Study 28-Luke 22: 47 – 23: 25
The arrest and trials of Jesus.
The story now moves steadily towards the death of Jesus. It is told with remarkable economy and simplicity in all four gospels. Not even the failure of the leading apostle and founder of the early church is left out.
Read Luke 22: 47 – 53.
Question 1: Would you be thinking more or less of the eleven now if they had NOT tried to defend Jesus with their two swords (22: 38, 49 ) probably against an overwhelming force? Why?
Their reaction to the approach of the crowd, which Mark describes as ‘armed with swords and clubs’, is an entirely natural one. It shows that they were not cowards. It also shows that they had not taken all of Jesus’ message really into their hearts and minds. Few of us have. Presumably the clash of one or two swords could easily have led to a more general skirmish in which Jesus could have been killed. But in the purposes of God his Son had to be tried, falsely accused, condemned and judicially killed. Without the legal decision of “guilty” Jesus would not have been dying for our sins. The universal responsibility of everybody for his death, symbolised by those directly involved, would not have been incurred. A great many prophecies, such as hanging on a tree (Deut 21: 23), would not have been fulfilled.
Read Luke 22:54–62.
Question 2: Peter lied - and lived to do much good work for his Lord. Was he justified in doing so? Should we do the same under certain circumstances? What circumstances? Is a life more important than the truth? When, and when not? In a way it is impossible to answer this question. We do not know, and neither did Peter, what would have happened if he had not lied. A life is more important in many ways than telling the truth yet the truth or the lie will define the life for ever. In the history of the church many, many people have refused to deny Christ and died. Let’s hope we never have to answer this question for real. Hebrews 6: 4 – 6 could be taken as a comment on what Judas did. Question 3: In the light of those verses what was the essential difference between the actions of Judas and Peter? What warning should we take from this? And what encouragement?
The action of Judas was taken completely deliberately; Peter stumbled unwillingly into his denials. So many of our sins occur when we too stumble unwillingly into error. It is a great relief for us that Peter was not cast away from his position but lived to do so much good and die for his Lord in due course, about 30 years later, in Rome.
Read Luke 22:63–23:25.
There seem to have been many meetings that night in the effort to find grounds to condemn Jesus. Luke only records a ‘trial’ at daybreak (22: 66); Mark records one in the early part of the night; Matthew and John add further details. Luke was writing to Theophilus, a senior Roman citizen, and that probably affected which episodes he was most interested in.
Question 4: In that case what things in the trials is he most likely to have wanted to concentrate on? It was important to him to try and show the Romans in as good a light as possible. Pilate had a very bad reputation in the Roman world anyway so he was not concerned with putting him in a good light. But he did want to show that there was a fair trial and that Jesus was condemned partly as a result of Jewish agitation and partly for Roman political reasons. His main concern was to establish who Jesus really was. So we have 3 titles in these verses: Messiah (or Christ, or Expected and Anointed One) (22: 67; 23: 2), Son of Man (22: 68) and Son of God (22: 70)
Question 5: When Peter looked back at these events he was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 2: 22 – 36). What made him so sure? If the council had accepted that Jesus was the Messiah what would that have meant for them? What actions would it have committed them to take?
Peter remembered the resurrection above all. That was the ultimate proof that Jesus was who he said he was. If the council had recognised Jesus as the sort of Messiah they expected they would have been in immediate revolt against Rome. They thought they would have had to take up arms and tackle the Roman army, which no one could do successfully.
Read Daniel 7:7, 13, 14, 17 – 28 again. How would the council have understood what Jesus said in 22: 69? How would the Roman authorities have understood his claim if they had known the background? A previous Caesar, Augustus, was the (adopted) son of Julius Caesar. After Julius was killed he was venerated as a god, which made Augustus a “son of god”! What would the idea that Jesus was the Son of God have meant to the council? What implications would it have had for the Roman authorities?
The crowd of 23: 13 must, in part at least, have been the same one we read about in 19: 37, 39. How can you account for such a major turn around? What should this caution us against? Who was most responsible for the condemnation of Jesus: the crowd, the Jewish leaders, the Roman authorities, or Jesus (Jn 10: 17, 18!)? Were we also responsible as those needing redemption?
Another obvious question we can ask ourselves, but never really answer until it happens, is: the trial exposed the forces, commitments and loyalties of all those involved: the council members, Pilate, the crowd and Jesus. Faced with similarly difficult choices how will we react? Will we cling to our securities and dreams and avoid moving out of our comfort zones, or will we ‘take up our cross’ and follow him?
It would have mattered a great deal as without the legal decision of “guilty” Jesus would not have been dying for our sins. The universal responsibility of everybody for his death, symbolised by those directly involved, would not have been incurred. A great many prophecies, such as hanging on a tree (Deut 21: 23), would not have been fulfilled. Of course, it could never have happened that way anyway (Jn 7: 30).
5) The action of Judas was taken completely deliberately; Peter stumbled unwillingly into his denials. 7) The Resurrection. 9) Angels, Israel as a people, and the king of Israel (Ps 89: 26, 27) are called sons of God in the OT. The last of these is the meaning implied here. The council would have understood him to be saying that he was the King of Israel (see 23: 2). The Romans would have thought him to be claiming to be one of the many gods of those days and probably would not have been too concerned by that.
10) As Messiah he was the representative Israelite and is now the representative Christian (Rom 5: 15 – 17). We are in Christ (the Messiah). As Son of Man he is a human being standing in our place (Heb 2: 17 – 18). As Son of God he is the Saviour who, being God, is able to die for us all (Heb 1: 3; 2: 9). 12) This has been much argued about through the centuries. The best answer is probably all of them, and us.