Red Letter Year: 9/12

Luke 22.31-46

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

33 Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”

34 But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or an extra pair of sandals, did you need anything?”

“No,” they replied.

36 “But now,” he said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! 37 For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’ Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.”

38 “Look, Lord,” they replied, “we have two swords among us.”

“That’s enough,” he said.

39 Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. 40 There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.”

41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

45 At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.”


As we have seen, Luke paints the apostles in a more favorable light than Mark and Matthew do. Luke is the only one to include this statement about Satan wanting to sift them. The NLT does a good job here of distinguishing the first plural you – Satan wants to sift all of them, from the second plural you – because of this, Jesus has prayed for Peter, who will need to encourage the others after his own recovery. Peter is also less vehement in his protest.

Luke is also the only one to include the part about making sure they had swords. He quotes Isa. 53, where the Messiah will be included with the lawless. Like the accusations that he was a drunk and a sinner, this accusation by association is false, and as such is a precise fulfillment of the prophecy. Of course, Jesus is making a prophetic statement, not a literal one. There is no time to go and sell or buy anything. But the support the 12 and then 70 received before is not something they should expect now. They are moving into dangerous times. The apostles take him literally though, and much like the religious leader who had one of Caesar’s coins in his pocket, the apostles already have two swords at hand. Which should lead us to ask – what were they doing with swords? They were having the Passover Meal with Jesus, why were they toting swords around?

Another change Luke makes is in shortening the Gethsemane account and making it less of a struggle than it seems to be in Mark and Matthew (John won’t have this scene at all). You sometimes hear preachers go on about the medical condition of Jesus sweating blood, but look closely, that is not what the text says. It says his sweat was in big drops “like” drops of blood. Luke is using a simile here, not making a medical claim. Luke also records an angel coming and attending to Jesus in his travail, no other Gospel has this. And Jesus only goes off once and comes back to sleeping followers, not three times as in Mark and Matthew. This continues Luke’s theme of emphasizing the death of Jesus as the will of God that Jesus freely chooses to obey, not something done to him against his will.

Shortening the Garden account also makes the apostles seem less sleepy. The sorrow that Mark and Matthew assign to Jesus, Luke gives to the apostles and describes it as the source of their fatigue. Instead of telling them to “wait” (as in Mark and Matthew), here Jesus tells them to “pray” but they are unable to do so. They have prepared for the wrong thing (battle), have misunderstood Jesus’ message, and have proven unable to pray. Their failure and disillusionment is as much a result of their wrong expectations as anything else. Kind of like us. We gear up to do something big and active and effective for God, but we don’t get so excited when all it involves is “just” praying. Except that is the work of the kingdom. How do we overcome temptation? We pray. How do we advance the kingdom? We pray. How do change both what is inside our hearts and the external reality around us? We pray. There is nothing more foundational to following Jesus than praying. And we just don’t do enough of it.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.