From Blessed Savior to Accused Perpetrator
[Luke chapter 22, verses 54-71]
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Last week as we left off at verse 53, Judas’ betrayal of Christ the Lord had just been completed. A crowd of people, led by Judas Iscariot and accompanied by various authorities, had come to arrest Jesus and take him away. One of the apostles, probably either Peter or Simon the Zealot, seeing that Judas was the traitor Jesus mentioned during the Last Supper only a few hours before, drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the high priest’s servants. This brings to mind something Jesus told the apostles at the Last Supper about the acquisition of a few weapons for defensive purposes: “…if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one…”, Jesus told them. But when the servant’s ear was cut off, Jesus said to the man who wielded that sword, “Enough of this!” So the Lord was admonishing the apostles as well as ourselves that it’s OK to keep “a sword”, but we are charged by God with the responsibilities that go with sword ownership, and by extension gun ownership. This week as we continue with part 4 of Luke 22, Jesus is taken away while Peter later denies knowing Jesus 3 consecutive times. So let’s start at verse 54.
“Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, ‘This man was with them.’ But he denied it. ‘Woman, I don’t know him,’ he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’ ‘Man, I am not!’, Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, ‘Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.’ Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 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.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22, verses 54-62)
So Jesus has been arrested and taken to the house of the high priest, presumably the same one whose servant had his ear cut off only for Jesus to heal it again. This would be the last miracle of Jesus’ ministry prior to his ultimate miracle – his resurrection from the dead. Presumably Jesus had been taken there first because the high priest wanted to press charges against our Lord and Savior. The fact that Jesus had just healed his servant’s ear only minutes before evidently made no difference to him. While this was going on, Peter sat back and watched what was happening from a discreet distance, but it was apparently not quite discreet enough. As we just read, Peter denied knowing Jesus or being his disciple in the span of no more than 90 minutes, and possibly much less than that. As we also saw, when Jesus looked directly at Peter – that is, when they made direct eye contact – the conviction in Peter’s heart overwhelmed him with tremendous sorrow to the point of uncontrollable sobbing.
There is an important lesson to be learned right here, and that lesson is the forgiveness of sin combined with the unfathomable mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Peter denied knowing Christ 3 times consecutively. As we will see in a later study, Peter repented completely of this sin – meaning, he never did that again. That’s all repentance is, it needs no long and flowery definitions like I’ve seen in so many churches through the years. I would compare it to breaking a bad habit. Despite the fact that Peter disowned Jesus three times in the same night, apparently within earshot of the Lord, he died nailed to a cross upside down at his own request when given a death sentence by a Roman court a decade or two later. Peter died a martyr for Christ, and all his sins were already forgiven before then. If Peter, a man who disowned Christ loud enough for Jesus to hear even though he was probably 25 or 35 feet away, can be forgiven for such a sin as this, how much more will those who worship Jesus as the risen Savior be forgiven for their sins? Forgiveness for our sins – our faults, character flaws, personality defects and everything else – is freely available to all who turn away from the darkness and come into the light. All one has to do is ask Jesus for it. If anyone reading this has not yet done so, now is a perfect time! And now let’s move on to part 2 of this week’s study.
“The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, ‘Prophesy! Who hit you?’ And they said many other insulting things to him. At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. ‘If you are the Christ,’ they said, ‘tell us.’ Jesus answered, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.’ They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am.’ Then they said, ‘Why do we have need of any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.’” (Luke 22, verses 63-71)
What we have in the first 2 verses is the equivalent to modern-day police brutality. The men who guarded Jesus did so much more than just mock him and call him bad names. They gave our Lord and Savior a good working over. Jesus was punched, kicked, jabbed, slapped, elbowed and stomped on once he was down on the ground from the beating he was taking. OK, so let’s put this into a more modern perspective. Suppose you got arrested based on someone else’s false testimony against you, and because you had been betrayed by a close friend. The cops take you to the police station, and bring you into an enclosed area in the basement where they lock you in a room and begin to interrogate you. They blindfold you, and then start to work you over physically and psychologically, and it just keeps getting worse and worse. That’s very close to what Jesus went through, and his beating was a severe one! That beating he took was for all our sins. Without Jesus, that’s what we would deserve for all our sins, but Jesus voluntarily took our place. Also, in verses 70-71 where Jesus is compelled to incriminate himself, this is the origin of our Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits any defendant in a court of law from being forced to incriminate themselves.
“‘If you are the Christ,’ they said, ‘tell us.’ Jesus answered, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer.’” Jesus failed to appreciate the one-sided nature of his captors’ line of questioning and plainly told them so. ‘If I asked you whether you thought I was the Christ (or Messiah)’, Jesus retorted, ‘You would refuse to answer.’ Jesus’ captors were acting at the behest of the temple priests, scribes and teachers of the Law. It is pretty clear that they had been warned in advance not to engage Jesus in any debates. These ‘religious leaders’ still clearly remembered being outfoxed by our Lord and Savior at every turn when they had questioned him as a way to entrap him in a contradiction or an inconsistency in Jesus’ teaching, as we have previously seen. They failed miserably every time they tried, as I’m sure you’ll recall from our previous studies of Luke’s gospel. So now they had come for Jesus to put him on trial for the sole express purpose of administering the death penalty.
“They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He replied, ‘You are right in saying I am.’” During his entire 33 ½ years on this earth, Jesus never once publicly proclaimed himself to be the promised Messiah, or ‘the anointed one’ in its original Hebrew context. This was the first and only instance where Christ did so publicly, during his “interrogation” just before his trial. “Why do we have need of any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.” Jesus sealed his own fate, and he did so of his own free will. Next week we’ll start on chapter 23, where Jesus goes before Pilate to be judged, and all at the loud insistence of the Jewish ruling elite and teachers of the Law, the equivalent to our seminary professors of today. Until then, keep praying for peace in Korea and the Middle East. We are dangerously close to war in both places as I write this. Pray for peace in the morning, at noon and in the evening through the end of the year next month, and I’ll be doing the same. Shalom….