Archive for the ‘Luke’ Category

The Gutless Governor

Posted: March 18, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 23:13-25, “The Gutless Governor”

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Although it is probably Edmund Burke’s most famous quote, it is also his most disputed – scholars being unable to find its source. Whoever first said/wrote these words, they are absolutely true. When good people are apathetic people, evil prevails.

Pontius Pilate was certainly not a good person (nor is anyone – but not Pilate, by a long shot). This was a man, who while the prefect (governor) of Judea, often incited his Jewish subjects to near riots & insurrections. He was corrupt to his core, with the Roman historian Philo writing of his “corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and un-condemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity.” (Philo, “On the Embassy to Gaius,” Book 38) For Pilate to allow an innocent man such as Jesus to be condemned to death was not all-that-unusual – the only thing that would have fit his character better would have been for Pilate to done the act himself.

This is important to keep in mind when reading Luke’s account of Jesus’ final appearance before Pilate, just prior to His crucifixion. It would be easy to read this portrayal, and conclude that Pilate was a victim of his circumstances in front of the Jewish mob. But such a conclusion is wrong. Pilate was no victim; his apathy was just as antagonistic towards Jesus as was the crowd shouting “Crucify Him!”. When it came to Jesus, Pilate did nothing – and terrible actions were the result.

Even so, even these actions were part of the wonderful plan of the ever-wise God. God the Father knew what needed to happen for God the Son to become a substitutionary sacrifice for all mankind. Jesus would serve as a substitute not only for Barabbas, but for all of us – and God used Pilate as His tool to ensure it would be so.

Contextually, this was the most famous day in Jesus’ incarnate history. In the wee hours of the night/morning previous, He had been betrayed by Judas Iscariot & delivered to the various factions of the Jewish leadership, united as the Sanhedrin council. The priests, scribes, and officers presided over His mistreatment & abuse, both physical & mental, as they railroaded Him into a death sentence. Jesus had been found guilty of blasphemy, though He rightly claimed to be the Son of God, the Messiah.

The Jews then delivered Jesus to Pilate. Being themselves unable to legally execute Jesus, they sent Him to the Roman governor desiring him to act. Of course, Pilate wouldn’t crucify Jesus on a religious charge, so they invented accusations of Jesus being a traitor – a rival King of Israel over Caesar, who would lead the Jewish people in revolt against Rome. Examining Him, Pilate found no fault in Jesus, but sent Him to Herod Antipas, who happened to be in Jerusalem for the feast. Herod likewise found no fault, though it didn’t stop the Galilean ruler from having Jesus beaten for Herod’s own enjoyment. Pilate had been dismissive & indifferent – Herod had been cruel & mocking – both found common cause in belittling Jesus, even though they knew Him to be innocent.

So what happens from here? Jesus appears once again before Pilate for sentencing, and although Pilate attempts to weasel his way out of it, he caves to the demands of the mob which wanted Jesus dead. Pilate knew what justice should have been; he just didn’t care. When it came to Jesus, Pilate did nothing…and that was his ultimate sin & crime.

Don’t do nothing with Jesus! He is the righteous Son of God…we must respond to Him!

Luke 23:13–25

  • Confronting the Accusers (13-17)

13 Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 said to them, “You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him;

  1. Chronology-wise, this was after Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Jesus had been mocked & clothed in a brightly-colored robe as a king. Soon, Jesus would have a different robe placed upon Him by the Roman soldiers, along with a crown of thorns shoved into His scalp. At this point, Jesus had already been mocked and beaten at least twice, and Pilate showed Him to the Sanhedrin and the crowd with them. This was to be Pilate’s official time of verdict, pronouncing the sentence of Jesus to His accusers.
  2. What Pilate pronounced wouldn’t be appreciated! He believed Jesus to be innocent. Having heard the charges of the priests and scribes that Jesus was a dangerous insurrectionist and traitor to Rome, he “found no fault” in Him. To Pilate, these charges were plainly false. Granted, Jesus had never denied being a King – He received the title of Christ in front of the Jews as well as in front of Pilate. But even in the face of Jesus’ own testimony, Pilate found nothing threatening in Him. There was no indication at all that Jesus was “one who misleads the people,” as Pilate never saw any people following Jesus to be misled. It’s unknown if Pilate was in Jerusalem a few days earlier during Jesus’ triumphal entry on Sunday, although it seems likely Pilate would have been there. Surely this wasn’t the first time Pilate was made aware of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus had been the center of attention in Jerusalem several times – no doubt, word would have gotten back to Pilate. Even with all that in mind, Pilate still saw no threat in Jesus. There was no doubt at all in his mind that Jesus was innocent of the charges against Him, trumped up by the priests and scribes.
  3. And Pilate wasn’t the only one…

15 no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him.

  1. Herod Antipas, though by different means, reached the same conclusion. And surely, Herod was desperately searching for something of which to accuse Him. Herod wanted to see miracles & magic – he demanded a command performance from Jesus, this prophet of whom he had heard so much. If Jesus had demonstrated supernatural ability, then surely Herod would have been happy to agree with the priests about the threat of this King (whose very existence would threaten Herod’s own claims & title). Yet even Herod, who had every reason to object to Jesus, found Jesus innocent. He had done “nothing deserving of death.
  2. Question #1: Should Pilate & Herod have seen Jesus as a threat? Yes – though not in the way that the priests and scribes described. In their own ways, both Pilate and Herod believed Jesus to be harmless…not so! Jesus is the Almighty Son of God. Not only could He have called down 12 legions of angels to help Him, He could have obliterated Pilate & Herod (and all their abusive soldiers) by an act of His sheer will! It was through God the Son that God the Father spoke the world into existence, and every atom in the universe is held together by Him. “In Him, all things consist,” (Col 1:17). Had Jesus decided to act in His power as God, Pilate and Herod would have lost all hope! Was He a threat to their existence? Without doubt! Like the famous line about Aslan in CS Lewis’ tale, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” Jesus isn’t “safe, but He is good.” The only reason Pilate, Herod, and the Jewish Sanhedrin were allowed to treat Jesus the way they did was because Jesus allowed it. There is nothing “safe” or “harmless” about Him!
  3. Question #2: If that’s the case, was Jesus truly innocent? Yes, again! In all of Jesus’ power as God, and the potential He had (and still has) to remake the entire universe, Jesus is innocent of all charges against Him. He has absolute power, and exercises absolute restraint. The Jewish nation owes Jesus their allegiance as the rightful heir of David & their King – yet Jesus at that time did not demand their worship. At any point in time, Jesus could have overthrown the entire Roman empire, but He didn’t. Never at any time had Jesus misled the people, nor had He perverted the truth, nor had He led an insurrection against the government. Every single charge the Sanhedrin invented about Jesus when they presented Him to Pilate was false. Jesus is indeed the Christ, the King of the Jews – but He was still absolutely innocent.
  4. This is true on every level. Jesus is not only innocent of the false charges against Him, but He is innocent of all sin, period! Who among us can say the same? No one. “There is none righteous, no not one,” (Rom 3:10; Ps 14:1). Each of us have sinned in myriads of ways against God. We’ve rebelled against Him, and gone our own way. We have given into temptation, time and time again. Not Jesus! Jesus is the only Man in all history who has looked temptation in the eye, and emerged spotless. Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is totally sinless, not only having been born without a sinful nature (the purpose of the virgin birth), but also having lived His life in total perfection. Jesus is the only truly innocent Man who has ever lived.
    1. This is precisely why He provides the perfect sacrifice for us. We cannot pay the debt we owe our sin – any so-called “good” work we do is already tainted by all the bad works we have already done. Our death sentence has already been long-earned through our vast amounts of sin. It takes a truly innocent sacrifice to take away our guilt…and Jesus provides it! He has done nothing deserving of death, yet He takes our death for us. This is the gospel!
  5. Pilate affirms Jesus’ innocence, which means Pilate ought to simply dismiss the charges, right? That was what he should have done, but that’s not what he did…

16 I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” 17 (for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast).

  1. Pilate seems to have been willing to “release” Jesus on the basis of innocence, but he was more than happy to have Jesus beaten on the way out the door. The word used for “chastise” is interesting, in that on the surface it speaks of the disciplining of a child. Like a schoolboy might receive corporal punishment for disobedience (or at least, used to!), this was the sort of discipline to be given to Jesus. At the same time, this same word could be used as a synonym for whipping or scourging (BDAG). Luke never directly mentions the scourging of Jesus (as do Matthew, Mark, and John), but he does imply it here & in vs. 22. The Roman scourging was a horrible punishment in itself, as a multi-thronged whip with straps embedded with stone & glass would be thrashed across a victim’s back. It wasn’t uncommon for people to die from the scourging alone – the later crucifixion no longer necessary.
  2. With that in mind, consider the fact that Pilate was more than willing to scourge (chastise) Jesus. The governor was already convinced Jesus had done nothing deserving of death, but he was willing to inflict a punishment upon Jesus that could easily kill Him. Pilate’s protest of the Jew’s treatment of Jesus rings hollow.
  3. Depending what Bible version you read, vs. 17 might not be included in your Bible. It is included in the KJV & NKJV – the NASB, HCSB, & AMP all have it set apart either in brackets or italics – the NIV & ESV don’t include it at all. The verse is missing from some very important manuscripts, including the one of the oldest papyrus mss that contains this section of Luke. Yet there are many other very ancient manuscripts (codices, etc.) that do include it, all along a wide geographical spread. Arguments can be made either way as to the verse’s inclusion, but there is zero doubt as to its truth. Even if Luke did not originally write of Pilate’s practice of releasing one prisoner during the feast of Passover, Matthew and Mark do, both with ample textual evidence.
    1. The occasional textual issues we see in our Bibles ought not cause us to doubt them, but to have even greater assurance as to their truth. The very reason these debates exist is because so many handwritten copies of the New Testament exist. We have an abundance of evidence testifying to the original writings of Scripture…so much so that scholars can actually debate the rare instances when a verse is in doubt. (And none of those instances effect even one tiny bit of doctrine!)
  4. As for Luke, even if vs. 17 is not original (which it probably is), the issue of having a prisoner released to the Jews at Passover is clearly addressed…
  • Confronting the Crowd (18-22)

18 And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas”—19 who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder.

  1. Although Pilate stated his verdict for the Jewish leadership (the Sanhedrin), the Jewish priests and scribes got the larger crowd involved. Mark makes it clear that it wasn’t only the Sanhedrin that asked for Barabbas, but that they “stirred up the crowd,” (Mk 15:11). These were savvy politicians. They knew when to restrain themselves due to their lack of public support (which is why they did not dare arrest Jesus openly, but rather had Judas betray Jesus under cover of darkness) – and they also knew when they had the crowd in the palm of their hand. Such was the time. Mobs typically get thirsty for blood, and the Jewish priests and scribes were masterful in getting the attention placed solely on Jesus.
  2. The fact that they asked for Barabbas demonstrates Pilate’s own political failure. No doubt he chose Barabbas as the option other than Jesus in order to make the choice as easy as possible. The Jews could either have this harmless so-called “king,” (in his mind), or they could have this murderous robber. One would think the choice would be clear! Where Pilate failed was his underestimation of the Jewish leadership. The priests and scribes had rejected Jesus as King (as the Messiah, the Son of David), having convicted Him of blasphemy. To the crowds shouting for Jesus’ death, a pretender to the Messianic office was a worse crime than robbery and murder. There would always be other murderers to try; a chance to kill a false-Messiah was far more rare.
    1. Of course, Jesus isn’t a false Messiah…He is the Messiah! This had been proven abundantly throughout His ministry. But the people didn’t care. Once they determined they wanted Jesus’ blood, they wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less.
    2. If there was any question about the depravity of man, it ought to be answered at the response of the Jews toward Jesus. Presented with an innocent Godly Man – the perfect Prophet & King, the mob preferred the murderer to the Messiah. They would rather receive someone as sinful as themselves than to acknowledge the innocence of the perfect Son of God. Given the choice, sinful men and women (us, without Jesus) always choose sin…always. That’s just who we are.
      1. Praise God that is not who we are any longer!
    3. Did you notice something about Luke’s description of Barabbas? He’s guilty of the very things of which the Sanhedrin accused Jesus. Of course, Jesus wasn’t accused of murder (yet), but the threat of rebellion was exactly the political charge the Jews leveled against Him. They accused Jesus (23:2) of “perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” If that isn’t a charge of “rebellion,” nothing is! To the Jews, Jesus was the perfect substitute. They’d get back one rebel, and kill another in his place.
      1. Jesus is a perfect substitute – not only for Barabbas, but for all of us.

20 Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. 21 But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

  1. Pilate was resistant, but the people were insistent. Luke notes that Pilate truly wanted “to release Jesus,” but he risked the mob becoming a riot. At this point, they were whipped into a frenzy, shouting out “crucify, crucify Him!” The NKJV assumes two “Him’s,” when the Greek only has the second. The original wording has the two present-tense imperatives back-to-back, demonstrating a strong ongoing emphasis. Imagine the throng on Pilate’s doorstep chanting “Cru-ci-fy! Cru-ci-fy!” Things are getting louder & louder, about to get more out of hand than what they already were.
  2. Question: What happened to the adoring crowds of Jesus from Sunday? When Jesus entered Jerusalem just five days earlier, there was a multitude of disciples rejoicing over Jesus so loudly that the Pharisees rebuked Jesus for not keeping them quiet (19:37-39). What happened to those crowds? Were the people of Jerusalem so fickle that their loyalties could go from adoration to crucifixion in less than a week? (1) We don’t know that this was necessarily the same crowd, but (2) yes, people are that fickle. That’s not just the Jews of Jerusalem; that’s true of all mankind everywhere. People are easily swayed. It’s not for nothing that we’re often referred to as “sheep.” Sheep aren’t the most intelligent of animals, and they can even be led by a dog. More than ever, it seems that our culture swings from outrage to outrage. There’s always something new to protest – there’s always some new hashtag activism to uphold. Whatever holds the attention of the news headlines holds the attention of the crowds. As a whole, we are not led by principles; we’re led by our emotions.
    1. This is precisely why we need to build our lives according to an unwavering standard. Knowing that our emotions and reactions so often change, we need something that never changes: the word of God. When we build our lives on Christ & His word, then we can know we’re building on the solid rock!
  3. What’s truly shocking about this mob-chant is their insistence on crucifixion. It’s one thing to call for the execution of an innocent Man; it’s another thing to demand He be crucified. Crucifixion was the most torturous form of death in the Roman arsenal – something truly horrific to behold, much less experience. It prolonged the victim’s suffering as long as possible, as they hung upon the cross in utter anguish, barely able to breathe. Yet this was what the mob demanded. This death was viewed as a curse – it was something legally forbidden to administer to Roman citizens. It was something that a Jew should have never have desired for even his worst Jewish enemy, at least valuing his enemy as a fellow countryman. Yet they wanted it for Jesus. They demanded it for Jesus. They could have asked for beheading, or stabbing, or being pushed off a cliff…all terrible, but none so horrendous as crucifixion. Yet Man’s evil was at its peak, and that’s what they asked for.
    1. What was a shocking display of evil from the crowd was actually foretold in Scripture. Numerous prophecies in the Old Testament speak of the death of the Messiah – many are incredibly specific about some of the events leading up to & after Jesus’ death (such as Judas’ betrayal for 30 pieces of silver, which were later thrown into the temple). Among all of it is one very specific prophecy that speaks directly of crucifixion: Psalm 22:14–16, “(14) I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. (15) My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. (16) For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet;” The entirety of the psalm reads like a first-hand account of Jesus’ crucifixion, and Jesus even references the 1st verse of it while hanging from the cross. But vss. 14-16 speak very specifically of the method of execution itself. When David originally wrote the psalm, crucifixion did not exist, thus there was no word to identify it – but David visually described it in detail. 14-15 speak of the physical experiences of someone enduring the tortures of crucifixion, whereas vs. 16 specifically describes the spikes through Jesus’ hands and feet. Out of all of the forms of torturous deaths devised by men, the cross is the only one that fits this description. This is what was prophesied by God concerning His Son.
    2. How amazing is the sovereignty of God! Nothing about Jesus’ death was left to chance. Nothing about our salvation was left in the hands of chaos. God decreed that Jesus pay the penalty for our sin, and He decreed how the penalty would be paid. The murderous crowds of Jerusalem may have freely chosen this evil, but it was still part of the sovereign plan of God. God knew what needed to be done, and He ensured it was
      1. What does that mean for us? It means that we can trust His word regarding our salvation! We don’t have to hope that Jesus’ work “might have” been good enough. We don’t have to wonder if it really “took.” Once our faith is in Jesus, then our eternity is secure! Once we have surrendered ourselves to God the Son as our Lord, then we are assured of being included in the sovereign plans of God. His work is sovereignly sufficient for you!
    3. God was in control of the situation, but from Pilate’s perspective, the mob was getting out of hand. That’s when he spoke to them again…

22 Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.”

  1. Once again, Pilate declared Jesus faultless. And once again, Pilate declared his willingness to beat Him to death. Pilate is not a man to be pitied as a victim; he is as culpable as the crowd.
  • Caving to the Mob (23-25)

23 But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed.

  1. The shouting never ceased – the mob got rowdier – the priests and scribes kept whipping up the crowd…and eventually they “” Bloodlust prevailed over justice, and the priests got what they had come for: a death sentence of crucifixion.
    1. It’s sadly all too common that the loudest voice wins the argument. Neither logic nor justice matter as much as quieting the one making the most noise. Pilate and the Jews of Jerusalem were not all that different than us today.
  2. Have you noticed what is missing in all of this? Any outcry from the main character. Despite all the people speaking about Him, and the mobs calling for His torture & death, Jesus never utters a word. This is the case in the other gospel accounts as well. Although Jesus does speak a bit in the presence of Pilate (though not much, and never in self-defense), none of the gospels show Jesus saying anything in front of the crowds. He never appeals to their better natures – He never pleads His cause – He never attempts to convince them of His Messianic identity. Jesus remains absolutely silent. Why? (1) If Jesus had spoken up in His defense, He might never have gone to the cross, and He would have sabotaged the plan of God. (2) This is another aspect that was prophesied. Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” There was an aspect of this prophecy that was true at every stage of Jesus’ various trials: in front of the Sanhedrin, in front of Pilate, in front of Herod, and now in front of the Jerusalem crowd. He remained silent as a sacrifice, never speaking up in His own defense. So what? So it shows that Jesus was totally submitted to the plan of God for Him. For Jesus to defend Himself would have been for Him to rebel against His Father – and He wasn’t about to do that. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had prayed that if there was another way that His Father would give it – but in the end, Jesus wanted the will of His Father; not Himself. What Jesus spoke in prayer there, He demonstrated in actions here. Jesus was 100% submitted to the plan of God, no matter the cost to Himself. He wouldn’t even speak in His own defense, knowing that it would endanger the whole thing.
    1. Praise God for Jesus’ willing submission to the cross!
    2. May God help us be equally submitted to His plan for us!

24 So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. 25 And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will.

  1. With the will of the priests and the people prevailing, Pilate caved completely. He gave them everything they wanted, releasing Barabbas to them. Pilate may have maintained custody of Jesus, but it was the crowd who had control (with God ultimately having control over them).
  2. Again, be careful not to see Pilate as a victim…he’s not! What he was, was a coward. He knew Jesus was faultless, declaring His innocence a minimum of three times. Yet instead of maintaining justice, per his duty as a Roman governor – instead of holding true to any personal convictions, per his duty as a human being – Pilate rolled over to the will of the mob, doing whatever the crowd wanted. Remember that Pilate had no problem with Jesus’ death; he just didn’t want to be directly responsible. As it turned out, it was something he could not avoid.


What was the problem with Pilate? He was neither willing to condemn Jesus, nor believe Him. Pilate wanted to remain neutral – he wanted to do nothing. And nothing wasn’t an option.

Don’t do nothing with Jesus! He has demonstrated Himself to be the truly innocent Man – the perfect sacrifice – the Son of God. This demands a response. We either believe Him, or we don’t. There is no neutral ground. What will you choose?

The Jews in Jerusalem (both the Sanhedrin and the crowds) chose to reject Jesus. What had been earlier determined by the Jewish leaders as representatives of the people, was ratified by the people themselves when they cried out for the cross. They wanted nothing to do with Jesus, preferring a murderer to their Messiah.

Pilate made a choice of his own as well, though he desperately tried not to do so. When he chose to abstain, he gave Jesus over to the will of the people – thereby being complicit with their rejection. Pilate, just as much as the mob, decided it was better to see Jesus dead than to believe upon Him as the Son of God.

Today, people are faced with the same choice. Many choose to reject Jesus outright. They hate God, being vehement in their opposition against Him. Others choose not to care. Whatever other people do is fine for them, but they don’t want to think about Jesus at all. Here’s the truth: in the end, both groups of people choose the same thing. Both choose to reject Jesus – both choose their own death.

Choose life! Choose to see Jesus as He is: the Son of God crucified for your sin – the One who willingly & lovingly substituted Himself in your place – the One who freely offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe. Do something with Jesus: believe!


Luke 23:1-12, “Messiah Reviled & Rejected, part 2”

It’s like the start of a bad joke, except with ancient characters. Instead of starting out with “a priest, a minister, and a rabbi,” it’s “a Roman, a Idumean, and a bunch of rabbis (priests).” What is it that brings together a whole bunch of people with hardly anything in common, except the time & area in which they live? Each and every one of them rejected Jesus. They didn’t believe His teaching, they didn’t accept His true identity, and they either wanted Him dead or didn’t care whether or not He lived or died. Jew and Gentile alike turned their backs on the Savior of the world. All of representative humanity rejected Jesus and sent Him to the cross.

Of course, this is what humans have always done. From the Garden of Eden onward, mankind has turned its back on God. We’ve wanted Him to bend to our will, rather than submit to His. Whether it was Adam and Eve eating of the one singular tree they were commanded not to eat (despite the multitude of trees they had available to them) – or it was Cain taking out his frustrations of failure on his younger brother Abel – or Pharaoh hardening his heart against the commands of God, refusing to release the Hebrews from slavery – all of it was man putting himself above God, rejecting God’s authority.

And it is not only the Biblical record…personal experience shows that we do the same thing. How many times have we chosen our way instead of God’s way? Sometimes it’s something we consider relatively small, as when we indulge our pride or choose to worship our own entertainment rather than the Lord who gave us life. Other times, it is something “larger,” when we purposefully and distinctly say “no” to God, and we intentionally choose to do things our own way. And that’s just the behavior of Christians! Before we came to faith, many of us chose to either ignore God or to mock Him – that’s just what we did. Whatever our own personal examples, we haven’t strayed too far from the response of the Jewish priests, the Roman governor, or the Idumean pretender-king.

It had been the start of a very long day for Jesus – probably the longest of His entire incarnated life. What had been the celebration of His final Passover supper the night before with His disciples, and an overnight in the Garden of Gethsemane spent in prayer, turned in the wee hours of the morning into betrayal by Judas Iscariot, arrest by the Jewish authorities, and a denial from one of His best friends (Peter) that he had even known the Lord Jesus. The Jewish Sanhedrin (the chief priests & scribes, composed of leadership from both the Sadducees and the Pharisees) wasted no time putting Jesus on trial. In fact, they did it twice (though only once was recorded by Luke). The first trial came at the home of the high priest, illegally performed in front of a small cadre of those conspiring against Christ. The “official” trial took place at daybreak, Jesus having been beaten & mocked by the officers of the Jewish temple guard. It was there that Jesus fully admitted that He is the Christ, the Son of God, and the priests and scribes were able to convict Him of blasphemy.

That was the charge that the Sanhedrin had desired all along, but they had a problem: although blasphemy was a capital offense according to Jewish law, it didn’t mean a hill of beans to the Romans. They needed the Romans to convict & execute Jesus, so that meant they needed to take Him to Pilate, trying to trump up some other criminal charges against Jesus – something that would cause Rome to take notice & kill Him. In the process, Pilate would get the input of another imperial leader who happened to be in town: Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great – the Idumean (Edomite) king who once ruled all of Judea.

Theologically speaking, what took place was more rejection of Jesus. Earlier it was the representatives of the Jewish nation – this time, it was the Gentiles. Be it Rome or elsewhere, all nations rejected Jesus as the King of the Jews, having no fear of Him as the all-powerful Son of God. Just as all peoples everywhere have rebelled against God, so too did all nations reject God’s Messiah. The One sent to save the world was first despised by the world – disdained as being unworthy and unremarkable.

How wrong they (and we) were! Jesus is the King of the Jews, and not of the Jews only – He is the King of the world! Don’t reject Him; recognize Him for who He is & worship Him as Lord!

Luke 23:1–12

  • Pilate’s indifference (1-5)

1 Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”

  1. Be careful not to get the wrong idea from verse 1. When the NKJV speaks of “the whole multitude,” it’s simply a reference to the full assembly/congregation of people who were already gathered for the Jewish trial of Jesus. This isn’t a massive mob of people (yet!). There will be larger crowds to come, but for now, this was the assembled group of the Sanhedrin: the priests, scribes, and whatever temple guards they had with them who had put Jesus through a kangaroo court trying to find some legal reason to put Him to death.
  2. Although the Jews rarely hesitated to stone people through mob “justice,” (as seen in the example of the woman caught in adultery – Jn 8), they did not have the authority to engage in legalized execution (capital punishment), which was the Sanhedrin’s desire for Jesus. If they had personally killed Jesus, they ran the risk of the mob turning against them. Yet if they had Jesus convicted and executed by the Roman government, then they would maintain the support of the people. Thus, they “led Him to Pilate.” Normally, the Roman prefect (governor) would not have been in Jerusalem, but in Caesarea – but due to the size of the Passover feast, Pilate was in the city. It made things convenient for the Jewish priests & scribes as they were simply able to take Jesus from one house to another. Keep in mind, it was still the early morning…Jesus had a busy day ahead of him.
  3. The first thing they do upon waking Pilate is “accuse” Jesus, charging Him with all kinds of crimes. Note that the charges against Jesus are somewhat different than what was debated among the Jews. Earlier that morning, the question had still been asked if Jesus was the Christ (22:67), but the main issue was religious; not political. At that point, they wanted to know if Jesus believed Himself to be the Son of God, and if so, they could convict Him of blasphemy (which He did, and they did). Here, the issue is purely political. Here, when the priests accuse Jesus of proclaiming Himself “Christ,” He was really proclaiming Himself to be “a King” – the king of the Jews.
    1. Actually, He’s both. The priests may have split of the charges into what they believed mattered to Pilate & what they knew mattered to them, but both aspects of the Christ are true. “Christ,” is the Greek word meaning “anointed,” which is the translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah.” The Messiah is the Anointed One of God, who is both the Son of God (endued with all of the power and glory of God, being God of true God Himself), and the King of Israel (being the legitimate heir of David, and the rightful heir to the throne). There are times in the Old Testament that the Messiah is shown to be a human military victor in the role of a king, and there are other times that the Messiah can be none other than God Himself. No doubt the ancient Jews had trouble understanding how this could be reconciled, but in the person of Jesus the question is answered! He is the Christ: fully God, fully Man – Suffering Servant and Victorious King. Jesus is the fulfillment of every Messianic prophecy, from Genesis to Revelation!
  4. As to the charge of Jesus claiming to be Christ, that much is true – but everything else the priests claim of Him is false. They engage in all kinds of lies and false witness of Him, as they attempt to bolster their case that Jesus pretended Himself to be the usurper of Rome. Had Jesus ever said anything about paying taxes to Caesar? Yes – but He said the taxes ought to be paid; not forbidden. It was just a few days earlier that week when the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus with a dilemma over taxes, and Jesus famously (and publicly) told them to “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (20:25) In no way did Jesus forbid tax payment to Caesar! How then could the priests make the charge (apart from outright deception)? It was all insinuation. If Jesus was the true king of Israel, then the taxes to be paid ought to be paid to Him; not Caesar. Again, this was nothing Jesus said – but it was how the priests chose to twist His Messianic claims for their own purposes in front of Pilate.
    1. In no small irony, the priests accused Jesus of “perverting” or “misleading” the nation, but it was they who were guilty of perverting/distorting Jesus’ teaching and reputation. They directly violated the 9th Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” (Exo 20:16). They intentionally testified wrongly of Jesus. And remember that these were the priests & the scribes – they were the experts in Jewish law. Those who had the responsibility to teach God’s truth could not (or would not) speak truth about God’s Son.
    2. Just because someone knows a lot about the Bible doesn’t mean that they know the Author of the Bible. Someone might have a theological degree, but no relationship with Jesus. This is one reason it’s so important for us to know the Bible for ourselves. An “expert” might get on TV, interviewed by the History Channel about Jesus & end up dragging Jesus’ name through the mud. We would never know unless we knew for ourselves what the Bible says about Jesus. We need to be students of the word!
      1. More than that, we need to know our Jesus! As important as it is to know the Bible (and we know Jesus through the Bible), if we study the Bible without coming to the knowledge of Jesus, we’ve missed the point. These priests knew their Scripture & traditions, but they knew nothing of the Savior to whom the Scripture pointed…which they proved through their lies to Pilate. 

3 Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered him and said, “It is as you say.”

  1. Although it may not sound like it, this is pretty much a direct question and direct answer. Jesus did not come out and say “I am,” but He gave a similar answer to Pilate as He gave to the Sanhedrin when they asked Him if He was the Son of God (22:70). This would have been Jesus’ opportunity to refute the charges, and since He chose not to do so, it was as if He received Pilate’s question as a true assumption. “Are you the King of the Jews?” “You said it.” It was about as clear as it got in that culture.
  2. Jesus is the King of the Jews. They may not know it today, but one day they will! The Bible is clear that one day the Jews will have their spiritual blindness to Jesus healed, and all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26). It says that one day they will look upon the One they had pierced (Zech 12:10), mourning their sin against Him. It says that one day the Messiah (Jesus) will reign over Israel as the Son of David, and His kingdom will never end (Isa 9:7). Jesus is indeed Israel’s legitimate King, and He will reign!
    1. FYI: Jesus isn’t only the King of the Jews; He is the King of the world! Jesus’ rule begins in Jerusalem, but it extends over all the earth. And yes, one day, all the world will see Him & acknowledge Him as such. One day every knee will bow & every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father! (Phil 2:10)
  3. No doubt the interview went longer (as indicated in the other gospels), but Luke draws it to a close. 

4 So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no fault in this Man.”

  1. The verdict? Innocent! Even with the direct admission by Jesus about being the King of the Jews, Pilate still found “no fault in this Man.” He found no grounds for legal action by the empire of Rome against the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
  2. As much as we might rejoice in the recognition of Jesus’ innocence from criminal charges, we have to ask the question of “why.” Why did Pilate pronounce Him innocent? Wasn’t Jesus’ admission of being the Christ enough to bring a conviction of insurrection or treason? Luke doesn’t go into Pilate’s motives for additional details, nor do the other gospels. Matthew tells us how Pilate’s wife warned him against having anything to do with Jesus, but that warning didn’t come until later in the day (Mt 27:19). At this point, we don’t know. Perhaps Pilate looked for evidence of Jesus’ kingship that went beyond His claims & the charges against Him. We know Pilate did not understand the nature of Jesus’ kingdom (Jn 18:33-38). Perhaps Pilate was looking for armies or some sign of military might and authority, of which Jesus manifested none. Whatever his logic, Pilate didn’t see Jesus as a threat, and was willing to pronounce Him faultless.
    1. Pilate may not have seen it, but Jesus was more than a threat than he knew! Jesus has more might in His pinky finger than what existed in the entire Roman army all over the civilized world. Pilate didn’t have a clue who it was he so casually dismissed.
    2. Do we? It’s easy to write this off to the skeptics of the world, but there are many cultural casual “Christians” who dismiss Jesus just as easily. They show up at church a couple of times a year, put a few bucks in the offering plate as it goes past, and consider their duty done. Or perhaps we should go a bit deeper. What about those who believe upon Jesus for eternal life & forgiveness of sin, but never give a second thought to Him as their Lord? Is that not just as much dismissal of Jesus as Pilate? Sure, they might not find any wrong in Him, but neither do they find anything right. They know enough of Jesus for Him to suit their purposes, but not enough for them to change their lives.
      1. If that’s how you know Jesus, then you don’t truly know Him at all!
    3. Question: If Pilate found no fault in Jesus, can it be considered Pilate’s fault that Jesus was crucified? Yes! Think about it: Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, yet he did nothing. Pilate could have defied the will of the priests – surely it wouldn’t have been the first time he did something the Sanhedrin didn’t like. Pilate could have released Jesus in order to spite the priests, perhaps even in an attempt to curry favor with a different political faction among the Jews. He didn’t. Pilate did nothing. He chose to let an innocent Man continue to suffer and eventually be tortured to death on the cross – an act of sinfully cruel indifference that becomes even more evident later in Chapter 23.
      1. It isn’t enough to recognize Jesus’ righteousness; we have to respond to it.

5 But they were the more fierce, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.”

  1. The priests were strongly opposed to Pilate’s finding. They claimed that Jesus incited the people, disturbing them & stirring them up with His doctrine. They basically accused Jesus of fomenting Jewish rebellion and revolution against Rome. They pressed the case that Jesus was a traitor & insurrectionist. Again, more lies, but it shows that they pulled out all the stops in their attempt to get Pilate to act.
  2. Question: Had Jesus stirred up the people? Not according to the priests’ insinuations – there was nothing in Jesus’ teaching that directed people to physical & military revolt. But Jesus certainly left an impact everywhere He went! Thousands of people came to see & hear Him at any given point in time. There were times the Jews tried to take Him by force and make Him king (Jn 6:15), and there were times they rejected Jesus & tried to kill Him by throwing Him off a cliff (Lk 4:29). Whether their reactions were joyful or terrible, people couldn’t help but have some sort of response to Jesus. And it didn’t stop with Him – the apostles had a similar reputation. They were the ones who turned the world upside-down! (Acts 17:6) They preached the gospel of the resurrected Jesus, the Son of God – and they demonstrated His power & their changed lives to prove it. People couldn’t help but be stirred up, wherever the message of the gospel went.
    1. If that was the reputation of Jesus & of His apostles, then it ought to be the reputation of His church. Is it? When was it that the church became seemingly impotent, unable (or unwilling) to provoke a reaction in others? Perhaps it was when the people of the church became more visible than the reason of the church (Jesus). When Christians live as though they are unchanged by Christ, then the world has no reason to even look to Christ. If we’re going to provoke a response, then we need to show them Jesus

Pilate was just one of the Gentile rulers who would hear Jesus that day. Luke records another, and the scene quickly transitions to the Idumean (Edomite) & part-ethnically Jewish ruler, Herod Antipas.

  • Herod’s insufferableness (6-12)

6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. 7 And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

  1. Pilate found himself in a sticky situation. On one hand, he knew Jesus was blameless of the charges of being an insurrectionist king looking to overthrow Rome. On the other hand, the charges were serious enough that they needed to be fully addressed, lest Pilate find himself in trouble with Rome. He probably wanted to get a little of the pressure off him, and the mention of Galilee by the priests got him thinking. The regions of Galilee & Perea were ruled by Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great. Although Herod normally resided in Galilee, he was “in Jerusalem at that time,” and Pilate saw an opportunity to pass the buck – at least for the moment.
  2. It ought to be noted that the account with Herod is unique to Luke, being unmentioned by the other gospels. Because of this, it has been attacked by liberal scholars as being imagined by Luke. Yet, what would be the purpose? Luke had nothing to gain by including Herod Antipas in his account of Jesus’ trials, and Herod was long gone from Judea by the time Luke wrote – having been exiled from Judea by the emperor Caligula, with his nephew Agrippa receiving his land and title. Bible students might recall that it was Herod Agrippa who heard Paul’s own testimony regarding the Jewish accusations against him. Another Roman leader of Judea (Festus) invited Herod Agrippa to hear Paul’s side of the story, and Agrippa almost himself came to faith in Jesus (Acts 25-26). The point? Although this account might be unique to Luke, it’s not unreasonable. As a historian, Luke has repeatedly shown himself to be truly accurate, and there simply is no reason to doubt him. Considering one of the members of Herod’s household eventually came to faith and was a leader within the church of Antioch, the base of ministry for Paul & Barnabas (Manaen, Acts 13:1), it’s quite possible Luke received the information from him – giving us a fuller picture of the various rejections Jesus endured.

8 Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.

  1. Herod may have been “exceedingly glad” to see Jesus, but it was for all the wrong reasons. Herod sought a sign; not a Savior. He looked for a miracle & a magic show. Herod Antipas had heard of Jesus for “a long time,” at one point even fearing that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead (9:7-9). He perhaps even remembered his father’s failed attempt to kill Jesus in His youth (Mt 2:16), having pieced together that the claims of the king born in Bethlehem belonged to this prophet claiming to be Christ. Whatever his thoughts of Jesus had been in the past, he now finally had the chance to see Jesus for himself. This was his opportunity to see if Jesus was worth all of the fuss – if He was worthy of all of the rumors.
  2. What is clear is that Herod had no interest in Jesus as the Son of God. If he had, he would have feared at least the possibility of truth. All that intrigued Herod was the possibility of miracles. He didn’t want the Lord; he wanted a light show.
    1. Sadly, this is how many churches treat Jesus today! Forget about the skeptics for a moment, and consider some of those who truly believe that Jesus is God. How many of the people who show up to a healing crusade service are truly seeking the Lord as the Lord? It’s impossible for us to know what is in another person’s heart, but it’s no stretch to say that many who to go to scheduled “signs and wonders” events are going for the miracles; not for the Lord Jesus. When people show up to a church service expecting to see gold dust appear in their Bibles, or to see people supposedly getting “high” on the Holy Spirit, or expecting to receive a miracle by getting kicked in the chest from a self-proclaimed prophet – very little of that has anything at all to do with Jesus being the Lord God of Creation. That stuff is entertainment & personal ecstatic experience; not recognition of the Resurrected Jesus and worship of God in spirit and truth. In the end, it’s barely different than Herod Antipas: a desire to see a magic show; not a desire to see and know the Messiah.
    2. Can Christians ever expect to see miracles from Jesus? Yes – every time a sinner is saved, someone has been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life. The miraculous happens every single time someone is made a new creation in Christ. Jesus does miracles every day! And yes, sometimes He does other more visible things – some of us have personally experienced miracles of God. But those signs are not why we seek Jesus. They never are! Even in the apostolic age, the miracles written of in the New Testament were done to point people to Christ; not to call attention to themselves. True miracles of God are a means to an end; not the end themselves. Those who seek a miracle without seeking Jesus waste their opportunity. 

9 Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing.

  1. Herod questioned; Jesus refused to answer. Jesus hadn’t provided much answer to Pilate, but it seems that He remained totally silent with Herod. And why would He? Jesus did not need to dignify Herod’s request for miracles with a response. Herod may have been an appointed leader within the Roman empire, but Jesus did not answer to him. God is God; and Herod wasn’t God.
    1. Neither are we! The only reason we can approach God is because we are invited to do so through Jesus Christ – but we go to Him on His terms; not ours. We don’t go to Jesus demanding things from Him. We don’t go, pounding our fingers into certain Bible verses, supposedly “claiming” those promises for ourselves, insisting in prayer that God had better deliver on them. That’s not faith; that’s rebellion. That’s us putting ourselves above God, pretending that we are the Lord & He is our servant. And it is sinfully backward. Yes, as born-again believers in Jesus, we are invited to freely go to God in prayer, boldly so – and we are invited to pray in faith, believing His promises to be true…but always in reverence and humility. Jesus is the Lord; not us. He is God & we are His humble servants.
  2. That Jesus refused to answer Herod demonstrates a key truth that surely irked Herod to his core: Jesus was in control; Herod wasn’t. No matter his ranting or whining (or whatever it was Herod did at the time), he could not threaten or manipulate Jesus into a response. He could not force his own way. Even as a prisoner in Herod’s house, Jesus was fully in control of the situation, and Herod could do nothing about it.

10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. 11 Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate.

  1. Jesus had not gone to Pilate alone. At least a few (if not all) of “the chief priests and scribes” who had gone with Jesus to Pilate followed Jesus to Herod. Just as they did with the Roman, they did with the Idumean. They were always accusing Jesus, always bringing more charges against Him. It was as if they didn’t trust the evidence to speak for itself (which it didn’t!). No doubt, the Jews were trying to force/manipulate the outcome. Too often, it is the loudest voice that wins the argument, and that was the tactic of the priests.
  2. By this point, Herod was all too willing to go along. Like Pilate, Herod Antipas had no real reason to appease the Jewish priests, though there was a faction among the Jewish leadership that supported him (the Herodians). Even so, Jesus’ refusal to answer apparently got under his skin, and he turned Jesus over to his guards for mockery. For Jesus to be “treated with contempt,” was for Him to be treated as worthless – someone who deserved maltreatment. For Him to be “mocked” was for Him to be subject to derision, even supposedly tricked into making a fool of himself (something that wouldn’t happen with Jesus, though attempted by the Herodian guards). Basically, it was similar to the treatment Jesus had earlier received with the Sanhedrin officials. This had become a cruel playtime for Herod & his “men of war.” They wanted to toy with the Man claiming to be King. Hence, the “robe” they draped on Him. It was a “gorgeous,” or “splendid/brilliant” robe – something that might be found on a king. If that was Jesus’ claim, then they would cruelly dress Him for the part.
    1. It’s been 2000 years, but people still mock the Messiah. In our postmodern western culture, it seems that Jesus is mocked more than ever! Atheists routinely ridicule those who believe in “imaginary” tales and “ignorant” myths about God. Some go so far to claim that Jesus was morally evil, in that He healed some blindness, without healing all blindness, picking & choosing the miracles He performed. Whatever the argument, they take the gracious revelation of God in Jesus, and spit in His face.
    2. How ought Christians to respond to such things? How did Christ respond? He died for them. Think of it: when Jesus died upon the cross, He died just as much for Herod & his thugs as Jesus died for everyone else. Jesus died for the sins of the truly despicable – you & me included! When hated, Jesus did not hate – when insulted, Jesus did not insult. Instead, He gave Himself as a sacrifice & serves as our example: 1 Peter 2:21–24, “(21) For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: (22) “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; (23) who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; (24) who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” How do we respond when mocked by the world for following Jesus? We keep following Jesus! We walk in His example, forgiving those who sin against us & we commit ourselves to our Heavenly Father, trusting Him to work His ultimate plan. We walk by faith, not by sight – knowing that God will be glorified as we testify of Jesus in our attitudes and our actions.
  3. Why did Herod send Jesus back to Pilate? Jesus was Galilean, but everyone was still in Jerusalem at the time. Herod had a lot of freedom as to how he treated Jesus as a prisoner, but he had not authority within Jerusalem to execute Him. Even if Herod thought Jesus to be innocent, he didn’t care to free Jesus any more than Pilate. Obviously, Herod did not believe Jesus to be a threat (which is why he didn’t fear to mock Him), but Herod also didn’t want to act on Jesus’ behalf. So he sent Jesus back to Pilate to die, leaving the choice in Pilate’s hands as to how to proceed.

12 That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other.

  1. It’s been said that “politics makes strange bedfellows,” and it’s proven true here! Pilate and Herod had previously been rivals (Pilate replacing Antipas’ brother Archelaus as the ruler of Judea, the region falling out of the hands of the Herodian dynasty & directly ruled by Rome). However at this point, the two men found at least one thing in common: they each rejected the King of the Jews. They had a common disdain of Jesus.
  2. The same thing happens the world over today. People who are otherwise enemies of each other still hate the people of God. They find common cause in opposition to Christ.


As the terrible day continued for Jesus, so did the world’s rejection of Him. First it had been the Jews, now it was the Gentiles. Jesus was delivered over to two very different Gentile leaders of the day, and came out with the same result.

At first glance, the two men appear very different. Pilate was indifferent, not caring whether or not justice was done or whether Jesus lived or died. Herod was insufferable, wanting Jesus for entertainment value, and extracting it from Him through mockery once he didn’t get his miracles. Both rulers were in sin, asserting themselves over the Son of God & rejecting Him as God. It was bad enough they did not recognize Jesus for who He is – it was far worse for them to turn Him over to death, turning their back on Him altogether.

As Christians, we might ask what it is we learn from these men. After all, they were plainly unbelievers, so what is it that a believer needs to know about them? First of all, we cannot assume everyone who reads Luke 23 is actually a believer! Many people are in the same boat as either Pilate or Herod, having dismissed Jesus as insignificant or irrelevant. How wrong that is! Can you imagine the moment that either Pilate or Herod died on earth, only to immediately look into the eyes of their Judge, finally realizing Who they mocked & dismissed? Sadly, multitudes of skeptics, atheists, and even cultural Christians (in name only) will experience the same thing. Don’t be one of them! See Jesus for who He is, and respond to Him in faith!

Second, as we come to Christ, we need to do so on His terms. Why is it we seek Jesus? Do we really want truth, or are we looking for an excuse not to believe? (Like Pilate.) Or perhaps like Herod, we want miracles & supernatural signs, but have no desire for a Savior & Lord? 

Third, if you have come to Christ in sincere faith, humbly submitted to Him, now we are to walk in His footsteps. We walk as those who have been changed by Him, stirring up the people around us to see Jesus. We walk as those forgiven by Him, freely extending that same forgiveness to others. 

Luke 22:63-71, “Messiah Reviled and Rejected”

Have you ever had a day when everything seemed turned upside-down? (Perhaps the better question is: When did you last have a day when everything was upside-down?) What’s right is thought to be wrong, and the things you thought should happen are the things that are forbidden. Those are days you can barely believe what is happening, even though you’re watching it with your own eyes. For some people, that might explain your reaction every time you turn on the news – for others, it seems like that on a daily basis at work.

Yet there are times that stand out as being worse than the rest. January 22, 1973 might be one of those days, as it was the day the Supreme Court found a supposed “right to abortion,” when deciding the infamous case of Roe v. Wade. November 22, 1963 may have been another one, when JFK was assassinated in the streets of Dallas. Going back further in history, perhaps December 7, 1941 was another upside-down date, when the Imperial Japanese military sunk the US Navy Fleet stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Yet those dates pale in comparison with the night of Jewish Passover, ~33AD, when Jesus was arrested and put on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin. The very people that ought to have bowed their knees to Him as their king, and lay prostrate before Him worshipping Him as their God, were the people who reviled and rejected Him. Jewish officers responsible for keeping the peace physically abused the Son of God. Jewish priests and elders responsible for teaching the written word of God blasphemed and rejected the living Word of God. Everything was upside down, and it was awful.

Yet in the midst of the chaos, there wasn’t really any chaos at all. What seemed to have been confusion was actually all under control. Though the Son of God was rejected, this was the very plan of God – necessary in order for Jesus to go to the cross and purchase salvation for all men.

ALL men. Even the ones who at that very moment struck Him & abused Him – even those would have Jesus pay the price for their sin on the cross. They didn’t know it…most of them wouldn’t believe it…but Jesus did it. All of this rejection was once necessary, in order that men and women might be saved. The Jews rejected Him once, with the invitation of God going out to us, that no one need reject Him again.

Technically, Jesus’ rejection had begun earlier that night. Although He was able to celebrate the Passover with His disciples (demonstrating to them how He Himself fulfilled the elements of the Passover meal – He is the bread of God broken for them, and His is the blood of the new covenant shed for them & their forgiveness) – and though He was able to spend time preparing His disciples for the trials they would face that night & in the near future – other things weren’t nearly as pleasant. Judas Iscariot revealed his true colors when he brought the Jewish priests and officers to the Garden of Gethsemane in order to arrest Jesus. Jesus had just ended His own time in prayer, barely having time to rouse the remaining disciples when the traitor arrived (just as Jesus had foretold).

Things weren’t any better among the so-called “faithful” disciples, either. Most had fled the scene entirely, but at least Peter returned to watch what would happen to Jesus. Of course, Peter set himself up for failure. He purposefully distanced himself from Jesus, ignoring Jesus’ earlier warning – and Peter ended up denying that he even knew Jesus. Not just once, nor twice…but three times. Peter was crushed…and no wonder: he had betrayed Jesus almost as much as had Judas.

At this point in his book, Luke picks up his narrative with Jesus once more. It’s of interest that Luke writes his order of events differently than that of Matthew & Mark. This was already seen with Peter (Matthew & Mark only write of Peter’s denial after the Jewish trials), and it’s seen again even in the order of the beating vs. the Sanhedrin rejection. Why Luke wrote it differently, we don’t know. None of the facts are changed; only the order in which it appears in the text. Theologically, we can say that Luke did this at the direction of the Holy Spirit, writing under the influence of divine inspiration – but beyond that, all we can do is speculate. Perhaps Luke wanted to keep all of the trial narratives together, as he flows seamlessly between the Jews, to Pilate, to Herod. But in the end, we cannot say.

All in all, though we may not know the reason for the differences, we can know that none of the differences contradict. Each of the gospel writers (including John) either directly affirm the other gospels, or leave room for them. These are all trustworthy accounts – as Luke himself wrote, they are “orderly accounts…that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed,” (Lk 1:3-4)

As to our specific text, we see the Messiah of Israel abused and put on trial by the people of Israel. The nation formally rejects their King. It was upside-down, but it was necessary. Their rejection of Jesus makes it possible for us to receive. What Jesus went through on that night made it possible for us to be saved. Jesus was abused, but He wasn’t out of control. He presented Himself as a Lamb for the slaughter, so that we might now know Him as the King of kings.

Luke 22:63–71

  • Nighttime abuse (63-65)

63 Now the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him. 64 And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?”

  1. Who were the actual “men who held Jesus”? Luke does not say (nor does Matthew), though both Mark and John write of how it was the officers who bore the guilt. It’s possible that other servants of the priests were involved, but at the very least it is clear that this was the work of Jews. The Romans would come later with terrible physical abuse of their own, but for now it was the Jews. Most likely those of the temple guard who had arrested Jesus earlier that night remained with Him throughout His initial ordeal at the house of Annas & Caiaphas (Jn 18:19-24), and they were the ones to “beat Him” while they had Him in custody. (FYI: Luke doesn’t mention this initial trial at all. It is assumed during Peter’s denial of Jesus, as obviously Jesus was enduring something on the inside, while Peter sat on the outside. As to why Luke doesn’t write of it, we don’t know.)
  2. What these men did to Jesus was cruel. They “mocked Him…beat Him…blindfolded Him.” The word Luke used for the “mocking” was one that infers almost a picture of playtime, like an abusive game. One commentary notes that it was “to make fun of someone by imitating him in a distorted manner,” (Rogers). Another notes that it was “to trick someone as to make a fool of the person,” (BDAG). Imagine a king captured by his enemies, forced to wear jesters’ robes & endure shame from his tormentors. Now turn up the volume exponentially…this is what happened with Jesus. He was not yet re-dressed (that would be the cruelty of the Romans), but the Jewish officers mocked Jesus mercilessly. This was not only A king, but THE King. He was their King, the King of all kings, yet the men took turns treating him with utter disgust. They made a game of His humiliation, acting like school-yard bullies.
  3. The blindfolding and beating were just as bad, actually all part of the same thing. They covered His eyes and hit Jesus over & over again (Greek present tense, indicating continual action). Sometimes the word used for “beat” also refers to whipping or flaying – here, most likely the beating took place with their hands. In other usage, the same word refers to the way a slave might be beaten (Rogers). So they hit Jesus time & time again, having His eyes blindfolded, then commanding Him to “” If He was the prophet that His reputation proclaimed Him to be, then surely Jesus could say which of the officers stuck the last blow.
    1. In no small act of irony, Jesus’ ability to prophesy was just proved a couple of verses earlier…Peter understood this first-hand! The rooster crowed, Peter looked into the eyes of Jesus, and his heart crumbled as he realized that every word from Jesus that Peter protested earlier that evening had just come true down to the tiniest of details. Jesus is not only a prophet, but He is the Prophet to be expected by Israel as the prophet-greater-than-Moses (Dt 18:18), the One who speaks all of the words of God.
  4. Little did these officers realize what they asked! Did Jesus know who struck Him? Yes…and He could have done a lot more than prophesy about it! He could have called angels from heaven to destroy them – He could have called fire from heaven to consume them – He could have caused the earth to open and swallow them…all of which have Biblical precedence. Being the incarnate Almighty God, Jesus could have simply willed them dead, or blinked them out of existence, or even transported them to hell in the blink of an eye. There was much Jesus could have done! Yet Jesus did nothing. He sat there & endured, never raising a hand to His tormentors or even uttering a word against them. Amazingly, after enduring far more abuse than even this, Jesus prayed on behalf of those who tormented Him, asking that the Father forgive them as they didn’t know what they were doing (Lk 23:34). This is mercy of the highest order! This is kindness of infinite scale & scope! Jesus allowed the abuse to continue, restraining His power with every spiteful blow. (Spurgeon) “Omnipotence allows itself to be bound and never proves itself more truly omnipotent than when it restrains itself, and permits itself to be held as a prisoner by sinful men!”
  5. There’s an aspect to this endurance we might not consider: Jesus’ willing choice. Jesus chose to endure. Think of it: it’s one thing to tough out a situation; it’s another to tough it out when you’ve got another option. Mothers routinely tough out childbirth (to their credit!), despite the incredible pain they endure. Yet what’s the option? Whether they want it or not, the labor pains will continue. Once it’s time for that baby to come, there’s no stopping it. Yet Jesus had a choice the entire time He sat there. At any moment, He could have done something, but He chose not to. Even as He restrained His hand from destroying His accusers and abusers, Jesus still had other options available to Him. Jesus could have left at any time. He had the option of transfiguring Himself once more in power & glory, and revealing Himself in plain sight as God. Yet He chose otherwise. Why? Because His choice had already been made. He chose to surrender Himself to the will of His Father. Remember His prayer in the garden: Luke 22:42, “(42) Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” The will of the Father was for Jesus to endure this shame and abuse, in order that He might go to the cross. Thus, Jesus’ mind was set, and He wasn’t about to change.
    1. How is it that we beat temptation? How is it we can endure the worst of our spiritual trials? It begins with our initial choice to follow Jesus. One reason we so often get into trouble is because we left the door open for sin. We left a little crack, allowing ourselves the option to go do the stuff we used to do, just in case we felt weak or wanted a break. Don’t leave the option! Make the choice in advance to shut off your other choices – to burn the bridges to past sin. When our only way forward is to follow God, then that’s the best preparation for later battle.
    2. How amazing it is that Jesus was willing to make this choice! He had other options, but He chose to forego them. He could have done something else, but He desired to follow through. He willingly surrendered Himself to the will of His Father, in order that God might be glorified, that the universe be reconciled, and that you & I be saved! Jesus chose to endure this shame, and you were part of the reason why. How incredible is His love for us!
  6. As bad as all of this was, the abuse didn’t stop there. 65…

65 And many other things they blasphemously spoke against Him.

  1. We are not told all the many ways Jesus suffered at the hands of the Jewish officers, but it was a lot more than what was recorded in the four gospels. “Many other things” were said and done. Humans can be terribly creative when it comes to cruelty, and these men took their time with Jesus. They found all kinds of ways they could “blasphemously [speak] against Him.” BTW – our English word “blasphemy” is taken directly from the Greek (βλασφημέω). We tend to think of it purely in terms of how it might be used against God by men, but the original usage of the word speaks of slander & defamation. The Bible shows this many times against God, but it can also be against people. When God’s people are unjustly accused of evil, that is also blasphemy (1 Pt 4:4). Even so, generally it is slander done against God. To slander God is a terrible thing, whether through teaching false doctrine, or accusing Him of evil. God’s name is holy, because His name represents His character and His person. Thus, when His name is spoken evil of, He Himself is insulted.
    1. How many ways was Jesus, God the Son, insulted that night? Only He knows! And again, He chose to endure it.
  2. It happened that night, but it’s happened many other nights since. How much scorn has the world heaped upon Jesus through the centuries? How much scorn and slander does our own culture spew upon God? His name is dragged through the mud every day. It is cheapened for political purposes on both sides of the aisle – it is treated with disgust by atheistic university professors on a daily basis – Jesus’ name is the excuse used by evil regimes all over the world to persecute and torture the people of God. The world is truly skilled at blaspheming its Creator! It does so in new ways every day.
    1. Before we point too many fingers, let us ensure we look at ourselves. How much scorn did we put upon Jesus prior to coming to faith? What blasphemy did we speak/think towards Him? After all, we weren’t always Christian. And if we’re honest, our blasphemy has not always been in the past. As born-again Christians, we might not openly speak out against God, but we might slander His name through our actions. Whenever we engage in (so-called) secret sins – whenever we treat others with snobbish disdain – whenever we choose our own will over the will of our Lord & Savior – these are all acts in which we treat the name of Jesus with sinful lightness. We take His name in vain, bringing defamation & disrepute upon Him.
  3. With all of this scorn, blasphemy, and abuse in mind, consider one astounding central fact: Jesus died for it. He died for all that abuse. He died for the men who struck Him that night – He died for the Jews who would later cry out for His crucifixion – He died for the men & women today who spew hatred upon His name. He even died for those of us who still act in occasional blasphemous slander against Him. He died for it all. There is not a single sin left outside the purview of the cross! There is no sin that is without atonement & covering. Whatever sin you have committed, Jesus died for that, too!
    1. What does that mean for us? It means that not only is the price paid for that slanderous sin, but that His forgiveness is available as well. ALL of the slander that we have heaped upon the Son of God can be freely forgiven. Every word, deed, and thought…every crime we have committed against God can be wiped away and done. All we need do is ask. 

Again, Luke’s telling of these events is a bit different than that of Matthew & Mark. Much of this physical and emotional abuse of Jesus took place at night, before & after the first Jewish trial in front of Annas & Caiaphas (which was illegal). No doubt the Jewish officers continued to beat and revile Jesus every time they got the chance, as long as He was in their custody. Even so, eventually daylight came (signified by the crowing of Peter’s infamous rooster), and Jesus’ sufferings continued. Vs. 66…

  • Daytime trial (66-71)

66 As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying,

  1. This was the gathering of the Sanhedrin. Technically, the Greek word for “councilis Sanhedrin (συνέδριον), though Luke uses the term a bit more generally at this point. However, he does describe the gathering as including “the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes.” Sadducees and Pharisees were both represented (Sadducees being among the priests, and Pharisees among the scribes), and combined, they represented the Jewish nation as a whole.
  2. As terrible as it was for the Jewish nation to reject Jesus, it was absolutely necessary. The Messiah had to be first rejected by His people if He was to die as a sacrifice for mankind. After all, if Jesus was not first rejected, how else would He be sentenced to die? A Messiah who is gladly received by the nation of Israel would have been valued by the Jews, and they would have worshipped Him; not delivered Him over to the Romans for execution. Granted, that is what they should have done, but it what God always knew that they would not do, and thus it was His plan for them not to do it. Jesus had to die, because a sinless sacrifice was required. Mankind needed sin to be forgiven – God needed a lamb on which to pour out His wrath. Without it, God and Man (and all of Creation!) would remain eternally unreconciled, and no one could be saved. Thus, God planned for the Messiah to be despised and rejected by the nation of Israel…all for the glory of God. 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.” It was God’s will that Jesus be bruised, and it was God’s will that Jesus’ days be prolonged & His sacrifice victorious. ALL of it is true, due to the perfect planning of the will of God.
    1. Sometimes we might not understand why God allows us to go through certain things. We need to remember that God is in control, and that He knows what He’s doing. Obviously this wasn’t something that Jesus questioned, but it might be something we do. Jesus knew the plans that were meant for Him – He had known them from before the foundation of the world, when they were established. We don’t know God’s plans for us. But we do know God. We can trust Him. We can trust that the things He allows us to endure are things that He has always known – and they are things in which He will ultimately turn towards that which is good for those who love Him (Rom 8:28). If Jesus trusted the plans of God the Father, so should we!

67 “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. 68 And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go.

  1. It’s the battle of the “if’s”! 🙂 The Sanhedrin charged Jesus to tell them “if” He is the Christ. Jesus came back to them, knowing what their response would be “if” He told them. The Greek grammar is interesting, although it doesn’t translate well into English. From the perspective of the priests & scribes, they knew Jesus was proclaimed to be the Christ (the Messiah, the expected Son of David, king of Israel, anointed of God), so their “if” is a certain probability. IOW, “If You claim to be the Christ, like all Your followers say You are, then tell us.” Jesus’ “if” is a lot more uncertain. The grammar Luke shows Jesus using is far more in the realm of what is possible, rather than probable. Somewhat: “If I should choose to tell you directly (which I won’t), it wouldn’t matter because you won’t believe what I have to say. And even if by chance I decided to engage in conversation with you about it, then it wouldn’t make a difference in your answer, no matter what I had to say.” 
  2. The whole idea here is that no one is fooling anyone. The Sanhedrin already knows the charge against Jesus; they just want to hear it from His mouth. Likewise, Jesus already knows the response of the priests & scribes, so He doesn’t see a need to play their game. (The Sanhedrin may have believed that they were the ones in charge, but the Son of God proves very differently!)
    1. In a nutshell, this is what we so often see among modern day skeptics & atheists. There might be a pretense at a question, but their minds are already made up. No amount of arguing on the internet is going to make a hill-of-beans worth of difference to them. That’s not to say that we aren’t supposed to share Jesus with those who are hard-hearted; we just need to do so in wisdom. Don’t cast pearls before swine (Mt 7:6) – don’t give them what they don’t (or won’t) appreciate; give them what they most need. They need the law of God in order to prepare their hearts for the gospel. Even in this case, Jesus tells the Sanhedrin of God’s judgment, without speaking a word of God’s forgiveness. Law to the proud; grace to the humble – we need wisdom to know the difference!

69 Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”

  1. The Sanhedrin (as representatives of the Jewish nation) may not have been willing to listen to Jesus, but soon they would know the truth! In a matter of hours, Jesus would be lifted high upon the cross (just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness), and within days Jesus would be resurrected from the grave by the power of God. A few short weeks after that, the Risen Jesus would ascend to heaven, and sit down at God’s right hand. Nothing the Sanhedrin could do or say would stop that from happening. Nothing these representatives of Israel could do would change the facts – nor would it change the fact that despite their unwillingness to hear, that all the nation will one day see this same Jesus return in power and glory & they will mourn the One whom they once pierced! (Zech 12:10, Rev 1:7)
  2. Jesus speaks of that day, as He alludes to the most important prophecy in the Old Testament regarding the “Son of Man”: Daniel 7:13–14, “(13) “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. (14) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.” In the midst of Daniel’s visions regarding the future empires of the world, he receives one vision of God as the Ancient of Days, seated on His throne (looking much like the Incarnate God later seen by John in Revelation 1!). This glorious God oversaw the destruction of the evil empires who trampled the earth (particularly one which represented the future Antichrist), and that’s when the Son of Man approached God’s throne. This is the Messiah of Israel as the conquering hero King. But He doesn’t come on chariots or the equipment of men; He comes with the clouds of God’s glory. The same clouds that descended on Mt. Sinai when God gave the 10 Commandments are the clouds upon which the Son of Man comes unto God. The same dominion God has over all the world is the dominion given unto the Son of Man. Is this the Messiah? Is He human? Yes…but He must also be much more. He is also God!
  3. Don’t miss the point! Jesus here tells the Sanhedrin: “You refuse to listen to Me now, but soon you will know Me as the Son of Man.” That is powerful testimony!
    1. This is our Jesus! This is whom we worship! We don’t worship fuzzy ideas or soft feelings – we don’t worship some unknown idea about God; we worship Almighty God, revealed in human flesh! We worship the powerful King of kings, who is coming to rule the world. This same incredible glorious Jesus is the one who willingly died for us. That Jesus is worth our worship!

70 Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.”

  1. Note that the priests and scribes acknowledge the idea of Messianic Divinity. When Jesus said that the “Son of Man” would “sit on the right hand” of God, the Sanhedrin understood that this was saying that the Son of Man was equal to God. Some liberal scholars claim that the Jews thought of the Messiah only as a man, being the descendent of King David. The Sanhedrin’s response to Jesus proves otherwise. Although the Old Testament never comes out and directly teaches that the Messiah was to be both human and God (i.e. the hypostatic union, dual nature of Christ), it definitely (and repeatedly) hints at the idea. At times, the Messiah is prophesied to be a man, as when God told David that the future Messiah would come from David’s body (2 Sam 7:12). At other times, the Messiah is prophesied to be God, as when God went on to tell David that the Messiah’s throne was to be established forever, and that God Himself would be His Father (2 Sam 13-14). The same thing is seen elsewhere: at the same time that Psalm 2 speaks of the Messiah being enthroned on Mount Zion by God (2:6), it also shows God declaring the Messiah to be His own Son, “begotten” by God & given the entire world as an inheritance (2:7-8). The Old Testament does this repeatedly. On one hand, the Messiah was to be a man & on the other hand, He was to be God. The Jews did not always know how to reconcile these concepts (nor do some supposedly “Christian” theologians today!), but it was there, nonetheless. The Sanhedrin itself shows their familiarity with the concept, when they directly question Jesus about it.
  2. Note also that Jesus never denies the charge. “You say that I am,” the word “rightly” being assumed by the translators. Yet the assumption is true. Culturally speaking, when Jesus did not deny the accusation against Him, it was Him receiving it as valid. If it had been false, this was Jesus’ opportunity to speak up and say something, but He didn’t. He allows it to stand, even using the phrase “I AM” (ἐγώ εἰμι) – the same words God the Father used of Himself when naming Himself to Moses (Exo 3:14). Jesus is God, and He never once denies it.

71 And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

  1. Although the Sanhedrin mentioned “further testimony,” Luke’s readers might have originally asked “what other testimony”? Although Luke didn’t mention it, the Sanhedrin had attempted to stack the deck against Jesus by bringing in all kinds of false witnesses. They were looking for a charge from which they could concoct a reason for a death sentence, such as their attempt to twist Jesus’ words about the destruction of the Temple (Mt 26:61). The problem was that none of the false witnesses could agree with one another, and thus a legal conviction could not be reached. Hebrew law demanded the testimony of 2-3 witnesses in order for a death sentence to be legal (Dt 17:6), but they couldn’t get it.
  2. That’s when Jesus gave them the gift of His own testimony. With Jesus’ own words (“I AM”), no other witnesses were required. This was exactly what was needed to charge Jesus with blasphemy of His own, as He had just equated Himself with God.
  3. What they didn’t realize (or want to acknowledge) was that it was true! If any of them had claimed to be the Son of God, it would be blasphemous & false. If either you or I claimed to be God, it would be blasphemous & false (if not, a sign of outright insanity!). Yet when Jesus claimed it, it was true.
    1. Here’s where the skeptics & atheists get it wrong (among other places). They may not like the claims of Jesus, or of the rest of the Bible, that doesn’t make them false. The Sanhedrin did not like, nor agree with Jesus, but the facts weren’t dependent upon their theological approval. The facts are what they are, and Jesus IS the Messiah, the Son of God. Likewise with skeptics & atheists today. They cannot change the facts, and the facts are that Jesus IS God, that Jesus DID die on the cross for their sins, and that Jesus DID rise from the grave. The facts are that Jesus WILL reign for all eternity, and that all people MUST answer to Him for judgment. Those might not be facts they like, but they are facts, all the same.


So much insult and abuse was piled on Jesus that night! Yet Jesus chose to take it, enduring the shame. Why? So that the plan of God could be fulfilled – so that you & I (and all the world) could be saved.

Think of it: the 2nd Person of the Trinity – the Word of God made flesh – the One through whom the Father created all the universe, and without whom the universe would fall into nothingness…that Jesus chose to endure the scorn of His sinful, rebellious creation. All because it led to the cross. Every soldier that struck Jesus was a soldier for whom He would die. Every Pharisee and priest who looked down their nose at Him was one for whom He would be raised on the tree. Jesus died for all sinful men & women, and road to that destiny travelled through this humiliation.

So He did it. He proved His love for God & His love for us. He endured shame, and now we can be saved.

Have you recognized His sacrifice? Have you thanked Him for bearing the shame of the cross on your behalf, and giving His life for you? Have you received His forgiveness and grace, by repenting of your sin & believing upon Him as Lord? This is the way you respond to Jesus – this is the way you honor His magnificent work!

If you’re already a Christian, have you thanked Him for His sacrifice? Not only for His death on the cross (which itself would be reason enough & more!), but for all His humiliation and suffering leading up to the cross? Long before the spikes were driven through His wrists and feet, Jesus suffered pain. He suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually for hours on end before He ever climbed the hill of the Skull.

How we need to thank Him – to worship & honor Him! How we ought to strive to live our lives in way that brings honor to His name, rather than defamation. And even more, how much we ought to help introduce others to the sacrifice of Jesus that is just as available for them as it is for us.

Betrayed Twice

Posted: February 25, 2018 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 22:47-62, “Betrayed Twice”

Failure. It happens to all, but for some, it happens in the eyes of all the world. It’s one thing to have a lapse in judgment in private; it’s another to have it on live TV. Worse yet, to have it recorded through 2000 years of history. Such is the case with Judas and Peter. Judas failed, and remained in his failure – his name being a curse to this very day. Though Peter (thankfully) was restored, he’s often ridiculed. “Brash, overconfident Peter!” – as if he talked himself into failure every single day. No doubt, if any of our individual sins were forever recorded in Scripture, we might have something similar said of us!

For Judas & Peter, the night of their greatest failure came the night before the cross. Earlier that night, Jesus had dined with both of them during the Last Supper – the Passover meal in which Jesus showed Himself as the fulfillment of the Passover elements. His own body was the unleavened (sinless) bread broken for the sin of the world – His own blood was the wine of the covenant relationship between God and His people. Judas left at some point during the meal, while Peter remained with the other disciples, and Jesus spoke of all the things that would happen. There was a traitor among the disciples, and Satan desired to do likewise with all of the disciples – these men would need to pray and be on guard, instead of arguing about petty ideas of their own greatness.

Unfortunately, none truly listened to Jesus, and once they were in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was the only one who prayed. Each of them would soon face their own temptation, and Jesus faced His own that night. He gave Himself into the will of His Father, and He alone was prepared for the trials that were just starting to begin. Things will progress very quickly from this point as Jesus goes from His arrest to His multiple trials, and soon to His cross & resurrection.

Although the other two Synoptic gospels (Matthew and Mark) separate the accounts of Judas and Peter, Luke puts them side-by-side. Luke gives us a tale of two men – two disciples of Jesus. History shows that these men could not have been more different, but for a single crucial night, they were almost identical. Both men were disciples – both fulfilled prophecies spoken by Jesus – both failed Jesus publicly. What happened? How did the wheels come off the cart (so to speak) so tragically? What caused both men to betray Jesus in the way they did (one by choice, and the other by weakness)?

As for Judas, it’s already been told to the reader that Satan entered him (22:3), though we may not understand how God could allow it. For Peter, it’s a bit more subtle, as he gives into the weakness that afflicts us all. In either case, we have a cautionary tale that ought to drive us to the foot of the cross! Our only hope is found in the grace of Jesus, the Son of the sovereign God.

Luke 22:47–62

  • Judas’ betrayal (47-53)

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him.

  1. The picture is rather dramatic. The “multitude” arrived while Jesus was “still speaking.” The English can make this seem more emphatic than what it is – Luke is simply using the present tense. The point is that these things happened in quick succession. Jesus wasn’t waiting around bored when Judas finally arrived; He was in the middle of waking the disciples warning them to pray right as the crowd arrived. The events of the next hours will happen very quickly…much activity is crammed into a short amount of time.
  2. Luke describes Judas as “Judas, one of the twelve.” Never forget this man had the status of being an apostle appointed to his position by Jesus (Lk 6:16). We tend to write him off as “just” being Judas, but he was a trusted member of the band of the apostles. There were other men and women who followed Jesus on a regular basis, but there were only twelve appointed to their position by the Lord. Judas was one of them.
    1. There’s no illustration of a false convert clearer than Judas! On the outside, he appeared to be like everyone else among Jesus’ disciples. He was even trusted to the extent of having a position of responsibility (holding the money bag). Internally, he was corrupt and rebellious. No amount of Christian-culture saves us – no amount of “ministry” saves us. Either our hearts are transformed by true faith in Jesus, or they aren’t. Only you & Jesus know for sure.
  3. Not only was Judas Iscariot a false convert, he was a false friend. He “drew near to Jesus to kiss Him” in greeting – ultimately identifying Jesus to the multitude as the one to be arrested. The “kiss” was a kiss of friendship – a kiss of esteem. The same word is used by Paul to the Romans when he tells the Christians there to greet one another with a holy kiss (Rom 16:16). For Judas, he was pretending a show of affection while engaging in an act of betrayal.
  4. Unlike Peter, Judas openly acknowledged Jesus, to the point of even showing public affection towards Him through a kiss. Peter pretended he never met the Lord. Yet Judas hated Jesus, while Peter loved Him. Each sin was grievous. Judas sinned against Jesus by pretending to love Him, when he didn’t. Peter sinned against Jesus by pretending to hate Him, while loving Him in secret. They may have been opposites, but they were simply different sides of the same coin.

48 But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

  1. Jesus saw what Judas was doing, and called him on it. This was an act of supreme hypocrisy (two-faced duplicitousness). The kiss was all a show…an unnecessary one at that. Even if we assume that some of the officers coming to arrest Jesus didn’t know Him by face (which seems unlikely, considering the public nature of Jesus’ ministry, and the fact that several members of the Jewish leadership were present), Judas Iscariot still could have arranged any number of signs to point out Jesus as the one to be arrested. At the very least, Judas could have walked up to Jesus & pointed! Yet he chose to give a kiss. Why? It’s impossible to say, because the Bible doesn’t tell us. Whatever the ultimate reason, it was surely one of the more hurtful acts Judas could have ever committed against his former rabbi/master. No doubt at some point in the past, Judas once considered Jesus a friend. All of that was tossed aside like garbage as Judas kissed Jesus with a mouth like that of a viper.
  2. Question: Would Jesus have been grieved? Absolutely – why not? Of course Jesus wasn’t surprised, being that He had prophesied the entire event. Yet knowing of the sin doesn’t make it less sinful or hurtful. God may not be ruled like His emotions (like we are – an attribute theologians call His impassibility), but God still has The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Eph 4:30) – the Father can be angered (Dt 4:21) – and surely the Son can be offended. No doubt, if any act hurt the heart of Jesus, it was Judas’ kiss.
  3. Note Jesus’ reference to Himself as the “Son of Man.” In the Old Testament, the Son of Man is seen as having all of the power and glory of God. Here, the Son of Man can be betrayed and murdered. …

49 When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.

  1. Luke seemingly makes an intentional effort to help the apostles remain anonymous. Neither the description of “disciple” is used, nor the title “apostle,” and especially not the name of “Peter.” It is the same pattern found in each of the Synoptics. Only the gospel of John names Peter as the one with the sword. Most likely by the time John wrote, Peter had died, and there was no longer any fear of government reprisal. (The apostles faced enough persecution without worrying about old charges of assault, attempted murder, and sedition coming back to haunt them!)
  2. Earlier, a sword had been found among the apostles (two swords, in fact – 22:38). Now they ask if the time had come to use it. Sadly, they didn’t wait for the answer, and Peter struck without warning. It all goes to demonstrate that the disciples hadn’t understood Jesus’ earlier teaching about the need for a sword. The weapon wasn’t there for assault & conquest – it wasn’t even there to protect against religious persecution – it was there for protection along the road against bandits. Interestingly, never again does the Bible record a weapon raised by the apostles. This one act was enough to make an impact upon them for the rest of their lives.
  3. What does it say about Peter that he raised his sword against those coming to arrest Jesus? He panicked. Peter panicked in the worst way, and it can be seen in multiple ways. (1) He swung a sword of men, rather than trusting in the power of God. The incarnate Son of God was standing right next to him, yet Peter thought Jesus required some sort of physical defense. (2) Peter struck the wrong person. Instead of raising his sword against an arresting soldier, he went against one of the slaves of the high priest. (Of course, this might have saved his life, as a trained guard might have easily defended himself.) (3) When Peter struck, he did so incompetently, coming down on the man’s ear rather than some other lethal strike. All of this goes to show that this was a wild swing at the person closest to him; not an act of deliberation. This was simple panic. Faith had fled the scene, and Peter was acting in fearful desperation.

51 But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.

  1. Peter’s panic is contrasted with Jesus’ peace. Jesus had no fear of arrest. This was to be allowed – “permit even this.” Bible translations differ, with the NASB, ESV, NIV & others saying “No more of this.” This is a translation choice, as there is no variation in the Greek manuscripts. The word for “permit” (ἐάω) could be translated either way, although by far its most common usage is “allow,” while the usage for “stop/cease” is rare. Either way, the end result is the same. The disciples were to stop their violence and permit the arrest to continue. All they were doing now was causing trouble.
  2. Why? Because Jesus had to fulfill His mission. How else would the price of sin be paid? How else would the innocent blood of Jesus be shed as a sacrifice for all mankind? If Jesus resisted arrest, then the eternal plan of God would be thwarted, and the universe undone. There would never be atonement – there would never be an answer to the Fall, and the creation would remain forever tainted from its Creator. This was the only way. For Jesus (and the disciples) to resist arrest was to resist the will of God. This was God’s plan, and it had to be fulfilled.
  3. Jesus’ peace continued with the massive crowd that had come to arrest Him. Just as He calmed His disciples, He calmed His enemies. vs. 52…

52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

  1. Note the Jewish references, with no mention of Roman soldiers. While it’s possible that some Romans were present, Luke specifically names the Jews & the temple guards. It is the Jewish leadership that takes Jesus first, because it is the Jewish nation that must first reject Him as Messiah, before they deliver Him over to the Roman Gentiles for death.
  2. Just as He did with Judas Iscariot, Jesus points out their hypocrisy. At any time that week, Jesus could have been arrested in Jerusalem. The only reason it hadn’t happed was because the priests knew they would face opposition from the crowds (22:2). The priests were too afraid to arrest Jesus by day, so they came to arrest Him illegally by night.
  3. As they did, they treated Jesus like a common criminal – like a thief or a “robber” (bandit or revolutionary). The soldiers of the priests had come fully armed, as if they expected some sort of violent resistance. Not once during Jesus’ ministry had He ever demonstrated these tendencies, as He always preached the love of God and openly showed compassion towards others. Yet everything Jesus taught was ignored, and they came against Him in a show of full force.
    1. It was ironic on two levels: (1) There was some violence, brought on by Peter. Thankfully, it was quickly quieted by Jesus. (2) If Jesus had chosen to resist them, then no amount of weapons and no number of soldiers would have been enough to contain Him. The Son of God would have destroyed them all with a single look! The only reason Jesus could be arrested was because He allowed Himself to be arrested.
  4. The reason Jesus allowed it at all was because this was their “” It was the time appointed by God for them. Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not that God ceded control to them. It’s not that Jesus simply gave up. He surrendered, but He didn’t stop being God. The Father had not stepped off His throne and given up control, allowing Satan to run wild with the universe. At this moment in the eyes of the disciples, things would have appeared to be utter chaos – it would seem as if all holy light was extinguished and the evil of Satan was victorious…it wasn’t. Nothing could be further from the truth. God was just as sovereign in the Garden of Gethsemane as He was on the shore of the Red Sea or when He brought down hailstones upon the enemies of Israel (Josh 10:11). God is always sovereign at all times. This is actually emphasized by the words of Jesus. When He said that this was their “hour and the power of darkness,” He was saying that this was the time appointed/ordained for them by God. If God had not given them that hour, they wouldn’t have any hour. Again, the reason it could happen is because God allowed it to happen.
  5. Take a moment to chew on that. God is sovereign. We can never forget the sovereignty of our God! We may not always be able to explain it, but it is something we never dare forget. Often, it seems that evil is without check in this world and that everything is left to tragic chance. Whether you’re blessed or whether you’re suffering is all randomness, and the events of this life is a giant crap-shoot. Not so! The Bible tells us the opposite. The Bible tells us that God is in control, and that the very real evil that takes place in this world is kept on leash by God. That isn’t to say that evil & sin are God’s perfect will for us (it isn’t!), but He does permit these things to an extent. Think of Job. When Job suffered, it was because God allowed Satan to attack him. Yet even then, Satan’s attacks were limited, being restrained by the merciful protection of God. Did Job understand any of this? No, and he never did. To him, the reason for his suffering remained a mystery. What he learned was Who to trust in the midst of his suffering: the Almighty God who created him and held the universe together by His power.
    1. Likewise here. Here, we know the reason for Jesus’ arrest and subsequent suffering, and in it all, God is in control. Not once does Satan ever gain the upper hand over Jesus. Not through Judas, nor the priests, nor the later Romans. It may seem as if Satan gets in a few punches on God, but he doesn’t. Satan is not able to do a single thing that God does not allow him to do.
  6. This hasn’t changed. Satan is still on his leash. Granted, there is a lot of freedom allowed to him (seen through countless acts of murder, violence, and hatred), but even in this he is still ultimately restrained by God. (Just think for a moment how bad things would be if God the Spirit did not restrain him! 2 Ths 2:6-7) What does that mean for us? How is God’s sovereignty a comfort during times of extreme evil? What kind of comfort did that bring on September 11, 2001 when terrorists flew planes into the twin towers – or more recently, when a gunman murdered 17 teenaged students in their high school? Some acts of evil seem too extreme to have been allowed by God. How can we affirm that God’s sovereignty is valid, and if so, that it is good? (1) It is indeed valid, of that there is no doubt. The sovereign providence of God jumps off every page of the Bible. Even on the worst day of his life, Job affirmed the same truth in a demonstration of incredible faith. Job 2:9–10, “(9) Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (10) But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Though Job had lost his wealth, his servants, and (worse of all) his children in a single day, he still had faith in the providence of God. Whether good or bad, it came from the hand of the Almighty. (2) It is indeed good when we understand that God is good. (God is good, all the time!) The sovereignty of God would be terrible if God were evil. A universe in which a malevolent murderous divine dictator ruled would be utterly awful. But that isn’t God. God is good. God is the very definition of goodness, and we only know what good is by looking to God. The Bible affirms that God is love (1 Jn 2:8) – that He is merciful and faithful (Dt 7:9) – that He is just & righteous in every respect. This is His very name: Exodus 34:6–7, “(6) And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, (7) keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.””This is the God who is sovereign – this is the God who is in providential control. Yes, He allows Satan a limited leash – yes, He allows the terrible consequences of sin to fall upon His beloved creation…but He is a good God with a good answer to sin, and we see the beginnings of it right here in the Garden of Gethsemane: the cross. God has a just answer to the sin of the world in the willing sacrifice of Jesus. The guilt and iniquity of the worst of sinners finds its answer in the cross, when the full weight of God’s wrath comes crashing down upon His Son. And those of us who know Jesus in faith know that God’s wrath towards us is fulfilled – we know the sweet forgiveness of God – we know we are right in the palm of His hand. So yes, in His sovereignty is great comfort! Even on our worst days, the very best place for us to be is in the hands of the sovereign God, and that is exactly where our faith in Jesus places us!

Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus in terrible fashion. He used an act of love to commit an act of hate. Even so, this is Judas…we expect it from him. Surely none of the other disciples would sin against Jesus in like manner, right? Wrong. Just as it happened with the worst of the apostles, it happened with the best of them: Peter. Luke goes on to describe the scene. Vs. 54…

  • Peter’s denial (54-62)

54 Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance.

  1. The note about the house of the high priest highlights the illegal nature of the act. Not only was Jesus arrested at night, but His first trial was about to begin at night. There was no time spent in a cell – no time given for cooler heads to prevail or to assemble the full group of the Sanhedrin (some of whom were secret supporters of Jesus). Jesus went straight to the housing complex of the high priest’s family (Annas & Caiaphas), who had already assembled with their group of cronies to engage in a kangaroo court – an illegal railroading of Jesus.
  2. As for Peter, give him credit for following Jesus this far. Initially, all the disciples fled the scene in the garden (Mt 26:56). At least two returned: Peter, and another unnamed disciple (likely John – Jn 18:15). Because that disciple was known by the high priest, Peter was able to gain entrance into the courtyard (Jn 18:16), and that’s where he stayed while Jesus was on trial.
  3. The problem for Peter began not because he followed Jesus to the house, but how he followed Him there: “at a distance.” Already, Peter was separating himself from his Savior, not wanting to be easily associated with Jesus. Not a word was yet spoken, but the denial had already begun.
    1. Something similar takes place with every major fall into sin. No one commits massive sin out of nowhere. It’s not like a Christian walks in holiness all day & is suddenly surprised to find him/herself in some massive moral failing. (Where did this come from?!) It takes several tiny steps to get there. There are a bunch of “minor” decisions that gradually open the door wider & wider for something bigger yet to come. Maybe it’s allowing your eyes to linger on another person that sets the stage for a greater lust. Maybe it’s a little drink on a nightly basis that turns into 2-3 (4,5,6) more. Maybe it’s a habit of little white lies that expands into a lifestyle of deception. Soon enough, those thing blow up into major sin that leaves you reeling. Small decisions matter.

55 Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.

  1. The stage for Peter’s failure continues to be set as he “sat among” the gathered crowd. How so? It’s obviously not sinful to sit in public, but it provides Peter with the opportunity to deny Jesus. Remember that Jesus specifically prophesied that Peter would fail Him in this way: Luke 22:31–34, “(31) And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. (32) But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (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.”” Jesus knew this was going to happen, and although Peter didn’t like it, he knew what Jesus had told him. Yet Peter sat among the crowd anyway. He put himself in a position where the opportunity to fail was possible. Think about it: if Peter didn’t want to publicly deny Jesus, he shouldn’t have been in public. He could have sat by himself in silence – he could have found some way to muzzle his mouth or do anything else not to have to speak. Instead, Peter put himself right in the middle of a crowd. People are making conversation all around him, all focused on the Man who had been arrested and put on trial in the house just inside…eventually Peter is going to be expected to say something. He set himself up to fail.
    1. The same progression happens with us. Once we start making allowances for “small” sin, we often put ourselves into positions that are dangerous. If someone is prone to drunkenness, where’s the last place they ought to be? The bar. If someone is prone to pornography, and of the last things they need is unaccountable alone time on the internet. Name the sin, and there are always situations that can be avoided, if people want to avoid them. We simply need to understand our own tendencies to fail. Peter thought himself to be invincible, and that was one of the first of his many problems.

56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.” 57 But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”

  1. The first denial takes place in response to the intense interrogation…of a servant girl. How tragic! How humiliating! For all of Peter’s bravado – for all of his resistance against Jesus’ prophecy – Peter absolutely crumbles at the first opportunity. He honestly believed himself strong enough to hold up under massive attack, being ready to suffer unto death. Yet at the piercing gaze of a young girl, the mighty apostle is crushed.
  2. Be careful not to ridicule! Beware not to think ourselves better. If it could happen to Peter, it could happen to any of us. Remember that Peter had incredible successes: he alone of the apostles had faith to walk on water – he was the first to speak up in confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God – he was one of three apostles included in Jesus’ inner circle of His most-trusted. Peter had massive success as an apostle up until this night. Yet it was on this night of darkness that he experienced failure after failure. First he swung the sword in the garden, and then he failed with the three-fold denial.
    1. How did it all begin? This apostle of faith chose not to exercise faith. Instead of believing Jesus at His word as to what would happen, Peter foolishly thought he knew better. Combined with his series of missteps, it all led to massive failure. Again, this is something that can happen to any of us. Believe Jesus! Take Him at His word, and rely upon His Spirit & power. Reliance upon ourselves will always lead to disappointment…without Jesus, we can do nothing.

58 And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59 Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” …

  1. The denials continue, each one more emphatic than the last. And Peter kept compounding his sin the whole time. Not once during the hour-plus did he leave the campfire. He never got himself out of the situation – he never took time aside to confess and pray – he never even sought out the help of the one other apostle who was there. Peter thought he could handle this on his own, and he ended up digging a bigger hole for himself. Faced with clear evidence and accusations that he was indeed a follower of Jesus, Peter dug in his heels on his deception. He failure was obvious to everyone…everyone, except himself.
  2. Again, we can easily relate. We get ourselves into similar circumstances when despite all evidence & mounting consequences, we keep attaching ourselves to our sin. We go deeper & deeper into it, all the while our consciences screaming against us telling us to stop. What should we do? Stop! It may be embarrassing – it may even be emotionally painful – but it’s the only thing to do. The first rule of holes: stop digging. Just stop the sin. Make the tough decision to surrender yourself to God at that very moment. It may seem impossible, but it is the very best thing you can do. Guaranteed, it is the only thing that will bring healing (1 Jn 1:9). We simply have to be willing to do it.

… Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.

  1. For every sequence of sin in the life of a Christian, there comes a moment of sober clarity. For Peter, it came the instant the rooster crowd and he looked into the eyes of Jesus. Can you imagine?
    1. One of the problems we as Christians have when we sin is that we forget that Jesus does We might not be looking into His eyes at that very moment, but one day we will.
  2. How terrible the bitter grief that followed!


There were two betrayals of Jesus that night, both by His apostles, but only one by a friend. God was sovereign over both, but each man was responsible for his own actions. Judas was prophesied to betray Jesus, but he chose to do it in the most hateful way possible. Peter was prophesied to deny his Master & friend, yet chose to ignore the warning and set himself for failure. Eventually, both men suffered immensely. Peter was stricken with grief that very night, whereas Judas Iscariot was later tortured by his inner demons & ended up committing suicide. The consequences for sin are severe, both in the near & far.

For as similar as the actions of these two men might have been that night, the long term results could not have been more different. Why? Their relationships with Jesus. Judas abandoned whatever love for Jesus he had, if he had any at all; Peter’s love for Jesus was rekindled and restored. It’s impossible to read the many accounts of Peter’s denial of Jesus & his weakness the night prior to the cross without remembering the event that took place a mere 50 days later when he boldly witnessed of Jesus on the streets of Jerusalem. Acts 2:36–39, “(36) “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (37) Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (38) Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (39) For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.””

Is that the same man who crumbled before a slave girl & a campfire crowd? Yes & no. Physically, he was the same; spiritually he was reborn! After the campfire was the cross – after the cross was the resurrection – after the resurrection was Jesus’ forgiveness, and cleansing, and empowerment by the Holy Spirit. After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter became a new man & was restored, never the same again. Would there be struggles? Yes – but there was the assurance of his relationship with Christ.

So it is with us! We have struggles and sin of our own. We have failed Jesus in our own way. Maybe you (like Peter) have denied Him in your public witness. Maybe you’ve denied Him privately, not understanding He still sees. Whatever your failing, you can look back and see the many small decisions that led to this point, and you’re grieved. You’ve wept your own bitter tears & your heart is crushed.

Christian, there is forgiveness in Jesus! Oh how glorious the cleansing and restoration He offers, and has made freely available to us! Stop your sin, confessing it to the Lord, and drink deeply of His grace! It is humbling, but in it is healing. Take what your Lord has to offer, and remember your utter reliance upon Him.

Maybe you’re not in the position of Peter, but more that of Judas. Your sin against Jesus wasn’t a denial of love, but an expression of hatred. You’ve rebelled against God, no matter what appearances may have seemed on the outside. Know this: you have an opportunity that was lost on Judas…you can still be forgiven! Judas robbed himself of the chance when he took his own life, but without question the cross of Christ would have been sufficient for his sin as well. The cross of Jesus is sufficient for you, too! There is no sin you’ve committed that cannot be forgiven by God. Put your faith in Jesus, and your sins can be remitted…just respond to His call.

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!


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.

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.


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.

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!)


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!