…

32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

  1. How marvelous are those words: “But I have prayed for you.” Technically, this could be translated as an emphatic, “but I myself have prayed for you / on your account.” Jesus prayed for Simon Peter…personally. No doubt Peter would have welcomed the prayers of his friends and family. He would have been grateful for the prayers of faithful men and women who truly knew the Lord God. But in this case, Peter didn’t have their prayers – nor did he need them. He had the prayers of Jesus Christ Himself! Jesus lifted the needs and coming trials of Peter directly to the throne of God the Father. God the Son interceded on behalf of His friend and disciple. You can’t ask for a better prayer partner than that!
    1. This is what Jesus does continually for all His people. His work of sacrifice is complete, just as Jesus declared from the cross, “It is finished.” But Jesus hasn’t stopped working. He constantly labors in prayer for all those who believe in Him, and follow Him as Lord. Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” What does that mean? It means that if you follow Jesus as Lord, then Jesus prays for you. It means that when you face your spiritual battles, that you’re never alone – you aren’t the only one praying. If you don’t have a single other person prayer with you, you still have God the Son interceding on your behalf. And it’s not just the Son – God the Spirit prays for you as well. Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” As a believer in Jesus Christ, you have two members of the Trinity praying directly to God the Father on your behalf. Again – we cannot ask for better prayer partners!
    2. Christian, this ought to give you confidence! We will face terrible battles and trials. But we do not face them alone and unguarded. Our God has never taken His eyes off us, nor has He ever ceased praying for us. He will see us through!
  2. For what reason did Jesus pray? That Peter’s “faith should not fail.” Because we know what happened regarding Peter’s denial, it would be easy to read this and think at first glance that Jesus’ prayers were unsuccessful. Since Peter denied the Lord, not just once but three times, then surely Peter failed, right? Not quite. Peter experienced failure (no doubt!), but that wasn’t what Jesus prayed. Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail – or to get the sense of the Greek word, that Peter’s faith would not die out/cease to exist. It’s one thing to have a failure with temptation, or to seriously trip up in our walk with Christ; it’s another thing to have our faith die out altogether. Jesus’ prayer for Peter was that despite his failure, that Peter’s faith would endure. Simon Peter’s experiences in faith might dwindle from a blaze to a single candle flame, but Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not be extinguished.
    1. Question: Can the faith of a believer fail? Can someone’s faith truly die? This is a subject of much debate, with solid, studied, Bible-believing Christians able to quote Scriptures on either side of the issue. The problem with the debate is that it’s debating the wrong question. The question isn’t “How much can I screw up before I’m in danger of losing my salvation?” – it ought to be, “How close can I walk with Jesus to ensure I avoid this sort of failure altogether?” We ought to be less interested in how much ability we have to sin and still be considered “Christian,” and more interested in how much more we can know and walk with our Lord and Savior. People who want to know much permission they have to sin against Jesus probably ought to closely examine their faith to see if they even know Jesus. Those who know Him want to be with Him. Those who know Him grieve at the thought of sinning against Him. Those who know Him have their hope of salvation so firmly grounded in Him that true failure of faith isn’t an option.
  3. So Peter would experience a failure, but his faith wouldn’t fail. This had been Jesus’ prayer, and He was certain of the answer. In fact, Jesus was so sure of His answered prayer, that He spoke positively of Peter’s return! It’s not “if you return to Me,” but “when you have returned to Me.” There was no question in Jesus’ mind that the faith of Simon Peter would not die. The apostle would be shaken, but not totally sifted. Jesus had confidence not only in His own prayers, but in Simon Peter himself. After all, Jesus had a job for Peter upon his return: “strengthen your brethren.” Simon Peter’s failure, though not welcome, would enable Peter to do something he would not have been able to do otherwise: be a strength to the other disciples when they encountered similar situations in the future. Simon Peter, perhaps better than many of the other disciples, would understand the depth of the forgiveness and grace offered by Jesus. All of the disciples had been forgiven when they first began following the Lord (Matthew the tax collector being a prime example), but there isn’t any Biblical record of them stumbling away from Jesus to the extent that Peter did after they knew the Lord. Simon Peter did. He failed in a massive, foundational way. Yet Jesus received him back, forgave him his failure, and put him back into the ministry. There’s no question that Peter understood the grace of Jesus! That put him into a prime position to be a strength to others, when they encountered failures of their own in the future.
    1. Nobody wants to fail. None of us want to stumble or otherwise screw up in our walk with Jesus. Far better to heed the warnings and walk in obedience, than to hang our heads in sorrow asking for forgiveness. But when we do, how wonderful it is to be a strength and comfort to someone else struggling with the same situation! (Maybe that’s you…)
  4. So that was Jesus’ gracious warning. What was Peter’s response? 33…

33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”

  1. It’s not the first time Peter argued with the Lord, though it may have been the last. Simon Peter denied that he would deny Jesus. “No way, Lord! Not me. Everyone else may fail, but I won’t!” Sound familiar? How many times have we all puffed up ourselves and our own ability to stand strong in the face of temptation? Only later do we understand how foolish it is to use our fleshly strength to fight fleshly trials. In ourselves, we are utterly weak; it is in Christ that we are strong, being more than conquerors over tribulations and distress (Rom 8:35-37). It is His strength and power we need. When writing of his own trials, Paul never once bragged how he was stronger than the things he faced. Whatever strength he had to face whatever trials were before him, that strength came from Christ alone (Phil 4:13). Likewise with us!
  2. Despite Peter’s denial, Jesus knew the truth, and gave a very specific prophecy of what would happen later that evening/morning. Simon Peter wouldn’t have his faith knocked out by Satan, but he would certainly get knocked down. Peter would deny even knowing the Lord Jesus, not just once, but three times. Faced with the possibility of being caught up in Jesus’ same trials and persecutions, Simon Peter would buckle to fear, and all of his macho bragging would be exposed for what it was.
  3. Keep in mind, this isn’t Jesus berating or chastising Peter; Jesus is simply stating the facts. Jesus knows that Simon Peter will be repentant & soon return to his former position of faith among the apostles, but he will experience massive failure and disappointment along the way. There wasn’t any use arguing with the Lord about it. After all, He’s God & we’re not. He knows the future & we don’t. We’re human, thus we’re weak. That’s just the way we are. Jesus doesn’t blame us for our weaknesses; He died for them. He loves us and wants to restore us. We just need to believe Him, take Him at His word, and submit ourselves to Him.
  4. FYI – there is a bit of variation among the gospel accounts as to how many times the rooster would crow. Matthew, Luke, and John all mention one crowing; Mark mentions two. Is this a contradiction? Nowhere is it recorded that Jesus claimed in one book that the rooster would only crow once, and no more. We need to be careful not to make the prophecy say something it doesn’t. Jesus is simply prophesying about the sounding of the rooster. That rooster would call Simon Peter back to the validity of Jesus’ prophecy – it would wake him up out of his fleshly stupor. The gospels do not contradict one another on that point. If anything, the three later gospels (Matthew, Luke, and John) back up and summarize the earlier gospel (Mark). After all, if a rooster is going to crow twice, it’s going to at least crow once. Where Mark was specific, the other three were generic.
  5. Don’t miss the main point! Simon Peter would fail, but his failure would not be the end. Jesus knew what would happen, and He was preparing Peter for what he would face. Simon Peter may not have listened too well that evening, but there’s no question he remembered later!
  6. Jesus didn’t prepare only Simon Peter; He prepared all of the disciples that evening. 35…
  • Preparation for Departure (35-38)

35 And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.”

  1. Jesus had sent out the disciples twice before. The first was just as the 12 (with the inclusion of Judas Iscariot – Lk 9:1-6); the second was a larger group of seventy (Lk 10:1-12). In each instance, Jesus commanded that the groups take nothing with them. “Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road,” (Lk 10:4). They were to go without personal provisions and without daily distractions. They were official emissaries of the King of kings, and they were to trust in His provision for them along the way.
  2. They could, and they did – and God proved Himself faithful. They lacked nothing on their journey, and were successful in preaching the gospel to the masses, even experiencing miracles of healings and demon exorcisms. God equipped them for every situation they faced, and they could rejoice. Most of all, they could rejoice that their names were written in heaven (Lk 10:20) – but they could still rejoice that God chose to use them for His glory and His kingdom purpose.
  3. Yet something was changing. 36…

36 Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.

  1. What changed? Not the mission; only the circumstance. Before, they had been sent out by Jesus, and would return to Jesus. This time, when Jesus sent them out, He would ascend to heaven, and they would no longer be able to physically return to Him. Everything the disciples had ever known was about to change! For nearly three years, they had walked and lived with Jesus, witnessing His miraculous power and hearing His authoritative teaching in His presence. No longer. Although the twelve always had difficulty believing it, Jesus would soon be arrested by the Jews, delivered to the Romans, and crucified to death. Yes, He would rise from the dead and return to them (praise God!), but even then, Jesus wouldn’t remain with them for long. Spiritually speaking, Jesus would be with them until the end of the age (Mt 28:20), but physically speaking, Jesus was leaving. This time, when the disciples were sent out, they wouldn’t be able to return to home-base with Jesus. Like a kid learning to ride a bike, the training wheels were being taken off, and the disciples were expected to go out on their own with the gospel and thrive. (And they would! So can we!)
  2. Don’t miss this point! It is only the circumstances that have changed. They are entering a new phase of ministry, but that’s it. Don’t get the idea that because Jesus’ instructions for them changed, that God did. Certainly not! God is the same yesterday, today, and forever! His ability to provide is no less than before. God’s love for them is no less, nor is His ability to protect them. The only difference is that God will protect and provide for them in different ways. This time, they wouldn’t be returning home. They were expected to go out into all the world, making disciples of all the nations (Mt 28:19). It would take them a little while to actually get the point & head outside of Jerusalem (not until Acts 8, under the hardship of persecution!), but they would do it, and the world was never the same.
    1. Christian: is there any question that 100% of your provision comes from God? Of course not. Is there any doubt that the Lord Jesus is with you, helping you? That the Holy Spirit empowers you & protects you? Our God has not changed! He is just as active and involved with us as He ever was with the original apostles. The one change between us and them is the physical presence of Jesus. Today, He sits in victory at the right hand of God, having conquered sin & death. Today, we have the benefit of a completed sacrifice, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit – something the disciples did not have during their three years with Jesus. Certainly, they cherished those original days with Him, but they wouldn’t have given up the days that came after. Nor would we!
  3. Notice one other major change in the items mentioned by Jesus. Before, He spoke of money bags, knapsacks, and a change of sandals. Here, He repeats the money bags and knapsacks (and likely assumes the sandals), but there is an addition of a sword. For the first time in their three years with Jesus, He speaks of a physical weapon. It would be as if Jesus told modern disciples today to go purchase a handgun. No doubt it was shocking, but it certainly underscored the point that things were going to be different! The future held many dangers for the disciples, and they needed to be ready for it.
  4. All of this is predicated on the idea of the circumstances changing. Because times have changed, the disciples needed to prepare for that change. How can we know it was only a change in circumstances? Because Jesus said so. 37…

37 For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”

  1. Things were at “an end.” The same word Jesus later spoke from the cross declaring all things to be finished was used here (though in a different grammatical form). All things written of Him, at least in this first phase of His incarnate ministry, were almost at their completion. Not that there weren’t numerous prophecies left to be fulfilled in the next several hours – there were many! The sheep of Jesus would be scattered (Zech 13:7), Judas Iscariot would throw his pitiful profits back into the temple (Zech 11:12-13), Jesus would experience the horrendous pain of crucifixion, having been rejected by the people, and have His clothing gambled away by the Roman soldiers (Ps 22), among many other things. 
  2. The particular prophecy here comes from Isaiah: Isaiah 53:12, “Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.” The entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah speaks of Jesus – this particular prophecy giving specific details as to the nature of His death. Jesus, though the King of kings and true hero of all the universe, would not die the death of a hero; He would die the death of a traitor, alongside other criminals. Crucifixion was as punishment reserved for the worst of the worst, and although Jesus never committed a single sin, this was the death He received. Why? Because for God’s purpose in Him to be accomplished, that was precisely the death that was required. Jesus didn’t die for His sins; He died for ours. He died for every sin of all humanity – so yes, His death was the death reserved for the worst of criminals, for that is what we are.
    1. Consider that for a moment: Jesus died the death of a criminal, for you. He died the death of a criminal for me. Shouldn’t that fact change the way we think about sin? During those times you are most tempted to ease back into your flesh – those times that you consider a temporary slip, knowing that you’ll later ask forgiveness – remember what Jesus did for you. Remember how He died, and for what reason He died. The fact that the eternal Son of God died on our behalf ought to be sobering enough, but the type of death He died makes all the more impact. Jesus, though innocent, died with the transgressors, having all our transgressions upon Him. He became sin on our behalf, in order that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21).

38 So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

  1. Some criticize the disciples here, saying that they misunderstood Jesus, that when Jesus spoke of a sword, He spoke figuratively. That what Jesus was really saying is that the gospel message would encounter opposition, and the apostles needed to be ready for that kind of internal struggle. Thus when the disciples pulled out two literal swords, Jesus chastises them & basically tells them to change the subject. The problem is that this interpretation reads a lot into Jesus’ words that isn’t necessarily there. After all, if part of what Jesus mentioned was to be figurative (a sword), then the rest of what He mentioned ought to be figurative as well (a money bag, and knapsack) – yet this is obviously not the case. The apostles did need to take provisions with them on the road – this was very practical instruction from Jesus. So if the first items were literal, so was the last.
  2. Most likely, the disciples understood exactly what Jesus said, and Jesus simply agrees with them. He told them to acquire a sword, and they already had two in their midst. That was enough for what was needed. It underscores the point that the sword was for protection; not assault. Sure enough, there would be a misunderstanding later that night when Peter tried to protect Jesus from being arrested, foolishly (and incompetently) throwing around a sword, cutting off the ear of a slave (vs. 50). But that’s not why Jesus told them to get a sword. It wasn’t to stop Jesus from going to the cross & fulfilling God’s purpose – it wasn’t to force people to “convert” to Christianity, under penalty of death (as was the whole spread of the Islamic religion). It was simply to protect the disciples along the road. These were tools of defense; not assault. It was simple protection from the unexpected.
  3. Technically, these weren’t even tools to shield them from persecution. Not once do we find the apostles physically fighting against the Jews or Judaizers who came against them in the book of Acts. The Bible shows the fact that the disciples had a couple of swords, but the only time we find those swords used is during the next several hours when Jesus was arrested. That’s it. It seems that Jesus recommended the swords for protection during sudden attack, if they were ambushed by robbers along the road, or some other similar situation. They weren’t to fight those who persecuted them; they were to pray for them. The resistance we offer against those who would do us harm for our faith is not violence and blood; it is the witness of the gospel. Matthew 5:43–46, “(43) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (44) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (45) that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (46) For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Keep in mind those words are not simple suggestions and good thoughts from Jesus; these are clear instructions from our Lord & Master. Nor are they instructions for merely others, those under Him. Jesus followed through on this Himself. When Jesus was arrested, no swords were required – He could have called down legions of angels in His defense. Technically, Jesus didn’t even need the angels; He could have willed His enemies out of existence! Yet Jesus did not resist a single hand that came against Him. He even literally prayed for His enemies while hanging from the cross. That is the example we follow. The best weapon against persecution isn’t a gun; it’s prayer.

Conclusion:

Were troubles coming? Yes. Would they be the end? Absolutely not. Jesus wanted His disciples to be fully prepared for the things they were about to face. Simon Peter would soon face the harshest spiritual attack of his life. The whole group of the disciples would encounter trials & tribulation, and they would soon do so without the physical assurance of having Jesus at their side. They needed to be ready for these things, so Jesus prepared them.

Having faith in Christ doesn’t exempt us from trials. Simply because we’re saved doesn’t mean that we will never have a tough day again for the rest of our lives. On the contrary – Jesus is very clear about the things that His disciples (both the 12 and all of us) will face as we walk with Him. The same night He told the apostles about these things, He also told them, “in the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33) Did Jesus promise trials? Yes – but He didn’t leave us unprepared for them.

The good news? Just like Jesus prepared Simon Peter and the other disciples, He prepares us. Just like Jesus prayed for them, Jesus prays for you. Just like Jesus died for their failings, He died for ours. Do we have trouble? Yes – but Jesus overcomes them all.

Listen to the warnings of Jesus, in order that you don’t falter in your faith when the troubles hit. When people get disillusioned with Christianity, often it’s because they came in with false expectations. They believed that Jesus would make them healthy & wealthy, and that they’d never have a dark day the rest of their lives. Then the spiritual battles hit, and they’re left gasping for air wondering what happened. Don’t let that happen to you. Listen to Jesus, and be ready for the things of this world. After all, you won’t be going through it alone – Jesus is praying for you all the way.

Death on the Rise

Posted: February 1, 2018 in Genesis, Uncategorized

Genesis 4-5, “Death on the Rise”

It’s been said that there are two things that are unavoidable: death and taxes. Comparatively speaking, the easier one for some people to deal with is death. After all, death only comes around once; taxes have to be filed every year. 😊 Despite what some do attempting to avoid it, death comes to everyone. Even the healthiest among us still eventually die, though the quality of their final years is far better than the average person. Today, the death rate remains at a steady 100% – one out of every one person dies.

It can be difficult to imagine a day when death actually increased, yet that is exactly what happened at the beginning of human history. First mankind lived, and death took place one-by-one over time as generations passed from one to another. Just as we all eventually get to a point in life when we start attending more funerals than weddings, so there was a time on the earth when funerals first began. Imagine what it was like to attend the first funeral in history? Surely it was as shocking as it could possibly be.

How did it happen? When God created the universe, everything was good…very good. The Lord was pleased with what He had done, as everything of the world and on the world was perfect. The one thing God saw needed changing was that His special creation of man needed a true equal helper, and that was when He created woman. The first humans enjoyed perfect fellowship with God in full obedience to Him, all until the one day that sin entered the world after an encounter with Satan.

Disguised as a serpent, the devil caused Eve to question God’s word & God’s character – he pricked the pride of the woman (and the man), causing the humans to think that they could be just like God. Adam & Eve took the bait when they ate of the forbidden fruit, and they brought upon themselves the curse of God. To Adam, God said that the man would now labor and toil over the ground, one day destined to return to it in death. To Eve, God declared that the woman would labor in childbirth, and that she would long for the position from which she fell. Both husband and wife were evicted from the Garden of Eden – both a punishment and mercy. Although they were forced to leave the perfect place designed for them by God, God protected them from eating of the tree of life – something that would have forced them to stay in their fallen state for all eternity.

Of course, that wasn’t all. The curse to the serpent was to eventually face a promised Savior. The woman would bear a Seed, a specific offspring of her own – and this Child would one day crush the head of the serpent, righting everything that went wrong in the Garden. From the very beginning, God had a plan for the redemption of mankind, and it all began that day.

Yet before the promised Seed could bring life, first came the consequences of death. Although spiritual death came to Adam and Eve the moment they ate of the fruit, their bodies lived on, and death for them would not come for many years (centuries!). Sadly, death would intrude far sooner than Adam’s funeral. With the first children came the first crimes, and the human race began its quick downward spiral into sin and despair. Soon, death was the common denominator behind all men, which Genesis 4-5 demonstrate.

The good news is that a comforter was on the way. God’s promise of a Savior Seed was still valid, and hope is found in Him. Don’t despair; look to Jesus. In the face of certain death, He offers certain life!

Genesis 4 – Cain & Consequences

  • Cain’s Crime (1-15)

1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

  1. Life continues. Here is the mercy of God. The two people could have been killed in the Garden, yet God allowed them to live – every new day would have been to them a reminder of new mercies & new grace. As Jeremiah would write many centuries later: it is because of the Lord’s mercies the were “not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning.” (Lam 3:22-23) (Do you appreciate those mercies?)
  2. Cain” likely derived from a word meaning “acquired.” Eve saw him as a gift of God, perhaps looking to him as the fulfillment of the promised Seed. Sadly, her hope was misplaced. “Abel” is a bit uncertain. Scripture does not record a specified meaning for his name, but it is potentially related to a word meaning “breath, vapor, vanity.” Perhaps a bit of ominous foreshadowing of the shortness of his life.
  3. Both sons were agricultural, but one was a farmer & the other a rancher. Why was Abel a shepherd when humans did not yet eat meat? Perhaps he raised sheep for sacrifices & worship – perhaps he raised them for dairy products. Ultimately, the Scripture doesn’t tell us.
  4. What Scripture does tell us is about their relationship with God. Vs. 3…

3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. …

  1. Cain brought an offering/tribute; Abel brought of his firstborns’ fat. Contrary to some well-meaning Bible teachers, this doesn’t mean that an animal offering was automatically better. Later Mosaic law did allow for grain offerings, after all – and Cain could not offer what he did not have. The text seems to look past the content of their offering to the quality of their offering. Both brought something, but only one brought of his best. Each brother offered something in worship; only one offered something in faith. Hebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” Whatever it was brought by Abel, it was brought in faith. It was brought in hope of the character of God, and looking forward to the promise of God. (Eph 2:8-9 applies to OT & NT alike!)
  2. What exactly all of this looked like on the outside is unknown, but God definitely saw a difference between them. He “respected” one, but not the other. e. He “gazed steadily / regarded” one, but not the other.
    1. God knows the state of our hearts! That’s true in saving faith… True in worship… True in giving… Whatever you bring, bring in faith. That’s the gift God will regard.

… And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

  1. Cain didn’t react well to all of this. He was “exceedingly angry.” Perhaps an indication of the state of his heart in the first place. Even so, God gave Cain a chance. He hadn’t forbidden Cain from worship, but gave him the opportunity to bring what was of faith.
    1. God invites us to be saved! God wants us to worship Him in truth.
  2. If Cain refused, the danger was real. God was not threatening him, but warning him. Sin & temptation are pictured as a crouching beast, lying in wait & ambush. This is what Satan does with us. He seeks whom he may devour. (1 Pt 5:8)
  3. Interestingly, the word used for “desire” (4:7) is the same word used in Eve’s curse (3:16). This speaks of a longing, or yearning. Just as Eve would never stop longing for the position of her husband, neither would sin stop longing to control Cain. Cain had the opportunity to control it before he gave into it, but he would have to be vigilant & willing to do so.
    1. So do we! We can either master sin, or it can master us. How do we master sin? Only one way: by submitting to the mastery of Jesus Christ. We master sin by dying to ourselves and living by the Spirit unto God.
  4. Cain didn’t do it. He didn’t want the lordship of God, and he ended up surrendering to the lordship of sin. 8…

8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

  1. Premeditated murder. The actual killing is not described, though the word implies “ruthless violence,” (BDAG).
  2. All because of what? This wasn’t a crime of passion; it was a crime of pride. How sad & tragic! Yet it isn’t unique to Cain. How many times do we allow our pride to get the best of us. Our ego gets bruised, so we launch into a rage. Jesus said that hating one another without cause is basically equivalent to murder (Mt 5:21-22). We might not kill with our fists or a club, but we can kill with our words.
    1. If Cain had but humbled himself before God, his pride would have remained in check, and his brother may have lived. Pride is dangerous, which is why God resists the proud. Thankfully, He gives grace to the humble! (Jas 4:6)

9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

  1. As when Adam & Eve hid in the Garden, God gave Cain the opportunity to confess. It’s not that God needed to ask the question; He already knew the answer. In God’s question was mercy – it was an opportunity for confession and cleansing.
  2. Cain didn’t take the opportunity. Instead, he takes an attitude of defiance, bucking up against God. There’s more than a bit of tragic irony in Cain’s non-response. His implication is “Am I responsible for my brother?” To which, the answer is yes – Cain was responsible for his brother’s death!
  3. BTW – the term “brother’s keeper” has gone far & wide beyond the initial context of Cain & Abel. Originally, it was his foolish denial of murder; today, it is often a call for us to help our neighbors. The Bible is absolutely clear that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, the Lord Jesus affirming it as the 2nd greatest command in the Scriptures, and the command being identified by other New Testament writers as the “royal law,” or the “law of Christ.” Yet does that mean we are ultimately responsible for the lives and well-being of our brothers/neighbors? Obviously we are to do what we can (and most of us can do far more than what we’re currently doing!), but at a certain point individuals need to take responsibility for themselves. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, if someone isn’t willing to work, that person shouldn’t be fed by the church (2 Ths 3:10). That doesn’t mean that the Thessalonians were to let a person starve to death on their doorstep, but it does mean that the individual has responsibility of his/her own. Scripture does not burden us to be our brothers’ keepers; it tells us to love them with the love of Christ. It’s an important distinction, not without a difference.

10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”

  1. God knew Cain’s lie before he spoke it. Ultimately, this was more than murder; it was martyrdom. (Mt 23:35) Abel’s offering had been given in faith, which God regarded, and that was the reason he was killed. Cain was jealous of Abel’s relationship with God – making this the first act of persecution in history. 
  2. God then curses Cain, just as He cursed Cain’s parents. This time, the ante was raised as Cain receives a greater curse than his father, though parallel to it. (1) Adam had to toil & labor over the ground before it would bear fruit. Cain, though a farmer by trade, would no longer be able to gain any fruit at all. (2) Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden, cast out of the place God designed for him. Cain was also expelled from his home, doomed to be a wandering fugitive no matter where he went.

13 And Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”

  1. The arrogance here is astounding! God spared Cain’s life after the crime of murder, yet Cain complains about the punishment he received. Some scholars question this interpretation, noting that the Hebrew word translated “punishment” could easily in other contexts be translated “sin/iniquity,” arguing that Cain is complaining that he cannot live with his own guilt & that he’s truly repentant. The context argues differently. Verse 14 shows a complaint over his consequences; not his conscience. Nowhere does Cain ever express remorse for slaying his brother. Instead, he’s upset that he could be next.
  2. Sin inescapably brings punishment. That’s just the way it is. God will not be mocked – what we sow, we reap. If we sow destruction, we will reap destruction. If we sow death, we’ll inherit it. Complaining about it doesn’t change anything. Cain felt bad about his future; the problem was that he never felt bad about his past. Sorrow over consequences does not equal a repentant heart. Paul made this point with the Corinthians: 2 Corinthians 7:9–10, “(9) Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. (10) For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
    1. What kind of sorrow do you experience with sin? Are you sorry for the sin, or sorry you got caught?
  3. Question: what could have happened at this point? God could have struck Cain dead on the spot. Yet it didn’t happen. Instead, God shows His mercy. 15…

15 And the LORD said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.

  1. Even upon someone as unrepentant as Cain, God still gives mercy. In fact, God gave mercy to those who might unwittingly kill Cain: God gave him a mark that identified him as one that should not be killed. (How sad is it that God understood that murder would be so rampant that anyone might kill Cain by mistake? Such is the fallen condition of the human race!)
  2. God’s mercy goes on the just & the unjust. Don’t take His mercies for granted!
  • Cain’s Kids (16-24)

16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch.

  1. Where exactly “Nod” was, we don’t know other than it being east of Eden. The name means “wandering,” which is appropriate considering Cain’s punishment. At some point Cain stopped wandering (though he was always a fugitive), as he built the first recorded city in the Scriptures. Whether or not Cain remained there is unknown, thought it would seem his family settled there & spread from that point.

18 To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech. 19 Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah.

  1. The generations of Cain. He was able to reproduce – something which Abel was denied. The listing of the genealogy is somewhat brief, shown simply to demonstrate the extent of sin among mankind.
  2. The first problem is seen in Lamech (who is problematic in many other ways!), as he is the first to engage in polygamy. This is a departure from God’s original plan of marriage, seen in 2:24.
    1. Some groups have apparently taken this verse as a justification for polygamy, stating that God never condemned the act. (1) That’s an argument from silence, which is always dangerous. Similarly speaking, God never blessed this act either. (2) This is the lineage of Cain – a lineage of sin. Specifically, it’s the actions of Lamech, who is another unrepentant sinner. This is perhaps the weakest of any example for plural marriage, and doesn’t paint it in a good light.
    2. Just because someone quotes a Bible verse as a proof-text doesn’t make their argument true. We always need to examine Scripture in the light of its context.
  3. We get a bit more information about Lamech’s children, vs. 20…

20 And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. 22 And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.

  1. This is the origin of nomadic ranching, the origin of musical instrumentation, and the origin of craftsmanship. Not every trade has its beginning specified in the Bible, but every trade had to start at some point, and these are listed.
  2. The general idea is that even within the lineage of Cain, there was an explosion of creativity and ingenuity. As the population increased, so did its capabilities. But that doesn’t mean it was always a good thing. Technology may have advanced, but morality did not (as will be made clear in Ch. 6).
    1. Our culture today makes technology into a god of its own…be careful! Knowledge isn’t the same thing as righteousness.

23 Then Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, Even a young man for hurting me. 24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

  1. Lamech followed in Cain’s footsteps, with the exception that things became even worse. Lamech also murdered someone, with his excuse being that he was wounded. There is no regret – no appeal to God. There’s not even any fear of divine judgment. Lamech’s only concern is retribution from others, so he assumes for himself the same protection as Cain received (even magnifying it exponentially).
  2. This is a man who took God’s mercies for granted. This is a man without any true fear of God whatsoever. This is a preview of the sad state of mankind to come in Ch. 6.
  3. Yet not all is lost. 25…
  • A New Beginning (25-26)

25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.”

  1. “Seth” = “appointed.” It would seem that Eve not only recognized the mercies of God shown to her once again, but she recognized that this would be the lineage from which would come the appointed Seed/Messiah.

26 And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.

  1. Seth’s line was far different than Cain’s. Whereas Cain’s descendants fell further from God, Seth’s sons “began to call on the name of the LORD.” They were worshippers.

Genesis 5 – Adam’s Family Tree

  • Adam to Seth (1-3)

1 This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. 3 And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.

  1. This is the first mention of the word “genealogy,” (toledoth) in the book of Genesis, marking the first major break in the narrative.
  2. There’s a bit of recap from the first couple of chapters, and a parallel between the acts of God with Adam and the acts of Adam with his son. God created Adam in His likeness; Adam begot Seth in his own likeness. God gave Adam a name; Adam gave Seth his name. Adam is following in the footsteps of his heavenly Father, exactly as he should have done all along.
  3. This begins the first major genealogy in the Bible, of which there will be several. Some lines will be mapped to a point, and forgotten – there is only one that is mapped all through the Bible: Jesus. The genealogies can sometimes be confusing, but in all of them, remember this: the genealogies are there to point us to Christ. Human history leads to a singular point: the moment when the Savior is given. 
  4. Regarding this particular genealogy, there is a consistent pattern to be followed (with a few important exceptions): A name – how many years lived until his firstborn son – how many years he lived afterwards, bearing sons & daughters – the point of his death. It is the refrain of death that rings out time & time again. 
  • Seth to Jared (4-20)

4 After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters. 5 So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died. 6 Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begot Enosh. 7 After he begot Enosh, Seth lived eight hundred and seven years, and had sons and daughters. 8 So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died. 9 Enosh lived ninety years, and begot Cainan. 10 After he begot Cainan, Enosh lived eight hundred and fifteen years, and had sons and daughters. 11 So all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years; and he died. 12 Cainan lived seventy years, and begot Mahalalel. 13 After he begot Mahalalel, Cainan lived eight hundred and forty years, and had sons and daughters. 14 So all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years; and he died. 15 Mahalalel lived sixty-five years, and begot Jared. 16 After he begot Jared, Mahalalel lived eight hundred and thirty years, and had sons and daughters. 17 So all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years; and he died. 18 Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and begot Enoch. 19 After he begot Enoch, Jared lived eight hundred years, and had sons and daughters. 20 So all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years; and he died.

  1. The generations continue, the population grows, and death reigns among all. The curse delivered by God to Adam rang true: because he had eaten of the tree, he did “surely die.” Death is totally unavoidable! It is, after all, the wages of sin.
  2. Items of note:
    1. Only firstborn sons are listed. Even Adam had far more sons & daughters than the three sons specifically mentioned in Ch 4 (Cain, Abel, Seth). Considering the length of their lives, the population would have exploded in size.
    2. The length of lives were exceptionally long! These numbers seem beyond credibility to many today, but we have to remember that this took place during the years when the earth was at its newest. Pollution did not exist, nor did many of the diseases that have appeared over time. Additionally, it’s reasonable to assume that things were different prior to the flood. That sort of catastrophic event is bound to have some effect on the earth itself.
    3. In some cases, the men waited many years before having their first child. As to why, we can only speculate. Certainly they did not seem to be in any rush, perhaps due to their long lives.
  • Enoch (21-24)

21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. 22 After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

  1. Enoch stands out as different from the rest for one primary reason: he never died. In a genealogy that is very specific about each generation’s death (even that of Adam!), not a word is said about Enoch’s death. All it says of him is that he “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Scripture says that it is appointed to man once to die, yet Enoch seems to be the exception that proves the rule. We get some insight from the author of Hebrews: Hebrews 11:5–6, “(5) By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (6) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” What was Enoch’s walk with God? It was a walk of faith!
    1. Faith is not optional for the Christian. Faith is not only for “super” believers; it’s for every believer! We need to be those who walk according to faith.
  2. FYI, Enoch is mentioned elsewhere in Scripture in regards to a prophetic book that bears his name (Jude 14-15). This is not a Biblical endorsement of the book of 1 Enoch as a whole; simply of the specific words that were quoted by Jude. We have the fully completed canon of Scripture, and the books of Enoch are not included.
  • Methuselah to Noah (25-32)

25 Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and begot Lamech. 26 After he begot Lamech, Methuselah lived seven hundred and eighty-two years, and had sons and daughters. 27 So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died.

  1. Answer to common Bible trivia question: the oldest person in the Bible was Methuselah, living 969 years old. Yet even he died. With the two exceptions of Enoch & Elijah, all people die. (Which means all of us need to be prepared for death!)

28 Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and had a son. 29 And he called his name Noah, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD has cursed.”

  1. The word used for “Noah” sounds very similar to another Hebrew word translated “comfort.” Apparently, Lamech (not the same Lamech as from Ch. 4 & Cain’s lineage) prophetically saw something in his firstborn son. Perhaps he thought Noah might be the awaited Seed of the woman – perhaps God gave him some other special insight. Either way, Lamech believed his son would have some special role in rolling back the curse given unto Adam.
  2. And he did. Granted, it would come in a different way than Lamech had likely hoped. After all, a global flood causing the death of every living human being with the exception of 8 people doesn’t sound very comforting, but it would be Noah’s line that would continue on the earth. It would be Noah’s line that eventually led to the Messiah. The curse is indeed reversed in the comfort sought for by Noah.

30 After he begot Noah, Lamech lived five hundred and ninety-five years, and had sons and daughters. 31 So all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years; and he died. 32 And Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

  1. The genealogy ends with a bit of preview looking to the events surrounding Noah & his sons, the common refrain of “death” ending with Lamech.
  2. When would Lamech die? At the same time as many others on the earth: in the flood. [PIC] It can be easy to lose sight of how interconnected these generations were, but it seems very possible that Noah knew Enosh, and possibly even Seth…being just 2-3 generations away from Adam himself.

Conclusion:

That’s a lot of people, and a lot of death. The sin brought on by Adam and Eve affected every single person who came after them, and still affects each & every one of us today. Yet there is one simple difference: we not only have a guarantee of death, but we also have a guarantee of life! John 11:25–26, “(25) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (26) And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?””

When our faith is in the promised Seed of the woman – when our faith & walk is with the Lord Jesus Christ, believing upon Him as God in the flesh & our own Lord & Savior – we have life! Will our bodies die? Should the rapture tarry, then yes – even those who believe in Christ will face physical death. But we will never face spiritual death! And beyond that, we will eventually have physical life as well. Our bodies will be raised, transformed by the grace of God, and we will finally life physically as God had always intended for Adam and Eve. We have a promise of life!

Christian, don’t despair in the face of death. Is it a reality? Yes, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Just as Adam & Eve looked forward to the Seed – just as Enoch walked daily with God – just like Lamech looked forward to God’s comforting Hope – we too, look to our Savior.

The Greatest?

Posted: January 28, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 22:24-30, “The Greatest?”

Probably the best-known boxer of all time, Muhammed Ali (born Cassius Clay) was also one of the biggest self-promoters of all time. He was the living embodiment of the selfie, long before selfies were truly invented. Some of his more memorable lines:

  • Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.
  • I’m young; I’m handsome; I’m fast. I can’t possibly be beat.
  • It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.
  • I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.

To be fair, Ali had the skills and the record to back up his words…but there’s no denying his love for bragging.

He’s not the only one. Americans are largely in love with trash-talking, if not strictly in love with ourselves. We want to build ourselves up as the best, the grandest & the greatest.

The disciples of Jesus were no different. Perhaps surprising to some, the men who followed Jesus for nearly three years of ministry – the guys who served Him, and served the people coming to Him – the guys who listened to Jesus day-in and day-out – even these men struggled with ego and delusions of grandeur. Is it a flaw? Yes – no question. But it might be something that gives us hope. After all, if the original disciples struggled with this, then it might comfort us in our own wars against pride.

Make no mistake: we are at war with our flesh! There’s a reason why Jesus said that if anyone desires to follow after Him as a disciple, he/she is to deny himself, take up his cross (death!), and then follow Jesus. (Lk 9:23) Likewise, Paul wrote to the Romans that Christians are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:11) The way to fight ego is to kill it, but we need to be willing to strike a killing blow.

Yet all too often, we’re not. We like having our egos stroked – we like feeling as if we’re the best, and having other people recognize us as the best. (I’m no different! I love the athletic awards I win, etc.) The problem comes not so much with individual achievements, but when we start putting ourselves other people in general. It’s when we’ve got to be #1 not merely in a skill, task, or challenge, but in life as a whole. It’s when we’ve got to be better or more valuable than another person simply as a person. That sort of ego is dangerous – after all, it’s the same line of thinking that led to African slavery in the United States and the Jewish holocaust at the hands of the Nazis, and it shouldn’t be found among Christians. As to value, we are all equal; we are all made in the image of God, and we are equally sinners in need of God’s forgiveness and grace. God does indeed have great things in store for us, but they are great things that point towards His great grace & great glory. They are things that highlight Jesus & not us. (And that’s the way it should be!)

As always, we need to set the context, and it’s the context of this particular event that really makes it stand out as a terrible showcase of sinful pride. After several days’ worth of contention with the priests, scribes, and Pharisees, Jesus has gotten aside with His disciples in order to celebrate their final Passover together. By this point, Judas has already conspired with the religious leaders, and Jesus’ arrest is mere hours away. Soon He will be beaten, crucified, and dead. (Although thankfully, He will not remain that way!) Jesus knew everything that awaited Him, and He took advantage of every minute He had left. He celebrated His final Passover, demonstrating to His disciples that He Himself is the Passover Lamb of God, and He reminded His disciples of the act of betrayal that would soon take place.

So there they were, seated on the ground around the dinner table, wondering who among them might be the one to betray their Lord & Master to death – and somehow that conversation transitions into the argument that follows. They go from wondering who among them was worst, to bickering about who among them was best. In the process, they were missing out what was going on all around them, and (most importantly) WHO among them was already best. Jesus was there, and Jesus had a grand plan in mind – but they had to be willing to set their egos aside (kill it!) and follow Him.

So do we. Don’t get caught up in the worldly traps of ego & pride; follow Jesus in humility. He set the example, and we are to follow in His footsteps.

Luke 22:24–30

  • Conflict (24)

24 Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.

  1. Although having an argument during a holiday dinner isn’t all that unusual for us (how was your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal?), it can be embarrassing in front of certain company. As for the disciples, they had their argument in front of Jesus. Whether or not they were still seated at the time (as they had been when wondering about the betrayer) is irrelevant. It’s still the Passover – they’re still with Jesus…and they’re arguing. 
  2. Worse yet, it’s a useless argument. Luke’s word is interesting, in that its root is related to one of the words for “love,” (φιλονεικία ~ φιλία = friendship/love). Literally, the word could be translated “love of strife.” This is argument for the sake of argument; useless wrangling. It wasn’t just the content of their bickering that was useless; it was the act itself. This sort of argument isn’t interested in the truth – the only concern is winning, to be the loudest one at the table & the last voice to speak.
    1. Be careful with a love of strife! Those sorts of arguments don’t have to center around sinful things…Christians all too often engage in the same sort of bickering over theology. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy debate over important Biblical issues; just make sure the debate is actually healthy & that the issue is important enough to debate in the first place. If the point of our argument is to persuade ourselves of our own ability to win a verbal boxing match & beat someone into submission, then we’re wasting our time and doing harm to our witness.
  3. In this case, both the act and the content were problems for the disciples. Their bickering had nothing to do with important theological issues (or any theological issue!); it was about their own supposed “greatness.” The truly sad part? It wasn’t even the first time! Luke 9:46–48, “(46) Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. (47) And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, (48) and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.”” It gets worse: it wasn’t even the second time! Not long after that correction, brothers James and John (the sons of Zebedee) get their mom to lobby Jesus for them to have the best positions in the kingdom, and a similar argument breaks out all over again. Matthew 20:24–28, “(24) And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. (25) But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. (26) Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. (27) And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—(28) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”” Chronologically, that particular argument had come just days earlier, when they were just outside of Jericho about to enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Barely a week has passed (if even that long), and already they’re having exactly the same argument all over again, and Jesus has to virtually repeat Himself with them.
  4. What is it about us that seeks public recognition & greatness? Pride. It’s the same fleshly sin & temptation with which we’ve struggled since the Garden of Eden. When Eve saw the fruit of the tree, everything about it appealed to her. It was “good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise,” (Gen 3:6) – or as the apostle John wrote of the various types of temptation, it was “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” (1 Jn 2:16). But what was it that caused her to look at that fruit in the first place? (Her husband being along with her, saying nothing in sad silence.) Satan tempted her ego with sheer pride: Genesis 3:4–5, “(4) Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. (5) For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” Eve had the opportunity to be like God – and who would be so foolish to pass that up? (Other than someone being satisfied being made in the image of God, being content with the gifts & provision of God, and trusting in the perfect love & protection offered by God?) Satan pricked her pride, and she & Adam saw the opportunity to be truly great. They snatched it, and all of humanity fell into sin. Mankind has always struggled with pride, and it has taken down the very best representatives of us all.
    1. Adam and Eve struggled with pride even as they had perfect daily fellowship with God. The 12 disciples struggled with pride, even as they too had perfect daily fellowship with God. (Including Judas Iscariot, even if he had left by this point. There’s no question he battled pride & gave into it!) If they struggled with it, so will we. The key is to not believe that we are immune, but to know that we are not, and that’s the point that we will consciously beware of it. It’s when we let our guard down that we get into trouble.
  5. Regarding the disciples, the truly ironic thing about their argument is that all of this took place in the presence of the Jesus. Think about it: they’re bickering over who was to be considered the greatest…as they’re sitting in the room with the Lord Jesus Christ. Who can possibly consider him/herself great, in comparison with the Son of God? For all of their earlier wonder and awe regarding Passover and the prophecies of Jesus, they’ve temporarily lost all perspective as their foolish pride came front & center.
    1. Again, that’s not something unique to the apostles…it’s simply the sad state of our human nature when we get our eyes off of Jesus & onto ourselves.
  6. Obviously, Jesus wasn’t going to sit there & let this argument go on forever. 25…
  • Correction (25-27)

25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’

  1. Although today the vast majority of Christians come from Gentile backgrounds (as opposed to Jewish), at the time there was no one but Jews in the room. Even later on with Paul, “Gentile” was often used to refer to people outside of Christ. Even if a Christian had been born a Gentile, he/she had a new identity in Jesus. Contextually here, Gentiles were worldly, carnal people – people outside of God…and those were exactly whom the disciples imitated. They were engaging in Gentile attitude – non-Christian behavior.
  2. It’s still this way today. Lordship is not merely existent in the world; it’s celebrated. Who doesn’t want a promotion? Who doesn’t want to rise to the top? It’s most evident among politicians. Not a single member of Congress turns down the opportunity to be on TV. Virtually every senator has entertained the thought of running for president. If they have the chance to get more, they take it…just like all of us, on a more public basis. And again, it’s celebrated. We give grand titles to those in authority: “your honor,” “the honorable XYZ,” the “gentlemen from the state of ___,” etc. In Jesus’ day, one of the example titles was “benefactor,” or literally “well-doer,” given to kings and others in authority. It didn’t matter if they did anything good or not. The leader could be an outright despot or dictator, and he would still have the title of “benefactor.” That was a sign of his supposed-greatness.
    1. Once again, the church is sadly not immune. Within certain formalized denominations, how many titles are handed out like candy to members of the clergy? “The Most Right Reverend ____,” “The Most Holy ___,” etc. Evangelical Protestants are little different, though we use different language. Someone might only take the humble title of “pastor,” yet still demand the prime parking spot to be reserved for him, or expect other special treatment. It’s still all evidence of pride, of seeking greatness apart from God. It’s still non-Christian behavior.

26 But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.

  1. What is the attitude that should exist among Christians? Instead of promoting ourselves, we are supposed to be serving others. The youngest sibling in the family had the lowest rank among the brothers & served the rest (not unlike a probationary status at work, or an intern in an office). The servant was obviously lower than the governor, and his/her attitude was to be appropriate. That’s the attitude that should exist among Christians. If you want to be as great as the eldest brother, then you take the attitude of the youngest child. The one God says is greater than the governor is the one who shines the governor’s shoes.
  2. If it seems backwards, that’s because it is. Jesus describes it as a paradox: a seemingly contradictory statement that is, in fact true. This was a common teaching technique for Jesus. The person who desires to save his life, loses it (Lk 9:24). The person who wants to be great in the kingdom of heaven needs to humble himself as a little child (Mt 18:4). It’s the same thing here. The greatest among us will take the smallest role. The best leader serves in the lowest role.
  3. There’s no better example of this, than Jesus. 27…

27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.

  1. We don’t know if the 11 remaining disciples were still seated at the Passover table with Jesus, but it’s certainly easy to believe that they were. Each of them could imagine themselves as wealthy land-owners, seated at their own dining tables with servants attending to their every need. They had all been with Jesus when He visited with tax-collectors & other wealthy people like Pharisees, where people had served the lot of them the moment they walked through the door. (They had even been places with Jesus where people didn’t serve Him, and Jesus’ feet were washed by the tears of a forgiven woman! Lk 7:38-44) They knew from those situations who was considered great & who was least. And Jesus turned it all upside-down.
  2. How so? He had done it Himself! Jesus had already demonstrated this sort of servant humility that very night: when He washed the disciples’ feet. [John 13:1-17]. What happened? The King of kings & Lord of lords – the Creator of the Universe & the One who ought to be worshiped by everything that draws breath (and everything that doesn’t!) took off His outer garments and took the position of the lowest household slave. He personally picked up the filthy feet of each of the disciples (including Judas Iscariot), and washed the dust & muck off of them. They had each ‘sat at the table,’ and yet their Lord & Master served them.
  3. And it wasn’t just at the Last Supper. Humility wasn’t a one-time thing for Jesus; it described His whole earthly life & mission. Philippians 2:5–8, “(5) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (7) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” The very act of His incarnation was an act of humility. If Jesus had done nothing else but be born in Bethlehem, He would have still set the ultimate example of service. After all, Almighty God became a Man. The infinite glorious God put on the limitations and discomforts of human flesh, allowing Himself to be hungry, thirsty, and sleepy. The God who never slumbered needed nightly rest. The God who never hungered required daily bread. In itself, that was humility at the utmost. Yet somehow, Jesus took it further: He not only came as a man; He came as a sacrifice. He took on human life for the sole purpose of laying down His life on the cross for the sins of mankind. Jesus allowed Himself to be tortured & killed for you & me. For every lustful thought you’ve enjoyed, Jesus died. For every egotistical trip you’ve taken, Jesus died. He died for every sinful thought and deed you’ve ever committed, and will ever yet commit. Jesus died for it all. That is humble service to the infinite extent. We cannot imagine the end of Jesus’ service – and it’s doubtful we’ll do so even in our eternal life to come!
  4. Jesus’ point to the disciples? It was the same one Paul made to the Philippians: let the same mind be in you. The 11 men were arguing who among them was the greatest, and the greatest Man they could ever know was in the process of engaging in the greatest act of humility of all time. Jesus was serving them – not only at the table, but as He prepared to go to the cross for their sins. If they truly wanted to be great, they needed to be like Jesus: they needed to serve.
    1. Do you want to be great? Serve! Humble yourself, get your ego out of the way, and serve God & others. Let your boss get the credit for the project you completed. Scrub the toilets of your home without an expectation of thanks. Sign up for children’s ministry, or look for ways to clean up the church building without needing to be asked. There are all kinds of ways to serve – they just require us taking a bit of initiative. No one asked Jesus to please remove His garments & start washing feet; He just did it. No one asked Him to feed the 5000; He saw the need and did it. To be sure, sometimes He did wait for people to ask Him for healing, but that had more to do with the issue of faith than with Jesus’ humility. When people couldn’t speak up for themselves, Jesus still took the initiative. (As He did with the mute, blind, and demon-possessed man – Mt 12:22.) When it comes to simple service, no one took the initiative like Jesus.
    2. Look around…there are places & people in your life to serve. If we’re being honest, the reason we want to be asked is because it’s one more area in which we can build up our pride. After all, if we’re asked, it’s because we were needed. All of a sudden, the focus is once again on us, and our own ideas of greatness. That’s not what service is all about. Servants serve. Jesus served; be like Jesus.

We can imagine at this point that the disciples were duly chastised. Sometimes a bit of cold water splashed in our faces is enough to snap us back to reality, and that’s basically what happened to them. They had been arguing about greatness, and their great foolishness was exposed. Yet does that mean God didn’t have anything for them in the future kingdom? Not at all. They themselves weren’t intrinsically worthy of any great position in the kingdom, but God in His grace would give them something great. Vs. 28…

  • Consummation (28-30)

28 “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.

  1. Speaking of the disciples’ perseverance. They had continued this far, and Jesus acknowledged it. (At least, all but one. Judas was likely gone by this point.) Of course, Jesus’ trials weren’t over yet – in fact, it could be argued that they were just beginning. Even so, the disciples had continued with Jesus through everything He had endured thus far. They had travelled with Jesus, endured storms with Jesus, endured criticisms with Jesus, and more. They had even gone out by themselves preaching the gospel of the kingdom when Jesus sent them to do so, and they encountered their own persecutions along the way. Nothing shook the 11 away from Christ. As Peter once said to Jesus, after many of the outer-ring of followers left Jesus, “To whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (Jn 6:68)
  2. The word Luke used in Jesus’ statement is interesting, being a strengthened form of the word often translated “abide.” The idea is that the 11 disciples were abiding-through everything Jesus endured. They stayed/remained with Him through thick & thin. Would they always continue? Yes & no. They would slip during the next few hours and days (of which Jesus prepares them in the following verses), but they would soon return to Jesus & persevere in their faith for the rest of their lives. Historical tradition tells us that each of the disciples were either tortured or killed for their faith in Jesus. Truly they remained with Him, to the very end.
  3. Contextually, the implication is that this is the quality in an individual that God seeks. Were Peter or John or James great men because of the great things they did for Jesus? But God did something great through them as they remained in Jesus. Think through any hero of the Bible – what was it that demonstrated their great value to God? It was nothing of themselves. Abraham was afraid of losing his wife to the Egyptians (not just once, but twice!). As humble a man as he was, Moses had a temper. He killed an Egyptian in his younger years, and misrepresented God as an older man. David’s flaws are legendary: lust, murder, inept parenting, and more. Yet these are great men – how? Because they continued in their faith with God. They had faith, continued in faith, and God promised them great things because of their faith.
    1. It’s one thing to start with Jesus – it’s another to continue with Him. Many people raise their hands in church, walk down the aisle at a crusade, or sign a “decision” card. Few of those people can be found in a church years later. What happened to them? Each story is different, but the bottom line is this: whatever their reason in supposedly starting out with Jesus, they didn’t remain with Him. It’s like what Jesus taught in the parable of the soils: some have the seed of the gospel snatched away before they can believe – some believe for a while & later fall away because of temptation – some believe for a while, but get choked by the cares of the world…only a few persevere to maturity & bear fruit. (Luke 8:11-15) It’s not enough to hear the gospel have some outward initial response; true disciples continue with Jesus – they abide/remain with Him until the end.
  4. Those who do, receive great things. 29…

29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me,

  1. How amazing is this? Jesus promised them a kingdom. These 11 men were appointed to the future kingdom of Christ, promised an eternal home & important role there by the Son of God. Men who (to this day) endure mockery by other Christians, such as Peter, were bestowed a kingdom by Jesus. Men who are largely forgotten, such as Bartholomew & James the son of Alphaeus were given a kingdom by Jesus. Men whom the rest of the world would consider anything but great (like the former tax collector Matthew) were considered great in the eyes of God, and God appointed them to wonderful things.
  2. The phrasing is interesting, that it was “bestowed” upon them. The word speaks of something being decreed or ordained – it might be used as a royal appointment or other official designation. The idea is that this isn’t something the disciples wandered upon, all happening by coincidence; this is a royal decree from the King to His apostles. He was giving the kingdom to them, just as He had received it from His Father. IOW, the disciples weren’t entering the kingdom as ants, being the lowest on the totem pole just lucky to get in; they were appointed there as rulers – royal representatives of their King. They were still submitted to the King, just like the Son is submitted to the Father – but they share in the inheritance of the Son, being fully vested with the King in His kingdom.
    1. Want to talk of greatness? Talk of our great inheritance in Christ! Talk about our inclusion in the family of God! Romans 8:14–17, “(14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (15) For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (16) The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (17) and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Those who have faith in Jesus as the Son of God crucified for our sin & risen from the dead are those who have received Jesus Christ as our Lord. When we did that, we were born of the Holy Spirit. When we were born of the Spirit, we became the children of God & the joint-heirs of Jesus. What He gets in heaven, we get in heaven. We share in what He’s been given. God the Father gave Him a kingdom, so we get a kingdom. God the Father gives Him eternal fellowship, so we get eternal fellowship. Want to talk great? It doesn’t get greater than that!
    2. Be careful not to get the wrong idea. We share in Jesus’ inheritance as children of God, but we don’t become little-gods. We share in Jesus’ kingdom, but He’s still the King. Even in the greatness we receive, we need to maintain a proper perspective of humility. Otherwise, we lose sight of grace, and we start glorifying ourselves…something which takes us right back to where we started. There’s no place for egotistical pride in the life of a Christian – either in this life, or in the life to come.
  3. BTW – what does it say about Jesus, if He is able to bestow His kingdom to the disciples? It says He has authority to do so. The Son has the same authority of God, because He is Never let it be said that Jesus as the Son is somehow less God than God the Father. They, along with God the Holy Spirit, make up the one God, every person of the Trinity being equal with the other in power, substance, and authority. God the Son has the right to do anything God the Father does; the Son simply chooses to humbly submit to the Father – which makes Him the perfect example to us on how we are to submit to God and others.
  4. Notice one more thing: the present tense. “I bestow upon you a kingdom.” When did Jesus give the disciples the kingdom of God? Right then & there. This speaks to the “now & not-yet” nature of the kingdom. One day we will see the kingdom of God in fruition upon planet earth, but we already live as citizens and heirs of that kingdom right now in the present day. We show other people what the future kingdom is like, when we live out the ideals of the kingdom right now. But that there is a literal future kingdom coming, let there be no doubt. 30…

30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

  1. If verse 29 spoke of the disciples’ kingdom inclusion/appointment, vs. 30 speaks of their kingdom role. Again, the apostles will not be mere “extras” in the kingdom, having gotten in with by the skin of their teeth with their backsides smoking (as so many people often think of themselves). On the contrary, they have positions of importance. Jesus tells them specifically that they will be “judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” If you’ve ever wondered about the number of apostles, this is why Jesus appointed the ones He did: 12 apostles, 12 tribes. (This is also the reason Judas was replaced by Matthias in Acts 1:21-26.) Peter, James, John, Andrew, Thomas, and the rest will have roles as judges over the various tribes of Israel. That’s not to say they all came from different tribes (after all, several pairs of disciples were brothers – there wouldn’t be an even split), but they will apparently be assigned tribes, over which they will have some kind of judicial authority.
  2. And it’s not just them. We will all have roles in the kingdom. When chastising the Corinthians for their lack of church discipline in allowing rampant sexual immorality to exist among their membership, Paul wrote, “Do you not know we will judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?” (1 Cor 6:3) Exactly what kind of judgment over the angels we will exercise is unknown, but apparently we will do something. Elsewhere, when Jesus taught of the future kingdom, He made it clear that we will have roles and responsibilities. After all, in the parable of the talents, the two servants who did well were rewarded with more. (Mt 25:21,23) We who serve Jesus today will continue to serve Him in eternity, though our responsibility will be far greater.
    1. What does that tell us? It tells us that we learn how to serve Jesus then, by serving Him now. No one steps into a role of responsibility as a newbie. A new hire to a company isn’t immediately shoved into the president’s chair. A private in the army isn’t automatically promoted to general. We start small, and then we are given greater things. What makes us think it will be different in Jesus’ kingdom? Those who serve today will be given great roles later. (While those who believe themselves to be great today & above service will likely find themselves to be in a very different kingdom role altogether!)

Conclusion:

As to the argument at hand, the disciples had sought greatness, and greatness was coming…just not in the way they expected. God would grant it in His way at His time. The disciples weren’t to seek it out for themselves. Arguing about their own glory and greatness was utter foolishness – just as it would be for us. After all, they (like us) are paupers in comparison with God and His great glory. It’s like two kids arguing who has the bigger piggy bank when Bill Gates is sitting in the room. What’s $3 over $2 when a billionaire is staring at you?

Can we honestly believe we’re “great” in comparison with Jesus? Compared to one another, we can go head-to-head, but it’s really just one criminal bickering with another criminal regarding the “lesser” death sentence received…there’s no such thing! We are all paupers when it comes to righteousness, and Jesus is the only one who has it. The truly amazing thing is that this is what He freely gives away! Not only can we receive of Jesus’ righteousness, we are Jesus’ righteousness (2 Cor 5:21), and that’s why we can share in Jesus’ kingdom.

Since it’s all a gift of grace, what business do we have bickering over greatness? It’s a waste of time & breath. Far better for Christians to serve in humility. May we be those who care less for titles & recognition, but rather putting our own egos aside so that we can freely serve God. May we be those who take on the mind of Jesus, not serving ourselves, but taking the initiative to serve God in the opportunities in which He surrounds us.

With that in mind, look around. What needs to be done? Who needs to be loved? Don’t wait for someone to ask; step up and serve. If you have any question how God needs you to serve, just ask Him. That’s a prayer request guaranteed to be answered! 

Genesis 3, “The Bite Heard Around the World”

The first shot of the American Revolution is sometimes referred to as “the shot heard round the world,” quoting from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, “Concord Hymn.” 

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,

Here once the embattled farmers stood,

And fired the shot heard round the world.

Emerson was on to something, when we consider the impact that the independent United States of America has had upon the world. The first shot fired at the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA, was certainly a shot that changed history.

Something similar could be said about the bite in the Garden of Eden, only to a far greater extent. If the United States of America has been influential over the last 200+ years, how much more influence have Adam and Eve had over the entirety of human history? As our first father and mother, what they did in the Garden affects us all today.

It would be easy to write off the events of Genesis 3 as mere myth – a scare-tactic story meant to warn kids away from sin, and somehow provide an explanation for why our world is the way it is. But that’s not how the Bible portrays it. What took place in the Garden of Eden is real history, and the Bible consistently refers to it that way, even in books written thousands of years after Genesis. (Romans 5 providing a classic example: death came to all through one man: Adam; likewise, life is available to all through one man: Jesus.) The events of Genesis 3 literally set up our understanding for the gospel, running all the way from Genesis to Revelation.

Remember how we got here: Genesis 1 showed God’s creation of the universe. Over the course of six days, God made everything that could be made, declaring all of it to be good. On the 7th Day, God ceased from His work & rested, setting up a promise and standard for all time that we are to find our rest in God. (Through Jesus Christ, our true Sabbath Rest!) In Genesis 2, we receive greater detail of what took place on Day 6 regarding the creation of man. The LORD God formed man from the dust, breathing life into him, and providing for him a perfect home (the Garden of Eden), a perfect calling (tending the Garden), and a perfect command. In that command was full freedom to enjoy everything given him by God, along with a warning to abstain from one tree which brought certain death.

God gave Adam one other thing: a perfect partner. From the side of the man, God built a woman. She was truly equivalent to him in every way, and in this God set forth His intent for marriage.

What now? Everything is good & right – it is exactly what God intended it to be. Sadly, things wouldn’t stay that way for long. Sin is introduced to the world, as Adam and Eve fall from perfection to their own temptations and flesh. Doubt was cast upon God’s word & God’s character, and that set the stage for all kind of evil to come.

God never leaves His beloved people without hope – but God’s people shouldn’t doubt Him in the first place. The very best way to beware temptation is to believe God. Trust Him, His character, and His gospel!

Genesis 3

  • Serpent & Sin (1-7)

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

  1. When this all took place, we don’t know. How long did Adam & Eve live in perfection? It’s impossible to say. It could have been a day – a month – a year – perhaps as little as an hour. However long it was, at some point the devil reared his ugly head and started the whole chain of events to come.
  2. Serpent = Satan. Of course, a snake/serpent is a literal “beast of the field,” but this is more than a story about a talking animal. This is the first Biblical example of demonic possession, with Satan actually taking control of this animal, speaking through it. Some later Jewish (post-Christian) commentaries make this out to be only an animal, but there’s no question the Bible itself sees this as Satanic possession. Revelation 12:9, “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” What does a dragon look like in the ancient near east (and even modern far-east)? Like a long serpent. There’s no question that the Biblical writers all the way to the apostle John understood the serpent to be the embodiment of Satan, and it’s no wonder he posed such a danger to the first human couple!
  3. He was cunning – he was shrewd – he was “” Never forget this part. Satan, as powerful as he is, is just another one of the many creations of Almighty God. Satan is not the counterpart to God, nor is he in any way co-equal to God. Satan is a creation of God, and falls under the ultimate jurisdiction of God.
  4. Satan is a sower of doubt and confusion. He asks a question directly contradicting God’s clear word. Go back to the original command: Genesis 2:16–17, “(16) And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; (17) but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.””  What the Hebrew text shows is that what God said at the end of verse 17, Satan directly reversed (negated). It’s the exact same wording as God’s, with a negation at the beginning (“not”).
    1. God had given freedom; Satan made it seem like restriction.
  5. The woman responds, vs. 2…

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”

  1. Although to us, the first clue of something being wrong might have been a talking serpent, we’ve got to put ourselves in Eve’s place. Everything was brand-new to her. We don’t know if any other animal spoke in a human language, but from her perspective, just because other creatures hadn’t done it in the past didn’t mean that they couldn’t do it at all. If this was the first time she heard a creature speak, an easy assumption would have been that the other animals simply hadn’t yet spoken up. Nor can we fault Eve for engaging with the serpent, being that this was her very first experience with deception. Considering that the only other beings she had spoken with in the past had been God & her husband, she had only ever heard the truth. She had no reason to expect deception.
    1. That being said, she still ought to have known something was wrong the moment Satan contradicted God’s word. 
  2. The woman corrected the serpent, at least to some extent. She understood part of the commandment, though she did not quote it directly. Notice the difference between the last part of 3:2, and the first part of God’s command in 2:16. Eve didn’t remember/quote “freely.” She missed God’s emphasis on “eating you may eat,” which demonstrates the vast freedom He gave to the human couple. … So what? So she neglected to see God’s grace.
    1. When we miss God’s grace, we open the door to trouble!
  3. The 2nd thing Eve got wrong was God’s warning. Although she was correct to say that God told them not to eat of the tree, she was incorrect in what came after. She added to God’s command by saying “nor shall you touch it.” Not only had she misunderstood God’s word, she added to it.
    1. Beware of legalism! We think legalism will keep us from sin, when it really keeps us from walking in God’s love & grace.
  4. The 3rd thing she got wrong is that she missed God’s emphasis on the consequence of death. She did the same thing in vs. 3 as she did in vs. 2, leaving out the repeated wording that demonstrates the emphasis (“dying you will die”). In fact, her wording actually leaves open the possibility that this was a consequence that might notLest you die,” could mean “in case you die,” or “you might die.” Even while adding legalism to God’s word, the woman dialed back its severity.
    1. How important it is to know the word of God! God’s word protects us from these things…but we have to know it! 2 Timothy 3:16–17, “(16) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

  1. It’s another direct reversal of God’s word, but interestingly, the serpent quotes God better than Eve! He included the emphasis left out by Eve. (Satan knows the Bible better than many Christians!)
  2. Satan didn’t only lie about God’s word, he impugned God’s character. He implied that God was petty & jealous – as if the only reason God didn’t want the humans to eat the forbidden fruit was because He wanted to keep them stupid & ‘in their place.’ How false! God’s desire was to bless Adam & Eve, and protect them from certain death, but the Devil twisted this to his own devices. This is his specialty, and he even attempted it with Jesus during the wilderness temptation (and failed!).
    1. When in doubt about God’s character, look to Jesus. When we have seen Him, we have seen the Father (Jn 14:9). We know what God is like by looking at Jesus. The next time Satan gets you doubting God’s love, look to the cross!
  3. Question: Did the serpent lie? Yes, no question, in that he directly refuted God’s clear statement. Did the serpent also tell the truth? Perhaps, a bit. Satan knew that Adam and Eve would not strictly drop dead the moment they ate the fruit (or at least, he probably suspected as much), but he did know that the humans would gain knowledge that they previously did not have. They would know the difference between good and evil, if by nothing else, through their own experience. To this point, the man & woman had known only They experienced good fellowship with God, received His good word, received His good blessings, etc. They hadn’t yet known evil because they hadn’t engaged in it. They hadn’t yet known evil because they hadn’t had to fight off temptation. Case in point: Eve didn’t recognize the evil right in front of her eyes…she would, afterwards!
  4. What was the true temptation? To be like God. It’s not enough to be made in the image of God; we want to be God, with His knowledge and authority. We want to be able to determine what is right and wrong for ourselves in our own lives, not being accountable to anyone.

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

  1. The three things of the tree that were appealing to the woman are the three things about “forbidden fruits” that are still appealing to us today. For her, “the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise.” The apostle John sums up what it looks like for the rest of us: 1 John 2:15–16, “(15) Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”
  2. So she was tempted. The serpent lied to her (which she didn’t recognize), and then presented the fruit in the best light possible. She’s gazing at it, dwelling upon it, considering whether or not to eat of it. What should she have done? Turn & run! She could have fled the temptation, trusting that God would have given her a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13). She could have changed the subject of her thoughts – instead of thinking upon the temptation in front of her, she could have thought upon the God who made her & loved her. She could have dwelt upon the good thins that she knew & experienced, rather than the questionable things she had never known. Paul wrote to the Philippians, telling them to think on the things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, etc. (Phil 4:8) When in doubt about things she didn’t know, she could have thought upon the things she did Failing all of this, she could have cried out for help. She had Adam standing with her – she could have asked him to help her think things through. Failing all of this, she could have cried out to God in prayer. Surely God would have made Himself immediately available to her, if she but asked. Options were available to Eve; she just didn’t take them. Instead, she gave into the temptation by taking of the fruit & eating.
    1. How many times have we done the same? We like to claim that we were trapped by temptation and that we were overwhelmed in the moment – but the reality is different. We have options; we just don’t take them.
  3. Not only did Eve eat of the fruit – she gave to Adam, and he ate. Right here is the far bigger sin, and it does not rest on the shoulders of the woman. Granted, it wasn’t good for Eve to pass along her temptation, but the fact that she could do so speaks volumes regarding the silence of her husband. Where was he when the serpent lied about God? Where was he when his wife was presented with the visual temptation? He was “with her,” and said nothing. He had been commissioned by God to “tend and keep” the Garden (Gen 2:15) – he had been entrusted by God with a glorious helpmate, of which he was one flesh (Gen 2:24) – yet Adam completely neglected his responsibility to protect his spouse and care for the integrity of the things God had given him. His was silence of the worst sort – a criminal negligence that has lasted through the ages.
  4. In addition to Adam’s silence regarding his wife, was his silence regarding God’s word. Remember that God had given His command before the woman was created. The command and warning was given in Genesis 2:16-17; the building of the woman occurred in 2:21-22. If Eve misquoted God, it could possibly be assumed that she had never heard the command directly from God. (Although it’s quite possible that God gave the command more than once.) No such assumption is possible for Adam. He had heard the original command directly from God Himself. At any time, Adam could have spoken up and corrected either the serpent or the woman (or both!), yet he said nothing. He allowed God’s character to be insulted, and God’s word to be abused. In so doing, Adam showed himself fully complicit in this sin. In fact, it could be argued that Adam sinned before ever sinking his teeth into the fruit. A sin of omission is no less a sin than a sin of commission.
    1. Of what have we been silent?

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

  1. Satan had promised that their eyes would be opened (vs. 5), and that much was true. All of sudden they recognized good & evil, with the understanding that they had engaged in evil. Something was wrong, and they blamed the symptom rather than the disease. Because they realized they were “naked,” they attempted (poorly!) to cover their nakedness. The reality was that the only reason their lack of clothing was a problem was because of their lack of obedience in the first place. Nudity wasn’t the issue; sin was. They had no way to cover their sin, so they tried covering their bodies instead.
  2. This is what happens when we try to deal with our sin apart from Christ. We come up with our own coverings, and find that each one is inadequate. Drinking, addictions, excuses, etc… All of those things are nothing but fig leaves, unable to do anything except make our sin problem worse. What we need is true covering – true atonement – true forgiveness. That only comes through Jesus.

So the man & woman have a true predicament. They’ve sinned, and they fully understand that they have sinned. They’ve tried to cover up their problem, but have been unable to do so. At some point, they know they’re going to have to deal with God (because all sin will eventually be addressed by God). What to do? In His mercy, God takes the initiative and goes to them. Vs. 8…

  • Call & Confrontation (8-13)

8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

  1. Before getting to Adam & Eve, note the wonderfully casual nature of God. We think of Him as awesome, being seated on high (and He is!), but He also chooses to humbly and lovingly approach His own people, allowing us to respond to Him. The picture here is of God in incarnate human form, casually walking to & fro within the Garden of Eden in the afternoon (literally, “in the wind of the day,” potentially referring to an evening breeze). No doubt this is the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, God the Son who is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), strolling in His garden – not unlike how Jesus would later walk with His disciples throughout Galilee.
  2. Keep in mind that God knew that Adam & Eve had sinned. Being omniscient, there’s no way God was ignorant of this fact. Long before He ever created the man & woman, God knew they would sin against Him. He knew of the temptation that Satan would place before them, and their fall from grace that would result. This was that day. With that in mind, God could have come into the garden like a hurricane – He could have brought thunder, lightning, and firestorms – He could have called out with a booming voice, demanding the death of His beloved humans. He didn’t. Instead, God came casually walking. This is grace!
  3. Although God had come as lovingly as He possibly could, Adam and Eve still “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God.” Not only is this physically foolish (how is it possible to “hide” from a God who knows everything, sees everything, and is in all places all at once?), it’s spiritually foolish. This was the God who created them and loved them. The man and woman had just engaged in terrible sin, incurring for themselves the penalty of death. If there was any time they needed the help of God, it was now!
    1. What they did, we do. When we sin, what we need most is confession and forgiveness. Yet what is it we do? Hide & ignore the problem. We try to fix things ourselves and cover over the problem – we engage in our own version of fig aprons. What do we need to do? Confess! In confession is healing, forgiveness & cleansing. (1 Jn 1:9)
  4. Adam and Eve weren’t addressing the problem, so God attempted to coax it out of them. 9…

9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

  1. This isn’t a question of ignorance; it’s a question of compassion. The all-knowing God wasn’t seeking information by asking Adam where he was. God knew exactly where he & the woman were, what they had done, and with what they attempted to clothe themselves. What God was doing was giving Adam an opportunity to confess.
  2. Sadly, Adam didn’t do it. Adam answered, but he did so halfway, never addressing the real issue. He could have said, “I sinned against you, so I hid myself” – instead, he gives a partial truth: “I was afraid because I was naked.” As God will point out, the only reason Adam knew that he was naked was because he had sinned. Adam could have confessed it all right here, but didn’t. On the contrary, instead of taking responsibility for himself, he blames God. “I heard Your voice in the garden” – IOW, “God, You came into a place I wasn’t ready for You to come. I heard Your voice, and I didn’t want to confront You in my sin. If You had stayed put, I wouldn’t have had to hide.” (Sound familiar to your own life?)
  3. What was equally as sad as Adam’s excuse was his fear. Of whom was he afraid? Adam hadn’t feared the serpent, nor had he feared the consequence of sin (at least, not at first). Adam feared God. Only after Adam sinned, did he have any inkling of the fear of God. If Adam had feared God rightly, he might not have gotten into this predicament in the first place!
    1. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom! (Prov 9:10)

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

  1. Once again, God gave Adam an opportunity to confess. He clearly points out the things Adam did wrong, giving him the chance to admit to it and seek forgiveness. Still, Adam refuses.

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

  1. Instead of taking responsibility, Adam shifts the blame. First, is to the woman. It was the woman’s fault that Adam ate. She forced open his mouth, shoved in the fruit & made him chew it. Obviously not. Had Eve given him the fruit? Had Eve listened to Satan? Yes. Was it Eve’s fault that Adam ate? Not in the slightest. He remained silent and passive as his wife engaged in spiritual battle, and he willingly went along behind her. This was Adam’s fault, and Adam knew it…which is why he shifted the blame.
  2. Worse yet, Adam ultimately blamed God. “The woman whom You gave to be with me…” The same woman over whom Adam earlier sang a song of wonder & praise – the same gift of which he longed from God – this gift he now despised, and blamed God for giving in the first place. If God hadn’t given him the woman, Adam would have never fallen into sin. Right? Adam showed himself terribly weak in the face of the Tempter. At least Eve spoke up and said something; Adam didn’t say anything at all! Adam’s sin was terrible enough, but he made it far worse by blaming God.
    1. God is never to blame for our sin. God will test us, but He never tempts us (Jas 1:13). God is sovereign, but He never forces us to act against our own freewill. We sin because we want to sin. (He doesn’t make us sin, but thankfully He provides a solution!)

13 And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

  1. The woman did a bit of blame-shifting of her own, but at least she told the truth. This was exactly what happened.
  • Curse & Consequence (14-24)

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life.

  1. Notice God didn’t give the serpent an opportunity to confess. The serpent was demonically possessed by Satan, who at this point was a sworn enemy of God. There’s no indication in the Bible whatsoever that Satan (or any other demon) has any access to forgiveness – the grace of Jesus Christ is available to humans alone, demonstrated in the fact that Jesus came incarnate as a human (not an animal, nor an angel, etc.). When He died upon the cross, He became a sacrifice for mankind.
  2. Question: Why does God curse all serpents for the actions of this one Satanically-possessed serpent? Is this an indication that this is all some sort of Hebraic myth, not intended to be taken literally? No. God pronounced the curse on “the serpent,” but it never says that God pronounced a curse on all snakes/serpents. The picture here isn’t of a mythological explanation of why snakes don’t have legs (neither do worms, but they aren’t cursed) – it’s a picture of Satan being cursed to a lower position than the animal kingdom. Keep in mind that Satan believed himself to be a contender to Almighty God, thinking himself more glorious than anything else in creation. Now, he’s cast to the lowest point on the totem pole, beneath even the insects that crawl on the ground. If Satan wanted to impersonate or possess a serpent, then it is a serpent’s existence he shall receive, crawling in the dust of the earth. Satan was pronounced to be eternally humiliated, destined from the Garden of Eden to face eternal defeat.
  3. When would that defeat be most pronounced? At the arrival of the future Messiah. 15…

15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

  1. Genesis 3:15 is one of the most important prophecies in all the Scripture! Often called the “Protoevangelium,” it is the first gospel prophecy in the Bible. (Proto = first; evangelium = gospel.) Even for those who believe that God speaks to the singular serpent on behalf of all future serpent/snakes in vs. 14, there’s no question that God speaks to Satan at this point, as God declares Satan’s future doom.
  2. The prophecy can be centered around two main thoughts: enmity, and bruising. “Enmity” is actually the first word of the verse, being a bit unusual considering it’s an adjective & not a verb. The placement implies emphasis, and this is the first indication of the spiritual war that takes place between mankind and Satan – a war still being fought today, and one that will continue until Jesus’ return. Although the victory has been won, the battles continue, as the Scriptures acknowledge when Peter writes that the devil roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pt 5:8). There will always be this enmity between Satan and mankind (specifically between Satan and the woman), the good news being that Satan will never be so successful in his fight that he is able to claim victory.
  3. More than between the serpent and the woman, the enmity exists between the serpent’s “seed and her Seed.” Much hangs on that tiny word! The Hebrew זֶ֫רַע could technically be translated “descendant/offspring,” (as does the NIV & ESV) which perhaps opens the door for the idea of a general war between the generations of humans and demons. But there seems to be something far bigger at work here:
    1. This is a unique wording in Scripture. The word זֶ֫רַע hardly ever refers to women, but to men, which makes sense considering that biologically speaking, men have “seed” and women have eggs. In the four total uses of the term in the Bible that do refer to women, two are 2nd-person statements in which God promises something to a specific female about her specific offspring, and the other two examples are here – both 3rd-person references (“her offspring/seed”).
    2. All of the references are singular. If this was a reference to humanity as a whole, we would expect a plural “seeds.” Even if the term could be thought of as a singular plural (like the English “offspring” instead of “offsprings”), all of the accompanying verbs are still singular. “He shall bruise,” etc.
    3. Even the promise of the future bruising is emphatic. Technically, it could be translated “He himself shall bruise your head.” Although this could be an “it,” it’s more naturally translated as “He.”
  4. The point? This is a reference to specific Someone. When God pronounces enmity and bruising, it’s not just between Satan and the woman in the Garden of Eden, it is between Satan and Someone who will be born of the woman in the Garden of Eden. This is a prophecy of Someone who will come from the lineage of humans who will bring ultimate defeat to the devil. The fact that this “Seed” is so tied in with the “woman” indicates something special about this future Person. He won’t be just another seed of a man, but a Seed of a woman. Right here, in the Garden of Eden, God lays the groundwork for the virgin birth of Christ. And exactly as God pronounced, Satan would ‘snap at’ the heel of Jesus, bruising Him, and Jesus would ‘strike/crush’ the head of the serpent. It’s so visual: the way the heel of the Seed is bruised is when the Seed’s foot comes down on the head of the snake, crushing him forever.
  5. What makes this so great? Consider the timing! This is the very moment of the initial sin of mankind. Adam and Eve have not yet left the garden, when God gives a promise of future redemption. The sentence due for their sin has not yet been carried out, when God speaks of an ultimate victory over their enemy. Sin has just happened, and God already has a plan. God had always had a plan. This was God’s plan from before the foundation of the world.
    1. If God had a plan from eternity past for the sin of Adam and Eve, surely He has a plan for you & for me. 
  6. The good news is that God promises victory over the devil. The bad news is that there are still consequences for the man and woman. They had each sinned against God, and they had their own punishments to receive. First, the woman in vs. 16…

16 To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”

  1. Eve receives two basic punishments: physically painful childbirth, and emotionally painful struggles. One of the very reasons for her creation was so that she and Adam could have children together, and the event which should cause some of the grandest joy in the life of a mother is now a moment that is most physically painful. Today, we live in a day & culture with access to nerve blocks and other treatments, but for much of history (and still most places around the world), every human is born through physical pain. To be sure, almost every mother affirms the child is worth it, but it exists, nonetheless. It wasn’t originally meant to be that way. God’s original intent was for painless childbirth, but that is an ever-existent reminder of our fall from grace.
  2. The second half of her curse was to be her emotionally painful struggle in marriage. Instead of natural partnership between husband & wife, there would be division. The two individuals had originally been intended to be one flesh (speaking of both body and mind), but this would no longer be the case. The bottom line is that every marital argument finds its root in the Fall. Every act of male chauvinism goes back to the curse, as does every attempt for a wife to subvert her husband. Painful? Yes, but just. After all, if Adam and Eve had truly acted in humble unity at the temptation – if Eve had sought out the counsel of her husband, and if Adam had spoken up as he was meant to do – none of this would have happened. What they struggled with in the temptation, they would struggle with for the rest of their lives (as do all marriages around the world).
    1. The good news here is that although we can’t do much about painful childbirth, there’s much that can be solved in marriages among two people who are fully committed to Jesus Christ!

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: …

  1. Notice that to the woman, God did not describe to her how she sinned. After all, she had freely confessed it. The serpent deceived her, and she ate. To Adam, however, God lays it out. To this point, Adam hadn’t taken responsibility for what he had done, so God told him. Instead of heeding the voice of his God, Adam heeded the voice of his wife. Instead of abstaining from the tree, which he was clearly warned of, Adam ate. Adam had disobeyed God at a fundamental level, and he would surely bear his punishment.

… “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

  1. As with the serpent and with the woman, the punishment for the man was also poetically just. Adam had been formed from the ground (the two Hebrew words are closely related), and Adam would return to the ground. Adam had been given the responsibility of tending the garden; he would now toil over the dust. The warning of God would prove absolutely true: “dying you shall die,” and that’s what would happen. Instead of living forever in God’s grace, Adam would one day have life leave him, and his body would decay. Even in the present day, Adam would face the continuous nature of death. Though no one in history was ever more physically healthy than Adam, even he would get to a point that his body would fail him, as it began to break down before he died.
  2. More than that was the spiritual death that resulted immediately. From that point forward, there was death in the spirit of mankind, which is exactly why we need to be born of the Spirit before we can enter the kingdom of God (Jn 3).
  3. FYI: there’s an aspect of the curse for man & woman that is parallel. “Toil” עִצָּבוֹן (3:17) is closely related to “pain” עֶ֫צֶב (3:16). Both man and woman suffer in similar ways. The woman experiences pain in a joyous event she was created to do – likewise with the man. The man was created to work, and now experiences hardship in doing so.
    1. That said, there is good news for the man as well: there is hope in Christ! For those who are born-again, the horror of death is taken away & the hardship of life is relieved!
  4. Even Adam recognized his hope, vs. 20…

20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

  1. At first glance, this may seem to be a randomly inserted thought, put here for lack of a better place. Yet considering the curse he just received, this is the perfect place for Eve’s naming. Consider it: Adam was just told by God of the surety of his death, yet what does he name his wife? “Life.” Adam holds out hope for the promise of God in Genesis 3:15. Death is upon him, but he understands life is coming. Not just life, as in the future children Eve will bear, but the true life that will come from the future Seed. For all of Adam’s flaws, he had hope and faith in God’s gospel – no doubt he (like us) was saved by grace through faith in the hope of Jesus Christ!

21 Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

  1. There is both practical and spiritual provision in this. Not only were the “tunics of skin” far more effective than the fig-leaf aprons, but for tunics of skin to be available, animals had to be slain. The first sacrifices took place that day, as God provided for the sins of His beloved humans. The wages of sin is death, and death came – that day to a pair of animals, in an act of atonement for the sins of Adam and Eve.
  2. For all that was laid upon the humans in the curse, there is no doubt that God still loved them!
    1. Just like God still loves us!

22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—23 therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

  1. Not petty jealousy; true parental/Godly concern. This too, is protection & provision – God protects Adam and Eve from eternal separation from Him as sinful creatures. Imagine living eternally in an ever-decaying body. Imagine living eternally in physical torment separated from the God who loves you & created you. That’s the fate from which God spared Adam & Eve. By forcing them from the garden, God allowed them to experience physical death, which in turn would lead to spiritual life.
  2. Sadly, many multitudes experience exactly this same fate. None in hell have eaten from the tree of life, but they do spend an eternity in physical and spiritual torment, always dying, but never falling out of existence – never again able to reconcile in peace with their Creator God.
    1. God didn’t want that for Adam & Eve, and He doesn’t want it for us! God wants all people, everywhere to be saved!

Conclusion:

When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, everything changed. Sin entered humanity, along with death, and all of creation fell with the humans. Every single bit of suffering seen around the world traces its origins back to that moment. Every natural disaster – every act of violence – every heartache and shed tear has come as a result of that bite. No act done among men has influenced more things…save one.

The singular act that eclipses the Fall is the act that was prophesied immediately afterward: the cross and resurrection of Jesus. He is the promised Seed of the woman who crushes the head of the serpent. He is the One who brings life out of death, and reconciles not only mankind, but all of the created universe with God. When Jesus comes back at the end of the age, He will begin the consummation of all things, and what was once lost will be restored…and it will be glorious!

What do we do in the meantime?

  1. We don’t doubt God’s word or God’s character. Temptation begins with this, and it continues the longer we dwell upon it.
  2. We do trust the work of Jesus! What was promised in the Garden has been completed today, and although we still live in a fallen world, we exist as redeemed men & women of God. 

Jesus IS the Passover

Posted: January 22, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 22:14-23, “Jesus IS the Passover”

Whether you call it “Communion,” “the Eucharist,” or “The Lord’s Supper,” the practice is one of the two formal ordinances given to the church by the Lord Jesus. Although various other sacraments are practiced (and debated) by mainline denominations, there are only two ordinances modeled and commanded by the Lord Jesus in the New Testament: baptism, and communion. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells His disciples to make disciples, specifically including baptism as an essential element. In Luke 22, Jesus commands of the supper, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” These two practices (ordinances) are essential to the very existence of local churches, and without them, there is no formal church at all.

Yet what is it? Is it just some bread and grape juice? Is it supposed to be blessed by a priest? Is there any meaning to the practice, or is it just a bunch of religious ritual? For as common as it is, communion is often misunderstood by Christians. In fact, it’s so misunderstood that some Protestant congregations rarely practice it…maybe once per year, and only in closed services. Other churches partake on a weekly basis, to the point that some congregants hardly give it a second thought.

The good news is that Jesus teaches us exactly what Communion is, and what it was always meant to be: Passover. The most well-known of Christian practices is actually a Christ-given adaptation of a Jewish festival – one which perfectly demonstrates the gospel. Properly done, Passover/Communion shows forth Christ. Jesus is the Passover, for He is the sacrifice who takes away the sins of the world.

In the context of Luke, Jesus is getting closer & closer to the cross. He’s already had His confrontations with the religious authorities, exposing them as religious hypocrites. They had come to the realization that they would never be able to publicly arrest Jesus by a show of force, knowing that the crowds would revolt against them. They busied themselves plotting ways to take Jesus by secret, when a gift fell in their laps: the arrival of Judas Iscariot. One of Jesus’ own disciples offered (for a price) to betray his supposed-Master, leading the arresting soldiers to Jesus in the absence of the crowds.

In the meantime, Jesus continued with preparations of His own. He and the disciples had a Passover meal to celebrate and eat, and even the seemingly-minor details of acquiring a room for dinner had been pre-planned by God. Peter and John were sent ahead to get things ready, and now it was suppertime. 

What takes place at this point is the most unusual Passover meal (Seder) the disciples ever experienced. What had always been a traditional retelling of the Hebrews’ historical redemption from Egyptian slavery turned into a current account of Jesus’ current act of redemption that would take place right in front of their eyes. Jesus is the Passover, and He is One of which we must all partake.

Luke 22:14–23

  • Desire for Passover (14-16)

14 When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.

  1. It begins with what seems to be a loaded phrase: “when the hour had come.” Was Luke writing about the hour of supper that night – or the hour of Jesus’ arrest & crucifixion? Most likely, there’s a bit of both. Preparations had been made throughout the day, of which Luke recorded many details. But there was a bigger narrative at work. The hour had come for the cross. All of history had anticipated this moment in time. From the day that Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden, and the serpent was promised to have his head bruised by the future Seed of the Woman (Gen 3:15), this hour was awaited. Paul wrote to the Galatians that it was in “the fullness of the time” that God sent His Son for our redemption (Gal 4:4-5), and that hour was this very moment.
  2. With the hour at hand, Jesus was ready for this final meal, and He “sat down” (literally: “reclined”), along with “the twelve apostles.” Quick pop quiz to see if you’re paying attention: how many apostles sat with Him? Judas may have already made the plans to betray Jesus, but he still came to dinner. Judas still celebrated the Passover with the One whom he was about to turn over to the Jews, who would in turn deliver Jesus to the Romans. Judas Iscariot was the consummate actor, playing along as if he were just another one of the 12 apostles, dedicated to the Lord Jesus & excited to celebrate Passover with Him. What gall! How deep the desire of sin is, that resides within the heart of man! (One of which any and all of us have partaken at some point. Be careful not to cast the first stone.) As incredulous as the gall of Judas may have been, what was more amazing? The fact that Jesus allowed Judas to sit & participate with the rest of them. Jesus was not taken by surprise by Judas Iscariot. Jesus was not shocked by this betrayal. He had known it would happen far before Judas did. Jesus had known that He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot before even choosing Judas as a disciple. Yet Jesus still chose him. Jesus still gave Judas the opportunity to know Him and be saved. That is truly amazing!
    1. God is so free with His grace! He is incredibly generous with opportunities for people to come to faith, and be forgiven. Judas had exactly the same opportunities of salvation as did every one of the other 11 apostles. He witnessed the same miracles as Thomas. He ate at the same table as Peter. Even as the Passover meal, he ate at the physical side of Jesus, opposite John. There was no lack of opportunity for Judas Iscariot to be saved. He just didn’t take it.
    2. Don’t waste your opportunity! There are many people today in a similar situation as Judas: they show up alongside other Christians, and do what Christians do…at least, on the outside. They don’t worship God on the inside, because they haven’t surrendered themselves to Jesus in faith. They are a shell of a Christian, not truly being a Christian – despite all of the opportunities they have to become Don’t fall into that trap. Don’t waste the numerous chances you’ve been given to receive God’s grace. You don’t know which one will be your last.
  3. In any case, they have all gathered into one room, and that’s when Jesus introduces the meal. 15…

15 Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

  1. So Jesus is with His disciples for this meal, having all His apostles with Him – but this was no normal dinner. This was a meal Jesus greatly “” This was something He truly wanted to do. Interestingly, the English phrase “with fervent desire I have desired,” is a long translation of only two Greek words. It actually mimics a Hebrew grammatical form known as the “infinitive absolute,” where two of the same words are side-by-side (using different conjugations), in effect strengthening one another. [Example: Genesis 2:16-17. “Eating you may eat,” “Dying you will die.”] Luke records Jesus doing something similar here: “Desiring I have desired.” IOW, this wasn’t a take-it-or-leave-it sort of event to Jesus. This was what He wanted. This was a meal He hadn’t just looked forward to throughout the day, but something to which He had longed for years – or perhaps, even from eternity past! Question: Why? To borrow a question from the traditional Passover Seder, why was this night different from every other night? More than that, how was this Passover different from every other Passover? After all, Jesus had been with His disciples for around three years. This wasn’t the first Passover Seder they celebrated together. Why did Jesus desire this one so much?
  2. Jesus Himself provides the answer: this would be His final Passover prior to His suffering. There is a reason we sometimes call this event the “Last Supper”…this was literally Jesus’ last meal. Inmates on death row receive their last meal prior to their execution & Jesus was looking at the same sort of event. He Himself was about to enter into great suffering and death. No longer was this something that was far off in the future, something for which He needed to prepare His disciples; it was now the hour. The time was at hand. Yet this wasn’t something Jesus dreaded; it was what He desired. Why? Because although Jesus would suffer, His suffering wouldn’t be the end. No one wants to suffer, but sometimes suffering leads to something glorious. Ultramarathoners don’t look forward to suffering for 50-100 miles of rocks, cuts, and bruises – they look forward to the medal that awaits them at the end. Mothers certainly don’t look forward to the suffering and pain of childbirth, but they definitely look forward to their newborn child. Likewise, Jesus didn’t look forward to the suffering, but what would come as a result: redemption! The suffering would lead to the cross, the cross would lead to the grave, the grave would lead to resurrection, and with resurrection would come victory over death and redemption made available to all the world. God the Son was about to engage in the act that would finally guarantee the reconciliation of His creation to Himself. It’s no wonder He desired it! His desire would lead to our forgiveness!
  3. Some scholars debate whether or not the Last Supper was a Passover meal. It would seem Jesus puts the debate to rest in vs. 15. Considering Jesus Himself calls it a “Passover,” that should be the end of it. What is Passover? For that, we need to go back to the books of Genesis & Exodus. During the midst of a famine that consumed much of the ancient world, the family of Israel (Jacob) went down from the Promised Land to Egypt in order to find food and safety. Through a series of miraculous events, one of the sons of Jacob, Joseph, was the Egyptian prime minister, second only in rank to Pharaoh. The Israelites were saved. Yet as the generations passed, the Israelites fell out of favor. A later Pharaoh took the Hebrews as slaves, and for 400 years they served the Egyptians. That’s when God raised up Moses, providing a deliverer for His people. God sent 9 terrible plagues to Egypt, showing a difference between the Hebrew people and the Egyptians, yet Pharaoh hardened his heart & stubbornly refused to let God’s people go. Finally, God sent the final plague: the death of the firstborn, which would be the final event that purchased the Israelites’ freedom. [Exodus 12:21-30.] The death of a lamb was substituted for the death of the firstborn child, at least for those who believed God’s word and had faith. The blood of the lamb was put over the doorpost of the believing house, by which the angel of God knew to pass over those homes, excepting them from the plague of death. Thus, Passover celebrates the moment when death “passed over” the Hebrews.
  4. With all of that history in mind, it’s no wonder why God commanded the Hebrews to celebrate Passover every single year. This was to be on the forefront of their minds – this was how God purchased their redemption out of Egyptian slavery, providing them the freedom to serve God alone. This becomes one of the clearest pictures of the gospel in all of the Old Testament – which is exactly what Jesus will point out through the rest of the meal. Yet Jesus declares that He would no longer partake of Passover. His Passover meals were done for the time being, not to be eaten again “until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” The point? The picture was about to be fulfilled. Passover was the analogy; the cross was the reality. Jesus was about to fulfill all of the symbolism of the traditional meal by becoming the Passover Lamb. His blood was about to be shed for all, so that the next time Jesus partakes of a Passover Seder, He will do so in the presence of all those who have been saved (all those who have been hidden in the blood of His sacrifice).
  5. Jesus shows how it all relates as the meal progresses. 17…
  • Elements of Passover (17-20)

17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

  1. At this point, Luke diverges from the other two Synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Mark), making note of an earlier cup of wine distributed by Jesus. The other gospels record only the bread and subsequent cup; Luke records two cups. Actually, this shouldn’t be thought unusual. A typical Passover Seder today includes four cups of wine, with the Seder at the time of Jesus perhaps including only three. Either way, none of the gospel writers wrote of every single cup of wine at the meal, nor did they write of any other food apart from the bread. Just because it wasn’t mentioned doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. Remember that the gospel accounts are not transcripts of every single word of Jesus, nor are they descriptions of every single event that occurred in His earthly ministry. The writers included what needed to be included in order to point people to Jesus, as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to do. Thus, Luke does not contradict Matthew or Mark, nor does John (though his writing of the meal is very different than the other three authors).
  2. All that said, which of the various cups does Luke describe? Most likely, this is the first of the three/four. This is the cup introducing dinner, symbolizing the promise of God to sanctify His people. Just as the Hebrews were set apart from Egypt, taken unto God, so did Jesus do the same with His disciples. They were set apart from the world, taken unto God Himself through the work of His Son. Each one of them had been called (even Judas), each invited to partake of the grace Jesus offered.
  3. It’s interesting that nowhere among Luke’s description of the meal does he show Jesus partaking of the wine & bread. He gives it, distributing it to the disciples; but He Himself isn’t shown drinking or eating the elements of Communion (although there’s no doubt He did eat of the meal as a whole – Mt 26:21,26 “as they were eating”). Even if one argues that Jesus did eat & drink of the elements, there’s no question He does not partake today. He specifically said He would not do so “until the kingdom of God comes.” This tells us something important about the kingdom: it’s not here yet. There is an aspect of the kingdom that exists today, being that we as born-again Christians are all kingdom-citizens. But although we live out the ideals of the kingdom of God, God’s kingdom is not yet on the earth in its fulness. One day, it will The act of redemption is complete, being finished by Jesus on the cross – but the acts of restoration and consummation are still in progress, finally finding fulfillment when Jesus comes back to earth and sets up His physical kingdom. “Okay – sounds nice, but so what?” So there’s something more coming! As wonderful as it is to be forgiven & brought into a real relationship with God, that’s not all Jesus promises us. As great as it is to be a Christian today, there’s something even better still on the way. We get to live in the real, actualized kingdom of God. We will one day sit across the table from our Lord Jesus Christ & have dinner with Him, as we engage in eternal life with Him. What we experience today with Jesus is fantastic, but what we will experience in the future is even better. Jesus is looking forward to that day…so should we!
  4. BTW – the Greek for “giving thanks” is εὐχαριστέω ~ eucharist. Although many people associate the word with the Roman Catholic false doctrine of transubstantiation (which will be addressed in a moment), the word itself simply speaks of thanksgiving. Considering how thankful we ought to be when we celebrate communion, perhaps “Eucharist” is a word worth reclaiming.

19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

  1. As the meal progressed, it eventually came time to distribute the unleavened matzo bread. During a traditional Seder, there is a lot of bread eaten, given out by the host at specific designated times. Normally, this was done along the retelling of the Passover story from Exodus, recounting for the Hebrew people why they celebrated a special meal that night. For the disciples this particular Passover, Jesus changed it up. He reinterpreted the matzo as He broke it, calling it His body. Food has always been seen as a means of fellowship among the Hebrews (and most cultures). When Abraham saw the Lord and His angels approaching, he and Sarah quickly made cakes (bread) and provided food for a feast (Gen 18). Meals were shared between all kinds of people, as a way to establish relationships and share in fellowship together. Even the original “apape feasts” of the church shared more than just communion, but full meals (not unlike our Munchin’ Luncheons!). On the night of the original Passover, the bread was not just symbolic; it was necessary food. The Hebrews would be departing from Egypt within hours, and there wasn’t time for yeast to cause bread to rise overnight (in a traditional sourdough) – the bread would have to be made without yeast/leaven in order for it to be eaten that very night as sustenance. All of the Passover bread in the future would be made without yeast in order to symbolize the removal of sin (which easily grows) from the midst of God’s people.
  2. There’s a lot of symbolism just in that, but Jesus took things to another level. By saying “this is My body,” Jesus was telling His disciples not simply to partake of bread, but to partake of Him. How were they to do this – was this cannibalism? Of course not. That was one of the objections by the Jews earlier in Jesus’ ministry when He taught something similar (Jn 6:52-58). The Jews at the time couldn’t understand how Jesus could provide His flesh as food & His blood as drink. What was mysterious at the time was revealed on this night of the Last Supper. Jesus’ disciples were to partake of Jesus by faith. They were to receive the sacrifice Jesus offered by receiving of Him by faith. Jesus would soon truly be sacrificed, having His body broken & His blood shed, and He said that these acts were depicted in the Passover meal: the bread and the wine.
  3. What was controversial for Jews at the time is no less controversial for Christians today. There are three basic positions (though it could be divided into more) for what Jesus meant by “This is My body”:
    1. This is Jesus’ physical For Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Coptic Christians (among others), the bread and wine become the actual, physical body of Jesus. For Orthodox, the method is a mystery, whereas for Roman Catholics the physical transformation takes place the moment the priest pronounces his blessing (i.e. transubstantiation). There is at least one major problem with this doctrine: Jesus was sitting right in front of the disciples while handing out the bread. The disciples were not biting off pieces of Jesus’ arm; they were receiving the normal matzo like they always did. Jesus plainly used symbolic language (metaphor) when handing out the elements.
    2. This is Jesus physically experienced, though spiritually seen. Lutherans take a mediated position from the Roman Catholics & Orthodox. Although they do not believe that the bread and wine physically transform into the body and blood of Jesus, they believe that Jesus’ body is “in, with, and under” the elements – mysteriously being among them, even if they are not seen. Although Martin Luther did some wonderful things in the Protestant Reformation, it needs to be remembered that Luther did not originally want to break from Rome; he just wanted to change some ungodly practices. This was one area in which he did not easily depart. Yet once again, we have to limit ourselves to the text of Scripture, with proper interpretation being possible only when we recognize the text for what it is. When Jesus speaks in metaphor, the proper (literal) interpretation for it is as a metaphor.
    3. This is Jesus spiritually experienced/remembered. This is the position of most other Protestants, although there is variety among the spectrum of how much Jesus is included in the meal. The bottom line is that Jesus is not physically in the bread or wine, but it is no less a meal with Christians partake of Jesus by faith, treating this not as a magical ritual, but real fellowship with our real Savior.
    4. BTW – this may seem like it’s deep in the theological weeds, but it’s very important. Paul gives a warning to the Corinthian church of their ungodly practices surrounding the Lord’s Supper: 1 Corinthians 11:27–30, “(27) Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (28) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (29) For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (30) For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” The Corinthians apparently celebrated Communion on a regular basis, but they did so unworthily. They held on to rampant unrepentant sin in their lives, and they did not properly discern the Lord’s body. They treated this as a ritual, rather than a worship and memorial service, and apparently this was a sin that led to some of their deaths. The Lord’s Supper is something to celebrate, but it’s not something to take lightly. It definitely isn’t something from which non-Christians or false converts are to partake!
  4. The bottom line is simple: Jesus spoke symbolically of the bread, giving a literal command for us to follow: “do this in remembrance of Me.” Christians are to do it, but we are to do it rightly: remembering the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus on our behalf, as He took the wrath of God in our place for our sin. Instead of matzo bread being lightly burned & pierced through with holes, Jesus Himself was bruised & pierced for our sin. Every time we eat the bread, we remember – we worship – we give thanks for the very real sacrifice of our Lord.

20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

  1. The identity of the 2nd cup mentioned by Luke is debated. Some claim it is the 4th cup of the Passover Seder, the Hallel Cup (cup of praise/restoration). This is the cup which signifies the conclusion of the Seder celebration, which some argue is what Luke means when describing this cup as being “after supper.” The problem is two-fold: (1) There is debate regarding whether or not this cup even existed at the time of Jesus, and (2) the Bible describes this cup in different terms. Matthew’s version of this cup reads: Matthew 26:28–30, “(28) For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (29) But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (30) And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” No doubt this is the same cup, as it is the “cup of the new covenant,” yet what takes place after this cup is singing. If this was the 4th cup, the cup would be drunk after the singing of the Hallel psalms. If the 4th cup existed at the time, it was likely refused by Jesus (saying He would not drink it again), as it would look forward to the cup of praise drunk at His wedding feast at the restoration of all things.
  2. A 3rd reason to believe this is the 3rd cup is the parallel in the symbolism. The 3rd cup of the Seder is the Cup of Redemption, which is indeed drunk immediately after the main meal is eaten. What was Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, if not the price for our redemption. As Peter wrote, we weren’t purchased (redeemed) with corruptible money like silver or gold, but instead with the “precious blood of Christ,” (1 Pt 1:18-19) being the true “lamb without blemish,” as any Passover lamb would have been. Paul wrote that we have been “bought with a price,” (1 Cor 6:20), and that price is our redemption, the blood of Jesus. This is all symbolized through the cup. It isn’t simply something to wash down the matzo bread; it is symbolic of the price of your forgiveness.
  3. Jesus defined this cup as something different, again departing from the traditional script of the Passover Seder. He said “this cup is the new covenant in My blood.” What is the “new covenant”? It wasn’t “new” as in made-up-on-the-spot; this was something that had been prophesied and long-expected. Again, we have to turn to the Old Testament (testament = covenant). Jeremiah 31:31–34, “(31) “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—(32) not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. (33) But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (34) No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”” The old covenant was one of compulsion; it was an agreement between a Sovereign King and His people (one which the Israelites broke repeatedly). The new covenant is one of grace – one in which the very hearts of God’s people are transformed as they now desire to worship God and God’s forgiveness flows freely.
  4. This is the covenant promised by Jesus, and it has already begun! It began the moment Jesus shed His blood on the cross, for covenants are ratified by blood. The author of Hebrews goes into great detail with this, stating that “where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator,” (Heb 9:16). Ancient covenants were enforced by death. Sometimes (as was the case between God and Abraham – Gen 15), animals were split in two and the various parties walked through the blood, symbolizing what ought to happen to them if either of them broke their covenant vows. Even the covenant of Moses was demonstrated and ratified through blood, when a sacrifice was made & the blood was sprinkled both on the people and the pages of the covenant (Heb 9:19). Regarding the new covenant, what was the ratification? The blood of Jesus. What is symbolized through the cup was brought to reality mere hours later as Jesus hung upon the cross. Thus, this covenant has already begun.
    1. What does that mean for us? It means that we live as new covenant people today! All of the blessings promised to the future Hebrews are blessings we enjoy right now. God’s law is in our hearts – we are His people & He is our God – our forgiveness is accomplished, and God never holds our sins against us. For those who are in Christ, each one of those statements is not simply a hope; it is fact. 
    2. Christian: Do you sometimes doubt how God could love someone like you? Do you wonder how it is God could forgive you so often? Here’s your answer: it’s the blood of Jesus! This relationship we have with God is not something we’ve earned; it’s something we have been given. And it is something we have been guaranteed through Jesus. He has already accomplished all of the work – all we do is rest in Him!
      1. If you’re not resting in Jesus, then you’re not likely saved by Jesus. Turn to Him in faith today. Trust the sufficiency of His shed blood & His fulfilled work.

From the perspective of the disciples, that would have been a mind-blowing meal. Passovers were normal and typical, following traditions passed through the generations. This Passover was anything, but! It wasn’t over. Jesus would go on with some of His most shocking statements yet…

  • Mode of Passover (21-23)

21 But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. 22 And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”

  1. Who was there with Jesus? Judas, the betrayer. At this point, we have a potential problem, in that the gospel of John indicates that Judas may have left prior to the distribution of the bread and wine. Jesus had dipped bread in the sop (charoseth), and gave it to Judas Iscariot, identifying him as the betrayer. At that point, Jesus told Judas to go do what he intended to do, and Judas left the room (Jn 13:26-30). From that, and because Matthew and Mark show Jesus speaking of His betrayal prior to the elements of Communion, some assume that Judas Iscariot never ate the bread or drank the wine. Yet this is an assumption; not a direct statement of the Bible. Matthew and Mark don’t record the departure of Judas Iscariot, and John never technically mentions the Communion elements at all. Only Luke puts it all together, and according to his account, Judas Iscariot was seemingly there the entire time.
    1. Consider that for a moment. Judas witnessed not only the ministry of Jesus, but he was there for the entire meal of the Passover. Judas had the bread handed to him – he had the cup given him from which he drank…and still, he persisted in sin & unbelief. That tells us something: bread & wine don’t save; only faith in Jesus does. A person can participate in as many rituals as he/she wants, but those rituals won’t do anything except confirm the judgment of God upon them. What is needed is true faith & heartfelt commitment to Jesus.
  2. As shocking as that may have been, take it one step further: this betrayal was fully “determined” by the eternal decree of God. Long before Judas Iscariot ever lived, he had been chosen to be the instrument of God by which His Son would be betrayed and sent to the cross.
    1. Question: Did Judas have a choice? Yes! God made a choice to use Judas, but Judas still made a choice of his own. In the amazing sovereignty of God, His choice does not rob us of our freewill. Judas Iscariot freely gave into the worst of his sinful nature when he decided to betray Jesus, even as this betrayal was foretold and determined in the eternal counsels by God.
    2. We cannot blame God for our sin! Does God know we will sin? Does God know all of the future sin we’ve yet to commit? Yes. God even goes so far to allow us to sin, knowing that it is sin & rebellion against Him. But He is not to blame. Sin is our own choice & our own fault.
  3. And sin has consequences. For Judas Iscariot, it is an eternity of “” Not once in the Bible do we have any indication that Judas ever repented of his sin. Though he threw the 30 pieces of silver back into the temple, he later died in his despair, committing suicide. Judas suffered not only the grief of his conscience, but is still suffering today in the lake of fire. “Woe” is the proper term. Truly (as Jesus said), it would have been better if he had never been born (Mt 26:24).
    1. That same woe is for all of those who reject Christ. A person doesn’t need to betray Jesus with a kiss to engage in the same sort of rebellion as did Judas. A person doesn’t need to mirror Judas’ sin to share in Judas’ fate. (Jesus offers to save us from that, but we must respond!)

23 Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing.

  1. Amazingly, the rest of the disciples never guessed it was Judas. Even after the earlier statements of Jesus that evening, Judas Iscariot wasn’t the obvious choice. So well did he blend in, each of the disciples honestly questioned themselves as to who might the one to engage in such evil.
  2. Judas Iscariot is the ultimate false convert. On the outside, he walked the walk & talked the talk. He was so trusted by the other apostles that they gave him the moneybag. Yet on the inside, he was as rebellious against Jesus as was Satan.
    1. Don’t be like Judas!

Conclusion:

On the night of Jesus’ last Passover, He celebrated the meal with His disciples, and made a major foundational change: they weren’t celebrating the Passover of the past, but of the present. Jesus IS the Passover. He gave His body as a sacrifice, and shed His blood for our redemption. Jesus gave Himself in order that death would pass over us, and that we would live forever in the new covenant with God. It was the ultimate act of love, given for people who could never deserve it.

Jesus offered Himself to His disciples – to Judas – even to people like us. Anyone is invited to partake of His Passover, but we need to do so in faith. Rituals never save anyone; reality does. We cannot afford to put our faith in our own actions: of the bread which we pick up and eat, or of the juice we put in our mouths – or even of the baptism in which we get wet. Done properly in faith, these things are wonderful & they build us up in Christ, as we worship Him. But otherwise, it’s just food, drink, and water. We need more than ritual; we need reality…we need Jesus.

Be Prepared

Posted: January 14, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 22:1-13, “Be Prepared”

On the top of the Eagle award is the Boy Scout’s motto: “Be Prepared.” The original idea behind it, according to Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell was to be “always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” In other words, a true Scout is to be proactive in order to be reactive: to be ready to respond to anything at any time.

Of course, preparation is a good thing. The bigger the task, the more important the preparation. If you’ve got a presentation at work, you’d better put in the prep work ahead of time. “Winging it” isn’t an option. Ratchet up the scale a bit from work to wartime. There’s a reason why generals study the way they do. Lives are placed on the line with their every decision, and they can’t afford not to be fully prepared.

Now ratchet up the scale the highest setting possible. What if we’re talking not only about physical lives, but eternal lives? Surely preparation matters! Every detail becomes important when eternity is on the line. Thankfully for us, God prepares. There is not a single detail which escapes His attention. He sees it all, knows it all, and plans for it all. He even plans for His enemies, ensuring that the enemy’s best laid plans end up working towards God’s own plan and glory.

This is what is seen in Luke 22 as the action moves closer and closer to the cross. At first glance, it would seem that two plans are on display, diametrically opposed to one another. In reality, there is but one plan: the plan of God – and His plan is perfect!

Chronologically, things are getting closer and closer to the cross. Contextually, it might be difficult to see that, considering that the majority of Luke 21 recorded Jesus’ prophetic teaching known as the Olivet Discourse. We actually have to back up to Luke 19-20 to pick up on the goings-on at the time. Jesus had finally completed His trek down from Galilee, entering Jerusalem with much fanfare on Sunday. His disciples (not only the 12, but the larger group following Him) had just witnessed some incredible miracles when Jesus gave sight to the blind, and they were expecting great things. They openly heralded Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, and it was like a royal victory parade when Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem.

Unsurprisingly, the religious leaders didn’t take kindly to all of this. Not only had they told Jesus to rebuke the crowds (to which He refused), but they consistently opposed Him once He entered Jerusalem – especially after Jesus exposed their hypocrisy by their allowance of the corrupt practice of the money changers in the temple. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and religious lawyers all took their turns debating Jesus, trying to discredit them…and they all failed. In the end, not only did Jesus pass their tests, but He bested them in one of His own, and they were exposed in public as religious phonies.

That’s when the action in the book paused for a bit, and Luke recorded the Olivet Discourse, demonstrating Jesus’ vast knowledge over the future and His proclamation of His glorious return for which we as Christians are to watch. The teaching concluded, Luke now returns to the events of the Passion/Passover week as both Jesus and Judas are seen making preparations for things soon to come. For God, no detail is overlooked. He not only made advance plans for the final Passover meal of Jesus; He made plans for the Jesus as the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

Trust the plans of God!

Luke 22:1–13

  • Preparing for evil (1-6)

1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.

  1. Luke gives the first of two timestamps of the text, providing a bit of Jewish background for what were (probably) his Jewish readers. The two names of the holiday actually reflect two different holidays, but because they are closely related in purpose and immediately succeed one another in dates, the two terms became fairly interchangeable over time. Leviticus 23:5–6, “(5) On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover. (6) And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.” The first month of the Hebrew year is Abib/Nisan (Hebrew/Babylonian names), so the 14th of the month is the actual Passover, while the 15th begins the week-long festival.
    1. FYI – Modern Jews typically observe Passover on Nisan 15. Why the difference? Because it is on the 14th when the lambs were slain, and there is no temple in which to sacrifice a lamb. (Which is why lamb is rarely, if ever, served at modern Jewish Passover meals.) Without a temple, the feast begins on the 15th, and that’s when they typically eat the Passover meal.
  2. Here, Luke doesn’t tell us the specific day of the week (though later, he will), although Mark indicates that this was two days prior to the Passover (Mk 14:1). Most likely, this all happened on Wednesday evening. It’s been a busy few days! Jesus entered the city on Sunday, and spent the next couple of days teaching the people and humiliating the religious leadership, before going apart with His disciples on the Mount of Olives. It’s no wonder that the priests and others were meeting together for an assassination conspiracy!
  3. Take note of vs 2: “the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him.” There’s no ambiguity as to their purpose – no question of what they desired to do. They wanted to kill They wanted Him executed, destroyed. Jesus was a danger to their way of life, and a danger they could not afford. They hadn’t been able to discredit Jesus or claim victory over Him in debate, so they turned to violence. Keep in mind these were the religious leaders. The priests and scribes represented both the Sadducees and the Pharisees, so no political group could claim ignorance. All of the elite wanted Jesus dead. In their zeal to maintain their religious position, they threw all religion to the side in order to plot murder.
    1. Religious titles & positions don’t declare someone’s true spirituality; their actions do. It doesn’t matter what a person wants to say of himself…what is his fruit?
  4. Being that the chief priests had exclusive control of the temple guard, why not simply arrest Jesus? The Bible tells us: “they feared the people.” The reason they wanted Jesus dead was because they feared losing their own political power among the Jews (either by the hands of the Romans, or by the revolt of the people), but they feared the people more. They couldn’t arrest Jesus publicly without endangering themselves. Not only had a large group of disciples entered the city with Jesus, but Jesus had taught daily in the temple, with multitudes hearing Him. At this point, even the general non-believing crowds agreed with Jesus, and the last they saw, Jesus had come out on top. To arrest Him publicly was to invite a mob.
  5. What to do? Wait for some sort of opportunity for deception. One soon presented itself…

3 Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.

  1. Judas Iscariot is one of the most reviled names in history. To this day, to call someone a “Judas” is to engage in grand insult. By itself, “Judas” is a wonderful name – it is the Greek version of the Hebrew “Judah,” meaning “praise.” Jesus was actually descended from the tribe of Judah (as were all of David’s descendants), and not only was the name shared among by another of Jesus’ disciples, but one of Jesus’ half-brothers had it as well (though we typically know him as Jude). Yet Judas Iscariot, by far, has the most famous claim. Theories surround his last name as to his city of origin, but in the end, Judas is most readily identified by his actions; not his birthplace.
  2. Two things are mentioned of Judas at this point. The first being that “Satan entered” him. Literally, the term means “adversary,” but there is no question that this is the personal name the Bible uses to address the devil, the chief enemy. Although Satan is powerful, he is infinitely less powerful than God, being the chief among all demons. People today tend to give Satan far more credit than he deserves, treating him as if he’s everywhere at once (omnipresent), and personally responsible for every act of evil or temptation. The truth is that Satan (like every other created being) can only be in one place at a time, and the vast majority of demonic activity witnessed by people today are various other demons under the command of Satan. Even in the gospels, there are numerous occasions when demon possession occurs, and not once in any of it does Jesus (or the later apostles) ever claim to cast out Satan himself. Possession is something normally left to lesser demons. Not this time. This time, Satan got personally involved. This wasn’t something he was going to delegate to others – he did it himself. He “entered Judas,” personally possessing him.
    1. To what extent did Satan do it? We don’t know. Certainly, he was guiding & influencing Judas’ thoughts at this point. But it also seems the possession wasn’t permanent. John 13:27 tells us how Satan entered Jesus after Judas Iscariot ate a piece of the Passover bread, and that’s when Judas left on his mission of betrayal. No doubt Judas Iscariot had left himself open to the influence of Satan, and during these final few days, Satan came and went as he pleased.
  3. The second point mentioned of Judas is that he “was numbered among the twelve.” Never forget that Judas Iscariot was a chosen He was part of an elite group specifically named by Jesus, and invited by our Lord to follow Him throughout His three-year ministry. There was hardly a human alive at the time that knew Jesus better than the 12, and Judas Iscariot was one of them. He had every opportunity imaginable. He witnessed every miracle – he heard every teaching – he even saw and heard the things unrecorded in Scripture (of which there were multitudes). Judas Iscariot had every human reason possible to put his faith in Christ, and never did. He never took the opportunities he had to surrender himself in faith. (Don’t miss your own!) But more than that, Judas Iscariot was chosen by Jesus. Did Jesus know what Judas would do? Certainly. From the beginning, Jesus always knew He would be betrayed – He knew who would betray Him – He knew how He would be betrayed, and the physical tortures that would come as a result. And yet He still chose Judas Iscariot as one of the 12. Why? Why would anyone put themselves through that? All of us have experienced betrayal at some point (though to a far lesser extent than Jesus), and no doubt if we could have done something to avoid it, we would have done it. Not Jesus. He walked straight into it, knowing what would happen. Why? Because it was the plan of God.
    1. Never forget the sovereignty of God – especially when it comes to the plan of salvation. This was something predetermined by God from before the beginning of time. The Bible tells us that Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) – it specifically prophecies how the Messiah (the descendant of David) would be betrayed by a friend (Ps 41:9, Jn 13:18). This was God’s specific plan. This was how He determined that we would be saved. Isaiah 53:10–11, “(10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. (11) He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.” Who determined the Messiah would be bruised & put to grief? It was His work & His will that Jesus be betrayed by a Satanically-possessed disciple, for that is the method by which Jesus would go to the cross and purchase our salvation.
  4. All of this raises two questions. Question #1: If this was God’s plan, is Judas Iscariot innocent of Jesus’ betrayal? For that matter, is Satan? Although it is a mystery to us as to how it works, God fully exercises His sovereign authority in a way in which we still exercise our free will. Judas Iscariot has no excuse for his sin, just like we have no excuse for ours. (Sadly, he has no recourse to a Savior, as he committed suicide prior to Jesus’ resurrection.) Judas has no excuse, and Satan has even less. Satan sees all of the spiritual reality invisible to us. He has known God since the creation of the world. He even knows the Scripture better than any human who ever lived. Yet Satan still rebels against God. He bears all of the weight of his sin, being fully deserving of God’s wrath – which is itself a part of God’s plan.
  5. Question #2: if Satan could enter Judas Iscariot (one of the 12 disciples), can Satan enter any Christian? (1) In no terms could Judas Iscariot ever be labeled a Christian. He hung around Christians, and even personally knew the Incarnate Jesus Christ – but Judas never had faith. Judas Iscariot is the poster child for false converts. Everything on the outside looked like a Christian, but he was hollow on the inside, completely lacking faith. (2) As born-again believers, we have something that Judas Iscariot did not: the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. The moment we put our faith in Christ, the actual presence of God the Holy Spirit is within us, as He is the one who gives us our new spiritual birth. Demons cannot push the Holy Spirit aside in order to possess Christians. God the Spirit is infinitely stronger than they!
    1. That being said, Christians can still be seduced by Satan and his demons. We can still fall prey to temptation. The devil roams about, seeking people to devour, and Christians can indeed fall into the trap. Just because he can’t possess us doesn’t mean he cannot cause us to fall. The key is for us to stay focused on Jesus! When we keep our eyes on Christ, the devil cannot attract us.
  6. As for Judas Iscariot, he was fully attracted by the devil, being possessed by him. Satan had put an awful idea into his head, and Judas took the initiative with those who wanted Jesus dead. 4…

4 So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.

  1. From their evil perspectives, this was a win-win. The chief priests & scribes (and “captains,” i.e. the temple guard) assured their arrest of Jesus away from the crowds, and Judas Iscariot got a bit of personal payday. The gospels tell us elsewhere that Judas was greedy, apparently embezzling from the disciples’ moneybag (Jn 12:6), and the money offered by the priests was welcome, even if it was a pittance of a sum. Luke doesn’t tell us the amount, although he does use the literal term for “silver” (money = ἀργύριον ~ periodic table Ag). Matthew is the one who tells us it was 30 pieces of silver – itself a fulfillment of prophecy (Zech 11:12-13), one more element of God’s sovereign plan in motion.
  2. Such a pathetic sight! Not only were the supposed “spiritual” leaders plotting assassination, but they’re approached by one of Jesus’ own disciples (now possessed by Satan), who offers to sell Jesus to them for less than a price of a slave. And in the midst of all of this, the priests were “” They rejoiced! They got everything they wanted: Jesus discredited (being that His own disciple turned against Him), arrested, certain execution…all for dirt-cheap. The fact that they could rejoice in this, without even a hint of their own consciences convicting them is truly sad.
    1. Such is the human condition in our rebellion against God. People are so desperate to assert our own sovereignty, that we’re willing to do anything against our Creator God in the process. Why else would people engage in such perversion? How else would we delight in evil, and despise the good? This is the reason the porn industry, the liquor producers, and the worst of Hollywood make so much money. People are willing to pay whatever it costs to drown out the conviction of God.
    2. Instead of fighting against God, we need to surrender to Him! His desire for us is good. He wants to cleanse us, to forgive us, to help us be who we are created to be. Jesus offers us not just eternal life, but abundant life (Jn 10:10). That’s something anyone can experience when we surrender ourselves to Jesus in faith.

All of this is one side of the plans of that week, but there was another side: Jesus. Judas Iscariot and the priests had their preparations (which themselves were submitted to the plans of God), but the Lord Jesus and the other disciples had preparations of their own…even for something as simple as dinner.

  • Preparing for Passover (7-13)

7 Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed.

  1. If the first timestamp was a bit general, this is far more specific. This is now Thursday, Nisan 14 “when the Passover must be killed.” Remember that terms used for Passover itself & the resulting feast-week are somewhat interchangeable, and Luke reflects that in his wording.
  2. There’s a bit of controversy on the actual day of the week this takes place, in that John’s gospel says that Jesus was crucified on “the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour,” (Jn 19:14). The question then becomes: what was the meal eaten by Jesus and the disciples, and/or is John at a contradiction with the Synoptic gospels regarding the timeframe? As to the meal itself, there’s no doubt at all that Jesus and the disciples treated it as a Passover meal. That much is clear from vs. 8, and from all of the description of the meal that follows (and also the description included in each of the four gospels). As to the day of the week, several solutions have been proposed. One notes the fact that all of the week of Unleavened Bread is often called “Passover,” which leads to the confusion. Another notes that two different calendars were in play, which led some Jews to eat the meal at different times. Regardless of the explanations (each of which are plausible), all four gospels are absolutely clear that Jesus was crucified on Friday, and rose from the grave on Sunday. That’s the most important part.
  3. From a writing point-of-view, Luke is heightening the tensions. The week is progressing, and things are getting closer and closer to the cross. This is constantly in mind, and we don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. Jesus Himself was about to be killed…the Passover meal simply symbolized the reality that was about to play out in full view of all Jerusalem.

8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.” 9 So they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare?”

  1. At this point, everything is normal. The Passover lamb needed to be acquired, sacrificed, and prepared within the city of Jerusalem (Dt 16:5-6), and Jesus gave the command to Peter and John to see it done. He and the disciples had been camping outside the city on the Mount of Olives, and so a room and other details needed to be arranged for the Passover to be celebrated. In essence, Peter and John were on K-P duty, sent to go cook the meal.
  2. The question they asked in return was also normal & expected. A room would have to be acquired/borrowed for the evening. Although Jesus and the disciples certainly knew people in the city, they didn’t live there, so Peter & John asked Jesus if He had anyone particular in mind that they needed to ask for a room.
  3. Although the question is normal & natural, the circumstances were not. Remember that the priests & scribes were plotting Jesus’ death. Jesus had always known that this Passover would conclude with His crucifixion, and He had repeatedly told the disciples what would happen. Thus they all knew at some point that Jesus would be betrayed and killed (at least, they knew it on an intellectual level – they certainly didn’t want to believe it). So it’s not as if Peter & John could enter the city and start asking around for a room. They couldn’t afford to broadcast the need around the various people in Jerusalem who believed in Jesus. Rumors would start too easily, and Jesus might even be arrested before the end of dinner. If the group was to eat Passover in peace, then they needed to make the arrangements secretly. Yet how to do it? No worries…God planned for all of the details. 10…

10 And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. 11 Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” ’ 12 Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.”

  1. If the initial command from Jesus was general, His plans were incredibly specific! It is reminiscent of when Jesus sent two of His disciples to borrow a donkey for Him to ride during His arrival in Jerusalem (Lk 19:30-31). Jesus knew exactly the circumstance that would await the disciples – He knew the words that needed to be said – and He knew the results that would follow. He was totally in command of the details!
  2. Detail #1: the contact. Jerusalem was already a large city, by ancient standards. The most conservative figures from Tacitus in 70AD estimated a population of 600,000, which Josephus recorded far more (2.7M). However many people were there, the population always swelled during Passover, being one of the few feasts where national attendance was compulsory. Although there were definitely people in the city who followed Jesus, finding them was no small feat. That’s why Jesus gave Peter and John an unmistakable sign. Among all of the hustle & bustle of the city (on one of the busiest days of the year), they would see a man “carrying a pitcher of water.” Although this would mean little to nothing in our eyes, it would have stood out like a flashing light to Peter & John. Women were usually the ones to carry water from a well, and when men carried water at all, they used skins (like wineskins); women carried the pitchers. Thus Jesus basically told them to go to the city and look for a man doing women’s work. He wasn’t being chauvinistic; it was simply a sign that would stand out.
    1. BTW – Even here, the sovereignty of God would be evident. After all, in a crowd that was easily over a million people (if not triple that), finding one specific person would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Even if that one person was doing something unmistakable, Peter & John would have to find that one person at exactly the precise time he was doing it. It’s not as if a guy would walk around all day carrying a pitcher of water waiting for Jesus’ disciples to show up. The disciples would have to go at the right time, through the right gate, and see the right man doing the right thing. This wasn’t something left to random chance or coincidence; this was the sovereign work of God!
    2. Although it is (rightly!) amazing to us, this is not at all uncommon in the Scriptures. When Abraham sent his servant to the land of Ur to find a bride for Isaac, the servant prayed to God for very specific circumstances in this land foreign to him, and God performed it perfectly (Gen 24). When Jacob later did the same thing in his search for a bride, God did it again (Gen 29). God even did it for far more minor events, such as when Peter needed money to pay the temple tax. Jesus told him of a fish that Peter could catch from the sea, and in its mouth would be the coin (Mt 17:27). Again, this is the sovereignty of God. Every detail is seen – every preparation has been made.
    3. With that in mind, do you ever wonder why we so often have difficulty trusting the plans of God? It’s as if we believe God is going to leave us hanging – like He hasn’t fully thought through the whole thing. God has not only though through our circumstances, He’s thought through the circumstances of our lives, and the lives of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (should His plan be to tarry). God knows the details of every man, woman, and child in history. He knows exactly what we go through, as well as what we need to go through to get to the end results He has in mind for us. God’s plans are perfect. So why worry? Trust God! [birds fed & flowers clothed] Matthew 6:31–34, “(31) “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (32) For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. (33) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” God provides, because God has planned. Trust God.
  3. Detail #2: the passcode. If the first detail wasn’t intriguing enough, Jesus gives Peter & John a specific question to ask upon meeting the man. It’s almost like something out of a spy movie, with one agent told to look for a person carrying an umbrella on a sunny day, and asking about his aunt out of town. It’s a way of making contact with someone without attracting attention. Other people might hear the conversation, but they’d think nothing of it. That seems to be the case here. Jesus tells Peter & John to pass a message along from “The Teacher,” not mentioning Himself by name. The man would understand, and he’d know what to do. No doubt the man would be a believer in Jesus, able to know exactly who was meant by Peter & John without further description. The question, however, is whether or not this man had been somehow told by Jesus to expect this question from the two disciples (who could very well have been completely unknown to him prior to their meeting). It is speculation as to how the man knew what to do & how to respond, but it certainly wasn’t necessary for Jesus to somehow smuggle in a letter prearranging everything. God used an angel to inform Joseph what was in the mind of Herod when it came to the safety of Jesus (Mt 2:13). God the Holy Spirit later spoke to Peter telling him to expect Gentile visitors in Joppa, when it came time to share the gospel with Cornelius (Acts 10:19). There’s no question that Jesus prepared this man in advance…there simply isn’t any reason to invent a natural explanation for it. However it happened, it was still the supernatural work of God.
  4. Detail #3: the room. Not only would there be a man – not only would there be a willing response – there would also be adequate provision. It’s not every home in Jerusalem that would have an empty room on Passover, much less a fully-furnished room capable of holding a minimum of 13 men around a table for a banquet meal. No doubt every large room available for rent had been booked in advance (it was the Thursday of Passover, after all!), and yet there was one room yet available for the asking, when Jesus sent for it. No detail was left out – God had planned and prepared for everything.

13 So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.

  1. Imagine for a moment being Peter & John, hearing the instructions of Jesus. You may have been amazed at the intricate detail & excited at the potential intrigue of secrecy & passwords. You may have even praised God in your heart for what He chose to personally reveal to you. Yet what good would it have been if you never followed through in obedience? All of it was ready to go, but it still needed to be experienced if there was to be any benefit. Peter & John needed to go if the disciples were to have a place to eat that night. Jesus had made the preparations; His disciples needed to be obedient.
  2. That’s exactly the way it is with us. God has made all of the preparations for the plan He has for our lives; we need to walk in obedience. God makes the plans. That’s His job; not ours. Too often, we get that backwards, thinking that God needs to rearrange everything He’s doing for the plans that we want for ourselves. (As if we know the end from the beginning, and we’ll think of all of the details that God somehow forgot to see!) God is the planner; not us. He gives the instructions to us, and we are the ones to carry them out. Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Too often, we don’t follow through in obedience, and that’s why we don’t experience the blessings of the abundant life. We make the same mistake as ancient Israel, in that we don’t trust God, and miss out on what He makes available. One of the most often quoted promises of the Old Testament comes in the book of Jeremiah: Jeremiah 29:11–13, “(11) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (12) Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. (13) And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Be careful…don’t do like so many, ripping this verse from its context to make it apply as an absolute promise to us. This was a promise given the nation of Israel during their time of Babylonian captivity, and God tells the people how they would one day experience revival and restoration. But first, they needed to trust Him. If they sought Him with all their hearts, they would see how God always desired their best all along. The promise was for Israel, but the principle applies just as soundly for us. God’s desires for us are good – they are for His glory. That’s not to say that He wants every Christian to always have health & wealth – that no Christian will ever experience cancer, or that God’s will is for you to win the lottery. Not at all. But His plan for you is good. His plan for you is to experience life as He intended, in fellowship with Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit. When we do, we’ll find that in every detail, we will be able to give glory to God. That is the abundant life He desires for us, and that’s what can be experienced by every Christian. He’s planned it; we just need to walk in obedience.

Conclusion:

It’s been often said that the best laid plans of mice & men go awry…but not for God. When God makes plans, His plans are perfect! God’s plan for Jesus were made from before the foundations of the world, and when they played out in real time, everything went exactly according to schedule. 

  • The priests were ready to kill Jesus, and Judas Iscariot was ready to deliver Jesus over to them for His death…just as God intended for His Passover Lamb to be slain.
  • Satan got personally involved, arranging for the betrayal, torture, and death of the One to whom he refused to bow. But this too, was according to prophecy. Back in the Garden of Eden, God already declared how Satan would bruise the heel of the Messiah, but the Messiah would bruise his head (Gen 3:15). Satan too, was acting according to the sovereign plan of God.
  • Even the seemingly minor details of Passover dinner were sovereignly arranged. God had planned for every person to be in place at exactly the right time in the right way in order for His plans to be fulfilled.

God’s plans are perfect – God is fully prepared. This is certainly true in our lives, but even more so with the gospel. He leaves no stone unturned, no detail to chance. God does not leave our salvation up to coincidence and circumstance; He planned for every provision.

Have you trusted Him for it?