My notes from Gary Millar’s session at TGC13′s national conference, “His mission: Jesus in the gospel of Luke.” (All notes are paraphrased.)
If you’ve ever flown into Ireland—north or south—you can’t help but notice it’s remarkably green. And the tourist board fails to tell you the obvious reason why: It rains a lot. After 45 years in Ireland, God mercifully uprooted our family to Australia, where the tourist line is “beautiful today, perfect the next.”
We don’t easily take the weather for granted, but we do all too easily with people. And though the consequences of taking people for granted is toxic for our relationships, it’s even more toxic to take our relationship with God for granted. It’s possible that even some of us here are taking the Lord Jesus Christ for granted right now.
Are we more drawn to ideas than to Jesus? To success than Jesus? Is it possible our hearts are here but elsewhere?
We’re all more than capable of taking Jesus for granted. We may love theology, strategizing, theology, exegesis, preaching… but the prior question is: Do we love Jesus Christ?
If not, then we need to read the gospels. Because hte gospels give us a person. The gospels are dripping with theology, but the theology is embodied in the person of Jesus. And we must not miss how Jesus stands out in this long passage (Luke 22:39-23:49).
Jesus stands out as the one who keeps his head while everyone else is looking theirs.
Jesus leads the way to the Mount of Olives. He’s the one who meets Judas. He’s the one who stops the disciples rebellion the moment it begins. He is the one who is making things happen; he is the one in control.
The contrast between Peter and Jesus couldn’t be more stark. Where Jesus is calm, Peter is panicked. Where Jesus speaks calmly, Peter blurts out lies.
There’s even a sense that the one who is on trial is the one who orchestrates the trial.
His silence with Pilate is telling. His silence in verse 23 is not despair; he stays silent to move things forward to his ultimate goal. Jesus hasn’t given up, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He won’t break his silence to defend himself in a sham trial.
He knows what he is doing. He is in perfect control.
When he does speak, it shows his mind is in perfect control, as we see when he speaks to a group of grieving women. Even there, he is concerned for others more than himself. He knows that things will get worse for them according to verse 31. But he is completely collected.
Even when Jesus is hoisted up between two thieves, he is in perfect control. He is mocked for not saving himself, but what does he do? He prays, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
He is the judge of all creation, the one who rules over all things. And he is in perfect control.
He is calm under extreme pressure. He’s under unimaginable stress—sweating drops of blood—but he remains calm. This is where he leaves everyone else behind. He’s not just in control of himself, he’s in control of the events themselves.
It’s not just that he knows how to respond to what he’ll find, he already knows what he’ll find. He is in control of the entire sweep of human history, and so he is in calm.
Yes, he is the lamb led to the slaughter, but we must also see Jesus as he is:
The sovereign God in action.
When we have control, we use it to make live better for ourselves. But not so with Jesus. When we say Jesus is Lord, we say he is in control of all things. And we see this perfectly in his walk to the cross, where he uses his control over all things.
Jesus is also perfectly innocent.
As he is interviewed over and over again, he is called innocent.
Jesus is praying, Judas comes with armed men. Jesus is silent in the kangaroo court, because his evidence is obvious. They rush him to Pilate who says he finds no fault in this man. Herod does the same implicitly. NOw that doesn’t stop them from treating him shamefully and harshly, and sending him back to PIlate.
Pilate should have let him go, but the people demanded Jesus’ death—and Pilate knew he was condemning an innocent man to death. If you needed any more evidence, you need only look at the ending verses of our passage. Certainly, this man is innocent.
This is the most stunning miscarriage in all of history. But Jesus isn’t just the wrong man, he’s the perfect man—and we killed him. He is the Son of God who walked the earth—and we condemned him.
Place him next to anyone else in the world and it serves only to illuminate his perfect innocence. Aren’t you so glad he came?
At last, here’s a man we can look up to. A hero worth having. A man with no secrets, no pride, nothing he’s keeping from us. A man so brimming with perfect innocence that he gives himself up for us.
Really, how could we take this innocent man fro granted?
Jesus stands out as the one who trusts God in the most horrific moment ever to happen to a human being.
Yes, he is the one in control of his emotions, yes he is orchestrating the events in a sense, but he is the one who trusts the Father perfectly. “…nevertheless not my will but yours be done.”
This again is voiced at the end, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Luke wanted us to get the fact that this man who is in complete control, he also trusts God flawlessly.
Have you ever thought about this: our situation is so hopeless—we actually need to trust God for us? Even the best of us can’t pull it off properly. Which is why it’s such a relief that Jesus trusts God perfectly for us.
My problem isn’t that I’m not trustworthy, it’s that I’m incapable of trusting God perfectly myself. And the same is true for you.
Jesus stands out because he’s in control even when everything is falling apart, even when he is innocent, even when others are determined to condemn him, because he trusts God perfectly.
Sometimes I think we take Jesus for granted because we don’t think about how awe-inspiring and trustworthy he actually is. He is not a cardboard cut-out. He is the one in whom power, beauty and majesty come together.
This is our Lord Jesus Christ—the sovereign God in the flesh. HOw can we fail to run ot him? How can we take him for granted?
How can Jesus not stand out here—not just because of who he is, but who he is surrounded with? Luke wants us to know about the people who stand by Jesus, bump into Jesus…
Jesus is surrounded by weak people.
The disciples are falling apart. While Jesus is wrestling with having to die for us, but the disciples are so emotionally exhausted that they struggle to stay awake.
Peter is terribly weak. His actions display this–in his rush to attack the guard; his denial of Jesus… earlier he’d said he’d go to prison or death with Jesus. He couldn’t live up to his bold claim. When he was confronted by his weakness, he wept bitterly.
Jesus is surrounded by evil people
Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. The evil of the leaders and priests is displayed too—they could have taken him at any time, but they did so at night. The guards, the crowds, the thief on the cross… Jesus is surrounded by evil people who are consumed by self-interest.
Pilate released Barabbas instead of him because of political self-interest. Herod wanted a magic show and when he didn’t get it he joined the soldiers in mocking Jesus.
We are utterly self-centered, too.
Jesus is surrounded by oblivious people.
They have no idea what’s going on—they have no clue. Simon of Cyrene. The people at the fire with Peter. The crowds and the soldiers who were looking to add a bit of dark humor to their job. They all had no idea of the significance of what was going on in front of them. People who maybe get a bit of it, but not all of it.
The women who recoiled at the injustice of everything going on. But Jesus’ response tells us they don’t quite get it. But he dies for them—and for you and me.
Why does Luke write this? Why doesn’t he write the theology of the events?
This is the theology. Here is one man dying for the ungodly—here is Jesus Christ.
This becomes clear in the case of Barabbas—a man called Son of the Father who was a murderer, who is replaced by the Father’s Son who had done no wrong.
In the Hunger Games series, the heroine, Katniss, takes the place of her sister in an utterly selfless act. But it’s an understandable one. It’s her little sister.
But Jesus’ sacrifice is different. We are the ones for whom Jesus is dying. We are the one for whom Jesus drinks the cup.
It’s clear that people don’t get who Jesus is throughout the gospel.
But then he is recognized by a thief, a terrorist.
A terrorist is the first to recognize Jesus for who he is. He is the first to receive the invitation to join Jesus at his banquet table. He somehow gets that Jesus is the King they’ve been waiting for even with all the clamoring around them. And he asks the only thing that makes sense—”Jesus, remember me in your kingdom.”
Then, as the world is recognizing the death of Jesus, its creator, the sky turns dark, the ground shakes. And a gentile soldier recognizes who Jesus is—the innocent one who died for weak, evil, guilty people.
Jesus dies for us, even though he is the perfect Son of the Father, and we are utterly unworthy.
Luke invites us to stand with these people. To see and savor this Jesus. To acknowledge this Jesus as the one who takes our guilt. The Lord of the universe who forgives us by bringing about his own death.
This is the heart of the gospel. How can we take this Jesus for granted?