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VI. Betrayal, Suffering, Death, and Resurrection (Luke 22:1–24:53)

22:1-6 As the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called Passover (see Exod 12:1-28) approached, the plot to kill Jesus began to unfold (22:1). The chief priests and the scribes could not figure out a way to seize him without causing a riot among the people (22:2). That’s when Satan entered Judas, one of the Twelve, and inspired him to betray Jesus for money (22:3-5). The religious leaders accepted his offer. They were leery of the crowd’s enthusiasm for Jesus, so they wanted Judas to betray him to them when the crowd was not present (22:6).

23:32-34 Crucifixion was a common method of execution that the Romans inflicted on heinous criminals, so it’s not surprising that two others were to be put to death along with Jesus (23:32). The soldiers took them to the execution site, a foreboding place called The Skull. There they crucified Jesus between the others (23:33). Don’t miss that even as he was being tortured to death, Jesus remembered the purpose for which he came—to open the door of divine forgiveness for all who would receive him. He prayed that the Father would forgive even his executioners, because they did not know what they [were] doing. Yet, even as he pleaded for mercy for them, they gambled for his clothes (23:34), fulfilling prophecy from Psalm 22:18 (see John 19:23-24). Behold our Savior: As sinners mocked him, he interceded for them so that they might repent and be saved.

23:35 The Jewish religious leaders who had longed for this day stood scoffing at Jesus as he suffered on the cross. They scornfully urged him to save himself if he were truly God’s Messiah. They observed that he had saved others yet was unable to do the same for himself. However, only by remaining on the cross and sacrificing his own life could he provide salvation. The religious leaders reveled in their “victory,” but they had failed to grasp his mission. Even as he hung dying, the Son was winning the victory for which the Father had sent him.

23:36-38 The soldiers also mocked him. They knew nothing of Jesus’s teaching or ministry. They probably jeered at every criminal they were ordered to execute. But in this case, their ridicule reflected the inscription that Pilate had commanded to be placed on the cross: This Is the King of the Jews (23:37-38; see John 19:19-22). Yet, ironically, the very thing they mocked was true. Before them hung the King of the Jews—and the King of all creation. One day, they will stand before him again. But on that day he will be seated on a throne pronouncing their judgment.

23:39-42 When Matthew and Mark mention the criminals crucified with Jesus, they report that these two taunted him (Matt 27:44; Mark 15:32). But Luke tells us something more. Though both criminals started down the same road that day, at some point one of them chose a different path. Both heard and saw the same things, but they reached different conclusions.

The criminals’ words here reveal the differences between the men. First, they reached different conclusions about who the man in the middle was. The rebellious criminal joined the crowd. He hurled insults at Jesus, ridiculing the idea that he was the Messiah (23:39). But the repentant one recognized that Jesus was both an innocent man who had done nothing wrong and a King about to enter his heavenly kingdom (23:41-42). Your eternal destiny is necessarily connected to your understanding of who Jesus is.

Second, they reached different conclusions regarding their own guilt. The first criminal failed to come to grips with his own sinfulness. There was no admission of blame, no fear of God (20:40). But his companion rebuked him. He rightly concluded that they were being punished justly for their crimes (20:40-41). Without the comprehension that you are a sinner in rebellion against and separated from a holy God, you cannot be saved.

Third, the two men reached different conclusions about what they needed to be delivered from. The unrepentant criminal simply wanted deliverance from his present earthly circumstances. Save yourself and us, he demanded of Jesus, meaning, “Keep us from dying!” (23:39). But the second criminal understood that there was something beyond their present trouble. No matter how bad things were on earth, a much more serious concern awaited. One day, we all must face eternity and—unless we have a mediator—the wrath of God. With a repentant heart, this man recognized Jesus as the mediator he needed: Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom (23:42). Hearing Jesus call his Father to forgive his executioners (23:34) was sufficient for this man to change his opinion about Jesus and place saving faith in him.

23:43 In response to the man’s repentance and faith, Jesus told him, Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. According to the New Testament, all believers are called to obey the Lord by being baptized, locking arms with Christian brothers and sisters in a local church, and growing as disciples by seeking to love God and neighbor. But none of these things can save a person. They are acts of obedience in response to the saving work of God in our lives through Jesus Christ. Salvation comes when we put our faith alone in Christ alone. And that’s what this criminal did. He didn’t have an opportunity to follow the Lord in a life of obedience—though if he had lived he surely would have. Nevertheless, he did exactly what was required in order to be reconciled to God. And later that day, though his physical body died, his spirit and soul went to paradise with King Jesus, awaiting his future bodily resurrection from the dead. This affirms that believers go immediately into God’s presence at death.

23:44-46 As Christ’s death approached, a number of events took place. From about noon . . . until three there was darkness on the land . . . because the sun’s light had failed (23:44). It wasn’t possible for the Son of God to be rejected and killed without it causing an ominous reaction from his creation. When Jesus finally yielded up his life and breathed his last, he entrusted himself to his Father, quoting Psalm 31:5 (23:46).

At that moment, the curtain of the sanctuary, which separated the holy place from the most holy place, was split down the middle (23:45; see Exod 26:33). The curtain symbolized the separation that existed between a holy God and sinful people. Only the high priest could enter the most holy place to make atonement for Israel’s sins. But through the perfect atoning sacrifice of our “great high priest” Jesus Christ (see Heb 4:14; 7:27; 10:10, 12), human beings everywhere have access to God through him. The way to God is open. You no longer need the Old Testament sacrificial system; you only need Jesus and faith in his work.

23:47-49 Though many who witnessed the crucifixion were unbelievers who insulted Jesus, many others were sorrowful and realized that a miscarriage of justice had taken place. The Roman centurion who oversaw the execution of the three men began to glorify God by declaring Jesus to be a righteous man (23:47). The crowds that had gathered to watch the event went away striking their chests in grief (23:48). Those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance and watched (23:49). They were anxious to know where he would be buried so that they could later anoint his body (see 23:55-56).

23:50-53 Though most of the Jewish religious leaders had opposed Jesus, there were notable exceptions. One of these was a member of the Sanhedrin who was named Joseph. He was a good and righteous man from the Judean town of Arimathea who was looking forward to the kingdom of God (23:50-51). He boldly demonstrated his faith in Jesus by going publicly to Pilate and asking for Jesus’s body so that he might bury him (23:52). Helped by Nicodemus, another Jewish leader who had opposed the Sanhedrin’s plan (see John 3:1-2; 7:50-51; 19:39-40), Joseph wrapped and buried the body in a tomb that had never been used, one cut out of rock (Luke 23:53).

23:54-56 Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried on Friday. The next day was the Sabbath, which began at sundown on Friday (23:54). The women who had followed Jesus from Galilee saw the tomb where he was buried so that they could return on Sunday, after the Sabbath, and anoint his body with spices and perfumes (23:55-56).

24:1-3 On the first day of the week—Sunday—early in the morning, the women came to the tomb with their spices (24:1). The stone covering the opening to the tomb had been rolled away, but Jesus’s body was not there (24:2-3).

24:4-8 As the women puzzled over what had happened, suddenly they realized they weren’t alone. Two others were there. They appeared to be men (24:4), but they were angels (see 24:23; Matt 28:5). Their clothes were dazzling, and the women bowed down in fear (Luke 24:4-5). The angels asked perhaps the most glorious question ever: Why are you looking for the living among the dead? (24:5). Jesus had truly died, but he had risen from the dead as he’d predicted when telling them he would be crucified and rise on the third day (24:6-7; see 9:21-22; 18:31-33). The heavenly rebuke helped the women remember (24:8).

24:9-12 They ran to find the Eleven and all the rest to tell them what had happened (24:9). These weren’t nameless, fictional women but real people: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James (24:10). Women played a prominent role in Jesus’s ministry, supporting him from their own possessions (8:1-3), so they were given the privilege of being the first to learn of the resurrection and to communicate it. Initially, the others disbelieved the women’s testimony (24:11), yet it prompted Peter to run to the tomb to see for himself. When he saw nothing there except the linen cloths that had wrapped Jesus’s body, he went away, amazed and trying to make sense of what had happened (24:12).

24:13-17 Luke cuts to another resurrection account featuring two disciples, one of whom was named Cleopas (see 24:18). These two were traveling to Emmaus, a town located about seven miles from Jerusalem (24:13). As they were discussing what had happened that weekend, the risen Jesus began walking alongside them (24:14-15). However, they didn’t know who he was, for they were prevented from recognizing him (24:16). So he asked them what they were discussing, and they stopped walking and looked discouraged (24:17). Their unbelief prevented them from recognizing him.

24:18-21 Cleopas was stunned: Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days? In other words, he said, “Where have you been, Mister? Don’t you know what’s occurred?” Then they proceeded to explain who Jesus of Nazareth was—to Jesus!

Though he was a mighty prophet of God, the chief priests and leaders saw to it that he was sentenced to death (24:19-20). Yet it wasn’t just the miscarriage of justice that discouraged them; they were discouraged because their hopes had been dashed: We were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel (24:21). This implies they had expected him to redeem them from Roman rule and set them free. They had put all of their eggs in the Jesus basket. But their dreams had been destroyed; their hearts had been broken.

24:22-24 As if that weren’t enough, some women from their group had gone to the tomb that morning but didn’t find his body (24:22-23). Instead, angels testified that he was alive (24:23). Some of their friends went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said (24:24). “We don’t know where he is,” was essentially the complaint these men made to the very man they were looking for! How wonderful that the one they couldn’t find was walking alongside them. “They were prevented from recognizing him” (24:16) because of their disheartening circumstances.

24:25-26 Though they were discouraged, Jesus rebuked them: How foolish you are and how slow. That was not exactly a compliment! Rather than try to encourage them, he first wanted to take them to the truth. When we see the truth rightly, our emotions will follow. He told them they had not believed all that prophets have spoken. Their reading of Scripture had been selective. They needed to be taken back to see all that the prophets had said. It was necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory (2:26).

Jesus is the Son of God, sitting now at the right hand of the Father, crowned with honor and glory. But he had to endure great suffering to get there. The disciples had missed what Scripture said about the Messiah. Likewise, many people today are excited about the promises and blessings of the Bible, but they avoid those passages that talk about trials and pain. However, you can’t have one without the other. We must be willing to accept the total package.

24:27 So what did Jesus do? Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets (that is, the entire Old Testament), he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures. There was no New Testament yet; Jesus was the New Testament. So he helped them to see the Messiah in the Old Testament. Similarly, whether we’re reading about Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, or Isaiah, we must always be looking for Jesus in the Old Testament Scriptures because they were written with him in mind. As the saying goes, Jesus is in the Old Testament concealed but in the New Testament revealed.

24:28-30 As they came near Emmaus, their destination, Jesus gave the impression that he was going to continue on his way (24:28). But they urged him to stay, and he accepted their invitation (24:29). They went from Bible study to personal fellowship, from information to relationship. And as they sat down to eat, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them (29:30). Notice what happened. The guest became the host. They invited him in, and he fed them.

24:31-35 At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, but he disappeared (24:31). Their hearts had been burning when he explained the Scriptures to them and the truth of God’s Word had transformed their discouraged hearts. But it was during the breaking of the bread—when they saw the nail prints in his hands—that they realized who he was (24:35). The purpose of the written Word is always to lead us to an experience with the living Word.

Once Jesus disappeared, they hurried off to Jerusalem, making the same seven-mile journey in reverse! They told the Eleven everything that had happened and learned that the Lord had also appeared to Simon (24:33-34).

24:36-43 As they were all standing around sharing their resurrection stories, Jesus himself stood in their midst and greeted them (24:36). At first they were terrified, thinking him a ghost (24:37). But he assured them that he had a real physical body. He encouraged them to touch him and see that he had flesh and bones (24:38-39). Then he showed them his hands and feet with their nail scars (24:40). Finally, he ate a piece of broiled fish to give further proof that he was no apparition but had a resurrected body (24:41-43).

24:44-48 Then he reminded them of what he had told them—that everything written about him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (i.e., the Old Testament) had to be fulfilled (24:44). He had taught them previously, but at this point he opened their minds so that they could fully understand the Scriptures (24:45). As eyewitnesses of Jesus and his resurrection, they were to proclaim the good news to all the nations—that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day and that repentance for forgiveness of sins comes through believing in his name (24:46-48). This gospel was what the apostles preached and is what the New Testament declares.

24:49-51 Jesus commanded them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for what his Father had promised—the Holy Spirit, so that they would be empowered from on high (24:49). Then he led them near Bethany (less than two miles from Jerusalem). As he blessed them, they watched as he ascended into heaven (24:50-51).

24:52-53 After worshiping Christ, they went back to Jerusalem, filled with joy, and continually went to the temple praising God. Worship, joy, praise—that’s where our faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ should lead us.

Thus ends the first part of Luke’s two-part narrative (see 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3). The stage is set for its sequel, the book of Acts.

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