The events of the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ trials before Pilate and Herod, the scourging and crucifixion, and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus all follow immediately after the passage we have just studied in Luke’s narrative. It’s not my intent to cover these well-known and long-loved passages other than to make a few observations.
The Last Supper (the institution of what we practice today as the Lord’s Supper, communion) is an interesting passage because it overarches God’s program for Israel and His program for the Gentiles. As Paul says in I Corinthians 11:23, for I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread…” Note the care that Paul takes to inform his readers that he received what he is telling them directly from the Lord — and not from the other apostles. Implied in this phraseology is that Our Lord not only instituted this for His disciples (and Israel in the coming Kingdom by inference), but also instituted it for Gentile believers in the Age of Grace when Israel’s program would be set aside. As a result, there is a duality in the events recorded by Luke in 22:14-22. In the context of the further preparing of His disciples for the Kingdom, with hindsight we Gentiles in the Age of Grace also see Him speaking to us. His precious words concerning his body and blood perhaps mean more to us than they ever have to Israel. What privilege is ours! But the context and chronology still put this passage at a point in time when the mystery hidden in ages past has not yet been revealed. Indeed, Jesus promised these disciples that they would sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28) Consequently, the story of the Last Supper is focused on Israel at this chronological juncture, and it’s breadth was uncomprehended by the disciples at that time. It is a mistake to say that the Age of Grace began at this point, that Jesus’ giving of the New Covenant to His disciples somehow mystically invokes believers of today as participants, and that the focus from here on out is the church of today instead of Israel’s promise of the restored Davidic kingdom, as we see in the very next verses.
Interestingly, the verses in Luke that follow Jesus’ instructions concerning the New Covenant confirm the disciples’ expectation that they would be great rulers in the Kingdom. They are arguing about which of them will be the greatest! What Jesus had just taught them simply didn’t register in their way of thinking and their expectations. It’s almost as if they responded, “Uhhh… okay… uhh, not to change the subject, uhh… but which one of us will be the greatest in the coming Kingdom?” As Churchill said, men occasionally stumble over the truth. Clearly, Jesus does not tell them that the kingdom is set aside, but instead reminds them of what constitutes greatness in the kingdom. Israel’s program and the kingdom which is still at hand are still very much the exclusive focus at this point in the narrative. The Mystery is still hidden in God for now.
Luke’s description of the four trials of Jesus (Sanhedron, Pilate, Herod, and Pilate again) is straightforward and factual. It’s worthwhile to compare it to John’s description in John 18:33-37, which reveals more of the conversation with Pilate. The Jews had brought Him before Pilate on the basis that He was a threat to Roman power, claiming to be the “King of the Jews,” in hope that He would be executed as an enemy of the state. Pilate questions Him on this basis. [Pilate] said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ After a brief exchange in which Pilate admits that the chief priests had prompted him to ask, Jesus explains the nature of His kingship and kingdom: My kingdom is not of this world (kosmos, or “world system”, not the physical planet). If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm (henteuthen, better translated “from hence”, meaning “from here”)… You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world…” Note that the evidence that Jesus cites for His kingdom not being “of this realm” is the absence of armed conflict. But against who? The Jews, not the Romans. Jesus’ conversation here is with a representative of the world-wide secular goverment, and He is speaking of things appropriate for a Gentile political ruler to hear. What He tells Pilate is that, from Pilate’s point of view, he has nothing to worry about!
Pilate, of course, was a political climber, steeped in the politics of Rome. He deferred to others for advice when it involved the Jewish political point of view, as when he sent Jesus to Herod and when he was prompted by the chief priests to ask Jesus about this “King of the Jews” thing. Jesus, being God, knew Pilate’s mindset and answers him in terms that he can understand. Jesus essentially tells Pilate, I am indeed a great king, but my kingdom isn’t part of the system of Roman provinces and politics that is in place in Palestine. If it were, my servants would already be attacking the Jewish leaders that brought Me here, but they aren’t. Consequently, Pilate “found no fault in Him.”
Did Jesus lie to Pilate? After all, His disciples’ expectation was certainly the overthrow of Jewish oppressors and the establishment of the thousand-year kingdom that had been promised to David. Or did Jesus, as God, simply know that the world-wide Roman rule would pass away long before the promised kingdom finally came? Pilate’s view of “world” was the Roman political world of his day. Jesus’ view of “world” included the heavens and the earth, past, present and future. IMHO, Jesus spoke to Pilate within the scope of Pilate’s world view, resulting in (1) His truthful statement that His kingdom was not of the limited scope of Pilate’s world view, (2) Pilate’s relief that He was no threat to the Roman government, and consequently (3) Pilate’s ruling that Jesus was not a threat and not guilty of insurrection against Rome. Note that this declaration of innocence was a direct refutation of the specific charge the chief priests had brought before Pilate, and would have enraged them.
Returning to Luke, we find the entire remaining sequence of events through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.