Prepared to Die
Passage: Luke 22:1–22:38
[There were some technical difficulties with the audio so the opening story is cut off]
Imagine two parents in their seventies calling a family meeting. They gather their three adult children with their spouses in the living room. The parents are seated and the kids can tell they don’t have good news. The parents ask their kids to be seated and now everyone’s face shows concern. The mood has quickly become somber.
The dad finally speaks: “Your mother and I have some difficult news. I had a doctor appointment last week and they found cancer. It’s bad. There’s nothing they can do. The doctors think I have about three months to live.”
Silence fills the room. So many questions are coming to mind and so many emotions. Then one of the kids finally speaks, “So who’s going to get the house?” Another says, “Who cares about the house, who’s going to get the car?” The third says, “I think we should go get sticky notes and start labeling who gets what.” As the conversation goes on, it becomes more heated as each child starts making claims about what they are going to get. Meanwhile, their parents are listening with bewilderment and sadness.
Perhaps you have watched a scene play out like this in a movie or a show or perhaps sadly in real life where people react completely out of sync with what they have just heard.
Today, we are beginning a series in the Gospel According to Luke in order to prepare us for the celebration of Easter. In order to celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas, we looked at the beginning of Luke. In order to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection for Easter, we will be looking at the end of Luke. We will be covering the final 24 hours of Jesus’ life and then his resurrection three days later. The name of this series is “For You” and we will discover why that is the case in our passage today.
This evening, we are going to have front row seats to the final meal of Jesus’ life. This passage is all about preparation. As Jesus’s disciples prepare this final meal, Israel’s leaders are preparing to put Jesus to death and Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for what is about to happen. But as he does so, they react completely out of sync with what he tells them.
The big question this passage answers is: how should we understand Jesus’ death? How should we understand Jesus’ death?
This passage gives us six truths about Jesus’ death that answer our big question.
Let’s look at the first truth in verses 1 through 6 of Luke chapter 22.
First Truth (Luke 22:1-6)
Jesus spent about three years doing public ministry. He told people the good news about God’s kingdom, which meant that God was going to come and rescue his people. He was going to send a king who would set up his kingdom on earth once again. As Jesus proclaimed this good news, he taught people in ways they hadn’t heard before, healed people, and cast out demons. After three years, he gained quite a following.
Finally, his followers think he is going to become king and set up God’s kingdom when Jesus begins heading toward Jerusalem, the capital of the nation of Israel. He is heading there during a national festival which verse 1 calls the Feast of Unleavened Bread or Passover. We’ll explain more about that in the next section. The point is that Jerusalem was going to be hopping. It was going to be filled with people from all over the nation. Plus the Jewish puppet king for Rome, king Herod, was going to be there, as well as Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in charge of the region. This would be a perfect time for Jesus to make his move to take over as king.
As Jesus came into Jerusalem on a Sunday, a whole crowd of his disciples rejoiced and praised God for all of Jesus’ might works and were proclaiming Jesus as the king. Our story picks up midway through the week, probably on Wednesday, because the Passover meal would have been celebrated on Thursday night. Verse 2 tells us that the chief priests and scribes were seeking a way to put Jesus to death because they are afraid of the people. Many people are following Jesus and the religious leaders are getting nervous. Throughout the week, they have had several disputes and from day one they were seeking a way to destroy him. But they needed to do it quietly because they feared the people would turn on them because they loved Jesus so much.
Verses 3 through 6 tell us that they found their window of opportunity. Judas, one of Jesus’ closest twelve disciples, came under the influence of Satan, and he met with the religious leaders to make a plan for him to betray Jesus. They were happy to find an inside man and paid him the price he requested and then he began looking for the right moment where they could get rid of Jesus quietly.
The big question this passage answers is: How should we understand Jesus’ death? Here’s the first truth: Jesus’ death was plotted by men. Jesus’ death was plotted by men.
The religious leaders in Jerusalem were seeking a way to get rid of Jesus and Judas, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, gives them a way. He betrays Jesus. As the nation prepares to celebrate God’s rescue of them with Passover, these men are preparing a plot against Jesus’ life.
The first truth is that Jesus’ death was plotted by men. We get two more truths in verses 7 through 23.
Second and Third Truth (Luke 22:7-23)
Judas probably betrays Jesus and meets with the religious leaders on Wednesday, then verse 7 tells us the day of Unleavened Bread came, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.
Here’s the background on the Passover. Jesus lived 2,000 years ago and about 2,000 years before he lived, the nation of Israel was in slavery in Egypt. They went down to Egypt because of a famine and were treated kindly at first, but then the Egyptians became afraid of them and enslaved them.
After 400 years of slavery, God acted in a mighty way to rescue them. He recruited a guy named Moses to confront the Pharaoh of Egypt and lead his people out of slavery. Pharaoh didn’t listen, so God sent ten plagues on the nation of Egypt. One after another, Moses kept demanding that Pharaoh let Israel go but he refused until the tenth and final plague.
This plague targeted all the firstborn in Egypt. God would strike down every firstborn in Egypt, from children to livestock. Egypt was being punished for saying “no” to God’s command to let his people go and every plague was a form of that judgment. But Israel needed to do something special if they were to be spared from the plague of judgment. Each household needed to slaughter a lamb, take some of its blood, and smear it on the top of their door frame. Then when God came through Egypt, he would “pass over” every house where he saw the blood of the lamb.
After this plague, every household without the blood of the lamb had someone dead in it and Pharaoh finally let God’s people go. They left Egypt in what is called the exodus and after they did, God told them that they are to celebrate the Passover every year to remember how God passed over their houses and struck down the Egyptians. After Passover, they were to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread for a week to remember how God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. These two festivals focus on God’s rescue and salvation.
Fast forward 1400 years to the week Jesus has entered Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread with his disciples. On that Thursday, he sent his disciples to prepare the Passover meal. They would have to go to the temple between 2:30 and 5:30pm to get their Passover lamb and also wine, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs for the meal. They also need a place and Jesus has already made arrangements. He gives them directions for how to find the right house. Only he knows the place, probably because he already knows that Judas is going to betray him and doesn’t want the Passover to be interrupted by his arrest.
The Passover was normally celebrated by families, but Jesus celebrates it with his disciples whom he considers family. It’s an intimate setting. Since this is a special meal, they would have reclined at a lower table instead of sitting. In verse 15 he says to them:
“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16)
Jesus knows he is about to suffer. He knows men are plotting his death. And he has earnestly desired to have this meal with them - to celebrate how God passed over their ancestors when he saw the blood of the lamb and spared them from his judgment and how that led to freedom from slavery. Why? Because this is his last Passover meal until the kingdom of God is fully established.
Then Jesus begins the meal with the traditional cup of blessing where they would drink wine and bless the day. Verse 17 says:
17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:17-18)
Again, he indicates that this is his last Passover meal before the kingdom of God is fully established. Then he does something out of the ordinary that the disciples would never have heard at a Passover meal before. Verse 19 says:
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. (Luke 22:19-23)
Jesus changes how they celebrate the Passover and it is very significant. This meal remembers God’s act of salvation long ago. An act of salvation where he rescued them from slavery. An act of salvation where he did not bring judgment on their households like the Egyptians but passed over them because God saw the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. An act of salvation we know as the exodus because God made a way for his people to leave slavery.
What Jesus institutes here is the Lord’s Supper that we practice every week. For Jesus followers, it isn’t the Passover that we celebrate but the Lord’s Supper. What Jesus is telling his disciples as they remember God’s act of salvation long ago is that God is doing a new act of salvation right now. Jesus came to rescue people from slavery to sin. Jesus came to give his life so that when God sees his blood he will pass over us and spare us from death. Jesus came to start a new exodus because he is making a way for God’s people to leave slavery. That’s all made possible by Jesus’ death. Jesus says this bread that we are breaking represents my body that is going to be given for you. We all deserve God’s judgment. We all deserve death. But when we trust in Jesus, God passes over us and we do not receive death because he sees the blood of the lamb.
The big question this passage answers is: How should we understand Jesus’ death? The second truth is: Jesus’ death saves us from death. Jesus’ death saves us from death.
Jesus’ death saves us from God’s judgment. But Jesus doesn’t only save us from God’s judgment, he saves us for relationship with God. He says that the cup represents his blood poured out for you to form a new covenant. When God freed Israel from slavery, it was for having a relationship with them. Covenants define relationships. Jesus is enabling a new relationship with God defined by what he has done for us.
The big question this passage answers is: How should we understand Jesus’ death? The third truth is: Jesus’ death makes a new relationship with God possible. Jesus’ death makes a new relationship with God possible.
Jesus’ death saves us from the judgment we deserve so that God passes over us and Jesus’ death saves us for a new relationship with God. Now we live for God and we serve him.
Jesus is preparing his disciples for what is about to happen. He is about to suffer and die and he wants them to properly understand it all. Twice he says that what is about to happen is for them. He says: my body is given for you and my blood is poured out for you. What Jesus is about to undergo in the next 24 hours is for them. It was for us. For you and for me. As we also prepare for Easter, we need to remember that.
Jesus explains that his death will come about because one of the twelve men sitting at the table with him is going to betray him. But Jesus knows that this is his purpose.
Understandably, the disciples start to wonder who is going to betray Jesus and that leads us to our fourth truth in verses 24 through 30.
Fourth Truth (Luke 22:24-30)
Remember the scene we imagined at the beginning and its similarities with Jesus’ mood here. He has gathered his disciples together to celebrate Passover. For some time now, he has told them he will suffer and die in Jerusalem and now they are there. On this final night of his life, his desire is to have a family meeting and eat Passover with his disciples. Soon he will be betrayed, arrested, denied, put on trial, crucified, die and be buried. Knowing this is coming, he looks at his disciples and tells them: what’s about to happen is for you.
What the disciples do next is totally out of sync with what Jesus just said. As they try to figure out who will betray Jesus, verse 24 says:
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. (Luke 22:24)
Jesus just told them this is their last meal with him before he suffers and that he is going to die for them so they can be saved from God’s judgment for their sin and enter a new relationship with God. And what do they start doing? Squabbling about which one of them is the greatest. Like the kids who start arguing about who gets what after they learn one of their parents is going to die, the disciples are totally off here. So verse 25 says:
25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:25-27)
Jesus taught this lesson to his disciples on at least two occasions and we covered one of them in detail back in January in a message called Loving as Servants so if you want to go deep on this lesson, go check that out. Basically Jesus tries to get them to change their mindset. They are thinking like kings who get served. They need to start thinking like servants. They are thinking about getting, but greatness in Jesus’ kingdom is about giving. Jesus points to himself as the model. He is among them as one who serves. After all, he just told them that he is going to give his life for them.
The big question this passage answers is: How should we understand Jesus’ death? The fourth truth is: Jesus’ death models true greatness. Jesus’ death models true greatness.
Greatness in Jesus’ kingdom comes by giving. His disciples have given up everything and they will give more in the future, which is why Jesus says they will have a special place in his kingdom. But they are still thinking about it in worldly terms. They think he is going to start a revolt in Jerusalem, take control, and they are going to be at his side when he does. The disciples always seem to have selective hearing when it comes to Jesus talking about his death.
Jesus knows the difficulties that lie ahead and our fifth truth in verses 31 to 38 reveals that.
Fifth Truth and Sixth Truth (Luke 22:31-38)
Jesus brings attention to Simon, or as we usually call him, Peter. He tells him in verse 31:
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)
The “you” in verse 31 is a “ya’ll” referring to all the disciples. Satan doesn’t want to stop at Judas; he wants all the disciples to abandon Jesus. But the “you” in verse 32 is focused on Peter. Jesus has prayed for Simon Peter that his faith wouldn’t ultimately fail and that once he turns back to Jesus, he would strengthen the others.
Of course Peter’s response is that he will follow Jesus anywhere. But Jesus tells Peter that before the night is over, Peter will deny knowing him three times. Because Jesus prayed for him, Peter will turn back to Jesus and strengthen the others. This is a good story for the power of prayer. God can keep someone from abandoning their faith through your prayers.
Jesus goes on to give instructions to all of them. Earlier in his ministry, he sent them to spread the message of the kingdom in nearby towns and told them not to take any supplies but to depend on others to provide for them. And they lacked nothing. But now a change is going to take place. After his death, people are no longer going to welcome them. They need to provide for themselves and they need to be on their guard. He says in Verse 37:
37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” (Luke 22:37)
Jesus is going to be treated as a transgressor, a criminal, a lawbreaker. He is going to go to his death and be killed like a criminal. How do you think they will treat those who follow him?
Their response misses the point. Verse 38 reports:
38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:38)
Jesus uses swords figuratively to tell them to be ready for opposition. But they are still thinking of Jesus’ kingdom the wrong way. They think they are going to start a revolt so they take inventory and tell him they have two swords. The NIV captures Jesus’ response more forcefully with “That’s enough.” They missed the point so he cuts off the conversation.
The big question this passage answers is: How should we understand Jesus’ death? The fifth truth is: Jesus’ death draws pressure and challenge. Jesus’ death draws pressure and challenge.
You can talk to almost anyone today and they will agree with you that Jesus was a good person and a good teacher. But if you then try to tell them that he died for their sins and is the only way they can have a right relationship with God, you will discover that they are no longer nodding their head in agreement. Why? Because claiming that a Jewish guy 2,000 years ago was God in the flesh who died for our sins is a radical claim. And people don’t want to admit that they need someone else to get them to God. That’s why Jesus’ death draws pressure and challenge, but the gospel isn’t the gospel if we don’t talk about Jesus’ death.You can share part of the gospel without his death, but it is never the whole gospel without Jesus' death.
This section also gives us our sixth and final truth. In verse 37, Jesus quotes a prophecy made 700 years earlier by the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament and says he is fulfilling that prophecy.
The big question this passage answers is: How should we understand Jesus’ death? The sixth truth is: Jesus’ death was planned by God. Jesus’ death was planned by God.
This may seem contradictory to our first truth which was that Jesus’ death was plotted by men. You could even add that it was plotted by Satan. So which is it? Plotted by men or planned by God? The answer is both. The bible often holds two truths together: human beings are responsible for their actions AND God is in control of everything that happens. The religious leaders and Judas are morally responsible for Jesus’ death. Jesus says “woe” to the man by whom he is betrayed. And at the same time, Jesus’ death is part of God’s divine plan to rescue us from our sin. As Genesis 50:20 says: they meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
Why does Jesus' death matter to us?
Here’s how we can sum up what Jesus tells his disciples: Know that Jesus’ death can change everything for you. Jesus’ death rescues you from God’s judgment. Jesus’ death rescues you from the penalty for your sin. Jesus’ death makes a new relationship with God possible. Where once you were separated from him and could not get close to him and there was no amount of works or good deeds you could do to change that, Jesus can bring you close. Jesus’ death can completely change your standing with God. Jesus gave his life for you, and believing that can change your whole life.
But even though this is true, we will leave here tonight and struggle to live in light of this truth. This week you will do and say things that are completely out of sync with what we have just heard. Just like the disciples squabble about greatness right after Jesus says he is going to die for them, our lives often are out of sync with what we say we believe about Jesus. Even after hearing that Jesus died for you, later tonight or later this week you will act totally out of sync with that truth.
The conversation Jesus has with his disciples is instructive. If we truly believe that Jesus died for us to rescue us and restore us, then the least of our concerns will be squabbling with others for greatness. When you realize that Jesus has given his life for you, he says you will stop being concerned with getting and more concerned with giving. When you realize Jesus has given you the greatest gift of all, you will realize that there is nothing more to get. But when we forget that Jesus died for us, we try get from others what we’ve already been given by Jesus. Here are two places we look to get from others what we have already been given.
First, because Jesus died for you, you don’t have to get approval from other people. We all have this aching desire for approval. You want to hear “good job” from your boss or your co-workers. You want your company to recognize what you are worth to them. You want to hear “I’m proud of you” from your parent. You want your spouse to appreciate everything that you do for your family. The problem is, we were not made to get our ultimate approval from people. Approval is about proving ourselves. We want to prove ourselves to others so they approve of us.
The good news is that you have been given approval because of Jesus. You don’t have to prove yourself to God or to other people. God has given us an approval rating beyond our wildest dreams! Because Jesus died for you, if you trust in him you can now call God your Father and he loves you with a love deeper than you can measure. He loves you with the same love he has for Jesus, his eternal Son. God's opinion of us should be the most weighty and because of Jesus' death, we know what his opinion is. He deeply loves us.
Second, because Jesus died for you, you don’t have to get security from other people. We often seek security through control. When we are in control, we feel secure. When we are out of control, we feel insecure. Maybe you feel the need to always have your kids perfectly behaved. Or you are always telling your spouse things you want them to do and getting mad when they don’t do it. Maybe you always feel anxious and worried about money because having money makes you feel in control. Maybe you always want to be in control of people’s opinions of you so you avoid doing anything that could cause a negative reaction or you are always trying to make yourself seem great in front of them.
The good news is that you have been given ultimate security because of Jesus. If you’ve trusted in Jesus, he purchased for you hope that can never be taken away, love you don’t deserve, status that you did nothing for, and a relationship with God you could never earn. All of this has been given to you as a free gift!
Not believing we have already been given approval and security is a big reason we don't share our faith. We are worried that we will lose the person's approval and we are scared to bring up the topic of God because we don't know how they will react so it is out of our control. But we don't need to be afraid because we already have approval and security from Jesus.
How can we worry about approval when we have God's love because of Jesus' death? How can we worry about security when we have God's love because of Jesus' death? God proves his love for us in that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners.
Imagine a family where the husband and wife were more concerned with giving rather than getting. Imagine a workplace where each employee was more concerned with giving rather than getting. Imagine a church where each person was more concerned with giving rather than getting.
For this week, think about this: who is someone you normally seek to “get” something from? Who is that person for you? Next, how has Jesus already given that to you? Lastly, how can you give to them instead of getting?
We are going to see Jesus go through a lot in this month leading up to Easter and he says it was all for you. For each of us. He died and gave his life for you so that you might be rescued and renewed.