The Last Passover And The Institution Of The Lord's Supper -- Luke 22:1-38
“Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Him; for they feared the people. Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him unto them. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he promised, and sought oportunity to betray Him unto them in the absence of the multitude. Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. And they said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare? And He said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with My disciples? And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. And they went, and found as He had said unto them: and they made ready the passover. And when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. And He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you. But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom He is betrayed! And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them: and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as He that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto Him, Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death. And He said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest Me. And He said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said He unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in Me, And He was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning Me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said unto them, It is enough”- Luke 22:1-38.
We now look at this lengthy section which deals with five distinct events: first, the treachery of Judas; second, the preparation and observance of the passover; third, the Lord’s Supper instituted; fourth, the place which His disciples will occupy in the future kingdom; and last, the Lord’s warning to Peter.
The Passover Lamb was slain on the night the children of Israel were delivered out of Egypt. For the Jews the passover was a memorial of that event, but it was also a type of something that was yet to take place. The day had now come when this was about to be fulfilled. In 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 we read, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” In the Bible leaven is always a symbol of evil, as we have seen. So we are called upon to put away from our lives everything unclean, everything contrary to the Spirit of Christ.
For centuries Israel had kept this feast. Now the Lord Jesus Christ, the real Paschal Lamb, was in their midst and most of the people were utterly unaware of His presence. While He was preparing to keep the feast, the chief priests and scribes were conferring together how they might kill Him, little realizing that He was the antitypical Passover Lamb. “Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.” He was doing only what God had foreseen should be done. The perfidy,of Judas was prophesied centuries before it became a reality. The leaders were plotting to kill Jesus, and Satan took possession of one of His disciples, who offered to betray Him for money. Think of Judas, companying with the Lord and the other disciples for three-and-one-half wonderful years, now communing with the chief priests and captains how he might deliver Him into their hands! There are many today who associate with Christians and take active part in religious services but have never known Christ themselves. Such was Judas. So when the time came Satan found in him a ready instrument to carry out his will. “And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him unto them.” It would seem almost unbelievable were it not for the fact that the same kind of conduct has been repeated many times since. “And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray Him unto them in the absence of the multitude.” Judas imagined that no other eye saw nor ear heard as he plotted with the chief priests; but Jesus, God manifest in Him, knew all about the transaction, as He later revealed.
Then the day came when the passover was to be killed. This involves a perplexing question for some people. We need to remember that the Jews’ day began at sunset, and it was after sunset on the fourteenth of Nisan that the Lord kept the pass-over with His disciples. Before the next sunset, that is, in the afternoon of the day following, our Lord Himself died on the cross. So He kept the Passover on the first evening of the appointed day, and He Himself suffered and died as the true Passover before the next evening. According to the Jews’ reckoning, therefore, both events took place on the one day.
Jesus sent “Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.” And they put the natural question to Him, “Where wilt Thou that we prepare?” He had no home in or about Jerusalem. But in those days it was customary for the Jews to have a special room set apart as a guestchamber where they might entertain travelers, especially at the passover time. Now Jesus knew of one in whose house He would be welcome, and where He could eat the passover with His disciples. So He said, “Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in.” We might think these directions were rather indefinite. He did not tell them the man’s name nor anything else whereby to identify him; how were they to know when they met the right person? Well, you see it was a very unusual thing for a man to be found in the public streets bearing a pitcher of water. Ordinarily it was the women who went to the wells and carried the water, generally in earthen jars upon their heads. This is the common practice still in Oriental lands. So when Jesus said, “There shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water,” He indicated something distinctive. The water-bearer may speak to us of those who with joy draw water from the wells of salvation. “And ye shall say unto the good-man of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with My disciples?” That was all that was necessary. The owner of the house was evidently a believer in the Lord. “And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.” It may be that this was the house in which John Mark lived, and that this large upper room was the same as that to which the disciples resorted after the resurrection of our Lord, and where the early Church held its first prayer-meetings. “And they went, and found as He had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.” They set the table with the roasted lamb, the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, and the Passover wine. Then we read, “And when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.” It was a blessed scene of fellowship, save for one jarring note-the presence of Judas the traitor. “And He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” He had often participated in the pass-over feasts in the years that had gone. It was a picture of His own approaching death, and His love led Him to long to have His own with Him at the paschal table. He knew so well what was ahead of Him. He was the only One in Israel who knew that this passover prefigured His own death on Calvary and the salvation which He was to procure by the shedding of His precious blood. Now He had come to the last passover that God would ever recognize, the last passover of which He Himself would partake before fulfilling all He came to accomplish. He said, “I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” The type was passing away, the antitype was seen to take its place. “And He took the cup, and gave thanks.” This cup has nothing to do with the Lord’s Supper; it concluded the passover. He said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” God had not commanded them to use the fruit of the vine in the passover, but this was a custom that had been practised for many centuries, and the Lord recognized this and accepted it. He Himself did not drink of it, for the fruit of the vine speaks of joy and gladness. He was going to death and sorrow: it was not His hour of gladness; He was to endure the cross before He entered into His joy. Following the passover He established the beautiful .ordinance which has been carried on by the Church of God for nineteen hundred years as a memorial of His death and suffering. “And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me.” He took one of the passover loaves, the flat unleavened cakes, which He brake. Strange that anyone should have ever supposed that what He meant here was that the bread was changed into His own physical body. It was a symbolic act. The bread remained as it was after His thanksgiving, but it now had a special character as a picture of His body about to be given up to death. He said, “This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me.” That is, do this from time to time to call Me to mind. “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you.” The word for “testament” and “covenant” is the same. I prefer the word “covenant” here. This is the cup of blessing (1 Corinthians 10:16) setting forth the new covenant in His blood about to be shed upon the cross for our redemption. As they drank of it they were expressing their fellowship as sinners redeemed to God by His blood. The day of the old covenant was passing away, and He was about to seal the new covenant by the shedding of His blood upon the cross.
The Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20) is a feast of remembrance, which is intended to carry our minds back to the death of our Saviour and also to cause us to look on to His coming again (1 Corinthians 11:26). It consisted, in the beginning, of a very simple meal, called the breaking of bread (Acts 2:46), and seems at first to have been observed daily or whenever a few Christians came together, possibly at the close of every ordinary meal. Later it appears to have been celebrated regularly on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), though there is no hard-and-fast rule as to this. “As oft” as ye do this, seems to leave the question of time and frequency to the love and spiritual sensibilities of the disciples of Christ. In this service of remembrance the bread remains bread, and the fruit of the vine in the cup is unchanged in character, but the representative characters of both are insisted on. When Jesus said, “This is My body,” and, “This… is… My blood,” He sat in the midst of His followers, and His blood was still flowing in His veins and His body manifest among them. It was as if one held a photograph before a friend and said, “This is my mother.” No one would think that the piece of cardboard had been actually changed into the flesh and blood of a woman! But these memorials were designed to bring before us vividly the Person of our adorable Lord, enabling us to call Him to mind with more than ordinary clarity. Because of this, and of the expressed desire of Jesus Christ that we should thus remember Him, it has been the joy of christian hearts down through the centuries to come together around the table of the Lord to think of His sufferings, to meditate upon His love, and to enjoy communion with Him.
In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper we are to be occupied with Christ Himself, with the memories of His love and grace, recalling His sorrows, sufferings, and death, and bearing in mind His promise to come again and receive us unto Himself. It is a mistake to think of this blessed ordinance as a means of grace, in the sense of having to do with the salvation of the soul. It is intended to deepen in the heart of those already saved, the realization of the preciousness of Christ. We come together to remember Him, and as He fills the vision of our souls we feast in spirit upon all that He is and all that He has done.
Following this we have the treachery of Judas. “But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me on the table.” We read, “After the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.” And he went immediately out and it was night-night not only outside but also in his own soul, never to be relieved by one ray of light. Jesus went on to say that the fact that the Son of Man had come into the world to die would not excuse those who deliberately sought to crucify Him. “And truly the Son of Man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom He is betrayed!” Actually, according to John 13:29-30, Judas left the room before the Lord’s Supper was instituted.
In Luke 22:24 we read of a strife among” the disciples as to which of them should be the greatest. The Lord was about to die; He had just given them the communion, a picture of His death, and now these who really loved Him began to quarrel among themselves as to who would have the chief place in the coming kingdom. Pride is so hard to root out. There they were with the shadow of the cross falling over them, striving among themselves as to who should be greatest. He gently rebuked them by indicating that although this ambitious spirit is common among the nations and is to be expected among sinful men, it should not be found among His own. “But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” It was customary for worldly leaders to seek to hold their fellows in subjection, and those who did so were looked up to as benefactors if they seemed to govern righteously. But this lust for place and power is inconsistent for a disciple,of Jesus. Greatness is shown by lowly service. The kingdom of God is the only kingdom ever known to man where the greatest are those who take the humblest place. “For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as He that serveth.” In this attitude Jesus has set the example which all His followers should emulate.
Then our Lord said, “Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me.” When He comes again to reign in glory, those who share His rejection now will participate with Him in His triumph (Revelation 3:21). He refers not to the present age but to that which succeeds this, when His kingdom will be established over all this earth; and in that day those who have been identified with Jesus, His own people, who owned Him when He was mocked and rejected, will have a wonderful place of recognition. The twelve will sit,on thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. “That ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The twelve (Matthias taking Judas’ place, Acts 1:26) are to have a special place in the administration of the coming kingdom in connection with restored Israel. While of the Church, they will rule with Christ over Israel on earth.
The Lord says finally, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” The word translated “desired” is really a stronger term than our English word; it is better rendered “demanded.” Just as Satan went before God and practically demanded to have the opportunity to test Job, accusing him before God, saying that Job loved God only for what God gave him, so Satan demanded to test Peter. But Jesus said, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” You know when we get into the devil’s sieve he can shake us up badly, but all that is left when he is through is chaff: the wheat falls through, and Satan has only the chaff. So do not be afraid of the devil’s sieve; God is able to sustain us. Remember that Jesus has said, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not!” Peter failed sadly. He denied his Lord three times, but his faith was preserved, and we find him turning back to Jesus and able to say, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.” The Lord Jesus said, “And when thou art converted (when you are restored), strengthen thy brethren.” Sometimes the Lord has to allow some of His best servants to fail terribly in order to show them their weakness, and that they may be more tender and sympathetic toward others. Not realizing his own weakness Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death.” But the Lord said, “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest Me.” The Lord knew Peter far better than he knew himself, and He knows you and me better than we know ourselves.
Next our Lord warned His disciples of coming conflicts. He knew what would take place, and He said to them, “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing?”-that is, when He sent them out into the cities of Galilee to give out the message of the gospel of the kingdom. “And they said, Nothing.” Everything had been provided. He said to them, “But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his script: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” He did not mean literally that they should be armed with material swords; but we are taught elsewhere in Scripture that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). When they were ready to leave the upper room they said to Him, “Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said unto them, It is enough”- that is, no more talk about that. He was not speaking about actual defense; He was not interested in weapons. He wanted them to go forth armed with the sword of the Spirit that they might meet the enemies of the truth as they went forth to proclaim the gospel.
The Agony In Gethsemane -- Luke 22:39-53
“And He came out, and went, as He was wont, to the mount of Olives; and His disciples also followed Him. And when He was at the place, He said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when He rose up from prayer, and was come to His disciples, He found them sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. And while He yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss? When they which were about Him saw what would follow, they said unto Him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And He touched his ear, and healed him. Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to Him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against Me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness”- Luke 22:39-53.
Leaving the upper room the Lord went with His eleven disciples across the brook Kedron to the Mount of Olives. It had been His custom, when in Judaea, to retire from time to time to a garden on the slope of this mountain, called, as we are told elsewhere, Gethsemane. To this retreat He pursued His way. Luke does not mention the fact that He left eight of His followers at the entrance but took Peter, James, and John with Him as He passed into the garden. Coming to the place where He was wont to engage in prayer He bade them, “Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast,” going deeper into the shades of the olive-yard, for such it was.
There He fell on His knees and prayed. He was suffering intense perturbation of spirit. The very fact that He was the infinitely Holy One filled Him with deepest grief as He contemplated the full meaning of the cross. He could not have been who and what He was if He could contemplate with equanimity the awfulness of being made sin for a guilty world. His holy human nature shrank from this terrible ordeal. It was not death that He dreaded; but “with strong crying and tears” He prayed to “Him who was able to save Him out of death,” as Hebrews 5:7 should be translated. We are told there that He “was heard in that He feared,” or literally, He “was heard for His piety”; that is, His reverence for God His Father.
In His soul’s distress, He prayed, saying, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done.” What was the cup which He dreaded? I have heard many unworthy things said by those who have endeavored to explain this. Some have maintained that He was in such distress that He feared He might lose His reason and be unable to go on to the cross as a voluntary Substitute for sinners. But they who speak in this way lose sight of the fact that He was not only Man in all perfection, but also God with all power. Satan could do nothing against Him save by divine consent; and nowhere in Scripture is it intimated that the devil might be permitted such an advantage as this over the Christ of God.
Others have taught that He feared the adversary would crush Him to death in the garden, and the plan of God be defeated which involved His hanging upon a tree. But this theory ignores His own declaration, “No man taketh it (His life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power (authority) to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father” (John 10:18). This absolutely contradicts any supposition as to Satan’s ability to destroy Him before His time.
The cup He dreaded was not death as such. It was the cup of judgment which our sins had filled. In Psalms 75:8 we read, “In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and He poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.” This cup of the wrath of God against sin was that from which the Holy Soul of our Saviour shrank. There in the garden He prayed that if there were any other way whereby the sin question might be settled, it should be manifested. There was no opposition to the will of the Father, no conflict of wills. It was rather full acquiescence with the will of God, even though He dreaded the drinking of that chalice of judgment. It was the perfection of His humanity that was manifested in that hour of His spirit’s agony. Luke alone of all the Evangelists tells us that, “There appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” How this emphasizes the reality of His Manhood! He, the Creator of angels, now as Man, derived strength from the ministry of one of these glorious beings.
“Being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” There was great significance in this for Dr. Luke, to whom alone we are indebted for this information. It indicated the severity of the pressure under which our Lord was suffering.
When the ordeal was over He arose in perfect calmness of spirit and came to His disciples, whom He found “sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” For them the supreme test was about to take place, when He would be taken from them and they left bewildered and frightened. Even as He spoke lights were seen, and a mob of soldiers, priests, and civilians approached, led by Judas the traitor, who “drew near unto Jesus to kiss Him.” This was the prearranged signal which would indicate to the officers whom they were to arrest. “Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” Apparently, the wretched traitor made no reply, and the soldiers proceeded to take Jesus into custody. The disciples were aroused by this act and exclaimed, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” One of them-Peter, as we know from other sources-began slashing about with his sword, and cut off the right ear of the servant of the high priest. But Jesus said, “Suffer ye thus far;” and He healed the wounded man. Someone has well remarked, “How busy we keep the Lord putting on ears that we in our mistaken zeal, cut off!”
Addressing the chief priests and other officials, Jesus said, “Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against Me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” It was a home-thrust. They had not dared attempt to arrest Him in the presence of the people, because many of them believed He was a Prophet even if they did not recognize in Him the promised Messiah. But in the dark these cowardly ecclesiastics and their henchmen laid hands on Him as He willingly surrendered Himself to them, and they led Him away for trial as a blasphemer and a sedition-ist. It was a sad manifestation of the incurable evil of the hearts of those outwardly pious priests and religious leaders.
Peter's Failure And Repentance -- Luke 22:54-62
“Then took they Him, and led Him, and brought Him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with Him. And he denied Him, saying, Woman, I know Him not. And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with Him: for he is a Galilean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly”- Luke 22:54-62.
In relating these life-stories it is characteristic of Holy Scripture to give us, not only the evidence of the love and devotion, but also something of the mistakes and sins of the friends of God in the Old Testament, and the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ in the New. The reason is, I believe, that God would have us learn how to avoid their failures as well as to imitate their virtues, and follow them as they followed Christ. We might think that it would have been best to have told us only the good things and to have covered their blunders, but then we would be likely to come to the conclusion that these servants of God and our Lord Jesus Christ in past centuries were quite different from us; that they were men superior to us, and they did not fail as we do. So we get the whole story. Many souls have been warned and helped by the account of Peter’s failure and, thank God, his repentance. The whole life of Peter as we learn it from our Bible is most interesting and instructive: this sturdy fisherman who, from the time he first met the Lord Jesus, lost his heart to Him. His first meeting with Jesus was on that occasion when, as we read in John 1:41, his own brother, Andrew, sought him out and brought him to the Lord after Andrew and John, the author of the fourth Gospel, had spent the afternoon with the Saviour. From that time on Peter’s heart was won for Christ, but he did not immediately leave all for Him; he was not called to do so. Afterward the Lord was preaching on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and the crowd thronged Him. Jesus looked about, and there was Peter’s fishing-boat near the shore; the Lord asked for permission to enter it, and Peter gladly received Him. Jesus told him to thrust out a little from the land; and using Peter’s boat as a pulpit He taught the people. This was easy to do. Anyone who has been there will recall how the land along the shore rises upward, forming an amphitheater. The throng could have stood or sat on the ground and looked at the Lord as He preached the Word. Possibly the message did not really reach the heart of this man Simon; but afterward when the crowd dispersed, Jesus turned to him and said, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught” (Luke 5:4). Peter was surprised at this, for the sun was shining; it was a most unlikely time for fishing, and he said, “Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing.” Now the day was no time for fishing, but Peter said, “At Thy word I will let down the net;” and immediately they enclosed a great multitude of fish. You know the rest of the story. The interesting thing is this: when Peter saw the fish they had caught at that time of day he knew he was in the presence of the Creator,of the fish, and he fell down at the feet of Jesus and said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” And yet he took Him by the feet, as much as to say, “While I know I am not fit for Your company, Lord, You shall not get away from me if I can help it.” The Lord never turns away from a sinner’s confession. He spoke words of encouragement to Peter, assuring him of His confidence in him and saying, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (Luke 5:10). Jesus called Peter into full-time association with Himself; so he left the fishing business to become a fisher of men. Later on Peter made his great confession of faith: “He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? And they said, Some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” Answering for all the disciples, Peter replied with holy enthusiasm, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-17). It is always a divine revelation when one is brought to know the Lord Jesus Christ in the true mystery of His Person. Then the Lord said, “I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock (the rock of this confession) I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). I do not think Peter ever rose to a greater height in his experience while the Lord was with him on earth than at that time. But have you noticed that his backsliding began almost immediately afterward? We need to heed the important warning: “Let him that thinketh he stand-eth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The Lord had just spoken of the wonderful revelation given to Peter and then went on to tell them of His approaching death on the cross, to be followed by His resurrection; and Peter, exalted undoubtedly by the abundance,of the revelation, turned to the Lord and dared to say to Him, “Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee” (Matthew 16:22). He was correcting, or attempting to correct Jesus for saying He was to be delivered to the Gentiles and be crucified. Peter declared that nothing like that should take place. The Lord immediately turned to him and said, “Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offence unto Me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:23). What a rebuke to be given to the prince of the apostles, and that so soon after he had made his great confession! Evidently he had become exalted by spiritual pride, and Satan led him to say that which, if acted upon, would mean that we would have been left without a Saviour and our sins unatoned for. It was only by going to the cross that the propitiation for sin could be made.
We do not read much concerning the experiences of Peter after that, but we do know that he never reached such a high spiritual point again. On the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus was speaking with Moses and Elias of His decease which He would accomplish at Jerusalem, Peter felt he must say something-though he knew not what to say- and so he blurted out, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him” (Matthew 17:4-5). As much as to say, “Peter, do not put anybody on the level with My Son; He must have the pre-eminence in all things.”
Scripture passes over the rest of Peter’s history until the night of our Lord’s betrayal. Then we see him with the rest of the disciples in the upper room. The Lord said, “All ye shall be offended because of Me this night: for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad” (Matthew 26:31). Self-confident, yet loving the Lord and meaning every word, but failing to realize his own weakness, Peter said, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I” (Mark 14:29). “I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death” (Luke 22:33). He was to go both to prison and to death in after years for Christ’s sake, but he was not ready at this time. The Lord said to him, “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest Me.” And He who knew Peter so well, also said, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
They went out to the garden of sorrow; and there Peter failed with the others: for the Lord took Peter, James, and John into the garden with Him. Ere He went a little farther to talk with His Father, He said to the three, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). And He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). And when He rose from His knees He found the three disciples sleeping for sorrow; it was the weakness of the flesh. Peter was asleep when he should have been alert, watching and praying. The Lord aroused them from their sleep and again bade them watch and pray; and He went away the second time, praying the same words, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” When He came the third time and found that Peter was still asleep, He said, “Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45). Then came Judas and the rest, and Judas said, “Hail, Master; and kissed Him.” They came and took Jesus, and Peter became enraged. He was alert now, and he turned and drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest. The Lord said, “Put up thy sword,” and He healed the man. This was the energy of the flesh on Peter’s part. He, who before had been asleep when he should have been alert, was now roused up and active when he should have been passive and quiescent. They took Jesus away, and we are told that “Peter followed afar off.” This was a further evidence of his backslidden condition: instead of keeping close to Jesus and letting all see that he was identified with Him, he fell behind; his love would not let him leave entirely. Finally he reached the high priest’s house. There in the court a fire was burning, for it was a cold night; and Peter went in and sat with others around the fire. Again we see him drifting: in company with the ungodly while his Lord was on trial. “A certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied Him, saying, Woman, I know Him not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with Him: for he is a Galilean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest.” The more he opened his mouth the more he got into trouble. The Galileans had their own peculiar accent, so that the Judeans recognized Peter immediately as one from the northern province. His speech betrayed him. Evidently because he was overcome with fear, Peter began to curse and to swear, saying, “I know not the Man.” “And immediately the cock crew.” The Saviour’s words came back to Peter as Jesus looked upon him. Peter had gone down, down, down, until he had denied all knowledge of Christ. But now, oh, how he wept as Jesus gazed sadly and reproachfully upon him! That was the beginning of the work of restoration. Repentance had commenced. If we follow the record we find that the Lord had a private interview with Peter after the resurrection. We are told that the women who arrived at the tomb early on the resurrection morning were instructed to “Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:7). I am sure Peter must have been greatly distressed during those three days and nights; he felt that he had lost all contact with Jesus. But the risen Lord acknowledged him as a disciple still. When the two Emmaus disciples returned to the Eleven, they said, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon” (Luke 24:34). Undoubtedly Peter was fully restored at the time of the Lord’s private interview with him. His public restoration took place on the shores of Galilee shortly after, on that morning when the Saviour cooked Peter’s breakfast and served him and his fellow-disciples after they had toiled all night and again had caught nothing. Three times the Lord put the question to Peter: “Lovest thou Me?” Peter was grieved that Jesus asked him this question three times, but he had denied his Lord three times. Having restored him, the Lord said to Peter, “Feed My lambs… feed My sheep.”
Oh, the infinite grace of our blessed Lord! We have failed Him, but He never has failed us. I can call upon all who believe and trust in Him to bear witness. God grant that as we face the difficulties of the coming days we will lean more completely upon Him; that we will faithfully acknowledge Christ, our blessed, risen Lord. Let us be careful not to trust in our own strength, but distrusting ourselves to rely wholly on Him, that we may ever be true to the trust committed to us!
Jesus Before The Priests -- Luke 22:63-71
“And the men that held Jesus mocked Him, and smote Him. And when they had blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face, and asked Him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote Thee? And many other things blasphemously spake they against Him. And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led Him into their council, saying, Art Thou the Christ? tell us. And He said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe: and if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let Me go. Hereafter shall the Son of Man sit on the right hand of the power of God. Then said they all, Art Thou then the Son of God? And He said unto them, Ye say that I am. And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of His own mouth”- Luke 22:63-71.
We have considered the agony in Gethsemane and the arrest of our blessed Lord when He was taken to the high priest’s house in the middle of the night. Then we noticed the failure, the denial of the apostle Peter; and as we looked a little farther on in the record we saw how graciously he was restored. Now we come back to the house of the high priest. It was directly contrary to Jewish law to conduct a trial in Jerusalem in the night-time, but all this was forgotten when the hatred of His enemies stirred their hearts to seek the condemnation and destruction of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we consider this portion we find several things emphasized. One is this: in order to be saved it is not enough that a person be religious. I suppose these priests were as religious as anyone in all Israel at this particular time. They were the religious leaders of the people; they believed firmly in the revelation that Jehovah had given of Himself as the one true and living God. Some have the idea that if one believes in one God nothing more is required; but we remember the apostle James (James 2:19) has said, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the demons also believe, and shudder” (literal rendering). Demons recognize the truth of the unity of the Godhead, and they know that some day they are going to be called to judgment before Him; so they shudder at the very mention of His name. Mere faith, mere recognition rather, of the fact that there is one God does not save anyone. A man might turn from the worst kind of heathenism, fetishism, or any other form of paganism, and accept the idea that there is only one God and henceforth profess to serve Him, and yet not be saved at all. These priests believed in one God, but they were not saved. More than that, they believed in the inspiration of the Bible; they accepted the sacred writings as divinely given, and they believed in the prophetic character of those writings. They knew the Scriptures foretold the coming of the Messiah into the world. For centuries their forefathers had been studying the writings of the prophets; and they, themselves, had been looking forward to the coming of this Just One. Yet when the Lord Jesus Christ actually came in fulfilment of all that was written aforehand, they did not recognize Him. They refused to accept Him; they spurned Him, and turned Him over to Pilate that He might be crucified. There is something here that you and I may well take to heart. Many profess to accept the Bible as a revelation from heaven, at least to recognize the fact that God has spoken in it to mankind as in no other book. In that respect they are orthodox. But remember, one may believe all this and yet not know God’s salvation. It is not enough to know the Scriptures in order to be saved. Years ago when I first visited the Jerry McAuley Mission in New York, I sat through a very interesting service, and at the conclusion a man pointed to an old Scotsman over in one corner of the room, and he said to me, “That is Old Chapter-and-Verse.” I inquired what he meant by that. He replied, “Well, that is the name we have given him-Old Chapter-and-Verse. He is an alcohol addict; we never have known him to be sober. Yet every night he is at the meeting. He sleeps through most of it, but let anyone get up to give a testimony and misquote a scripture and Old Chapter-and-Verse wakes up at once. He has such a knowledge of the Bible from his Scotch bringing-up that it stirs him when he hears anyone misquote Scripture. The other night somebody got up and quoted that passage in Matthew 11:28 according to the old English prayer-book rendering, rather than from the Authorized Version: ‘Come unto Me, all ye that are weary.’
Old Chapter-and-Verse jumped up at once and said, ‘Haud on noo. Dinna ye be handlin’ the Word o’ God deceitfully. It does na’ say, ‘All ye that are weary,’ it says, ‘All ye that labor and are heavy laden;’ then he dropped back to go to sleep until somebody else misquoted another scripture.” Poor old man! He had a head full of Bible and a heart full,of sin. The Bible says no drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God. This man knew the Bible but not the Saviour of whom it speaks.
These priests knew their Bibles, and yet they rejected the Christ of the Bible. They knew the Bible so well that some thirty years before, when Herod had heard of the birth of the King and inquired where Christ should be born, the scribes and chief priests turned at once to the prophecy, and answered, “In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet. ‘And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people Israel’” (Matthew 2:6). They knew exactly where Messiah was to be born, and yet they did not receive Him for themselves. As He grew up to Manhood and went about ministering the Word among His own people, they actually fulfilled their own Scripture by condemning Him. So it is not enough to be acquainted with Scripture. One needs to open his heart to Christ and receive Him as his personal Saviour: for the Bible says, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The men who took Jesus mocked Him and smote Him. I suppose these were the riff-raff, the reckless mob. They realized their religious leaders were against Christ, so they turned against Him too. “And when they had blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face, and asked Him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote Thee?” Our blessed, adorable Lord, who was led as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before the shearers was dumb, answered not a word. “And many other things blasphemously spake they against Him.”
As the first light appeared upon the horizon, the leaders, chief priests, and scribes came together and led Him into their council. This was the supreme council in Israel which was made up of seventy of their most noted elders. They were there to judge the Lord Jesus Christ; and we are told in another Gospel that they brought a great many false witnesses to testify against Him-men who declared they had heard Him say certain things which they pieced together with other sayings which they tried to prove He had said, but which He never had said at all. In this way they endeavored to convict Him of blasphemy. They asked Him, “Art Thou the Christ?” The Lord Jesus answered, “If I tell you, ye will not believe: and if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let me go.” That is, if He were to assert Himself and say, “I am the Messiah,” giving Scripture to show how the Word of God had been fulfilled in Him, they would not believe. He knew their hearts were set upon rejecting Him. There was no evidence of repentance, and there was no sense of their need of a Saviour. That is why men and women are lost today: they reject Christ; they imagine they can get along without Him; they have no realization of the innate deceitfulness of their hearts. I have known many persons who objected to the truth of the gospel, claiming they could not believe it; until at last, broken down under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God, they realized their lost condition and the sinfulness of their lives, and found that only Jesus could meet their need. They had no difficulty trusting Him then; for they saw, as John Hambleton, the converted actor, used to put it, that “Jesus Exactly Suits Us Sinners.”
The Lord Jesus Christ never attempted to answer these objectors, because He knew they had no desire to understand the truth. He said on one occasion, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself” (John 7:17). But these people had no desire to make such a test; they were not ready to face things honestly in the presence of God.
Jesus went on to make a marvelous declaration. He told them that though they spurned Him then, “Hereafter shall the Son of Man sit on the right hand of the power of God.” To them this was the very height of blasphemy; it amounted to nothing less than a claim to actual Deity. They continued the examination by inquiring-though not with any desire to know the truth-“Art Thou then the Son of God?” Doubtless they remembered what was written by Daniel the Prophet, of one like the Son of Man who came to the Ancient of Days to receive power, and glory, and a kingdom. Did Jesus mean that this prophecy referred to Himself? Was He the Son of the Highest? He answered, “Ye say that I am.” That is, they had spoken the truth in using that title when referring to Him. He was indeed the Son of God. They were full of indignation and cried, “What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of His own mouth.” So they put Him down as guilty of blasphemy. And they were right if, as many claim today, He were only a man, even though the best and greatest of humankind; because for any mere man to claim what Jesus claimed for Himself would rightly prove Him to be either self-deceived or a blasphemer. But the Word reveals,our blessed Lord to be God the Eternal Son who came down to this world, taking humanity into union with Deity, in order that He might go to the cross to give His life a ransom for sinful men.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Luke 22". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany