The Passion Story - Gospel Analysis
Part 1: Anointing, Betrayal, Last Supper
The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled, THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2006.
Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, P. 276-324.
#305. Jesus' Death is Premeditated
Matthew 26:1-5, Mark 14:1-2, Luke 22:1-2
-It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. Two days before the Passover was Tuesday. In this sentence, the Passover is identified as the Feast of the Unleavened Bread.
-The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’ Once again, we are reminded that the chief priests and the scribes are the political and religious leadership who were working behind the scenes to crucify Christ. But they were also keenly aware that Pilate had experienced thirty-two riots in his ten years as governor of Judea and the Jewish leaders wanted to avoid one more riot. Underline the words, “kill him,” because their ultimate goal was to kill Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus had become a serious threat to their way of life and to their way of religion.
#306. The Anointing in Bethany
Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50, John 12:1-8
We have studied this text previously, when we studied this story in Luke’s gospel (page 231.) We will skim it here.
-While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, In comparing this version of the story with Luke and John’s, we see that Jesus was clearly at the house of a leper. Lepers were ostracized people in Jesus’ day. It was amazing that Jesus was at the house of a leper. People were not to come into contact with lepers. In this version of the story, Jesus was having dinner with “one of them.”
-A woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. In the next verse, we will discover that this perfume was worth three hundred days wages. In other words, it was very, very expensive. We remember that spices were incredibly expensive in Jesus’ day and also during centuries past. We may recall that Ferdinand Magellan traveled around the globe in search of the Spice Islands in 1520-22, and his goal was to find the Spice Island where spices were growing more abundantly than any other place on earth. The explorers would become immediately wealthy if they could bring home one shipload of spices. In Jesus’ day, these expensive spices often came from India.
“People often used expensive alabaster bottles, which were semitransparent and resembled marble, to store costly ointments (Argyle 1963:195). They would seal the ointment to prevent evaporation, requiring the long neck of the jar to be broken and the ointment to be expended at once (Meier 1980:312). Nard was a costly ointment imported from India, and its expense might suggest an heirloom passed from one generation to the next (Lane 1974:492).”
-But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. We hear that the spices/ointment was worth three hundred days’ wages. (What do did you earn for a year’s wage when you were at the peak of your earning power? This ointment was very, very expensive if its value was equivalent to an annual salary.)
“They” scolded her. Who were “they?” “They” must have been some of the disciples who were angry at the woman and scolded her for her action. It would not have been one of the Pharisees (via Luke) because Pharisees would not have been associating with a lowly leper and definitely would not have been in a leper’s home. So it must have been some disciples who were angry about the extravagant waste of such a valuable spice whose value could have been given to poor people.
-But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) (only John). In John’s account of the incident, we hear his reliable account that Judas was thief at heart, that Judas kept the common purse for the disciples and that he used to steal from the common purse. In other words, Judas had been a thief for a long, long time and actually stole from Jesus and from the other disciples. What kind of person would steal from Jesus? Judas’ love of money must have become compulsively addictive. His material greediness must have consumed his inner passions. It is no wonder that Judas, who was a compulsive thief, betrayed and sold Jesus for merely thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave.
-But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. We know that there will always been poor people on the earth and we will always have the opportunity to show kindness and mercy to them. But this moment was a special moment for Jesus. He was getting closer to the moment when he was going to be crucified on the cross and this woman unknowingly was preparing his body for his burial.
In Luke’s version of the story, we see that this woman was called “a sinner.” In Luke’s version of the story, we see how much compassion that this unnamed woman had for Jesus. She was weeping, wetting Jesus’ feet with her tears, kissing Jesus’ feet, and anointing them with this enormously expensive ointment. This woman truly loved Jesus. Why? Maybe because Jesus had healed her earlier. Maybe she was Mary Magdalene who had been healed of seven demons by Jesus. Maybe she was the woman who had been caught in adultery and Jesus had said to her accusers, “The one who is without sin cast the first stone” and no stones were thrown at her. We don’t know the details of Jesus’ pervious encounter with this woman, but Jesus had done something for her to elicit this deep appreciation and adoration that she had for him.
This woman gave the right gift to Jesus at the right time. Sometimes, we are part of a story where we see a person give a special, unforgettable gift at the right time, and that special unforgettable gift is remembered fondly. We all have our stories when we have been the recipients of a special gift at the right time. I recall when I almost died from endocarditis, an nasty infection that attacked and destroyed my heart valve, and I recall that certain people gave themselves to me and my needs in an unforgettable way and I treasure those memories of those special gifts. I think of friend Ingrid who snuck into my hospital room late a night with “goodies” left over from the Passover Meal on Holy Thursday. We all have similar stories. We all love to receive and give the right gifts at the right time.
This woman gave a special gift to Jesus who was preparing for his own death, and Jesus was deeply touched by the woman’s gift of sincerest compassion to him.
-Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’ This woman’s deeds/actions of compassion and her preparing Jesus’ body for burial would be remembered throughout all time, as long as the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection was told.
#307. The Betrayal by Judas
Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11, Luke 22:3-6
-The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. We remember the culprits for the crucifixion were the chief priests and the scribes, the powerful religious authorities of the day.
-Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, (only Luke) Circle the word, “Satan.” Luke is clear that Satan entered into Judas and was the motivating force for Judas’ actions. Also see John 13:2 on the next page which says, “And during supper, when the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.” We know that the power of evil can get a hold on people, and such people cannot escape from the grip of the evil that is slowly consuming them and then destroying them. Satan got into the heart and habits of Judas. We also recall that Judas had been stealing money from Jesus, the other disciples and the common purse for some time. What kind of person would steal money from Jesus? What kind of person would steal money from the other disciples? Somebody who was morally sick, morally bankrupt, and whose hearts and actions had become morally perverted. Judas had become addicted and consumed by his greed.
We all have the first hand experience of knowing that the power of evil gets hold of a little bit of our heart and then slowly gets a hold of it more and more. First the toes, then the feet, then the legs, then the arms, hands, eyes, head. The devil’s beachhead in our lives always begins small, but like cancer, grows and gradually consumes more of us. Eventually there is a crossing line and our lives become controlled by the power of evil. That is what happened to Judas.
-Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. After Satan had entered Judas, Judas was then motivated and go to meet with the chief priests. The Bible is clear that Judas took the initiative to go to the chief priests in order to betray his master.
-When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. The chief priests were pleased to find a traitor among the inner core of the twelve disciples. The chief priests must have sensed that Judas wanted money in order to promise to give him money. Judas must have tipped his hand, suggesting that his deed was worth some silver or gold.
-He (Judas) said, ‘What will you give me if I betray him to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew only) We recall that Judas was the keeper of the money purse for the disciples. It was Judas who brought up the idea of wanting money for his actions. That Judas wanted money for his dirty deed reveals much about the heart of Judas. He was one more person who loved money way too much. He loved money so much that he was willing to betray Jesus for hard cash. In his heart, Judas had become consumed with his passion for money. The chief priests sensed what was in his heart and they paid him/offered to pay him thirty pieces of silver.
The thirty pieces of silver was a quotation from Zechariah 11:12. Matthew, as we recall, was writing to a Jewish audience and he consistently found the actions of Jesus prophecied in one of the Old Testament prophets.
The value of thirty pieces of silver was the cost of the value of a slave. Exodus 21:32 says, “If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall pay to the slave owner thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.”
-So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. Judas began looking for a good moment to betray Jesus, when the crowd would not be present.
#308. Preparation for the Passover
Matthew 26:17-20, Mark 14:12-17, Luke 22:7-14
-On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, This was Thursday.
-His disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ The disciples were looking for directions from Jesus.
-So he sent two of his disciples, Luke says that the disciples were Peter and John.
-Saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, Jesus knew the future. Jesus knew that Peter and John meet a man carrying a jar of water. That man would lead them to a home where the Passover meal would be celebrated.
In numerous stories, we hear that Jesus knew everything including the hearts of people and what was going to happen in the future such as his death by crucifixion. This story is another illustration of Jesus’ knowing the future.
-“The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” Circle the words, “The Teacher.” Peter and John tell the owner of the house that The Teacher was asking for a guest room in which to eat the Passover meal with his disciples. To them, Jesus was known as the Teacher and he is still known to us as The Teacher. Jesus was and is the Master Teacher about God, the kingdom, the rule of God in our hearts.
-He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ We finally get to the “large upper room” which has become part of the sacred story about the Last Supper. All Christians know that the Last Supper was served in a large upper room. Many rooms in churches are called, The Upper Room.
-So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. Jesus foretold accurately what was going to happen. The two disciples prepared the Passover meal which meant that the disciples probably found some women to prepare the meal for their master.
-When it was evening, he came with the twelve. At sundown, Jesus came to the Upper Room with his twelve disciples.
#310. Jesus Fortells His Betrayal
Matthew 26:21-25, Mark 14:18-21, John 13:21-30
-And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ Three primary events occur at the Last Supper: the story about the betrayal by Judas, the institution of Holy Communion, and the foot washing of the disciples (John.)
-They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ Each of the disciples was worried that it may be himself who would betray Jesus.
-The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. (John) The disciples did not know which of the disciples were going to betray Jesus.
-One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; (John) Once again we hear that John was the beloved disciple. He, John, is never clearly named John in the fourth gospel, but the reader knows the identity of the beloved disciple: John himself. John has been our eyewitness and recorder on the scene, giving us juicy details about events happening in Jesus’ life. In this situation, John was reclining next to Jesus. We recall that people did not sit at the tables in those days but sat on pillows near tables. In other words, they “reclined” at table.
-Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ (John) Simon Peter motioned to Jesus to ask him the question. Once again, we can imagine Peter motioning to John. It is a nice little detail.
-Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ (John) Mark and Matthew say the same thing, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.” This piece of information about the bread is given only to John and then to Peter. It is as though the other disciples did not hear this information but only John and Peter did. John, our eyewitness, who was present at this sacred moment, tells us the story.
-So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. (John) Jesus knew the heart of Judas Iscariot. Jesus knew his heart was full of betrayal and full of the love of money so that he betrayed Jesus.
Similarly, Jesus knows our hearts as well. We know that. We know that Christ/the Lord/God knows our inner hearts and inner motivation. We can fool other people but we know that we cannot fool God who knows and reads our hearts and minds.
-After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ (John) Circle the word, “Satan.” Jesus told Judas to carry out the dirty deed immediately. After Judas received the piece of bread, Satan entered him to him. We all know people in whom the power of evil got a hold of their heads and hearts and where they crossed that invisible line and became possessed by evil thoughts and actions.
-Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. (John) The group of disciples apparently overhead what Jesus said to Judas e.g. “Do what you have to do” but the disciples thought that Jesus was telling Judas to purchase supplies for the Passover or to give money to the poor. The disciples did not think that Judas was going to betray Jesus but that Judas was going to purchase supplies or give money to the needy.
-So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. (John) The story is clear: After Judas received the bread, he went out to do his dirty deed.
-For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’ No one names their child after Judas. The name, Judas, has become synonymous with “betrayal.” No one wants to name their child after a “betrayer.” In all my years, I have never known a person by the name of Judas.
Both Luke and John make a point of Satan entering into Judas' heart. What do you think it means that Satan entered into Judas? What do you think happened to Judas so that he betrayed Jesus?
#311. The Last Supper
Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:15-20, John 6:51-58
-While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Here are the Words of Institution for Holy Communion. Jesus took the loaf, blessed the loaf and broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, “This is my body.”
-Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. Then Jesus took the common cup, gave thanks to God, and gave it to his eleven disciples who drank from their common bowl.
-He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many, or for all.”
In the Aramaic language which was most likely the daily language of Jesus, there were no “be” verbs. That is, the sentence in Aramaic would read, “This my body.” The Greek language uses the “be” verbs e.g. “This IS my body.”
There are three historic interpretations of this verse and the little verb, “IS.” Those historic interpretations have caused immense conflict, and the result is the existence of major denominations which have fought over the interpretation of the little “be” verb, “IS.”
- The Reformed Church says that the words mean, “This represents my body and blood.” The wafer and the wine are symbols of Christ’s body and blood.
- The Roman Catholic Church says that these words mean, “This actually is my body and blood.” The wafer and the wine are actualities of Christ’s body and blood. This position has been characterized by the Roman Catholic word, “transubstantiation.” Substantively, the wafer and wine are actually the body and blood of Christ.
- The Lutheran/Episcopalian Church says that these words mean, “that Christ is really present in the wafer and the wine, but we don’t know how Christ is really present. Holy Communion is Sacrament, and the word, “sacrament” means “mystery.” Christ is “really present” in, with and under the wine and wafer.
This sacred meal of the church in which we receive the body and blood of Christ and the forgiveness of sin for all eternity has become a source of conflict, division and polarization among Christian churches and denominations today.
-For the forgiveness of sin. (Matthew only) The blood means that forgiveness of sin. The blood of the Passover lamb was for the forgiveness of the peoples’ sin. The word “sin” is singular and covers all sins of humankind.
-Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’ Jesus will not drink wine again until he drinks it new in the kingdom of God.
THE APOSTLE PAUL’S DESCRIPTION OF THIS EVENT
-For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, We recall that I Corinthians was written earlier than the four gospels, that I Corinthians was written in about the year 55 CE. St. Paul received his information about the Last Supper directly from Jesus Christ, most likely in his vision that he experienced, perhaps on the road to Damascus. Or Paul may have received this vision from the Lord while he was living in Antioch for seven years.
-That the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ These words almost sound like the current wording of our “Words of Institution.” Underline the words, “do this in remembrance of me.” An emphasis for the Apostle Paul is that we are to remember Jesus and his death on the cross when we receive the body and blood of our Lord.
-In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ Circle the word, “new.” This is the new covenant which is different than the “old covenant” of the Old Testament. All of our sins are freely forgiven in this new covenant. Jesus himself becomes the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The two sections of the Bible are the “old covenant” and the “new covenant,” the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.”
In the Old Covenant/Old Testament, the body of a perfect lamb was sacrificed. In the New Covenant/New Testament, the body of Christ, the perfect lamb of God, was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the whole world.
-For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Underline, “you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” This theme is also found in the Apostle Paul but not in the gospel accounts. The bread and wine are to remind us of Jesus’ death on the cross. Every time that we re-enact Holy Communion and celebrate the bread and wine, we recall Jesus’ death on the cross. We recall that Jesus was the Passover Lamb who was slaughtered (throat was cut) for the forgiveness of sin.
PAINTING AND IMAGINATION: THE LAST SUPPER
Take time to carefully examine each painting of the Lord's Supper. What do you see in each?
DA VINCI, Italian
In many paintings of the Lord’s Supper, Judas is included as one of the twelve disciples, even though we know in the Biblical text that Judas had already left the group before Jesus’ words of institution and the gifts of bread and wine. In the picture by Mafa, there are twelve disciples for the Lord’s Supper. Who do you think is Judas and why?
Notice in the Dali portrait, the ascending body has the mark of nails in his hands. Notice that their heads are all bowed. Why are they bowed? What is going on in that sacred moment captured by the artist? Why is Jesus so blonde and fair skinned when we know that Jesus was not?
Notice in the Da Vinci portait, it seems that Jesus has just announced to the disciples that someone in the group was going to betray him and the disciples are “buzzing” about the identity of the betrayer, wondering if it were themselves. Notice the person to the right of Jesus. Many people have interpreted this person to be John, the closest to Jesus. John was then talking Peter at John’ right. Looking more closely at John, we notice that this person looks almost like a woman. We recall the novel, THE DA VINCI CODE, where the author suggests that the identity of this person was not John but Mary Magdalene.
In a poll, Lutherans rated Holy Communion as the most important part of the worship service (83%). Do you feel the same way? Why or why not? Why is Holy Communion so sacred to so many people in the church? Do other denominations have a similar sense of sacredness during this event?
#315. Peter's Denial Predicted
Matthew 26:30-35, Mark 14:26-31, Luke 22:31-34, John 13:36-38
In this section, all four gospels record the same stories in the same sequence.
-When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. The disciples ended the Passover feast by singing a hymn. The book of Psalms was their hymnbook. They again went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus regularly slept during this final week of his life. The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus and his disciples went across the Kidron Valley where there was a garden (Gethsemane).
-And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters; for it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” Jesus knew the future, including the coming desertion of all of his followers. What Jesus predicted came true.
Also, Jesus knew his Old Testament and could quote Old Testament Scriptures that reinforced his message. The Old Testament quotation about the “sheep will be scattered” is from Zechariah 13:7.
-But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’ Jesus again prophecied his resurrection. Jesus knew that he would be raised up (by the powers of God.) It is amazing that Jesus revealed his full humanity when he dreaded the inevitable pain of his crucifixion and at the same time, he prophecied that he would be raised from the dead. It seems that we are the same way: We want to avoid the pain in front of us yet know that our future life is secure.
-Peter said to him, ‘Even though all become deserters, I will not.’ As we know, Peter protested too loudly. He promised loyalty but would fall away like the rest.
-Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ The story of the cock-crowing has been etched deeply into our minds.
-But he said vehemently, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ A second time and even more strongly, Peter insisted that he would not deny Jesus.
-And all of them said the same. Yes, we disciples claim to be strong when we really have feet of clay. We promise to Jesus that we will be strong and we find out that we are not. These were the strongest and best of his disciples, who spent three years listening and observing Jesus. But we will discover that in crunch time, they all crumbled and ran away from Christ. And if they did….
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