The Plan to Kill Jesus

1Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present (Luke 22:1-6).

To the Jewish person, Passover is the biggest meal of the year, like the Thanksgiving meal for an American or the Christmas meal for a British person. God had commanded the Israelites to appear before Him at the Temple in Jerusalem three times a year (Exodus 23:13-15), and the Feast of Unleavened Bread called Passover was one of the three times. In the time of Christ, it was difficult to accommodate all the pilgrims that would come to Jerusalem for the annual Feast.

Estimates of the time tell us that Jerusalem swelled to over 2,700,000 people during Passover. With such a huge throng of people, we can understand why the disciples and Jesus would sleep out in the open on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Garden of Gethsemane was less than half a mile from the temple, an easy short walk to arrive early in the morning for all the people to hear Christ teach in the temple (Luke 21:37-38).

We have the benefit of hindsight in knowing that Jesus had no designs on taking over the religious government of Israel, but the priests and the seventy elders of the Sanhedrin did not know that. It is possible that they were afraid of a religious coup against them and that there would be an accounting for their money-making schemes. It is also possible that they were fearful of a riot and losing their positions if the Roman government didn’t think them capable of keeping order. With more people arriving day by day, their fear of the people grew. They felt they had to do something before the Passover, when religious sensitivities would be at their highest. But how were they to arrest Him? It had to be in secret. The religious leaders had sent the temple guards once before to arrest Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles, but when the temple guards came back, they had not arrested the Lord. Why not? Because His hour had not yet come. The guards were under direct orders of the High Priest, yet they refused to arrest Jesus. The reason that they gave was even worse; they directly disobeyed the chief priest’s orders because they were overcome with Christ’s words:

45Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” 46“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. 47“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted (John 7:45-47).

Such influence and spiritual authority over men was scary for the chief priests and teachers of the law. Thousands were attending His teaching from early morning till dark during the days leading up to Passover. No wonder they sought some way to get rid of Jesus (v. 2). (The Greek word anaireō is translated into English with the words get rid of; it means to kill, put to death.) While they were trying to figure out a way to get Him (apart from the crowd) and to the great relief of the religious leaders, one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, came to them with a plan of how he would betray Jesus. We’ll continue this thought over the next few days…

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 58. (Luke 22:1-6). The Betrayal of Jesus. Keith Thomas