Category Archives: Repentance

2 Samuel 3:6-4:12

How the Kingdom of God grows

A note to leaders: This section covers two chapters. This would take too long to cover in detail in one study. A decision is needed to look at the whole two chapters superficially or one of three sections (scenes) in a little more detail. Each scene looks at the reaction of King David to three types of offerings to the King and how exactly does the House of David grow stronger and stronger (2 Sam 2:1). We see, in the first scene, a man who crosses over to the kingdom of David and peace is made between him and the king. In the second scene we see a loyal member of the king’s court who is damned because he does not understand the nature of the kingdom. And the third scene similarly sees judgment paid on those who think that good can come out of wicked means.

So, will you draw out those three lessons broadly and look at the whole two chapters? Or will you choose one of the three scenes and cover that as a group?

Discussion Question

It is better to do right and not to have than to do evil and have it all.

Background (Context)

Once king Saul had been killed in battle, David inquired of the LORD and was directed to go up to Horeb. He went up as the LORD had directed him and was anointed king over Judah. Saul’s cousin, Abner, placed a son of Saul (Ish-Bosheth) as king over “all Israel”. He initiated a division in the nation that went against the wishes of God. The battle between the house of David and the house of Saul lasted a long time but David’s house grew stronger. We enter Chapter 3 with the message that David’s kingdom will flourish but what will become of Abner and the kingdom under Ish-Bosheth?

Read 2 Samuel 3:6-4:12

6 During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul. 7 Now Saul had had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, “Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?”

8 Abner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said. So he answered, “Am I a dog’s head—on Judah’s side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven’t handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman! 9 May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the Lord promised him on oath 10 and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” 11 Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him.

12 Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, “Whose land is it? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you.”

13 “Good,” said David. “I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me.” 14 Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.”

15 So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. 16 Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.

17 Abner conferred with the elders of Israel and said, “For some time you have wanted to make David your king. 18 Now do it! For the Lord promised David, ‘By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’ ”

19 Abner also spoke to the Benjamites in person. Then he went to Hebron to tell David everything that Israel and the whole tribe of Benjamin wanted to do. 20 When Abner, who had twenty men with him, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a feast for him and his men. 21 Then Abner said to David, “Let me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.

22 Just then David’s men and Joab returned from a raid and brought with them a great deal of plunder. But Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the soldiers with him arrived, he was told that Abner son of Ner had come to the king and that the king had sent him away and that he had gone in peace.

24 So Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Look, Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he is gone! 25 You know Abner son of Ner; he came to deceive you and observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.”

26 Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

28 Later, when David heard about this, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29 May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food.”

30 (Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.)

31 Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner.” King David himself walked behind the bier. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb. All the people wept also.

33 The king sang this lament for Abner:
“Should Abner have died as the lawless die?
34 Your hands were not bound,
your feet were not fettered.
You fell as one falls before the wicked.”

And all the people wept over him again.

35 Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!”

36 All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. 37 So on that day all the people there and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner.

38 Then the king said to his men, “Do you not realize that a commander and a great man has fallen in Israel this day? 39 And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!”

4 When Ish-Bosheth son of Saul heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost courage, and all Israel became alarmed. 2 Now Saul’s son had two men who were leaders of raiding bands. One was named Baanah and the other Rekab; they were sons of Rimmon the Beerothite from the tribe of Benjamin—Beeroth is considered part of Benjamin, 3 because the people of Beeroth fled to Gittaim and have resided there as foreigners to this day.

4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)

5 Now Rekab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, set out for the house of Ish-Bosheth, and they arrived there in the heat of the day while he was taking his noonday rest. 6 They went into the inner part of the house as if to get some wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rekab and his brother Baanah slipped away.

7 They had gone into the house while he was lying on the bed in his bedroom. After they stabbed and killed him, they cut off his head. Taking it with them, they traveled all night by way of the Arabah. 8 They brought the head of Ish-Bosheth to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to kill you. This day the Lord has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring.”

9 David answered Rekab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 10 when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”

12 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron.

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

Scene 1: Crossing over to the kingdom of David (3:6-21)

  • Beginning: Abner is all about Abner (6)
  • Problem: The line drawn between Abner and Ish-Bosheth (7-11)
  • Quest: Abner comes to David (12-16)
  • Resolution: Abner in the Kingdom of David (17-20)
  • End: David and Abner at peace (21)

Scene 2: A wolf in sheep’s clothing (3:22-39

  • Beginning: A servant of David returns from battle (22)
  • Problem: Joab rejects the new peace agreement (23-27)
  • Quest: David rebukes Joab for his revenge (28-30)
  • Resolution: David teaches all the people to mourn (31-35)
  • End: Everything the King did pleased the people (36-39)

Scene 3: Using wicked means for a righteous kingdom (4:1-12)

  • Beginning: The news of Abner’s death reaches Ish-Bosheth (1)
  • Problem: The anxious king over and anxious nation (1)
  • Quest: Opportunists kill Ish-Bosheth and report to David (2-8)
  • Resolution: The King who trusts in the Lord to deliver (9-11)
  • End: Ish-Bosheth is buried with Abner (12)

Scene 1: Crossing over to the kingdom of David (3:6-21)

Beginning: Abner is all about Abner (6)

Notice how Ish-Bosheth isn’t even mentioned in this description. Abner is a political warrior aiming to position himself well in the land. He may not be king, but we’ll see that he regarded himself as good-as.

Problem: The line drawn between Abner and Ish-Bosheth (7-11)

In Abner’s position, he took one of Saul’s concubines. Saul was not longer alive of course. Ish-Bosheth’s question in Verse 7 seems reasonable except that it was a step too far for Abner. He had served Saul and had created this kingdom for Ish-Bosheth, who had done nothing. Why should Abner be denied this small thing? How dare Ish-Bosheth!

Abner decides to remove the kingdom from Ish-Bosheth and hand it to David. He even admits that David was promised the Kingdom by God (V9). He is likely to have been present with Saul when Saul declared such a thing (see 1 Samuel 24:20). In that same passage he would have noticed the kindness of David compared to the little he has gained from Ish-Bosheth.

Quest: Abner comes to David (12-16)

Abner came to David with the offer to bring Israel over to David (see how Abner feels he has the nation under his spell?). David accepts but quickly takes the lead in the agreement: “I will make an agreement with you.” He asks for his wife Michal to be returned to him but then doesn’t wait for Abner to organise it, but sends a message to Ish-Bosheth directly on the matter. Michal and David had loved one another and their marriage is a tragedy – all because of the wickedness of Saul.

Resolution: Abner in the Kingdom of David (17-20)

Abner goes around all of Israel speaking to the elders and calling them to make David their king. He is like an evangelist telling others of the goodness of coming to David. When he arrived back in Hebron, David sits him down for a feast that David had prepared. The once enemy of David was now being treated at his table.

End: David and Abner at peace (21)

Abner proposes to assemble all of the elders at once so they can set David as their king and David sends him away in peace. The future of David as the one king of Israel looks to be here. The strength of David’s house had been growing and it was about to be complete. The path? Through peace made between enemies.

Scene 2: A wolf in sheep’s clothing (3:22-39

Beginning: A servant of David returns from battle (22)

Joab returned to Hebron having fought in the fight for the House of David but he had missed the agreement and discussions make between David and Abner. If he had been there he would have had something else to say.

Problem: Joab rejects the new peace agreement (23-27)

Joab spoke his mind to David but we get no response from David. Later, David makes it clear to all of Israel that he did not betray Abner. Joab accuses Abner of being a lier and conspiring but it is Joab who kills Abner in a deceptive manner. Rather than accept the peace made, Joab strikes down Abner, both for the kingdom but also from revenge for his brother. Joab may be serving in the House of David but he does not have the same motives of David. What will David do when he hears what happened?

Quest: David rebukes Joab for his revenge (28-30)

David prays a curse on the family of Joab. They reflect all of the curses that God promises to those who do not obey his commands. David’s hope is that his kingdom would not be connected to Abner’s death in any way. David totally disapproves of what Joab did.

Resolution: David teaches all the people to mourn (31-35)

Notice the repetition in these verses of ‘all the people’. David directs the people and even Joab to mourn for the loss of Abner. The King leads the way in the mourning, it is not a show and the people followed his directions. The King’s lament asks if Abner really deserved to die like the wicked. The people try to ease the King out of mourning but he insists on grieving Abner completely.  

End: Everything the King did pleased the people (36-39)

‘All the people’ are convinced that David is a good king. Everything he did pleased them. Abner did not bring all Israel over to David in his life but ‘all the people’ present grew deeper in their loyalty to David. He proved again to be a good and righteous king.

In Verse 39, David gives us a snapshot of his kingdom. He has people in his kingdom who are too strong for him. If the kingdom is to be given entirely to David, he will not be able to restrain the likes of Joab, Abashai and Asahel. He calls on the LORD to protect and grow the kingdom.

Scene 3: Using wicked means for a righteous kingdom (4:1-12)

Beginning: The news of Abner’s death reaches Ish-Bosheth (1)

The scene changes from Hebron to the kingdom of Ish-Bosheth which, to this point, is ‘all Israel’ apparently. Abner had been killed before he was able to bring all of Israel to serve David as King. The son of Saul hears the bad news that Abner died in Hebron. Perhaps he did not hear of all the details and is left to wonder and worry about the future.

Problem: The anxious king over and anxious nation (1)

We are told that he lost courage and all Israel became alarmed. What do people do when anxiety and fear overtakes them? They fight or flee. It seems that Ish-Bosheth lost his courage and became weak. What will be the response of ‘all Israel’?

Quest: Opportunists kill Ish-Bosheth and report to David (2-8)

Rekab and Baanah are introduced in Verses 2-4 with a great deal of backstory and gap-filling. Mephibosheth is introduced here and we shall hear more about him later in the book.

As we read of what Rekab and Baanah do, two stories come to mind. The first is the most recent of Joab killing Abner and being cursed by the king for his treachery. The second is of the messenger at the beginning of the book who came to report the death of Saul (lying that he himself killed him) and was killed for his evil treatment of the LORD’s annointed. So, as readers, we must surely expect David to not like what they have done. And yet we still wonder if he will still be a righteous king.

Resolution: The King who trusts in the Lord to deliver (9-11)

David begins his response to these two men with the declaration that he has come to know that the living God is the one who delivers. He does not trust in the craftiness of men to do his bidding but in the deliverance of the LORD. He is a righteous King and a just judge.

End: Ish-Bosheth is buried with Abner (12)

The evil men were made a spectacle of. David making it clear once again that his kingdom is not growing through evil ways but growing by the providence of God. It is, after all, the LORD’s kingdom. David buries Ish-Bosheth with Abner – an show of kindness to the son of Saul.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The Kingdom of God welcomes those who turn to the King. It is a Kingdom of forgiveness and peace and will not grow through unrighteous means. The LORD will welcome enemies but reject those who do not understand what the Kingdom is about.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Rejoice that we rebels are welcomed to feast with The Lord Jesus in peace. The image of Abner eating a feast prepared for him by David, his once rival and then sent out to gather in the rest of the tribes of Israel is a glimpse of the church of Christ who are forgiven and sent out to tell all that Jesus is King and Saviour. Have you understood this grace offered to you?

Topic B: Unable to forgive. If forgiveness were easy then everybody would be doing it. Abner had been welcomed in and made peace with the Kingdom of David but Joab was unable to accept this change of heart. Joab was cursed by David for his failure to forgive and was later taught how to mourn for the death of his enemy. Forgiveness is hard, yes. It was not an easy thing for Christ to forgive you and me either. But it is the nature of the Kingdom of God and the King whom we serve.

Topic C: Accomplishing good through unrighteous means. Rekab and Baanah expected to receive blessings for bringing down the King’s enemy but they did it by unrighteous means. We are not driven to stab anyone in the name of Jesus but are there other ways that Christians can be tempted to expand the Kingdom through evil ways? Lying? Stealing? Measuring the church by number of people on seats rather than souls saved?

Luke 23:26-43

The King’s future

Discussion Question

Have you ever observed an injustice and not done anything about it?

Background

Jesus has been betrayed, arrested, mocked and sentenced to death unjustly. The teachers of the law and leaders of Israel hated Jesus for preaching the kingdom of God in a way that did not paint them in a wonderful light. While they continued to accuse him with lies they persuaded the Roman government to execute Jesus on the basis of their hatred. They would rather a known murderer go free than to let this man continue to teach the people things that they did not agree with.

Read Luke 23:26-43

26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then

“ ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”

and to the hills, “Cover us!”’

31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”t And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What did you see?

Structure

  • Carrying the cross (26-31)
    • Simon of Cyrene (26)
    • Daughters of Jerusalem (27-31)
  • At the cross (32-43)
    • Two criminals with Jesus (32-33)
    • They don’t know what they are doing (34-38
    • One criminal with Jesus (39-43)

Carrying the cross (26-31)

Simon of Cyrene (26)

“…[the soldiers] seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country…” Mark 15:21 tells us also that Simon is known as the father of Alexander and Rufus – the same Rufus, perhaps, whom Paul knew and regarded his family so highly (Romans 16:13). Cyrene is a port city in North Africa. The city encouraged Jews to settle there. A synagogue in Jerusalem, called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, was used by people of Cyrene and Alexandria (Acts 6:9). It is likely that Simon was a practicing Jew who had come from Cyrene for the Passover festival.

“…and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.” The synoptic gospels (Matt-Mark-Luke) all mention this fact of Simon being part of the suffering of Jesus. John does not include this detail in his story. It is easy to stretch the purpose of Simon’s story too far but I feel comfortable noting the involvement, in God’s sovereignty, of a man beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem and Judah taking part in the suffering of Christ. I will not make too much of this but to say that the kingdom of God is and always has been for the whole world to take part in. Perhaps the gospel writers, apart from stating what actually happened, like to include this piece of information because they know that the kingdom of God is about to go global. Luke includes, in the next section, a reminder that Jerusalem is not going to stand for much longer – it’s time will end but the gospel is bigger than Jerusalem.

Daughters of Jerusalem (27-31)

“A large number of people followed him…” This ‘him’ would refer to Jesus as the rest of the sentence makes clear. The order of procession is Jesus, followed by Simon of Cyrene, followed by the crowd, but it is Jesus as the one they are all following.

“…including women who mourned and wailed for him.” Luke 8:52 describes a similar tradition of wailers and mourners over the death of someone. Jesus is a dead man walking. But Jesus will turn the mirror back onto them.

“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children…” These women of the city where Jesus is being condemned were weeping over the unfortunate death of Jesus. They may be sincere followers, or simply women who know that this is a sad end to a good man. Not everyone in that day hated Jesus. This passage reveals the women here who mourn and later a criminal who concludes that Jesus is the King. But the representative leaders of Jerusalem hated him. Jesus tenderly warns them that it is themselves and their children that they ought to mourn for. Jesus is going to the cross as is predestined. And the city of Jerusalem will be judged for killing him. Jesus has spoken about this on a number of occasions in this gospel (Luke 11:49-50; 131:34-35; 19:41-44; 21:20-24). Jesus himself had wept for Jerusalem (19:41). The historic events of the siege on Jerusalem in 70 AD were gruesome on the people in the city. Zechariah 12:10-14 may be alluded to.

“For the time will come when you will say, “Blessed are the childless women…” Jerusalem will receive judgement from God for all of the prophets who have been killed in the past and for the killing of the Son of God. Luke 20:9-18. The Romans lay siege to the city in April 70 AD and starved the Jews. By August, the Romans took the city, destroying the Temple. It is these few months of siege leading to the destruction that Jesus directs these women to mourn. His death in imminent, but theirs is also.

“They will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”” Again, a time is coming when death will seem better than life. This is a specific event fulfilled in 70 AD and yet is a forerunner to judgement day for all humanity. See Hosea 10:8 and Rev 6:16. At this point we’ll just remember that Jesus was the Great Prophet and continues to prophecy even as he goes to the cross.

“For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” This is a lesser to greater kind of argument: if this happens when the tree is alive, what will happen when it is dead? The Son of God is physically present with the people of God in the city of God and they choose to put Him to death. Imagine what evils people will do when God is not so present and merciful. In the instance of the siege on Jerusalem, the people were driven to madness with famine. When the Romans eventually took the city, they barely needed to execute anyone because the city had been starved to death. For anyone interested, here are the records of Josephus on the seige (sections 10, 12 and 13 focus on the difficulties in the city)…

 http://www.ccel.org/ccel/josephus/works/files/war-5.htm .

At the cross (32-43)

Two criminals with Jesus (32-33)

“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.” The scene changes with new characters introduced but they remain unnamed. They represent two types of people who will interact with Jesus and stand for two ways to live. Neither will represent godly living since they are about to die as criminals.

“…the Skull…” The location was well known in the day of Luke’s writing. With the passing of time and thousands of years of wars and construction, this landmark is up for debate. When Luke wrote the gospel, as with Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22 and John 19:17, this was a knowable landmark. The point is that the location of Jesus’ death was known. Nobody mistook what took place that day, where or when. Neither did they mistakenly crucify Judas and everyone think that was Jesus or whatever crazy conspiracy can be imagined and believed. Perhaps the place looked like a skull or perhaps, with the crucifixions occurring there, it had the name of the Skull (Golgotha in Aramaic).

“…one on his right and one on his left.” Jesus is slain as a lawbreaker, with criminals at his side. See Isaiah 53:12 and Luke 22:37.

They don’t know what they are doing (34-38

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”” I love the words of JC Ryle, “as soon as the blood of the Great Sacrifice began to flow the Great High Priest began to intercede.” Who is he praying for exactly? It would be wise to keep the forgiveness here to the extent that these people are still able to repent and receive forgiveness – as about 3000 do on the day of Pentecost! They do know what they are doing, in that they are nailing a man to a cross, but they do not understand fully that they are nailing the true Messiah to the cross! See Acts 3:17 and 1 Cor 2:8.

“And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him.” A direct fulfillment of Psalm 22:7,18. The people are so ignorant of the events and yet they are all events predicted in the scriptures. The mocking of this man paints the picture of how low our sin takes us. At the lowest point in human history, we stood before the Son of God, we bowed down low and gambled for his clothing in mockery. We would rather worship material things that the One who created us. Psalm 22:8 is mimicked as they call on him to save himself.

“…God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” A tautology? The Messiah is the Chosen One. Isaiah 42:1.

“The soldiers…offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king…” The wine was cheap wine used by the poor. The soldiers were getting in on the mocking too – showing that Jew and Gentile were all against the Son of God. Their action paired with their words seem that they are bringing him wine as a servant would bring it to a king – but they mock.

“…a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” His death and his birth are both marked with mockery of this fact (Matthew 2:2). Mark 15:26 describes the sign as the written notice of the charge against him. John 19:19 informs us that Pilate had the notice placed there and John’s gospel expands on the objection that the Jews had to this sign (John 19:19-22). Jesus is being put to death for this claim. Pilate is making the Jews aware that this is the treason that he is condemned for. The Jews do not like this sign because they reject everything about it. As a reader of this event, we see the man on the cross clearly labelled and bleeding out for his people. The king of the Jews is the suffering servant. Mark 10:45.

One criminal with Jesus (39-43)

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him…” We are back to the criminals and even ‘they’ get in on the mocking. It is the same cry: save yourself! But the reason he hangs on the cross is not because he can’t save himself but because WE can’t save ourselves! He hangs there in order to save us – criminals of God’s kingdom.

“But the other criminal rebuked him…then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Let’s reflect. Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Jesus but he was ordered to do that and he said nothing to allow us to know where he was at (but we think kindly of him). The women mourn for Jesus and yet we aren’t sure completely of why they mourn. Do they love Jesus or are they merely weeping over the occasion? We empathise with them too but we don’t know for sure where their hearts are at. Everybody else in the story have clearly mocked Jesus and so we know where they are at. And now we come to the second criminal. He is guilty and deserves death. He confesses this clearly to his fellow criminals. But looking at Jesus he remarks that Jesus has a kingdom that he owns and that it is up to Jesus whether this man is able to enter it or not. But he asks Jesus directly for entrance. Totally underserved. Totally unworthy. But he asks. And Jesus says…

“…today you will be with me in paradise.” This means one thing for sure and opens up further questions. The thing we know is that Jesus confesses to being able to give access to his kingdom. Either he went to his death truly believing nonsense in which case Jesus is a lunatic. Or He really is the King of the Kingdom and can grant access to whoever he pleases. And now that the sacrifice has begun, access is granted. It is granted on the basis of two things. The confession of sin or the admission of guilt and the confession of Jesus as LORD. The latter is the most clear in this case. The man does not say, ‘Jesus please forgive me for my sins.’ But, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ In other words, ‘Jesus, you are the king, will you know me in your kingdom?’

The question that it opens up is that of when. When will the man be in paradise? The straight forward answer is today, but what about the concept of the dead sleeping and that they will be raised on the last day? The questions of what happens after death fall into the category of wait and see. Just as the Old Testament promised the coming king but how he comes and what he does wait and see. And those putting Jesus to the cross did not know what they were doing. When we enter the kingdom ourselves, all will be clear. It may well be that we die and enter the timeless future of eternity when the second coming has already occurred. That is one theory. See Revelation 2:7.

What did we learn?

In the midst of prophecy concerning the judgment of God coming on Israel, the people proceed to put the beloved Son of God to death. His execution was humiliating and full of mockery and yet irony also. He was dying in order to save those who would mock him. His sacrifice opens up the way for forgiveness. It will not be the self-righteous who are saved but sinners who come to the King to call Him their Lord.

Now what?

Topic A: Prophet, Priest and King. The Old Testament described and prescribed three distinct offices of prophet (one who received the word of God and spoke it in the people’s hearing for a purpose), priest (the mediator role of Aaron and the Levites to offer sacrifices to God for the people) and King (obviously the ruler of Israel). These three offices come together in Christ and we have observed them all in this very passage. His prophecy of dark times ahead for the daughters of Jerusalem, his offering to forgive through the sacrifice he gives of himself and his Kingship in granting the criminal access to Paradise at his welcome. Now, there are other facets to Jesus than this (such as wise-man) and we don’t need to force Jesus into a tick box of theology but the book of Hebrews takes this approach to highlight how amazing our Saviour is. He is better than Moses, better than the Levitical priests and he is the very Word of God who has made atonement for sins and sat down on the throne in heaven.

Topic B: What it takes to be saved. It took the compassion, patience, humility, mercy, kindness, graciousness and love of God to send his willing Son to the cross. If there were another way, the Father would have granted it by Jesus’ prayer in Luke 22:42. For us, it takes ownership of our transgressions and the confession of Jesus as LORD – as our LORD. This is Romans 5:8 and 10:9 combined.

Topic C: God is not all about love and forgiveness. While the cross of Christ shows us the love and mercy of God on us sinners, there stands the need to be forgiven lest the wrath and judgement of God fall on us. Jesus’ warning to the daughters of Israel was about the historic fall of Jerusalem, by the arm of the Romans but as the consequence of repeated rejection of God. He will not forgive everybody just because. Merciful and loving as he is, the death of Christ shows us that there is wrath to be avoided. If we do not reconcile with the Son then we have no other mediator to stand between us and God’s righteous anger. John 3:36.

Luke 22:47-65

The Heart of Darkness

Discussion Question

Which of these best describe you?

  • Day person or night person.
  • Words or action.
  • Follower or leader.

Background

Jesus and his disciples have been in Jerusalem for the better half of a week, preaching every day at the temple and retiring in the evening to the Mount of Olives. Jesus shared the Passover meal with them where he spoke about greatness in the kingdom of God is about serving. He told them that one of them would betray him and that all of them would be put to the test as Satan sifts them as wheat. Jesus had instructed them to expect less handouts from people from now on but to equip themselves with money, clothing and swords. When the disciples took his instructions literally, he terminated the conversation.

After the meal, they followed Jesus to the Mount of Olives where Jesus instructed them all to pray that they would not fall into temptation. He prayed earnestly through anguish to the Father who did not decide to take the cup away from Jesus but sent an angel to strengthen him. While Jesus was praying this, the disciples, in their sorrow, fell asleep. He woke them to tell them again, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Read Luke 22:47-65

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

63 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65 And they said many other insulting things to him.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Leaders and followers (47-53)
  • Peter tested (54-62)
  • The torment begins (63-65)

Leaders and followers (47-53)

“While he was still speaking…” The final words were of Jesus to the disciples, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The story that unfolds now takes us through the beginnings of the temptation for all especially of Peter. The reason for their prayer was right at the door.

“…a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them.” The theme of leading and following is strong in this section (Verses 47-53 especially) as we’ll see as we move through the passage. Luke establishes clearly that Judas was one of the twelve but is now leading a crowd. Greater than twelve perhaps? The crowd contained chief priests and officers of the temple guard and elders (Verse 52) and they were all following Judas. Who else was in the crowd? They would probably make up some of the folk who sat around the fire in the next section who challenged Peter.

“He approached Jesus to kiss him…betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Note the physical closeness to this betrayal. The way that Jesus is betrayed is emphasised. Is this just trivial or poetic that the betrayer appears to be friends with Jesus? One who is close to him will lead the rebellion? The hypocrisy of this act is perhaps what we ought to note. Although Judas was one of the Twelve, his kiss is nothing like the emotional weeping of the woman who dried Jesus’ feet with her hair. He was physically close to Jesus but he was not really connected to him. Jesus was not his Lord. Although Judas was stabbing Jesus in the back, he did it from the front and with the intimacy of a kiss. Luke does not actually tell us that the kiss happened but Matthew 26:49 and Mark 14:45 tell us that he did.

“When Jesus’ followers saw…” Please note again the theme of leading and following in this passage. The disciples who had followed Jesus to the Mount of Olives  (22:39), saw the crowd with Judas at the front. We now have a face off. Jesus and the Twelve-minus-one facing up against Judas and a crowd of Temple leaders. In one corner is the carpenter’s son who has been preaching about the kingdom of God for 3 years all over Israel. In the opposite corner is the established leaders of Israel.

“…Lord, should we strike with our swords?” The game is on and the disciples’ are still backing Jesus. They had their two swords that they showed him back at the table of the Passover and the sight of the crowd was not enough to set them running. They were ready to follow Jesus into battle.

“But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And touched the man’s ear and healed him.” This response fits neatly with his earlier exclamation, “That’s enough!” in Verse 38. His disciples were not selected and called to be his army but they were chosen to be his messengers who would testify to the world about Him. He is not leading a rebellion (Verse 52). Judas came and touched Jesus gently with a kiss – a loving gesture with evil intent. Jesus touches his enemy with a healing hand.

“Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him…” Luke lists the types of people who made up the crowd that was lead by Judas and their mission was to come for Jesus. These leaders had been afraid of “the people” so that they needed to capture Jesus secretly by night (Luke 20:19; 21:38; 22:6). Their secret and evil actions are highlighted by what Jesus says next.

“…Am I leading a rebellion…? Everyday I was with you in the temple courts….But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.” Jesus’ whole response is like a parent telling a child how wrong they are by simply pointing out the facts. Jesus’ ministry has been all about speaking the truth. Not about uprisings or back stabbing. Not about weapons or pushes for power. His ministry has been all about words full of truth about the kingdom of God. Even now, as he confronts this mob, his response is not physical but to speak the truth. Jesus has not been hiding in caves but has been operating in plain sight. This mob has waited for the very hour when all the peaceful folk are asleep in their beds to come to Jesus with evil intent. They want him dead.

“…when darkness reigns.” The imagery of light and dark in the bible is a common tool to distinguish secret work with sinister intent versus truth and righteousness. This whole section of Verses 47-53 has contrasted two opposing groups. One, a small band of men following Jesus who is and has been teaching truth in the daylight, without weapons except for the words that he uses and the wonders that attest to his words being from God. The other side a crowd of distinguished men bent on ruining their opponent. They came by night, organised and lead by a traitor. Their apparent acts of kindness, a kiss, are really betrayal. Jesus approach is truth and healing.

The theme of leading and following continues in the next section as we watch who Peter chooses to stand beside.

Peter tested (54-62)

“Then seizing him, they led him…” The brutal treatment of Jesus begins. The One who can calm storms and raise the dead to life allows his enemies to take him away. Would we ever be so humble as Jesus?

“…to the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.” Luke mentions the location of this scene but the focus is not yet on Jesus and the high priest. Luke does not record any future interactions between Jesus and the high priest. It might be worth that the following event takes place with our Great High Priest, Jesus, standing in the courtyard of the Jewish high priest and Peter being grilled over whether he is with Jesus or not. The focus of this story is now on Peter. As Jesus is lead away, the camera looks beyond Jesus’ shoulder and we see Peter lurking behind. He is not following Jesus as such but the whole crowd. The question is, what will Peter do? What is he following for? Perhaps he doesn’t even know.

“And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.” These people who had kindled the fire consisted of the very crowd members who had come by night to seize Jesus. They are not friendlies. But Peter sat down with them. By his physical position, he has put himself on the fence. We empathise with him because this event is brand new to him. He and the other disciples have had this event veiled from their understanding (Luke 9:45). Where else should he stand on a cold night? He is physically “with them” and we want to know is he still “with” Jesus.

“A servant girl saw him…and said, “This man was with him.” In the darkness, the spotlight is shone onto Peter. The questions and answers that follow progress like a slow motion train wreck. “I don’t know him”… “I am not [one of them]!”… “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” These questions and answers were delivered over the course of the night and not consecutively like machine gun fire. His questioning came from servants and others who were not permitted or required to come to the high priests house. I’m reminded of my old “peer group pressure” seminars in high school and wish Peter could have brought those to mind too. Let’s remember though, that this is the beginning of Satan’s plans to sift Peter and the others like wheat. The attacks we receive from the enemy often come in small scale moments when we do not feel brave enough to say, “I am with Jesus.”

“Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. The Peter remembered…and he went outside and wept bitterly.” See Luke 22:34. That moment when you feel like the worst disciple Jesus has ever known. Peter’s response to his own sin is a right one. It is easy to place ourselves in Peter’s place. But all disciples of Jesus have a great and merciful Saviour! Can you put yourself in Jesus’ shoes? To know that this event would happen, to have warned Peter that it will happen and to instruct him to pray that he can not fall into temptation and to watch Peter fail just as He know that Peter would. This is an image of our relationship with Jesus. He knows our temptations. He instructs us to pray. He teaches us to be children of the light, not of the darkness and yet we fail him. Jesus is indeed THE Righteous One. There is no other than Him. We can only say that we have been saved through grace alone and no merit of our own. We should weep over our unfaithfulness. We should remember the grace of God and His Son who knows us and sees us and is praying for us (Luke 22:32; John 17:20-26). Note, when he went “outside” this must refer to outside the courtyard.

We have just witnessed a quick turnaround prophecy about Peter. Jesus foreknew that Peter would deny knowing Jesus three times on that very night and this unfolds before us just as Jesus predicted. As Peter looks into the eyes of Jesus in Verse 61 he is seeing a great prophet who has proven himself.

The torment begins (63-65)

“The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him…” These verses come as an abrupt end to the episode about Peter. Verse 52 comes to mind again as we see the way Jesus is treated. There is nothing difficult about the words and their meaning but we need to note the significance of fulfilled prophecy.

Now, as Luke describes ever so briefly the mocking and the beating and “many other insulting things”, the one mocking phrase described is his ability to prophesy. See Luke 18:32-33; 9:22. See also Isaiah 50:6 and 53:3). What Jesus had foretold, what the prophets had written about, was now beginning to be dealt out on Jesus.

In this whole passage of following and leading, it is the One who foreknew the outcome of that night and humbly submitted to the treachery around him who is really in control and far ahead of all of them. Disciples of Jesus will do well to trust the long term plans of our Lord and not be swayed or tempted by the short term view of the evils of this world.

What did we learn?

The Lord Jesus Christ leads a kingdom that speaks the truth in the daylight. He is a public figure with so much information about him accessible to all. Yet this world would rather mock him and those who side with him than repent and stand with him. This is a passage about choosing who we stand with. The kingdom of God is not about strength as this world knows it. It is about truth and trusting in the One who will go to the cross for you.

Now what?

Topic A: Children of the light. The contrast in this passage between those who think and do evil versus those (or just Jesus) who pursue righteousness. If we speak the truth in love then we have nothing to hide. We are called to live as children of the light and not of the darkness. When we are tempted to do things in secret, that is our conscience telling us that we are working against the Lord and his desire for us to mature. Read how Paul uses the contrast of dark and light, night and day to instruct us to live as children of the light in Romans 13:11-14. See also, Ephesians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5-14.

Topic B: “I am with Jesus.” It is such an easy sentence to speak but can be so difficult when the time is right to say it. “I am with Jesus” can be said in other ways too. “I am a Christian… I go to church because… What do you think about Jesus?… I can pray for you about that, would that be ok with you?” What other ways can you think of to align yourself publically with Jesus?

Topic C: Weeping like Peter. It is the nature of the proud person to attempt to justify their behaviour. It is the nature of a disciple to weep and repent over their sin. Jesus is Lord because he just is, but he is also worthy to be Lord because he is righteous. He calls people because he is merciful and kind, not because we are worthy. It is by grace that you have been saved through faith and not by works so that none of us can or should boast. Let’s embrace the opportunity to repent and grieve over our failure to follow him.