Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.
Less than a week earlier in the story Luke tells, Jesus entered Jerusalem to the praise, acclamation, and anticipation of the crowds. Since then, he has been teaching in the Temple daily, retreating with his disciples in the evening to the Mt. of Olives to spend the night. Throughout this time the tensions between Jesus and the religious authorities have been growing. They started as Jesus, just after entering the city, drove the moneychangers from the Temple, disrupting the Temple commerce that was the source of income and influence for both the Temple authorities and Roman occupiers. This is, in fact, the incident that incites the chief priests, Scribes, and leaders to conspire together toward putting Jesus to death.
That desire has only grown in the week past, as Jesus continues to teach, continues to challenge their authority, and continues to grow in influence and popularity with the people. Something must be done? But what? And how? They dare not seize Jesus in the open for fear of the people. Yet they also dare not let his teaching and influence continue to increase.
Judas Iscariot provides the key, as his betrayal will allow them to seize Jesus in secret and turn him over to the Romans for brutal dispatch. At least that is the way they see it.
Luke, however, interprets these events differently. For Luke there is more at play than merely the political machinations of one religious group over and against another. Rather, Luke sees in these events God’s divine ordering of history.
If we return for a moment back to near the beginning of Luke’s account, we’ll gain a deeper understanding of his portrayal of the last days of Jesus’ earthly life. For at the end of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, Luke narrates that the devil “departed from him until a more opportune time” (4:13). That departure opens us a window, we might say, of abundant and overflowing grace. It is a time when the power of evil, if not banished, is at least absent, and when miracles abound. It is the time that characterizes Jesus’ ministry and the proclamation and in-breaking of the kingdom of God.
And that time is now over. For the “opportune time” the devil was waiting for has come. Satan enters into Judas and evil is released again into the world, setting the stage for the clash between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. The dramatic conclusion to Luke’s story of Jesus, in other words, is now underway.
Prayer: Dear God, prepare us to watch and witness with care and reverence the events leading to the crucifixion and resurrection of your Son, that we might be encourage in faith, hope, and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.