Our vision of who Jesus really is can be dramatically influenced by our traditions and incorrect understandings. Gospel writer Luke understood this, and presents Jesus through the eyes of many various onlookers to discover Jesus the Crucified Messiah.
In this week’s reading, we have arrived in the Gospel of Luke. If you missed the intro, you can watch it right here.
Also, you may remember watching the “Messiah” video earlier in your reading, but it may be worth rewatching together in your group tonight.
Israel was in a difficult position. Occupied by a harsh Roman rule, they were not a sovereign nation. They were not “one nation, under God.” Instead, they were an oppressed nation under Rome.
Not only that, but their belief system was under attack as well. Herod, appointed by Caesar as the “King of Israel” was seen as an impostor to the throne, and the Temple, rebuilt generations earlier, had fallen into disrepair and chaos. It was a poor excuse for a Temple, when it should have been the “crown jewel” of Israel, representing the majesty of God.
When thinking about these factors, it is easy to see why the Jewish people were looking for a military messiah, isn’t it?
Not only that, but Jesus was by no means the first to be identified as a messiah. For the Jews, The Messiah was to be a military leader with divine power to overthrow their oppressors in a coup, violently replacing the powers that be. And, there were plenty of people that came claiming that title. Unfortunately for Herod and the Romans, messiahs tended to create violent and bloody uprisings in Israel. This created all kinds of tension between the Romans and Israel.
Luke does a really interesting thing for us… Since Jesus never identifies himself as the “messiah,” or the “Christ,” (Christos is the Greek word for messiah) Luke allows us to ask the question, “who is Jesus” through multiple viewpoints. Let’s have a look at a few of them as the narrative approaches the cross.
View 1: The Disciples
In Luke 22, Jesus and his disciples have had their “last supper,” and have gone out to the olive grove at the Mount of Olives to pray. The disciples, of course, fall asleep, while Jesus is praying, so he wakes them up, telling them to keep praying…
Luke 22:47-51 NLT
But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss. But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”
When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear.
But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
How does the traditional Jewish view of “messiah” STILL influence the disciples, even after three years with him?
What do you think they are hoping will happen here?
Even after being with Jesus for three years, they are still heavily influenced by their tradition… They have watched Jesus heal, cast out, preach good news, and love. Yet, when it comes down to it, they defaulted right back to their tradition. What does that say about us?
View 2: The Jewish Rulers
Luke 22:63-71 NLT
The guards in charge of Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and said, “Prophesy to us! Who hit you that time?” And they hurled all sorts of terrible insults at him.
At daybreak all the elders of the people assembled, including the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. Jesus was led before this high council, and they said, “Tell us, are you the Messiah?”
But he replied, “If I tell you, you won’t believe me. And if I ask you a question, you won’t answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand.”
They all shouted, “So, are you claiming to be the Son of God?”
And he replied, “You say that I am.”
“Why do we need other witnesses?” they said. “We ourselves heard him say it.”
In light of their traditional messianic view, How did the Jewish leaders view Jesus?
Why did the leading priests and lawyers hate him so much?
Why would the Jewish leaders, normally at odds with the Roman authority, collude with them to capture and kill this person who they alleged claimed to be the messiah? What would make them want to work together?
View 3 & 4 Pilate and the crowd
Luke 23:13-25 NLT
Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. So I will have him flogged, and then I will release him.”
Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas was in prison for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government, and for murder.) Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
For the third time he demanded, “Why? What crime has he committed? I have found no reason to sentence him to death. So I will have him flogged, and then I will release him.”
But the mob shouted louder and louder, demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded. As they had requested, he released Barabbas, the man in prison for insurrection and murder. But he turned Jesus over to them to do as they wished.
Based on Pilate’s experience with Jewish “messiahs,” what was his view of Jesus?
Why would Pilate want to get rid of him?
Yet Pilate, of all people, seems able to get past the word on the street about Jesus, and sees a little of who Jesus truly is. How does Pilate see Jesus?
What does Pilate want to do with Jesus?
Why does Pilate, the Roman Prefect, not get his way? (hint.. There is an obvious reason, and there is a deeper reason.)
Think about this mob. Many of these people are the same ones that were with Jesus at his entry to the city earlier in the week. How did they initially receive Jesus? Why?
What changed between his Triumphal Entry and this scene? Why did the crowd mentality change so dramatically?
Why do you think they found Jesus so distasteful that they shouted for Barabbas the criminal, rather than for Jesus?
How did the crowd view Jesus?
View 5: The Thief
Luke 23:39-43 NLT
One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”
But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Did this criminal have an understanding of Jesus as the messiah? Why or why not?
Likely without knowing it, this man makes a deep theological statement about dying for crimes. Why is his statement important?
Based on what he says to Jesus, how do you think this criminal views Jesus?
View 6: The Centurion
Luke 23:44-47 NLT
By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.”
What caused this Roman’s verdict about Jesus?
How do you think that impacted his view of his own role in Jesus’ crucifixion?
Looking at Jesus through all these eyes, what do you think Luke is communicating about Jesus here? How is Luke’s vision of the messiah different from the traditional Jewish view of the messiah?
How does this messiah free his people from bondage, and set the captives free?
How does this messiah impact your own life this week?
As you pray together, ask Jesus to continue to reveal himself to you in fresh, new ways this week.