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Mt 26:57-27:32; Mk 14:53-15:21; Lk 22:54-23:32; Jn 18:12-19:17

Passage to Calvary. All four Gospels describe Jesus’ trials and condemnation. It is instructive to view this sequence of events through the experience of the primary characters involved:

Discussion questions and themes.

Judas and Peter. Jesus seems to have known what Judas would do, yet he dealt with him very gently. Is there any meaning to the fact that Judas repented at Jesus’ trial – but then committed suicide, while Peter denied his Lord, only to be restored to full fellowship after the resurrection? It is worth noting that Peter lived to experience forgiveness, while Judas did not. Yet Judas did repent. The book of Acts pronounces strong judgment on Judas – in words much harsher than Jesus ever used (Acts 1:15-20). Does Scripture give any basis for hope for Judas, or is the judgment of Acts final? Note: 2 Chronicles 33:10-16 records the heartfelt repentance of one of Israel’s worst kings, Manasseh. Thus Chronicles never attributes the fall of Judah to the sin of Manasseh. By contrast, in Samuel-Kings, Manasseh is described as the worst of Judah’s kings, the one more responsible than any other for the fall of Judah and Jerusalem. Instead of recording Manasseh’s repentance and restoration, the author of 2 Kings records the following verdict on Manasseh, giving him full credit for the fall of the kingdom:

Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the LORD, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, for all that he had committed, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to pardon. – 2 Kings 24:3-4.

Question: On what basis do inspired writers pass judgment on biblical characters? Is their judgment fallible or infallible?

Annas and Caiaphas. To what extent was the rejection by the Jewish leaders known and pre-determined by God? In connection with the resurrection of Lazarus, John records this sobering note about Caiaphas.

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death. – John11:49-52.

Question: In SDABC 4:25-38 is an article entitled, “The Role of Israel in Old Testament Prophecy.” The article suggests that God’s original plan called for Israel to be a light to the world. In this plan, the Messiah would have died for His people and risen again and would have been accepted by Israel (pp. 29-30). The article (p. 30) quotes Ellen White: “Had Israel as a nation preserved her allegiance to Heaven, Jerusalem would have stood forever, the elect of God” (GC 19; cf. PK 46; Jer. 7:7; 17:25).”

Question: How does this sense of conditionality relate to those passages which suggest that God sees a grand master plan in which all the major events are known to Him? Is it possible that the tension between foreknowledge and free will was no better understood by Bible writers than it is by us? Is this tension simply a mystery which we must live with until the Lord comes, and maybe beyond?

Herod and Pilate. Herod was at least part Jewish; Pilate was a Roman. Pilate washed his hands of the affair, putting the responsibility on the Jews. In effect, he let them believe their cry, “His blood be upon us and our children” (Matt. 27:25). In the judgment, where can we place Pilate in the hierarchy of responsibility? Is there any reason to expect that he might possibly be in God’s kingdom?

Jesus. What can we learn from Jesus’ treatment of people during his trial? In some ways, He practiced what He had preached (e.g turning the other cheek). But when one of the temple police struck Jesus on the face, rebuking Him for insulting the High Priest (“Is that how you answer the high priest?”), Jesus talked back: “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (Jn. 18:22-23). Jesus was gentle with both Peter and Judas. He also healed the ear of the high priest’s servant in the garden. But what about His response to the temple guard?

Question: Is Jesus’ one flash of anger in response to the temple police a model for us when we are under duress and stress for things we have not done? Or was it actually something other than a genuine flash of anger?

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