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Wednesday
Feb122014

Luke 22:47-71

            Luke 22:46 ended with Jesus speaking to His disciples, exhorting them to stay vigilant in prayer in order to be ready for what was to come. Those events start immediately in verse 47 as Judas appears with several men. Although Jesus was a very well-known figure, unless the soldiers had personally seen Jesus, they would have no idea what He looked like. With the compounding factor of the darkness, they would have needed some help identifying the man they were supposed to arrest. When Judas kisses Jesus in greeting, that serves a practical purpose in his betrayal, but it also underscores the sharpness of the betrayal by one so close to Jesus. The disciples immediately start to believe that this is a moment for to use the swords they had just referenced in the last chapter, and Peter (identified in John but not here) cuts off the ear of a servant without waiting for approval. Jesus puts a stop to this with language similar to when they had brought out the swords before, and offers a contrast the violence around Him by healing the servant’s ear, an act mentioned by the physician Luke but not the other Gospel writers. Jesus also points out the hypocrisy of their actions to come with weapons in the darkness to seize someone who has posed no physical threat. Regardless of the number of men or their seeming physical advantage, the Gospels all make clear that it is Jesus who is in control of the situation.

The current High Priest was Caiaphas, but his father-in-law Annas was the former high priest and would have retained the title for life. The other Gospels reference appearances before both. While Luke doesn’t specify which high priest is being referenced here, it is likely that they lived in separate wings of the same house, making the distinction unimportant. The disciples have mostly fled, but Peter summons up some degree of courage to follow along while retaining his distance. Nonetheless, he is recognized as one of the disciples by a girl and immediately issues a strong denial of the fact when challenged. In fact, the language that he uses to deny knowing Jesus is similar to the language that was used when someone was cut off from a synagogue. A second person recognizes him and Peter makes the denial again. When the third person recognizes him by his accent as being from Galilee, Peter’ denial becomes even more fervent. It was at that time that Peter heard the rooster crow and Jesus turns and makes eye contact with him. At that moment, the realization of his failure hits home and leaves and begins to weep.

Blind man’s bluff is an ancient game, dating back to 500 BC, and variations of it were common in that area at the time. The guards are mocking Jesus by playing a cruel version of the game with Him, and Luke’s description brings across both how humiliating their treatment is and also how ironic. Jesus is being accused of blasphemy, but when Luke describes the guards’ treatment of Jesus he uses the word blasphemeo, which is the origin of our word “blasphemy.”

Luke turns his narrative back to the legal proceeding. What he does not recount are the council’s failed efforts to get corroborating testimony against Jesus, a requirement for a capital case. They need strong consensus in order to appeal to the Romans to condemn Jesus to death but are getting nowhere. They then try a different approach by asking Jesus directly if He is the Messiah. If He says no, then He will lose His popularity with the people, but if He says yes, then they will assume that He is lying since He is under arrest. Jesus refuses to answer on the grounds that they will not believe Him, but then quotes from Psalm 110 that He will be seated at the right hand of God. That Psalm is Messianic – He referenced it before in pointing out their lack of understanding of the Messiah – but also is greatly offensive to them as He is claiming to enter the presence of God. That statement serves as the evidence which they had sought, again confirming Jesus’ control over the process.

Luke makes very clear that everything that is happening is according to the Father’s plan, which Jesus is carrying out in perfect obedience. God’s sovereignty, however, does not excuse the actions of those who choose their own path over God’s. Even if the reason is misguided fervor to serve God, such as the disciples brandishing their swords, we are still without excuse. We know that we will be tested, and often our most difficult tests of obedience often don’t come in calls for spectacular displays of courage but rather in quiet moments alone. When we do fail, we can be comforted and convicted by the knowledge of God’s grace and mercy and pray for the strength to faithfully endure the next test to come.

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