March 21 – Luke 22:66-71


Last week we encountered Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper. This week we’ve skipped past some of the events of that same night like the prayer in the Garden, Jesus’ arrest, and Peter’s denial, and here we find Jesus at his trial before the Jewish council. This council is also called the Sanhedrin, a governing body of 71 Jewish teachers, priests, and elders from Jerusalem who would settle local issues (remember, Rome is still in charge here). Interestingly, Luke explicitly tells us that “both chief priests and scribes” are in attendance. For the most part, priests at this time were Sadducees, in many ways the religious liberals of their day, while scribes were Pharisees, staunch religious conservatives. Luke wants to be clear: Jesus’ execution was a bipartisan effort.

It’s pretty clear from the start, this trial is a setup. Earlier in the chapter Luke told us the council was trying to put Jesus to death (22:2), and their plan was to get Jesus to blaspheme, to claim that he was God (note the irony here), in order to justify the death penalty. The accounts in Matthew and Mark are longer (Matt. 26:57-68; Mrk. 14:53-65), showing just how hard the council tried and how futile their attempts were. They called all kinds of false witnesses, tried to build a case against Jesus, but simply couldn’t manufacture the evidence.

Meanwhile, Jesus is curiously tightlipped. When I read this passage I want so badly for Jesus to pronounce woes on the council, to call down legions of angels, to defend himself somehow, but he refused to do any of that. He let this sham trial play out because he knew his mission—nothing would deter him from the cross. And yet he also didn’t do the council any favors by openly blaspheming or insulting them. He stays mostly silent and lets the guilt rest firmly on them. It’s perfectly clear that their minds were already made up, and the only reason Jesus would be put to death is because they desired it.

For this reason Jesus says, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.”(22:67b-68) These men had already decided not to believe Jesus, and Jesus, knowing their hearts, knows his testimony would do nothing to change their minds. But their unbelief isn’t unique to them, and if we’re honest, we should see ourselves in the Sanhedrin. All of sin is born out of refusing to believe God and take him at his word; disbelief is the tactic Satan took with Adam and Eve in the Garden (“Did God really say….?”), and it’s the same game he plays with us. What the Sanhedrin displays is what’s true about us, and without the mercy of God we would endure in our unbelief just the same.

Looking ahead to the crucifixion we should see Christ’s death was ultimately caused by disbelief. Our disbelief. Thus when we encounter disbelief in our lives, as we inevitably will, we should see its true, sinister nature. Disbelief isn’t some ho-hum ailment of the Christian life; it’s the very reason Christ went to the cross. But thankfully the solution to sin is the same solution to disbelief, and the cross that saves us is the same cross that assures us of God’s love for us, even when our disbelief persists.

Questions for Discussion

• Would someone read Luke 22:66-71 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• Why is Jesus being interrogated here?

• Why do you think Jesus refused to answer?

• What role does unbelief play in this passage?

• How does unbelief affect the way you relate to Jesus yourself?

• How does this passage make you think about the crucifixion?