This last section of Luke’s Gospel looks at the pinnacle of Jesus’ earthly ministry: his death and resurrection. While some might see the story end at Jesus’ death, Luke gives the whole account of God’s plan of redemption, which includes the defeat of death itself. The impact of these events echo throughout history. God’s plan for salvation through Jesus has forever changed how humanity relates to himself, and gives us a hope beyond just this life.
Jesus’ Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion and Resurrection (Luke 21-24).
Jesus arrived in Jerusalem and went about preaching in the temple and preparing his disciples for his departure (and subsequent return!), spending evenings with them at the mount of olives, outside the city (Luke 21:37-38). One of his closest companions, Judas, left the group to betray Jesus into the hands of the religious authorities. It was the time of the Jewish ‘festival of unleavened bread,’ and Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples privately, in the upper guest room of a house. The significance and mood of that evening was amplified by Jesus’ sense of increasing urgency and anguish, knowing what was about to happen to him:
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44)
Jesus was betrayed and arrested. He was mistreated from that very moment (22:63), and brought before the Jewish ruling council, who accused him of falsely claiming to be their Messiah, a king. From there he became a political pin-ball. They handed him to the Roman governor, Pilate, who sent him to King Herod, who then sent him back to Pilate.
Both Roman rulers found him innocent of the charges, but Pilate listened to the crowd being whipped up by the Jewish leaders to call for the release of Barabbas (another prisoner found guilty of murder and treason) instead. Pilate released the other man, and handed Jesus over to his soldiers to be crucified between two criminals.
In the midst of his suffering and abuse, he prayed for his executioners’ forgiveness and acknowledged the saving faith of one of the men crucified with him. After the sun stopped shining for three hours, he cried out:
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last (Luke 23:46)
So ended Jesus’ life. The Roman centurion next to him captured the significance of that moment:
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man (Luke 23:47)
The story doesn’t end there. Jesus’ body was wrapped in linen cloth and placed in a tomb. On Sunday morning, some of Jesus’ followers went to prepare the body with burial spices. Instead, they saw the stone rolled away from the tomb, and his body missing. At that moment, two men in gleaming clothes (presumably angels) appeared to them:
In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again. (Luke 24:5-7)
The sense of wonder increased, and two disciples who were walking along a road to Emmaus then had an encounter like no-one else had ever had in the history of the world – they encountered the risen Lord Jesus. They said afterward:
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Jesus then appeared to all the remaining disciples, and explained to them too all that the scriptures tell about who he is and why he came. The disciple’s reaction to all this revealed finally who they had come to know him as: they worshipped him (Luke 24:52). Their Lord and God.
The story doesn’t quite finish there either. Jesus left his disciples with a message to share. All that becomes the focus of Luke’s next volume, the book of Acts, which traces the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome (and the ends of the earth…).
Author: Andy Buchan
- Luke 1-3: Jesus: God’s Promises Fulfilled. Preparing the way.
- Luke 4-9: Jesus: God’s Kingdom Come. Ministry in Gaililee
- Luke 9-20: Jesus: God’s Purpose in Coming. The Journey towards Jerusalem
- Luke 21-24: Jesus: God’s Redemption and Hope. Jesus’ Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion and Resurrection.