Thursday, 20 May 2010

Lukes Gospel Part 4

What things would you be prepared to die for and why?

We’re going to be thinking about the events surrounding the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, and about what it was that Jesus would die for?

So far as we've gone through Luke on this whistle stop tour we’ve seen Christianity is ‘responding to Jesus appropriately’ and that Jesus was the Christ – God’s long promised king and that he came to be a rescuer, to find and save people who had distanced themselves from God.

The crucifixion is the highlight in Luke’s gospel, its where all the themes about who he is and why he has come come together.

The cross became the symbol which early Christians used to represent their faith. In some ways that is odd, a means of gruesome murder as a symbol of faith, it would be like having a noose or an electric chair hanging round your neck. But understanding Jesus death makes perfect sense of why the cross is the symbol Christians use.

We’re going to begin with the meal called the Last Supper on the Thursday night before Jesus crucifixion.

1. The Last Supper Luke 22:14-20
What do we know about the Passover? It was the high point of the Jewish calendar. It was the night that they remembered God saving them from their slavery in Egypt. God did so by judging the Egyptians and the Jews were ‘passed over’ and then freed. Central to the Passover was the ‘Passover meal’ which involved the killing and eating of a lamb. Some of the blood was taken and sprinkled over the door posts of each Jewish home, it was a sign that the people inside were relying on the mercy of God to escape God’s judgement.

Jesus uses this meal and its significance to teach his disciples about what he has come to do, how he has come to save them and us. As Jesus takes the bread and the cup (v20) he uses the ancient symbols to describe his death as a new Passover. A Passover where his death not that of a lamb will ensure that God’s judgement passes over those who trust in him to be saved.
After the meal Jesus and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives, where we learn more about what is going to happen.

2. Tears in the garden Luke 22:39-46
It’s worth noting that Jesus is in control here, he goes to somewhere ‘where he usually went’, he knows what is coming and yet he still goes somewhere to which Judas can lead the soldiers.
But the most striking thing about this incident is Jesus prayer. What is it Jesus prays for? (42)
Jesus prays “please take this cup away from me…” and as he prays it he is overwhelmed. In the ancient world a poisoned cup was used to assassinate kings or leaders. From this came the phrase ‘to drink the cup’ as a metaphor for tragedy and disaster.

In the Bible it has a more specific reference, ‘the cup’ was often used to describe disaster that God brought on nations or individuals as punishment for their evil actions. The cup was a symbol of God’s just punishment.

It is this cup of judgement that Jesus is about to drink, not for his own wrong doing but for ours. He was preparing to suffer for the wrong doings of others. He comes into the world and never sins, there is no barrier between him and God and he takes on my sins and judgement, and I am free to know God. With that in mind lets look at Jesus death.

3. The criminal, the Christ and the crucifixion Luke 23:26-46
There is lots going on in this chapter from Pilate declaring Jesus innocent, Barabbas’ release, and the crowds rejection. But we are just going to focus on Jesus’ conversation with the dying criminal beside him. It takes us to the very heart of Luke’s gospel and Christianity.

Recognising Jesus authority
How do people react to Jesus as he hangs on the cross? (35) The Jewish rulers reject Jesus, the soldiers ridicule him (36-7) and one of the criminals reject him (39). The other criminal, however, does not reject Jesus. In fact he sees what everyone does not. He sees that Jesus is innocent and he sees what the disciples realised that Jesus is God’s appointed King that’s why he says “please remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He believes that even as Jesus dies he is God’s king who rules God’s kingdom.

It is the point Luke has been emphasizing throughout his gospel; Jesus is the Christ whose authority should be recognised.

Recognising Jesus authority
How does Jesus react to the man? Jesus accepts the man unconditionally and instantly. This is not someone who is going to be religious, or do good things, this man is accepted because he puts his trust in Jesus. Despite his previous wrongs he will be with Jesus in Paradise.
It’s a clear example of Jesus’ mission – someone lost and far from God restored by trusting in Jesus as the one with authority to rescue him.

The only reason he can be rescued is that Jesus is drinking the ‘cup’ of punishment the criminal and we deserve (44-46). Isaiah 53 helps us make sense of this as Isaiah prophesise 700 year BC about these events and provides a commentary on them. He explains that is what Jesus is doing, taking the punishment in our place so that we can be made right with God if we will trust in him.

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