AND SATAN ENTERED INTO JUDAS (Luke 22:1-6)
22:1-6 The Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near, and the chief priests and the scribes searched to find a way to destroy Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. And Satan entered into Judas, who was called Iscariot, who belonged to the number of the Twelve. So he went away and discussed with the chief priests and captains how he might betray Jesus to them. They were glad and they undertook to give him money. So he agreed, and he began to look for a suitable time to betray him, when the mob were not there.
It was at Passover time that Jesus came to Jerusalem to die. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is not, strictly speaking, the same thing as the Passover. The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted for a week, from 15th to 21st Nisan (April), and the Passover itself was eaten on 15th Nisan. It commemorated the deliverance of the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:1-51 ). On that night the angel of death smote the first-born son in every Egyptian family; but he passed over the homes of the Israelites, because the lintels of their doors were smeared with the blood of the lamb to distinguish them. On that night they left so quickly that, at their last meal, there was no time to bake bread with leaven. It was unleavened cakes they ate.
There were elaborate preparations for the Passover. Roads were repaired; bridges were made safe; wayside tombs were whitewashed lest the pilgrim should fail to see them, and so touch them and become unclean. For a month before, the story and meaning of the Passover was the subject of the teaching of every synagogue. Two days before the Passover there was in every house a ceremonial search for leaven. The householder took a candle and solemnly searched every nook and cranny in silence, and the last particle of leaven was thrown out.
Every male Jew, who was of age and who lived within 15 miles of the holy city, was bound by law to attend the Passover. But it was the ambition of every Jew in every part of the world (as it is still) to come to the Passover in Jerusalem at least once in his lifetime. To this day, when Jews keep the Passover in every land they pray that they may keep it next year in Jerusalem. Because of this vast numbers came to Jerusalem at the Passover time. Cestius was governor of Palestine in the time of Nero and Nero tended to belittle the importance of the Jewish faith. To convince Nero of it, Cestius took a census of the lambs slain at one particular Passover. Josephus tells us that the number was 256,500. The law laid it down that the minimum number for a Passover celebration was 10. That means that on this occasion, if these figures are correct, there must have been more that 2,700,000 pilgrims to the Passover. It was in a city crowded like that that the drama of the last days of Jesus was played out.
The atmosphere of Passover time was always inflammable. The headquarters of the Roman government was at Caesarea, and normally only a small detachment of troops was stationed at Jerusalem; but for the Passover season many more were drafted in. The problem which faced the Jewish authorities was how to arrest Jesus without provoking a riot. It was solved for them by the treachery of Judas. Satan entered into Judas. Two things stand out.
(i) Just as God is ever looking for men to be his instruments, so is Satan. A man can be the instrument of good or of evil, of God or of the devil. The Zoroastrians see this whole universe as the battle ground between the god of the light and the god of the dark, and in that battle a man must choose his side. We, too, know that a man can be the servant of the light or of the dark.
(ii) But it remains true that Satan could not have entered into Judas unless Judas had opened the door. There is no handle on the outside of the door of the human heart. It must be opened from within.
To every man there openeth
A high way and a low;
And every man decideth
The way his soul shall go.
It is our own decision whether we will choose to be the instrument of Satan or a weapon in the hand of God. We can enlist in either service. God help us choose aright!
THE LAST MEAL TOGETHER (Luke 22:7-23)
22:7-23 There came the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover had to be sacrificed. Jesus despatched Peter and John. "Go," he said, "and make ready the Passover for us that we may eat it." They said to him, "Where do you want us to make it ready?" "Look you," he said to them, "when you have gone into the city, a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him to the house into which he enters; and you will say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room that I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' And he will show you a big upper room, ready furnished. There, get things ready." So they went away and found everything just as he had told them; and they made ready the Passover.
When the hour came he took his place at table, and so did his disciples. "I have desired with all my heart," he said to them, "to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you that I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." He received the cup, and gave thinks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God has come." And he took the bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is being given for you. Do this so that you will remember me." In the same way, after the meal, he took the cup saying, "This cup is the new covenant made at the price of my blood, which is shed for you. But--look you--the hand of him who betrays me is on the table with me, for the Son of Man goes as it has been determined. But woe to that man by whom he has been betrayed"; and they began to question one another which of them it could be who was going to do this.
Once again Jesus did not leave things until the last moment; his plans were already made. The better class houses had two rooms. The one room was on the top of the other; and the house looked exactly like a small box placed on top of a large one. The upper room was reached by an outside stair. During the Passover time all lodging in Jerusalem was free. The only pay a host might receive for letting lodgings to the pilgrims was the skin of the lamb which was eaten at the feast. A very usual use of an upper room was that it was the place where a Rabbi met with his favourite disciples to talk things over with them and to open his heart to them. Jesus had taken steps to procure such a room. He sent Peter and John into the city to look for a man bearing a jar of water. To carry water was a woman's task. A man carrying a jar of water would be as easy to pick out as, say, a man using a lady's umbrella on a wet day. This was a prearranged signal between Jesus and a friend.
So the feast went on; and Jesus used the ancient symbols and gave them a new meaning.
(i) He said of the bread, "This is my body." Herein is exactly what we mean by a sacrament. A sacrament is something, usually a very ordinary thing, which has acquired a meaning far beyond itself for him who has eyes to see and a heart to understand. There is nothing specially theological or mysterious about this.
In the house of everyone of us there is a drawer full of things which can only be called junk, and yet we will not throw them out, because when we touch and handle and look at them, they bring back this or that person, or this or that occasion. They are common things but they have a meaning far beyond themselves. That is a sacrament.
When Sir James Barries mother died and they were clearing up her belongings, they found that she had kept all the envelopes in which her famous son had posted her the cheques he so faithfully and lovingly sent. They were only old envelopes but they meant much to her. That is a sacrament.
When Nelson was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral a party of his sailors bore his coffin to the tomb. One who saw the scene writes, "With reverence and with efficiency they lowered the body of the world's greatest admiral into its tomb. Then, as though answering to a sharp order from the quarter deck, they all seized the Union Jack with which the coffin had been covered and tore it to fragments, and each took his souvenir of the illustrious dead." All their lives that little bit of coloured cloth would speak to them of the admiral they had loved. That is a sacrament.
The bread which we eat at the sacrament is common bread, but, for him who has a heart to feel and understand, it is the very body of Christ.
(ii) He said of the cup, "This cup is the new covenant made at the price of my blood." In the biblical sense, a covenant is a relationship between man and God. God graciously approached man; and man promised to obey and to keep his law. The whole matter is set out in Exodus 24:1-8. The continuance of that covenant depends on man's keeping his pledge and obeying this law; Man could not and cannot do that; man's sin interrupts the relationship between man and God. All the Jewish sacrificial system was designed to restore that relationship by the offering of sacrifice to God to atone for sin. What Jesus said was this--"By my life and by my death I have made possible a new relationship between you and God. You are sinners. That is true. But because I died for you, God is no longer your enemy but your friend." It cost the life of Christ to restore the lost relationship of friendship between God and man.
(iii) Jesus said, "Do this and it will make you remember me." Jesus knew how easily the human mind forgets. The Greeks had an adjective which they used to describe time--"time," they said, "which wipes all things out," as if the mind of man were a slate and time a sponge which wiped it clean. Jesus was saying, "In the rush and press of things you will forget me. Man forgets because he must, and not because he will. Come in sometimes to the peace and stillness of my house and do this again with my people--and you will remember."
It made the tragedy all the more tragic that at that very table there was one who was a traitor. Jesus Christ has at every communion table those who betray him, for if in his house we pledge ourselves to him and then by our lives go out to deny him, we too are traitors to him.
STRIFE AMONG THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST (Luke 22:24-30)
22:24-30 Strife arose amongst them about which was to be considered greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the gentiles exercise lordship over them and those who have authority over them claim the title of Benefactor. It must not be so with you; but let him who is greatest among you be as the youngest; and let him who is the leader be as him who serves. Who is the greater? He who sits at table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stayed with me in my tribulations; and I assign to you a kingdom, just as my Father has assigned one to me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit upon thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
It is one of the most poignantly tragic things in the gospel story that the disciples could quarrel about precedence in the very shadow of the cross. The seating arrangements at a Jewish feast were very definite. The table was arranged like a square with one side left open. At the top side of the square, in the centre, sat the host. On his right sat the guest of first honour; on his left the second guest; second on his right, the third guest; second on his left the fourth guest; and so on round the table. The disciples had been quarrelling about where they were to sit, for they had not yet rid themselves of the idea of an earthly kingdom. Jesus told them bluntly that the standards of his kingdom were not the standards of this world. A king on earth was evaluated by the power he exercised. One of the commonest titles for a king in the east was Euergetes (Greek #2110), which is the Greek for Benefactor. Jesus said, "It is not the king but the servant who obtains that title in my kingdom."
(i) What the world needs is service. The odd thing is that the business world knows this. Bruce Barton points out that you will find by the road-side, over and over again, the sign, Service Station. It was the claim of one firm, "We will crawl under your car oftener and get ourselves dirtier than any of our competitors." The strange thing is that there is more argument about precedence, and more concern about people's "places" in the church than anywhere else. The world needs and recognizes service.
(ii) It is only the man who will consent to serve more than anyone else who will really rise high. It frequently happens that the ordinary worker will go home at 5.30 p.m. to forget his or her job until next morning, while the light will be burning in the office of the chief executive long after that. Often passers-by would see the light burning in John D. Rockefeller's office when the rest of the building was in darkness. It is a law of life that service leads to greatness; and the higher a man rises the greater the servant he must be.
(iii) We can found our life either on giving or on getting; but the plain fact is that if we found it on getting we shall miss both the friendship of man and the reward of God, for no one ever loved a man who was always out for himself.
(iv) Jesus finished his warning by promising his disciples that those who had stood by him through thick and thin would in the end reign with him. God will be in no man's debt. Those who have shared in the bearing of Christ's cross will some day share in the wearing of his crown.
PETER'S TRAGEDY (Luke 22:31-38; Luke 22:54-62)
22:31-38,54-62 "Simon, Simon," Jesus said, "Look you, Satan has been allowed to have you that he may sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not wholly fail. And you--when you have turned again--strengthen your brothers." He said to him, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." "Peter," he said, "I tell you, the cock will not crow today before you have three times denied that you know me."
And he said to them, "When I sent you out without purse or wallet or shoes, did you lack for anything?" They said, "For nothing." But he said to them. "But now, let him who has a purse take it, and so with a wallet; and let him who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this which stands written must be fulfilled in me--'And he was reckoned with the law-breakers'--for that which was written of me is finding its fulfilment." They said, "Lord, here are two swords." He said to them, "It is enough.". . .
So they seized Jesus and led him away, and brought him to the High Priest's house. Peter followed a long way away. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard, and were sitting there together, Peter sat in the midst of them. A maidservant saw him as he sat in the firelight. She looked intently at him. "This man, too," she said, "was with him." He denied it. "Woman," he said, "I do not know him." Soon after another man saw him and said, "You, too, were one of them." Peter said, "Man, I am not!" About an hour elapsed and another insisted, "Truly this man, too, was with him. I know it for he is a Galilaean." Peter said, "Man, I don't know what you are talking about." And immediately--while he was still speaking--a cock crew. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered what the Lord had said, that he said to him, "Before the cock crows today you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.
We take the story of the tragedy of Peter all in one piece. Peter was a strange paradoxical mixture.
(i) Even in spite of his denial he was fundamentally loyal. H. G. Wells once said, "A man may be a bad musician, and yet be passionately in love with music." No matter what Peter did, however terrible his failure, he was nonetheless passionately devoted to Jesus. There is hope for the man who even when he is sinning is still haunted by goodness.
(ii) Peter was well warned. Jesus warned him both directly and indirectly. Luke 22:33-38 with their talk of swords is a strange passage. But what they mean is this--Jesus was saying, "All the time so far you have had me with you. In a very short time you are going to be cast upon your own resources. What are you going to do about it? The danger in a very short time is not that you will possess nothing; but that you will have to fight for your very existence." This was not an incitement to armed force. It was simply a vivid eastern way of telling the disciples that their very lives were at stake. No one could say that the seriousness and danger of the situation, and his own liability to collapse were not presented to Peter.
(iii) Peter was over-confident. If a man says, "That is one thing I will never do," that is often the very thing against which he must most carefully guard. Again and again castles have been captured because the attackers took the route which seemed unattackable and unscalable and at that very spot the defenders were off their guard. Satan is subtle. He attacks the point at which a man is too sure of himself, for there he is likeliest to be unprepared.
(iv) In all fairness it is to be noted that Peter was one of the two disciples (John 18:15) who had the courage to follow Jesus into the courtyard of the High Priest's house at all. Peter fell to a temptation which could only have come to a brave man. The man of courage always runs more risks than the man who seeks a placid safety. Liability to temptation is the price that a man pays when he is adventurous in mind and in action. It may well be that it is better to fail in a gallant enterprise than to run away and not even to attempt it.
(v) Jesus did not speak to Peter in anger but looked at him in sorrow. Peter could have stood it if Jesus had turned and reviled him; but that voiceless, grief-laden look went to his heart like a sword and opened a fountain of tears.
I think I'd sooner frizzle up,
I' the flames of a burnin' 'ell,
Than stand and look into 'is face,
And 'ear 'is voice say--"Well?"
The penalty of sin is to face, not the anger of Jesus, but the heartbreak in his eyes.
(vi) Jesus said a very lovely thing to Peter. "When you have turned," he said, "strengthen your brothers." It is as if Jesus said to Peter, "You will deny me; and you will weep bitter tears; but the result will be that you will be better able to help your brothers who are going through it." We cannot really help a man until we have been in the same furnace of affliction or the same abyss of shame as he has been. It was said of Jesus, "He can help others who are going through it because he has been through it himself." (Hebrews 2:18.) To experience the shame of failure and disloyalty is not all loss, because it gives us a sympathy and an understanding that otherwise we would never have won.
THY WILL BE DONE (Luke 22:39-46)
22:39-46 Jesus went out, and, as his custom was, made his way to the Mount of Olives. The disciples, too, accompanied him. When he came to the place, he said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." And he was withdrawn from them, about a stone's throw, and he knelt and prayed. "Father," he said, "if it is your will, take this cup from me; but not my will, but yours be done," And an angel from heaven appeared strengthening him. He was in an agony, and he prayed still more intensely, and his sweat was as drops of blood failing upon the ground. So he rose from prayer and came to his disciples, and found them sleeping from grief. "Why are you sleeping?" he said to them. "Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation."
The space within Jerusalem was so limited that there was no room for gardens. Many well-to-do people, therefore, had private gardens out on the Mount of Olives. Some wealthy friend had given Jesus the privilege of using such a garden, and it was there that Jesus went to fight his lonely battle. He was only thirty-three; and no one wants to die at thirty-three. He knew what crucifixion was like; he had seen it. He was in an agony; the Greek word is used of someone fighting a battle with sheer fear. There is no scene like this in all history. This was the very hinge and turning point in Jesus' life. He could have turned back even yet. He could have refused the cross. The salvation of the world hung in the balance as the Son of God literally sweated it out in Gethsemane; and he won.
A famous pianist said of Chopin's nocturne in C sharp minor, "I must tell you about it. Chopin told Liszt, and Liszt told me. In this piece all is sorrow and trouble. Oh such sorrow and trouble!--until he begins to speak to God, to pray; then it is all right." That is the way it was with Jesus. He went into Gethsemane in the dark; he came out in the light--because he had talked with God. He went into Gethsemane in an agony; he came out with the victory won and with peace in his soul--because he had talked with God.
It makes all the difference in what tone of voice a man says, "Thy will be done."
(i) He may say it in a tone of helpless submission, as one who is in the grip of a power against which it is hopeless to fight. The words may be the death-knell of hope.
(ii) He may say it as one who has been battered into submission. The words may be the admission of complete defeat.
(iii) He may say it as one who has been utterly frustrated and who sees that the dream can never come true: The words may be those of a bleak regret or even of a bitter anger which is all the more bitter because it cannot do anything about it.
(iv) He may say it with the accent of perfect trust. That is how Jesus said it. He was speaking to one who was Father; he was speaking to a God whose everlasting arms were underneath and about him even on the cross. He was submitting, but he was submitting to the love that would never let him go. Life's hardest task is to accept what we cannot understand; but we can do even that if we are sure enough of the love of God.
God, thou art love! I build my faith on that ...
I know thee, who has kept my path, and made
Light for me in the darkness, tempering sorrow
So that it reached me like a solemn joy:
It were too strange that I should doubt thy love.
Jesus spoke like that; and when we can speak like that, we can look up and say in perfect trust, "Thy will be done."
THE TRAITOR'S KISS (Luke 22:47-53)
22:47-53 While Jesus was still speaking--look you--there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He came up to Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, "Judas, is it with a kiss that you would betray the Son of Man?" When those who were around him saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" And one of them struck the servant of the High Priest and cut off his ear. Jesus answered, "Let it come even to this!" Jesus said to the chief priests and the Temple captains, and to the elders who had come to him, "Have you come out with swords and cudgels as against a brigand? When I was daily with you in the Temple you did not lift your hand against me; but this is your hour, and the power of darkness is here."
Judas had found a way to betray Jesus in such a way that the authorities could come upon him when the crowd were not there. He knew that Jesus was in the habit of going at nights to the garden on the hill, and there he led the emissaries of the Sanhedrin. The captain of the Temple, or the Sagan, as he was called, was the official who was responsible for the good order of the Temple; the captains of the Temple here referred to were his lieutenants who were responsible for carrying out the actual arrest of Jesus. When a disciple met a beloved Rabbi, he laid his right hand on the Rabbi's left shoulder and his left hand on the right shoulder and kissed him. It was the kiss of a disciple to a beloved master that Judas used as a sign of betrayal.
There were four different parties involved in this arrest, and their actions and reactions are very significant.
(i) There was Judas the traitor. He was the man who had abandoned God and entered into a league with Satan. It is only when a man has put God out of his life and taken Satan in, that he can sink to selling Christ.
(ii) There were the Jews who had come to arrest Jesus. They were the men who were blind to God. When God incarnate came to this earth, all that they could think of was how to hustle him to a cross. They had so long chosen their own way and shut their ears to the voice of God and their eyes to his guidance that in the end they could not recognise him when he came. It is a terrible thing to be blind and deaf to God. As Mrs. Browning wrote,
"I too have strength--
Strength to behold him and not worship him,
Strength to fall from him and not to cry to him."
God save us from a strength like that!
(iii) There were the disciples. They were the men who for the moment had forgotten God. Their world had fallen in and they were sure the end had come. The last thing they remembered at that moment was God; the only thing they thought of was the terrible situation into which they had come. Two things happen to the man who forgets God and leaves him out of the situation. He becomes utterly terrified and completely disorganized. He loses the power to face life and to cope with it. In the time of trial, life is unlivable without God.
(iv) There was Jesus. And Jesus was the one person in the whole scene who remembered God. The amazing thing about him in the last days was his absolute serenity once Gethsemane was over. In those days, even at his arrest, it was he who seemed to be in control; and even at his trial, it was he who was the judge. The man who walks with God can cope with any situation and look any foe in the eyes, unbowed and unafraid. It is he, and he alone, who can ultimately say,
"In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbow'd.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."
It is only when a man has bowed to God that he can talk and act like a conqueror.
MOCKING AND SCOURGING AND TRIAL (Luke 22:63-71)
22:63-71 The men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him. They blindfolded him and asked him, "Prophesy! Who is it who hit you?" And many another insulting word they spoke to him.
And when it was day, the assembly of the elders of the people came together, the chief priests and the scribes; and they led him away to the Sanhedrin, saying, "Tell us if you are God's anointed one." He said to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe me; if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." They all said, "Are you then the Son of God?" He said to them, "You say that I am." They said, "What further evidence do we need? We ourselves have heard it from his own mouth."
During the night Jesus had been brought before the High Priest. That was a private and unofficial examination. Its purpose was for the authorities to gloat over him and, if possible, to trip him up in cross-examination so that a charge could be formulated against him. After that, he was handed over to the Temple police for safe-keeping, and they played their cruel jests upon him. When the morning came, he was taken before the Sanhedrin.
The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the Jews. In particular it had complete jurisdiction over all religious and theological matters. It was composed of seventy members. Scribes, Rabbis and Pharisees, priests and Sadducees, and elders were all represented on it. It could not meet during the hours of darkness. That is why they held Jesus until the morning before they brought him before it. It could meet only in the Hall of Hewn Stone in the Temple court. The High Priest was its president.
We possess the rules of procedure of the Sanhedrin. Perhaps they are only the ideal which was never fully carried out; but at least they allow us to see what the Jews, at their best, conceived that the Sanhedrin should be and how far their actions fell short of their own ideals in the trial of Jesus. The court sat in a semi-circle, in which every member could see every other member. Facing the court stood the prisoner dressed in mourning dress. Behind him sat the rows of the students and disciples of the Rabbis. They might speak in defence of the prisoner but not against him. Vacancies in the court were probably filled by co-option from these students. All charges must be supported by the evidence of two witnesses independently examined. A member of the court might speak against the prisoner, and then change his mind and speak for him, but not vice-versa. When a verdict was due, each member had to give his individual judgment, beginning at the youngest and going on to the most senior. For acquittal a majority of one was all that was necessary; for condemnation there must be a majority of at least two. Sentence of death could never be carried out on the day on which it was given; a night must elapse so that the court might sleep on it, so that, perchance, their condemnation might turn to mercy. The whole procedure was designed for mercy; and, even from Luke's summary account, it is clear that the Sanhedrin, when it tried Jesus, was far from keeping its own rules and regulations.
It is to be very carefully noted that the charge the Sanhedrin finally produced against Jesus was one of blasphemy. To claim to be the Son of God was an insult to God's majesty and therefore blasphemy, and punishable by death.
It is the tragic fact that when Jesus asked for love he did not even receive simple justice. It is the glorious fact that Jesus, even when he had emerged from a night of malignant questioning, even when he had been mocked and buffeted and scourged, still had utter confidence that he would be set down at the right hand of God and that his triumph was sure. His faith defied the facts. He never for a moment believed that men in the end could defeat the purposes of God.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Barclay, William. "Commentary on Luke 22". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany