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The Rejection of Israel's Messiah - Part I (Luke 22:47-71)

The Arrest

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

Peter’s Denial

54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Mocked and Abused

63 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65 And they said many other insulting things to him.

Condemned by the Sanhedrin

66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” 70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” 71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

Introduction

The arresting party made its way to the place where Judas had assured them Jesus could be found. I have to wonder if some of those who made up this party had “butterflies” in their stomachs. This time, could they pull it off? Could they actually succeed in arresting Jesus? You see, it was the first time something like this had been attempted. One such abortive attempt, which occurred in Jerusalem, was recorded by John in his gospel. It was the during the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2), and Jesus went up to Jerusalem somewhat secretly (v. 10). There was a great deal of controversy surrounding the person of Jesus as the time, but people were fearful to talk about Him because of the Jews (vv. 10-13). Jesus then went to the Temple and began to teach. The subject of Jesus’ death—that is, of those who wanted to put Him to death—was on the lips of many, including our Lord (v. 19). The Jews were seeking to arrest Jesus, and then to put Him to death. This brings us to the events surrounding the failed arrest attempt of the Jews:

30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come … 32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him … 37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “He is the Christ.” Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? 42 Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. 45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. 47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” 53 Then each went to his own home (John 7:30, 32, 37-53).

It is, in some respects, a humorous account. The Jewish religious leaders are angry that Jesus has come to Jerusalem and to the Temple and almost taken over. His teaching and presence has created a sense of expectation, and even a certain amount of tension. They purpose to do away with Jesus, and yet, as John tells us, it was not His time (v. 30). An arresting party was sent out by the Jewish leadership to bring Jesus in. They planed to arrest Him, accuse Him and to put Him to death.

The arresting officers—the temple guards—that had been dispatched to arrest Jesus came back, empty handed. They must have shuffled their feet a great deal when the religious leaders began to fume at their “failure.” Jesus had not eluded them, by some clever escape route or method. They simply could not find it in themselves to arrest Him. To put the matter briefly, they were so impressed with the person of Christ, they could not find it in themselves to do as they had been commanded. Jesus had more authority than the religious leaders. Wow! Were the leaders ever angry when they heard this explanation from the soldiers. The haughty snobbery of these leaders didn’t convince the soldiers either. Did the masses believe in Jesus, though their leaders did not? Maybe the leaders needed to go and hear Jesus for themselves.

The religious leaders were not able to press the matter any further, because it quickly became apparent that they did not hold a unanimous view among themselves. When they met as a council, Nicodemus called his fellow-leaders to account by reminding them that they were condemning Jesus without having heard Him. They brushed aside his rebuke by reminding him that no prophet comes from Galilee (v. 52).99

And so I say, the arresting party which came to lead Jesus away from the Garden of Gethsemane was not the first? Would they succeed? And if so, why? Was it because they were right, because they had truth on their side, because they had so ordered and arranged things that it couldn’t be avoided? Or was it because it was Jesus’ time now and He allowed them to get away with it, in spite of their own blindness and blundering.

Obviously, my view is that it is the latter of these two options. I see the account of the arrest and trials of our Lord as a pathetic, almost humorous, bungling effort, which succeeded only because God purposed for it to succeed, in spite of the failings and wicked motives of men, because it was through these events that the salvation of men would be accomplished by the Savior.

The Structure of our Text

I have chosen to deal with the “religious” side of our Lord’s rejection and condemnation, which thus focuses on verses 47-71 of Luke chapter 22. In chapter 23, we come to the more secular side of the story, where Jesus is brought before Pilate and Herod. The major events of our text are as follows:

(1) The betrayal and arrest of Jesus—(vv. 47-53)

(2) The denial of Jesus by Peter—(vv. 54-62)

(3) The soldiers’ abuse of Jesus—(vv. 63-65)

(4) The condemnation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin—(vv. 66-71)

Luke’s Account and the Rest of the Gospels

Descriptions of the events surrounding the arrest, trials, and crucifixion of the Savior are found in each of the four Gospels. Luke’s account of the betrayal, arrest, denial, and condemnation of Jesus is the most concise. I believe that this is because Luke is aware that other accounts of these events exist, some with much more detail (as John contains, for example). The things which Luke does report are those which he has selected because they contribute to the theme or message which he is trying to convey here. As we look at Luke’s text, I will, from time to time, fill in some details supplied by other Gospel writers.

It should be understood that we cannot piece together all of the details supplied by all of the Gospels and come up with one “complete” story. There are some aspects of the Lord’s arrest, trials, and execution which none of the Gospel accounts chose to record. On the other hand, those details which are supplied may, at times seem to contradict. This is due to our limitations, however, and not to the “failings” of any of the inspired writers, whose words have been divinely directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21).100

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
(22:47-53)

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

At the meal table that evening, while they were celebrating Passover, Jesus had once again told His disciples that He was to be betrayed (22:21-22). In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told His disciples that the betrayer was at hand. Rather than Judas and the arresting party coming upon Jesus and His disciples, still at prayer, Jesus aroused His disciples and went forth to meet them (Matthew 26:46; Mark 14:42). Jesus was not “caught off guard” by their appearance, for He knew all that was going to happen to Him (John 18:4), but they were “shaken” by His response. They obviously expected something very different.

They came in large numbers, with a large number of Roman soldiers (John 18:3), who were heavily armed. They even came with torches, as though they would have to search for Him in hiding. They expected a fight. Jesus did not resist, and He rebuke His disciples for trying to resist. Jesus did not hide from them; indeed, He went to them (cf. John 18:4-8). They found Jesus totally unshaken, totally in control. It was these arresting officers who were shaken up. John’s account informs us that they actually drew back and tripped over themselves when Jesus identified Himself to them (John 18:6).101

Luke does not go into detail concerning the arrest of Jesus, as do some of the other Gospels. Instead, he sticks to a very basic account of the approach of Judas, of the arresting party, and of the attempted resistance of Jesus’ disciples, one of whom (John tells us it was Peter, John 18:10) struck the servant of the high priest (John, again, tells us his name was Malchus, 18:10), severing his right (thanks to Luke’s report) ear.

The focus of Luke’s account is not on what was done to Jesus, but on what was said and done by Jesus. In the final analysis, Jesus rebuked three times and He healed once. In response to Judas’ approach to kiss the Savior, Jesus rebuked him with the words, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” These were serious words to ponder. Words that would haunt him until his death. Words which will likely haunt him throughout all eternity. In response to His disciples’ attempt to resist His arrest, Jesus rebuked His disciples, healing the severed ear of the high priest’s servant at the same time.

Before we can fully grasp the significance of what Jesus said and did here, I think we must pause to reflect a moment on the explosive atmosphere of the moment, and the very real dangers that existed. This incident, which ended up being amazingly peaceful, was not expected to go down that way. The arresting party that came was a large one, a crowd, in fact. They were heavily armed, and they even had torches. If this were to have happened in our day and time, this would have been a swat team, accompanied by the national guard. There would have been helicopters hovering overhead, with searchlights fanning the area, seeking to illuminate the “criminal band,” which they feared might be in hiding in the trees. The soldiers would be armed with automatic weapons. You would have been able to hear the safety latches clicking off on each of them as they approached the place where Jesus was praying.

Now let’s suppose that Peter was not carrying a sword, but a 357 magnum automatic pistol. What do you think would happen if one of those whom you were seeking to arrest began to open fire? I can tell you, with a reasonable measure of confidence. Guns would have been blazing. The casualties would have been great. Peter’s drawing of his sword was the most volatile thing he could have done, which, apart from our Lord’s intervention, would have been devastating to the cause of our Lord. Granted, Peter thought he was helping, but he greatly endangered the eternal plan (from a human point of view).

Apart from the quick action of our Lord, I believe that a blood bath would have occurred. Jesus first took charge of the situation with the words, “No more of this!” This expression has been taken in a number of ways, but I think that Jesus is calling a truce. Both the disciples and the arresting officials heeded the Master’s command. He surely was in charge here, and fortunately so. Jesus healed the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. In the other accounts, Jesus told His disciples that to resist His arrest would have been to resist the eternal purpose of God, which was for the Messiah to die as a sin-bearer. He also reminded them that if He wished to defend Himself, He could have called 12 legions of angels to His side (Matthew 26:53). But the Scriptures must be fulfilled (Matthew 26:54).

Had Peter swung his sword on a Roman soldier, things could have been different, at least for him, for this would have been assaulting an officer (at least in our terminology). Why wasn’t Peter arrested for assault? Well, it surely would have proven somewhat embarrassing for this servant to attempt to prove to a judge that he was, indeed, assaulted by Peter? If his ear were perfectly restored, who would ever believe someone cut it off, and another put it back on him?

I think, however, that there is something even greater here. I believe that the diffusing of this explosive situation, even after Peter had swung his sword, was the direct result of the power and authority which Jesus possessed here. Jesus id portrayed by the Gospels here not only as a person of great composure and dignity, but also as a man of great personal power. When Jesus spoke, men did listen. Just as the power of our Lord caused the soldiers to draw back from Him and to fall on the ground (John 18:6), so His dignity and power here caused the soldiers to “cease fire” at the command of our Lord. Jesus was in charge here, so that when He said, “Enough of this!” everyone stopped dead in their tracks. Jesus’ power was so great that no one even thought about taking Peter into custody, even though he had just assaulted a man with a deadly weapon. Its really amazing when you think of it, isn’t it?

In the first place, then, Jesus rebuked His betrayer, Judas, for betraying Him with a kiss. In the second place, Jesus ordered a “cease fire” and was obeyed, by both His own disciples and by the crowd of armed men who had come to arrest Him. Third, Jesus healed the servant’s ear, so that all damages were corrected.

Finally, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for the way in which they dealt with Him. In verses 52-54, Jesus spoke to the chief priests, the temple guard, and the elders of the Jews, rebuking them for dealing with Him underhandedly and inappropriately, as though He were a criminal, rather than a peaceful, law-abiding citizen. Every day He had been in the Temple. His teaching was in the open and subject to public scrutiny. He had not hidden out, but had taught publicly. Yet they chose not to deal with Him openly, but to secretly capture Him late at night, in the cloak of darkness and deceitfulness (the kiss of Judas, for example). They should be admonished for the way they were dealing with Jesus. The reason that they are able to carry out their plans, wicked though they may be, is that this is, in God’s eternal purpose and plan, “their hour.” It is also the hour when “darkness reigns.” This does not mean, however, that they are somehow frustrating the purposes of God. They are fulfilling them, for God is able to use those things men mean for evil to achieve His good purposes (cf. Genesis 50:20).In Jesus’ rebuke we see that He is, even now, in charge.

Peter’s Denial
(22:54-62)

54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Before we attempt to show what Luke wants us to learn from this account of Peter’s denial of the Lord, let me make a few comments about what we are not told here. I admit, this is one of my “hot” buttons, and I need to let off a little steam before we proceed.

Nowhere in this account do I see either fear or cowardice as being the reason for Peter’s denials, at least so far as the Gospel writers’ words would indicate. We project the response we would have had into the account and thus conclude that Peter was acting as we would. I hear preachers speak of Peter, “warming his hands at the enemy’s fire,” using this as an illustration of the danger of worldliness or wrong associations. I think we have missed the point. If Peter was denying His Lord out of fear, then how do we explain the following facts?

Peter is not portrayed as a fearful man. Peter was certainly willing to stick his neck out when other disciples held back. It was Peter who walked on the water (so he sank), while the rest watched from the safety of the boat. It was Peter who not only promised to stay with His Lord, even unto death, but was the first and only one to draw his sword and use it. In the Garden, Peter was willing to die for His Master. And think of the odds—one man, one sword (two, at best, if someone else had the guts to use it, cf. Luke 22:38), against an entire crowd, armed to the teeth. That doesn’t look like fear to me. From Mark’s account, I believe that the soldiers had every intention of arresting Jesus and all of His followers. The young man in Mark’s account got away only by leaving his clothing behind (Mark 14:50-52). According to John’s account, if the soldiers had not been so overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus, the disciples would not have been dismissed, but this miracle occurred in order to fulfill prophecy (John 18:4-9).102 If the soldiers intended to arrest all of the disciples, then surely they would have wanted Peter the most, for he was the only one, to have drawn his sword and used it.

There was no more dangerous place for Peter to have been than in that courtyard, where the soldiers must have stood by, and where Peter could not only be identified as a disciple of Jesus, but also could be detained. And if Peter were lying, out of fear for his life, all he had to do to “save his own skin” was to leave. The amazing thing is that Peter stayed there in that courtyard, even after he had been spotted, and even after he knew that this young servant girl was not going to give up in getting him arrested. One more thing. The text seems to make it clear that Peter did not realize that he was denying his Master, as Jesus had said he would, until after the third denial. If Peter were acting out of fear, you would have thought that he would have realized what he was doing, and that he would have felt guilty each time he denied the Savior, rather than only after the third time. Had he been aware of what he was doing, I think he would have fled, weeping bitterly, after his first denial.

I do not know why Peter denied His Lord. And none of the Gospels tell us. I should probably stop right here. I admit it. But I will nevertheless press on to say that it could have been out of anger that Peter acted. Peter had been frustrated all along that Jesus had it in His mind to die. Peter tried to talk Him out of it. Jesus could have called down fire from heaven, or 12 legions of angels, but He did not. Jesus’ arrest, Peter knew, was Jesus’ will. Knowing this, and having your own hopes of quick power and glory and prestige dashed, could have made Peter angry at the Lord. Have we not heart someone say to us, “I don’t know you” when they are angry at us?

And then again, it could have been out of misdirected loyalty that Peter denied His Lord. In Peter’s mind, his lies may have been a kind of necessary evil, justified by the good end they were aimed to accomplish. And what would this “good end” be? The release of Jesus. Peter may have staying in that courtyard, not only to find out how things where going, but with the intention of “breaking Jesus out of jail.” Does this sound fantastic? Well so does drawing a sword against a mob. If this were the case, Peter would be warming himself by the fire to learn the whereabouts of Jesus and the plans which the religious leaders had for transporting Jesus elsewhere, as they would.

So much for speculation. My point is that we need to be careful not to accuse Peter of doing as we might, when he was acting for other reasons, reasons which he may have considered commendable, at the moment. Now, back to the story.

Luke’s account of Peter’s denial gives us no explanation for Peter’s presence there in the courtyard of the high priest’s house. Neither does he give us the reason why Peter denied his Lord, when confronted with the fact that he was one of His disciples. Luke simply gives us a straightforward account of Peter’s three denials. Luke’s conclusion to this account is, I believe, the key to why it is included. In verses 60-62, Luke tells us that immediately after Peter’s last denial, Jesus was somehow able to look Peter straight in the eye, at the very time that the cock crowed. It was only then that it struck him, full force, that he had done exactly as Jesus had said earlier that night (cf. Luke 22:31-34). It was then that he went out and wept bitterly.

Jesus is under arrest. He is being interrogated, and even abused. It would seem, at this point, that things are out of His hands. But they are not. Even at this point in time, Jesus is fully in control. After Peter has denied his Lord three times, Jesus is able to “give Peter the eye,” right at the time the cock crowed. Jesus was able to communicate to Peter that those things He had foretold earlier in the evening had taken place, even though this was the “hour when darkness reigned.” Prophecy will be fulfilled. Jesus’ words were prophecy, and they were fulfilled precisely at the time and in the way Jesus said they would be. Once again, we see that Jesus Christ is in control, even when life seems to be unraveling at the seems, at least for Peter.103

Mocked and Abused
(22:63-65)

63 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65 And they said many other insulting things to him.

Both Matthew and Mark record mockings and abuses of our Lord after the Lord’s “trail” before the Sanhedrin. Luke tells us of mockings which occurred before this trail. It is my opinion that the abuse of the Savior by His “guards” occurred all through His trials, up to the time of His death.

But why this very brief account? For the same reason, I believe. Luke is once again informing us that it is Jesus who is “in control.” Think about it for a moment. Law enforcement officials are trained to keep their emotions under control. The ideal policeman remains calm in the execution of his duties. He is not supposed to be goaded by the prisoner, or by the crowd. But look at these men! They have utterly lost control of themselves. And notice that they are not abusing Jesus as though He were a hardened criminal, a violent man who has caused others to suffer, and so He deserves to suffer as well. They are mocking Jesus as a prophet. They want Him to give them some kind of magical display of His powers. In the process, they are fulfilling Jesus’ own words, that a prophet is persecuted, not praised, for his work. Thus, Jesus is here identified with the prophets who have gone before Him to Jerusalem, to be rejected and to die.

Condemned by the Sanhedrin
(22:66-71)

66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” 70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” 71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

The other Gospels give a much fuller account of the “mock trials” of the Sanhedrin.104 We know that there were two “pretrial hearings” late that night, the first in the home of Annas,105 a kind of high priest emeritus, and the second in the home of Caiaphas,106 the high priest and son-in-law of Annas. The scholars also have much to say to us about all of the ways in which these religious leaders, with all of their meticulous rules and demands on others, violate the legal protections and processes assured by their laws. Luke brushes past all of this. He does not record the chaos and ad hoc kind of spirit which dominated these trials. Luke chose rather to focus on the Savior.

The Sanhedrin had come to its wits end. It looked as if this meeting once again (remember John 7) would end up not only with their failing to rid themselves of Jesus, but also in internal discord. They had to resort to another illegal ploy. Could they somehow trick Jesus into bearing witness against Himself? While the law of that day had its own fifth amendment, which prevented the accusers from forcing a man to testify against himself, could they somehow get Him to acknowledge that He was Messiah, and even better, that He was the Son of God? If so, then they could find Him guilty of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death.

Jesus answered their question, not because they had the right to ask it, and not because it would bring about pleasant results, but because His time had come. But first shows us Jesus, the accused, rebuking His accusers. The Savior pointed out that the trial was a sham, and that “justice” was not being administered in this court. If He told them He was the Messiah, they would not believe Him. And if He did give testimony against Himself, they would not allow Him to question (cross examine) them. Thus, He informed them that His answer was not one that was elicited by their trickery.

Yes, Jesus affirmed, He was the Messiah, in spite of their response toward Him. You can almost see the Sanhedrin hush with silence and with anticipation. Did He refer to Himself as the “Son of Man”? This expression, found in Daniel’s prophecy, implied not only humanity, but deity. Could they now press Jesus just a bit further, to admit that He was the Son of God? If so, they had Him. The room must have become absolutely quiet. They all asked with anticipation, “You are the Son of God, then?”

Jesus’ response was not evasive, nor was it indirect, as some tend to take it. Jesus spoke directly, in the idiom of that day. It was a firm “yes,” precisely what they had been looking for. No matter that their trials were a sham. No matter that this man’s rights had been violated. No matter that no witnesses could agree on the charges against Him. No matter that the accused had been beaten beforehand and that a testimony had been drawn from Him. They had the evidence they needed. Now, all they needed was the cooperation of the state, to kill Him.

Conclusion

I want to end with one simple, but overwhelming, point: Jesus was still in charge, even at the time of His arrest, His trials, His abuse, and His denials. Men consistently fail in our text. Not one man is faithful. Not one man understands fully what is going on. No one man stands by the Lord. Virtually everyone has or will soon abandon Him. But He is faithful to His calling. And even in this “hour of darkness” His is in control. His prophecies are coming to pass, even if by sinful men. Jesus is not overtaken by His enemies. Jesus went out to them, and He was taken captive and condemned because He purposed to do so. Men did not even take His life from Him. He gave it up Himself. Jesus was in charge, even in the worst hour of history.

As I have studied this passage, it occurred to me that virtually every section of Luke’s account is the fulfillment of something which Jesus told His disciples earlier in the book. Compare with me, if you would, the history of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, denials, mocking, and condemnation with the prophecies of our Lord, as Luke has recorded them. Note with me how perfectly prophecy is fulfilled.

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.” 54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest.

Peter followed at a distance. 55 But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

63 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65 And they said many other insulting things to him. 66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” 70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” 71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

9:43 While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.”

22:21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.”

37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

13:33 In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

18:32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. 33 On the third day he will rise again.”

17:25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

9:22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

There is a song about the birth of Jesus which goes like this, “Je-sus, Lord at Thy birth.” I agree with that song, but I must also add a line, as it were, to it. “Je-sus, Lord at Thy Death.” There is but one reasons why Jesus died on the cross of Calvary. It is not that men rejected Him. It was not that His mission failed. It was that His hour had come, and He was doing His Father’s will. Jesus was in charge at every point. What an awe-inspiring thought.

There are implications to this. Jesus not only spoke of His own rejection and suffering, but also of that of His disciples, which would include those who believe in Christ today (cf. Luke 21). There are going to be dark times ahead, Jesus warned, times when it would appear that it is the “hour” of the powers of darkness (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:13-16; 2 Timothy 3:12). And so it will be, during the time of the Great Tribulation as well (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8; Revelation 12:7ff.; 20). Even at such dark hours as this, He is in control, and His purposes and prophecies are being fulfilled. Let us not lose heart.


99 Isn’t is interesting to see that when the chips were down, the religious leaders twice found they had to resort to social stratifications and snobbery, rather than to facts, in order to prove their points. In the first case, the leaders rebuked the soldiers for taking the same position the ignorant masses held, rather than the more informed view of their leaders. In the second case, the leaders again revealed their snobbery by reminding Nicodemus that nobody of any importance (certainly not a prophet) comes from Galilee.

100 Some would see the differences in the accounts of the Gospels as to who accused Peter of being a disciple of Jesus as proof of error or sloppiness in recording, but there is a much easier explanation. Morris, for example, poses a very satisfactory explanation for these differences:

“In Matthew the second denial appears to be elicited by a question from a slave girl different from the first one, in Mark by the same slave girl, in Luke by a man and in John by a number of people. A little reflection shows that in such a situation a question once posed is likely to have been taken up by others round the fire.” Leon Morris, The Gospel According to St. Luke (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p. 315.

101 It is a rather humorous scene, and one that is easy to believe, once you grant the divinity and the dignity of the Savior, whose poise and confidence (a dimension of His deity, I suspect) disarmed them. There was a large crowd present. When Jesus and His disciples came up to the arresting party, the rest of the crowd pressed in behind. When those in the first row backed away from Jesus, they tripped over those behind them, and thus a mass of bodies and confusion. How hard it must have been to regain their compose and get on with the arrest. It was a little like the Keystone Cops.

102 Incidentally, it is interesting to note that in John’s account, Peter is not said to have drawn his sword until after the release of the disciples had been secured. Had all the other disciples already begun to escape for their lives?

103 It might be worthwhile to ask, at this point, “What could or should Peter have done, other than what he did do?” One of my friends suggested that Peter should have been praying for the Savior, that He would be obedient to the Father’s will, and that the purposes of God for Him would have been realized. Peter could have been praying for himself, that he would not succumb to temptation. This is possible, although I am inclined to say that now, at this point, there was nothing for Peter to do but fail. Peter had not prayed, when Jesus had told him to do so. The time for taking the right course of action was earlier. Peter (and the others as well) had not done so, and thus they had set themselves up to fail. Jesus had told them this would be the case, so it was also in accordance with God’s purposes and prophecies. My point here is simply to illustrate that there is a kind of “point of no return,” spiritually speaking. There is a time when we can act, so as to prevent our failure under fire. But when that time to take evasive action has passed and we have neglected it, we are destined to fail, and nothing (save divine intervention) at that point in time can save us from ourselves. Some Christians pray and plead for deliverance after it is too late. How grateful we can be for a Savior who prays for us that even when we fail, our faith will not fail.

104 “The Sanhedrin, or Jewish Council at Jerusalem, consisted of seventy members plus the chairman (the high priest), and exercised the supreme authority over the ordinary as well as the religious life of the Jewish people (though at that time in subordination to the Roman authorities).” Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, [Photolithoprinted], 1975), p. 589., fn 3.

Concerning the trials of Jesus, Morris comments: “The details of Jesus’ trial are not easy to piece together, for none of the Gospels gives a full account. But it seems clear that there were two main stages. First, there was a Jewish trial in which the chief priests had Jesus condemned according to Jewish law and then tried to work out how best to get the Romans to execute Him. Then a Roman trial followed in which the Jewish leaders prevailed on Pilate to sentence Jesus to crucifixion. The Jewish trial was itself in two or three stages. During the night there were informal examinations before Annas (as John tells us) and Caiaphas (who had some of the Sanhedrin with him). After daybreak came a formal meeting of the Sanhedrin. This was probably an attempt to legitimate the decisions reached during the night. It was not lawful to conduct a trial on a capital charge at night. It was not even lawful to give the verdict at night after a trial had been held during the day. But the Jewish hierarchy was in a hurry, so they rushed Jesus into an examination immediately after His arrest, night-time though it was. To give this an air of legitimacy they proceeded to hold a daytime meeting in which the essentials of the night meeting were repeated and confirmed. Even so they came short of what was required, for a verdict of condemnation could not be given until the day after the trial (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:1).” Morris, p. 317.

Shepard adds, “The regular place for the meeting of the Sanhedrin was in the Temple, but they led Jesus away to the house of the high-priest Caiaphas, situated in a place just outside the present wall of the city, where all the chief priests and elders and scribes had been summoned to meet. Nor was the legal hour of meeting for trials in the night. Other features in the illegality practiced in the trials of Jesus were: undue haste, seeking or bribing witnesses, neglecting to warn the witnesses solemnly before they should give evidence, forcing the accused to testify against Himself, judicial use of the prisoner’s confession, and failure to release the prisoner when there was failure of agreement between witnesses.” Shepard, p. 575.

105 “They seized Jesus and tied His hands behind Him. He was led away, first to Annas, who had served as high-priest from 6 to 15 A.D., and, through astute politics, had succeeded in securing from the Romans the succession of this office to his five sons, and how his son-in-law Caiaphas, who was the present occupant of the high-priesthood. Annas owned the famous Bazaars of Annas, which ran a monopoly on the sale of animals for the sacrifices and the stalls of the money-changers. It was the vested interests of this monopoly that Jesus had assailed in the first and second cleansing of the Temple.” J. W. Shepard, The Christ of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company [Photolithoprinted, 1971]), p. 573.

106 “Caiaphas, the high priest (18-36 A.D.) and his son-in-law, was thoroughly lined up with Annas in all that he might perpetrate against the hated Nazarene. Weeks ago, he had suggested in a secret session of the Sanhedrin, when plotting the ruin of the ‘pretender-Messiah,’ that it was very convenient that one man die for the people rather than that the whole nation perish.” Shepard, p. 573.

Related Topics: Dispensational / Covenantal Theology, Soteriology (Salvation), Crucifixion