New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 23: Luke 22, John 13-15.

Carl Bloch's Last Supper, public domain
Carl Bloch’s Last Supper, public domain

Luke 22 opens with “Satan enter[ing] into Judas called Iscariot.” John refers to this as “Satan [had] put into the heart of Judas Iscariot… to betray” Jesus. The heart, in Israelite thought, was not just the center of emotion but also conscious thought and planning. In other words, while we could read Luke as something vaguely like demonic possession, John seems to say that Judas was tempted by the suggestion.

he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them.They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. (Lk. 22:4-6 NRS)

Passover arrives, and Jesus sends Peter and John into Jerusalem to prepare for it, cloak-and-dagger style.

“when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” ‘He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” (Lk. 22:10-12 NRS)

Now, practicing our contextual reading skills, what does this have to do with the previous story? We know that the conspiring Jewish leadership now has a mole, an inside man, and that they’re looking for an opportunity away from the crowds, which are largely supportive. Wouldn’t a small dinner in a private home be the ideal place, then, to seize Jesus quietly? He knows what is going on, however, and is able to make arrangements in such a way that not only does Judas not know where they will be eating Passover, none of the other Apostles know either. Jesus is therefore safe from being seized before his hour comes.


 

This dinner is one of the stickiest points, historically speaking, between the synoptic gospels and John. In Matthew Mark and Luke, the last supper is a passover meal, which Jesus transforms into a ritual of community and covenant. In John, by contrast, the last supper is the day before Passover, so that Jesus is killed at the same time as the passover lamb.

In Mark (followed by Matthew and Luke), the meal Jesus shares with his disciples is a Passover meal. In John, it is not. Rather, Thursday is the day before Passover, and the lambs to be eaten at the Passover meal on Friday evening will be killed on Friday afternoon, at about the same hour that Jesus dies on the cross. The reason for John’s dating seems to be theological: Jesus is the new Passover lamb. Second, the amount of space devoted to Jesus’s last gathering with his disciples is very different: in Mark, nine verses (14: 17– 25); in John, five chapters (13– 17), often called “Jesus’s Farewell Discourse.”- The Last Week:What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem, my emphasis.

John, as we have seen with, e.g. the cleansing of the temple, has no problem rearranging the order of events as given in the other Gospels in order to make his points.

While the Synoptics have Jesus crucified at the “third hour” (i.e., about 9: 00 a.m.) on the day after the Passover feast, in John’s Gospel Jesus is crucified at high noon just before the Passover feast. Because John’s alternate chronology places the death of Jesus at the precise day and hour that the Jews began to slaughter their Passover lambs, modern scholars strongly suspect that John has deliberately moved the day and time of Jesus’s death in order to illustrate a theological point that he makes elsewhere: Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Some traditionalists have been deeply troubled by the historical implications of this straightforward observation and have taken great pains to counter the critical arguments for it, but their efforts have proved unsuccessful.

Once we account for the genre of John’s Gospel, we shall see that their efforts were not only unsuccessful but also ill-advised. Christians remember Jesus’s death as the greatest of all sacrifices, but if the Savior’s crucifixion was indeed such a sacrifice, one could hardly tell from the event itself. In the eyes of ancient bystanders, Jesus’s death— void of the usual ritual trappings— would have been little more than the Roman execution of a Jewish troublemaker in the backwoods province of Palestine. Only the subsequent resurrection of Jesus proved that his was an unusual death, whose significance was unlike the death of any other human being. From that point forward, early Christians sought out metaphors that could express this significance to themselves and to others. The most widely used metaphor was that of sacrifice, in which Christ’s death on our behalf was compared to the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. Christians exploited this metaphor in various ways.

…. The author of Revelation portrayed Jesus as a living lamb who sported the wounds of death (Rev. 5: 6). Paul described Jesus as our “sin offering” and also as our “Passover lamb” (Rom. 8: 3; 1 Cor. 5: 7 NIV). Once we realize that early Christians employed sacrificial metaphors to describe their Messiah, it is no longer a surprise to notice— as we have— that John’s presentation of Jesus was also shaped by sacrificial imagery, in this case by the Passover lamb theme. Although John’s description of Jesus’s last hours does not conform to the actual events as closely as the Synoptics, his Gospel is perhaps closer to the theological facts of history because the death of Jesus was a sacrifice. By providing a theological portrait of these events, John’s Gospel brings out the sacrificial significance of Jesus’s death much more clearly than the more “profane” descriptions of the Synoptics. So, though John’s Gospel is surely a biography of sorts, it is no slavish chronicle of events from a man’s life. It is a theological Gospel that succeeds at the point where every good biography succeeds: it explains the significance and import of a person’s life. When we carefully consider the genre of John’s Gospel, we find that it is not a poorly researched biography, nor is it a piece of duplicitous fiction. As Origen recognized long ago, it was and is a very effective theological biography.- Sparks- God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship

John, in other words, rearranges events to portray Jesus as he really was, not as he appeared to be. (I think I’m paraphrasing someone here, but can’t recall whom.)


 

Jesus washes the Apostles’ feet during this dinner (John 13), and does so in an extreme manner.

The practice of footwashing has a long OT tradition. Customarily, footwashing was performed by slaves. In the present instance, however, Jesus, the Teacher, stoops to perform this role, not in order to institute a permanent rite, but rather to teach his followers the importance of humble, loving service…. The image of Jesus’ removing his outer clothing, wrapping a towel around his waist, and proceeding to wash his disciples’ feet is stunning indeed. Jesus, the Teacher, here adopts the stance of a menial, even non-Jewish slave, a position looked down upon by Jews and Gentiles alike. Although other rabbis also stressed the virtue of humility, they did so within certain limitations. Jesus, however, knew no such boundaries. The OT recounts several instances of footwashing as part of ancient hospitality (see Gen. 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; Judg. 19:21; 1 Sam. 25:41; cf. T. Abr. 3:7–9; Jos. Asen. 7:1). Customarily, water was poured over the feet from one vessel and caught in another. Jesus’ teaching style here follows the rabbinic pattern of “mystifying gesture-question-interpretation”, which served as a didactic tool designed to elicit questions and to facilitate learning. –Commentary on the New Testament Usage of the Old Testamenttext stripped of references.

This apparently has some shocking effect.

The opening words in Peter’s statement [in 13:6] produce an extraordinary sequence: κύριε, σύ μου …, “Master, you—my …!” The impression is given of Peter spluttering in astonishment and incomprehension! It is strangely akin, however, to his objection to Jesus’ announcement of his impending rejection, sufferings, and death through the Jewish leaders (Mark 8:32–33); both occasions manifest a real concern for the Master but a total lack of understanding of his actions. –Word Biblical Commentary

The Apostles still do not understand what is coming.

Tidbit:

  • Iscariot– Uncertainty exists about the meaning of Iscariot. It is clear, first, that Iscariot was added because Judas (or Judah) was a common name, and Iscariot thus distinguished this Judah from other Judahs. What are the possibilities? Some have suggested it indicates Judas as a member or sympathizer with the Zealots or Sicarii, which “loosely refers to a group of Jews who acted against their own people for religious or political reasons. This understanding of the Sicarii fits well with the use of the term in Acts 21:38, where a Roman tribune asks Paul if he is the Egyptian who led four thousand sikarioi out into the wilderness.” Others think it means “the false one.” Yet others understand it to be a geographic designation of his town, like “Jesus of Nazareth.” If this is the case, then Judas was the sole non-Galilean of the twelve, the only respectable one, without a funny backwoods accent. These are tantalizing ideas, but there is no scholarly consensus.

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