Luke 22J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
22 1-2 Now as the feast of unleavened bread, called the Passover, was approaching, fear of the people made the chief priests and scribes try desperately to find a way of getting rid of Jesus.
3-6 Then the Enemy entered the mind of Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve. He went and discussed with the chief priests and officers a method of getting Jesus into their hands. They were delighted and arranged to pay him for it. He agreed, and began to look for a suitable opportunity for betrayal when there was no crowd present.
7-8 Then the day of unleavened bread arrived, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed and Jesus sent off Peter and John with the words, “Go and make all the preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
9 “Where would you like us to do this?” they asked.
10-12 And he replied, “Listen, just as you’re going into the city a man carrying a jug of water will meet you. Follow him to the house he is making for. Then say to the owner of the house, ‘The Master has this message for you—which is the room where my disciples and I may eat the Passover?’ And he will take you upstairs and show you a large room furnished for our needs. Make all the preparations there.”
13 So they went off and found everything exactly as he had told them it would be, and they made the Passover preparations.
14-16 Then, when the time came, he took his seat at table with the apostles, and spoke to them, “With all my heart I have longed to eat this Passover with you before the time comes for me to suffer. Believe me, I shall not eat the Passover again until all that it means is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
17-18 Then taking a cup from them he thanked God, and said, “Take this and share it amongst yourselves, for I tell you I shall drink no more wine until the kingdom of God comes. 19 Then he took a loaf and after thanking God he broke it and gave it to them, with these words, “This is my body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of me.”
20-22 So too, he gave them a cup after supper with the words, “This cup is the new agreement made in my own blood which is shed for you. Yet the hand of the man who is betraying me lies with mine at this moment on the table. The Son of Man goes on his appointed way: yet alas for the man by whom he is betrayed!”
23 And at this they began to debate among themselves as to which of them would do this thing. 24 And then a dispute arose among them as to who should be considered the most important.
25-30 But Jesus said to them, “Among the heathen it is their kings who lord it over them, and their rulers are given the title of ‘benefactors.’ But it must not be so with you! Your greatest man must become like a junior and your leader must be a servant. Who is the greater, the man who sits down to dinner or the man who serves him? Obviously, the man who sits down to dinner—yet I am the one who is the servant among you. But you are the men who have stood by me in all that I have gone through, and as surely as my Father has given me my kingdom, so I give you the right to eat and drink at my table in that kingdom. Yes, you will sit on thrones and rule the twelve tribes of Israel!
31-32 “Oh Simon, Simon, do you know that The Enemy has asked to have you all to sift like wheat?—but I have prayed for you that you may not lose your faith. Yes, when you have turned back to me, you must strengthen these brothers of yours.”
33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison or even to die with you!”
34 “I tell you, Peter,” returned Jesus, “before the cock crows today you will deny three times that you know me!”
35 Then he continued to tell all, “That time when I sent you out without any purse or wallet or shoes—did you find you needed anything?” “No, not a thing,” they replied.
36-37 “But now,” Jesus continued, “if you have a purse or wallet, take it with you, and if you have no sword, sell your coat and buy one! For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me—‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’. So comes the end of what they wrote about me.”
38 Then the disciples said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And Jesus returned, “That is enough.”
39-40 Then he went out of the city and up on to the Mount of Olives, as he had often done before, with the disciples following him. And when he reached his usual place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not have to face temptation!”
41-42 Then he went off by himself, about a stone’s throw away, and falling on his knees, prayed in these words—“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me—but it is not my will, but yours, that must be done.”
43-45 And an angel from Heaven appeared, strengthening him. He was in agony and prayed even more intensely so that his sweat was like great drops of blood falling to the ground. Then he got to his feet from his prayer and walking back to his disciples, he found them sleeping through sheer grief.
46 “Why are you sleeping?” he said to them. “You must get up and go on praying that you may not be put to the test.”
I’ve printed all of Luke’s account of the Thursday in the last week of Jesus’ ministry, because it provides more detail of His activities than usual. Clearly the narrative of Jesus’ death and the events leading to it were a primary concern of the gospel writer. Perhaps it was the first connected narrative about Jesus to be written.
If however the four accounts are compared we can see that the writers exercised great freedom in creating their own versions. They are all restrained and sober versions of an atrocity, and perhaps Luke’s is the most restrained of all.
Luke tops and tails his account of the supper with two references to the Enemy, the spiritual Lord of contradiction who opposes the purposes of God. He enters the mind of Judas and threatens the faith of all the disciples, Peter especially. The Enemy takes no independent action, being subject to the permission of God, but uses the pressure of events to nudge people towards complicity with evil. The warmth of Jesus’ friendship with his emissaries is emphasised by the meal which is framed by these two explicit mentions of evil, which make it clear how threatened the shared freindship is. Indeed it is about to undergo its severest test and only the loyalty of Jesus will save it. The Rule of God which Jesus has announced and made real in his ministry is not a fantasy power that effortlessly defeats all opposition. It is real and historical in that it engages in a struggle against the powers of the world.
The Passover meal already acted out the liberation of Israel from slavery; Jesus’ symbolic use of cups and bread says that full liberation can only be achieved at the cost of Jesus’ whole self, his body and blood. The angel of death will not this time take the first-born of the Enemy but rather the first-born of God. This time the sign of rescued life will not be lamb’s blood on a lintel , but rather the lifeblood of God’s child on an execution stake. Although Jesus will suffer on behalf of his fearful disciples, he does not renounce their imperfect friendship, but rather warns and encourages them. Peter as their leader shows how little they know themselves and how much they still have to learn, even at this last moment.
Luke is the only Gospel writer to place here the story of the disciples’ argument about status. Only Luke gives the eloquent utterance of Jesus which compares the rulers of the world and their arrogance with the upside -down Rule of God, in which the greatest is the slave of all. Conscious of all his followers weaknesses Jesus warmly acknowledges the strength that has enabled them to share his struggle, and promises that it will be rewarded in God’s Rule.
The account of Jesus’ prayer on the mount of Olives which follows shows how fragile the bond between teacher and disciple is. Only Jesus reckons with what is coming, knowing that even he will be tested beyond endurance. The disciples refuse to reckon with suffering and are therefore incapable of courage.
Jesus discovers in prayer that there is something that God can only do through him. The God who is beyond the world cannot win this battle for flesh and blood and therefore requires his son to do it. Jesus is not asking for supernatural assistance, just permission to dodge his enemies. The moment when permission is not given and Jesus accepts that he will not dodge this battle, is profoundly human; the fearful sweat of Jesus has been shared by many people, just this week, for example, by terrified men, women and children, in Brussels. Already Jesus is in a world different from that of his disciples, the world of brutal powers like Rome and UK, of crazed Jihadis like Barabbas and Daesh, of religious hierarchies protecting their own authority like so many ministers and priests today, of timid disciples who want to inhabit a storybook world where the goodies always win in the end.
Agnostics and atheists often reject faith by saying they want to live in the real world, as if faith involves evasion. Luke’s story is of One whose cold faith kept him true to the world we’d rather not admit is real, the world of Brussels and Syria; the world, reader, of my sins and yours.