But the festival of Unleavened Bread, known as Pesach, was approaching; 2 and the head priests and the Torah-teachers began trying to find some way to get rid of Yeshua, because they were afraid of the people.
3 At this point the Adversary went into Y’hudah from K’riot, who was one of the Twelve. 4 He approached the head priests and the Temple guard and discussed with them how he might turn Yeshua over to them. 5 They were pleased and offered to pay him money. 6 He agreed and began looking for a good opportunity to betray Yeshua without the people’s knowledge.
7 Then came the day of unleavened bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be killed. 8 Yeshua sent Kefa and Yochanan, instructing them, “Go and prepare our Meal, so we can eat.” 9 They asked him, “Where do you want us to prepare it?” 10 He told them, “As you’re going into the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house he enters, 11 and say to its owner, ‘The Rabbi says to you, “Where is the guest room, where I am to eat the Pesach meal with my disciples?” ’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs already furnished; make the preparations there.” 13 They went and found things just as Yeshua had told them they would be, and they prepared for the Meal.
Here Luke begins his story of the death of Jesus, following his main source, the Gospel of Mark, editing some details and omitting others. Crucially he omits Mark’s story of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany, because he has already told a slightly different story of anointing by a woman in chapter 7 of his gospel.
Here he focuses first on the secrecy with which Jesus must conduct himself, even at the time of Pesach. But he lets the reader know that all precautions will fail because Jesus was betrayed by one of the Twelve. Luke makes it clear that Judas’ actions are prompted by the Adversary, whose tests Jesus had resisted at the outset of his ministry, but with which Judas collaborates. Mark says he went to the head priests and the Torah teachers, while Luke mentions the priests and the temple guard. He may have had an independent source for this detail. The blood money is mentioned but in such a way that it is not understood as the main motive for betrayal, which remains unexplained except by the invasion of the Adversary, the Satan.
The details of the arrangement for the Pesach Meal, copied from Mark, are convincing as Jesus’ use a common custom by which groups of pilgrims would obtain access to a room in the city for the Meal. The scout appointed to wait for the disciples and the formal password are likely enough ways of avoiding exposure.
The narrative of the death of Jesus gives the reader more detail than any other part of Jesus’ ministry, although in Luke’s gospel his birth is also given detailed treatment. That fact should alert the reader to the danger of thinking that greater detail means greater historical accuracy. For much of Luke’s birth narrative, Angels, shepherds and so on, has only the most distant relationship to history. Can we trust the death narrative to give us the facts?
Well for a start, we can compare Luke’s story with that of Mark and Matthew. There are real differences but many of the details are shared. Occasionally we can see Luke’s special emphasis in the precise placing of a detail. In the first three gospels, the magic realism which characterises the mission of Jesus is replaced by a more sober realism that depicts his suffering and death. As we shall note however, some of the detail matches Old Testament prophecy, and may therefore derive from it, while it is not clear in other instances how the detail could have been obtained by the disciples. For example, who had access to the detail of Judas’ dealings with the head priests?
I covered much of this material in my Holy Week blogs, which readers can easily access from the archive.(emmock.com 1894-1899)