Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Facing the Worst
Chapter 22 verse 39 of Luke’s gospel enters what we in the writing business call the 3rd Act—leading up to what author’s call “The Darkest Moment.” All that Jesus has set into motion in the 3 ½ years of His ministry on earth now comes to fruition. He doesn’t need to do anything more, now others will act their parts in this drama and the final pieces of God’s plan to rescue humanity will fall into place.
That’s not to say that the humans in this drama are mere pawns. They all make choices here; God is not taking away free will. But their hearts and their actions show that everyone, and I mean everyone, will desert the Messiah as He nears the cross. Jesus will bear the brunt of humanity’s sin with the help of no one.
To catch up—Jesus served His disciples communion—the symbols of the Seder Feast now taking on reality in His sacrifice. He introduced the idea of a betrayer in Judas Iscariot which led to an argument first about who was the worst among them, and in turn a dispute over who was the best of them.
Jesus used this as an opportunity to teach them about the kind of people they are now (humans who are self-serving) compared to the kind of people they will be after they have been sifted, come to an end of their own strength, and started really trusting in Jesus (leaders who exhibit other-centered, self-sacrificing affection).
To pick up the plot—the religious leaders, jealous of Jesus’ popularity and fearful of His power, hatched a plan to murder Him. Jesus, however, moved in public circles where the people protected Him from arrest. So these same leaders needed a spy on the inside who could tell them where to find Jesus in private. That man was Judas who for 30 pieces of silver sold information about Jesus to them.
Jesus called out Judas as the betrayer and told him to do quickly what he was about to do. Leaving dinner, Jesus goes to the place of His choosing awaiting the arrest to come. He, and the disciples are going to face the worst thing ever. And in this, I want to point out five ways to face terrible times.
Each morning Jesus would come into Jerusalem from where He stayed on the Mount of Olives and each evening He would return—always through the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a place He frequented; a place He picked out for the arrest. It means “oil press” and is significant as Jesus will be pressed like an olive to pour out on all mankind the Holy Spirit and salvation.
40 – 42
Jesus comes into the Garden, stops, and addresses His men once again. He instructs them to pray, which Jesus will do Himself in a moment. He tells them the subject of their prayer should be not to fall into temptation. Given what Jesus prays Himself, I think the temptation we are to constantly pray against is the temptation not to trust in Jesus. That’s the ultimate aim of the enemy. Jesus’ temptation is to not trust the Father that the cross is the ONLY way to save mankind. The disciples will face the choice of whether to stick by Jesus, or to deny Him and run away.
Last time Jesus declared that the disciples had stuck by Him in His trials (Luke 22:28) but in reality—their human frailty and fallen nature will lead them to either fight with human strength, or run from human threats. It’s the classic decision we all face: fight, flight, or freeze. But as Jesus says here, there is a fourth option: to fall—fall on our knees in submission to the Father.
This prayer is one we should pray each and every day: “Father, help me to trust You no matter what!”
So then Jesus moves a short distance away and spends His own time in prayer. He has and always will cede Himself to the Father’s will. But here He is facing the worst possible thing any human being has ever faced—the torture, humiliation, and death on a cross—while bearing the brunt of God’s judgment against humanity for every sin ever committed.
He’s not asking to get out of it, though that’s what Satan tried to get Him to do back at the very beginning of His ministry when he promised Jesus the world if He’d only bow down to him (Luke 4:5-8). He’s asking if there is any other way to save humanity other than the cross—then let’s take that route. I think this is more for our benefit than His. The truth of the matter is that there is no other way, so Jesus once again gives way to the Father’s will—knowing how difficult it will be.
So point 1 in facing the worst: pray for the strength to trust God.
43 – 46
Verses 43 & 44 are in brackets as some manuscripts do not contain them. But it reminds me of when Elijah faced the prophets of Ba’al in 2 Kings 19:1-8. After doing away with the prophets in a dramatic show of force, Elijah fears for his life and flees. An angel appears to him and provides for him food to give him strength to carry on.
Here, an angel strengthens Jesus to face the task ahead. This is Point 2 in facing the worst: know that God will give you the strength you need to do what He’s called you to do.
Speaking of angels, the writer of Hebrews says: Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14 (HCSB). So here is an illustration of that.
But the anguish of facing the cross was so great, that despite the strength, the emotional impact forced Jesus to sweat like great drops of blood. It’s possible that this was actually hematidrosis, where blood becomes mixed with sweat in cases of extreme anxiety – but Luke actually says His sweat became “like” drops of blood, so it’s likely only symbolic. He was sweating so hard that it dripped off His forehead.
So then Jesus gets up from prayer and finds the disciples sleeping. It was late and they’d probably had a fair amount of wine so it’s not surprising from a human stand point that they’d fall asleep. Luke tells us that they were exhausted from grief or sorrow. That too is understandable. They’ve been told their Master is going to be betrayed by one of their own. But Jesus again urges them to pray.
Point 3 in facing the worst: Sometimes human need takes a back seat to communing with the Father.
1 Peter 5:8 (HCSB) Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 9 Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. 10 Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little.
47 – 48
The pace of the action is definitely picking up here. Luke says that “suddenly” a whole mob was upon them, like a SWAT team storming a crime scene. Leading the way is Judas. Judas needed to ID Jesus for the Temple Police and since it was dark and there were no photos they could pass around in an All-Points Bulletin, Judas uses a kiss—a common greeting among friends, to sell Jesus down the river.
Jesus calls him out—a sign of affection has become a means of defection. It shows the depth Judas has gone in letting his true character out into the open. And it seals Judas’ rejection of the Messiah. Judas knows that Jesus knows that Judas knows. No excuses.
51 – 53
Jesus had told His men to sell their robe and get a sword. They fished around and found not one but two (Luke 22:38). Here Peter (identified in John 18:10) literally takes up the sword to fight the arrest. In his typical head-strong fashion he tries to take on the group but only manages to cut the ear off of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. Jesus responds with “no more of this” and then proceeds to heal Malchus.
He then calls out the leaders of the mob making them aware of their tactics—afraid to confront Jesus in front of others because they really didn’t have a case against Him, they simply have given themselves over to the flesh and the enemy and want to kill Him at any cost.
Though it was “their hour” when their plot was being hatched—it was really the “dominion of darkness”. In other words, the real plot here is Satan’s. Yet despite this, Jesus is still in total control.
So Point 4 in facing the worst: don’t think human means can accomplish God’s will. Let God call the shots despite how desperate the situation looks.
Next we see that not only human means are unreliable to do God’s will, but so is human strength and will.
54 – 62
This is one of the saddest episodes in human history. Peter—the man who just the night before had pledged complete loyalty to Jesus and had said he would follow Him to prison and death (Luke 22:33) when faced with the possibility of arrest and exposure does exactly what Jesus said he would do—denying that he even knows Him.
When the rooster crowed I’m sure it finally jogged Peter’s mind from the fog. Jesus was nearby at the high priest’s house and they exchanged a look. Peter now comes to the lowest point in his life—he goes out and weeps bitterly.
We’ll see in John 21 that Peter has resigned as a disciple because of this act. But Jesus won’t let him quit. All that matters is that Peter love Jesus.
And this is now Point 5 in facing the worst: you will fail Jesus over and over. He knows it, and you know it. The key is to realize that as a human you will fail, but if you love Jesus then He will turn that failure into an opportunity to forgive, strengthen and send you back out in His strength.
63 – 65
This continues the three-part account of the betrayal—the denial of Peter, the mocking from the soldiers, and the trials.
What this shows me is the true nature of the human heart. In our flesh we are enemies with God (Romans 5:10). In the end there will only be two kinds of people, those that love and trust Him and those that hate Him. Which one are you?
66 – 71
This is an official trial. All along the religious leadership of Israel worried not just that Jesus represented a new power that might upset their status quo; they worried about what the people were saying: that He was the Messiah—the coming Ruler. They’d tried to pin Him down on that fact before and He refused. Now they ask Him directly: “Are you the Messiah?” I love Jesus’ answer—basically it doesn’t matter because #1 you won’t believe it and #2 “I’m not going to get a fair trial here, this isn’t about coming to a knowledge of the truth, this is about finding a way to kill me and you know it!”
So Jesus one ups them. Instead of arguing over whether He is the Messiah, He basically claims to be the Son of God (though He uses the Messianic “Son of Man” title here). The religious leaders know full well what He’s saying. Instead of answering the charge He points out that they themselves have said it.
Though they claim to have the evidence to convict Him of the capital offense of blaspheme, Jesus didn’t actually say “I am the Son of God.” But it didn’t matter. They’d gotten what they wanted. Now all that was left was to convince the Roman authorities to do what was not legal for the Jews—to execute Jesus.
Let’s look again at how to face the worst based on what we see in this portion of the chapter:
- Pray for the strength to trust God (40-42)
- Know that God will give you the strength you need to do what He’s called you to do. (43-46)
- Commune: Sometimes human need takes a back seat to communing with the Father. (43-46)
- Concede: Don’t think human means can accomplish God’s will. Let God call the shots despite how desperate the situation looks. (51-53)
- Fail often, fall often: The key is to realize that as a human you will fail, but if you love Jesus, He will turn that failure into an opportunity to forgive, strengthen and send you back out in His strength. (54-62)