A Christian Guide to Luke by R. David Pogge

Chapter 9

The Passion of The Christ

Luke 22-24

Section 9.1 - The Plot

Luke ends his Gospel with the plot—in both senses of the word. Chapters 22 through 24 contain the narrative of the scheme against Jesus. The story is well-known, and easy to follow (in any modern English translation). Even in the King James, the story has been told so many times that it is easily understood. Jesus was arrested, falsely accused, unjustly convicted, crucified, died, buried, and resurrected Sunday morning. Since you can easily read the plot for yourself, there is no reason for me to repeat it here.

Section 9.2 - The Significance

The significance of the Passion of the Christ can be compared to some children playing baseball in the street. One of the kids hits a foul ball which breaks a window. The kid who hit the ball doesn’t have enough money to pay to have it repaired. Somebody else (perhaps the home owner, or the kid’s father) has to pay the price. That isn’t fair—but the window is broken and somebody has to pay. Once it is broken, it has to be fixed. It can’t be left broken, and there is no way to go back in time to prevent it from being broken in the first place.

You broke God’s law, and because you can’t pay enough to fix it, Jesus had to pay with His life.

The correct response is for you to realize how unfair that is, and your guilt should motivate you to do everything you can to avoid breaking any more of God’s laws. You should be grateful and repentant.

Unfortunately, the more common response is to treat God like a celestial insurance agent. God has paid for all the laws that have ever been broken (and ever will be broken) at the cross, so you don’t have to worry about it. God loves you no matter how many laws you break, so what’s the big deal? You have a heavenly insurance policy. You don’t even need to pay the weekly premiums because God will forgive those unpaid bills, too. That’s not God’s plan.

Section 9.3 - The Plan

In the Garden of Eden, God revealed the plan of salvation.

So the Lord God said to the serpent [Satan], “Because you have done this [tempted Adam and Eve to sin],

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he [Jesus] will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
  since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. [Genesis 3:14-21]

There are consequences for sin. Have you ever heard a cat crying out in pain when she has her kittens? Animals apparently give birth more easily than people do. Growing crops is difficult for man; but God feeds the birds and animals without making them plow the ground. All they have to do is to look for the food God has provided for them. The closest animals come to working is building a nest.

There are consequences for sin. The consequences are pain and suffering. Most of the pain and suffering is inflicted upon mankind (pain in childbirth, working hard to grow crops) but animals have to live in the same sin-infected world, and they suffer some collateral damage just from living in a sin-damaged world. Part of that collateral damage is that innocent animals are sacrificed. “The Lord God made garments of skin.” An animal had to die to provide the material for clothing. God could have said, “Let there be polyester,” but He didn’t.

When God killed an animal and skinned it to protect Adam and Eve from the environment, He sacrificed a clean animal to teach a lesson about the sacrifice Jesus would make in the future. Then, when the Jews left Egypt, God demonstrated how the Lamb of God would be sacrificed, and the Angel of Death would pass over the homes of all those who obediently protected themselves with the blood of that lamb. Jesus fulfilled the prophetic demonstration by accepting the role of the Lamb of God, and shedding His blood to pay for our salvation.

The biblical book of Hebrews explains how animal sacrifices illustrated the plan of salvation.

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? [Hebrews 2:1-3]

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered  and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek [who preceded, and was greater than, the Levitical priests]. [Hebrews 5:7-10]

Now there have been many of those [Levitical] priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.  Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. [Hebrews 7:23-27]

Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being. [Hebrews 8:1-2]

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.  He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! [Hebrews 9:11-14]

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.  Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.  Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.  Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. [Hebrews 9:24-28]

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” 1 and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 2  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. [Hebrews 10:19-31]

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.” 3
And,
    “But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.” 4
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. [Hebrews 10:35-39]

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. [Hebrews 12:1-3]

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?  At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 5 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” [Hebrews 12:25-29]

We don’t need to sacrifice animals for our sins because Jesus has sacrificed Himself for our sins. We are saved by His blood, not the blood of animals. But blood was, and still is, only part of the ritual. The blood had to be, and still has to be, accompanied by genuine repentance and reformation. It is worth repeating,

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” 6 and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 7  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. [Hebrews 10:26-31]

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Footnotes:

1 Deuteronomy 32:35
2 Deuteronomy 32:36; Psalm 135:14
3 Isaiah 26:20; Habakkuk 2:3
4 Habakkuk 2:4 (see Septuagint)
5 Haggai 2:6
6 Deuteronomy 32:35
7 Deuteronomy 32:36; Psalm 135:14