Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Wednesday it is Luke

Luke 22:1—23:56

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus is the Spirit-filled prophet.  With the public ministry of Jesus begun by reading Isaiah 61 and insisting the words are fulfilled in Him, our Lord does what keeps that prophecy and gifts good news to those who will hear it.  Just as Luke records the many meals Jesus ate with sinners -- including even after His resurrection, so does the Passover begin the Passion.  On the very night of that Passover, Jesus’ enemies had set a trap for him with the help of Judas, one of Jesus’ own disciples and the rest of the disciples were arguing over who was greatest.  “I am among you as the one who serves” (22:27).  Yet they would not know the full meaning of these words until His arms were outstretched in death upon the cross.

From drops as of blood that passed from Jesus to the ground where He prayed to the bitter kiss of betrayal to the knife wildly flaying the air until it cut off an ear, the contrast between our Lord and what happens around Him is clear.   “This is your hour,” Jesus tells the mob army that came for Him, “the time for the power of darkness.” (22:53), but Jesus' own hour would come and His glory would end the day.   From the empty political nature of the charges against Him to His loving gaze upon the shamed disciple who denied Him, our Lord contrasts His saving purpose with the raw nature of what unfolds around Him: “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah a king” (23:2). And, again: “He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here” (23:5).  Curiously, the most political of all the characters cannot find Jesus' guilty -- not Pilate nor Herod Antipas, the false prophet and corrupt king.

Luke’s choice of words connects Simon's carrying of the cross “behind Jesus” with the very words of Jesus about those who would believe in Him: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:27). Those who would be His disciples must be willing to pour out their lives for Him as He has for them. The Jerusalem crowds are not all hostile to Jesus. Some joined in condemning Him but there were others who lamented what was happening.  In the end, the charge against Jesus that He was accused of being a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Lk 7:34), now would also die with them.  Again, as with the crowd, it was mixed -- one who denied and one who prayed to be remembered when He came into His kingdom.

“This man was truly just”, the Roman centurion proclaim. Luke places his confession in parallel to the very theme of his portrayal of Jesus in the passion.  Jesus is the only “just” man who is captive to God's purpose and who is willing to face death for the sake of the gospel.   In claiming the body of an executed man from those who carried out the death, Joseph exposed his faith for all to see; Joseph stands with the crucified Jesus.  He wraps the body with spices in a linen burial cloth, covers the face with a cloth, and places our Lord in a newly carved rock tomb. 

For Luke, the cross is connected to the empty tomb.  He carefully writes the script to anticipate the marvelous events of the resurrection. With the Sabbath eve approaching, there was little time so that the body was hastily lain in the tomb -- providing reason and rationale for the faithful women who had accompanied Jesus in Galilee (8:2-3) and stuck with Him before the cross to prepare spices and perfumed oil for the Easter Sunday return.  But then their Sabbath rest would be fulfilled for all who would lie in the grave.



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