Summary: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke
In each of these messages we've been looking at a different aspect of the humanity of Jesus as revealed in the Gospel of Luke. So far we've learned that Jesus understands shame because he came from shameful circumstances...and that no matter how often you've failed, how untrue you've been, or how insignificant you feel, Jesus is the shame-lifter.
We've also learned that just as Jesus was tested, you'll also be tested. You'll be tested because you need to know if you're able to discern what matters most. You need to know if you're able to stick to God's purpose for your life in spite of anything. And you need to know if you've got what it takes to soldier through the rough spots instead of looking for an easier way.
Then we learned that just as Jesus' identity as the Messiah of God caused him to be rejected by the power-systems of his day, we should expect the same rejection. We learned that our love for Jesus and belief in his way must be above every national loyalty, each religious affiliation, and all knowledge that we acquire. If we're going to follow Jesus, we've got to take up our cross daily.
This message wraps up the series, and we finish up with a look at a story that's known as "Jesus In the Garden", and it's found in Luke 22:39-48. In this message we'll briefly examine how Jesus dealt with suffering, and what that has to teach us about dealing with suffering in our own lives.
This reading in Luke's gospel is the history of Jesus last moments as a free man. It's a transitional story in that sense, that opens with Jesus going out to pray in his customary place and ends with Jesus' betrayal and arrest. We know what comes next. The rest of chapter 22 and all of 23 present Jesus three trials, his condemnation, crucifixion, and burial.
While his trials and crucifixion aren't necessarily the focus of our message, I did notice something that surprised me. And it's that Luke's description of the Calvary event is remarkably straightforward and simple, without any of the gory detail provided by Matthew and Mark. Perhaps that's because the Imperial Court (if that's the intended audience) needed no reminder of the horrors of crucifixion; they were too familiar with it to need a refresher course in Roman executions.
There's the agony of Jesus' prayer, his betrayal and arrest, his trials and condemnation, Simon of Cyrene forced to carry the cross, Jesus crucified, the mocking of the priests and criminals, the darkness, the Temple's veil being torn, then Jesus crying out in victory surrendering his spirit in death. Luke's story moves quickly through all of these events. In all of them Luke presents Jesus as retaining his composure and control, almost as Stoic, as being the kind of man a Roman could respect. In Roman eyes, a guilty man would beg for mercy, plead, and die horribly. Only an innocent man would have the strength of character to comport himself as Jesus did during such terrible suffering.
The detail of Jesus being crucified with two criminals is significant. Three men were crucified, and all three would have endured almost identical tortures leading to crucifixion. All three would have been virtually unrecognizable by the time of their executions. One dying man is recorded as angry and mocking. Another is recorded as pleading for comfort in the next life. But one man dies on his own terms, at the moment of his own choosing. To a Roman, this meant something. You see, to a Roman, what you suffered in this life wasn't nearly as important as how you endured it. It wasn't what Jesus endured at Calvary that marked him as different in their eyes; it was how he endured it that caused the centurion to say, "Certainly this man was innocent."
There's a lesson in this for us. There's no question that at some point in this life you will suffer. The question is; "When that suffering comes will you endure it as Christ's?"
It's interesting that the greatest detail Luke provides about Jesus' suffering is actually in the period just before his arrest. Our text today presents Jesus as praying on the Mount of Olives. The other gospels provide the detail that he was in the Garden of Gethsemane there. "Gethsemane" means "olive press"...and was named that because at some point in its history, the Garden contained a large stone press where olives were crushed and oil produced. (It was the Mount of "olives" after all...) It doesn't seem accidental to me that Luke would choose this place to provide the greatest detail about Jesus suffering, for it was in this place that Jesus was crushed. Luke is telling us that what happened here was actually more horrible for Jesus than all that would come after.