1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.
3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. – Luke 22:1-6 ESV
Having finished recording Jesus’ lengthy discourse concerning future events, Luke abruptly brings the reader back to the present. All along he has been tracking Jesus’ slow but deliberate journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. At this point in his narrative, Luke has been describing Jesus’ activities in and around the city of Jerusalem as the Messiah awaits the final phase of His Kingdom mission. Now, the timeline will begin to speed up as the day of Jesus’ death draws closer. The celebration of Passover is at hand. Luke refers to it as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was actually the week-long celebration that followed the day of Passover. But it was not uncommon for both names to be used when referring to the same annual event when the Israelites celebrated and commemorated their miraculous deliverance from Egypt by the hand of God.
Luke seems to purposefully juxtapose this sacred holy day with the evil intentions of the religious leaders. At the time when the people of Israel should be expressing their gratitude to God for His gracious and undeserved deliverance of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt, the chief priests and their cronies were plotting to kill God’s Son and their Savior.
…the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.” – Mark 14:1-2 ESV
According to Matthew, these men had been planning and scheming how to eradicate Jesus, whom they saw as a threat to their power and control.
…the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together… – Matthew 26:3-4 ESV
But there is far more here than meets the eye. Their intentions to kill Jesus were motivated by something far more formidable and foreboding than their own overinflated egos. Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had bluntly assessed the true cause of their unbridled animosity toward Him.
“…you are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” – John 8:44-47 ESV
Jesus pulled no punches when revealing the true cause of their hatred for Him. They were the sons of Satan and not God. Their rejection of Him was based on their refusal to accept the truth of His words and the validity of His mission as the Messiah, the anointed one of Israel. Contrary to their warped opinion, it was not Him who was guilty and sin and worthy of death, but it was them. And they were turning their backs on “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV). It is painfully ironic that they were plotting to put to death the sinless Lamb of God just days before each of them would sacrifice an unblemished lamb as part of their celebration of Passover. But their eyes were blind to the truth and their hearts were hardened to the reality of Jesus’ identity. Yet what they failed to understand was that their Satan-inspired scheme to arrest Jesus and have Him put to death was all part of God’s redemptive plan. What they thought would bring about the end of Jesus would actually make possible the divine strategy for mankind’s redemption and creation’s eventual restoration.
The religious leaders secretly plotted Jesus’ demise, hiding their intentions for fear that His popularity among the people would cause an uproar. But Jesus was painfully transparent with His disciples, telling them exactly what was going to happen to Him in the days ahead.
“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” – Matthew 26:2 ESV
Jesus was fully aware of all that was about to transpire. He knew what the chief priests were planning and He was fully confident that it was all part of His Father’s plan. At no point in the story does Jesus view Himself as a helpless victim or do the gospel authors portray Him as an unwilling participant in some grand cosmic scheme over which He has no say or control. No, He was completely committed to the mission assigned to Him by His Heavenly Father. He had already clarified that point to His disciples.
“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” – John 10:17-18 NLT
But for Jesus’ death to take place, there was a range of individuals who would be required to play crucial roles in God’s sovereign plan of salvation. One of those would be Judas. And it’s interesting to note that, of all the gospel authors, only Luke and John indicate that Judas’ actions were motivated by Satan.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. – Luke 22:3 ESV
…the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him… – John 13:2 ESV
Under the influence of Satan, Judas concocted plan to betray Jesus to the religious authorities. We are not told the thinking behind his plot to turn Jesus over to the Sanhedrin, but it is clear that money played a role. Luke clearly indicates that Judas offered to betray Jesus in return for a payment.
He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. – Luke 22:4-5 ESV
Matthew points out that Judas didn’t have a sum in mind when he offered his deal to the high priest. He simply asked, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” (Matthew 26:15 ESV). And the Sanhedrin put the price on Jesus’ head at 30 pieces of silver, an insignificant sum that was the equivalent of a month’s wages. This exact amount was in keeping with the prophesy found in Zechariah 11:12 ESV.
Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.
And Matthew would later record that this sum was in fulfillment of the words of Jeremiah the prophet.
Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel…” – Matthew 27:9 ESV
The price for his betrayal established, Judas “began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus so they could arrest him when the crowds weren’t around” (Luke 22:6 NLT). The religious leaders were intent on keeping their plans hidden. The last they wanted was an ugly scene that might stir up the people and raise cause a riot in the streets. Anything that even remotely looked like rebellion would cause the Romans to react swiftly and harshly. The Roman authorities were already on edge because of the crowded conditions in Jerusalem. The city was filled with pilgrims and the nationalistic fervor of this particular holiday was a recipe for trouble. So, the chief priests and their peers were looking for a way to rid themselves of Jesus with as little fanfare as possible.
But despite their careful planning, this entire scenario was going to explode into a public display of epic proportions. Their efforts to keep the death of Jesus hidden from view would fail miserably. This brings to mind a teaching of Jesus recorded by Luke.
“No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. 1For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” – Luke 8:16-17 NLT
Just a few verses earlier, Luke had recorded Jesus’ declaration, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (Luke 8:12 NLT). And later on, in the same discussion, Jesus would clearly state, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I Am he” (Luke 8:28 NLT). The apostle John would add the clarifying words that Jesus spoke concerning the public nature of His death.
“And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this to indicate how he was going to die. – John 12:32 NLT
God’s plan for the salvation of mankind could not be thwarted and it would not be kept a secret. The “true light, which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9 ESV) would not be hidden. It would be just as Jesus had told the Pharisee, Nicodemus.
“…as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” – John 3:14 NLT
And then Jesus informed Nicodemus that the day was coming when the Light would be lifted up for all to see. He would be nailed to a cross and openly displayed as the unblemished sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
“God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” – John 3:19-21 NLT
The Messiah would be lifted up, not on a dais with scepter and royal robes, but on a cruel Roman cross. All so the divine plan for redemption can be clearly seen by all.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.