Luke 22:47–23:31. A Trial of Jesus.
A Trial of the People.
Key Notes: Capturing Jesus. Peter wilted. Barabbas was preferred. What shall we do with Jesus?
Following the Passover celebration came the trial. Luke emphasizes the spiritual issues and gives little detail on the physical aspects of Jesus' suffering.
Lk.22:41–53 Judas had been away from Passover long enough to escort the Temple Guard, elders and priests to the garden. Jesus and the disciples were on their feet and ready for them. Judas now added to the evil of betrayal by being disgusting--offering Jesus the kiss of friendship. One of the disciples (Peter, Jn.18:10) tried to split the high priest's servant's skull with a sword and missed. Jesus repaired his ear. Then He rebuked His antagonists for treating Him like a criminal, when He had been teaching daily in the temple. He told them they were participating in the work of Satan.
22:54–63 Luke then focuses the story on Peter. He went with Jesus, and sat by a fire in the middle of the night at the high priest's house with soldiers and servants. He was identified with Jesus three times over a period of more than an hour of silence and small talk. He was too tired and discouraged to confront them, and so he just said "no, I don't know Him". But when Jesus caught his eye, Peter realized that he had denied his Lord and was overcome with remorse.[No one had attacked or threatened Peter. Weren't his fears groundless?]
The temple guard abused Jesus during the night. When daylight came. the Sanhedrin assembled. They asked the crucial questions:
•"Are you the Christ? Jesus answered the question by saying, “In the future you will see the Son of Man at the right hand of the Power of God.” This statement is from the vision of Dan.7:11–14 and it amplifies a positive answer.
•"Are you the Son of God?" Jesus replied, “You said it.” It was His affirmation.
23:1–5 They went at once to Pilate, the Roman authority, although legally the Sanhedrin's rule required a 24-hour waiting period between interrogation and the death sentence. They did not use religious accusations, but new, mostly unfounded political charges:
*He perverts our nation.
*He forbids tribute to Caesar. That was a flat lie. Lk.20:25
*He says he is Christ a king.
Are you the king of the Jews? Pilate asked. Jesus affirmed.
The leaders pushed: He teaches even in Galilee.
23:6–12 Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, so he delayed by referring the case to Herod, the Tetrarch of Galilee, who was visiting in Jerusalem. Herod, who had killed John, had a morbid fascination with Jesus (Lk.9:9) and hoped for an exciting interview. He got nothing. His curiosity turned to anger and cruelty, with the priests adding to the abuse. Jesus was returned to Pilate.
23:13–25 Pilate now was forced to reconsider. He proposed to subject Jesus to a beating and let Him go. The leaders preferred Barabbas, a known subverter of the nation, who had committed murder. Here we see the substitutionary atonement in miniature: the innocent, accused of the crime, is put in place of the truly guilty and the guilty goes free. In spite of Pilate's repeated declaration of Jesus' innocence, the leaders became more and more violent, demanding death. Finally Pilate gave up and let Jesus be condemned to death.
23:26–31 As He was led away, Simon of Cyrene, a bystander, was compelled to carry the cross. Women in the crowd were weeping for Jesus, but He told them to weep for Jerusalem. It would soon be destroyed.
Who is the prisoner? The purpose of a trial is to find out the identity, the motives, and the actions of the accused. Three titles, not really charges, were given.
•He is the Christ.
•He is the Son of God, soon to be at the right hand of the Father.
•He is King of Israel.
The Sanhedrin, ironically, did not believe any of those charges. He should therefore be declared “Not Guilty”.
The trial is important because of those who participated in the judgment. They were also on trial, (as every judge knows in his own cases). What were their motives?
•The religious leaders. They sentenced Him to death out of envy. (Matt.27:18). They could not stand the competition of a truly godly and powerful man, one who was not only powerful and successful in His own right, but fiercely critical of their hypocrisy.
•Judas. His motives are unknown. He was known to be a thief, and greedy, but he did not betray Jesus primarily to make money. He was given money as a reward. Whenever we see bizarre and clever wickedness, we should consider that Satan is at work. No human motive may be apparent. Often evil just makes no sense.
•Pilate. A politician, he cared only what people thought and especially what Rome thought. Expediency was his principle. He could have dispersed the mob with his troops, but had done some blood-letting recently (Lk.13:1), and perhaps did not want to further soil his reputation. Still, to kill One he knew to be innocent by the most barbarous method known, used for the worst criminals, was indefensible. John the Baptist was beheaded—a more humane execution.
•Herod. A politician with a guilty conscience, he was hoping to get acquainted with an unusual person. Frustrated curiosity easily turned to fury.
•Simon of Cyrene. He was an innocent bystander. He simply did as he was told, an act of kindness to Jesus, and he won a permanent place in history (Mk.15.21; Rom.16:13) and in the Kingdom.
•Peter. An embarrassed and confused disciple and friend. It is uncomfortable to be singled out. We all instinctively recoil when someone points the finger at us. Satan said Peter was just chaff, and now Peter had the chaff blown off. But there was solid stuff under the bluff and bluster. Peter survived because Jesus prayed for him. When Peter preached his Pentecost sermon, the Holy Spirit had replaced the chaff with tremendous power.
Today, the envious, the guilty, the innocent, the popular, the demonized and the embarrassed all ask:
Who is this Man?
What shall I do with Jesus?
And what will He do with me?