Luke 22 Part 3
31. And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
The Lord now speaks to Peter, calling him by his given name of Simon. (Remember that the Lord gave him the name of Peter.) He repeats his name twice. The Companion Bible calls this the figure Epizeuxis, or Duplication. The Lord seems to use it when gently but sternly offering warning or rebuke. That is certainly the case here.
The Lord reveals to Simon that Satan has made request for him. This recalls to our minds the story in the book of Job, wherein Satan comes to the LORD and requests of Him the ability to do certain things to Job. The Lord is revealing here that Satan has done the same thing in this case.
Now the way this reads in the New King James, we might imagine that Satan’s request was only for Peter himself, and that he was hoping to snare Peter especially along with Judas in the events that were to come. However, this impression is left by the current weakness of the English language, which does not specify between a singular and a plural “you.” In Greek here, the word “you” is plural, and it is masculine. We might make this, then, “Satan has asked for you men.” In other words, the Lord is not just telling Peter that Satan had asked Him to be able to sift him personally as wheat, but rather that Satan had asked to be able to do this to all the disciples.
32. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
Christ does not say how much freedom Satan was given in response to his request. It would appear that he was granted to be allowed to sift the disciples, at least to a certain extent, yet the Lord acted to counteract this sifting. Christ reveals here that He prayed for Peter. The word “you” here is singular this time, and means that the Lord specifically prayed for him. What He prayed was that his faith would not fail, and we can be certain that no prayer of Christ’s would ever be denied. Thus we will see that, although his courage fails, Peter’s faith never waivers throughout the tremendous pressures that were ahead for him. Then, the Lord commands Simon Peter that when he has returned to Him, he must strengthen his brethren. This would help them to recover from their own sifting. And, indeed, later in the gospels and also in the book of Acts we see that Peter did indeed recover from his ordeal to encourage his brethren in their own faith in the Lord.
33. But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”
Peter does not seem to take the threat that Satan’s request posed to him very seriously. Instead, he makes this bold claim, that he will go with the Lord both to prison and to death, if need be. How shallow this claim appears in the light of what we know really happened soon after Peter said this! How easy it is to make such bold claims when prison and death are not staring you in the face! Yet how much harder it is to back them up when the time comes. No doubt Peter fully believed his statements here when he said them, and fully intended to carry his boast out if the time came to do so at some vague, undefined time in the future. Yet when the time came that very evening, his courage proved him false. He was not nearly so strong nor so loyal as he thought he was!
34. Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”
The Lord corrects Peter. He will not be so faithful as he thought he would be. In fact, before the rooster crows, Peter will deny three times that he knows the Lord. The phrase “before the rooster crows” means before the sun rises, for that is when the rooster would crow. So by this Simon Peter would be sifted, and the true character of what was in his heart would come out. Peter would not be able to live up to his proud boast. Yet the Lord prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail, and the Lord’s prayer was answered. Peter may have denied his Lord, but he never lost his faith.
This prediction of Peter’s denials is one of four that Christ made that night as we have them recorded in Scripture. This one and the one in John were both made at the Passover supper, whereas the ones in Matthew and Mark were both made after they had left the house. This prediction in Luke is distinguished from the one in John by the statements of Christ and of Peter that led up to it. So we see that Peter had many warnings of what was ahead! Yet the warnings did nothing to change what actually took place. The only thing they changed, perhaps, was what came after.
35. And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.”
Now Christ speaks to all His disciples. He reminds them of when He sent them out without money bag, knapsack, or sandals. He asks them, did they lack anything when He did this? And they honestly answer that no, they did not. This was because Christ had sent them. As long as they were His disciples on His mission that He had sent them on, He watched over them through His power and supplied all their needs. He was in a very real way their “employer,” and He was responsible for caring for them as long as they were under His employ. As God, of course, He could take care of them no matter what, even when they were separated from Him physically. This He did the whole time they were on this mission.
Yet if people to whom Christ did not make this command think in some going out (such as to the mission field) that they themselves decide to do that they should qualify under this same promise, they will soon find that going out in this way is most foolish. Going on a mission without providing for yourself does not result in lacking for nothing, but usually will result in lacking for everything!
36. Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.
Having reminded them of this former mission, Christ now gives them a new command in the light of it, this time the very reverse of what He commanded before. Now they will need to bring their own money bag. Now they will need to carry their own provisions. Now, when they are in danger, they will need to provide for their own protection.
Thus those who would seek to follow the Lord’s earlier command today are proved doubly wrong, both for taking the first command out of context, and then for ignoring this later command. Not only was the earlier command not made to them, but the Lord Himself reversed it, even to the men to whom He made it! How then can anyone imagine that it is a correct use of the Bible to claim the first promise for himself? But such handling of Scripture is common among those who are trying to wring benefits for themselves from It, rather than honestly reading It to find what God has said.
37. “For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”
The Lord explains to them why it will now be necessary for them to provide these things for themselves. The reason is that what is written of Christ must soon be accomplished. Then, He quotes from Isaiah 53:12. He will be numbered among the criminals, this quotation says. Yes, this great prophecy about Christ was about to be fulfilled: not just this part of it, but the whole of Isaiah 53. These things written concerning Him will have an “end,” He tells them. The word “end” here means a fulfillment. Indeed, Isaiah 53 was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as we know. And the many great prophecies that are also found in the Old Testament about His future acts will likewise have their own “end,” and will be fulfilled to the letter.
38. So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”
The disciples find two swords near at hand. They are responding in faith to His word about swords, probably figuring from His words about the momentous events that are to take place this night, that He is commanding them to arm themselves. Yet in doing this they are taking Him quite literally. It is probable that He actually just meant they must provide their own protection, now that He will not be there to see that they are protected. Surely these swords served no purpose in the events that lay ahead, but rather only got Peter a rebuke from his Master when he attempted to use one. Yet whether or not He meant this command quite so literally, He responds to their finding the swords by assuring them that these two will be sufficient. Otis Q. Sellers suggests He was using irony in this response, and he may well be right.
39. Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.
Now the Lord comes out of the city with His disciples and goes to the Mount of Olives. We see here that this journey was His custom. He had probably been doing this every evening after supper since He had arrived at Jerusalem for this feast some days before. Remember, if events had followed their previous course, after stopping at the garden they would have returned to their lodgings in Bethany. This was their usual course of action, and would have been well known to Judas. Thus he knew exactly the time when Christ would be most alone and vulnerable. Remember, this was why the chief priests were so delighted to have the help of a traitor…they desired to take Him at a time when the people who loved Him would not be around.
40. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
The Lord knew the things that this night would hold, both for Him and for His disciples. He knew that they would be tried in many ways. Thus He commands them to pray. Truly prayer in reliance upon God is just what we need when facing the most difficult and trying circumstances of life. It would have been to the disciples’ benefit to follow this command, yet it seems that they had little success in doing so, as we will see, whether through their own fault or the almost supernatural sleepiness that seems to have come over all of them.
41. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed,
The Lord withdraws from them about as far as one could throw a stone. At this distance, then, He kneels down and prays to the Father.
Some have difficulty with the Lord praying to the Father, since He also declares that He and His Father are one (John 10:30.) Yet I do not think we need to let this trouble us. We often times will sit down to confer with ourselves over a matter. That is really what we are doing when we are thinking deeply on a thing. Some of us might talk to ourselves when considering a matter as well. So we should not allow the fact that Christ would do such a thing to disturb us overly much.
42. Saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
Most assume that the “cup” is His sufferings and death upon the cross, and so what the Lord is asking His Father for here is to change His mind and not make Him die on the cross at all. Yet this was the very reason that the Lord came! He Himself declares this in Matthew 20:27-28.
27. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28. just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
So it was for the very reason of giving His life as a ransom for many that the Lord came. The triumphant words of Galatians 2:20 declare this same thing.
20. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Therefore we have the odd circumstance of the Lord pleading at the eleventh hour to His Father to allow Him to opt out on the sacrifice that was the very reason He came. Those who hold this view have various reasons for explaining why the Lord would do this. The usual explanation is that the suffering He was facing was to be so severe that He dreaded it, and asked to get out of it at the last minute. Some suggest that this was a sign of His complete humanity (fully God and fully man) that shrank from death as it was approaching. However, this view would make the Lord possessed of less bravery than many of His followers, who have gone rejoicing to their deaths, even the most brutal and tortuous of deaths, because they were able to die in His name. Can it be that the very Lord Who inspires such courage in those who love Him did not possess such courage Himself?
Others argue that His request was not just for His physical sufferings, however severe they might be, but rather for the horrors of the spiritual sufferings He was to endure in taking the sin of the world upon Himself. They would point out that He was to be rejected by His Father, a state never before experienced by the One Who was ever in the bosom of His Father, and that this was the dread task facing Him that caused Him to request relief from having to endure it. We would tend to agree with those who suggest this, that the Lord’s physical sufferings were not so severe that they overshadowed the magnitude of taking the sin of the world upon Himself, and being separated from His Father, but rather quite the opposite. The just, righteous, and holy One taking upon Himself our sin must have been a terrible thing indeed. Being separated from His Father, with Whom He had ever been in the closest possible communion, must have been far more horrible for Him to endure than the physical suffering He faced, be it ever so severe. Yet again, to do this was the very reason He came. Are we really to believe that He weakened in the face of this, and asked to be excused from it? Are we to believe that His wondrous plan, His righteous goal, and His very love for us were not enough to drive Him? That for the joy set before Him He was unable to reconcile Himself to endure the cross and despise the shame, at least for this brief time in the garden? The Scripture Itself would argue against this idea in Hebrews 12:2.
Not only does this idea present problems to us in the picture it would suggest to us of the Lord losing His courage, but it also presents to us the idea that the Lord would ask something of His Father, and His Father would not grant it. In John 11:41b-42, the Lord Himself declares:
“Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”
Yet in spite of this testimony, this view would have the Father not hearing the Son in this case, in that He did not grant His request. For most certainly, the Lord Jesus did go to the cross, did drink to the dregs the cup of suffering that was given Him, and was not relieved of it. Could it be, then, that the Lord’s words in John 11 were not true in this case, and that the Father failed to hear Christ’s request? How could it ever be that He would ask and God would not grant it to Him?
We cannot believe that this is so! If this could not be, then, we would ask, what was Christ asking for here? What cup did He ask to be taken away from Him? I think we have found a clue if we will take John 11:41b-42 to heart. Whatever the cup was, it must have been something that WAS indeed taken away from Him, for the Father always hears the requests of the Son. What cup, then, was it that He asked to be taken away?
I believe that a careful reading of the passage will reveal to us a cup that was taken away from the Lord, even as He requested, and as the Lord willed. That cup is found in verse 44, where we read that He was in agony, and “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” This frightening picture suggests to us that the Lord was under such stress in the garden, some of it perhaps induced by an attack of Satan, that He was on the verge of His body giving out. In other words, I believe that Christ was here asking for deliverance from the more immediate cup that was threatening Him…that is, the cup of a violent death right there in the garden! This cup, if it had been allowed to kill Him, would have stopped Him short of the cross. This cup, if He had been forced to drink it, would have disrupted God’s plan, rather than fulfilling it. This cup needed to be taken away from Him, and so He asked His Father to take it away, and His Father granted His request. This, then, was a request that was worthy of the Lord. He did not almost chicken out. He did not ask to stop short of the cross. Indeed, He was asking to be granted NOT to be stopped short of the cross.
43. Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.
The Lord asked for the cup to be removed from Him, and here we see that His prayer was immediately answered by an angel from God coming to strengthen Him. This was not a strengthening to help Him bolster His flagging spirits so that He would decide to die on the cross after all, but rather a strengthening to help Him face the agonizing physical ordeal that He was currently going through in the garden. In other words, His Father did hear Him, and did grant His request according to His will. His will and His Son’s will were the same here, as they ever are, and so He gave Him strength, removing the cup from Him that He was in danger of having forced upon Him at that very time in the garden.
44. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Luke was a doctor, and he gives us a medical description of the Lord’s condition at this point. Various people who have analyzed this have suggested that this sort of sweating only occurs under extreme stress, and is a result of tremendously high blood pressure. The usual result would be that death would quickly follow. How much is accurate in this description I am not prepared to say, but I do believe that the Lord was in deadly danger here. Death would have been the Lord’s fate if He had not been strengthened. No doubt this was Satan’s last attempt to do away with Him before He could fulfill His mission on the cross.
It has been suggested that this event may have actually damaged the Lord’s heart. In John 19:34, we read that when His side was pierced, blood and water came out. This is odd, since there is nothing about crucifixion that should have caused water to come out of His body at that point. This has led some to suggest that this condition was caused by an actual heart rupture that took place at this time in the garden. Again, not being a doctor, we cannot comment on this. There is no doubt there was more here going on than we can guess. Yet what I do believe we can see from the text is that the Lord was in real danger at this time. Something was causing Him great agony, and making His sweat come out in an unusual and alarming manner. This physical stress could have killed Him, yet it did not, for He asked His Father, and His Father sent a messenger to give Him strength.
I believe that the strength the Lord received not only carried Him through this incident in the garden, but all that came after. Remember that ultimately, He did not die of the crucifixion, but rather dismissed His spirit on the cross (Luke 23:46). He had received such strength that none of the almost unbelievable physical sufferings He went through were able to bring about His death. Only when He dismissed His spirit did He die. It was not, then, from physical weakness, but by His Own word that His death came about. His words were most true, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:17-18.
45. When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.
When the Lord arises from this earnest prayer and comes to His disciples, He finds them sleeping. Here we have an interesting comment on the sleep of the disciples over what we find in the other gospels. We might get the idea from the other records that the disciples were most callous and unfeeling, seeing the agony their Lord was going through, and yet falling right off to sleep when He asked them to pray. Yet here we read that they slept not from a lack of concern for their Lord. It was rather through the exhaustion that came upon them due to their sorrow. They really had taken to heart the words the Lord had said to them. They may not have understood the calamity that was about to come upon them, but they did realize that the Lord was telling them that something terrible was coming, and they were empathizing with Him. Yet now their sorrow had worn them out, and they could no longer stay awake, try as they might.
46. Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
Christ had warned them to pray lest they enter into temptation when He left them. It seems they were unable to do that, however, for their sleepiness and sorrow. The Lord now reminds them of His command, yet this time His advice comes just in time to awaken them to see the invading multitude. It was too late to pray more than a quick thought-prayer against entering into temptation, for the crisis was already upon them!