Today we will complete the Gospel according to Luke. We begin with the teaching about the widow’s offering (21:4). As with the Gospel according to Mark (see Mark 12:41-44), this is the last general teaching of Christ before the cross. We know from Mark (Mark 13:3-4) that the Olivet Discourse was delivered only to the inner four of the Apostles. As we have seen, Jesus mingles in prophecies about His Second Coming, the church age, and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. here. In 21:15, Luke adds in that Jesus told them that what the Holy Spirit gives them to say, their adversaries will neither be able to withstand or contradict. This is important to remember. The Scriptures are God’s truth and cannot be overcome by worldly wisdom or man’s fallen reason (see 1 Cor 1:18-25).
Luke’s record of the Olivet Discourse is much abridged from Matthew and shorter than Mark. He excludes the teaching of the Abomination of Desolation and instead focuses on the time between Christ’s two comings, devoting only four verses to any signs of the Second Coming (vv. 25-28). Luke also includes verses 24, which is a reference to the fall of Jerusalem. On the surface, this appears to be a reference to the Romans (Gentiles) destroying Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the world while the Promised Land is controlled by non-Israelites. But there is so much more here.
Jesus’s assertion that “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot” is a reference to the Septuagint rendering of Zechariah 12:3, which reads:
And it will be in that day, I will set Jerusalem as a trampled stone by all nations; everyone who tramples it when mocking will mock. And all the nations of the land will be gathered together against it.
Jesus is referring to the judgment of Israel promised in the Old Testament. This will signal the official end of the nation. Then, the times of the nations (the word for “Gentiles” is most often translated “nations”) will continue until the elect are all saved, at which time Christ will return. The emphasis here is that the time of the nation (of Israel) is ended with Christ’s work, and the times of the nations has begun. This is speaking of the plan of God to save the whole world. The physical people are no more. There will be only spiritual people (see below).
In chapter 22, we see the Passover is coming (22:1). This is the true Passover – that which the first Passover and the yearly celebration pointed to – it would be the Lamb of God slain for the salvation of His people. Luke highlights the spiritual aspect of what’s happening by crediting Satan with the betrayal of Jesus (v. 3). After the institution of the Lord’s Supper (vv. 14-20), we see that the disciples still do not understand what is about to take place (v. 24). Jesus points to His own example of humble service as the only way to lead (vv. 26-27). He reminds the disciples that through humility Jesus is going to receive His kingdom, and they will join Him the same way (vv. 28-29). They will join Him in the supper when the kingdom comes (v. 30 – see v. 16).
Jesus then focuses on the spiritual aspect of what is about to take place. The Apostles – indeed, all the followers of Jesus – have joined a war. In verse 31, both of the “you” are plural. Satan wants to try all the Apostles. But Christ has prayed for Simon Peter to take the role of leadership (v. 32 – all the “you” in this verse are singular). Peter is not aware of the trial that is coming (v. 33 – see v. 24). Verses 35-38 are unique to Luke. Jesus is speaking spiritually. He is warning them that they are about to enter the war with Him. But that two swords are “enough” shows that this is not a physical war for a physical kingdom (which the Apostles still don’t realize), but a spiritual war for a spiritual kingdom (v. 38).
The spiritual nature of what is happening is reinforced by verse 43. Alongside of this, Luke points out the physical and emotional weakness of Jesus’s humanity (v. 44). When the crowd comes to arrest Jesus, we see again that Christ’s instructions in verses 35-38 are not meant to be taken physically. When the physical sword is used (v. 50) Jesus rebukes His disciple (v. 51).
Jesus is then taken to the house of the High Priest (v. 54). We are given the picture of a grand house, since the courtyard outside is presented as quite large. Note that Jesus is still outside in the courtyard (v. 61) after more than an hour (vv. 58-59). He witnessed the denials. Jesus is kept in custody all night, being beaten and blasphemed as He awaits trial (vv. 63-65). In verse 66, we see that the trial happens the next morning. Day began at 6:00 AM. That Jesus in on the cross in the 9:00 hour (Mark 15:25) means that the trial (vv. 66-71), His time before Pilate (23:1-5), His time before Herod (who was in Jerusalem for the feast – vv. 6-11), the debate between Pilate and the people (vv. 13-25) all take place within three to four hours.
When Jesus is before the council, they are well prepared. That “they” question Him on His messiahship (v. 66) and “they all” ask Him about being God (v. 70) shows that this was all premeditated. Jesus’s reference to the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God (v. 68 – see Dan 7:13-14) and His “you say that I am” (v. 70) are direct claims to be both Messiah and God. This is an “I AM” statement being made here. Jesus’s “you have said so” to Pilate’s question (23:3) is also a claim to Messiahship.
That Pilate sends Jesus to Herod shows his eagerness to pass the buck (v. 7). Verse 8 agrees with 9:9, but shows that the Pharisees “warning” in 13:31 was likely a lie. We see that the world – no matter the worldly distinctions – all treat Christ the same (v. 11 – see 22:63-65), and are even united by their contempt towards Him (v. 12). Luke omits that Jesus was further beaten (see Matt 27:26, Mark 15:15), but emphasizes the weak physical state of Jesus by telling us Simon of Cyrene had to carry the cross (v. 26).
Jesus’s address to the people (vv. 28-31) contrasts the judgment against Jesus with the judgment of the wicked (including the coming destruction of Jerusalem). If the judgment Jesus is about to take is reason to cry, what about the judgment of the wicked? It would be better for people not to be born than to face the coming judgment (v. 29). People will seek to hide from the Judge (v. 30 – see Isa 2:19, Hos 10:8, Rev 6:16). If the judgment that brings life (green wood) is reason to mourn, how much the judgment that brings death (dry wood) (v. 31)?
In verses 32-38, Luke is intentionally evoking images of Isaiah 53 in his description of the crucifixion. Unique to Luke is the change of heart of the one criminal. His declaration that Jesus was innocent (v. 41) and his reliance on Him for salvation (v. 42) further evoke Isaiah 53 (see Isa 53:5-6, 9-12). That the man would be with Jesus in paradise (v. 43) shows us that all that is required for salvation is repentance and faith in Christ.
In addition to Jesus’s promise to the repentant sinner, the other sayings of Jesus from the cross recorded here are unique to Luke. Both Matthew and Mark record only Jesus’s quotation of Psalm 22:1 (Matt 27:46, Mark 15:34). Luke here records Jesus’s quotation of Psalm 31:5 (v. 46). This “loud voice” may be the “loud cry” of Matthew 27:50 and Mark 15:37. The other saying recorded here is in verse 34. Some early manuscripts do not include this. If it is original to Luke, it would be another parallel to Isaiah 53:12. That Luke has the centurion commenting on Jesus’s righteousness (should be “this man was righteous”) is a parallel to Isaiah 53:11.
When the women come to the tomb, we see the two angels (24:4) remind them of Jesus’s words while He walked with them (vv. 6-8). When the women tell the men, they do not believe them (v. 11). We see here that Peter goes to check it out (v. 12) but doesn’t understand what the empty tomb means. Later that day, two of the men that did not believe the women (see vv. 22-23) are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus (v. 13). The risen Christ appears to them, though His identity is kept from them by God (v. 16). This does not mean that Jesus did not look like Jesus, but that God supernaturally kept them from seeing the truth. Jesus wants to point them to the Scriptures (vv. 25-26) to believe and understand rather than needing to physically see it for themselves! That’s why He expounds the Scriptures to them (v. 27).
But they still don’t recognize Him. It is not until God opens their eyes that they realize the truth (v. 31). Then they realize that there was an inward recognition of the truth through the Word of God (v. 32). This is how the elect recognize Jesus since His ascension. He reveals Himself, by a direct act of God, through the Scriptures. Luke is foreshadowing the work of the Holy Spirit he will record in the book of Acts (see below).
These disciples return to Jerusalem to tell the eleven (note there is no account of Judas’s death) who refer to an appearance of the risen Christ to Simon Peter, which may be what Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 15:5. As they are discussing this, Jesus appears (v. 36). Let’s pause for a moment. If you follow the narrative, Luke seemingly gives us the account of the resurrection, these appearances, and the ascension as all happening on the same day. And yet, we know from Matthew and Mark that the angels at the tomb told the women to tell the men to go to Galilee, where Jesus appears to them (none of which Luke even mentions). What’s more, Luke himself tells us that Jesus appeared to His disciples over the course of 40 days (see Acts 1:3). Luke is here making a theological point – a very important one – by jamming all of these events together.
Jesus’s Personal work of His first advent is done with the ascension. Luke is showing the importance of the resurrection and ascension as interrelated. The Apostles – who would be given the mission to grow the church – needed to know that Christ actually rose from the dead bodily (vv. 37-42). He needed them to know that what was written in the Old Testament (and He here alone designates the three-fold division of the Hebrew Scriptures – Law, Prophets, and Psalms or writings) was fulfilled in Him. That means that with His work completed, the nation of Israel was no longer in view. He is the true Israel. He needed His disciples to know that He was bodily in heaven until His return.
Luke is telling his readers – it is now about what we do as the church. And this is what he will expound in the second part of his history (the book of Acts).
The church is God’s ultimate means – and always was – of fulfilling the mandate to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. That is a spiritual command. And now that Christ’s work predicted in the Scriptures is fulfilled (v. 46), the church’s work predicted in the Scriptures now needs to be (v. 47). This is why we need to know the Scriptures (like the two on the road to Emmaus) and why God opened the minds of the Apostles (v. 45). It is written than Christ would die and be resurrected AND that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to all nations. Jesus is saying that this is all in the Old Testament Scriptures! This is why John the Baptist’s proclamation (3:3) was done as it is written (3:4-6). This is why Luke gives the extended quotation in chapter 3. He is here bringing it back around to that very purpose!
And that this must start in Jerusalem is important. Jerusalem is the last place God’s presence dwelt on earth. He was in the Temple and left (see Ezekiel 10). He was there in Christ and was forced outside the city to be rejected once and for all by Israel. This is why Luke constantly communicates Christ’s insistence on getting to Jerusalem. God’s presence is going to return to Jerusalem in the person of the Holy Spirit, and He will spread His presence over the whole earth – to all nations. How? Through His church. We are witnesses of these things (v. 48) who will reclaim the nations for God in the power of the Holy Spirit (v. 49), which is the promise God gave in the Scriptures!
Then, Jesus ascends to heaven, and His disciples worship Him. They are starting to get it. And the story ends where it begins, in the Temple (v. 53 – see 1:9). But God was about to fulfill what the Temple pointed to by making His people the true Temple – the real place of His presence.