Dr Luke gives the purpose of his Gospel this way, "1 Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:3-4, KJV)
As such, Luke did not pull together another set of doings and sayings of the Lord's time with us on Earth. Rather, he researched the acts and sayings of the Savior and delivered to Theophilus a completed research document upon which future generations could trust and teach
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Introduction to the Study (Luke 1-9)
Welcome to the study of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as told by the beloved physician, Doctor Luke. The Gospels are certainly the most loved of all the Scriptures because their subject is the Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. The Hebrew writings will promise Him as the Messiah of God, while the Greek writings tell of Him as the Christ. The four Gospels together provide a combined history and correlation of facts concerning the most important life ever lived. The crux of that importance to us is easy to explain through John’s words in 1 John 2:6, “Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked” (ESV). Or even more simply, if you say you follow Jesus, you ought to walk like He walked. The Gospels answer the question forced by those comments, i.e., “If I am to walk like Jesus walked; how did Jesus walk?” The Gospels particularly describe how Jesus walked.
The Gospel according to Dr. Luke takes a unique perspective in that the writer in neither an Apostle nor a Jew. Rather, Luke was the physician for Paul and his disciple for Christ. Like Luke. Mark was not a Jew, either and was the disciple of that great fisherman, Simon Peter. For Luke, we find the writings to be directed more to the Hellenistic Greeks than the Hebrew society. Their language and their customs were certainly different from those of the Jews.
Introduction to the Study (Luke 1-9, Cont.)
Luke says the intended recipient of the Gospel was a roman nobleman named Theophilus. Not much is known of this man. The name means “friend of God” and Luke refers to him as honorable. Luke’s Gospel is the first volume of a two-volume set. The second volume is the Acts of the Apostles.
The Acts was completed before the death of Paul in 67 AD which forces an earlier date for the completion of the Gospel. Most scholars assign the year 64 AD to Acts and 62-63 AD to the Gospel. Luke’s preface to his Gospel indicates that he had no intension of merely writing down what he or someone else had heard or seen. He had experience with sound research techniques and planned to use them to develop a trustworthy presentation of the facts. He said, “It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” (Luke 1:3-4). So, Luke was not delivering another version of things people saw or heard, he was delivering a fully researched textbook that might form the basis of teaching others for centuries to come. Luke is indeed a widely respected document showing the life and works of our Savior, Jesus, the Christ.
Jesus as Son of God & Son of Man: Jesus is the second member of the God Head. For Him to fulfill Scripture and accomplish His mission on Earth, He would have to be 100% Divine and 100% human at the same time. The key to understanding which 100% is being discussed in Luke's writing is to look at the words Son of God and Son of Man. If addressed as the former, Jesus is 100% Divine. If described as the latter, He is 100% human. He could never stop being both, yet certain behaviors required He act through one or the other.
Proof of the Messiah: It was necessary for Jesus to do many miracles because the Scriptures prophesied such. He had to heal lepers', make the blind see and the dumb to speak and the lame to walk. Luke tells of many of Jesus' miracles in these nine chapters. Each give testimony of Jesus' identity as God's Messiah.
Preparation for the Future: Jesus demonstrated from the beginning of His ministry that He was very aware of the short duration of His ministry on Earth. He selected those who would follow Him and be capable of conducting the Earthly part of His ministry for Him.
The Kingdom of God: Luke did not include as many Kingdom parable as Matthew, nevertheless, he called attention to many passages where Jesus preached about the Kingdom (4:43 &8:1). Other places, He was careful to send His disciples to teach about the Kingdom of God (9:11). And Luke made reference to how the experience of the Kingdom of God was found simply in His presence (10:9-11).
The availability of the Kingdom for Believers from all Peoples: Luke was serious about detailing Jesus' teaching on the availability of the Kingdom of God of the entire human race; not just the Jewish race. Membership in the Kingdom came through repentance from sin and belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah of God (9:52, 10:33 & 17:16).
The Future Judgment & the Urgency of Commitment: Because God's judgment was both promised and near for each person, the certainty of that judgment was a frequent sermon topic. Knowledge that the same Jesus who walked, talked and served in their presence was required to point to the urgency of make confession of belief, repentance and discipleship. Those not will to make such commitments will not be found in the Kingdom of God (9:62).
Understand the Context (Luke 10:1-13:21)
This segment of study marks Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem and the many people He meets along the way. In Chapter 9, Jesus sent out His 12 apostles, 2 by 2 into the mission field. He provided instructions for everything they would need for that trip and forbade things that they would not need. In Chapter 10, Jesus sends out the 70 disciples 2 by 2. The King James Version mentions the sending out of 70 disciples and most other versions agree. The English Standard Version, New American Standard Version and the New Living Translation are three of those stating Jesus sent out 72 this time. The ancient New Testament scrolls are split on which number is correct. I will go with the KJV unless conflicting information is decisive. Note also that the number of scholars hired to translate the 1611 KJV was also called “The Seventy.” A significant difference between sending the 12 and sending of the 70 was the absence of the restriction to go only to the Jews. Second difference is that the 70 were instructed to prepare prospects for the arrival of Jesus.
Jesus continued to warn the Apostles that He would face persecution, arrest, torture, death and resurrection awaiting Him in Jerusalem. The behavior of the Apostles during the trials and at the cross showed they did not accept the warnings of death or resurrection of the Lord. Nevertheless, Jesus continued to reach out to all unbelieving Jews to prepare them for their coming judgement.
Understand the Context (Luke 10:1-13:21, Cont.)
A major area of Jesus’ teachings had to do with setting aside religion based on ancient rituals to focus anew on the teachings of the Messiah and His disciples. The tired rituals could be replaced by actual relationships with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day enjoyed a wide breadth of privilege from nearly every segment of society including those of the occupying forces while they allowed severe persecution of their Jewish brethren. It seems that truly godly leaders would turn that privilege around to first offer it to their people while suffering the results of their people’s persecution for them. In other words, it seems the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ time had the service equation turned completely around. Jesus had a way of showing the hypocrisy of these leaders by parading their “showing of religion” while true believers unceremoniously displayed their “doing of religion” through acts of generosity toward and sacrifice for those they served.
The Exchange (Luke 10:25-29)
The very well-known story of the Good Samaritan is Jesus’ example of being a neighbor and loving a neighbor as yourself is very. Nevertheless, it is only told in the Gospel of Luke. It begins at verse 25 with a lawyer (probably a Scribe, Pharisee or Sadducee) tempting Jesus to tell him what he must do to achieve eternal life. Jesus turns the question around on him by asking what the lawyer thought the Scriptures taught. The lawyer responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 saying, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” and Leviticus 19:18 saying, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”
Jesus recognized the lawyer was quoting the Scriptures and said, you have answered correctly. He added, “This do, and thou shalt live” (vs. 28). But this was not the intent of the lawyer. He was not there to compare knowledge of the Scriptures with the Master, rather, he was there to challenge the Master and have Him say something that might result in charges of blasphemy. So, the lawyer continued, “Who is my neighbor?”
Of course, these two small pieces of the Law are no less impossible to live fully than any other parts of it. No one can love God this thoroughly nor can any person love his neighbor as himself. But the intent of the Law is to guide our steps with lofty goals so that we will gain strength by continuously trying to reach that level of commitment to God and others. So, the lawyer, trying to make points with those watching, asks, “And who is my neighbor?”
The Story (Luke 10:30-32)
Both Jesus and the lawyer knew that a straight-forward analysis of the Old Testament verse referred to a specific scenario in the promised land where the person living next door would be of the same tribe of Israel, and therefore, a brother or a child of one of Jacob’s sons. But that was not the teaching the Lord was interested in; He wanted the wider interpretation of how to treat all people, not only those of near relationships. So, Jesus initiates a parable concerning a certain man who is not identified by race, religion or status. He was simply a man walking down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jesus has already departed from the idea of how one would treat a Jewish brother to one of how we should treat any person we encounter. The man is attacked by thieves, robbed of his clothes, beat without mercy and left in the road, half dead and expecting death.
But then a priest happens by. He notices the man but walks to the other side of the road as not to chance a touch of the man, leaving him ceremoniously unclean and incapable of serving as a priest until he could go through the ceremonies to render oneself clean again (Lev 7:21). So, the priest decides he cannot chance the perception of being unclean and passes by on the other side of the road. But then a Levite happens by. He is one charged with responsibility for the Temple and the readiness of its furnishings for use in service of the people. He sees the beaten and robbed man and goes to look at him, but alas, makes the same decision that the risk is too high and passes by.
But the third man happening by was a Samaritan. It is significant that this man was a Samaritan because the Jews and Samaritans had little respect for one another. Hundreds of years before (722 BC), the Assyrians defeated the Northern areas of Israel called Galilee and Samaria. Their way of dominating a defeated foe was to take all the able-bodied or intelligent men to another place and replace them with foreigners from other defeated nations. As time went by, the women of Samaria had to marry with these foreigners or have no husbands at all. Their offspring were called half-breeds by the Jews of Judea. They were considered heathen and unworthy of worshiping or even establishing relationships with the Jews of Judea.
The Story (Luke 10:33-35)
But the third man happening by was a Samaritan. It is significant that this man was a Samaritan because the Jews and Samaritans had little respect for one another. Hundreds of years before (722 BC), the Assyrians defeated the Northern areas of Israel called Galilee and Samaria. Their way of dominating a defeated foe was to take all the able-bodied or intelligent men to another place and replace them with foreigners from other defeated nations. As time went by, the women of Samaria had to marry with these foreigners or have no husbands at all. Their offspring were called half-breeds by the Jews of Judea. They were considered heathen and unworthy of worshiping or even establishing relationships with the Jews of Judea.
The Samaritan had no concern for remaining clean for service in the Temple. He went to where the man was to evaluate the situation and felt compassion or sorrow for the man. He rendered first-aid and cleaned up his wounds, even using some oil and wine to clean them. He got the man up and put him on his own animal to transport him to an inn where he could get more treatment and a safe place to recover. He personally took care of him for the rest of that day and left more than two full days’ wages with the Inn Keeper to care for the man until he could return on his next trip. The Samaritan also left an open account with the Host to pay for any other needs the man might have and pledged to repay when he returned.
So, the Samaritan’s commitment for this man, who seems to have been previously unknown to him, far exceeded what most of us would do. But it also exceeded what the priest and the Levite did. Both of them were likely “churchmen.” They had responsibility for at least parts of the religious service being conducted within the Jewish Temple. The Samaritan sets an example for the pious pair who denied the wounded man even a cup of water or a blanket. They claimed to be holy but acted like heathen while the Samaritan was treated like a heathen but acted like a saint.
The Challenge (Luke 10:36-37)
Now, Jesus asks the arrogant legalist seeking a way to exploit His words for religious gain, which of these three men do you think acted like you would expect a person to act given Moses’ exhortation that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves? Was it the priest who saw the wounded man and went around him by the most distant part of the road? Or was it the Levite who went over to look at the wounded man but decided he had better pass by the other side of the road? Or was it the Samaritan, hated by all who are called Jews, who not only went to look at the wounded man, but cleaned his wounds and used oil and wine to sooth them. The one who loaded the man on his own beast and took him to an inn where he could recuperate and relax until he returned to pay whatever excess charges remained.
The lawyer knew the others were read in on the discussion. They had heard Jesus’ description of what went on that day, and each of them already knew the answer the lawyer must give. So, the lawyer made the only choice he could. He said, “He that shewed mercy on him was the one who acted most like the neighbor described by Moses when he said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Jesus and the lawyer knew the right answer had been selected. The lawyer seeking to justify himself was denied. He intended to make an open show of the Lord, but instead, he provided the entertainment that afternoon. And those gathered there to watch the lawyer make a fool out of Jesus became the fools themselves. They sought to beat the Master but had to accept the beating. And the Jews who had been looking down on the half breeds of Samaria learned that even the least religious among them was capable of being more of a neighbor than any of them could ever hope to be.
Understand the Context (Luke 13:22-16:31)
This week’s study follows up on last week’s study with Jesus continuing His final trip to Jerusalem to “suffer many things and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22, KJV). Even Peter, who was the first to tell Jesus he knew that he was “the Christ of God,” rejected the idea that Jesus should go to Jerusalem to die (Luke 9:20, Matt 16:21-22). Nevertheless, Jesus pressed on toward Jerusalem via the short route through Samaria, rather than the typical Jewish route around Samaria on the eastern side of Jordan. Jesus noted the desire for many to follow Him for the joy of the Kingdom, but few were willing to make the commitment to allow Him to change their lives and serve His cause.
Jesus expressed this dichotomy with three parables: The Parable of the Late Guests (13:24-30), the Parable of the Banquet Excuses (14:15-24) and the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-24). The Parable of the Late Guests, Jesus describes how many will try to enter by the straight gate after the master of the house had locked the door. They will protest by listing all the works they did to merit entrance, but the Master will say, “I know you not, depart from me” (13:27). The parable says simply, enter the gate while the gate open and bring your relationship to the Master as credentials, not the works you have done.
The Parable of the Banquet Excuses speaks of a man who prepared a great banquet for his friends but when the time came for them to join him, they made excuses for why they could not come at the appointed time. The Lord told his servants to invite others to come and finally, “the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (14:23-24). Jesus is simply saying come when the Master calls, for responding at your convenience is unacceptable to the Lord. Jesus is saying that those who are His ought to respond when called and not in their own timing.
I have included some bonus material on the last of these three stories, “The Rich Man and Lazarus” below because this story has unique features which lead many scholars to say it is not a parable, but an actual example.
In the background of Jesus’ preaching and teaching is the full knowledge that He is marching toward an appointment with the Father’s destiny for Him. He often warned the Apostles of His approaching appointment to be charged, arrested, brutally treated, killed, buried and raised, but while they heard the words, the Apostles never understood the reality of Jesus’ mission to suffer and die to neutralize the sin debt for all who would believe.
Forgiveness Granted (Luke 15:20-24)
Jesus tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the passage under study for this week. Recall that the second son of a father came requesting his inheritance before the appointed time at the father’s death. The father gave him the money but “not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living” (Luke 15:13). He ended up not only humiliating himself by being a Jew feeding a herd of swine, but even eating the food the swine ate.
The prodigal looked at what he had become and was sorry he ever left home. He remembered that even the servants of the father had better lives than he now had. So, the prodigal decided to return home and beg for a place as a servant in the father’s house; no longer worthy of being called a son. But, picking up at verse 15:20, “when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” The prodigal began to deliver his repenting story to his father, he said “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (15:21).
But the father had prayed for the return of his son and forgave him even while he prayed. He only wanted his son to come back, and here he was! So, the father said to the servants, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry” (15:22-24).
The last sentence of the father expresses the heart of our Father. All the sins we have committed were fully paid for on Calvary’s cross. Paul says, “now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Rom 8:1-2, NLT). Just as the prodigal’s father yearns for the return of his son, the Heavenly Father wants His sons and daughters back, as well. John tells us “He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:11-12, NLT).
Resentment Expressed (Luke 15:25-30)
But while the father, the prodigal and the servants of the house were celebrating, there was one in the house who rejected the merry making. Verses 15:25-26 tell us, “Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant” (KJV).
Verse 27 has the servant’s response, “Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound” (KJV). The elder son was livid at the father! (15:28). When the father asked him what was wrong, the elder son unloaded, “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf! (Luke 15:29-30).
These are the raw feelings of life expressed by the elder son. I can imagine most of us can identify with him. It is not only the fact that the prodigal took the father’s money and wasted it on partying, but that he hurt the father so deeply and thoughtlessly. Th elder so was there on the farm while the father grieved over the lost son. The elder saw the pain his father experienced. He saw the tears the father shed every time news would come about the prodigal and what was happening after the money was gone. The elder saw the father praying through the tears for his lost son and joined in his father’s pain. Now, when the son returns, the elder was not looking for a reconciliation, he was looking for revenge for the pain the prodigal caused his father. He wanted a pound of flesh but certainly not that of the fatted calf; he wanted a pound of flesh from his rebellious, low-life brother who hurt his dear father. The father was rejoicing at the return of the lost son, he was dead to him a few minutes earlier, but now he is home, “My son was dead, but now he lives.” The elder was saying, “Balderdash – it is PAYDAY, little brother!”
Reality Defined (Luke 15:31-32)
So, the father interrupts his rejoicing over the return of his dead son to life, to minister to the faithful son who never left. He starts by acknowledging that this son is the faithful one, “Son, thou art ever with me” (15:31). He is saying that this son is not just physically always with him, but that he is also always with him in his heart and mind. The father tells the elder son that he is well aware of all he is and all he does. Even when the celebration began, it was the elder son who was so busy working in the distant field, that he could not even hear the party starting. In these painful months, even through all the painful tears, the father knew the faithful son, his first-born son, was steady on the job of caring for him and running the business. He knew the elder son had prayed with him for the safety of the prodigal and that he would return from his errors.
Further, all the father had left belonged to the elder son. The Jewish custom was that the eldest son would receive the double portion of the inheritance. So, for the two sons, there would have been two thirds for the eldest and one third for the prodigal. The prodigal already took his third, so all that was left, the two thirds of the inheritance, still belonged to the eldest. The father assured him that nothing had changed: “you are ever with me and all that I have left is thine.”
“However,” the father continues, “it was the right thing to do that we celebrate the return of your brother. We prayed and God was faithful in answering our prayers.” The father reminded the son that rejoicing for the faithfulness of the Lord was due from both of them. Further, if the father who was wounded by the prodigal could forgive the atrocious behavior of the prodigal, why cannot his most faithful son join him in answered prayer just as strongly as he joined him in the prayed requests? The time for weeping was finished. God had once again given them the answer they asked of Him. God was faithful, the eldest son was faithful and the son who was dead was now alive. The father was said the party was due, the sadness was over, and it was time to start the healing. The hurt and the pain will probably be remembered tomorrow and several tomorrows after that, but the time at hand was dedicated to celebrating God’s faithfulness and the return of that which was lost. (The father may have even said, “Son, it’s not all about you.”)
Supplemental on The Rich Man & Lazarus (Luke 16:19-24)
While the Rich Man and Lazarus is listed as one of the three parables of Understand the Context, note that neither the Southern Baptist Convention writer nor I consider this story a parable. The first and most obvious difference is that Jesus never uses names of actual people in His parables. Here, Lazarus is specifically identified. Abraham was also identified as a participating person in this story, not just a noted patriarch. The intent here seems to be for the Lord to communicate some information concerning the state of the dead in the cases of the saved and the lost. More will be said on this later.
The situation, as the Lord sets it up in Luke 16:19, is that we have two major characters: a rich man who was dressed in the royal threads of purple and fine linen and who fared sumptuously every day. The second character is Lazarus, a beggar who was laid at the rich man’s gate to beg for the crumbs of food off the rich man’s table. We may assume from the fact that “he was laid at the rich man’s gate” that Lazarus was crippled. We are also given that he was full of sores. Reasoning, the sores were probably not leprous, or he would have been condemned to the Leper’s Colony as unclean and forbidden to contact anyone. One other fact is that Lazarus was not pitied by humans but was ministered to by the dogs which licked (tried to heal) his many sores. The contrast between these two men should be obvious.
The two men died, and another contrast is set up. Lazarus “died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22a). The rich man died as well and was buried. He lifted up his eyes in hell and was in torment. Notice in both cases that they did not enter some state of soul sleep or suspended animation while awaiting judgement. The Scripture says, “It is appointed all men once to die, but after this the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). While the final judgement will not come when we depart this world, the immediate judgment is found in the place to which we are consigned. Here, Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom for comfort, while the rich man in hell and torment.
Verse 16:23 introduces additional information on the construction of Hades in the days prior to Jesus “leading the captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:7-10). The rich man is said to be able to “see Lazarus afar off in the bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:23). In verse 24, we learn that in Hades, there is a great gulf fixed between where the rich man is and where Lazarus is. Using those pieces of information, a bit of an architecture can be laid out for that place. It would be easier to explain if the Greek language separated the words for hell and Hades a little more specifically, but with what we are given, Lazarus is in a place of comfort. When Jesus was on the cross and one of the two thieves crucified with Him repented of his sins and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom. Jesus said, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). So, we can say Lazarus was in Paradise. For the rich man, however, it is said, “And in hell he lifted up his eyes” (vs. 23). The rich man is in Hell (Greek: hades). Both men have been consigned to their places immediately after death. The environment of that place of torment is shown in Verse 24 as the rich man asks Abraham for mercy by dipping his finger into some water for his tongue to ease his torment.
Supplemental on The Rich Man & Lazarus (Luke 16:25-31)
Abraham replies that the rich man had received good things in his earthly life while Lazarus received evil. Now both men have received the first installment of their reward for the relationship with God. “Beside that,” Abraham says, “there is a great gulf fixed between Paradise and Hell”. In verse 26 Abraham says, no one can pass from Paradise to Hell or the converse. So, the rich man changes his request to have Abraham send Lazarus back to earth to warn his five brethren about this place so they will not follow him there. Abraham reminds the rich man that his brothers have Moses and the Prophets to warn them of this place. But the rich man says that they will more likely repent if they see Lazarus returned from the dead. Abraham makes a final statement that if his brothers will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not hear one returned from the dead either.
So, a couple interesting observations. The place Lazarus and the rich man enter after physical death needs an overall title. I will call it Hades for the sake of discussion. Hades is clearly divided into two parts: Paradise, as that place of comfort and Hell, as that place of flaming torment. There is a massive chasm between the two sides, so that no one can pass over. We know it is not the final assignment for either the saved or the condemned according to Scripture. Jesus closed Paradise as explained by Paul, “7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (Eph 4:7-10). Briefly, Jesus descended into Paradise to deliver the Gospel to those faithful Jews who died before Christ’s ministry. They emptied Paradise as Jesus ascended and led them with Him to Heaven. So, the righteous Jews were delivered out of Paradise to Heaven.
For the unholy dead, Revelation 20:11-15 show us the Great White Throne Judgment and the final consignment for all who were not found written in the Book of Life. They were all consigned to the Lake of Fire. So, the rich man will be found in the Lake of Fire and Lazarus will be found in Heaven (later, the New Jerusalem). On the topic of Hades, Matthew Henry says in his Concise Commentary, “It is not probable that there are discourses between glorified saints and damned sinners, but this dialogue shows the hopeless misery and fruitless desires, to which condemned spirits are brought.” I fully agree because there is now no one left in Paradise for those in Hell to talk.
Understand the Context (Luke 17:1-18:30)
Jesus continues His march toward Jerusalem to keep His appointed destiny with the cross. He already prophesied what awaited Him there. He said, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22, KJV). Knowing that, He continued to Jerusalem to keep His appointment and fulfill the prophecy of being publicly announced as the Messiah of God 69 weeks of years (483 years) from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, even the wall unto the Messiah the Prince (Dan 9:25). The clock started on that prophecy in 445 BC when King Artaxerxes commanded Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall (Neh 2:1-6).
It was likely that there were some Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees among the number that followed Jesus from town to town. They were always on the scene to mock Him, accuse or charge Him to end His time of influence, or simply kill Him (Matt 26:4, John 7:1). As Jesus accomplished His final journey to Jerusalem, even though He would try to focus on teaching His disciples, the religious leaders were always there. (Just a short reminder: Jesus had hundreds of disciples but only 12 Apostles.) Jesus was able to exploit the presence of the religious leaders’ by teaching His followers how to respond to their charges and attempts to mock or discredit Him.
While Jesus marched through Samaria, He held close to the border to escape further criticism for associating with sinners there. Nevertheless, Jesus was able to heal ten lepers while passing through. He commented on the significance of only one of the ten returning to glorify God.
In the many conversations and teaching moments Jesus had with His disciples in those days, He was able to convey much about the Kingdom of God. One of the Pharisees asked Him when the Kingdom of God would appear, Jesus responded that “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you” (Luke 17:20-21, NLT). He used this opportunity to speak to His disciples about His return to establish the Kingdom. An analysis of Luke 17:22-37 along with Matt 24:23-41 and Mark 13:14-23) show that this discussion was about the establishment of the Kingdom at His final coming and not on His coming for the saints at the rapture of the church. Jesus used examples of the judgments promised in the times of Noah and Lot. In these judgments note that the people taken out of God’s judgments were the saved ones and the ones left behind were destroyed. Further, Jesus references the “days of great tribulation” in those teachings which places this judgement either during or after the tribulation period, i.e., going into the Millennial Reign.
Understand the Context (Luke 17:1-18:30, Cont.)
Still isolating His discussion to His disciples, Jesus points out the contrast between the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and the humility of those who are sincere in their faith. He uses the parables of the blind beggar, the pharisee and the tax collector, and the rich young ruler to illustrate these truths. Paul provides an excellent analogy showing the character of human marriage before and after the death of a husband to explain the difference between following the letter of the law and following the spirit of the law. He said, "1 Now, dear brothers and sisters —you who are familiar with the law—don’t you know that the law applies only while a person is living? 2 For example, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. 3 So while her husband is alive, she would be committing adultery if she married another man. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law and does not commit adultery when she remarries. 4 So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. 5 When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. 6 But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. (Romans 7:1-6, NLT).
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day maintained their hold on the people through their claims to be righteous and condemned all others in unrighteousness. Jesus was clear that unless our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, we shall in no way enter the Kingdom (Matt 5:20). Jesus’ sacrifice ended the domination of the Law over us and declared us completely righteous through the blood of Christ. And in that freedom gifted from God, we are free from the Law of Sin and Death forever declaring “There is now therefore, no condemnation in those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). Without the work Jesus has done, we are all condemned, but with His work, all who call upon the name of Jesus are saved from punishment for their sin. Jesus, who knew no sin has become sin for us, so that, we who knew no righteousness could become the righteousness of God through Him (2 Cor 5:21). Our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, indeed!
Religious Pride (Luke 18:9-12)
Jesus tells a parable to these people who continue to trust in their personal righteousness and hate or exclude all others. One of these self-righteous pharisees entered into the Temple to pray at the same time publican or tax collector. There is already a natural contrast between these two men as the Lord starts His parable. The Pharisee is supposed to be a person who is looked up to and respected because of his knowledge of the Law, his position as a leader and teacher, and his knowledge of the Scriptures.
The Publican, on the other hand, is most hated of all men. He collects the taxes for Rome and local authorities and applies their unjust burdens on everyone he taxes. He is known to pad the requirement somewhat to enhance his own standard of living. So, he is believed to be an extortioner, a thief and a traitor. But as these two begin to pray, more is learned about where their hearts are.
The Pharisee begins his prayer thanking the Lord that he is not like other men; that he is not an extortioner, unjust, adulterer or even like this publican. It is possible, of course, that the Pharisee may have known these charges to be true for this Publican, but that is not given in the problem statement. The Pharisee continues speaking to the Lord and tells Him that he fasts two times each week and he gives tithes everything he owns.
Godly Humility (Luke 18:13-14)
The Publican, however, stands afar off. He would not even come close to the altar. Further, he will not lift his head to pray, but beat on his chest saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
In stark contrast to the arrogant pharisee who thought he was sinless, and therefore, could stand in judgment over the publican, the publican realized that he had no personal holiness. He studied the Scriptures and knew what God said, “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” and “Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psa 14:3 & 53:3). The Publican knew he stood condemned before God. Even if he could have achieved the impossible by living a sinless life, the general sin of mankind would still make him a sinner. Paul had it right when he said, “At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). The Publican understood his position with God if he came on his own merit. He approached God asking for mercy because of his sin. The Pharisee was arrogant in his position and began to believe the political idea that he had some kind of imputed holiness because of his position.
Jesus endorsed the Publican’s understanding of his status. In truth, all of us need to approach God in humility, realizing our sinfulness, asking for mercy and thanking God for Jesus Christ who took away the sin of all who would believe. Jesus told those gathered that it was the Publican who went home justified and not the Pharisee (Luke 18:14). He continued that everyone who exalts himself would be brought down while everyone who humbles himself would be exalted. The truth is that we have come to Jesus with no hope of being forgiven in ourselves. We enter the negotiation with empty hands. God has everything to offer from His abundance and we have everything to gain from Him. God alone can exchange our emptiness for fullness. He empties our past and fills our future. In this parable, Jesus shows us the emptiness of the Pharisee believing he was full and the fullness of the Publican believing he was empty. Do we all have some of each of them in us?
Childlike Faith (Luke 18:15-17)
Verse 15 we see people bringing their little children to Jesus. The right-minded parent wants the best for their children and will seek the blessings of the Master for them as early and as often as possible. They bring the little ones to the Lord, but the disciples saw it as a hinderance for Jesus and told the people they were wrong to do this thing. When Jesus saw what the disciples were doing, He corrected them and told them to allow the little children to come to Him and do not prevent any of them who want to come. This part of the quotation has a message for each of us as well. Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson publicly.
I had been saved for less than a year when my oldest son prayed to receive Christ in our home. We had discussed believers’ baptism, but I did not feel the time was right. That Sunday night my son was standing on the pew where I was sitting when the Pastor came by to greet us. The Pastor greeted me and then shook hands with my son who was about six years old at the time. When the Pastor asked him how he was doing, he said, “I want to be baptized, but my Daddy won’t let me.” The Pastor smiled, but I read in his eyes that the conversation was not finished. I have no knowledge of the planned sermon that night, but it was changed to “The Size of the Person versus the Size of the Spirit.” I got the point, and my young son was baptized that night. The Pastor had kind words to say about my decision. Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not!” I got it that night, and I still get it now.
The last phrase in verse 16 says, “for such is the Kingdom of God.” Adults are full of distrust and caution, but children have not lived enough of life to have those feelings, yet. They come in innocence, and they come trusting the One who calls. Jesus says this is the way the Kingdom is. He doubles down on His comment in verse 17 as He says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” He says it is important for us to understand that is the way of the Kingdom of God. This strikes right at my heart! When I accepted Christ on March 24, 1974, I was in my senior year of electronics engineering college. I had been trained to analyze over and over again. I knew all about the difficult mathematics needed to understand engineering truths and the scientific concepts that made systems work. I was trained to reject what I thought or believed and accept only what I could prove through systematic engineering analyses. But, I stood in the pew that day while singing “Just as I Am.” I was asking myself what further evidence I needed about the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What additional information did I need to make a decision?
As I looked at the people packed into the pew on either side of me, I knew getting out of there would be impossible without bothering more than a dozen people either way. But in the next instant, I heard a man ask me if I believed Jesus Christ had paid the price for all my sin? He asked me if I believed that Jesus Christ died on the cross and was raised back to life? I said yes and we prayed together for a new life in Christ. The man who led me to Christ was not a fellow engineer; he was a piano tuner. But he was able to show this little child how to meet the Master. “Oh, What A Wonderful, Wonderful Day, Day I Will Never Forget, After I’d Wandered In Darkness Away, Jesus My Savior I Met, Oh What A Tender, Compassionate Friend, He Met The Need Of My Heart, Shadows Dispelling, With Joy I Am Telling, He Made All The Darkness Depart, Heaven Came Down & Glory Filled My Soul
Understand the Context (Luke 19:29-40)
Jesus continued His march toward Jerusalem to keep His appointed destiny with the cross. He already prophesied what awaited Him there. He said, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22, KJV). Knowing that, He continued toward Jerusalem to keep His appointment and fulfill the prophecy of being publicly announced as the Messiah of God 69 weeks of years (483 years or 173,880 days) from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, even the wall unto the Messiah the Prince (Dan 9:25). The clock started on that prophecy in 445 BC when King Artaxerxes commanded Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall (Neh 2:1-6).
Earlier in Luke 19, Jesus had passed through Jericho and had supper with a tax collector named Zacchaeus. Recall that Zacchaeus was of “short stature” and was concerned he could not see Jesus passing by, so he climbed up in a sycamore tree. Jesus saw him and said He would have supper with him that day. Zacchaeus was elated. Jesus continued His edification of the disciples (It seemed awkward to say, “He was discipling the disciples!”). The context study and the focal passage seem to overlap significantly so, this introduction will be short.
The parable Jesus taught in Luke 19:11-28 is called the Parable of the Pounds (also know as the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25). It will not be remembered by either title but by the concept that a landowner left three of his subjects an amount of money to deal with and promised to return to take account. He gave three 10 pounds, 5 pounds and 1 pound to the three leaders, respectively. Upon accounting, the one who had 10 gained 10 more and the one who was given 5 gained 5 more but the one who was given 1 pound feared its loss and returned the 1 pound to the master. What the master said to the first two is the memorable portion of the parable and provides hope for each of us. The master said, “Well done, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17 & 19). They had taken what the master gave them and doubled it through their use of it. The third tenant buried the 1 pound and was criticized by the master for hiding the pound instead of at least putting it in a bank to gain interest. The master took the 1 pound given him and gave it to the one he had given 10.
Many believe the interpretation of the parable relates to the gifts God has given us and whether we put them to use for the Master’s Kingdom or simply hide them in fear of losing them. The simple lesson is that God expects us ALL to use the gifts He has given us to grow His Kingdom. Growing His Kingdom could be a simple as inviting a friend to church or doing kind deeds to a neighbor or going on a mission trip. Whatever God gives us, we need to use for Him. Not using our gifts for Him could result in losing the gift all together.
The second part of establishing the context for this study summarizes the four aspects of Jesus’ actions for the Kingdom during the last days of His ministry. As He entered Jerusalem on the donkey that day, Jesus accepted the praise of the people which was given as unto the Lord. He was acknowledging He was the Lord’s Messiah. He wept over Jerusalem as He saw in His mind’s eye its destruction over the next 40 years (ref: 70 AD). He showed righteous anger over the misuse of His Temple (He was the Lord’s Messiah). And He taught the final lessons to His disciples calmly even though He knew what was about to happen to Him. As the centurion in charge of His crucifixion said at His death, “Truly, this man was the Son of God” (Matt 27:54 & Mark 15:39).
Obey (Luke 19:29-34)
These verses document Jesus’ instructions to two of His disciples to go ahead of the others into the outskirts of Jerusalem to collect a donkey for His Triumphant Entry. He tells them about a colt of a donkey which they will find at a certain home. The donkey had never been ridden. Jesus said if the owner questions their taking of the animal, they should simply say the Lord has need of it. The word Jesus told them to use for the Lord was the Greek word kyrios which means Lord, God or Master. The message to the colt’s owner would be compelling and direct. The act of Jesus riding this donkey is prophesied by Zechariah 9:9 as, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The One the Jews of Jerusalem was waiting for would be declared as Messiah that day – Palm Sunday, April 6, 32 AD.
So, the donkey, the foal of a donkey was released by its owner and allowed to carry Jesus into Jerusalem on just the right date, according to Scripture. Some suggest that Jesus must have had earlier disciples who made the arrangements with the owners for the donkey. These people are usually referred to as Higher Critics (I consider them lower). They try to explain away each of the miracles of both Testaments as natural events. For example, they suggest that Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 14:1-31) was accomplished at the sea’s lowest point aided by an exceptionally strong wind that caused the water to be only a few inches deep. Reasonable people would ask, how then did all of Pharaoh’s men and horses drown in such shallow water? So, the miracle was that the two disciples approached the owner of the small donkey, told him that the Lord had need of the donkey and the man released the donkey to them without discussion. Likewise, there was a room available on very short notice that was large enough for Jesus and the 12 Apostles to have the Passover Meal. Passover was the best attended of all the feast days in Jerusalem, so it was unlikely there would be a room available except by another miraculous intervention.
Praise (Luke 19:35-38)
Luke 19:35 picks up with the two disciples returning with the donkey for Jesus. The rest of the verse sets up how Jesus would ride. The Scripture says the disciples put their clothes on top of the donkey and Jesus sat on top of those cloths. This was probably done so Jesus would not be soiled by the donkey as he walked into Jerusalem. Verse 36 adds that they also put their clothes on the path the donkey would take. This was another effort to separate the surface of the road and the donkey from Jesus and any dust, dirt or “uncleanliness” as they entered Jerusalem.
So, Jesus rode the donkey down from the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem and the people began to see Him. They added their clothes to those of the disciples, and many began to cut branches from the trees and lay those in the path as Jesus was descending from the mountain (Matt 21:1-9 & Mark 11:1-10). As Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem cut branches from the indigenous trees, they were likely palm trees, and hence, the name of Palm Sunday (John 12:13). John’s version of the story ties the discussion of Palm Sunday directly to Scripture they studied and Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus (John 12:12-19). Verses 17 & 18 say that the great number of people was due to them being the ones who saw Jesus raising Lazarus from death after he was dead for four days.
Verse 19 in John’s account also mentions that the Pharisees were considering how they might eliminate Jesus as His fame was growing and His influence over those people was multiplying. The numbers of the crowds He was drawing in His meetings were also increasing and reaching a point that neither the religious Jews nor the Romans felt secure in their capability to control the mob. So, the idea of killing Him was growing in the Sanhedrin and among the Chief Priests.
Worthy (Luke 19:39-40)
In Luke’s account of the feelings of the Pharisees, we find those who were numbered among the multitudes asking Jesus to rebuke His disciples for cheering for Jesus. They were probably concerned that the loud cheering for Him as they saw Him fulfilling Scripture was becoming more threatening. If He could quiet them down, the uproar could appear less threatening. Of course, Jesus was much more of a realist. He knew that these people were a repressed group. They had been denied the land God gave them. They were being taxed far beyond what they could afford to pay. As they saw the potential of God’s Deliverer finally coming to set them free, to overtake the Roman’s and restore the throne of David back to the people, there was no way to make them stop celebrating.
Jesus certainly understood this and said to the Pharisees that even if there was a way to quiet the crowd, if there was a way to hold back the enthusiasm of this severely persecuted people, then even the lifeless stones on the ground would raise their voices in honor of the Messiah’s coming as prophesied. So, states the paradox: the Jews were excited about the hand of the Lord finally sending the promised Deliverer while the occupiers wanted nothing but the peace and quite symbolic of acquiescence of the dominated people and the absolute control of the dominating forces. It was not going to come to Jerusalem that day, nor would it come in the near future. This impasse will last far beyond the earthly existence of Jesus. His coming death and resurrection will plant a religious movement that will not be quelled by any movement of government.
Many years ago, the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) would threaten to end the worship of any god other than the government. The people of the Southern Baptist Association of churches in the National Capital Region decided they would launch the First Baptist Church of Moscow, Russia in spite of these policies. The association was 171 churches strong and was located in states bordering on Washington, DC. They were threatened and the founders of the church were warned of harsh punishment. Nevertheless, they pressed on. As the building was built and the start of services approached, the excitement was not to be quelled. The church building was designed to hold a maximum of about 350 people and we worried that not even a dozen people would stand up against the Soviets. Many more than a thousand showed up for the churches first services and the church grew by leaps and bounds over the next several years. The spirit of God’s people is emboldened by every threat made by the godless opposition. Rome could not stop it in 32 AD, and the USSR could not stop it in 2006. God will win!!
Understand the Context (Luke 23:50-24:12)
When we ended our Connect Group Bible Study last Sunday, we had celebrated the Triumphant Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. By this Sunday (Easter), we will have studied the Passion Week of Jesus including the treasonous betrayal of Jesus by Judas, Judas’ suicide, Maundy Thursday (Last Supper and washing of the Apostle’s feet), Good Friday (the Crucifixion and burial) and Peter’s denial that he even knew Jesus. Not all of the Sanhedrin believed Jesus had to be murdered. They were not sharing the belief that Jesus was a threat to the fragile peace the Jews had with the Romans. And the hundreds of thousands of people responding to the Triumphant Entry certainly displayed the massive number of people believing or willing to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah of God.
John 3 documents there was a man of the leaders of the Jews who came to visit Jesus under the cover of darkness. While the Scripture does not document how long after that meeting Nicodemus prayed to receive Jesus as the Messiah, his action after Jesus’ crucifixion indicates an unusually brave action. Nicodemus supported Joseph of Arimathea as he went to Pontius Pilate, the Governor of the Roman Province of Judaea, Samaria and Idumaea, to request the body of Jesus (and the two thieves) before the Sabbath began at sunset (John 19:38-42). Pilate seemed somewhat surprised that Jesus was dead so soon (some crucifixions lasted for several days). So, Pilate inquired of the Centurion charged with doing those crucifixions. The Centurion testified that he verified Jesus’ death by thrusting his spear upward into His side. The resulting blood and water proved He was dead. As for the other two crimnals, the Centurion told Pilate he had their legs broken so they would suffocate quickly and die as well. Pilate gave permission for the bodies to be removed from the crosses.
Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man and owned a new tomb in the field near Mount Calvary. The fact that Jesus was crucified with criminals and was to be laid in Joseph’s tomb fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, “He was buried like a criminal but was put in a rich man’s grave” (Isaiah 52:9, NLT). Matthew 27:62-66 documents that the High Priest and the Pharisees visited Pilate early the next day to warn him that Jesus had prophesied He would rise after three days. They recommended Pilate set a guard on the tomb so no one could take Jesus’ body away and claim He had come back to life. Pilate agreed, had the tomb sealed and set a Roman Watch over it. The seal assured that the stone could not be moved without warning the Roman guards. A Roman Watch was the assignment of 8, regular Roman soldiers rotating every 4 hours. They were under the penalty of death if their watch was violated. But God did not honor the Watch and sent an earthquake to break the seal and roll the stone back. Of course, moving the stone was not needed to let Jesus out, but rather it was moved to let others in. The women following Jesus and the Apostles needed to see that the tomb was empty at sunrise on Sunday. (Matt 28:2).
Understand the Context (Luke 23:50-24:12, Cont.)
Review of the terrible series of events in the Passion Week each year is needed to fully appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice for us and the great victory of His resurrection. It is uncanny that the Bible documents the massive shock of Jesus’ death followed by even greater shock of His resurrection. How could the people be surprised at either event given the number of times Jesus warned of them? Add to that the Old Testament prophesies in Psalms 22, Isaiah 53 and Psalms 16:10, and there should have been no surprise at all.
Another advantage of telling the stories of Passion Week before announcing resurrection is to eliminate any doubt that Jesus was physically dead before Pilate released His body, and He was placed in the prophesied new tomb. Some false teachings suggest that Jesus merely fainted from exhaustion on the cross and was refreshed in the coolness of the tomb. Others falsely say that another man took Jesus’ place on the cross, so He was not crucified. Hebrews 9:22 documents that there is no remission of sin without the shedding of innocent blood. Therefore, Jesus, the perfect sacrifice for the sin of all mankind, must have given His life on the cross to pay for our justification.
The Roman sealing of the tomb and the establishment of the watch on it made it impossible for the women to visit the tomb and complete the customary anointing of Jesus’ body with the appropriate spices and perfumes. But on Sunday morning, as they came with the materials for the anointing, they saw the stone had been rolled back allowing them to enter Jesus’ tomb. Mary Magdalene was still refusing to believe Jesus was alive and asked the two men in the tomb where they had taken the body of Jesus so she could go get it (John 20:13). She did not recognize them as angels, nor did she recognize the voice of the risen Jesus from behind her until He called her by name. While she was still shocked to see Him; she finally believed that He had overcome death. Each of the Apostles had similar shock. Thomas insisted that he would not believe until he could feel Jesus’ wounds (John 20:25). Jesus eliminated all the doubt by walking with them for 40 days after His resurrection, and they watched Him ascend on the clouds into the air just before the Feast of the Pentecost.
Return (Luke 24:1-5a)
“The first day of the week” sets the day at Sunday. It was early Sunday morning when the women came to Joseph of Arimathea’s sepulcher where he and Nicodemus carried Jesus after removing Him from the cross (Matt 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56 & John 19:38-42). Two of the references states that Mary Magdalene and Mary (James’ mother) were by the sepulcher and saw where Nicodemus and Joseph laid Jesus.
The reference in John says that Nicodemus brought 100 pounds of burial spices for Jesus’ body late Friday. The other references say the women came to prepare Jesus’ body early Sunday. Both could be correct because the trauma of Jesus’ death and fear of arrest may have hindered complete communication between the two men and the group of women. It was customary for the spices and perfumes to be wrapped together with the body to prevent foul odors. The body would be allowed to decay in the tomb for about a year before the remains would be moved to a “Bone Box” allowing reuse of the tomb.
Recall the news reports a few years ago concerning the discovery of what was called the James Ossuary box with the inscription, “James (Jacob), son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." The box was proven authentic, but some questioned validity of part of the inscription. Regardless of how that turns out, there ossuary validates the statement about the removal of decayed remains and placing them in bone boxes. So, Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of Joses came, found the stone rolled away and reported it to Peter and John who ran to the tomb. They looked in and found two men in shining garb announcing Jesus’ resurrection. They fell on their faces before them.
Remember (Luke 24:5b-7)
An angel spoke to them saying, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen, remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee? He said ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’”.
These comments were intended to get the Apostles and other disciples to recall Jesus’ prophesy about what was going to happen to Him as He returned to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, all were shocked that Jesus could die at all. Seeing all His miracles and hearing His teachings about who He was seemed to fulfill the Scriptures for the coming Messiah to overthrow Rome and set up His kingdom on earth. After His resurrection they would learn there would be another coming of Christ to the earth at which time He would establish His Kingdom.
Note also that Jesus’ Rapture of the Saints and His Second Coming were separate and distinct events. Paul explained three events this way: “22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power” (1 Cor 15:22-24. “Christ as the firstfruits” refers to the resurrection and ascension of Jesus discussed here and in Acts 1:9-11. “Afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming” refers to the Rapture of the Saints when Jesus returns for His Bride (the believing Church) but never touches the earth (1 Thess 4:13-18, 1 Cor 15:51-57 & Rev 4:1). “Then cometh the end” refers to the third and final part of the first resurrection in Revelation 20:4-6 & Rev 21.
Report (Luke 24:8-12)
It seems that the gentle reminder from the angels was sufficient to bring Jesus’ words into the Apostle’s remembrances. It was as if they said, “Oh, yes. I remember that, now! Jesus did say those things.” Verse 9 adds that the witnesses left the sepulcher to give their report to “the eleven.” The number of Apostles was reduced to eleven at Judas’ suicide after his betrayal of Jesus in the garden. The Apostles would not replace him until Acts 1:15-26 when they appointed Matthias as the twelfth. (As an aside, note the difference in man’s appointment of Matthias and God’s appointment of Paul as the twelfth Apostle. Matthias was never mentioned again while Paul did at least three mission trips and wrote at least one third of the New Testament; even more if one include the writings of his disciple and physician, Dr. Luke.)
So, the Apostles returning from the sepulcher told the eleven and they told all the rest. Verse 10 makes it clear Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women were parts of spreading the word as well. Luke places the disbelief and departure of Peter for the sepulcher at this point. Nevertheless, Luke points out that Peter saw the burial clothes laid by themselves. John’s passage in verses 20:5-7 adds more information about the linen cloth used for Jesus’ burial. Luke tells us that Peter left the sepulcher puzzled about what he saw and what happened.
The Shroud of Turin
History.com/news reports that “the earliest historical records of the Shroud of Turin place it in Lirey, France during the 1350s. A French knight named Geoffroi de Charny allegedly presented it to the dean of the church in Lirey as Jesus’ authentic burial shroud.” The 14-foot Shroud shows a negative imprint of the front and back of the man who was covered by it. It provides a great deal of information regarding what happened to the crucified man in its folds.
For example, scientists have claimed for years that the bodies of the crucified could not have been hanged on the cross with nails in their palms because the weight of the person would almost certainly rip the tendons of the hands leaving the man to fall off the cross. Romans were much more effective. So, they were more likely hanged by nails in the wrists. The shroud clearly shows this to be the case.
The Shroud presents a man of between 5’ 10” and 6’ 2” depending on assumptions made. For example, the man in the should is “frozen” in the posture of one hanging on the cross. His legs are bent at the knees and his upper body and head are leaning somewhat forward. One of the assumptions regarding the cloth is that it could have been stretched either vertically (the width of the man) or horizontally (the height of the man) over the decades of being displayed on the walls of the Turin Church. So, if the man was standing upright and the Shroud was in its original shape, the man would have been roughly 6 feet tall. Still an unusually tall man for that time in history.
The Shroud also shows that this particular man was beaten severely before being crucified. There was not a spot on the front or back of his body that was free of Roman cat-of-nine-tails lacerations. He also has marks on the front and back of his head like a series of sharp objects penetrated his brow and scalp. Wounds that could have been made by a crown of thorns. Further, the image showed a penetration just below his rib cage on the right side consistent with a wound from a soldier’s spear. These are all marks documented in the Bible as those inflicted upon Jesus as He was flogged, humiliated and crucified by the Romans. Of course, many skeptics have claimed the Shroud was so consistent with the Scriptures that it must be a fake. The proof of that charge still fails.
The Face in the Shroud of Turin
There have been many tests and investigations to determine if the Shroud was authentic. In my years as a Department Head and Professor of Mathematics at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the Shroud was sent there as a part of its testing. The USAF Academy is renowned as an engineering school and contained the best and most sophisticated equipment for archaeological investigations of most schools. The Academy had several members on the renowned, 40 member scientific team selected for its research in the United States. So, in the early-to-mid 1980’s, the Shroud was at the Academy.
Most have read that the original carbon dating in 1988 suggested a medieval fraud, it was discovered that the threads which were tested were taken from a part of the cloth that was repaired with new cloth after a fire 1350. All that dating proved was that the new cloth woven into the Shroud in 1350 was, in fact from the 1260 to 1390 vintage. Fresh dating of the fiber of the original weave in 2013 “showed it originated between 300 B.C. and A.D. 400, well within the time of Jesus of Nazareth” (Stanglin, USA Today, 2013).
While at the USAF Academy, scientists attempted to fashion a bust of the man in the cloth in three-dimensional space. The was in a single dimension, of course, so the scientists had to use variations of image intensity to determine the features of the man’s face. A close-up view of the enhanced image of the Shroud and the resulting 3-D impression are shown on this slide. While it has not been determined beyond a shadow of doubt that the man in the Shroud was Jesus, there is certainly a lot of evidence that points in that direction.
The Academy protected this image by placing it in a locked room with bars on its entrance. But thousands of people (including myself and hundreds of my friends) climbed the steps into the main worship area of the Protestant Chapel to see this bust on the right side of the entryway. If nothing else can be said about the bust, it certainly looks like the man in the Shroud.
Just a couple other things we know. Many of the motion pictures we have seen show Jesus as a Western European. Some even show Him as having light hair and blue eyes. This man would have stood out in the population throughout Israel and would have been mentioned in the New Testament. In the absence of such a mention, I would say that Jesus looked like the people around Him. That means He would have had black hair, brown eyes and an olive complexion. In the final analysis, we know that Mary was His mother, but Joseph was not His father. The Bible states that Mary was impregnated through the Holy Spirit under the power of God (Luke 1:35). We know nothing of the DNA or blood type contribution of God, therefore, we have to agree with Isaiah as he says, “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2, KJV). In other words, there was nothing unusual about the way Jesus looked as He mixed with the people of that locality, except that He was a tall man.
Understand the Context (Luke 18:31-10:26)
The question throughout the history of Christendom has been why the Apostles, of all people, were shocked at the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? It seems that none of them believed He could die, and once dead, they could not believe He could be raised again. Conjecture of the centuries have included words like denial, disbelief, lack of faith or even lack of intelligence. Whatever the cause, the Apostles and disciples of Christ would not or could hear Jesus’ prophesies of His death, burial and resurrection.
In this week’s study, we back up to the touching stories of two men. The first was a blind man who hears Jesus coming near to him and begins to yell out to get His attention. The second, could not have had a greater contrast to the blind man. The blind man was poor and needy while Zacchaeus was wealthy and needless. The blind man seemed helpless and hopeless while Zacchaeus was powerful and had hopeful. The blind man wanted to be seen of Jesus while Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. The blind man shouted out to be seem of Jesus while Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus.
Jesus met the needs of both men and caused great transformation in them. The blind man started a new life of independence, joy and productivity. Zacchaeus started a new life of service, repentance and payback. Neither man would ever be the same after meeting Jesus. The truth is that we, like them, have never been the same since we met the Master.
The last part of the reference section is in Luke 19:11-27. The Parable of the Pounds or the Three Stewards is not just a story of how Gods gifts are to be used, but rather, a holy illustration of the godly balance of mercy and accountability. To those God blesses the most, He requires the greatest. To those He gives little, He expects less, but still requires wise use of even the smallest gifts. That being absent, He will take what little they have and give it to those demonstrating the wisest use of what they were given. All of us are given gifts by the Master. As the parable shows, whether we are given much or given little, we will be required to give account for how we used what God has given us. Are we ready?
Desperate (Luke 19:1-4)
Chapter 19 opens with Jesus going through Jericho on the next leg of His march to Jerusalem. Jericho was in the province of Judea and only about 15 miles from Jerusalem. Luke introduces a man named Zacchaeus who was the chief of the publicans in that area. Tax collectors did not enjoy good reputations among the Jews because they were put in place to collect taxes for Rome. The taxes were excessive and imposed on everything the local people grew, created or used. The tax collectors generally added their own wages to already excessive taxes required by Rome, the local government and tithes and offerings. Tax collectors were extortionists, traitors and thieves. Most of them became very wealthy, and Zacchaeus was no exception.,
When Zacchaeus heard Jesus was coming through his area of town, he wanted to see who He was. The problem was the great crowds of people all pressed together to see Him, and no one was planning to help Zacchaeus get closer. He was further hindered because he was a short man, and there was no way he could position himself in the crowd to see when Jesus was passing by. Zacchaeus saw a sycamore tree near the road where Jesus was expected to be passing as He moved through town. He decided to climb up that tree to get a better vantage point to see the Lord.
Friended (Luke 19:5-7)
Verse 5 tells us that Jesus came to that place, looked up, saw Zacchaeus and spoke to him saying, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down, for today I must abide in your house.” Zacchaeus may have been absolutely astonished by Jesus’ invitation, but he wasted no time getting out of the tree and receiving Jesus into his home. He was only hoping for a glimpse of Him so he could recognize Him, but now, it looked like he was going to get a private audience with Him. Further, Jesus coming into his home would allow the enterprising tax collector to claim Jesus as his friend. He must have thought to himself, “The blessings just keep on coming.”
The ramifications for Jesus recognizing Zacchaeus in this manner were numerous. As stated, Zacchaeus’ friends and associates could only be other tax collectors and publicans. The Pharisees making up part of Jesus’ entourage’ would count all the guests at Zacchaeus’ home to be among the worst of sinners. Their fundamentalist interpretation of Moses’ Law said that righteous people must separate themselves from people like this. Their sinfulness would cause Jesus and His followers to be unclean sinners as well. For the Pharisees, this was a very welcomed, unforced error by Jesus that would be used to prove He could not possibly have been the Messiah. They would say, “A holy man would have sensed the caliber of these unrighteous curs.” So, the Pharisees and the other who wanted an end to Jesus’ work murmured among themselves that Jesus had gone to be a guest of a known and open sinner. He, then, must be evil as well.
Repentant (Luke 19:8-10)
But God’s plan could not be hampered by the narrow-minded attitudes of a few eccentrics. God had Jesus meet Zacchaeus at his house because God knew Zacchaeus’ heart and was ready to work with it to lead many otherwise unreachable people to Jesus Christ for God’s glory.
Zacchaeus, who felt drawn to see Jesus to at least recognize Him, finds his spirit is unusually open to communicating with Him. He speaks to Jesus as the insatiable drive to repent of past wrongs are verbalized. “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” These are words of a man newly recognizing the pain he has caused others and how he planned to make those past wrongs right. Many of the poor were exploited by his dishonest business dealings and setting of tax rates far in excess of the fair taxes he was commissioned to take. He pledges from his heart, a newly sensitized heart, to give back as much as half of everything he owns. Those he exploited through deceitful dealings and lies; he will give back four times what he took. An hour earlier, his heart was as hard as cement, but now the Spirit in him has been brought out of hibernation. He has become alive to God’s working inside him. He experiences new feelings of love, compassion, self-denial and generosity he has not felt for decades. Here is the new Zacchaeus speaking the language of God’s Spirit operating within>
Jesus knows what it is and how it sounds. He announces, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.” Jesus recognizes that spiritual conversion has taken place inside Zacchaeus. Just as John can say to us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13). So, Zacchaeus became not only a son of Abraham, indeed, but a son of God, as well. And Jesus summarizes in verse 10 that this is His whole reason for being. Truly, “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10 & Matt 18:11). Zacchaeus sought to see Jesus so he might recognize Him, but he received so much more. He now knows Jesus in a way that only the justified can know Him. He is truly Our Father and we are truly His sons and daughters.
The Face in the Shroud
Last time, we looked at the face on the Shroud of Turin and the bust of Jesus Christ developed from the work of the US Air Force Academy scientists and artists (left and center pictures). Here is the artist conception with color (picture at the far right). The choices of the coloring are based on the knowledge of whom His mother was. She was Mary and her heritage shows she probably had the coloring common of the people lived and spent their lives in or around Nazareth. The prophet Isaiah stated that “My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him” (Isaiah 53:2, NLT). In simple terms, He looked quite ordinary.
Now, we did see last time that not all His physical attributes were ordinary. If the Shroud truly held the Christ, He would have been between 5’ 10” and 6’ 2” tall. The span is included because the man in the Shroud was “frozen” in time with His legs bent at the knees and His shoulders and head leaning forward. He looked like He was still on the cross. Straightening Him out would likely have placed His height in the middle of the range, or about 6 feet tall. That was an extraordinary height for a man in 30 AD. While no one can prove conclusively that the Shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, it certainly has a lot of know fact in its folds.
Understand the Context (Luke 20:1-21:38)
As we back up in Scripture from our studies for Good Friday and Easter, we return to Jesus’ final walk to Jerusalem to keep His appointment with the Triumphant Entry and the cross. Recall that the date of Jesus entry into Jerusalem to be declared Messiah was fixed between Daniel 9:25, where Daniel announced the 69 weeks of years (173,880 days) between the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem and present the Messiah the Prince, and Nehemiah 2:1-6, where Artaxerxes commanded Nehemiah rebuild Jerusalem in 445 BC.
Organized religion, under the leadership of the Jewish High Priests, Roman governance, and Satanic influence, would continue to do all they could to see Jesus killed before He could get to the saving grace of the cross. They had spies and religious lawyers assigned to His every move from the beginning of His ministry. Now, their activities had to be more intense. They tried to twist His words, accuse Him of blasphemy against God and treason against Rome. His clearing of the Temple of dishonest money changers seemed well suited to their mission (charged with heresy). False accusations of encouraging followers to stop paying taxes to Rome was another (charged with sedition & treason). His open opposition to the teaching of the Sadducees against resurrection was another (more heresy). When He said He would return in power and glory, they claimed He was declaring Himself to be God (charged with blasphemy).
Jesus often resorted to telling and illustrating the truth of the Gospel through common-sense stories or parables. Telling stories like today’s focal passages for study (the Parable of the Evil Tenants) is an example of showing how God provides gifts and talents and hold us accountable for use of them. It was difficult for the groups of dissenters to find evil accusation in such simple, common-sense illustrations of truth.
The Servants (Luke 20:9-12)
The Parable of the Evil Tenants begins with a man planting the vineyard and renting it out to tenant farmers while they took a lengthy trip outside the nation. Sharecropping was widespread in our nation’s history and still in use today. In our case, we purchased a small piece of land but had no immediate plans for it. A farmer who owned the adjacent land offered to pay a certain amount of money to continue his farm on to our land, as well. We agreed to accept a rental fee to allow him to farm the land, and he promptly paid the fee every year. Certainly, nothing like these evil tenants. When the season came for the owners to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard or to get rent payments, they would send a servant to collect. In this case, the tenants beat the servant and refused to give him any payment at all.
The owners sent a second servant whom the tenants beat, embarrassed and sent him away empty-handed, as well. So, the owners sent a third servant to collect their payment, but he was humiliated, wounded and thrown out without payment. It was clear that these tenants had no intention of repaying the owners for lending them the land.
The Son (Luke 20:13-16a)
So now, the owners are faced with three cases of the tenants refusing to pay them for their use of the land in addition to three cases of aggravated assault of the owner’s debt collectors. Simple assault would have been to beat them up and send them on their way, but these tenants refused to pay the debt, humiliated the owner’s servants and even wounded them. Nevertheless, the owner was reluctant to involve the authorities and had one more idea.
They decided to send the son they loved to speak with the tenants and collect to debt (now well past due). Their thought was that the tenants would recognize the son as an important part of the owner’s family and give him the respect he was due. Maybe if there was some reason for the tenants’ reluctance to pay their debt, the son would be seen as one with the authority to speak for the owners to resolve the problem and get the relationship back on the right track.
But verse 14 tells us that the tenants had even more dastardly thoughts than before. They reasoned that the son was probably the heir of the owner’s property, and if they were to murder the son, the land might be theirs, and they would never have to pay the past or future debt for using the vineyard. So now, the tenants have multiplied their failure to pay their debts and aggravated assault of three servants with the murder of the owner’s son. How would the owners react to this criminal treatment by the tenants?
Evidently, this story is told before law enforcement was available to solve the problem, leaving the owners responsible for taking their actions alone. Verse 16 tells us that the owners came to the vineyard and destroyed these tenants and rented the vineyard to others. I suppose the new tenants would be duly motivated to pay their debt appropriately knowing that the previous tenants paid heavily for their errors! The simple message is that the previous tenants were unworthy of the vineyard entrusted to them, so it was taken away and given to tenants believed to be more worthy of that trust.
The Stone (Luke 20:16b-19)
The last part of verse 16 hints at the horror of the listeners hearing this story. They said, “God forbid!” They must have personalized the story and thought of how they might react to losing a son this way. Maybe they felt the whole episode might better have ended with the owners simply getting the authorities involved to evict these low-life tenants for not paying their debt on time. Certainly, if the owners were “gone” for a long time” the debt must have come due on earlier occasions. Anything would have been better than risking the life of a son over it.
We already knew this story was a parable designed to drive home the point of the tenants’ errors. Jesus reminds the religious leaders it is written, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (Psalms 118:22, KJV). The scribes and pharisees had just questioned Jesus’ authority to preach the Gospel. Their question may have focused on Jesus’ actions described in verse 45-46 of Chapter 19 where He cast out the moneychangers from the Temple. Nevertheless, the religious leaders, just like the tenants in the Parable of the Evil Tenants, were questioning the owner’s authority to collect payments and were planning His death. These religious leaders were rented the vineyard belonging to its Creator and they were not delivering the Creator’s due. Further, they were plotting to kill the Son of Man. Their destruction is every bit as certain as the evil tenants. Truly, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” and Jesus IS that cornerstone. Those plotting to kill Him are plotting self-destruction of the worse kind: the damnation of their own souls to eternal sorrow in the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:15).
Jesus added to the quotation from Psalms 118:22 to warn those religious leaders that anyone who stumbles over the cornerstone shall be broken, and on whomever the stone falls will be ground into power. The reaction to Jesus’ solemn warning is described in verse 19. Iin the same hour that Jesus so specifically warned them, “the chief priests and the scribes sought to lay hands on Him” but they were afraid the people heard Jesus’ words as spoken against them and they feared the people. These leaders were sealing their own doom just as certainly as Jesus spoke it, “but on whomsoever (the cornerstone) shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”
Understand the Context (Luke 22:7-28)
Chapter 22 takes us another step closer to the arrest, brutal treatment, crucifixion, burial and resurrection of our Savior and Lord. Here is the simple story of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread which includes the Passover Meal. Preparation for the Passover included the removal of all leavened products from the house. The leaven (or yeast) was considered as a representation of sin. It seems to permeate throughout anything to which it is added. Jesus said to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt 16:6-16). He explained He was not concerned about the bread of the religious leaders, but rather, their sinful doctrine that they should reject from among them. The history of the Passover Meal was in the release of Israel from the slavery they experienced in Egypt.
When the Egyptian Pharaoh rejected God’s final command to let His people go, God promised (through Moses) that He would take the first born of every family in Egypt (Ex 12). This curse would pass over the Israeli families who believed and followed God’s instructions. In preparation, each family was to remove all leaven (yeast) from the home symbolic of removing all sin from among them. The Israelites would then select an unblemished lamb from among their stock and sacrifice it before the Passover Meal. They were to take the blood of the lamb and apply it to the vertical and horizontal door posts before they had the meal (sounds like the blood of the cross?). When the promised death angel passed through Egypt to kill the first born, he would see the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and “Passover” that home. Hence, the name for the Passover celebration.
Jesus spoke here of the Apostles seeing Him as the Passover Lamb. Again, the image of the blood on the doorposts compares to the blood of Jesus’ cross. Jesus also used the symbology of the poisonous serpent that Moses had lifted up in the wilderness to explain salvation to Nikodemus in that secret meeting of John 3 (Num 21:6-9). When the snakes began to kill hundreds in the wilderness, Jesus had a serpent placed on a pole and said that anyone who looked up at the serpent would not be poisoned by the snakes. Jesus told Nikodemus that applied to Him as well. Anyone who believed and look toward Jesus would not die but have eternal life (John 3:14). The work of Jesus on the cross could be summed up as Paul did in 2 Cor 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor 5:21).
Prepared (Luke 22:7-9)
Luke 22:7 begins this study saying the Day of the Unleavened Bread was upon them and they were required to slay the Passover lamb. Jesus then sent Peter and John to prepare a place for the Apostles to eat the Passover Meal with Him. They would have to gather the appropriate supplies for the meal and find the place where they would eat the meal. Evidently, this took Peter and John by surprise and they had to ask Jesus where they were supposed to go and prepare. They realized that entering Jerusalem during the Passover season would make finding any room difficult to do but finding one where at least 13 people could meet together at such a late date would be extremely difficult.
Prepared (Luke 22:10-13)
So, Jesus fills in the details of how they were to proceed. He told them that as they entered the city, they would see a man carrying a pitcher of water. Peter and John were to follow that man and enter the house he entered immediately behind him. They should find the goodman of the house and let him know that the Master wants to know where the guest chamber is so the Master can eat the Passover with His disciples. Jesus continued that the goodman would show them a large upper room that was already furnished for them. This is the place where Peter and John would prepare for Jesus and the others to eat the Passover Meal. Verse 13 simply says Peter and John went to Jerusalem and found everything just as Jesus had described it. This almost sounds like another surprise for these two Apostles. Nevertheless, they made it ready for Jesus and the other ten Apostles.
Looking Forward (Luke 22:14-18)
Now we find Jesus and all twelve Apostles gathered in the advertised, upper room at the hour for the Passover Meal. Keep in mind that the deal had already been set for Judas to accept the thirty pieces of silver, the price of a common slave, for telling the authorities where they can find Jesus to easily take Him into custody. Even so, the Bible says He met with the twelve Apostles, which included Judas. It is this kind of thinking and associated practice that gives legs to Jesus’ teachings “43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:43-45). It might even cause you to dip your bread during a Holy Meal with the one who will identify you with a kiss to the authorities. Is this not the kind of consistency between words and actions we wish all our leaders would follow?
Jesus explains that He wanted to have this meal with them before His passion and crucifixion. He continued that He would not eat this meal again until He could eat it with them in the Kingdom of God after everything in the prophecies had been fulfilled. Somehow my mind integrates this promised Passover Meal to be celebrated in Heaven with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. It will be then, that all of us who love Jesus gather for s single meal with all our fellow saints of glory. It is almost too much to even imagine!
In verse 17, Jesus takes the third cup of wine of the Seder Meal, the Cup of Redemption. The first cup is the cup of setting apart the believing people. It is called the Cup of Sanctification and signifies the setting apart of Abraham and the Jewish people as special for the Lord. The second cup is the Cup of Deliverance. Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt. They (and we) will be delivered from this world into the Kingdom of God. The third cup (and the one we celebrate in the Lord Super) is the Cup of Redemption; i.e., we have been redeemed by the Lord and only the redeemed can partake of the Communion Meal. The Redemption cup at the Last Supper was different than the how Jesus did the first two cups in the traditional way. For the third cup, Jesus said this Cup of Redemption is in my blood. Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21). He passes this cup to His Apostles to signify their redemption in Him and by continuing the observe the Lord’s Super, it signifies our personal redemption as well.
Care must be taken, however, to never confuse the celebration of God’s action with God’s action. For example, only those who have believed in their hearts and confessed with their mouths the Lord Jesus and believed His resurrection from the dead can be meaningfully baptized (Rom 10:9-10). One cannot be baptized into salvation. One can only celebrate the past salvation by being Scripturally baptized. And one can only celebrate the third cup of the Seder through the Lord’s Supper by remembering their redemption in the past. Paul says, “28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body” (1 Cor 11:28-29).
When Jesus says, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God shall come,” speaks of that fourth cup, the Cup of Restoration. That is the meal we shall all eat with Him in the Kingdom when we shall all be called home.
Looking Back (Luke 22:18-20)
At this point, Jesus changes from looking forward to looking back. He looked ahead to how things will be in that day when we all join Him in Heaven for that Marriage Supper of the Lamb, but now He looks back to remember His body which was given for us and His blood which was shed for us (Rev 19:5-10). When Jesus took the bread and broke it saying, “This is my body which is given for you,” He added that we must do this in remembrance of Him. That is, do it looking back on the body He gave for us. Isaiah says, “4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6). God caused His Son to be born as Jesus of Nazareth to give that human body as a ransom for all of us. Truly, “By His stripes we are healed.”
Then Jesus takes that third cup, the Cup of Redemption, and blesses it saying, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” As Jesus references the New Testament, He is referring to that New Testament prophesied by Jeremiah in 31:31-34 saying, “31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer 31:31-34). This prophesy is repeated in the New Testament in Hebrews 8:8-12. Jesus says the third cup is the cup in His blood and represents the New Covenant. Both Jeremiah and the writer of Hebrews speak the core of the New Testament, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb 8:12). Paul said, “After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:25).
Understand the Context (Luke 22:7-28)
The study for this week is the second of three studies coming out of Luke 22. Last week, we looked at Remembered in verses 7–13. We saw Jesus task Peter and John to go to Jerusalem to make preparations for Him and the twelve Apostles to eat the Passover Meal. During that meal, Jesus explained how the elements of the Seder Meal, the bread and the wine, allowed us to look forward to a time when the Kingdom of God would be fulfilled, and all God’s people could eat the meal together with Him. Then Jesus used the same elements to establish the Lord’s Supper which looks back to remember Jesus’ sacrifice of His body and blood for us. He used the words, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
This week, we are looking at Willing in verses 41-53 to see Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, being betrayed by Judas and being arrested by the officers and men of the Chief Priests. Next week, we will look at Denied in verses 54-62 to see Peter’s denial of Jesus and how he reacted when he heard the rooster crow. He realized that he had denied Him three times before the cock crowed just as Jesus said he would.
John 14-17 documents Jesus’ teachings of the Apostles after finishing the Passover Meal. Those four chapters are full of unique information only seen in the Book of John. But it was the assurances of Jesus’ words to them that provided the strength and understanding to carry on the mission of delivering the Gospel to the world.
Understand the Context (Luke 22:7-28)
But for now, they are still with Him. They are leaving Jerusalem for the Mount of Olives and the Garden at Gethsemane. Gethsemane reveals the deepest of Jesus’ prayers as He faces the knowledge of becoming sin for all mankind. His detailed knowledge of the Scriptures provided a portal into the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 and the feelings of being forsaken while carrying that sin in Psalms 22. He gets a glimpse of the loneliness of it all as He leaves Peter, James and John a few yards away from Him while He prays. Mark 14 documents how He interrupted His prayer three times and found them sleeping each time. He understands that He and He alone is carrying the load of the upcoming sacrifice. The contrast between the awesome intensity of His prayers and the peace and security of the inner circle of Apostles while He suffered.
The third time He interrupted praying, He went to get comfort from His companions in prayer, the inner circle. They were sleeping, but He didn’t wake them this time because the flames from the soldiers’ torches signaled the beginning of what only the Lamb of God could do. Judas sold Jesus’ location for the price of a common slave – 30 pieces of silver. As the soldiers closed in to arrest Him, Peter cut off the ear of Malchus, the High Priest’s servant, but Jesus rebuked him, healed the servant and cooperated with the arrest. The Apostles fled as Jesus was taken away, once again showing Jesus that His path was only wide enough for one person. Now, the details of the study.
In Prayer (Luke 22:41-44)
We can learn many things about prayer by seeing how Jesus did it. Certainly, we can look at the model prayer to see how Jesus handled addressing “Our Father” (Matt 6:9-13 & Luke 11:2-4). The recognition He gave to the Father for providing our daily sustenance and endorsing His Kingdom’s coming and His will being done. Asking for forgiveness of our sins against Him while we pledge to forgive those who have sinned against us. Here, we see Jesus taking time apart from the others; separating Himself off to pray the most serious of His prayers for His mission to humanity. First, He took only the Apostles with Him to the Garden. Second, He took only the inner circle of Peter, James and John with Him near where He would pray. But third, He prayed alone and knelt in the Father’s presence. Further, Jesus focused so intensely on His requests that He ruptured the capillaries in His face and sweat drops of blood. Luke’s report shows the hematidrosis appeared even after the Father sent an angel to strengthen Him. Jesus’ respect for the Father caused Him to seek His will before His own. He said, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me.” That is, “if it is in Your will, remove this cup.” Jesus already knew it was not in the Father’s will. The whole purpose for Jesus’ coming was to die for the sin of all humankind. When that time came, why would the Father change His mind? Nevertheless, in humility and honesty, Jesus asked the Father to remove it.
In Prayer (Luke 22:45-46)
Many have asked what “that cup” meant. Jesus was about to fulfill all of Isaiah 53 and Psalms 22. He would be beaten beyond recognition (Isa 53). As He wore the sin of all humankind, He would feel rejected and forsaken by the Father. He would fulfill, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor 5:21). The deity in Jesus knew there was no way out of doing what had to be done, but the humanity in Jesus still desired survival. The anguish of being out of harmony with the Father drove an impossible level of stress level for a human being.
To add further “insult to injury,” verse 45 tells us that when Jesus got up from the prayer, He found the three Apostles of His inner circle asleep again. Two of the evangelists document Jesus asking Peter, “What, could you not watch with me one hour?” (Matt 26:40 & Mark 14:37). Jesus warned them to pray so they would have the strength to resist temptation when it came. Matthew documents that Jesus let them sleep, and He returned to pray a little longer. He returned to them a last time to announce that the soldiers were on the way to arrest Him.
In Betrayal (Luke 22:47-50)
While Jesus was still speaking those words, a multitude was walking through the Garden to where He was praying. And in the lead of them was Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve. He was in front of all the others, leading them to the place where he would identify Jesus to them with a kiss.
Jesus looked at Judas and asked if he would betray the Son of man with a kiss? It seems strange to me as well. Why would anyone choose to identify a person to be arrested with a kiss? I would think the shame of it would force the betrayer to point out the person from a distance, rather than doing something so personal. Matthew and Mark say that Judas actually went through with the kiss, and as Judas leaned into Jesus for the kiss, he called Him Master.
As the army from the Chief Priests and Pharisees came forward, John’s Gospel tells us that they asked Jesus if He was the one and Jesus said He was. His answer caused the crowd to be pushed back, and several fell to the ground. They got up and asked again. Jesus said that He already told them He was the man. This time as they came forward to take Him, Peter drew his sword and cut off the right ear of Malchus, the High Priest’s servant (John 18:10). At this point, the Apostles were ready to resist Jesus’ arrest, but John 18:11 documents that Jesus asked, “Peter, put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” The crowd from the Chief Priests and Pharisees took Jesus into custody.
In Action (Luke 22:51-53)
Now, Jesus had opportunity to do the second miracle of this encounter (recall the first was when He spoke, identifying Himself as the one the mob was looking for, they were thrown back to the ground). This time Jesus reached down into the dirt of the ground and picked up the ear Peter had cut off Malchus. He reached up and returned the ear to its proper place and it stayed there. Malchus was made whole.
This is the second time I would have had thoughts of not going through with this arrest. Jesus clearly had powers to do serious harm to all of those arresting Him, but He would eventually allow them to take Him prisoner. But first, He asked the Chief Priests, the captains of the Temple and the elders, “But 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 22:53). The same authorities who saw Him every day in the Temple, took no action to against Him, but rather they came to Him to ask question and find ways to understand the writings. Now, both Him and they are the same people, but now they come against Him as if He is a common thief, and they are armed with swords and staves – common weapons of war that are intended to kill or seriously harm and advisory. Jesus is asking simply, what has changed? He offers that He understands the difference, and He wants them to know it as well. When Jesus walked among them in the open, and they responded in the light, they considered Him a noted teacher or rabbi. They praised His teaching with a new understanding and fresh authority.
But now, Jesus is a person their leaders have designated as a threat to their already tenuous relationship with the Chief Priests, the Roman occupiers and the Pharisee/Sadducee control of the entire population of the Judaism structure. It was the authority of this structure which was used by the Romans to assure control the occupied land and its people. The Roman pledge was that as long as the leaders of Judaism could guarantee full control of the population, the Romans would allow them to practice their religion. Jesus and His teachings were producing meetings of 2,000 to 5,000 men plus their families to hear His teachings every day. If the Chief Priests could not demonstrate their firm control over Jesus, then Jesus must die.
This is no new information. Recall Jesus ministered for less than 6 months in Judea at the very start of His ministry (John 1-3 covers this period best). Other than visits to Judea during the Feasts, Jesus spent most of His ministry in Galilee. In these last few weeks, He prepared for His death. When Jesus returned to Bethany of Judea and Mary and Martha’s house, He was responding to their word that their brother, Lazarus, was sick unto death. Jesus came to minister to that situation but arrived 4 days after Lazarus died. Jesus raised him from the dead and the Chief Priests immediately called for Jesus’ death (John 11:53). The notoriety He would gain through raising a man who had been dead 4 days would surely draw crowds threatening to the authorities.
In the current situation, the Chief Priests have succeeded in having Jesus arrested. Their plans for Jesus have not been fulfilled. Of course, Jesus already saw the whole process carried out while He prayed at Gethsemane that this cup would be taken from Him. It was just beginning.
Understand the Context (Luke 22:54-71)
This week we see the last of three studies in Luke 22. Two weeks ago, we studied Jesus’ establishing the Lord’s Supper in Remembered in verses 7-13. Last week, we studied Jesus’ willingness to go to the cross to “drink the cup the Father poured for Him” in Willing from verses 41-53. And this week, we are looking at Peter’s denial of Jesus in Denied from verses 54-62.
We finished our study last week with Jesus being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane after being betrayed by Judas. As the officers and men from the Chief Priests and the Pharisees took Jesus away, it appeared that all the Apostles fled. John and Peter, however, did not flee with the rest and were able to stay closer to Jesus as He was taken inside the High Priest’s quarters.
As you can see by the picture of the High Priest’s Palace below, the entry way into the palace property was in the bottom, left quadrant of the picture. Note there is no blocking gate or door there and the entryway opens into a courtyard before gaining access to any of the buildings.
The Palace of the Chief Priest
This would probably be the place where the temple guard and the servants gathered after they delivered Jesus and the Pharisees, who were a part of Jesus’ arrest, inside. Initially, John and Peter would have been at the door off the courtyard trying to gain entry inside where Jesus would be judged. John 18:13 tells us that He was first judged by Annas and then Caiaphas. The purpose for Jesus being taken there was to be judged by the Sanhedrin which was the highest ruling body of the Jewish religion. That session would not be held until daylight, Thursday morning.
John was known of the High Priest and was able to stay with Jesus as He was taken inside the High Priests’ palace. Peter followed at a safe distance but ended up being challenged at the palace door. After he denied knowing Christ, Peter went to the large hall or courtyard outside the High Priest’s quarters. The temple guards and the servants lit a fire in the courtyard to keep warm in the cool of the night. The initial charges against Jesus stemmed from His claim to be the Son of God, specifically, blasphemy and/or heresy. False witnesses would testify against Jesus, but they could not agree on details. When Caiaphas challenged Him to say whether He was the Son of God, he said, “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt 26:64). The Sanhedrin only required Jesus’ personal testimony to find Him guilty of heresy, and they believed Jesus had established His guilt. Even so, no group or person in the Jewish hierarchy had the authority for capital punishment.
Distance (Luke 22:54-55)
The crowd from the Chief Priests and Pharisees who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane took Jesus to the High Priest’ Palace. Caiaphas, as the current High Priest occupied the palace, but Annas, his father-in-law, was the High Priest during John the Baptist’s time and had offices there as well. Jesus would be interrogated by Annas, then Caiaphas late that night. He would face the full Sanhedrin on Thursday morning at daybreak.
Each of the Gospels render a part of the account of how Jesus was questioned and brutally treated in each of these meetings. The context of this study is found in the three denials of Peter. The accounts of what happened inside those interrogations are not in that focus for this week’s study.
It appeared that once Jesus was arrested, all the Apostles fled, but John and Peter did not. Both were able to follow Jesus to the High Priest’s Palace and were near Jesus on the other side of the courtyard at the door of the facility (John 18:15). John was let inside because he was known of the High Priest (John 18:16). But the damsel who kept the door challenged Peter as being one of the followers of Jesus. Peter denied that he was and established a safe distance outside in the courtyard on the High Priest’s property. The temple guards and the servants were there and lit a fire as the night became cool. Even though Peter had committed a felony against a High Priest’s servant (Malchus), he sat with the without action taken against him.
Denial (Luke 22:56-60a)
Problems increased for Peter when the High Priest’s maid attending the door where John entered recognized Peter and said, “This man was also with Him” (Luke 22:56, John 18:17). As stated earlier, John’s Gospel said that both Peter and John were at the door of the palace while the three synoptic Gospels have Peter outside, in the courtyard right away. Neither of the synoptics mention that John was able to get inside the High Priest’s house. It is a very small difference because the door to the Palace was in the courtyard (see picture above). Peter feared being taken captive at this time as he stood in the presence of the temple guards and dozens of servants of the High Priest. His primary goal was to remain free in case there was a way he could help Jesus if He were released.
Peter denied knowing Jesus by saying, “Woman, I know Him not” (Luke 22:57, John 18:17). The atmosphere of the outside hall was warming up by the fire but politically as well. The servants outside had started the fire to keep them warm as the temperature decreased in the night. Peter tried to blend back into the dozens of others gathered in the courtyard outside the palace that night. Verse 58 tells us that a while later, a second servant recognized Peter and said, “Thou art also one of them.” And again, Peter said, “Man, I am not.” Now that he has spoken the denial twice, others were beginning to look in his direction. Peter’s idea of blending into the crowd was not working well.
It was about an hour later, according to verse 59, that a third servant noticed Peter and spoke very confidently, “Of a truth this fellow also was with Him: for he is a Galilean.” Peter had reason to believe that his prior denials were not convincing the crowd that he did not know Jesus. He had to step up the lie, as is frequently the case in the art of lying, by using a louder voice and even punctuating his words with an oath and a curse, “Man, I know not what thou sayest!” (Matt 26:74).
Defeat (Luke 22:60b-62)
It was at that instant, when Peter stated with a curse that he did not know Jesus, that the rooster crowed. Peter was reminded that when he told Jesus at the Last Supper, he would never deny Him even if all the others did. Peter said, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I” (Mark 14:29). Jesus responded to Peter’s comment, “Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” Peter said to him, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” And likewise, all the disciples agreed (Matt 26:34-35).
About this time Annas had finished his interrogation of Jesus and sent Him, tied up and bruised, to Caiaphas. As Jesus crossed by, Peter looked up as Jesus’ eyes met his and they both heard the rooster crow. Peter ran from the palace and wept bitterly (Luke 22:60-61).
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, we read of a conversation between Jesus and Peter on the coast of the Sea of Galilee which shadowed back to this triple denial (John 21:15-17). During that talk, we will see Peter’s arrogant speeches and great intentions were replaced with wisdom, humility and compassion. Jesus asked, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” (John 21:15). Recall that Jesus gave Simon the new name of Peter (Greek Petros) because it meant the little rock or stone. Now, He addresses Peter by his originally given name, Simon (Hebrew Shimon) which simply designates the Israeli Tribe of Simeon from which he came.
Here, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than all these other Apostles do. He uses the Greek word Agape for the kind of love Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 13. He says, “4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Cor 13:4-7, NLT). Jesus not only explains the kind of love He means but asks Peter if he loves Him more than all the other Apostles love Him.
Defeat (Luke 22:60b-62, Cont.)
Peter has an interesting response to Jesus’ question. He says, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:15). But Peter uses the Greek word Phileo back to Him. Phileo is that “brotherly love” kind of love (It’s the word that gives us Philadelphia – the City of Brotherly love). The conversation so far sounds like Jesus asking is Peter loves Him with a love that never gives up, never doubts, never keeps record of wrongs done and Peter responds, “yes, Lord, I love you like a brother.” It is not the same answer that matches Jesus’ question. Notice how Peter is different than he once was. Before he denied Jesus three times, he claimed that while others might fail Jesus, he would never. He said that while all the Apostles might deny Him, he would die for Him.
If Jesus would have asked the same question before Peter’s denial, Peter might have said something like “I adore you far beyond the greatest love ever described.” So, what happened to change Peter? Remember that glance he and Jesus shared right after the cock crowed when Peter denied Jesus the third time? Now, Peter realizes that his exaggerations accentuated his failures. Peter has grown in the faith because he has recognized the wrong in saying he will not fail Jesus. Friends, we have all failed the Savior. We failed Him before we were born again and we failed Him after we were born again; and worse, we will fail Him again. It’s tough to have the understanding and compassion we should have for others unless Jesus holds the same mirror He held up for Peter, for us. Let’s finish that conversation between Jesus and the new Peter.
Jesus asks again, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” (John 21:15). This time when Jesus asks if Peter loves Him, he uses the same word for love, but instead of asking Peter if he loves Him more than all the others, He simply asks if Peter loves (Agapes) Him. Peter responds “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee” using the same word for love as before (Phileo) (John 21:16). Peter cannot respond more strongly to loving Jesus than he could respond to Jesus asking if he loves Him more than all the others.
Peter seems incapable of changing his words to match the intensity of Jesus words, so Jesus changes His words for the third round and asks Peter if he truly loves Him like a brother (Phileo). Peter is grieved that Jesus dropped His word for love to the same level of the word he used. Both of them are asking about brotherly love (Phileo) rather than Agape. Jesus is saying, “Peter, can you really say you have even brotherly love for me? At Peter’s darkest hour, he could not stand by his Savior. He denied he even knew Him. But Peter realized what we all should realize; we cannot even come close to demonstrating the kind love Jesus has for us. Peter became the leader of the Christian movement shortly after this discussion, and served faithfully for years, but when he was to be crucified, he asked simply, “Because I am not worthy of dying like my Savior, would you crucify me upside down. History says they complied.
Notice also, that Jesus asked in all three cases that Peter feed His sheep or lambs (smallest sheep). As we struggle with showing Jesus the same love He has for us, He still wants us to teach others about love, humility, compassion, faithfulness and His saving grace. When Jesus switched His words to match Peters words, He was saying, “I’ll take whatever love you can offer Me, but please do not stop teaching others, the young as well as the mature, about the grace I have for them.” Jesus said, “28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30). Can we rest in Him? Look at the response Peter got after preaching his Sermon at Pentecost! (Acts 2:14-41). Three thousand souls were saved!
Understand the Context (Luke 23:1-49)
This week we study Luke 23. In this section we do a short recapitulation of the trials Jesus faced after Judas’ betrayal, Jesus’ arrest and Peter’s denial in Luke 22. Scholars are nearly unanimous on seeing the entire trial process as illegal, grounded in religious politics and focused on the fear of a conquered and occupied people. It was the Passover season for those practicing Judaism and Jerusalem was packed with religious travelers responding to God’s mandate to attend at least three of the national feasts in Jerusalem. The Jewish and Roman leadership were concerned that the massive crowds Jesus amassed at the feedings of the 2,000 and the 5,000 on the hillsides and the Triumphant Entry just a few days earlier. They offered to pay Judas to tell them when and where Jesus would be in a more secluded area, so they could take Him prisoner without a mob response. Judas sold that information for 30 pieces of silver and promised to identify Jesus with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus was taken prisoner without incident after He corrected Peter for cutting off a High Priest’s servant’s ear and He healed it. Jesus would then be taken to the High Priests’ Palace where He would be taken before Annas, a previous High Priest and father-in-law to Caiaphas, the current High Priest. While neither of these appearances were legal in any way, Jesus would appear and be bound and buffeted by those gathered. Now, in the early morning hours of Thursday, He would be held over for appearing before the Sanhedrin, Judaism’s highest ruling body, for formal charging. Nevertheless, neither of these people or bodies had the authority for capital punishment which was their goal. They would have to charge Jesus before the Romans to achieve that end.
Before Pontius Pilate, the Sanhedrin would charge Jesus with sedition saying that He was teaching His followers to withhold taxes from Rome. This was still another false accusation, and Pilate was announcing he found no fault in Jesus, but the crowds were insisting on the death of Jesus. Pilate discovered that Jesus was from Galilee and knew that Herod, the man with jurisdiction in that province was in Jerusalem that day. Pilate send Jesus to Herod.
Herod had heard about the works of Jesus and had a desire to talk with Him. Nevertheless, Jesus was bound, brutalized and returned to Pilate with no charges pending. Pilate once again found no fault in Jesus. He recalled there was a custom in Jerusalem allowing the Governor to release a criminal in honor of the Feast Days. So, Pilate offered the crowd a choice between Jesus and Barabbas, a man already found guilty of sedition against Rome. The crown called for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus. Pilate decided to have Jesus flogged and present the beaten man to the crowd again. Again, the crowd insisted on the death of Jesus. Pilate agreed to issue the death decree, but publicly washed his hands of the event.
Focused (Luke 23:33-34)
The synoptic Gospels agree that Jesus’ weakened condition made it impossible for Him to carry the cross the whole way to Calvary. So, the soldiers forced a man named Simon from Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross part of the way. Then Jesus arrived at Calvary, the designated site for His crucifixion. Luke 23:33 says briefly, “There they crucified Him.” The order for crucifixion specifically fulfills the prophecies of David in Psalms 22 and of Isaiah in Isaiah 53.
The Psalm of David states, “11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. 13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.” These obvious details of crucifixion were shared by David, a Jewish man who been anointed to be King of Israel. This manner of death was not practiced anywhere in the world at the time of David’s writing and would not be practiced for several hundred years thereafter. Isaiah 53:9 adds He died between criminals and was buried among the rich.
When Jesus was nailed to the cross and lifted up into the place prepared for the cross to stand, He stated, “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.” Jesus was asking forgiveness for them because the plan they had become a part of was required to remove the sin of all mankind. Jesus was to become the sacrificial lamb that took away the sin of all. As John the Baptist had announced 3 ½ years earlier. The Scripture says, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36).
Mocked (Luke 23:35-39)
Verses 35 to 37 document the continued mocking of Jesus even after the brutal scourging He endured and the fact that He was falsely accused and dying from the sentence of capital punishment by Pilate. Jesus asked Peter earlier, “… Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). This was Jesus’ appointed time and His hour. The Jewish Leaders, the High Priests, the Sanhedrin, Herod, Pilate and those gathered at the foot of the cross to deride Him were all but ponds on the face of a mighty chessboard of destiny.
This day brought salvation to all who would ask. The entire idea of crucifixion was a brutal show of power the Romans had over the occupied communities. The spectacle included a sign at the top of each cross listing the crimes for which the person on the cross was paying. The criminal would generally take several days to die on the cross. The Roman soldiers were skilled in placing the nails so that no veins would be broken, preventing the person from dying of lost blood. Their normal position in hanging on the cross would prevent them from breathing, so they would have to push up on the nails in their ankles in order to inhale. The pain on the ankles would be so severe that they would have to bend their knees and let themselves hang from the wrists again. This horrible sequence would repeat over and over until the person would lose the will to live, but as long as they suffered to stay alive, they were testimonies as to what would happen to you if you did the same thing.
Meanwhile, Jesus was experiencing the most torturous way of dying known to mankind. The religious leaders, Roman soldiers and fellow Israelis yelled insults and challenges against Him. The soldiers offered Him spoiled wine, and said if He were the King of the Jews, He should save Himself. They pointed to the sign they placed on the cross saying, “This is the King of the Jews.” Even one of the thieves on the cross adjacent to His said, “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” And all four Gospels document that there was a group of soldiers behind the cross gambling for Jesus’ garments” (Matt 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23-24). Matthew says, “And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots” (Psa 22:18).
Trusted (Luke 22:40-43)
But there was one man who was able to see through the pain and suffering. He was the thief on the right. The one on the left had already said, if Jesus could save Himself, why not save him as well, but this thief rebuked the first. He asked if the first had no fear or respect for of God.
They were both dying, but their death was deserved because of the crimes they had committed. But this man, he continued, had done nothing worthy of this gross punishment. The thief on the right asked Jesus to remember hi when He entered His kingdom. This man had come to his personal point of belief in Jesus Christ. First, we see he recognized the other thief’s slander against Jesus was slander against God. Jesus responded to his request to remember him when He entered His kingdom. Jesus said, “Verily I say unto thee, today shall thou be with me in Paradise.” There are a couple answers here to consider. First, we see once again that it is not work that makes a person right with God. This thief could do nothing to earn his salvation in Christ. He had nothing to offer or give. He did not recite a psalm or sing a song. He only asked that Jesus remember him when He entered His kingdom. Second, Jesus stated that the thief would be with Him in paradise “today.” There was no time served in Purgatory. There was no “soul sleep.” Jesus knew that, in spite of how the Romans hoped they would live many more hours, Jesus would die of exhaustion and a broken heart, while the thieves would have their legs broken so they could not lift themselves up to get a breath. Yes, and just like the rich man and Lazarus of Luke 16, they would die this day and open their eyes with the thief on the right in Paradise with Jesus, while one on the left would open his eyes in the torments of Hell.
But the thief on the right would have the shortest stay in Paradise of any other. Paul tells us that “7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things)” (Eph 4:7-10). So, before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He descended to present the Gospel of Christ to all the faithful who were in Paradise and led those captives out of captivity and into HIS KINGDOM just as the thief on the right requested before he died. So, Jesus was found to have died just before the legs of the thieves were broken. Jesus may have been in Paradise 2 or 3 minutes before the thief on the right showed up. No one knows how long Jesus preached to present the Gospel, but I bet it wasn’t long. At the alter call, they all enter the Kingdom together to see Jesus sit down at the right hand of the Father.
Sacrificed (Luke 23:44-46)
And now, back to Calvary. The Bible says it was about the sixth hour, that is, about six hours after sunrise, or noon. And from noon until about 3:00 PM there was darkness over the entire Earth. The sun was darkened, and the veil of the Temple was torn from the top to the bottom. Darkness from noon to 3 o’clock, it was strange, at the least. It was almost like one could see the Father pulling a veil over the Earth to show the sadness of the moment. At that darkest hour, Jesus felt the crushing impact of carrying mankind’s sin and its resulting separation from God, and He shouted, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46 & Mark 15:34). Was he announcing the turning of God’s eyes from His own Son? The one He sent for this very purpose and reaffirmed that He would have to drink this cup just a few short hours ago? More likely, Jesus was pointing to the Scriptures He was fulfilling. The Psalm describing the details of crucifixion was Psalms 22, and the first verse of that Psalm was, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” (Psa 22:1).
But the rest of Verse 45 provides more information about exactly what Jesus was doing that day. The sacrifice of the unblemished lamb on the Day of Atonement was more than just another sacrifice. The blood was taken into the Holiest of Holies where only the High Priest could go. It was applied to the Mercy Seat guarded at each side, the front and the back by two cherubim with outstretched wings. The Mercy Seat was only viewable from above, and as God looked down on it, He could see through it to the three items contained inside (Heb 9:4). Together, they represented mankind’s rejection of God’s provision of food in the wilderness (the golden pot that had manna), God’s provision of leadership (Aaron's rod that budded) and God’s provision of the Law (the tables of the covenant).
On the Day of Atonement, when the blood was applied to the Mercy Seat, God was no longer able to see through the blood to see the sin of mankind. All this was accomplished behind the seven levels of thickness of the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place in the Temple. But in the darkness of this day when Jesus was dying on the cross. As Jesus spoke, the veil was ripped in two from the top to the bottom signifying that God, through Jesus’ death, had removed the barrier between God and mankind. Access that was previously permitted only to the High Priest of Israel was now open to all who knew Jesus. Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1, NLT). No need for the High Priest, no need for a new application of blood and no need for a priest to intercede between God and mankind. The writer of Hebrews says, “ But this man (Jesus Christ), after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb 10:12, author’s parentheses). And then He said, “It is finished,” the single Greek word tetelestai. The root word is telos meaning debt discharged, but the completed verb set says the debt was paid for all past, present and future sin, forever. Then Luke’s rendition documents Christ’s final statement, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Recall Jesus said no one can take my life from me, I must lay it down (John 10:18). Here, Jesus lays down His life ands sends His spirit to the Father.
Understand the Context (Luke 24:13-35)
The list of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances is extensive. The Scofield Reference Bible has a list of the events of Resurrection Sunday morning that combines the events according to all four Gospels. “1. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome start for the tomb (Lk. 23:55-24:1 2). They find the stone rolled away (Lk. 24:2-9) 3. Mary Magdalene goes to tell the disciples (Jn. 20:1-2 4). Mary, the mother of James, draws near and sees the angel (Mt. 28:1-2 5).” Paul’s list seems to pick up after the events happening to the women. He published his list in his letter to the Corinthians as, “3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Cor 15:3-8, KJV).
It is ironic that Jesus’ appearance providing the focus for today’s study seems to be missing from Paul’s list; that is, the appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, a small village about seven miles west of Jerusalem is not there. This appearance was later in the same day of His resurrection. If Jesus went there directly after His resurrection, it may have been at least three hours later. It is interesting that Jesus’ resurrection body had sufficient strength to do this walk. Recall also that Jesus told Mary not to hold onto Him when she saw Him in the garden because He had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17). He also told her to tell the Apostles, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17). The cross references for each of the ascension statements in the Gospels with the ascension of Acts 1:9-11 for the sake of biblical consistency.
One of the two disciples Jesus met on the road was Cleopas while the second remains unnamed. Like Mary, when she turned to look at the man talking with her near Jesus’ tomb, these disciples did not recognize Jesus at first. Most scholars also see these two as a part of that larger group that was with Mary earlier in the day. They were not Apostles, but they were with Mary and the other women and had the knowledge that Jesus was resurrected, or at least that the tomb was empty.
So, they are in a state of fully believing in Jesus as the Messiah of God but totally confused on the ideas of the kingdom and death. As Jesus heard their statements, He began teaching them the prophesies associated with His mission, life, death and resurrection from the Old Testament as far back as the five books of Moses. They remained somewhat confused about how the cross fit in. (Had they attended our class, that would not have been the case (Isa 53 and Psa 22).
Questions (Luke 24:18-21)
Now, we look at the details of Jesus’ appearance to Cleopas and an unnamed disciple on the road to Emmaus. There were several questions asked doing the walk and the subsequent supper meal. The disciples were discussing between themselves the things which had taken place earlier in the day; about how Jesus who was dead is now reported to be alive. Verse 18 opens after Jesus joins the walk and asks, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?” (Luke 24:17).
Cleopas’ response reveals quite a bit of how people were feeling when they began to reason among themselves about the significance of what had happened over the last week. Cleopas asks Jesus if He is just a stranger in town, or what? (Luke 24:18). Jesus was not ready to reveal His identity, so He responds as if He really was just a stranger in town (Luke 24:19). He asks, “What things?” Now, it seems the two disciples start a conversation between themselves again. One says, the things “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (vs 19). Verse 20 seems to be the contribution of the other disciple as he says, “And how the Chief Priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified Him.” “But,” continues the first disciple (Cleopas?), “we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.”
Questions (Luke 24:22-24)
Now, the other disciple says, “Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulcher” (vs. 22). And here was the source of that disciple’s astonishment, “And, when they found not his body, they came, saying they had seen a vision of angels, which said He was alive” (vs. 23). So, it was while Jesus was walking with the disciples on the road to Emmaus that the subject of Jesus’ resurrection was first mentioned away from Jerusalem. And the words were mentioned in the presence of Jesus, Himself. Note here that these two disciples say these who went to the sepulcher were part of their company. These two were likely part of Mary Magdalene’s party of women who were first at the tomb. They evidently left the area before Mary returned to the Apostles saying she had seen Jesus.
They say that some of them returned to the tomb and found it exactly as the women had said (vs. 24). But there is no indication that that group saw Jesus either. So, they were involved in intense conversation when Jesus joined them, concerning what was done and said regarding Jesus of Nazareth. They were not eyewitnesses, but they were hearing claims that Jesus had risen. They believed He was the Messiah, the Son of the living God, just as Peter confessed about two weeks before Jesus’ crucifixion, but what should they believe now that this same Jesus was seen dead and the tomb where He was placed is now empty?
Answers (Luke 24:25-27)
The answers to some of those questions begin with Jesus questioning the faith of Cleopas and his friend. The next two verses state, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’” (Luke 24:25-26, ESV). Jesus pointed to the same Scriptures they read and believed that He was the Messiah. He asked them how they could so foolish or slow at heart (in disbelief) concerning these prophecies. They had already confessed that they trusted He was the Redeemer of Israel they had studied; so, why was it an issue now? If you were convinced of Him because He fulfilled the prophecies, then why not remained convinced as He fulfilled even more?
The Scriptures we reviewed in Psalms 22 and Isaiah 53 provided literal evidence of the suffering and shame the Messiah would face in the rejection of sinners. Another Psalm of David predicts the resurrection by saying, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalms 16:10). This passage is referenced twice by Luke to explain the Old Testament prophecy that Jesus would raise from the dead before He could begin decaying (Acts 2:27, 13:35). Recall the doubt that Lazarus could be raised from the dead because he had been dead four days. Jesus would not be in the grave that long. He said, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40).
So, Jesus began as far back in the Scriptures as the five books of Moses to show the two disciples the prophecies of the First Coming of the Messiah, the things He must suffer and His death and resurrection. Jesus had to fulfill all things spoken of Him in the Old Testament concerning His First Coming before He could return to Heaven.
Of course, the first thing I think about when it comes to prophecy is Daniel’s prophecy, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times” (Dan 9:25). The 7 weeks plus the 62 weeks is 69 weeks of years or 483 years. Using the prophetic 360-day year, that would be 173,880 days from the going forth of the commandment to the day Jesus would enter Jerusalem in the Triumphant Entry. The commandment was given by Artaxerxes on March 14, 445 BC (Neh 2:6) and the Triumphant Entry was on April 6, 32 AD. Days between those two dates are exactly 173,880 (QED).
Recognized (Luke 24:28-31)
As the three came close to Emmaus, Jesus walked like He was continuing farther, but the others said the day was nearly over and asked if He would stay on with them for the evening (vss. 28-29). Jesus agreed to stay. He did not press upon them to provide food or rest after their journey together, He “made as though He would have gone farther.” He allowed the two disciples to make the offer before He imposed Himself upon them.
After more than 40 years in outreach, evangelism and church growth, I can say that Jesus has not changed. He reveals the facts concerning who He is, but He always waits to be invited into a relationship. In evangelism, the presenter can only make the facts of Christianity clear and answer any questions concerning how far God has worked in that person before the evangelist arrived.
Josh McDowell wrote a book about his experiences in college with a group called Campus Crusades for Christ. He detailed how the speaker presented a convincing case for converting to Christianity, but how the group emphasized that the decision had to be made in the heart of the prospective believer if it was to matter at all. McDowell tells of how he went over the material and considered the presentations repeatedly. He began to see the situation as a court case. The information provided by the evangelist was like that of a defense attorney for Christ. His own mind coupled with his previous belief structure and culture were the prosecutors. McDowell was the judge. The evidence had been presented, and he had made his personal argument against it.
Now, it was time for the judge to decide the case based on the evidence presented, in other words, “The Evidence that Demands a Verdict.” McDowell was visited earlier and frequently by God, Himself. He called for him and drew him closer and closer. In God’s perfect timing, He allowed an evangelist to be sent to finish the work only God could have done. McDowell faced an instant of decision which would shape his future here and after he left here. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were at that point. Would the evidence be conclusive for them or would they walk away?
Verses 30-31 finish the story for these two. Jesus sat at supper with them and took some bread, blessed it and served it to them. The Scripture says briefly, “And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him, and He vanished out of their sight” (Luke 24:31). Jesus knew that the work had been finished. There would be a source of corroboration for the fact of His resurrection written down for all time to come. They had seen the empty tomb and now they saw the One who left it (QED).
Understand the Context (Luke 24:36-53)
It is truly uncanny that Jesus so often mentioned His upcoming arrest, torture, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection, yet the surprise, shock and disbelief of His followers persisted. Is it any wonder that so many nonbelievers find it hard to believe when so called believers show so much lack of faith? Jesus stated that He would be buried, remain in the grave for three days and nights, and raise up on the third day (Matt 12:40). The disciples and angels from Heaven reported that Jesus was not in the grave that third morning. One angel even asked the women who came with the spices for Jesus’ body why they sought the living among the dead (Luke 24:5). Peter and John went into the tomb of Jesus after they heard the women testify that Jesus was no longer there (John 20:4-9). Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and Peter and the Apostles shortly thereafter (John 20:16). On the first visit to the Apostles, Thomas was not there and when told of the others seeing Him, he still doubted (John 20:24-25). While the reports were received, the doubts continued.
Last week’s study showed the doubt and wonder of the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus after seeing the empty tomb and hearing that Jesus was alive. Jesus actually joined them on their walk and took part in their discussion. After they invited Him to eat supper with them, He revealed who He was, and they rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the others they had seen the risen Savior. (Luke 24:13-35). Yet with all this, the Apostles hid themselves behind locked doors with barred windows in fear of arrest.
After Jesus appeared to them twice, and invited them to touch His body, there were still doubts and confusion. Jesus repeated the teaching of Law, Prophets and Psalms just as He did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He remained with them for 40 days, eating with them and teaching them from the Scriptures (Acts 1:3). And finally, He was seen of more than 500 who were gathered as He ascended on a cloud into Heaven (Acts 1:9, 1 Cor 15:6). And even until this day, people wonder, and doubt and fear. Had this great a number of testimonies gathered at any trial, the verdict would have been undisputable.
Assures (Luke 24:36-43)
The text for this week’s study begins at such a place. The Apostles were gathered together in a room in Jerusalem as they received the report from the two disciples from Emmaus after Jesus appeared to them (Luke 24:33-36). The Emmaus disciples rose from the table where Jesus revealed His identity to them and went back to Jerusalem to report what they had seen to the Apostles. Verse 36 says that as they were telling what happened to them, Jesus appeared in the room with them. It is always interesting that each of the Gospel reports say that Jesus appeared. There is never a mention of how He knocked at the door to gain entrance; just that He appeared. I think that speaks to one of the characteristics of the new body we shall all receive as well.
Jesus wishes peace to them as documented in Verse 36, but Verse 37 follows to say the Apostles and those gathered with them are “terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.” So, Jesus responds to their fear by asking them directly, “Why are ye troubled, and why do thoughts arise in you hearts?” (vs. 38). As He looked at them, He offered them to look at His hands and His feet to prove it is really Him (Vs. 39). He offers them to feel His flesh to prove He is not a spirit. He says that spirits do not have flesh and bones like He has. In Verse 40, He offers once again for them to look and touch His hands and feet. Recall it was the Apostle Thomas that said he would not believe Jesus was risen unless he could see and touch Jesus’ wounds (John 20:25).
Assures (Luke 24:36-43, Cont.)
Verse 41 is somewhat hard to understand as translated in the King James Version. The New Living Translation moves the words around a little to say, “Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder” (Luke 24:41, NLT). The presence and demonstration offered by Jesus brought great joy, yet they experienced deep wondering over how such things could be possible. Their doubt and disbelief remained as the reasoning within them could not fit the truth of what they were experiencing. So, Jesus continued His proof by asking for something to eat. He knew they believed that a spirit had no need for food, so He asked if they had any meat (vs. 41). KJV says they gave Him fish and honeycomb, while later versions maintain that the reference to honeycomb was not found in the earlier scrolls. The evidence of whether He was a spirit or in the flesh was not dependent on what He ate, but that He ate at all. Verse 43 says, “He took it, and did eat before them.” Could this be another QED statement?
Opens (Luke 24:44-46)
At this point, Jesus did exactly what He taught us to do to prove complicated or doubtful revelations from the Scriptures; he taught them from the Scriptures. Specifically, Jesus said, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44). Passages or even chapters like Numbers 21:6-9, Isaiah 53 and Psalms 22 are replete with prophecies speaking of what Jesus must do during His last days of walking with us. Numbers 21 shows Moses ordering the Israelis being bitten by poisonous snakes to have faith in God by looking toward the bronze serpent lifted-up on a pole for salvation from death. This is an obvious figure of the salvation available for all who will look upon the Messiah of God on the cross of Calvary for salvation from sin’s penalty. Isaiah 53 is the description of the Suffering Servant and details the scourging and death Jesus was to suffer on the cross in our places. Psalms 22 shows the details of crucifixion as written by people who never saw a crucifixion, nor was it practiced anywhere in the world at the writing of that psalm. Jesus taught the Apostles and many disciples out of these Scriptures the truth of what was going to happen to Him as much as 1,400 years before it happened. (That is, Numbers was written by Moses in 1428 BC, Psalms 22 was a psalm of David written in 1000 BC and Isaiah 53 was written by that Prophet in 714 BC.)
Luke 24:45 mentions Jesus “opening of the Apostles’ understanding.” Anyone who has tried to comprehend the content of the Bible without the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit cannot possibly reap the spiritual applications of it. Most people would have no trouble reading the words of the Scripture but would not understand the spiritual application of it. For example, earlier in our study, we mentioned a quote from Numbers 21:5-9 as a teaching from Moses’ writing about the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. The passage in Numbers could easily be passed over as an interesting episode in Old Testament history where the people of God murmured against God and His leadership under Moses, and how God punished them by sending the fiery serpent because of their sin. As the people experienced the deaths of their friends by the serpents, they went to Moses to ask forgiveness for what they did, he inquired of God and He told him to make a fiery serpent on a pole to lift up for the people. Anyone who was bitten by serpent and looked up at the serpent Moses put on the pole would not die.
Opens (Luke 24:44-46, Cont.)
Interesting story, but it is much more than that. The serpent is how sin entered the lives of all mankind in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3). But sin was overcome when Jesus was lifted up on the cross of Calvary. Anyone who looks up at Jesus on the cross would be saved from their sin and guaranteed an eternal life with Jesus. In other words, the serpent on the pole was a preview of Jesus on the cross. Everyone who looks to the cross of Christ as they face death (eternal separation from God) will be saved from the penalty of their sin by the lifted up Christ. The indwelling Spirit can illuminate those facts and their applications to a saving knowledge in Jesus Christ.
Jesus says in Verse 46, through their open understanding that the prophecies written about Him had to be fulfilled by God through Christ in order for the people to saved from the penalty of their sin; i.e., death. Nicodemus was an extremely well-educated member of the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders of Israel. In John 3, Nicodemus came to see Jesus in the cover of night. Jesus told him that if he wished to reach Heaven he had to be born again. Jesus illustrated how that could happen and He said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Jesus said, “So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:7, NLT). Therefore, just a small spiritual application of what seems to be simply a good story can make a life-and-death difference for all humankind.
Sends (Luke 24:47-49)
Now, as Luke closes this last chapter of his Gospel of Jesus Christ, he passes God’s commission to those present, and through them to all Christians. We are to preach across all nations that repentance from sin and turning to Jesus Christ will lead to the remission of sin beginning at Jerusalem and stretching through all nations. Luke’s this commission is given to the witnesses gathered at Jerusalem but through them to all nations. Said simply, salvation from the penalty for the sins we have committed is available if we will look to Jesus and call upon His name.
Notice here that Luke tells of one more, final requirement. He tells the Apostles and disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit of God comes to them and gives them God’s power over all they do. Jesus explains this filling of power in John saying, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17). Notice that Jesus reminds them that this Spirit of God has been alongside them all this time, but the Spirit will be moved from the alongside One, to become the inside One shortly after Jesus ascends to the Father. This was spoken during the last days of Jesus’ time as the God/Man sent from God to the earth. After His resurrection, He will walk again with the Apostles for an additional 40 days before the Feast of the Pentecost when Christians will receive the indwelling Holy Spirit as a down payment for their final salvation through Christ. That Spirit will cause their ministries to be FILLED with the power of God.
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