Chapter 22 - Commentary on Luke's Gospel

22:1-13 The meal of a rabbi with his disciples. - There has been a tradition of assuming that the last supper was a Passover meal. But a Passover meal was always eaten as a family, and the mother of the house and children had responses to make (as is evident in Seder supper celebrations). Jesus was brought to Pilate on "the day of Preparation" (John19:14), and all four Gospels agree that Jesus was crucified on the day of Preparation which ended at sundown before the Passover meal began (Luke 23:54). This meant that Jesus was being crucified at the same time as the Passover lambs were being killed in preparation for the Passover meal that night (as in 1 Corinthians 5:7). This explains why it was so urgent for the priests and members of the Jewish parliament (Sanhedrin) to get Jesus arrested and killed before Passover began (Matthew 26:5). He had to be buried before Passover began that evening (23:54, Mark 15:42, John 19:31, 42). We also know that the religious authorities came to Pilate "after the day of Preparation" (Matthew 27:62), having celebrated the Passover the night before with their families.

This proves that the last supper was not a Passover family meal but a chaburah (meal of a rabbi with his disciples the evening before a feast. This gave a teacher the opportunity to go over and explain the ritual that they would engage in with their family the next evening).

22:1-2 The above makes clear that "the festival of Unleavened Bread" (see note on 22:7) was a period that extended (like our Holy Week) over several days. The decision to get Jesus put to death through crucifixion by the Roman governor had already been made (19:47-48). The problem was how this could be done without causing a riot among the people who had crowded into the city.

22:3-6 The problem was solved when Judas handed himself over to the power of evil ("Satan entered into him," John 13:27), and came forward to discuss with the priests and temple police how a betrayal could be effected. They were overjoyed, and agreed to a reward of thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15). He began looking for the right opportunity. When Jesus arranged for the last supper (22:7-13) Judas knew he would later go out to the Mount of Olives. That would be after dark, and away from the crowds who would have gone home for their evening meal.

22:7-8 An essential part of the Passover celebration was unleavened bread (mazoth) which would need to be eaten at the Passover meal and the next seven days (Exodus 12:8, 15). Preparations for this had to be made, and the whole period (as we might think of the Easter season) was called "the time of the unleavened breads." As explained in the notes above, the meal cannot have been the Passover meal, but was more like a rehearsal with Jesus giving detailed explanations (see John 13:1-17:26). Peter and John (not the women, as in a normal family Passover meal) would need to have all the ingredients Jesus would use to explain the meaning of each item.

22:9-13 The arrangements for this guest room in the city had previously been made ("where is my guest room?" Mark 14:14). And a servant was to stand with a jar of water at a certain place to guide the disciples to the owner's home (in eastern cities there were no street numbers). In all three synoptic Gospels the disciples were to call Jesus "The Teacher" which suggests the owner had attended Jesus' teaching sessions. While the preparations for this Passover rehearsal were being made by Peter and John Jesus would be able to continue his teaching in the temple.

22:14-38 Conversation at the last supper - The three synoptic Gospels give the institution of the communion service. A fuller account of the conversation and prayer at this chaburah meal is given in the fourth Gospel (John 13-17). Luke alone tells us what Jesus said at the blessing of the first cup (a Seder supper includes four different cups during the meal).

22:14 There is no evidence that Jesus and his disciples sat on chairs at a raised wooden table. This is the traditional picture artists love to paint, but Jesus and his disciples would have been reclining on cushions around a low table. The Greek only says "When the time came, he sat down" (as in "he took his place with the twelve"Matthew 26:20, "when they had taken their places, Mark 14:18).

22:15-16 These words of Jesus at the last supper are only given in Luke's Gospel. Jesus had strong emotional feelings for the city. As a child he had gone up every year with his family for Passover (2:41). Then John had declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God who keeps taking away (a present continuous tense) the sin of the world (John 1:29, 35) which pointed to him as the very heart of the annual Passover ritual. We have defined the Kingdom of God as the sphere of the Messiah's reign (17:20-21, 18:16, 24). The Passover had celebrated the freeing of Jewish slaves from slavery. Now the fuller meaning of Passover was to be fulfilled in the freeing of people from Satan's power all over the world. As a result of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection he was now the leader of the new Passover and Exodus (1 Corinthians 5:7-8, 10:1-4).

22:17 In a Passover seder celebration four cups of wine are used, each with their own meaning. Luke refers to Jesus' words about two of them (22:17, 20). Here the first cup is the cup of fellowship "divide it among yourselves," as Paul explains "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing (koinonia meaning fellowship) in the blood of the Messiah" (1 Corinthians 10:16).

22:18 The fruit of the vine (as in Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25) refers to wine in terms of its origin in a vine branch producing grapes which are then harvested and crushed. Later in the meal Jesus will explain the meaning of this in terms of himself as the Vine and ourselves as branches producing fruit (John 15:1-8). So the meaning is that this will be the last meal of bread and wine which he would share with his close disciples. But those meals on earth pointed to the full joy of the Kingdom which would continue when Jesus ascended to his Kingdom reign in heaven.

22:19 The Greek is not "he took a loaf of bread" (as is often suggested in our communion services) but "he took bread" which would have been more like a chappati, which is unleavened, and symbolized by the commercially produced mazoth used at a Jewish Passover to this day. There are four movements expressed in a communion service: taking, giving thanks, breaking, giving. Our translation misses the Greek present imperative "keep doing this as a reminder of me." This suggests this would be more frequent than an annual Passover event, and it seems Jesus wanted it to be a regular family meal and he would be there by the Spirit (Matthew 18:20, Revelation 3:20). After the Day of Pentecost "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42, 46). Paul broke bread with the church in Troas on the Lord's Day, which would be Sunday, not the Jewish Saturday Sabbath (Acts 20:7, 11). He explained it was "a sharing in the body of the Messiah (1 Corinthians 10:16-17), and the body of the Messiah is the gathering of a church with many members (Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, Ephesians 4:15-16).

22:20 We noted the first cup of wine (22:17) was the cup of fellowship (koinonia). Now there is "the cup after supper" which speaks of "the new covenant." The covenant that Jesus was replacing is given in the "book of the covenant" which required obeying every detail of the Mosaic law (Exodus 24:7) and it was sealed with "the blood of the covenant" (Exodus 24:8). The change from a covenant based on obeying laws to a new covenant based on the Holy Spirit in our hearts is prophesied in Jeremiah: "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. . . . But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:31, 33, which is quoted in Hebrews 8:8-9). Paul makes clear that the new covenant is not new in relation to the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) but it is new in relation to the Exodus covenant (as explained in Galatians 3:17). That is why "we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves (servants) not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit" (Romans 7:6).

22:21-23 The other two synoptic Gospels report that during the meal Jesus said "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me" (Matthew 26:21, Mark 14:18). This upset them, and one by one they asked "Surely not I, Lord?" (Matthew 26:22, Mark 14:19). Luke adds that they questioned one another. A fuller account of Jesus' words about the betrayer are given in John's Gospel (John 13:21-29). It seems that immediately Judas knew he was identified, he left to call the temple police for the arrest (John 13:30).

22:24 The questions about who would betray their master moved into a discussion about who would be the greatest among them.

22:25-27 Jesus had on a previous occasion (when the mother of the sons of Zebedee wanted her sons to sit on Jesus's right and left) contrasted greatness in the kingdoms of the world with greatness in his Kingdom (Matthew 20:20-28, Mark 10:35-45). When the dispute about greatness at the last supper arose (22:24) Jesus repeated what he had said at that time. Among the nations of the world greatness is measured by the power to lord it over others, and those who have this power are called benefactors. But in his Kingdom greatness is measured by the ability to be childlike, and true leadership is servant leadership. Normally the one who waits on those at table is considered inferior to those who are waited on. But Jesus views himself as their servant (as seen in John 13:1-5, 12-17, see Phlippians2:5-8).

22:28-30 Before leaving them Jesus wants to thank them for their support in many tough situations over the past three years. He then uses the imagery of a royal court. The close friends and loyal servants of a king (courtiers) eat and drink at his table, and they assist him in his reign ("in the renewal of all things," Greek regeneration or rebirth, Matthew 19:28). When Jesus ascends to continue his reign (1 Corinthians 15:24-25, , Revelation 11:15, 19:6, 15-16), his closest disciples will remain on earth but will continue as part of his reign (Romans 5:17, 1 Corinthians 4:8, Revelation 5:10, 20:4). This is how the bread and wine of the communion service (22:17-20) points to our status and function as the Messiah's royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We work with him, and he takes counsel with us (Colossians 4:11, 1 Thessalonians 2:12. This was already the case with the Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah 23:18, 22, Amos 3:7). The word "judging" here does not mean sitting as law court judges, but functioning like the leaders of the people in the book of Judges. The first twelve apostles were Jews, and their task was to be spiritual leaders of their own people (the 12 tribes). After AD 70 spiritual leadership was taken over by people from all other nations.

22:31-32 Though Simon Peter has already been given such a high position as a leader of the church (Matthew 16:18-19), and he will be involved in the continuing reign of the Messiah (as in 22:30), Jesus knows Peter's frailty. And the events of the arrest and crucifixion will be used by Satan to "shake him like wheat in a sieve. Already Jesus has foreseen this, and prayed for him (a past tense) that his faith will hold, and he will be able to recover and give the leadership the early church will need.

22:33-34 Peter assumes that he is in no such danger, and is quite ready to face imprisonment and martyrdom. But Jesus warns him of what will happen before dawn (22:54-61).

22:35-38 Luke alone gives the insight into Jesus'concern for the disciples to be ready for the new situation they would face after his arrest and crucifixion. When they had been sent out on preaching missions (10:4) they did not need cash or a haversack. But now they would need to take normal precautions for a journey, including the sword that was usually carried for protection against wild animals and robbers (see 22:49-50). Others think Jesus was speaking metaphorically, and Christians should never be armed. The text Jesus quoted was "he was counted among the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12) which shows that he certainly had that great picture of the suffering servant in mind at this time (Isaiah52:13-53:12).

22:39-53 Jesus prayer in the garden of Gethsemane - In his account Luke leaves out the mention of Peter, James and John (Matthew 26:37-38, 42-46, Mark 14:33-35, 39-42) but he includes the angel's intervention to help him in the intensity of his prayer struggle.

22:39 Matthew and Mark tell us that the last supper ended with the singing of a hymn (Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26). John explains that Judas knew they would be in the garden (called Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36, Mark 14:32) "because Jesus often met there with his disciples" (John 18:2).

22:40-42 Jesus is concerned for the disciples as they enter this time of trial. Then went to pray at some distance, and all three Synoptic Gospels give us the prayer to the Father that, if it could be his will, he might be spared "this cup" (for this metaphor of a cup see Psalm 23:5, Isaiah 51:17, Jeremiah 25:15, Matthew 20:22-23, Mark 10:38-39, John 18:11, Revelation 16:19).

22:43-44 This reference to angelic support in Jesus' prayer agony is omitted in some important manuscripts. Perhaps the copyists felt that Jesus did not need angelic help (but see Mark 1:13). The style of this text reads like Luke's careful reporting, and it gives us a good insight into Jesus' prayer. Sweating is very common in intense prayer, and we can imagine that in the darkness of the evening the sweat looked like (not was) great drops of blood.

22:45-46 Matthew and Mark report that Jesus three times found the disciples asleep instead of supporting him in prayer (Matthew 26:40, 43, 45, Mark 14:37, 40, 41). They should have prayed the Lord's prayer "do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from evil" (11:4, Matthew 6:13).

22:47-48 Judas had told the temple police "The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him" (Matthew 26:48, Mark 14:44). Judas came ahead as guide (Acts 1:16) and gave the agreed signal, but John remembered how Jesus came forward and asked who they were looking for. When they answered "Jesus of Nazareth" Jesus replied "I am" (the words of the divine name, see note on Exodus 3:14, Luke 21:8) and the Jewish temple guards knowing the meaning of these two words fell to the ground in awed terror (John 18:4-6).

22:49-51 The disciples had two swords with them (22:38), and they asked if they should use them to protect Jesus from arrest. Before Jesus could give them an answer Peter had acted impetuously and cut off the ear of the high's priest servant. These days surgeons often reconnect severed parts of the body, and healing takes place gradually, but it seems Jesus just put the ear back in place and healing took place immediately. The translation "no more of this" does not capture the Greek "let things be for the present," which prevented further bloodshed. As a doctor, Luke carefully recorded it was the servant's "right ear."

22:52-53 In the stunned silence when they heard Jesus words (John 18:4-6), and saw the ear touched and reconnected, Jesus was able to remind the chief priests (who had accompanied the soldiers) that he was unarmed when he taught in the temple, and they did not arrest him for fear of the people (20:19, 26). But now was their hour, exactly as he had predicted (9:22, 44, Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19. For the word "hour" as a divinely appointed time see Matthew 25:13, Mark 13:32, 14:35, 41, John 12:23, 27, 13:1, 16:32, 17:1). Paul tells us we are rescued from "the power of darkness" (Colossians 1:13, compare John 13:30)

22:54-57 John remembers that Jesus was taken straight from the arrest to the house of Annas (the proper high priest, who had been deposed by the Romans, and now an old man, John 18:13). Peter was brought in to Annas' courtyard by John, and Peter's first denial was there (John 18:17).

22:58-60 Then Annas had Jesus taken to Caiaphas, the current high priest (John 18:24), and it was there that the second and third denial (again by a charcoal brazier) took place (John 18:25-27). And it was while Peter's Galilean accent had given him away, and he was (cursing and swearing, Matthew 26:74, Mark 14:71) and denying that he knew anything about Jesus that the cock crowed.

22:61-62 Peter could see Jesus from the courtyard, and he saw Jesus turn and look at him. That reminded him of the terrible words Peter had just spoken (22:34), and he broke down and wept bitterly.

22:63-65 This mocking and beating was in the house of Caiaphas (as in Mark 14:65). Another mocking would take place in the house of Herod (23:11), another by Pilate's soldiers (Mark 15:17-20), and a fourth by the soldiers and onlookers at the cross (23:36). This was fulfilling the prophecies in Psalm 22:6-7, Isaiah 53:3-7, as explained in Matthew 26:56).

22:66 The gathering of the assembly (lit. "the presbytery"which was the sanhedrin or Jewish parliament) was early in the morning after daybreak (Matthew 27:1, Mark 15:1). The chief priests, theologians, and lay members of the Jewish parliament had been planning for this opportunity (19:47) to have him officially condemned.

22:67-68 Luke omits the account of the false witnesses (Matthew 26:59-62, Mark 14:55-61). The assembled dignitaries asked him if he was the Messiah. First he refused to answer this as they had refused to answer his questions about the authority of John the Baptist and about David's relationship to the Messiah (20:1-8, 20:41-45). Then he was asked the direct question "are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?" and Jesus answered with the divine name "I am" (as reported in Mark 14: 61-62).

22:69 Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God (9:20, Matthew 16:16), but the disciples were not to announce this to others (Matthew 16:20). Jesus preferred to use the term "Son of Man" (see 5:24, 6:5, 6:22, 7:34, 9:22) to leave the Jewish leaders to face the evidence of his life and teaching, but he did refer to himself as the Son of God in some discussions reported by John (John 5:17-18, 8:16-19, 10:30, 36). Now he announces that as Son of Man (having taken birth among us) he is returning to his place at the right hand of the Father.

He is also claiming the Messiah of Old Testament prophecies (Matthew 26:64, Daniel 7:13).

22:70-71 Were they to conclude that Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God? Jesus answered (literally) "You are saying that I am" (again using the divine name from Exodus 3:13-14 as in John 18:5-6, see the note on Luke 21:8). For an ordinary human to make this claim was certainly blasphemous, and they now had sufficient testimony to convict him. But the actual crucifixion would have to be done by the Roman governor.

Chapter 23 .....