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Luke 22:21  (ID: 2336)

As the Last Supper drew to a close, Jesus warned His disciples that they would experience many troubles in the days to come. He knew both the suffering He would face and the difficulties His friends would encounter—but Alistair Begg explains that He spoke these words not to trouble them but to encourage them. Soon they would understand that Jesus died to save them, and God’s grace would cover them as they carried His Gospel to the world.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Luke, Volume 12

Feasts and Betrayal Luke 22:1–38 Series ID: 14214

Sermon Transcript: Print

We’re going to read from the Bible, in Isaiah chapter 53. In the portion of Scripture in Luke which we were reading this morning and which we return to this evening to finish off this lingering study, Jesus is actually quoting from Isaiah chapter 53. It’s one of the—might even be the only explicit use of Isaiah chapter 53 in the New Testament. It’s referred to tangentially, but in terms of it being an exact quote, and certainly on the part of Jesus, I’m not sure if it happens anywhere else. We’ll see that in a moment.

Who has believed our message
 and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
 and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
 nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
 a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
 he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities
 and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
 smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
 he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
 and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
 each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
 the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
 yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
 and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
 so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
 And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
 for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
 and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
 nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
 and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
 and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul,
 he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
 and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
 and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
 and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
 and made intercession for the transgressors.

Amen. May God bless his Word to us.

Now just a brief word of prayer asking God to help us as we study the Bible before we come around the Lord’s Table:

Loving Lord, we pray that you will give to us the ability to think and to focus now; that you will help the speaker, and each of us as we listen, so that we may hear your voice and obey it. We’re unable to accomplish this in and of ourselves. We can’t do anything as we ought without your help. And so we seek it now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

For those of you who are just joining us this evening, we were, this morning, in Luke chapter 22, and I might encourage you to turn there also if you would like just to see the verses that we’re considering. We have been following along through the central part of this chapter, gathering our thoughts under simple headings—words that seem to provide an adequate heading or title above the section of verses. And we began in the twenty-first verse, noticing, first of all, the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. And then we went on from there this morning, in verse 24, to consider the dispute which Luke tells us arose among the disciples—a really ugly discussion, especially in light of what was about to take place, concerning which of these disciples was the greatest. And then it moved from there to the denial of Peter—Simon Peter—in verse 31. Despite his affirmation of commitment to Christ, he had to face the sad truth about himself that he was going to deny the Lord Jesus and do so very vociferously but that Jesus was going to restore him in time.

The Trouble to Come

And then, when you come to verse 35, we come to the next word and the penultimate word, and that word is simply trouble. Trouble.

Let me read again the paraphrase of these verses that I mentioned a couple of Sundays ago—just the very few verses, the section from 35 to 38:

Then Jesus said, “When I sent you out and told you to travel light, to take only the bare necessities, did you get along all right?”

“Certainly,” they said, “we got along just fine.”

He said, “This is different. Get ready for trouble. Look to what you’ll need; there are difficult times ahead. Pawn your coat and get a sword. What was written in Scripture, ‘He was lumped in with the criminals,’ gets its final meaning in me. Everything written about me is now coming to a conclusion.”

They said, “Look, Master, two swords!”

But he said, “Enough of that; no more sword talk!”[1]


Now, these words that Jesus speaks are set against prior words that he has spoken, which gives substance to the question that he asks—namely, “When I sent you out before, how did you get on?” And they said, “Well, we got on really fine.” You can just turn back, if you want, to remind yourself of these occasions. Luke 9:2: “He sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick,” and “he told them, ‘Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.” In other words, “Just go out there, and trust me.” In chapter 10, you have the same emphasis in verses 3 and 4, where he says, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” You may remember we had a study that day entitled “Like Lambs among Wolves.” Can’t remember what it was about, but anyway, I do remember the title. “Go [out]! [And] do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.” Now, that little final phrase, “Do not greet anyone on the road,” should help us to understand exactly what it is he’s saying. But of course, you’ll remember that from the previous study, I’m sure. Yeah. I’m not going over it again—because I can’t remember what I said. But now is different. Verse 36: “But now…” “But now,” he says.

Now, it’s always important in a little section like this, as with every section, to stand back far enough from it to make sure you can see the wood for the trees. If you bury yourself in it, you may lose sight of what he’s actually conveying. Stand back from it far enough, and what he’s saying is this: “Things are about to heat up. You’re going to have to go at things a little differently from the way you have been going at them.” And he expresses this in very straightforward terms. The days ahead are essentially going to be perilous; they’re going to be difficult; they’re going to be filled with trouble. In the terminology of commercial air flight, Jesus is saying, “You may want to give your seat belt a little extra tug.” I hate it when they say that, because it’s a synonym for “Look out! Welcome to Cedar Point—only worse.” “You may want to give your seat belt a little extra tug.”

Jesus is saying, “Fellas, you may want just to button things down. You’re going to have to cultivate courage in a particular way—in a way that you haven’t needed before.” If you like, he’s saying to them, “There aren’t going to be too many more spaghetti dinners at Martha and Mary’s house. We’ve had a nice time over there in Bethany. We went over there regularly in the evenings. Wonderful pasta, you know. The olive oil was spectacular. But frankly, you shouldn’t be thinking about that—not now. No, no. In fact, I can only speak to you,” he says, “in terms that will be striking and forceful to make the point. So, I told you before you can go out and really trust me for everything, but now, if you are in a position to own material things, then you may want to get yourself a sword. And if you do not have the wherewithal to get a sword, then I think you ought to actually sell your coat and get a sword instead of a coat.”

Now, we need to understand that the one garment that was so crucial in Palestine at the time was that outer garment—essentially like a big robe—because in the evening, when the temperature drops and the chill of the day sets in with the evening shadows, the one thing you do not want to be without is that heavy outer garment. Therefore, if somebody says to you, “You need a sword,” or “You need defense more than you need that garment,” you know, if you’re listening carefully, that what Jesus is telling you is that the days that lie ahead are going to be trouble-filled days. And that is essentially the message that he conveys. They’re going to have to be as determined and as wholehearted as a fighting man who is prepared to give up everything—even his cloak—just as long as he is in possession of a sword with which to defend himself and to engage in battle.

Now, I say it’s important to stand back because as you follow through in the chapter, you do not have to go very far—indeed, just to 51—before the sword comes out. In fact, in 49, “when Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’” And before, of course, Jesus is able to answer them, “one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear,” thus proving that he was either remarkably accurate or incredibly inept. For if he was going for the crown of his head and he got his ear, he wasn’t very good. If he was going for his ear, it was a remarkably good shot. “But Jesus answered, ‘No, we don’t want any more of this. This is not what I was talking about.’ And he touched the man’s ear, and he healed him.”[2]

Now, this is a knotty little section. This is a problem section, isn’t it? Because one minute, it seems like he’s saying, “You really should have a sword.” Soon as they say, “We’ve got the swords,” he says, “I don’t want to talk about swords.” And as soon as he whacks out with a sword, he says, “I don’t want you to be using swords! Here, have your ear back.” Yeah, I have a measure of sympathy for the disciples here. I honestly do. They’re saying to themselves, “What are we really… What is… What are we supposed to be doing? I mean, does he want swords, or does he not want swords?” Now, how are we to resolve this?

When Jesus mentions the sword here, the use of the sword is never substantiated as lawful in defending the cause.

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. In fact, I delayed in saying anything about it. But I thought I might come up with a wonderful answer, but I can’t! The best I can do with this is, I think that Jesus, in referencing the sword, is speaking figuratively—that he’s using, if you like, the strident notion of being prepared, even to have a sword, to point out just how demanding and challenging the time is going to be. But there is nothing in the rest of the Gospels, certainly not in the Acts, and definitely not in the Epistles that substantiates any notion of the kingdom of Christ being ushered in by force or by warfare. Indeed, the only references to the use of the sword that you find by the time you get to the Epistles is the exercise of the sword on the part of the state, where they wield the sword as being given authority by God, à la Romans 13.[3]

So I think that what the disciples are up against here is the same thing that they were up against in John chapter 4. Remember, Jesus says that he’s going to stay by the well, and he will wait there for them, and they will go off and get lunch. And off they go into the town. While they’re gone, remember, the lady comes. He engages in a conversation. And when they finally come back and find him talking with a woman, they’re surprised, and they say to him, essentially, “Jesus, we’re back, and we have the sandwiches.” And remember what Jesus says. He says, “I have food to eat that you know not of.” And they say to one another, “Did somebody else get the sandwiches?”[4] What’s going on here with the sandwich thing? Right? I love these guys! It’s just a bunch of dunderheads! Just fabulous! They’re all standing there, holding the ham sandwiches, you know, going, “What in the world is this about?” Okay, cheese sandwiches. Middlefield Cheese sandwiches.

But they can’t get it. He’s speaking figuratively. He’s talking about food, but he’s not talking about food. And so, when he mentions the sword here, the use of the sword is never substantiated as lawful in defending the cause. Therefore, I think especially in the way that it ends… And I think Eugene Peterson helps us. The disciple said, “Lord, here are two swords. You know, you said, ‘Get a sword.’ We’ve already come up with two.” And I think Peterson is on it when he says, “Yeah, that’s enough of that. We don’t need any more sword talk. I mean, you’ve clearly missed the point, guys. I mean, what I’m saying to you is the thing is about to hot up. You’re not going to be able to operate on the same basis as before, and you ought to be as prepared for this as the man who takes a sword.”

Now, in light of this, he is pointing out to these disciples the simple truth that their plight is a real one and that they need to be ready for the worst. They need to be ready for suffering, and they need to be ready for death. And characteristically, they just don’t seem to get the point. In John chapter 15—and you needn’t turn to it; I’ll just quote it for you—but in John 15 (you will remember this reference when I quote it), Jesus said, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”[5] “I’ve told you that I’m going up to Jerusalem, I will suffer at the hands of cruel men, I will be crucified, I will die, I will rise on the third day.”[6] And now he is within, as it were, moments of this all coming down upon them, and he says, “Guys, you need to get ready. Batten down the hatches and get ready for this. This is going to be different from what you’ve known before.”

The Substitution to Take Place

And right in the heart of it comes, in verse 37—I want you to notice this, particularly because we have Communion this evening—but right in the heart of it, there is the quote “And he was numbered with the transgressors,” which is, of course, a direct quote from Isaiah 53:12. “‘He was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me.”

Without the blood of Jesus being shed, without Jesus taking our place, without him acting as the ultimate middleman, we are all forever left separated from God. He acts as a bridge, not as a barrier.

Now, we read this, and we say, “Well, okay.” But do you realize just how amazing and striking this was for these fellows as they’re beginning to try and finally put this gigantic jigsaw puzzle together in their own mind? Jesus at the beginning of Luke, in chapter 4—he’s there in the synagogue, remember, in Capernaum, and he reads, you know, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has sent me to preach good news to the poor,”[7] and so on. And then he rolls up the scroll, and he gives it back to the attendant, and he sits down, and he says, “[And] today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”[8] The people said, “You mean you are him? You’re the one of whom the prophet is speaking?” Jesus says, “Yes.” And now, as he anticipates his death, he explains his death directly in terms of the substitution portrayed in Isaiah 53.

And we needn’t delay on it, but let me let me remind you of this, because it is so very, very important: it is the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. For those of you who either know and care about the phrase, and for those of you who don’t know and maybe as yet, since you don’t know, have no real care, I want to tell you this now, because you need to know, and when you understand, then you will really care. It’s the distinction between the idea of the love of God in Jesus being Jesus jumping off a bridge to show us how much God loves us—silly idea, wouldn’t it? Me telling my wife and my children, “I love you so much, if you come down opposite the baseball stadium, I’m going to jump off that big, high bridge so you can see how much I love you.” So that’s a very strange idea. How would that possibly convey love? Well, it wouldn’t at all. But if I, with my wife and children, was bobbing around in the water, having been shipwrecked, and I was to die in order to give them the security of my life jacket or my life raft, then my death would be, in one measure, in their place.

No analogy gets to the essence of it. But what we’re saying, what the Bible is saying, when we think about the body of Jesus being broken and the blood of Jesus being shed, is that when Jesus did this, he did this voluntarily. He volunteered for it, if you like. “He poured out his life.” That’s the phrase there in in Isaiah 53: “He poured out his life,” like a drink offering,[9] which the Old Testament understood. “I am about to pour out my life for you,” he says. And in doing so, he is identifying personally with those he came to save. That’s why it says, “And [he] was numbered with the transgressors.” Jesus came to save, and therefore, he allowed himself to be numbered with those who are the transgressors, although he himself was no transgressor. He acted, in doing so, as the Mediator. He acted as the one who would create intercession between man in all of his sin and God in all of his holiness. Indeed, the phraseology is depicting someone who acts in such a way as to introduce someone to someone else. That’s the phraseology. That’s what Jesus was doing. He was doing something in order to introduce someone to someone else. Who is the someone? The someone is God. Who is the someone else? Those who believe and those who trust. And man may not be introduced to God by any other mechanism—not savingly, not finally—but only in the substitutionary death of Jesus. And without the blood of Jesus being shed, without Jesus taking our place, without him acting as the ultimate middleman, we are all forever left separated from God. He acts as a bridge, not as a barrier. And the blood of the Lord Jesus is interposed. And then he takes his stand in verse 12. The Servant steps forward voluntarily. He stands with us so that when he had borne our sins, he might bring us to God.

This is, in the one vein, more profound than the brightest mind can really wrap around, and yet it is so wonderfully simple that even the tiniest child can come to understand and love and trust in it. The message of the gospel: “He … [is] numbered with the transgressors.” “I didn’t come to call the righteous; I came to call sinners to repentance.”[10] He stands in the place that I deserve in order that I may stand in the place that I don’t deserve. And all of our standing before a holy God, all of our coming to this Table, is on account of his being numbered with the transgressors and providing salvation for many—an innumerable number, vast. Are you part of that number?

The Grace through It All

Well, just let me give you one final word, and I’ll just give it to you, and we’re done. Betrayal, dispute, denial, trouble—and through it all, grace. Through it all, grace.

God is on your side tonight as you get ready to go out into all of your tomorrows.

I mentioned this in part in the morning. Verse 28: “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” Look at how he describes them, ignoring their many character defects—character defects which they have sadly exhibited to the full. The merciful High Priest praises them for the faithfulness they’ve shown him in their many trials. And although he had expressed his disapproval of their selfish ambitions, it doesn’t stop him from acknowledging their faithfulness. If you like, he’s always looking for the good in them. Grace does that.

So, look at the way he describes them, and then listen to how he cares for them. Verse 32: “I[’ve] prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you[’ve] turned back, [I want you to] strengthen your brothers.” Why? “Because I love them, and I want them to be my servants in the world, and they need to be encouraged even as you’re encouraged.” God is on your side tonight as you get ready to go out into all of your tomorrows. He gives you the Bible in order that you might be strengthened by it. He provides this meal in order that you might be nourished by it. He provides the fellowship of God’s people in order that you need not be alone. And in all of it, his concern is for you, his children, his younger brothers and sisters, that you might “go from strength to strength.”[11] You may be sitting here saying, “What am I doing here this evening? Why did I even come?” Well, you came in part in order that God’s Word might come to your mind and say to you, “I love you with an everlasting love.[12] I want to strengthen you and equip you. I want to make you useful. I bore your sin to this end.”

Look at how he describes them, listen to how he cares for them, and finally, learn from all he teaches them. Our time is gone, but in verse 22: “The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed”—the simple and yet profound reminder that in the cross of Christ, nothing is out of control, but that everything is working out according to God’s eternal counsel and will. Learn from what he teaches them: the decree, the promise, which I hope is in verse 29. Yes: “And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me.” And the fulfillment to which he refers: “I tell you … this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” In other words, the sacrificial death of Jesus wasn’t the outcome of a fortuitous combination of circumstances, but it was in accord with the divine plan of salvation foreshadowed in the Old Testament. And Jesus knowingly and voluntarily steps forward and becomes the sacrificial lamb, becomes the Passover lamb. And because of that, his death possesses eternal significance and is sufficient for our sins.

When we began this little study, I began with the phrase—I said to the group that was gathered, I said, “Just think about the hands for a moment. Think about the hands: twenty-six hands all around the table.” Now think about these hands as you conclude: God says,

Do not fear, for I am with you;
 [and] do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
 I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.[13]

And some of you are here tonight, and you’re saying, “I don’t know how I’m going to get through it”—whatever “it” is. I don’t know what “it” is. “I don’t know if I can make this.” You look at your own hands, oftentimes dirty, many times shaky, speaking of places they’ve been and actions they’ve taken. Yes, there’s been gentleness and kindness, but there’s been roughness and unkindness. And to look only at our own sorry hands would be a basis of ultimate discouragement.

But don’t look there. Think about this wonderful picture of the hand of God—his righteous right hand working on our behalf.

For I am the Lord, your God,
 who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
 I[’m] [going to] help you.[14]

Holding hands is fun, isn’t it? I asked somebody the other day if he would hold my hand because I was afraid—just flat-out afraid. I said, “Would you hold my hand?” The person thought it was strange. I didn’t think it was strange at all. It meant a lot to me. “Just hold my hand.” And here the promise of God’s Word is that he comes into our circumstances, and he takes hold of our right hand, and he says to you, “Hang on, now. I’m going to help you through this.” That was the word for the disciples in their day. It was the word they needed. It’s the word that many of us need tonight. And if we’re tempted to doubt it at all, remember what these emblems represent, and be thankful.

Father, I pray that you will help us, as we break bread together now, to do so in a way that acknowledges the wonder of your sacrifice; and that you will help us, as we contemplate the wonder of your grace and as we meditate upon these things, so to eat and drink in such a way that we may express our deep gratitude to you and our unity in the Lord Jesus Christ. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen.

[1] Luke 22:35–38 (MSG).

[2] Luke 22:51 (paraphrased).

[3] See Romans 13:4.

[4] John 4:32–33 (paraphrased).

[5] John 15:20 (NIV 1984).

[6] Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22 (paraphrased).

[7] Luke 4:18 (paraphrased).

[8] Luke 4:21 (NIV 1984).

[9] See Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6.

[10] Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32 (paraphrased).

[11] Psalm 84:7 (NIV 1984).

[12] See Jeremiah 31:3.

[13] Isaiah 41:10 (NIV 1984).

[14] Isaiah 41:13 (NIV 1984).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.