Of the People

1Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.
2The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people. 3And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. 4And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. 5They were glad and agreed to give him money. 6So he consented, and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the crowd. Luke 22:1-6

The leaders had seen and heard enough. They needed to permanently cancel Jesus because he’d made serious inroads with “the people.” They could see those gathered around him were keenly attentive, “hanging on his every word”.

47 And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him, 48 and they could not find anything that they might do, for all the people were hanging on to every word He said. Luke 19:47–48

They were also receptive to his teachings and hearing a gospel that appeared to be embodied in him.

1 On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel [“proclaiming the ‘good news’] the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him. Luke 20:1

What’s more, they had become committed to him, getting up early each morning to join him in the temple, to sit at his feet.

37 Now during the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet. 38 And all the people would get up early in the morning to come to Him in the temple to listen to Him. Luke 21:37-38

So, to apprehend Jesus in their midst in broad daylight would not go well, the leaders thought (they might be stoned, as they feared they would be if they spoke ill of the prophet John the Baptist, see Luke 20:6).

In the meantime, Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, had cast his lot with Satan, or Satan with him, and sought to betray Jesus. He met with the leaders clandestinely to offer his services, who “set a figure” for the deed, and he consented. They would await instructions from him on the best time to lay hands on Jesus “apart from the crowd” (verse 6) so they might put him to death.

While the betrayal is the focus of this drama, I am struck by the role of “the people” in all of this. One wonders how being so riveted to Jesus in the temple they could turn on him a day or so later! Or at least that’s the sense you get as the “passion play” unfolds. But I’m confident that those closest to him were not swayed by the lies of the chief priests and the scribes. These had become “his people.” He had effectively evangelized them (from the Greek word euangelizo translated “preaching” in 20:1).

Those “in the crowd” were perhaps another story. Since there are two different words used in this account for the people, laos, or those who were not the leaders, in this case those who sat at Jesus’ feet, and ochos, for “crowd”, which could be rendered a “confused throng,” there’s probably a distinction. In the end, both groups were impacted by his death to the point of grief, mourning, and “breast beating.”

And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. Luke 23:48

The former group perhaps due to an understanding and acceptance of who Jesus was through his teaching and preaching (eternal), the latter in response to the visceral spectacle of his death (temporal).

Therefore, the practical lesson amidst the intrigue is this: Are we rising up early each day to meet with Jesus while there’s still time, to sit at his feet, to receive his good news? Are we attentive, receptive, and committed to him? To take it a step further, does the persecution of Jesus and “his people” move you to grief? Earlier when Jesus looked over the city of Jerusalem at its threshold, the setting of his ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the people, “he wept over it.” Luke 19:41

About Rick Reynolds

You'll find me in the far right hand corner of evangelical Christianity. Been studying the Word for nearly 45 years and counting.
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