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BI 1073 Story of Jesus / Lipscomb University

Unit 5C

Jesus’ Trial, Death, and Resurrection

In the Garden

 Read Luke 22:39-53

  • Below is a photo of the modern day garden of Gethsemane. Luke doesn’t name the garden as Gethsemane, which probably means oil press, but the other gospels do. Some claim the trees in the garden are from Jesus’ time, but tests show they are more likely 1000 years old (still impressive).
  • Luke has an abbreviated version of Jesus’ prayer; v. 43-44 are unique to Luke but are omitted in most early manuscripts and so may not be original.
  • Notice the many contrasts in this scene: Jesus agonizes while the disciples sleep; one of his own betrays him with a sign of affection; Peter hurts but Jesus heals; Jesus worked by day, his enemies come by night.
  • Mark 14:44 explains the kiss was a pre-arranged signal to the Jewish leaders.
  • Only John says that a detachment of soldiers came with them. Also John identifies Peter as the one who cuts off the servant’s ear and Malchus as the name of the servant, agreeing with Luke that it was his right ear. Only Luke, the physician, tells of Jesus healing the ear.
  • Luke omits the flight of the disciples, and the young man who flees naked from the scene when someone grabs his cloak (Mark 14:50-1).
  • At this point Luke doesn’t comment on what happened to Judas, as recorded in Matt. 27, but Acts 1:18-19 gives another record of Judas’ death, which differs in some details from Matthew’s account: (1) Who bought the field, Judas or the priests? (2) How did he die, hanging or a fall? (3) How did the field of blood get its name?



Jesus’ Trial

 Read Luke 22:54-62

  • Does this scene take place outside Annas’ house (as in John) or Caiaphas’ house (as in Matthew)? Luke simply says the high priest’s house.
  • Luke delays and abbreviates the report of the Jewish trial; only John records meeting with Annas prior to Caiaphas.
  • There are different accounts of the accusers in this scene: Matthew has servant girl / another girl / crowd; Mark has servant girl / same girl / crowd; Luke has servant girl / man / another man; John has girl at door / someone / relative of Malchus. There is probably no point in trying to reconcile these minor differences in eyewitness accounts, as they don’t affect the major thrust of the story. All versions confirm that Peter denied knowing Jesus.
  • Only Luke mentions that Jesus looked at Peter at this point.

 Read Luke 22:63-71

  • Luke omits the false witnesses at the trial, and accusations of threats against the temple, evidence used against Jesus in Matthew and Mark.
  • The other gospels identify this body of accusers as the Sanhedrin, a group of leading citizens, the powerful and wealthy, organized by Rome to handle regional governing issues and to enforce Jewish law. This may not be the same Sanhedrin as described later in rabbinic texts (after 132 AD), which was an assembly of scholars debating points of the law and establishing the Jewish oral tradition (called the Mishnah).
  • They ask him two questions: Is he the Christ? Is he the son of God? Although Christians often use these titles interchangeably, they are not the same. Christ (or Messiah in Hebrew, meaning “anointed one”) refers to the claim of being the deliverer of Israel, a king like David. “Son of God” implies Jesus’ claim to his unique relationship with God. The Jews would have considered the first title presumptuous but the second title blasphemous.
  • The three other gospels mention the soldiers’ mocking Jesus by giving him a crown of thorns.

 Read Luke 23:1-12

  • Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea from 26-36 AD. The Jewish historian Josephus describes Pilate as ruthless and cruel (see Luke 13:1 for an example of Pilate’s brutality).
  • Pilate’s home was in Caesarea, and he was only in Jerusalem on feast days. Passover was a potential time for uprisings with expectations of the Messiah. Pilate was in Jerusalem to keep the peace.
  • Only Luke mentions the accusation that Jesus forbid the paying of taxes (which was false; see Lk 20:22-5).
  • Jesus’ answer to Pilate, “you say” (in all three synoptic gospels): it’s uncertain if this was meant to be evasive or a simple agreement.
  • Only Luke reports Jesus’ meeting with Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great and ruler of Galilee, who earlier wanted more information on him (9:9). Herod is merely curious about this famous man and wants to see him do “tricks.” (In the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar Herod sarcastically sings, “So you are the Christ, you’re the great Jesus Christ! Prove to me that you’re divine; change my water into wine!”)
  • The stone in the photo below, discovered in Caesarea in 1961, records that Pontius Pilate was prefect of Judea.



Discussion: the nature of truth

  • In John’s account of the trial, Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” (18:38), an important question.
  • Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus emphasizes the importance of knowing and believing the truth. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). Jesus is the true light from God (1:9). He is the true bread from heaven (6:32) and the true vine (15:1).
  • Our modern culture wants to convince us that truth is relative, that whatever a person believes may be true for them, or that all religions are true for their followers. They may say, “All spiritual paths lead to God, just as all rivers run to the sea.” But if that’s the case, then Jesus’s statement is false. He claims to be the truth from God, and there can only be one truth.
  • In defining truth, we need to distinguish between fact, opinion, and belief. A fact is something that is always true and provable by logic or scientific experiment. In a math class 2 + 2 = 4. The teacher does not take a poll of the students, asking what their opinion is about the answer; it’s always true for everyone. In chemistry two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom combine to make water. It doesn’t matter what anyone’s opinion is about this, as it’s always true.
  • An opinion is a personal value judgment which may not apply to others. I may think that the original Star Wars movie (now called episode IV) is the best of the series, whereas you may prefer the latest version. There is no way to prove either of these opinions. I’m free to hold my opinion and you yours, and it really doesn’t matter either way.
  • When I say that I believe Jesus is the Son of God, someone may challenge this statement with “Well, that’s just your opinion.” But it’s much more than that. A belief statement claims that something is absolutely true. I cannot prove with scientific evidence that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins and was raised from the dead, but by stating this belief, I claim it to be just as true as a fact.
  • Truth is the very nature of reality, something actually “out there” to be discovered, not invented or imagined. It exists independent of anyone’s knowledge of it (for instance, gravity existed prior to Isaac Newton’s theory). Truth is unchanging, although our perception of truth may change as we learn more and come to a better understanding.
  • Those who claim truth is relative like to recite the story of some blind men who came across an elephant in the jungle. One touched his ears and thought it was a leafy tree, another his trunk and thought it was a snake, a third his tough hide and assumed it was a wall. The relativist claims that this shows how each person has his or her own truth. However, the differing perceptions of these blind men did not change the fact that it was in reality an elephant. Due to our limited perception and personal biases, we may not all understand what is true in the same way, but that does not negate the genuine reality of truth. Acknowledging the difficulty of finding truth, we should not jump to the conclusion that truth does not exist.
  • Our American society supports freedom of speech and thought. We are free to say “there is a God” or not. We are free to follow the teaching of Buddha, Muhammad, or Scientology. While we should respect the right of others to hold whatever belief they may have, that does not mean that all beliefs are equally true. Something is either true or it’s not.
  • It’s popular today for someone to say, “My belief works for me, while yours may be true for you,” but that’s not what truth means. If something is true, it’s absolutely true for everyone, even if others do not share that belief. Jesus is Lord over all, even if others do not acknowledge that lordship.

 Read Luke 23:13-25

  • It is puzzling why the people, who up to this point supported him (19:47-8, 20:19, 22:2), turn on Jesus now. Perhaps the fickle crowd was incited by the priests (Mark 15:11).
  • (17) This explanation is not in the major manuscripts of Luke, but is in the other three gospels. No outside sources attest to this custom of releasing a prisoner or to the rebellion led by Barabbas.
  • Luke omits the flogging(s). Because of differences in Matthew, Mark, and John, some think there were two types of floggings, typical of Roman practice (the first less severe, the second very brutal to prepare for a quick death on the cross) but probably these accounts of the beating are just in different order.

Crucifixion and Burial

 Read Luke 23:26-38

  • Mark mentions the sons of Simon as Alexander and Rufus, as if they were known to his Christian readers. In Rom 16:13, Paul sends greetings to a Rufus (possibly the same person?).
  • Characteristically, only Luke mentions the mourning women and Jesus’ comments to them.
  • (31) Dry wood burns more rapidly than green, implying that Jerusalem would see worse days when the Romans would burn down the city in 70 AD.
  • Golgotha (Aramaic) or Calvaria (Latin) means skull. In Jerusalem today tourists are taken to see a hillside that looks something like a skull, but it’s almost certainly not the historical place of Jesus’ death.
  • “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” This first (of 7) sayings on the cross, unique to Luke, is not in the earliest manuscripts.
  • Luke records parallels between two unique statements of Jesus and that of Stephen at his stoning in Acts 7: both forgive their enemies (Luke 23:34 / Acts 7:60), both commit their spirits to God (Luke 23:46 / Acts 7:59).
  • Both Luke and John omit the soldiers’ offering Jesus the drugged drink as a painkiller, which he refuses. Wine vinegar was a common drink among soldiers, not the same as Matthew/Mark’s wine with myrrh.
  • Pilate’s sign shouldn’t be taken as a statement of faith, but as an insult to the Jews: “This pathetic man hanging here is your king!”

Discussion: Why did Jesus have to die?

  • Critics of Christianity and even sincere but puzzled Christians sometimes ask this question. If God wanted to forgive sin, why couldn’t he simply choose to forgive, without sacrificing his son?
  • The apostle Paul gives the answer in his letter to the Romans. “God presented him [Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. He did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:25-6).
  • The word atonement means to remove the offence of sin which stands between us and God, so we might be “at-one” with God again. A perfectly holy God cannot allow sin in his presence, thus we as sinners could never come to Him as long as we carried this stain.
  • However, if God merely dismissed sin as if it really doesn’t matter, then he would be merciful but not just. He is a God of justice as well as mercy; thus, in order that he might be just and also be the justifier of the faithful, He sent Christ “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
  • In Greek the words for righteous and just are the same; when God justifies us through Christ, He considers us to be righteous, even though we are not. But if we wear the name of Christ, we share in his perfect righteousness.
  • God could not be just and uphold the laws He has made if He simply says, “Your sins do not matter; there is no price to pay for breaking my commands.” That wouldn’t be justice in a human court, so how could it be justice for God, who represents a much higher justice? What if He told Adolf Hitler, “It doesn’t matter what you did, you’re free to go”? That would be a moral outrage, not justice. God does not treat sin lightly, as if it were a minor thing without significance, something he could simply overlook. Sin must be punished one way or another for justice to exist.
  • The amazing thing is that God in his mercy decided to take the punishment on himself through Christ, rather than punishing us for all eternity. That’s the meaning of forgiveness, the “amazing” part of grace. Simply saying “I forgive you” wouldn’t cost God anything. That kind of forgiveness is easy, with no consequences for anyone. The gospel says that forgiveness cost God his only beloved son, making forgiveness priceless.
  • One student in my class put it this way: God’s love initiated the atonement; God’s justice made it necessary.

 Read Luke 23:39-49

  • “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus equates this with entering his kingdom, which was the thief’s request. “The words ‘today’ and ‘with me’ emphasize that the Day of Salvation has dawned for the criminal in response to his confession” (Hanhart 213). More than likely, Jesus means that the next thing the thief will experience after death is the resurrection day when Jesus returns, with no sense of time in between.
  • Despite what some teach, no biblical text speaks of Paradise as a waiting place of the saved before resurrection.
  • Paul speaks of the third heaven as Paradise (2 Cor 12:4), but he cannot describe his experience. Rev 2:7 uses Paradise as equivalent to heaven, as do many extra-biblical texts at this time. But at death our souls do not go straight to heaven, but await the day of resurrection. Where we are in-between these times, the Bible does not explain (see the discussion of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16).
  • Sixth hour = 12:00 noon, six hours after sunrise (the nighttime hours were counted in four watches of 3 hours each).
  • The sun became dark: a natural explanation of this event as an eclipse is not possible, since the Passover occurred during a full moon when the moon is on the far side of the earth. This was a miraculous sign of God’s judgment (Isa 8:22, Amos 8:9, Zeph 1:5).
  • Commentators see different possible meanings in the tearing of the temple curtain (which Luke places before Jesus’ death, unlike Matthew/Mark). Some see this as a sign of God’s mourning, similar to Jews tearing their clothing in the OT. Others see it as opening up access to God’s presence. Hebrews 10:19-20 explains, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body …”
  • “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Third saying from the cross in Luke (John has 3, Mark/Matthew 1).
  • In Matthew and Mark, Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When Jesus was on the cross, he carried the weight of our sins. Paul explains, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21). Note Paul’s shocking language: Jesus was made “sin.” At that point God, who cannot be in the presence of sin, had to abandon his son. More than just physical death, Jesus’ experience on the cross also meant spiritual death, separation from God, while he was made to be sin for us. After a life of intimate union with his Father, this separation must have felt worse than the physical suffering.
  • Only John 19:34 records the piercing of Jesus’ side after his death.
  • Matthew 27:51-3 records an earthquake, tombs opening and the dead walking through the city.

 Read Luke 23:50-56

  • Joseph was a dissenting member of the Sanhedrin, whom John links with Nicodemus. Both men risked becoming unclean for the Sabbath by touching a dead body.
  • The body had to be buried before 6 pm (the beginning of the Sabbath), which delays the women from bringing their own spices until Sunday morning.
  • We do not know for certain the site of Jesus’ actual tomb, but tradition has it located within the boundaries of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
  • Below is a photo of a typical tomb from the first century. To give some sense of scale, this is not a standard size doorway; you have to crawl to go through this opening.




 Read Luke 24:1-12

  • Only Matthew records the earthquake and the angel which rolls away the stone of the tomb. Matthew also gives the cover-up story by the priests that the body had been stolen.
  • Matthew and Mark report one man/angel, Luke and John have two men, likewise at the transfiguration (9:30) and ascension (Acts 1:10).
  • Instead of Mark’s “Tell the disciples he’ll meet them in Galilee,” Luke has the men remind the women of what Jesus taught them in Galilee. In Luke’s account the disciples never leave the city (24:49).
  • At this point the best manuscripts of Mark end, with the women afraid to say anything (this incomplete ending suggests that the last page or so was lost).
  • Luke and John share the account of Peter running to the tomb to see for himself. John adds that the “beloved disciple” was with him, whereas in Luke later (24) the disciples say “some of us” went with him.
  • Luke doesn’t mention Jesus meeting the women (as in Matthew) or Mary (in John). He does mention meeting with Peter (34) but unfortunately doesn’t give the details (wouldn’t this have been a fascinating conversation, Peter seeing the risen Christ for the first time?)
  • Although Luke refers to Jesus as Lord at times, only here is he the Lord Jesus (17 times in Acts as the risen Lord).

More notes on the Resurrection

  • In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul gives the most detailed discussion of resurrection in the Bible. If you want to know more about this subject, read this important chapter.
  • Paul describes Jesus’ resurrection as “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (v. 20). His resurrection foreshadows our own resurrection: “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (v. 23). Jesus’ resurrection was the first evidence and guarantee of the final day of resurrection when we all will be raised when he returns.
  • In the true meaning of the word, Jesus is the only person who has experienced resurrection. Many people in the Bible were raised from the dead, but no one except Jesus was truly resurrected. Jesus’ resurrection was more than a case of simply coming back to life. As Paul makes clear, resurrection means receiving a new kind of body, not the resuscitation of the old body. When Jesus raised his friend Lazarus (John 11), Lazarus was brought back to life in the same body he had before, a mortal body; he would one day die again. However, Jesus was raised in a new body which Paul describes as immortal, imperishable, glorified.
  • Believers will be raised with these new immortal bodies as well. Our eternal life with God depends on our having a new kind of body which can never die. We often hear the phrase “immortal soul,” but the Bible never actually describes our souls as immortal. Instead Paul speaks of the immortal bodies that we will receive at the resurrection (1 Cor 15:42-9).
  • When Jesus returns, the dead will be raised and those who are still alive will be transformed as well: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep [metaphor for death], but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:51-3). The living and the dead will be transformed at the resurrection.
  • What will our new bodies be like? Paul admits that we cannot know the details any more than we would know what a plant or tree will look like by observing the seed. “But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?’ How foolish! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else” (1 Cor. 15:35-7). Since God has not chosen to reveal it to us, the nature of the resurrection body remains a mystery for now. Paul can only say that it will be imperishable and glorified, like the body of Christ.

So what happens when we die?

  • If we properly understand the meaning of the resurrection as the time when we are raised with new immortal bodies, then we see that it’s incorrect to say that we go straight to heaven when we die. Most people assume that our “immortal” souls go to heaven at death, but that is not what the Bible teaches. Instead it speaks of the resurrection of the dead when Christ returns. Only with our new bodies will we be immortal.
  • The Bible describes the dead as asleep, then waking up at the resurrection: “But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise– let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy– your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead” (Isa. 26:19). “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). “We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven … and the dead in Christ will be the first to rise” (1 Thess. 4:15-16).
  • If the dead are already enjoying heaven in the presence of God, what would be the point of resurrection? We cannot begin to experience eternity with God until we have our new bodies. We all await the coming of Christ and the day of resurrection when we will be made like him.
  • From the perspective of the deceased, there is actually no difference in going straight to heaven or, as scripture teaches, waking up with a new body to meet Jesus on the resurrection day. For the dead there will be no waiting, no interim period, nothing to fear, just the blessing of seeing the returning Christ and being reunited with loved ones as if no time had passed at all. It’s only for those of us still living that there seems to be a long waiting period, since we are still bound by time.
  • Some may hang onto this belief despite biblical teaching because they find comfort in thinking of loved ones looking down on us from heaven. However, we need to remember that for those who have died, the very next thing they will experience is the resurrection along with us. They aren’t waiting on us either; we will all be together at once. That to me is comforting.

 Read Luke 24:13-32

  • Only Luke includes this story of meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
  • Cleopas is possibly the husband of Mary (not Jesus’ mother), a witness to the crucifixion (John 19:25), and she may be his companion on the road.
  • There is no clear evidence that pre-Christian Judaism interpreted any OT texts in terms of a suffering Messiah, as Jesus had with great insight, applying Isa 53 to himself. Jesus may be chastising them for not arriving at this conclusion themselves, similar to their blindness in not recognizing him now. Only Luke includes the suffering messiah concept (cf v. 46, Acts 3:18, 17:3, 26:23).

 Read Luke 24:33-53

  • Luke and John record the meeting in the room in Jerusalem, John adds the tale of doubting Thomas.
  • In Luke all this seems to take place on Resurrection Sunday. He records no tradition of meetings in Galilee. Acts 1 does confirm that the ascension took place 40 days later, not the same night as the end of the gospel implies.
  • Jesus does not specify what OT texts were written about him, and it is difficult to find texts which in their original context speak of the Messiah rising on the third day.
  • Only Luke records the ascension of Jesus into heaven, giving more details in Acts 1 (suggested reading). The ending of the gospel of Mark, which mentions the ascension, was not in the earliest NT manuscripts, but was added later as a summary of events. Unfortunately, when the King James Bible was translated in 1611, scholars of the time did not have these earlier manuscripts, which were discovered in the 19th century. That’s why these verses are still in some Bibles today. Modern translations usually mark them as later additions.
  • Commentators Marshall and Dunn, both biblical conservatives, suggest that this scene is more symbolic than literal. Heaven isn’t “up there” in the air or in outer space. This language describes events beyond human understanding.

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Commentaries on Luke cited in the notes:

Barclay, William. 1953.

Barton, Bruce, et al. Life Application Commentary, 1997.

Black, Mark. College Press NIV, 1996.

Bock, Darrell. IVP NT Commentary, 1994.

Fitzmyer, Joseph. Anchor Bible, 1981.

Garland, David E. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the NT, 2012.

Marshall, I. Howard. New International Greek, 1977.

Nolland, John. Word Biblical, 1989-93.

Stein, Robert. New American, 1992.


Other resources:

Barclay, William. The First Three Gospels. 1966.

Barclay, William. The Mind of Jesus. 1961.

Beasley-Murray, G. R. Baptism in the New Testament. 1962.

Beasley-Murray, G. R. Jesus and the Kingdom of God. 1986.

Dodd, C. H. The Parables of the Kingdom. 1961.

Jeremias, Joachim. The Parables of Jesus. 1963.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. 1980.



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