Evensong 13/3/16

Luke 22.1 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present. 7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’ 9 ‘Where do you want us to prepare for it?’ they asked. 10 He replied, ‘As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks: where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.’ 13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

In today's we have a contrast between the behaviour of Judas and Peter and John, and we see that Jesus is very much in control of his destiny.

The leaders of Israel had already decided to kill Jesus. His presence in Jerusalem for the Passover season gave them a chance to have Him arrested and brought to trial before Pilate and Herod Antipas. Both of these rulers were in Jerusalem for the occasion.

The chief priests were mainly political leaders who owed their jobs to Rome. This situation also required the legal expertise of the scribes or lawyers. Yet, the Jewish leaders could not find a way to take Jesus without causing a riot until Judas came forward with his offer.

Satan tempted Adam and Eve by undermining their trust in God with the prospect of personal gain. He used the same tactic with Judas. Luke and John mentioned Satan's entering into Judas now (cf. John 13:2). Perhaps Luke wanted to clarify that Jesus' death was due to more than just human scheming (cf. Acts 5:3; 1 Cor. 2:8). It was part of Satan's plan to destroy God who had become a man (cf. 4:1-12). Ironically Satan's participation in Jesus' arrest led to his own downfall (cf. Col. 2:15; Heb.2:14).

Jesus had just told his disciples again that he would be crucified at the Passover and be raised from death. Judas was the only disciples from Judah, the Southern part of Israel that housed Jerusalem. He was the treasurer, and John records that he stole from the money entrusted to him, John 12.5f. He also resented the fact that Jesus praised a woman who lavished ointment on Him, which to him seemed to be wasteful.

It seems that Judas realised that Jesus would not be defeating the Romans and establishing a prosperous earthly kingdom that he would benefit from. He learned that the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus, so he sees a chance to benefit from a situation that, otherwise, held no prospects for personal gain.

Judas received thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. Yet, when he saw that Jesus was condemned he regretted what he had done and tried to return the money, saying he had betrayed innocent blood. Yet the chief priests and elders didn't care. They had used Judas in the same way that he had used them. Judas threw the money into the temple in a gesture akin to Pilate washing his hands. He then hanged himself.

The chief priests, who were murdering an innocent man (Matthew 27.1-10) thought it more important to take a moral stand on how to dispose of the blood money they had paid to purchase the life of Jesus. So they used the money to buy a cheap plot of land to bury Gentiles in, something they would not have spent their own money on, but, clearly fulfilled a need. In doing this they fulfilled a prophecy in the book of Zechariah, 11.12f.

Jerusalem would have been packed with millions of Jews celebrating the Passover in their homes. Some would have travelled from many different countries around the Mediterranean to do so. Jesus wanted to have time to share the Passover with his disciples before he was arrested. So, he doesn't tell his disciples the place where they will celebrate this important meal. It seems Jesus had already arranged the venue with one of his supporters because of instructions he gave to Peter and John, two of his inner circle of trusted disciples. It sounds like something from a spy thriller. Look for a man wearing a red carnation in his right button hole and say to him, “The red herring flies tonight.”

 It was very unusual for a man to carry a jar of water. Women did. Men might use a leather skin. He would be near the entrance to the city. Jesus told them to v. 10, Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks: where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”

In contrast to Judas, the disciples obey the command of their Lord, find things as he told them, and prepare the room for the Passover.

What can we learn from this passage?

We should hear and obey the voice of Jesus, not the voice within that is disappointed with the way things are going, greedy, full of self-interest. Following this way will lead to misery and destruction. Following the way of Jesus will lead to crucifixion, but also resurrection and a righteous crown through what he has done for us. We should reject the quick fix, opportunist, selfish route which can offer no more than short term gains.

Jesus is in control. Though Judas didn't think so and the disciples didn't understand what was happening, Jesus was the master of His destiny and pursued God's mission for Him. A way that would go though death into resurrection life.

We are called to follow God's ways and to trust that he is in control and do the best for us. Like Jesus' disciples, we may not always understand what is happening. But remember his words to them after the Last Supper. John 14.1 “Do not let you hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust in me, also