A Tale of Two Trials

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

63 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. 64 They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65 And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. Luke 22:54-65 ESV

One disciple had made an ill-fated attempt to thwart the plans of the Sanhedrin by brandishing a sword, but all he had managed to do was maim an innocent and unarmed servant. After Jesus miraculously replaced the man’s severed ear, the disciples scattered into the night, just as He had said they would (Mark 14:27). Only two of them would remain close enough to watch what happened to their teacher and friend. The apostle John would later disclose that “Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple” (John 18:15 ESV). And that second disciple was most likely John himself. These two men witnessed Jesus being manhandled by the armed guards and led away into the night. Then they followed at a distance, being careful to stay in the shadows and out of the flickering glow of the torches that illuminated the face of Jesus as He was unceremoniously escorted to the home of the high priest.

It is John, a likely eyewitness to the events that followed, who provides a more detailed description of the identities of those who arrested Jesus that night.

So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. – John 18:12-13 ESV

Though Annas was technically the former high priest, he still retained the title in a ceremonial sense. It might be more accurate to consider him the high priest emeritus. Upon His arrest, Jesus was led to the home of Annas. It seems clear from Luke’s account that both Annas and Caiaphas had been in the garden that night. These two powerful men, along with officers of the temple and elders, had accompanied the guards to Gethsemane in order to see that arrest of Jesus went according to their plan.

John indicates that Jesus was first taken to the home of Annas. There are some who believe that Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, resided in the royal palace of the high priest. So, Jesus would have been taken to a single location where He was initially given a brief hearing before the former high priest. This appears to have been a show of respect on the part of Caiaphas, providing his father-in-law with the privilege of being the first to interrogate the prisoner. But eventually, Jesus was led before Caiaphas, who would play the primary role in the questioning and sentencing of Jesus. Caiaphas would serve as the judge, with the rest of the Sanhedrin acting as the jury.

But as Jesus was led into the presence of His enemies, Peter and John were able to gain access to the inner courtyard of the high priest’s palace. John describes the scene in his gospel account.

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. – John 18:15-16 ESV

As John did throughout his gospel, he refers to himself in the third person, omitting his name but clearly indicating that he had first-hand knowledge of the events surrounding Jesus’ arrest and Peter’s denial. For some unexplained reason, John was an acquaintance of the high priest and, when recognized by one of the servants at the gate, he was allowed entry into the courtyard. He then arranged for Peter to join him. There, in the glow of a nearby fire, Peter and John would have ringside seats to the trial of the Son of God. But, little did Peter know that he was about to undergo his own interrogation, which would leave him exposed and condemned as a traitor.

As Jesus was being blindfolded, beaten, and mocked (Luke 18:63-64), Peter took a seat near the fire. As he attempted to keep himself warm on this cold and dismal night, he suddenly found himself in a heated exchange that would change his life forever. It all began with the servant girl who had been at the gate when Peter entered the courtyard. She asked, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” (John 18:17 ESV). This unexpected and uncomfortable question caught Peter off guard and he immediately responded, “Woman, I do not know him” (Luke 22:57 ESV). This exchange must have left Peter in a cold sweat, yet he drew closer to the fire. Peter simply wanted to be left alone. Standing in the courtyard of the powerful high priest, Peter knew he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. His Master had been arrested and was in the middle of an intense interrogation, and it appeared that all of Jesus’ predictions about His trials, suffering, and death were about to take place. Which led Peter to assume he might be next. So, when the next person shouted, “You also are one of them,” Peter immediately responded, “Man, I am not” (Luke 22:58 ESV).

According to Luke, Peter was given a brief respite. An hour passed, but it must have been an agonizingly slow 60 minutes filled with dread and foreboding. It is not clear whether Peter understood the gravity of what had just taken place. There’s no way of knowing if he realized he was two-thirds of the way into fulfilling the prediction Jesus had made in the upper room.

“I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” – Luke 22:34 ESV

Yet, when the hour had passed and Peter had just begun to calm down from his two earlier encounters, a third individual confronted him. John indicates that it was “One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off” (John 18:26 ESV). This man had been in the garden that night and immediately recognized Peter as the sword-wielding lunatic who had cut off his relative’s ear. This led him to ask, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” (John 18:26 ESV). He was certain that Peter was the culprit, even declaring that Peter appeared to be a Galilean, just like Jesus (Luke 22:59). But, true to form, “Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed” (John 18:27 ESV).

Each of the gospel authors portrays this seminal moment in slightly different ways. Mark lets us know that Peter had reached the end of his patience and defended his answer with a life-threatening curse.

“A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” – Mark 14:71 NLT

Matthew simply states that Peter denied any knowledge of Jesus. And Luke reports that Peter claimed total ignorance of the whole affair.

“Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” – Luke 22:60 ESV

But in each case, the outcome is the same.

…the rooster crowed – Luke 22:60 ESV

And immediately the rooster crowed. – Matthew 26:74 ESV

And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. – Mark 14:72 ESV

…and at once a rooster crowed. – John 18:27 ESV

Only Luke adds the sobering detail that must have delivered the final blow to the already shell-shocked Peter. 

And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” – Luke 22:61 ESV

For just a split second, the eyes of Peter and Jesus connected – just long enough for Peter to see and feel the love of His Master and to recognize the weight of what he had just done. He had done what he swore he would not do. The brash and bold disciple, who had declared his unwavering allegiance to Jesus and had drawn his sword in the garden, had just denied any knowledge of Him. In an attempt to save his own skin, Peter had turned his back on the Lamb of God. It seems likely that in that brief moment of time, Peter’s mind recalled the words that Jesus had spoken some time earlier.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13 ESV

Yet, out of fear of death, Peter had chosen to lie and deny any knowledge of Jesus. That decision would haunt Peter, and the image of Jesus’ piercing, yet loving eyes would be impossible to forget. And Luke indicates that Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62 ESV). Peter had been put on trial and condemned as a traitor. No one in the crowd that night had passed a sentence on Peter. He was not apprehended and put in chains. He was not led into the presence of the high priest. No, he was allowed to disappear into the night, a shamed and broken man. His own words had condemned him. That momentary glance from Jesus had not been one of disappointment or condemnation but of love.

Jesus knew something Peter didn’t know. He had predicted Peter’s denial but had also told of the eventual restoration of his faith.

“I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” – Luke 22:32 NLT

The key to Peter’s restoration would be Jesus’ crucifixion. The very thing Peter had tried to prevent would be the only thing that would restore his hope, renew his faith, and redirect the trajectory of his life.  

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

All According to Plan

47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Luke 22:47-53 ESV

Upon completion of His prayer time with the Father, Jesus found Peter, James, and John sound asleep yet again. According to Matthew and Mark’s gospel accounts, Jesus sympathetically stated, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest.” (Mark 14:41 NLT). But then, sensing the arrival of His arrest party, He immediately announced, “But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!” (Luke 14:41-42 NLT).

At that moment a company of armed guards, accompanied by members of the Sanhedrin, noisily shattered the serenity of the garden and pierced the darkness of the night with their torches. Leading them was Judas. It seems likely that their less-than-stealthy approach had awakened the other disciples, who immediately sought out Jesus. They arrived just in time to see “a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs” (Mark 14:43 NLT) enter the garden with their fellow disciple, Judas leading them. And Mark adds that these men “had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders” (Mark 14:43 NLT). 

One can only imagine the range of emotions that flooded the minds of the disciples as they witnessed this unexpected scene. Having just woken up, they would have been confused and disoriented by the sudden realization that they were surrounded by what appeared to be a group of well-armed vigilantes. And the surprising sight of Judas standing alongside these men would have left them shocked and resentful. But before they had time to process all that was going on, Judas stepped forward and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” (Matthew 26:49 NLT). Then he proceeded to kiss Jesus, a prearranged sign designed to clearly identify the one for whom the men were looking. In the darkness of the garden, it would have been difficult to distinguish Jesus from His 12 disciples, so Judas had come up with this simple signal to ensure they arrested the right man.

Once again, the other 11 disciples would have watched all this take place with a sense of bewilderment and growing apprehension. What was happening? Why were these men here and what was Judas doing with them? It’s important to recognize that, even when Judas had left the upper room after Jesus announced that one of them would betray Him, the rest of the disciples didn’t immediately assume Judas was the guilty party. And as this surreal scene unfolded before them, they remained stupefied and unable to comprehend the gravity of the moment.

Luke seems to indicate that Jesus responded to Judas’ hypocritical display of affection by whispering into his ear, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48 ESV). He wanted Judas to consider the gravity of the moment and the sobering significance of His decision. He was betraying the Messiah, the anointed one of God. Jesus’ use of the term, “ Son of Man” was direct reference to the prophecy found in Daniel 7.

“I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed.” – Daniel 7:13-14 ESV

Jesus was the “Son of Man,” the one to whom the Ancient of Days had given dominion, glory, and a kingdom. And here was Judas betraying the long-awaited Messiah of Israel in such a disrespectful and shameful manner.

Sensing Judas’ sudden guilt and apprehension, Jesus quietly added, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for” (Matthew 26:50 ESV). Since Judas had already identified Jesus so that He could be arrested, what more was there for him to do? What did Jesus mean when He said, “do what you have come for?” According to Matthew 26:15, Judas had already received his blood money from the Sanhedrin as payment for his betrayal of Jesus. So, what more was there for him to do?

It seems that Jesus was letting Judas know that the kiss was only the beginning of his betrayal. That simple act was going to lead to a series of actions on the part of the guards, the Sanhedrin, and the Romans that would eventually end with Jesus’ death. Judas had no concept of all that his self-centered decision had set in motion. And, in a sense, all that transpired in the hours ahead would be Judas’ doing. He would be forever responsible for the death of the Messiah of Israel. That’s why, when Jesus had announced in the upper room that one of the disciples would betray Him, He added this foreboding warning.

“For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” – Matthew 26:24 NLT

And as Judas stepped back, he had done what he came to do, but he would soon realize the true gravity of what he had done. His sin was going to have long-term and devastating consequences that he had not anticipated.

It was at this point that the rest of the disciples snapped out of their stupor and realized what has about to transpire. So, one of them shouted, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 49 ESV). The scene grew suddenly chaotic as the armed guards grabbed Jesus and the disciples began to panic. Matthew indicates that one of them decided to take matters into his own hands and “pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear” (Matthew 26:51 NLT). In a matter of seconds, the serene setting of the garden had turned into an armed conflict, and Jesus was forced to intervene. “No more of this!” He shouted. Then turning to His disciples, He reprimanded them for their impulsive and inappropriate behavior.

“Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?” – Matthew 26:52-53 NLT

They were operating outside the will of God the Father, and their actions were actually in conflict with the pre-ordained plan of God. They were guilty of the very same thing for which Jesus had condemned Peter on an earlier occasion. When Jesus had announced to His disciples that His arrival in Jerusalem would result in His arrest, trial, and execution, Peter had rebuked Him. And Jesus had responded to Peter with a rebuke of His own.

“You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” – Matthew 16:23 NLT

Now, here were the disciples repeating the same mistake. And it isn’t hard to imagine that the one wielding the sword that night was Peter himself. He remained just as impulsive and self-willed as ever.

But Jesus stood between the two opposing groups, calmly quieting the storm of anger that threatened to turn the garden into a killing field. And, true to form, He stooped down, picked up the severed ear, and miraculously restored the wounded man to health. Even with His own death just hours away, Jesus continued to show unrivaled compassion and care for others.

It’s at this point in his narrative that Luke reveals the presence of the chief priests, the officers of the temple, and the elders. These men had been there all along, lurking in the shadows. They would not have missed this moment for anything in the world. It was the culmination of much planning and the solution to what they believed to be a pressing problem. Caiaphas, the high priest, had earlier told his fellow members of the Sanhedrin, “You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed” (John 11:50 NLT). He had concluded that Jesus posed a threat to the nation’s well-being because He was inciting the people and encouraging revolution. That would eventually bring that the wrath of the Romans and result in unnecessary pain and suffering. So, it was better for Jesus to die than for Israel to be destroyed.

Fully aware of the rationale behind their conduct, Jesus clearly refuted their claim that He was some kind of radical, political activist who posed a threat to society.

“Am I some dangerous revolutionary,” he asked, “that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there every day. But this is your moment, the time when the power of darkness reigns.” – Luke 22:52-53 NLT

There was no need for the armed guards and all the cloak-and-dagger histrionics. There had been plenty of opportunities for them to arrest Jesus along the way, but they had chosen to do it under cover of darkness. But as Jesus made clear, this was their moment. They were in their element. The darkness of the evening was symbolic of their spiritual state. Their actions bore evidence that they preferred the darkness of sin over the light, just as the apostle John had claimed.

…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. – John 3:19-20 ESV

And Jesus let them know that their cleverly orchestrated and clandestine plans were actually the will of God.

“But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.” – Matthew 26:56 NLT

They were not the ones in control of the situation. They were simply instruments in the hands of God Almighty, fulfilling His predetermined plan for the redemption of the world. And even the fearful response of the disciples after Jesus was arrested was all part of the preordained will of God. Matthew indicates that “the disciples deserted him and fled” into the night (Matthew 26:53 NLT). Jesus had warned them that this would happen.

“All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’” – Mark 14:27 NLT

Jesus had quoted Zechariah 13:7, revealing to the disciples that even their eventual abandonment of Him would be in fulfillment of the predetermined will of God the Father. Everything taking place on this fateful night was being orchestrated from above. It was all part of the plan and a necessary part of the plan that had been put in place before the foundation of the world.

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Our Sinless, Suffering Savior

39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:39-46 ESV

One of the truly fascinating things about studying Scripture is how the Spirit of God constantly reveals new insights that had previously been hidden from view. So often, we can find ourselves reading through a passage and focusing on a portion that seems particularly relevant to our current circumstances. Then, at a later date, we read the same passage and discover something we had overlooked. For instance, I had never noticed the statement made by Luke in chapter 21, verse 37.

Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening he returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives. – Luke 21:37 NLT

I had assumed that Jesus returned each evening to the nearby village of Bethany where Lazarus and his two sisters resided. I had never noticed that Jesus and His disciples had actually been camping out on the Mount of Olives, located just across the Kidron Valley from the Eastern walls of Jerusalem.

But on this night, Jesus led His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, which was located on the Mount of Olives. Once there, He instructed His disciples to pray, then He took Peter, James, and John and found a more isolated spot where He informed them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38 NLT). According to Matthew, Jesus was “anguished and distressed” (Matthew 26:37 NLT). As the moment of His suffering and death drew nearer, Jesus could feel the intensity and immensity of the burden He was about to bear. The scene as described by the gospel writers paints an image of increasing isolation as Jesus moves from the company of the 11 to the more intimate companions of Peter, James, and John. And then, it ends with Jesus in completely isolated and alone, except for the presence of His Heavenly Father.

…he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed… – Luke 22:41 ESV

From 11 to three to one. Jesus was entering a period marked by extreme sorrow and pain, and none of His disciples could fathom its weight or empathize with His suffering. Matthew describes Jesus as bowing down “with his face to the ground” (Matthew 26:39 NLT). Mark provides an added detail that describes the intensity of Jesus’ actions.

he fell on the ground – Mark 14:35 ESV

Jesus was emotionally vested in the moment. His entire being was experiencing the full brunt of the responsibility given to Him by His Father. In this seminal moment of Jesus’ life, we are given a vivid portrait of both His divinity and humanity. He was fully God and fully human, and nowhere does this unique union of two essences become more evident than in the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane. As the Son of God, Jesus declares His intention to faithfully fulfill the will of His Father. But as the Son of Man, Jesus displays His humanity and a natural aversion to the intense suffering He is about to undergo. He openly and honestly shares His heart with the Father.

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. – Luke 22:42 NLT

Jesus was not an automaton, preprogrammed to mechanically adhere to a predetermined set of instructions. He was not simply going through the motions. And we tend to forget that, as a man, Jesus would endure all the intense pain, heartache, physical and emotional trauma that any other man would feel who was forced to endure scourging and crucifixion. And yet, He was prepared to do it on His own initiative and not because He was being forced to do so.

“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 10:18 NLT

At one time, Jesus had described Himself as “the good shepherd” and added that “The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep” (John 10:11 NLT). And He made it perfectly clear that His sacrifice was voluntary and not coerced.

“I sacrifice my life for the sheep.” – John 10:15 NLT

Jesus did not have a death wish. As a human, He knew that the pain ahead would be excruciating. Yet, as God, He knew it was also inescapable. His human nature was revolted at the prospect of death by crucifixion. He knew it would be like nothing He had ever experienced before or ever again. And, in allowing Himself to endure such a devastatingly cruel form of execution, Jesus was making Himself one with us. The author of Hebrews reminds us:

Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. – Hebrews 2:17-18 NLT

One of the things we fail to recognize is that the mental, emotional, and psychological suffering Jesus endured prior to the cross is what makes Him an empathetic and understanding Savior. He understands our pain because He has endured it. He knows the reality of the fear and apprehension that so often grips our lives because He experienced it. He is intimately familiar with those moments when our will stands in direct opposition to God’s. But what He models for us is a complete reliance upon and submission to His Father’s sovereign will for His life.

“Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” – Luke 22:42 NLT

Jesus’ death on the cross was not performance art. He was not pretending to bleed. He wasn’t putting on a well-rehearsed show that appeared real but was really all an act. No, the pain was intense. The beatings took their toll. The nails pierced through real flesh, severing real veins, and spilling real human blood. His muscles were cramped. His breath grew labored. His sight became blurred from the sweat, the blood, and the unrelenting pain. And yet, knowing all of this long before it happened, Jesus was willing to endure it – all for us.

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. – 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT

Luke provides us with insight into the intensity of Jesus’ prayer time. This was not a “now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep” kind of prayer. It was so emotionally exhausting and draining that “an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him” (Luke 22:43 NLT). But even this divinely ordained respite failed to make the rest of Jesus’ prayer time any less difficult. If anything, it seems to have renewed and re-energized Jesus’ efforts.

He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. – Luke 22:44 NLT

It is impossible to know the exact meaning behind this reference to sweat falling like drops of blood. Suffice it to say, this was an intensely emotional experience for Jesus. Every aspect of His being was engaged and impacted by this moment. Yet, both Mark and Matthew record that while Jesus was pouring out His heart and exhausting every last vestige of emotional energy, the disciples were fast asleep (Matthew 26:40; Mark 14:37). Luke seems to cut them some slack by indicating that they were “exhausted from grief” (Luke 22:45 NLT).

It’s interesting to consider that Jesus was grieved, yet He faced it by asking that His Heavenly Father’s will be done. He knew that His sorrow was real, but that it took a backseat to the divine plan for mankind’s redemption. But the disciples faced their sorrow through escape. They sought relief from their grief by sleep rather than prayer. In a sense, they sought their own will. Instead of facing the unappealing prospect of suffering by submitting to God’s will, they chose the temporary prospect of sleep.

So, Jesus woke them and warned, “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation” (Luke 22:46 NLT). What Luke chooses to leave out of his narrative is that Jesus directed this statement to Peter, one of the three whom He had chosen to accompany Him further into the garden. And Jesus made this statement the first time He found Peter, James, and John asleep. 

He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” – Matthew 26:40-41 NLT

This was the same man who had boldly declared, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33 ESV). And yet, Jesus knew that it would only be a matter of time before Peter would deny even knowing Him. What Peter needed was divine help, not sleep. What Peter should have been doing was praying. But he was about to learn the truth behind Jesus’ words: The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

It Is Enough

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”  Luke 22:31-38 ESV

It’s clear from Mark’s account that, immediately after their celebration of the Passover meal,, Jesus and His disciples had left the upper room and made their way to the Mount of Olives, just across the Kidron Valley, east of Jerusalem.

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. – Mark 14:26 ESV

It was there that Jesus made yet another disturbing announcement.

And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” – Mark 14:27-28 ESV

This foreboding prediction caught the disciples off-guard and caused the always quick-to-speak Peter to defend his own honor.

“Even though they all fall away, I will not.” – Mark 14:29 ESV

He was separating himself from the rest by declaring his undying commitment to remain by Jesus’ side no matter what happened. It was probably at this point in the conversation that Jesus spoke the words that Luke records.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” – Luke 22:31-32 ESV

Jesus knew Simon well. He had spent more than three years attempting to disciple this impulsive and rather self-absorbed fisherman from Galilee. Peter was an over-confident over-achiever who regularly viewed himself as the unofficial and self-declared spokesman for the twelve. He had a strong competitive streak and a tendency to put his mouth in gear before his brain was fully engaged. This propensity often led him to say things he would later regret. And this would prove to be one such occasion.

Peter refused to accept Jesus’ assessment of his future faithfulness, but instead he argued that he was more than willing to lay his life on the line.

“Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” – Luke 22:33 ESV

These boastful words would come back to haunt Peter. He truly believed he was completely sold-out to the cause and willing to sacrifice anything to ensure that Jesus’ kingdom came to fruition. But what he didn’t know was the state of his own heart. Peter refused to accept the fact that he might be some kind of traitor or turncoat. Jesus must have had him confused with one of the other disciples. Yet Jesus made it clear that He had the right man by describing the exact nature of his wrong choice .

“I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” – Luke 22:34 ESV

This must have hit Peter like a freight train. Jesus’ dire prediction left him stunned, embarrassed, and more than a bit defensive. Mark records that Peter immediately refuted Jesus’ accusation.

“If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” – Mark 14:31 ESV

In a desperate attempt to protect his own reputation, Peter essentially accused Jesus of being a liar. He denied Jesus’ assertion that he would be a denier. It’s important to remember that this entire conversation took place within earshot of the other disciples because when Peter made this bold claim, the other disciples echoed his words.

And they all said the same. – Luke 22:31 ESV

But at this point, Jesus redirected the topic of conversation by reminding them of their earlier mission when He had “sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:2 ESV). Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” (Luke 22:35 ESV), and they responded, “Nothing!”

Then, Jesus made a shocking statement that must have left the disciples in a state of confusion.

“But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. – Luke 22:36 ESV

With this rather strange pronouncement, Jesus was letting them know that things were about to take a radical change. Earlier, when He had sent them out by twos, they had been instructed to provide nothing for their own care. Instead, they were to rely on the gracious support of others. But with Jesus’ approaching death and eventual resurrection, the spiritual battle around them was about to enter a new and much-darker phase. Little did they know that the days ahead would be marked by increasing hostility and resistance. This is what Jesus had tried to explain to them on a much earlier occasion.

“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
    Your enemies will be right in your own household!’” – Matthew 10:34-36 NLT

Jesus had not been suggesting that His mission was that of a physical revolution fought with swords and spears. He was letting them know that the gospel of the Kingdom of God was going to end up having a polarizing affect on humanity. Those who embrace the gospel would find themselves facing the anger and animosity of their own loved ones. Jesus went on to tell them that their decision to follow Him would come with a high cost.

“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.” – Matthew 10:37-38 NLT

Commitment to the cause of Christ would require a drastic change in priorities and alliances. Nothing was to stand in the way of their sold-out allegiance to Him. They would have to be willing to sacrifice everything for the cause. But Jesus assured them it would be well worth the effort.

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” – Matthew 10:39 NLT

But was Jesus really suggesting that the disciples sell their possession order to purchase weapons? Was He condoning self-defense and physical violence? Some would suggest that is exactly what Jesus was doing. They point to Jesus’ response when one of the disciples indicated that they already had two swords in their possession. He said, “It is enough” (Luke 22:38 ESV). And if we fast-forward to later in the evening, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Luke reports that one of the disciples responded to the intrusion by asking, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22:49 ESV). And before Jesus could say a word, one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear” (Luke 22:50 ESV). It seems apparent that the disciples had taken Jesus’ admonition to arm themselves quite literally. And yet, Matthew reveals that Jesus did not approve of their actions.

“Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?” – Matthew 26:52-54 NLT

The whole reference to swords was meant to be a metaphor that let them know that they were about to go into battle. But as the apostle Paul would later explain, the battle was going to be spiritual, not physical in nature.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12 NLT

And Jesus inferred that this was spiritual conflict that could only be won by spiritual means. He clearly indicates that if physical protection was the objective, He could have made a personal request to His heavenly Father and thousands of angels with flaming swords would have descended in an instant. But Jesus never made that request and those angels never appeared. This wasn’t case of a lack of weaponry. It was matter of God’s will.

When Jesus had said, “It is enough,” He wasn’t suggesting that two swords would be sufficient to defend the kingdom. He was letting His disciples know that God can do much with little. Just as Jesus had fed the multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish, God could and would accomplish great things through 11 men who were ill-equipped and unprepared for the raging battle that loomed before them.

And the apostle Paul went on to describe the nature of the armor and the arsenal the disciples would eventually use to wage war in the spiritual realm.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:13-17 NLT

It is enough.

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

In the Service of the King

24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:24-30 ESV

This passage leaves most people a bit stunned at the audacity of the disciples. How in the world could these men be so insensitive after all that Jesus had just said to them? He had just used elements from the Passover meal to describe His coming death on their behalf. Then He had followed that up with a disclosure that one of them was going to betray Him. But the gravity of His words didn’t seem to sink in. Oh, they spent some time discussing who the possible identity of the betrayer, but that quickly devolved into a pride-filled comparison. Upon close inspection, it becomes painfully evident that these men were debating about which of them mighty be capable doing such a thing. It conjures up images of the 11 remaining disciples (because Judas had already left the room) pointing fingers at one another in a perverse version of the blame-game.

In Matthew’s account of that fateful night, he indicates that each of the disciples had asked Jesus, “Is it I, Lord?” (Luke 22:23 ESV). And while Jesus seems to have made the identity of His betrayer quite clear, them disciples missed it and continued to argue over who the culprit might be. This suggests that they had no suspicions about Judas. While he had left the room, they did not jump to conclusions and immediately assume he was the guilty party. 

And Luke seems to suggest that their debate soon turned into an argument about superiority. They went from distancing themselves from possible culpability for Jesus’ betrayal to bragging about their personal qualifications to to lay claim to the coveted title of “Greatest of all Disciples.”

It’s absolutely mind-boggling to think of these men having such an arrogant discussion in the very room where Jesus had just informed them, “This is my body, which is given for you” and “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19, 20 NLT). Even if we assume they didn’t quite comprehend the meaning behind His words, there is no way they could have missed what He meant when He said, “…here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him” (Luke 22:21-22 NLT).

But rather than console Jesus and offer their commitment to stand by His side to the bitter end, they made the focus of the entire evening all about themselves.

Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. – Luke 22:24 NLT

What makes their self-centered obsession so egregious is that the Messiah, the Anointed One of God was standing right in front of them. And to make matters worse, John reports that Jesus, the Son of God, had prefaced the Passover meal by washing the feet of His disciples.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. – John 13:3-5 ESV

And John indicates that immediately after Jesus had performed this lowly, selfless act of servanthood, He went out of His way to ensure that they understood the meaning behind His actions.

“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” – John 13:12-17 ESV

Their Lord and teacher had just washed their feet, providing them with a vivid illustration of the ministry they would soon be commissioned to carry on in His absence. And yet, they seemed to have missed His point altogether. Jesus was not calling them to become washers of feet, but to become the servants of all. In other words, Jesus was asking them to carry on His ministry.

Amazingly, this was not the only time Jesus had to have this discussion with His disciples. Matthew records another occasion when the mother of James and John approached Jesus and asked, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left” (Matthew 20:21 NLT). This rather presumptuous request was met with jealousy-fueled anger by the other disciples. They were convinced that James and John were behind this gratuitous act of self-promotion. But Jesus responded to their frustration with the same basic message about selflessness and service.

“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. ” – Matthew 20:25-27 NLT

Then, to make sure they understand His meaning, Jesus used His own life as an example .

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mathew 28:28 NLT

The disciples had a worldly based perspective on leadership that promoted power, prominence, and position. The goal was to work your way to the top and then enjoy all the benefits your hard work afforded. But Jesus gave them a completely counter-cultural model to follow.

“…let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” – Luke 22:26 NLT

And, once again, Jesus reminded of them act of service He had just performed a few minutes earlier.

“For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” – Luke 22:27 ESV

There is no indication that the disciples answered Jesus’ question because it required none. He had just demonstrated that He, the greater one, had served those who were His inferiors in so many respects. He was their Lord and teacher. Not only that, He was the Son of God and yet, He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV).

Jesus declared, “I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27 ESV). That was the whole reason He had come to earth. And now, He was preparing them for the role they would play after He had given up His life in the ultimate act of selfless service.

Jesus wraps up this little lesson on leadership with a fascinating promise concerning the kingdom. It’s important to recognize that the kingdom is exactly what the disciples had been longing for ever since they began following Jesus. They had been hoping that He was their long-awaited Messiah and would set up the Kingdom of God on earth. But Jesus tells them something quite different.

“I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom…“ – Luke 22:29 ESV

In a sense, Jesus was giving them a mandate to have dominion over the world He had created. He was putting them in charge of His realm in His absence. But the kingdom to which He was assigning them authority would not be the final kingdom to come. It would not feature Jesus sitting on the throne of David in the city of Jerusalem. It would not feature James and John sitting on Jesus’ right and left in the royal palace. No, for the time being, it would consist of the disciples continuing His carrying the good news of the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. But then Jesus promised them that their longing for an earthly kingdom would one day be fulfilled. He assured them that one day they would “eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:30 ESV). 

Now was not the time to argue about greatness. The days ahead would not be filled with power and prominence but with serving, suffering, and selfless obedience to the King and His mission.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Lamb for Sinners Slain

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. Luke 22:14-23 ESV

As Jesus and the disciples gathered in the second-floor room of a borrowed home, all the familiar sights and smells associated with the Passover meal would have greeted them. Peter and John had been busy making preparations for this commemorative celebration, preparing the room, and making sure they had all the food required for this annual event.

For the disciples, this meal would have had a certain sense of nostalgia associated with it. They would have celebrated this annual festival every year at the same time over the course of their lives. It was a high holy day and, in a sense, a holiday for the Jews. On this day they celebrated God’s deliverance of their ancestors from their captivity in Egypt. The book of Exodus records the words Moses spoke to the people of Israel when he shared with them God’s plans for the first Passover meal.

“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time. – Exodus 12:14 NLT

Moses went on to explain to them the meaning and the mandatory nature of the two festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread.

“Celebrate this Festival of Unleavened Bread, for it will remind you that I brought your forces out of the land of Egypt on this very day. This festival will be a permanent law for you; celebrate this day from generation to generation. – Exodus 12:17 NLT

Then Moses reminded the Israelites that this celebration was to celebrated annually throughout all their generations.

“Remember, these instructions are a permanent law that you and your descendants must observe forever. When you enter the land the Lord has promised to give you, you will continue to observe this ceremony. Then your children will ask, ‘What does this ceremony mean?’ And you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt. And though he struck the Egyptians, he spared our families.’” – Exodus 12:24-27 NLT

On this night, the disciples would have gathered around a table that held all the elements of a typical Passover meal, including the carefully prepared sacrificial lamb. And Peter and John would have faithfully followed the instructions given by Moses centuries earlier.

“The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects. Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast.” – Exodus 12:6-8 NLT

All over Jerusalem that night, families had gathered together to share this sacred meal. And in that borrowed upper room, Jesus reclined around a table with His little family of 12 disciples as they prepared to celebrate Passover together for what would be the last time. And Luke indicates that the first words out of Jesus’ mouth were both an expression of joy and sorrow.

“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” – Luke 22:15-16 ESV

His mention of suffering must have caused a pall to fall over the normally festive proceedings. This was not the first time Jesus had talked of the suffering awaiting Him in Jerusalem, and His disciples would have reacted to it much like they had before: With shock and sorrow. Yet, strangely, Jesus expressed how much He had been anticipating this moment. He told His disciples that He had been looking forward to it. And yet, He knew that, at that meal, one of them was going to betray Him. He was also fully aware that, by the end of the evening, all of them would end up abandoning Him. And the ever-faithful Peter, out of fear for his life, would close out the night by denying he even knew Jesus.

But Jesus knew the significance of this occasion. It would be His last chance to instruct His disciples and prepare them for all that was about to happen in the hours ahead. It was no coincidence that Jesus used this highly symbolic meal to illustrate the nature of His pending suffering and death. After all, He was the ultimate pascal lamb and was about to offer up His body and blood on their behalf. But His death would not release them from physical bondage to the Romans. It would provide them with freedom from the bonds of sin and the penalty of death that hung over their heads.

There was so much that the disciples didn’t know and even what they did know, they failed to understand. When Jesus mentioned not eating the Passover meal again until it was fulfilled in the kingdom of God, they had no idea what He was talking about. It’s most likely that they understood Him to mean that He was about to set up His earthly kingdom. After all, that was what they had been longing for Him to do for three years.

But what they failed to understand was that Jesus was about to lay down His life as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:20). He was going to offer Himself as the sinless substitute, selflessly enduring the sentence of death that God, the righteous judge, had decreed as the just and holy punishment for mankind’s rebellion against Him. Not long after they completed the Passover meal, Jesus would go to the cross, where He would take on man’s sin debt and satisfy the just demands of His Holy Father. And, in doing so, God would graciously “pass over” the sins of all those who placed their faith in the selfless sacrifice of His Son. All that Jesus was about to do would be in fulfillment of the prophecy found in the book of Isaiah.

But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
    He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all. – Isaiah 53:5-6 NLT

And the book of Revelation reveals that, for His efforts, Jesus would be recognized for His inestimable worthiness.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!” – Revelation 5:12 ESV

But as the disciples shared the Passover meal with Jesus, they remained oblivious to all these things. So, when Jesus took the cup and told them to divide it among them, they would have thought nothing about it. To them, it was just another part of the Passover ceremony. And when Jesus stated, “For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18 ESV), their hopes must have risen. Once again, they would have likely understood that Jesus was about to set up His earthly kingdom. 

But then, Jesus took bread and broke, telling His disciples, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 ESV). Their minds would have raced back to that day when Jesus had declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35 NLT).  They would have remembered the two different occasions when Jesus had broken bread before and miraculously fed thousands of hungry people. But there was no way for them to understand His statement, “This is my body, which is given for you.” And when He took the cup and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20 ESV), they had no way of grasping the significance of His words. Perhaps their minds went back to the words of Moses when he had ratified the covenant between God and the people of Israel.

Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” – Exodus 24:8 ESV

Or it could be that they recalled the words of God recorded by the prophet Jeremiah.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” – Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV

But even as their minds reeled with confusion, Jesus interrupted their thoughts by announcing, “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him” (Luke 22:21-22 NLT).

Yet, rather than seek clarity from Jesus about what He meant about dying, they began to debate amongst themselves, questioning which of them would be responsible for His betrayal. They remained clueless about the fate that awaited Jesus. And they had no way of understanding what the cup and the bread had been meant to signify. Jesus was on the way to the cross, but they were still hoping He would soon be sitting on the throne of David.

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

All According to Plan

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.  Luke 22:7-13 ESV

The Jewish leaders were plotting Jesus’ death and had hired Judas, one of Jesus’ own disciples, to help them make it happen. This member of Jesus’ inner circle of followers would play a crucial role in making the arrest of Jesus a non-public affair, causing as little fanfare as possible. The religious leaders knew their plan to kill Jesus would be unpopular with the people, so stealth and secrecy would be essential. Their frustration and concern with Jesus were at a fever pitch. Just a few days earlier, the Sanhedrin had held a meeting to discuss what to do with Jesus.

“What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.” – John 11:47-48 NLT

Caiaphas, as high priest and head of the council, decided to take matters into his own hands and give his fellow council members a stern rebuke and a lesson in leadership.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about! You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” – John 11:49-50 NLT

Little did Caiaphas know that his words were prophetic. His anger-filled words were actually a clear and concise statement of truth regarding the efficacy of Jesus’ death. In his gospel account, John added a parenthetical statement that revealed the divine inspiration behind Caiaphas’ words.

He did not say this on his own; as high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation. And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world.– John 11:51-52 NLT

God had a plan in place, and He was divinely orchestrating every aspect of it with unseen precision and according to a very strict timeline. And Jesus, in perfect alignment with His Father’s will, was keeping to the preordained schedule. Jesus completed His Olivet Discourse on Wednesday and then, on Thursday, He ordered Peter and John to go into Jerusalem and prepare the Passover meal. The timing is critical because, as Luke indicates, this was the day “on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed” (Luke 22:7 ESV). The symbolism of this particular day is profound. Jesus, as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 ESV), was preparing to offer His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). In just a matter of hours, His blood would be spilled and His body broken so that sinful men and women might have the righteous wrath of God “pass over” their lives. He would become the ultimate pascal lamb, providing deliverance from death and the promise of eternal life.

In his description of this event, Luke provides details the other gospel authors leave out. He reveals that Jesus gave Peter and John very specific instructions regarding the location for their meal. Nothing was left to chance. The city of Jerusalem would have been overwhelmed by the number of pilgrims who had made their way there to celebrate Passover. Accommodations would have been in short supply. But somehow, Jesus had prearranged to have a room reserved for their use. In all the chaos and confusion of Jerusalem, Peter and John would find a man carrying a pitcher of water. This unidentified man, most likely a servant, would lead them to a house, where Peter and John would meet the homeowner. At that point, they were to deliver a message from Jesus.

“The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” – Luke 22:11 ESV

It is important to note that none of the disciples were aware of this location. That means that Jesus had not disclosed His plans to any of them. Which begs the question: How did Jesus manage to prearrange all the details surrounding the choice of this house and negotiate the arrangements with its owner? Had He made an unrecorded trip into Jerusalem and secured a room for their upcoming Passover meal? Or had He assigned the job to Mary of Martha, the sisters of Lazarus? None of the gospels provide answers to these questions. Which leads to a final possibility. Perhaps all the details surrounding the man with the pitcher and the home with the strangely available room was all a divinely orchestrated miracle. God had ordained it all.

Whatever the case, Peter and John did as Jesus said and they “found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover” (Luke 22:13 ESV). Despite the crowded streets of Jerusalem, they were able to find the man with the pitcher of water. And seemingly, without words exchanged, they followed the man to the house. There they found a large upper room completely furnished and with everything they needed to celebrate the Passover meal with their Master.

Then Peter and John set about making preparations for the evening meal. Luke opened this section of his gospel with the words, “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread” (Luke 22:7 ESV). According to the book of Exodus, as part of the celebration of Passover, the Jews were to spend seven consecutive days eating unleavened bread. This bread, made without yeast, was to represent the removal of sin from their midst.

“This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the Lord has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand. (Remember, eat no food containing yeast.). – Exodus 13:3 NLT

On the day of the first Passover, Moses had told the people of Israel:

“For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast. Then on the seventh day, celebrate a feast to the Lord. Eat bread without yeast during those seven days. In fact, there must be no yeast bread or any yeast at all found within the borders of your land during this time.” – Exodus 13:6-7 NLT

As Peter and John made the preparations for the meal, they would have followed the detailed prescriptions provided in the book of Exodus, being careful to leave nothing out.

“Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast. Do not eat any of the meat raw or boiled in water. The whole animal—including the head, legs, and internal organs—must be roasted over a fire. Do not leave any of it until the next morning. Burn whatever is not eaten before morning.” – Exodus 12:6-10 NLT

It’s sobering to consider that they may very well have sprinkled the blood of the lamb on the door frame of the house in which they were preparing the meal. So, as Jesus arrived that evening with the rest of the disciples, He would have crossed over the threshold of the home, passing by the blood of the lamb on His way to eat His final Passover meal. And Peter and John would have diligently removed all leaven from the home, even enacting a symbolic ritual of cleansing as part of the Passover celebration. And yet, that evening, Judas would be present around the table as Jesus served the cup and the bread to His disciples. The one who had been filled by Satan and had conspired to sell out His Messiah and Master would recline at the same table. His heart leavened by sin, Judas would have his feet washed by Jesus and his stomach filled with the meat of the Passover lamb.

The actions of Judas would illustrate the words of John recorded in his gospel account.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. – John 1:11 ESV

Judas had spent three years of his life in fellowship with the Son of God. He would celebrate the Passover meal with the Lamb of God. But he would end up betraying the Anointed One of God.

Peter and John did as they were told and prepared the meal. But, more importantly, Jesus was doing just as He had been commanded, fulfilling every part of His Father’s preordained plan – down to the last detail. And in doing so, He would be “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made” (Revelation 13:8 NLT).

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

You Can’t Hide the Truth

1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 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. 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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Signs of the (End) Times

29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.  Luke 21:29-38 ESV

One can only imagine the look of shock and dismay on the faces of Jesus’ disciples as He continues to disclose the Father’s grand plan of redemption. Ever since they began to follow Jesus, these men had been driven by a shared hope that He was their long-awaited Messiah. Over time, they grew in their confidence that He was the anointed one of Israel, the seed of Abraham and the son of David who would ascend to the throne and re-establish the Davidic dynasty and restore the nation of Israel to power and prominence once again. But in His Olivet Discourse, Jesus seemed to dash their hopes by revealing aspects about the future that did not line up with their expectations. He had already told them that He would be arrested, tried, and put to death in Jerusalem.  But now, He was telling them that they too would suffer at the hands of the same men who would put Him to death.

“… they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.” – Luke 21:12 ESV

Then He added insult to injury by declaring that the city of Jerusalem will be invaded and the house of God will be destroyed. He warned them that “there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people” (Luke 21:23 ESV). Then He added…

“…there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity…” – Luke 21:25 ESV

“…people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world…” – Luke 21:26 ESV.

“…the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” – Luke 21:26 ESV

But all of these devastating signs and disturbing events will culminate with His return.

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” – Luke 21:27 ESV

We tend to read these pronouncements with a sense of apathy because we know how the story ends. We have the completed canon of Scripture and, thanks to the book of Revelation, have been given a glimpse into God’s plan for mankind’s future. We have been given additional details that help make sense of what Jesus was telling His disciples on that fateful evening. They found His words to be cryptic and difficult to comprehend because these cataclysmic events had not been part of their religious training. They were mentally and emotionally unprepared for such things.

But Jesus was attempting to open their eyes and help them develop a long-term perspective regarding His Kingdom. They were focused on the here-and-now, and having trouble understanding that the talk of His coming death in Jerusalem was anything but bad news or something to be avoided at all costs. This entire chapter contains the surprising and difficult-to-comprehend words of Jesus as He reveals the bigger picture regarding God’s plan of redemption. Jesus’ death on the cross would be just the beginning of the much larger, comprehensive plan of God. It would also include His resurrection as well as His return to His Father’s side. But, even more importantly, it would require His eventual return to earth as the conquering King.

And while Jesus knew that there would be a long delay before His return would take place, He wanted His disciples to live with a sense of eager anticipation. If they expected it to happen and kept their eyes open, looking for the signs of its approach, they would be able to endure the struggles that were coming their way.

After deluging His disciples with a tidal wave of disturbing news concerning future events, He gave them a brief respite by telling them a parable. In effect, it was a visual lesson. As they sat on the hillside on the Mount of Olives, there was likely a fig tree nearby. So, Jesus took advantage of its close proximity and said, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees” (Luke 21:29 ESV).

By diverting His disciples’ attention to the tree, Jesus was using something from the temporal and natural world to convey eternal and spiritual truths. He used the visual lesson of a fig tree in order to help the disciples understand that there would be visible, recognizable signs associated with His coming. The budding of a fig tree was a natural indication that summer was drawing near. It was an unmistakable and irrefutable fact of nature. In the same way, Jesus stated that the signs of His return would be undeniable. He even assured them that “this generation will not pass away until all has taken place” (Luke 21:32 ESV).

But what does that mean? Was He saying that the events associated with the end times would take place during the lifetimes of His disciples? The answer would seem to be no. The appearance of leaves on a fig tree was a sign that summer was approaching. It did not mean that summer had arrived. It simply served as a presage or foreshadowing of what was to come.

Jesus is using this natural phenomenon to disclose that, while they were alive, they would begin to see the early signs of His return. The budding of a fig tree provides a premonition or portent of something else to come. The buds do not mean summer has arrived, but that it is coming. In the same way, the disciples would live to see signs that would point to His eventual and inevitable return. They would not be alive when He returned, but they would be given clear indications that it was going to happen.

Each generation of believers has been given signs that point to His imminent and inevitable return. These signs act as assurances of God’s faithfulness and are meant to encourage us to continue to wait eagerly and hopefully.

Jesus was letting His disciples know that the earth would continue to go through all kinds of struggles, including earthquakes, famines, floods, disasters, and even wars. The apostle Paul reminded the believers in Corinth: “Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away” (1 Corinthians 7:31 NLT). The apostle John wrote, “this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave” (1 John 2:17 NLT). Even Jesus, earlier in this very same discourse, warned His disciples:

“…you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.” – Matthew 24:6-8 NLT

But while there will be clear signs along the way, the actual day and date of the Lord’s return will remain a mystery. We will be given assurances of its coming, but we will not know the exact time. That’s why Jesus commanded them to “stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place” (Luke 21:36 ESV). The days ahead would be difficult. And while the years following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension would be marked by great joy at the birth of the church and its global expansion, Christ’s followers would also encounter tremendous persecution and opposition.

His referral to “this generation” in verse 32 seems to be an indication that the disciples represent a new dispensation or age among mankind. They will become the first fruits of those who make up the church age. But they will also represent all those who live after the cross and who face the choice between salvation through faith in Christ alone or the condemnation and death that come through disbelief.

“This generation” includes all those who will witness Christ’s ascension and all those who will see His second coming. They and the world they inhabit will not be destroyed until all these things take place. Believers and unbelievers will inhabit this planet until the bitter end. And Jesus assures His disciples that they can trust His words. His word will prove more lasting and permanent than the universe itself.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” – Luke 21:33 ESV

The signs they saw along the way were meant to remind them that God’s plan was not yet done. There was more to come. Any persecution they encountered was intended to remind them that He would one day return and complete the redemptive work that God had given Him. In the meantime, while they waited, they were to live with their hopes firmly focused on the promises of the future and refuse to be distracted by the temporal cares of this world.

“…watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” – Luke 21:34 ESV

The signs would come. The difficulties would be real. But the return of the Lord would take place just as God had planned.

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Your Redemption is Drawing Near

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”  Luke 21:20-28 ESV

As Jesus and His disciples sat on the Mount of Olives gazing across the Kidron Valley at the majestic temple gracing the pinnacle of Mount Zion, He broke the news to them that God’s house would one day be destroyed.

“As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” – Luke 21:6 ESV

Then He followed this distressing news with the disturbing revelation that the temple }s destruction would be accompanied by wars, famines, and earthquakes. Not only that, they could expect to experience persecution, suffering, and betrayal; even by their own family members. Some of them would even end their lives as martyrs for the cause of Christ.

And as if all that was not bad enough, Jesus announced that Jerusalem itself would be besieged and destroyed.

“…when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived. – Luke 21:20 NLT

The unexpected and disturbing nature of Jesus’ words left the disciples reeling. How could this be? Why would God allow His temple to undergo desecration and destruction at the hands of His enemies? Yet, that is exactly what Jesus announced would happen. And in 70 A.D., Jesus’ prophetic words of became a devastating reality. It was in August of that fateful year, after a five-month-long siege, that Titus and the Roman army entered Jerusalem and destroyed the second temple. Jesus predicted this event and warned that when it came, everyone in Judea and Jerusalem should make places to run for their lives.

“…those in Judea must flee to the hills. Those in Jerusalem must get out, and those out in the country should not return to the city…” – Luke 21:21 NLT

This tragic event would be a partial fulfillment of the  “days of vengeance” as foretold by the prophets of God.  But many of the Old Testament prophecies had a now-not-yet aspect to them. When Jesus prophesied about the destruction of the temple, His words also included a now-not-yet dimension. He was inferring far more than the disciples realized. Yes, within just a few decades, the nation of Israel would experience yet one more invasion by a foreign power that ended in the destruction of their capital and the demoralization of its people. But it would not spell the end of Israel. As bad as things would be in 70 A.D., Israel would rebound and survive.

But Jesus’ words contain a far more dire and long-term prognosis for Israel’s future. He describes a day when “there will be disaster in the land and great anger against this people. They will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end” (Luke 21:23-24 NLT). 

Both Matthew and Mark recorded this very same warning from Jesus in their gospel accounts. They both report that Jesus described the nature of this future event as unprecedented in scope and scale.

“For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones.” – Matthew 24:21-22 NLT

And all three gospel writers reveal that this future event will be accompanied by remarkable cosmic signs and supernatural environmental disasters.

“…there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” – Luke 21:25-26 NLT

But when the people on earth least expect it, they will suddenly “see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27 NLT). This is a reference to Jesus’ second coming, when He returns to earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords. This will take place at the end of the seven years of Tribulation that immediately follow the Rapture of the Church. The timeline goes something like this: As 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 indicates, the Lord will one day return for His bride, the church. This Rapture or “snatching up” up of God’s people will remove all believers from the face of the earth. This will also remove the restraining influence that God’s people provide. With believers no longer present to mitigate the devastating influence of evil, the world will become a place marked by unrestrained sin and rebellion against God. Yet, even then, God will redeem a remnant from among those living on earth in those days. They will end up as martyrs, the unfortunate recipients of the Satan-inspired wrath of the Antichrist. And while God will rain down a series of devastating judgments upon the world, most of those living in those days will refuse to honor Him as God. So, at the end of the seven years, God will send His Son to earth a second time. 

The apostle John describes the nature of Jesus’ second coming in vivid terms.

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords. – Revelation 19:11-16 NLT

The disciples of Jesus will be long gone before this event takes place. Yet, Jesus told them, “…when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luk2 21:28 ESV). They were going to witness the “birth pains” that would preview the coming of His return, but they would not live long enough to see Him “coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27 ESV). But they could rest in the knowledge that God’s grand redemptive plan for the world was impeccable and unstoppable. His will would eventually be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson