Post-Resurrection Appearances and Ascension (Luke 24:36-53)

He saw him alive! How could it be? That guy was as dead as dead could be! There just couldn’t be any possibility of a mistake!

He had touched and felt the cold, dead corpse. He and several others had removed the already stiffening form from the position in which it had died.

He had helped bury that lifeless man and had stood with others at the completed grave.

But now, recently, he had caught several glimpses of the one he had previously buried. He attempted to write it off as some sort of psychological trick of the mind. Dead men just don’t show up alive again a bit later.

But something undeniable was happening.

Soon after, a moment came, when surrounded by evil men who threatened to kill him, the undeniable form of the deceased one appeared, and by the thunder of his voice and the grand authority of his presence he scattered those wicked men and sent them fleeing.

It was clearly him!  He was alive!  How could it be?  But yes; it was he who had been buried!

It was Curly!! And he was back from the dead to rescue Mitch (Billy Crystal) and his City Slickers brother and friend.

No, even Hollywood could not credibly pull off a resurrection from the dead. The storyline in City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold required Curly (who was buried in the prequel) to have a twin brother to make a sequel possible with the same crusty and beloved character.  That’s because dead people just don’t rise again!

But we can relate to Billy Crystal’s struggle in City Slickers 2 … to believe against the facts of reality that a dead person was alive again.  And such was the struggle of those contemporaries of Jesus Christ – such as the 11 remaining disciples – as they struggled to come to grips with the reality of His resurrection.

The travelers on the road to Emmaus had Jesus travel with them, open the Scriptures and open their minds and eyes to see that it was He Himself. They went to the 11 disciples to report all that they had seen and heard. The two women who had also been to the grave and found it empty had reported earlier to the 11, but the disciples largely wrote them off as being a bit crazy.

So the disciples were terribly confused about all that was going on around them. Imagine their struggle. Peter had denied Christ three times. But remember that he (and maybe John) was the only one close enough to the action to commit such a failure. The others were nowhere nearby. All of them must have been dealing with their shame, while also wondering what the past three years of their lives had been about. Only a week before they had seen the crowds cheer and honor Jesus as a coming king.

And now the Emmaus Road travelers shared words and accounts with the disciples that validated the report of the women. And then Jesus stands there with them!

Imagine the inner emotions of the 11, wanting to believe that the obvious truth was the real truth. They had all seen amazing things over the past three years, but this was beyond anything else. It was a twist and turn in the story they could have never imagined. It was real; it was all now coming into focus as to what had just happened in the days immediately past.

Christ’s resurrection gave reality to their present struggle, and it also gave an explanation for their past experience and knowledge.

Being good Jewish men who had likely been reared in the intense teachings of the synagogue system – along with all of the teachings of Jesus they had heard – there was a great deal about the ancient writings that did not make complete sense. We know even from the later words of Peter that the prophets who wrote these messianic words and predictions did not understand clearly what they were writing and predicting. But now, even this too was coming into focus for them – passages like from …

MOSES – Deut. 18:15 … The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.

THE PROPHETS – Isaiah 53:3-5 … He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 61:1 … The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners

PSALMS – 16:10 … because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

22:14-18 … I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.

Many truths had indeed been given to the disciples and taught them, but it took a work of God to open their minds to fully understand the Scriptures. And this was now happening, as Christ made it possible for them to see and truly comprehend it all for the first time.

Christ’s resurrection also now gave purpose for their future lives.

Surely the disciples had found themselves sitting around those first few days wondering what was coming next in their lives. How much danger might they be in? Three intense years now looked wasted without their leader to follow.

But the resurrection changes this completely. Their lives are now changed and defined. They have a story to tell and they have a commission to tell it. But this is not something they are to do in their own strength. They are to wait for the power that will enable their success. We know this to be the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – the distinctive mark of the church age.

Imagine history and human life without this truth. It is simply meaningless, a mere existence that is only unique in that it is the highest and most advanced form of mere animal existence. But the grand story is that at the center of history is the person of Christ, who comes to correct the error of sin and evil and give life – a purposeful life here, and an eternal life there. That changes everything.

But the resurrection story is not merely something that changed life for the disciples and the contemporaries of Jesus. No. The resurrection is something that gives reality to our present struggle in this world, gives explanation for our past experience and all of history preceding us, and gives us purpose for our future lives.

Just as the resurrection brought into focus for the disciples what was happening around them and how it fit with all that preceded them, it does the same for us. We see now the big picture. We understand that sin made a mess, and we experience that mess with our own physical frailty and by seeing the broken condition of the world around us with wars and conflicts and life problems that never really end, no matter how much science advances.

Remember Curly’s great line in City Slikers – about how life is about finding the ONE THING?  That’s actually pretty good theology, though Curly wasn’t thinking that way at all. The ONE THING is the gospel; the person of the gospel is Jesus; and the life-giving guarantee of the gospel is the resurrection.

When you come to accept and trust in the gospel, it is the ONE THING in life that changes and gives perspective to …

  • Your present situation – the mixed bag of life… of its good and happy gifts, yet also its challenges and difficulties that we all experience. We understand that we are still creatures prone to sin and living in a sinful world.
  • Your past and the history that led to it. You understand the flow of history, seeing how it has affected you and your family of origin.
  • Your future – you have a guarantee of eternal life, with a resource for the current life and a purpose for living that is bigger than just animal survival. You’re not just living for yourself, you are serving God as you serve and help others.

Yes, the resurrection changes everything.

< Thank you for reading these 97 devotionals on Luke’s gospel. Our next series is on the book of Ecclesiastes, and the first devotional writing will be on Monday, April 23 – the day after the first of six messages in that series called “Life Under the Sun.” >

Luke 24:36 – While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

On the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)

The text begins today by saying, Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.  That’s strange. I grew up going to Emmaus as a kid. I have a half-sister who lives in Emmaus, and Diana’s uncle and aunt still live there where they operated a Dairy Queen-style ice cream and steak shop – a place where you could get a legitimate steak sandwich, not the pretend types that are sold in most places!

Okay, yes, that was near Allentown. An area of the Lehigh Valley where the German Moravians settled and named towns after biblical places, like Bethlehem, Nazareth, Bethel, and Emmaus. And I went to high school with kids from another original Moravian settlement on the NJ side of the Delaware named Hope Township.

Reading of the two who were walking along the road to Emmaus near Jerusalem, there are several things that immediately jump to the front.

The entire situation of the crucifixion of Jesus was big news in the city. It was apparently not something that just a sizeable fraction of people were aware of. From the remarks of these travelers, there was no person in the city at the time who was not tuned into what was going on with this Jewish preacher.

As well, it is clear that the responsible parties for the execution of Jesus were the Jews. Cleopas and his friend said, The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death.  Those who should have been the first to recognize the Messiah were in fact the ones most guilty, and this is a major theme we’ve highlighted throughout these studies in Luke.

Cleopas and his friend also confess to their personal hope that Jesus was indeed the Promised One. But they had no way of understanding or making sense of the events of previous days.

Jesus mildly rebukes them for not knowing the Scriptures better as to what must happen. It was not like these guys were particularly out to lunch. None of the closest followers were looking to see how the horrible crucifixion would soon be reversed with a resurrection. None were going to the tomb with expectations of a living Jesus.

This all points to the inability of the mind to hear, absorb and comprehend spiritual/biblical truth without the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. These folks, being of the Old Testament era, did not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As soon as the Spirit descends on the Day of Pentecost, the recipients are immediately new people in terms of theological insight.

We might bear this in mind relative to those we witness to who are yet to come to Christ. It should be no wonder to us that they do not see the Scriptures as we do, not noting the incredible and clear connection of, for example, the sacrificial systems of the Old Testament as foreshadows of the cross work of Jesus Christ. But when we share biblical truth, and when the Holy Spirit is moving in their lives toward saving faith, it is like watching a new light that is rising to shine within them.

“Without me, you can do nothing,” said Jesus. Without him living in us in the form of the Spirit, we can understand little of the Scriptures. Without the Spirit working through us, we are merely moving in the minimalist power of the flesh to communicate the Scriptures.

Again we see: the resurrection makes all the difference. The Spirit is the only power. Eternal life in Christ is the only life that lasts. May our eyes be opened, and may our hearts burn with the power of the enlightenment of God’s Word!

Luke 24:13 – Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

The Resurrection (Luke 24:1-12)

It is likely that those who are on the older end of the age spectrum may relate more to these remarks today. In Psalm 90 it speaks about “numbering our days,” with that passage being the one that talks about the normal span of life being 70 years … or 80 is one is blessed with strength. Being now in my early 60s, the math doesn’t look as good for either of those figures. It would suggest that 75-80% of life is over. That is sometimes a depressing thought.

All of this would be downright horrific to consider without the truth of our passage today – that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, defeated death, offering life eternal to those who trust and believe in him. And this great truth grows down deeper into our souls with greater meaning as the years go by.

The resurrection, though covered by all of the gospel writers, is not nearly as extensive as the life and works of Christ. That may seem strange, since it is more amazing than ANYTHING else that has ever happened in human history. But for the writers, it did happen… clearly. There was no doubt about this. Quite a large number of people were witnesses of this truth, seeing Jesus alive again. Boom! It was done.

Here is a listing, in order, of those who saw Christ, according to the gospel writers and the Apostle Paul …

  1. To Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – Matthew 28:1-10
  2. To Peter (afternoon) – Luke 24:34
  3. To certain disciples on the Emmaus Road (evening) – Luke 24:13-16, 27-31
  4. To the disciples without Thomas present (Sunday evening) – John 20:19-21, 24-25
  5. To the disciples with Thomas present (the following Sunday) – John 20:26-29
  6. To seven disciples beside the Sea of Galilee – John 21:1-4ff
  7. To the disciples and more than 500 – 1 Corinthians 15:3-7
  8. To the apostles (and others) at the ascension – Acts 1:1-3,9

He is risen; he is risen indeed! YES!

Luke 24:1 – On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words.

9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Death and Burial of Jesus (Luke 23:44-56)

Perhaps the component of the life of Jesus narratives that has most struck me during this cycle through the gospel of Luke is to see the highlights of those characters who were willing to be publicly identified with Christ. And we encounter another of those today in the person of Joseph of Arimathea.

It was just a year ago at this time that we had our Easter season walk-through program. I played the character of this Joseph, who requested the body of Jesus and buried him in his own tomb. It was great fun to especially have the body “vanish” while people looked away. This was done by the ingenious means of a false bottom under the “form” of Jesus – invented by our own Angelo Marino.

Here is a script of the Joseph of Arimathea character that I wrote and portrayed last year. If you did not see it, guests walked into a room made to look like a tomb in the rocks. And there was a covered form of a body on a sort of table, and Joseph spoke …

Yes, it is Jesus. And yes, I am Joseph from the Judean town of Arimathea.

It was two nights ago that I received permission personally from Pilate to take down the body of Jesus. It was unusual that this request would be granted by the Romans, as their practice generally was to allow bodies to rot on the cross as an additional deterrent to crime.

I might suspect that you could surmise that my boldness in identifying myself with a crucified criminal as very gallant. Oh that it were so!

My life has been very blessed by God. He has given me great wealth. I have served the nation by prominent membership on the Sanhedrin – the Pharisees and Sadducees who by overwhelming numbers voted to seek the crucifixion of that innocent man. I did not consent with this, not that my voice was terribly loud in opposition. The only other I saw dissent was my friend Nicodemus.

Here is the truth: I became a silent follower of Jesus after hearing his teaching. I long to see God’s Kingdom established, and I became convinced the Jesus was the Messiah-King. But I confessed next to nothing of this amongst my peers in the Sanhedrin. Jesus was terribly unpopular there – a threat to their way of life and leadership. I just “went along” quietly out of fear, I guess.

As events transpired and I saw this innocent man on the cross … saw the thief who believed in him … heard his magnanimous words of forgiveness … the midday darkness, the earthquake … it was time for action. Hoping Pilate would not want dead bodies silhouetted against the sky during the Jewish holiday, I made the request. He gave me the body.

I had a tomb I had purchased for myself, here where wealthy people are buried. The least I could do to assuage my guilt was to give my place for his burial. Nicodemus and I, along with our servants, took the body from the cross and brought it here.

I spared no expense in wrapping him for burial … here, let me show you … you sir, come here (wrapping cloths around a person). This involved a total of 75 pounds of spices … so it took us at least a couple of hours to complete the process.

At this point I would begin to wrap cloths around the head of a guest, taking the attention and focus of the group away from the “body” of Jesus – which would slowly “disappear.”  I would then turn everyone’s attention away from the man to look at the empty table, where “Jesus” was gone!  It worked well.

But, of course, the real difference between our portrayal and the real event was that there was a body of Jesus, and that real body made a real resurrection. We’ll talk about that tomorrow!

Luke 23:44 – It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[Psalm 31:5] When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

The Crucifixion (Luke 23:26-43)

Just before sitting down to put together these few words, I happened to see a political commentary where the individual was mocking the other side of the divide in current worldviews as academically deficient – citing some research study to support his contention. But I have also heard the primary voices on the side being castigated in this article speak of the other groups as totally stupid, fully ignorant, and uninformed about American democracy.

There is no shortage of condescension on both sides. When people believe themselves to be correct on a particular idea, it is often natural to support that belief with ridicule and scorn for those who believe otherwise. It feels so affirming.

Understand, we should hold our faith beliefs strongly and with great conviction. After all, there are correct beliefs, with others that are simply errant. One leads to life, the other to death and eternal separation.

At the core of the difference is the way people see themselves. Those who are strongly resourced with the things of this world tend to find their support in those things. Jesus once pictured such a person coming to God as being about as easy as a camel getting through the eye of a needle.

Conversely, the genuine Christian comes from an entirely different starting point. Those who trust in Christ see themselves as weak and lost without the relationship to God that Christ supplies. They recognize their hopeless condition.

On the Via Delarosa, as well as at the cross itself, we see it again repeated that those who trust and believe are most often from the weakest in society. Whereas most of the disciples are in hiding, Luke says that a crowd of people followed Jesus on the way to the crucifixion. Were these mostly sympathetic to Christ, or were they curiosity seekers – following this story that had captured the interest of so many people? Without doubt, however, there were women who expressed their obvious connection to Jesus by “mourning and wailing.”  Simple people … people who knew they were needy.

The words spoken by Jesus to them said that times would get worse before they would get better. The rejection of the Messiah meant a postponement of the kingdom. If the people would not believe when he was with them (green tree), they will certainly not when he is gone (dry tree).

And on the cross, a nearby criminal sees his hopeless condition and calls out to Jesus for salvation.

At the same time, those in power and authority mock Christ openly. They did not see themselves as needy in any way.

Before any of us could be saved, all of us needed to understand that we were lost. We may not have been as close to the social bottom of the barrel as the women, or a sinful criminal of the sort as was on the next cross to Jesus, but spiritually speaking we are totally lost without Christ. And then, being found, we must remain humbly in awe of the great love that came looking for us in our helpless condition. True faith is never proud; it is ever humble.

Luke 23:26 – As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ [Hosea 10:8]

31 “For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the Jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Trials Before Pilate and Herod (Luke 22:63-23:25)

The story of the condemnation of Jesus to death is the ultimate example of an inversion of justice. From a simple, legal standpoint, the trials were filled with injustices and breeches of legal protocol. A true criminal insurrectionist is released, while an innocent man is executed.

But the answer to the question of who was responsible for the injustice of Jesus going to the cross has varied facets…

  1. There is no doubt that Jewish nation is guilty. This passage more than any other demonstrates the complicity of the masses of the people to deny Jesus as the Messiah.
  2. The religious leadership is totally guilty as well. This outcome was their desired goal. They sought to find charges to level against Jesus in order to bring him before the Roman authorities who had the power of capital punishment.
  3. The Romans are guilty. Though Rome was known for law and order, there are significant illegalities and injustices in these proceedings.
  4. Finally, it was Pilate who gave in to the wishes of the mob, in order to maintain peace for the coming Passover holiday.
  5. But the most guilty party is … you and me. It is our sin that necessitated a Savior. And again, understanding this is what leads us to humble worship and endless gratitude for the great grace extended to us.

The trials of Jesus can be a bit confusing. Putting today’s passages within the context of the six total trials of Jesus and the corresponding passages, it looks like this:

# Trial Type Official(s) Primary Text
1 Religious Annas John 18:12-14
2 Religious Caiaphas Matthew 26:57-58
3 Religious The Sanhedrin Matthew 27:1-2
4 Civil Pilate John 18:28-38
5 Civil Herod Luke 23:6-12
6 Civil Pilate John 18:39–19:16

Luke 22:63 – The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65 And they said many other insulting things to him.

66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.”

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

Luke 23:1 – Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”

3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

5 But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”

6 On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12 That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”

18 But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

22 For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”

23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

Peter’s Denials (Luke 22:54-62)

Just today I heard a dialogue upon the current state of justice in America, referencing the investigative and political intrigue that fills our daily news. The commentator made a compelling case that this is a troubling time of upside-down justice – that there is no longer balance, but rather a political state seeking to accomplish their own means through the alleged cover of the justice system. My point in not to render a judgment on this matter, but rather to say how troubling it is to imagine that there may be a time in America where there is not equal justice under the law. Though imperfect, the American system has provided the best historical system of justice the world has ever known. We’ve been blessed. But the prospect of injustice prevailing is troubling to the soul.

Where do you go when justice is running amuck? What can you trust? If you are on the minority side that is opposite of the powers that be, where can you turn for safety? This is an actual reality for many Christians in varied countries around the world that are hostile to the gospel.

And hostility toward Christ and his followers was most specifically playing out in our passage today about Peter’s three denials of knowing Christ. We would like to think that we would not have failed so miserably in the same setting, yet none of us have ever faced such a moment.

Jesus has been arrested and is appearing before Annas, the high priest. We know from John’s gospel that John and Peter were able to follow at a short distance and gain access inside the courtyard. The other disciples are nowhere to be found … remember that when feeling critical of Peter.

The picture we get is of a chilly evening in Jerusalem, in the middle of the night, and there is a group of bystanders who are warming themselves around a fire. And Peter is there, attempting desperately to blend in. A servant girl recognizes Peter as one of Christ’s disciples – her statement apparently with the tone of “You’re not one of the whackos who follow this nut-job Galilean preacher dude, are you?”

He replied, “Woman, I don’t know him,”

A second time an individual begins to recognize that Peter was one of those individuals previously with Jesus. Peter’s cover was cracking.

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

Surely his Galilean accent was giving him away as well.

The third accusation is from a relative of Malchus (known from parallel gospels) – the fellow whose ear had been sliced off his head. Surely the perpetrator of such a deed would be recognized and remembered.

After Peter’s loud protestation of not knowing Jesus, the rooster crows as predicted, and Jesus looked through the crowd and made eye contact at this very moment. Wow!

Peter – what a loser!  Or is he?  Surely not any one of us would have done the same thing in the same situation!  Or would we?  Would we even be there close enough to make a denial?

This was a failure on Peter’s part – without doubt. He had earlier proclaimed he would die for Christ (and ultimately, he would). But recall this – though ill-conceived and foolish, it was Peter who was willing to swing a sword when a cohort of about 60 soldiers and others came to arrest Jesus.

And while the bulk of the disciples were slinking about in the darkness on the other side of the Kidron Valley while Jesus is being put on trial, Peter is risking being nearby. Does close only count in horseshoes and hand grenades?

Would you have been nearby?  Would you have identified yourself with Jesus in this scenario?  How well do you identify with Jesus today in your world and in the places you frequent?  This is a probing question and passage, isn’t it?

Luke 22:54 – Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

On the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39-53)

So you have a major surgery upcoming. A date is set several months in advance. The entire experience is going to be rather unpleasant, you know this. There are various appointments in preparation – blood tests and doctor consultations. You need to make arrangements to be off work, also scheduling post-op therapy sessions. Try as you might to put the inevitable date out of mind, you find yourself thinking about it multiple times a day. Your mind goes into a sort of countdown mode … “it’ll be six weeks from today at this time that I’ll be under the knife.”

But imagine the thoughts that must have gone through the mind of Jesus, anticipating the cross … anticipating also the price of bearing all the sins of mankind over all the years. He had an internal clock. It was what kept him on his path over the three years of ministry. It was an appointment to keep. Jesus returned to Judea and Bethany at a time when the authorities were known to be intent upon his execution. But he continued onward toward the cross.

The time had now come. The hour was at hand. Those who were to lead him to his appointment on the cross were now trudging toward him from the darkness beyond. Bolstered by prayer and the presence of an angel, still the sweat drops were as blood. Being fully cognizant of the entire situation, why wouldn’t they be?

This is love beyond anything we have ever seen or imagined. There is no greater love.

All of this is the plan of God. There is no making sense of it by any human reasoning: the injustice of the innocent dying for the guilty!

Even as it is unfolding, Jesus has a heart of care and compassion for the disciples. He even heals the ear of one who was stricken in a moment of rage by one of the twelve. Christ is always looking away from self to others. That is what the entire story is about – the innocent one who is willingly dying for all the guilty.

May it be that we never read this passage with anything but wonderment at the great love directed toward us. That is our first and foremost devotional application … today, and every day.

Luke 22:39 – Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

The Last Supper (Luke 22:7-38)

We often say of someone who seems to be oblivious to an event that is going on around him, “He just doesn’t get it!”  My most recent involvement with teaching children is at the Good News Bible Club we do at the local elementary school. While trying to teach a Bible lesson, there are times when the students are completely focused instead upon what child is sitting in what seat, who poked the other kid or said something unkind, or what is going to be the snack later that day. Distractions galore. Something of great meaning is being spoken around them, but they just don’t get it.

That is the group picture at the Last Supper. Jesus is dropping one profound thought after another on the disciples – talking about a final time to eat with them, of one who was going to betray him, of difficult times and circumstances just ahead. But it is blowing over their heads completely.

Rather, a controversial discussion breaks out amongst them as to who is the greatest in the Kingdom, each arguing apparently for their own resume. Jesus points out the upside-down nature of this thinking – that greatness comes from serving, as he himself had modelled for them.

Peter is particularly confident in the depth of his commitment to Christ – willing to go to prison or to die if necessary. We may believe this to be fully genuine. He truly believed his commitment to be that extensive, though the hour of testing would later reveal that the perception of strength was greater than the ability to access it at the moment of crisis.

With this entire narrative, we see the pinnacle moment of action coming into focus. As they leave the dinner behind and go out from the room, this is the moment of, by illustration, going down the tunnel onto the field of play or coming onto stage as the curtain opens. Yet the disciples merely see it as the next step of many steps they have been taking over the past three years.

They lacked readiness and spiritual insight as to what was happening around them. I don’t say that critically; I’m not suggesting that any one of us would have performed better at that moment. They were not ready for the stage they were walking out upon. Jesus knew that. But Jesus also knew that a time would come when they would be prepared and capable. He even speaks specifically to Peter of such a future time.

This again demonstrates what a profound difference there is in a person’s life once there is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit guides us into truth and understanding, bolstering the believer in ways that account for a total difference in life.

Yet at the same time, we must remain vigilant, being ever aware that there is Kingdom work going on all around us, though we may not always see it. We should understand as well that there is an Enemy who wishes for our failure and demise. And we must daily strive to remove those distractions and trivialities that erode our readiness for the greater cause of the Kingdom work.

We don’t want to be that spiritually daffy person who doesn’t get it. There just isn’t time to be poking others or being envious of the roles others play or don’t play. There is Kingdom work to be done.

Luke 22:7 – Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”

13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[Isaiah 53:12]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.

Judas Arranges Betrayal of Christ (Luke 22:1-6)

We have spoken and written much in this series about the incredible resistance demonstrated by the religious leadership in Israel to believe in Jesus as the Christ. Even in the face of undeniable miracles, they were unaffected.

Yet even more startling than this is the unbelief of Judas. Here was a man who witnessed everything, not just in public, but also of the private ministry of Jesus. He truly saw it all, but in the end he was likewise unaffected in terms of faith and commitment.

This would appear to be also impossible. Yet it was true. Surely he was a self-centered person who would not yield control of his heart and life. We might speculate that many elements of the ministry of Jesus were attractive to him, though perhaps he had political hopes of a Roman overthrow. And when seeing that Jesus was about spiritual ministry and renewal rather than being focused upon material world priorities, Judas may have become disenchanted.

Though it was never a surprise to Jesus that one of them was not truly “on the team” and would ultimately be a betrayer, the picture we see of the whole group would seem to indicate that the other 11 did not see this coming. When Jesus said that one of them would turn against him, it is not as if all eyes looked at Judas. It would be interesting to know which of the other 11 was paired with him when they were sent out two by two.

Another curiosity centers around why Jesus would select and have such a duplicitous person among the inner circle. We cannot know for certain. It does demonstrate the magnanimous grace of the universal reach of the message of Christ. For Judas … for any … who do not choose to believe, it is not because there is a lack of love or opportunity to believe and follow wholeheartedly. It has rather to do with the dark grip of sin upon their own lives.

A great sadness that I have felt in pastoral ministry is to have seen more than a few who appeared to possess faith and commitment choose to at some point walk the other way … to even deny the truth. I do not believe this means that they genuinely had a faith that they chose to deny, but that they rather never truly possessed it in the first place. People have the ability to play the role of a follower of Christ, even for an extended time. However, the day comes when perseverance wears out and the true nature of the heart is revealed. And in that it happened even amongst the disciples should make it as no surprise that rejection of faith can occur in our day and among people we knew and even served alongside.

Luke 1:1 – Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.