Luke 22:47-65

Beginning of the End

Luke 22:48-54  -  Jesus is Betrayed and Arrested

Luke “sandwiched” Jesus’ faithfulness, expressed in his prayer on the Mount of Olives, between the earlier references to pending betrayal and denial and their immediate enactment by Judas and Peter.

47 While he was speaking, a crowd arrived.
With them was the person called Judas, one of the Twelve.

The crowd (the chief priests, elders and officers of the temple police) had no precise idea of the whereabouts of Jesus. They needed the insider knowledge of Judas, who was able to bring them exactly to the spot.

He came up to Jesus and kissed him.
48 But Jesus said to him,
“Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Luke mentioned Jesus’ response to the kiss of Judas. That response was personal, more accepting than rejecting, perhaps even an offer of forgiveness, at least a desperate attempt to invite Judas to think again and repent the enormity of his action.

49 Those who were with him saw what was happening
and said, “Lord, shall we engage with our knives?”
50 And one of them struck a servant of the high priest
and cut off his right ear.
51 Jesus answered him, “Let it be for now!”
He touched his ear and healed him.

During the supper discourse, Luke had mentioned that two of the disciples were armed. In the immediacy of the moment their loyalty and courage overrode any insight into the considered non-violent stance of Jesus.

Jesus’ reaction was immediate: no more violence! And to underline the determined openness of Jesus to forgiveness, his total lack of vindictiveness or bitterness, Luke added the detail that Jesus healed the man wounded in the process of arresting him. The Kingdom of God would be characterised by healing, not by violence. Violence was the tool of those who chose to dominate; healing and non-violence of those who chose Jesus.  Though unsuccessful in the short term, resurrection would vindicate the choice. The option remains supremely pertinent to the Christian community of the present.

52 Then Jesus said to those who had come from the high priest,
to the temple police and to the senior men,
“Why have you come out as though after a bandit,
with swords and spears?
53 During the day time I was with you in the temple,
and you did not lay hands on me.
But this is your hour,
the hour of the power of darkness.”
54 Seizing hold of him they took him in charge ..

Earlier in the narrative Luke had mentioned the crowd that had arrived to arrest him. It was more likely a small but adequate detachment of temple police under the direction of a smaller number of chief priests and senior men. The whole reason for the arrest by night was to keep it quiet. The crowds of pilgrims camped out on the Mount of Olives were precisely Jesus’ greatest supporters, the very ones the authorities feared most.

The detachment of temple police had indeed come out prepared to arrest a bandit. The word used by Luke referred to rebels engaging in violently contesting the imposition of Roman power. That was obviously what the leaders accused Jesus of being, though their major concern was his challenge to their religious leadership. They had missed much of the point of his constant teaching. Indeed, they had hardly even bothered to hear it, except to find reason to ridicule him.

Jesus made a brief defence. His approach had not been that of a terrorist. He had taught in the temple courtyard in plain daylight in the hearing of whoever wanted to listen. Their inconsistency was obvious. They knew he was no violent threat. It was the honour in which he was held by the crowd that threatened them.

They were pawns in a cosmic struggle. Jesus had no hope of reaching them. The momentum had built up and there would be no stopping it. 


The Son of Man Disowned 

Luke 22:54-62  -  Peter Denies Jesus 

54 [Seizing hold of him they took him in charge,]
and led him off to the house of the high priest.
Peter was following from a distance.

Peter followed Jesus from a distance. The other disciples dropped out of the scene until after Jesus’ resurrection. They were absent from both the trials. It is uncertain whether they were among the acquaintances who witnessed his crucifixion from a distance. They had abandoned him to his fate. The hour of darkness was growing in intensity.

55 They had lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard
and were sitting around it together.
Peter sat down among them.
56 A servant, a young girl, saw him sitting near the fire.
She looked at him closely, and said,
“This one was with that fellow.”
57 But he denied it, and said,
“I do not know him, woman.” 
58 After a while, someone else saw him
and said, “You are one of them.”  
Peter said, “Man, I am not!”
59 About an hour went by,
and another asserted quite confidently,
“For sure he was with him.
He is a Galilean!”
60 But Peter said,
“Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” 

Peter was obviously fearful; yet he also somehow wanted to be present. So he adopted a low profile. His ruse did not work. A servant-girl effectively declared him guilty by association: he was with him. Overcome by his fear, Peter denied his association with Jesus. Circumstances drew him even further into denial, as other persons present proclaimed his involvement with Jesus. His unconscious need to be accepted within the group exposed him to the contagion of their hostility towards their victim. For Peter, Jesus had become a source of danger, a threat; and he was drawn to share the group's hostility.

Not long after he had spoken, a rooster crowed.

The crowing of roosters announces the dawning of the new day.  With the crowing of this rooster, light began to dawn for Peter.   

61 The Lord turned round and looked at Peter;
and Peter remembered the comment of Jesus when he said to him
‘Before the rooster crows today,
you will have disowned me three times.”
62 He went outside and wept bitterly.

Jesus was apparently not too far away from Peter, somewhere else in the courtyard under guard yet close enough for him simply to turn and look at Peter. The detail was Luke’s, though he added no more, leaving it to the reader to imagine what expression there might have been on the face of Jesus, and what he intended to convey by it.

Hearing the rooster crowing, and catching the look on the face of Jesus, brought home to Peter the enormity of what he had done, the reality of his sin. As Luke said:

  • he remembered,
  • he went outside,
  • and he wept bitterly.

When Peter was first called to discipleship, he had protested to Jesus that he was a sinful man. Jesus did not deny the reality; but he took Peter for what he was, and still commissioned him for a significant role within the Kingdom: from now on it is people you will fish for (5:10).

During his discourse at his last Supper, Jesus had assured Peter that he had prayed for him, and told him: once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (22:32). Peter had protested his loyalty, and Jesus predicted immediately his pending denials.

Perhaps Judas’ sin was no greater than Peter’s, though it was premeditated. There is no doubt at all that Judas would also have been pardoned and welcomed once more into the community of sinner-disciples had he

  • known himself well enough, 
  • embarked on the inner journey, 
  • listened to the oft repeated invitation of Jesus to conversion, 
  • learnt to trust in the mercy of God, 
  • and been humble enough to seek forgiveness.

Sin and weakness present no obstacle to Jesus. Luke wanted his community to take note. What mattered was repentance, trust in God and growth in humility. Many of the parables of Jesus had repeated that basic point. No one is totally sinner, just as no one is totally just. Everyone’s life is a process of moving towards or away from life to the full.


The Son of Man Mocked and Beaten (1) – Temple Soldiers

Luke 22:63-65  -  Jesus is Mocked and Beaten

Contrary to how Mark had orchestrated the order of Jesus’ trials, including a preliminary hearing of Jesus’ case later in the same evening of his arrest, Luke apparently saw no point in duplicating the obvious.

63 The men who had arrested him jeered at him and struck him.
64 They blindfolded him, and taunted him,
saying, “Prophesy! Who was it who struck you?”
65 And in lots of other ways they abused him.

The process of degrading and humiliating Jesus had begun, but it was conducted well away from the supportive crowds, under cover of darkness and within the courtyard of the high priest’s house. No disciple was present to witness it; Peter had already gone outside and disappeared from the scene. 

According to Luke, the temple officers ...

  • blindfolded,
  • struck,
  • taunted
  • and abused (literally: blasphemed) ...

a helpless Jesus. They seemed to have done so without authorisation, at some time later in the evening, perhaps to overcome their boredom as they waited out the night watches. The whole exercise was unprovoked and brutal, a not-unexpected consequence of a world built on violence and injustice.

They taunted Jesus as prophet. In fact, Jesus’ prophecy about Peter’s denials had just been realised. When Jesus had predicted his coming passion earlier in the Gospel, on all three occasions he had prophesied that he would be mocked. Ironically, in taunting him as would-be prophet, the officers were precisely acting out what Jesus had prophesied.

In striking him, the Jewish authorities lived out the story Jesus had told against them, the story of the vineyard tenants who had beaten and insulted the slaves of the landlord, only to have the vineyard eventually taken from them (20:10-11).

Jesus was himself in the process of experiencing the truth of one of the beatitudes he had pronounced early in his ministry: You are blessed when people hate you, and when they ostracise, criticise and marginalise you... Rejoice and dance at that time ... Their ancestors used to do the same to the prophets (6:22-23).

Next >> Luke 22:66-71