How to Study the Bible

Introduction

  • Instructor: Mark Johnson
  • Email: marke2 at comcast.net

Course Description

  • An introduction to the nature of the Bible, the definition of and need for hermeneutics, a survey of hermeneutical approaches, the principles of a healthy interpretive approach, and case studies of biblical passages which illustrate the principles

Course Prerequisites

  • No prerequisites are required for this course.

Course Objectives

  • The goal of this course is to introduce students to the basic elements of biblical interpretation and to equip them with the knowledge and tools that will aid them in their interpretation of the Bible.
  • As a result of this course, the student will:
  • Understand the nature of Scripture as historical, literary and canonical text, and how each of these aspects of its nature affects interpretation.
  • Be familiar with basic resources for biblical interpretation.
  • Understand principles and methods employed in hermeneutics, with special emphasis on those appropriate to orthodox Christianity.
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply interpretive principles and methods to biblical texts.

Bibliography

  • Main Text
    • Ferguson, Sinclair. From The Mouth Of God. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014.
    • Koukl, Gregory. Never Read A Bible Verse. Signal Hill, Calif.: Stand to Reason, n.d.
  • Other Books
    • Carson, D. A., Exegetical Fallacies. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996.
    • Duvall, J. Scott, and J. Daniel Hays. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-on Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. Print.
    • Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas K. Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993.
    • Hays, J. Daniel, and J. Scott Duvall. How The Bible Came To Be. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2012.
    • Kaiser, Walter C., Jr., and Moisés Silva, eds. Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007. Print.
    • Lawrence, Michael. Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry. 9Marks. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.
    • MacArthur, John, ed. The Scripture Cannot Be Broken: Twentieth Century Writings on the Doctrine of Inerrancy. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015.
    • Plummer, Robert L. 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible. Edited by Benjamin L. Merkle. 40 Questions Series. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2010.
    • Vanhoozer, Kevin J., Charles A. Anderson, and Michael J. Sleasman, eds. Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends. Cultural Exegesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.
    • Ward, Timothy. Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God. Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 2014.    
  • Sites

General Information

  • Class Website: http://gfcoakforest.org/how-to-study-the-bible/
  • Class Format
    • Reading as a prerequisite for the class
    • Lecture on Sunday AM
    • Extra Reading
  • Course Schedule
    • Week 1 (12/15) – Foundations
    • Week 2 (12/22) – How we got the bible: Ferguson 2 & 3
    • No class 12/29
    • Week 3 (01/05) – Keys to the kingdom: Ferguson 5, Koukl: Never Read a Verse
    • Week 4 (01/12) – Genres: Ferguson 6 & 7
    • Week 5 (01/19) – Practice
    • Week 6 (01/26) – Final Practice and Meditating on the Word

39 Forty Days until the Ascension

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. Five Recorded Appearances

Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:44-49; and John 21:1-25

Appearances:

  1. To the disciples again (Thomas is present and convinced)
  2. To seven disciples beside the Sea of Galilee – Jesus provides a miraculous catch of fishes and re-commissions Peter
  3. To more than 500 people at once in Galilee – Jesus gives them the “Great Commission”
  4. To James, Jesus’s half-brother (mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:7, but nowhere narrated)
  5. To the assembled disciples on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus ascends to the Father

B. The Ascension of the Lord of Life

Scripture: Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; and Acts 1:4-11

Notes: Under the Old Covenant, there was no provision for a chair or bench anywhere in the inner courts of the temple because, under that covenant, the final offering was never made. This was because it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should finally and fully take away sin. On the other hand, Jesus ascended to His Father and sat down (Hebrews 1:3), thus signifying that in His cross-work, the work of atonement for sin was finally and fully done.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

38 The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. The Tomb Is Empty (Early Sunday Morning)

Scripture: Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; and John 20:1-10

Notes: The women coming to attend to the body were the first to hear the staggering angelic announcement that “He is not here, for He is risen”! They carry that message to the unbelieving apostles; Peter and John hasten to visit the empty cave. Note that there was absolutely no expectation on the part of any of Jesus’s disciples that He would rise from the dead, a reality which makes their testimony concerning His resurrection the more undeniable.

Questions/Observations: In the preaching of the gospel in the book of Acts, the resurrection is emphasized more than the death of Jesus. Clearly, the fact of the resurrection is absolutely central and essential to the gospel message (1 Corinthians 15:1–58). Why do you think this is?

B. Jesus Appears Five Times on the Day of His Resurrection

Scripture: Matthew 28:9-10; Mark 16:9-14; Luke 24:13-43; and John 20:11-25

The Appearances:

  1. To Mary Magdalene, who is given a message to carry to the disciples
  2. To the other women who had come to the tomb
  3. To two disciples traveling to Emmaus who are joined by Jesus but do not recognize Him until they break bread with Him
  4. To Simon Peter (referenced in Luke 24:34 and 1 Corinthians 15:5 but not narrated)
  5. To the astonished disciples (Thomas absent)

Questions/Observations: The Bible does not record all of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, but those it does record powerfully make the point that He had really and physically returned from the dead.

C. The Soldiers Report to the Jewish Authorities

Scripture: Matthew 28:11-15

Notes: The Sanhedrinists demanded that the Roman guards testify that Jesus’s body had been stolen by His disciples.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

37 Jesus’s Body Placed in the Guarded Tomb

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. Jesus Buried after Undeniable Proof of His Death

Scripture: Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-54; and John 19:31-42

Notes: Jesus had promised that He would be in the tomb “three days and three nights” and that He would rise from the dead “on the third day.” There seems to be some conflict here, but not by Jewish reckoning. The Talmud states that “a day/night is an onah [i.e., a unit of time]” and that, in computing the passage of time, “any part of an onah is as the whole.” Jesus physically died late on Friday afternoon, was in the tomb before the sun went down (thus, by Jewish reckoning, Friday is the first onah or day/night unit), remained there all Saturday (the second), and rose sometime before sunrise on Sunday (the third).

B. The Women Observe the Tomb; the Romans Seal It

Scripture: Matthew 27:61-66; Mark 15:47; and Luke 23:55-56

Notes: The gospels are explicit that certain believing women marked carefully where the tomb was, intending to return after the Sabbath to finish preparing the body for burial. The preparation had been hasty and partial because the Sabbath was approaching. By Jewish law, the body could be dressed for three days – the day of death was day #1. By sundown on the third day after that, the tomb had to be permanently sealed because the corpse would begin to smell horribly. These women were coming to the tomb early on Sunday when they discovered it empty. Although Jesus’s disciples had never been willing to hear His promise to rise on the third day – and thus did not anticipate that event – Jesus’s enemies had heard that claim. For that reason, they demanded that Pilate place an official seal on the tomb and provide armed guards so that Jesus’s disciples could not come and steal the body.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

36 Jesus on the Cross

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. Jesus on the Way to Golgotha (Before 9:00 a.m.)

Scripture: Matthew 27:31-34; Mark 15:20-23; Luke 23:26-33; and John 19:17

Notes: The Romans intended crucifixion to be 1) unspeakably cruel; 2) mercilessly lingering (men would often last a day or more on the cross); 3) inescapably public (again, to hinder any seditious impulse in the citizenry); and 4) publicly certifiable (the death had to occur visibly and undeniably on the cross so that the rumor would not get started that the seditionist had somehow survived and the rebellion should go on). Thus, crucifixion was always on a low hill outside a main city gate (because a gate is a bottleneck – a person going into/out of the city must pass that way). Jesus is forced to carry the horizontal piece of the cross to the place of execution, just outside a main gate on the north of the city of Jerusalem.

B. The First Three Hours on the Cross (9:00 a.m.-Noon)

Scripture: Matthew 27:35-44; Mark 15:24-32; Luke 23:33-43; and John 19:18-27

Notes: Jesus is crucified between two criminals. Sunlight remains. The soldiers gamble for Jesus’s garments (in fulfillment of Psalms 22:18). The inscription is affixed amid much scoffing. Jesus speaks three times: 1) to His heavenly Father on behalf of His tormentors: “Father, forgive them,” 2) to the repentant thief: “Today you shall be with me in paradise,” and 3) to His mother and to John: “Woman, behold thy son.”

C. The Final Three Hours on the Cross (Noon-3:00 p.m.)

Scripture: Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46; and John 19:28-30

Notes: God draws a supernatural darkness over the scene. Jesus, as the Lamb of God, is “forsaken” (i.e., judicially dis-fellowshipped, rejected) by the Father, suffering the agony and torment of spiritual death (i.e., separation from the Father) on behalf of fallen men. (It was the prospect of this spiritual separation that had so horrified Jesus as He contemplated the cross.) Jesus is silent until late in the three hours, and then He speaks four times: 1) in agony, “My God, why…,” 2) to those standing by: “I thirst!” (Jesus had something more to say, but His mouth and throat were so parched by the ordeal of crucifixion that He did not have the physical strength to say it; thus this request for moisture for His lips), 3) to a breathlessly waiting world, a cry of sublime victory: “It is finished,” and 4) having completed the awful task: “Father, into thy hands….” The Prince of Life lays down His physical life for three dark days.

D. Physical Phenomena at the Death of Jesus

Scripture: Matthew 27:51-56; Mark 15:38-41; and Luke 23:50-54

Notes: These events include the following: the rending of the veil in the temple; tremors in the earth that split rocks; the resuscitation (return to mortal life) of some who had (recently?) died and been buried in the regions of Jerusalem. These physical signs drew many onlookers to faith, including a centurion (Roman soldier given leadership over 100 troops) who had been assigned to the detail conducting this crucifixion.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

35 Jesus Tried by Pilate and Herod Antipas

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. Stage #1 of Roman Trial: Jesus Before Pilate for the First Time

Scripture: Luke 23:1-5; Mark 15:1-5; Matthew 27:1-2, Matthew 27:11-14; and John 18:28-38

Notes: In order to avoid defiling themselves by entering a Gentile domicile, the Jewish leadership (who were going about the greatest crime in the history of mankind) had induced Pilate to set up his court on the pavement (i.e., outside). The Roman procurator was contemptuous of the Jews and all of their issues, but this Nazarene had fomented much trouble over the last years, and especially during this very volatile week of Passover. Thus, he consents to hear the case. Notice that the Sanhedrinists try to bluff Pilate into condemning Jesus simply because they demanded it, but Pilate would have none of that. It is at this time that Pilate takes Jesus alone into his palace for a private interview (John 18:33-37). It is here that Pilate for the first of five times declares Jesus innocent (John 18:38; Luke 23:4).

Questions/Observations: It is interesting to consider the impact that Jesus had upon Pilate. Note especially Paul’s injunction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12. Evidently, Jesus’s “confession” before Pilate was well remembered by the early church, and they found in that confession a model of how to live out the truth of God’s Word before a hostile and dangerous world.

B. Meanwhile, Judas Commits Suicide

Scripture: Matthew 27:3-10

Notes: Judas was a thief; he loved his sin more than he loved what he knew to be the truth. He was ever more enslaved to sin until He committed the most awful treachery in man’s sorry history. But with all of that he could not escape the undeniable truth of Jesus’s person and work; thus, his tragic and pitiful end.

C. Stage #2 of Roman Trial: Jesus Very Briefly Before Herod Antipas

Scripture: Luke 23:6-12

Notes: In the first stage of the trial (above), Pilate heard Jesus’s accusers claim that He had begun His ministry in “Galilee.” Pilate’s jurisdiction did not include Galilee, and the governor of Galilee was in town (probably in the same palace) for the feast. So, Pilate tries to get Herod (the governor of Galilee and Perea and son of Herod the Great) to deal with this unspeakably difficult issue.

D. Stage #3 of Roman Trial: Jesus Before Pilate Again

Scripture: Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; and John 18:39-40

Notes: Pilate did not want to execute Jesus. He made several attempts to placate the hatred of the Jewish leadership and release Jesus (including the scourging), but was frustrated in everyone. When the Jews (probably by this time both the leaders and the city, which was waking up) threatened to tell Caesar that Pilate was willing to tolerate a seditionist in his province, Pilate capitulated and turned Jesus over to be crucified. (Pilate had used up all his favors in Rome and knew he would probably not survive that sort of a report.) Thus, about 6:00 a.m., Jesus is condemned to die by Roman crucifixion.

Questions/Observations: Notice that it is at this stage of the trial that Jesus is again taken in the palace for a private interview with Pilate (John 19:8-13). Contemplate carefully the statement of Jesus to Pilate in John 19:11; it is a “good confession.”

E. Jesus Is Abused as the Cross Is Prepared

Scripture: John 19:16; Mark 15:16-20; and Matthew 27:27-31

Notes: This doubtless occurred at the hands of the Roman soldiers, as the place of crucifixion was made ready, and perhaps as they waited for the city to awaken in order to witness the awful spectacle. The Romans had framed crucifixion primarily as a means of putting down sedition. With that in mind, they were anxious for it to be witnessed widely in order that any impulse to revolt would be suppressed.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

34 The Illegal Trial before the Sanhedrin

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. Jesus Is Led to the House of Caiaphas the High Priest

Scripture: Luke 22:54; Matthew 26:57; Mark 14:53; and John 18:12

Notes: Elaborate preparations had been laid so that the Accused could be tried and convicted and executed before the city awoke – all of this because everyone concerned (except Jesus, and perhaps Mary, Lazarus’s sister – John 12:7) was persuaded – on the basis of the events of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday – that if the city were aware of what was about to be done to the Nazarene, they would riot in His defense. Thus, for the first stage of the Jewish trial, Jesus is taken speedily to the home of Caiaphas on the Western Hill of Jerusalem, near the “upper room.” (This trial was illegal, as trials were never to occur in a private home, but in a public place where witnesses could be found.) His enemies (again, illegally because witnesses could not be called at night) attempt to find an indictment against Jesus that could be taken to Pilate.

B. Peter Follows Distantly

Scripture: John 18:15-18 and Luke 22:54

Notes: Peter, having protested his greater allegiance to the Lord, does follow the band of soldiers and Sanhedrinists as they lead the Lord in chains back across the city and up to the home of the High Priest. However, Peter is unable to gain entrance into the courtyard until “the other disciple” (John the apostle, author of the fourth gospel) speaks a word on his behalf. By this means, Peter is in the courtyard of the priestly villa, is confronted three times with the charge that he was with the Criminal who had been arrested, and before the rooster crows denies the Lord three times – the final denial under the watching eye of the Lord as He is being brought back into the house.

Questions/Observations: The drama of Peter’s denials, despair, and restoration is an important element of the passion narrative. Compare Luke 22:31-32; John 21:15-19; and 1 Peter 5:10.

C. Stage #1 of Jewish Trial: Preliminary Interrogation before Annas

Scripture: John 18:13-14, John 18:19-24

Notes: This interrogation was a “fishing expedition” for the purpose of finding some accusation that could be made against Jesus. The Sanhedrinists had arrested Him, intended to turn Him over to the Romans for execution, but so far had been unable to discover any sort of indictment they might lodge against Him. Annas’s impertinent questioning was illegal by Jewish jurisprudential protocols: every matter was to be settled “by two or three witnesses,” not by forcing the accused to testify against Himself. Thus, Jesus’s measured and appropriate response to Annas’s questions.

Questions/Observations: The Synoptics state that after Jesus was arrested He was taken to Caiaphas (high priest at that time). John states that He was taken first to Annas. Annas was Caiaphas’s father-in-law; he had been a high priest for some time, had been deposed for cruelty and rapaciousness, but continued to live in the priestly villa.

D. Stage #2 of Jewish Trial: Primary Hearing Before the Sanhedrin

Scripture: Matthew 26:59-66 and Mark 14:55-64

Notes: This “trial” was illegal on several counts; it was intended not to determine guilt but to accomplish execution. There is much about the dynamics of the week, about the difficulty of Jesus’s claims, and about the sorry state of leadership in the Jewish nation at this time that combines to produce this travesty of justice, and it was all, of course, in the providence and purposes of God. There is no sense in which the Jewish people as a whole incur any special guilt because of the events of this night. The record is clear that “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God,” Jesus was “taken by wicked hands, crucified, and put to death” (Acts 2:23).

Questions/Observations: When Jesus was finally (illegally) required to testify against Himself, He openly confessed to the charge that He had made a two-fold claim concerning Himself. What was that two-fold claim that Jesus made?

E. Jesus Is Held and Abused while His Captors Await the Dawn

Scripture: Matthew 26:67-68; Mark 14:65; and Luke 22:63-65

Notes: Again, the abuse described in these verses is sub-human and offensive. Under Roman rule, the Jewish leadership was given significant authority to arrest, try, and even punish criminals, but the Romans did not allow them arms. Therefore, in all of those efforts, the Jewish leaders would depend upon Roman soldiers “loaned” them for the effort. It is likely that most of these abuses were perpetrated by those Roman mercenaries, caught up in the crescendo of hatred and anger that was, in fact, very much a part of this scene. Mark 14:65 speaks of the “officers” (according to the Greek, “underling, inferior officer”), and Luke 22:63 specifies “the men who held Jesus” as the perpetrators of these abuses. Compare Isaiah 50:6, which is specifically fulfilled in this awful scene.

F. Meanwhile, Peter Denies Jesus a Third Time

Scripture: Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; John 18:25-27; and Luke 22:55-60

Notes: The Sanhedrinists knew that the trial held in the middle of the night was illegal and that it likely would not pass muster with the Roman procurator. So, they intended to bring Jesus back into the chambers at the first blush of dawn (see below) for a brief “post-sunup” hearing, get him to confess to His claims once again, and then take Him to Pilate. They had been holding Him in some sort of underground installation – perhaps a cistern or cellar, and as they brought Him back into the chamber, He was manhandled through the courtyard. Peter was still in that courtyard, and just as He denied Jesus a third time, the rooster crowed (recall that Jesus’s enemies had been waiting for the dawn to bring Him back into the judicial chamber). Thus, Jesus was nearby as Peter loudly denied Him. Jesus looked upon Peter, and Peter looked up to see the Lord gazing on him – and then Peter went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:61-62).

G. Stage #3 of Jewish Trial: Jesus Brought Back and Formally Accused of Blasphemy

Scripture: Luke 22:61-62 and Luke 22:66-71

Notes: Only Luke records this. Again, this is an attempt to put a façade of legitimacy upon the illegal nocturnal trial to which Jesus had been subjected; thus it occurred “as soon as it was day” (Luke 22:66). There were no witnesses or interrogations; Jesus was simply required to confess once again His two-fold claim: to be Messiah and to be God come in the flesh.

Questions/Observations: Notice how careful Jesus is to ensure that the charge against Him is precise and complete; He refuses to affirm the charge until it is stated completely. Understand that the charge of claiming to be the Messiah was the incendiary issue to the Romans; they had no toleration for pretender kings! Thus, that is the charge which the Sanhedrinists emphasize.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

33 The Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. Preparation for the Passover Meal

Scripture: Luke 22:7-13; Mark 14:12-16; and Matthew 26:17-19

Notes: Jesus and the 12 remained in Bethany until departing for the feast late in the afternoon. But in anticipation of that feast, Jesus dispatched Peter and John to take the lamb to the temple for slaughter, then to go to a pre-arranged place to make preparation for the feast. All of this was according to the specific prescriptions of the Torah.

Questions/Observations: Why did Jesus use the cryptic reference to “a man carrying a pitcher of water” to direct Peter and John to the house? What would have happened had Jesus been open about the place where they were to make ready for the Feast? (Compare Jesus’s statements to the disciples at the beginning of the feast – Luke 22:15.)

B. The Last Supper in the Upper Room

Scripture: Matthew 26:20-35; Mark 14:17-26; Luke 22:14-38; John 13; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Notes: Notice the spirit of the disciples as they gather in the upper room, doubtless anticipating that kingdom assignments were about to be made (Luke 22:24). Jesus is anxious to have this time to prepare them for the awful events soon to occur, events for which they are entirely unprepared.

After the Passover meal, (during which Jesus washed the feet of the disciples) Jesus announced that the betrayer was with Him at the table, the twelve began to question who it might be, John asks Jesus who it is and Jesus responds (privately) that it is the one to whom He will give a morsel of the meal, Jesus does that and Judas – whose guilty soul was smitten by the act of kindness, and who was looking for an excuse to leave to fetch the Sanhedrinists – leaves to do that. Paul states that Jesus took the bread and cup “while He was being betrayed” (imperfect passive verb tense) gave them to His disciples. That is, as Judas was scurrying off to fetch the arresting force, Jesus remained for a time in the upper room and introduced the “Lord’s supper.” After Judas left, then Jesus instituted the “Lord’s Supper” as the seal of the New Covenant and began to address the eleven concerning the coming of the Spirit. Then, suddenly – to everyone’s surprise – led the eleven out into the night (John 14:31).

Questions/Observations:

  1. Judas left to fetch the Sanhedrinists and soldiers so they could arrest Jesus. Where do you think Judas took those soldiers?
  2. Notice that Luke’s narrative includes Jesus’s prediction of Peter’s denial in the upper room. Compare this to the next section in Mark.
  3. Notice John 18:2 and Luke 22:39. Given those verses, how is it that Judas finally arrived at Gethsemane with the arresting force?

C. Jesus Leads the Disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane

Scripture: Mark 14:27-31 and John 15

Notes: In contrast to John, the Synoptics simply state that Jesus took the 11 to Gethsemane. Mark is clear that it was after Jesus and the 11 departed the upper room (Mark 14:26-27) that He warned His disciples about desertion, and, in response to Peter’s protestations concerning his special loyalty, the Lord warned Peter (again) of his three-fold denial. Because Luke has a similar incident in the upper room (i.e., before the departure, Luke 22:31-34), some have insisted there is a discrepancy in the record. However, it makes perfect sense – given what we know of Peter – that Jesus spoke this warning first of all in the upper room and then again – in response to Peter’s renewed insistence upon his own dependability – on the road to Gethsemane just a little later.

John records extensive teaching along the way – the “vine and branches” discourse, the warning concerning coming rejection (which must have sounded unlikely in light of the city’s reception of the Lord over the last several days), the promise of the coming Spirit (understood by the disciples in terms of the “new covenant” promises of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36). Then, as they descended the side of the Kidron Valley on the road to Gethsemane, Jesus paused and, in the hearing of the eleven, prayed the “High Priestly Prayer” of John 17. All of this was in preparation for the believing disciples for the events soon to come.

Questions/Observations: Thousands of lambs had been slain in the temple earlier that day, and the drainage ditch for the blood was the stream in the Kidron valley. That stream would have been running red as Jesus crossed it (John 18:1). What significance is to be found in John’s mention that Jesus stepped over that brook on His way to Gethsemane?

D. Jesus Prays in the Garden of Gethsemane

Scripture: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; Hebrews 5:7-10

Notes: There is much mystery in the reality that the God-Man could be genuinely tempted, but there is no question as to whether He was thus genuinely tempted – the Bible is explicit that He was and that it is because He has endured such temptation that He is a High Priest who can be touched with the feelings of our limitations (Hebrews 4:15). The greatest temptation Jesus faced was to turn back from the cross (cf. Matthew 4:8-10; Matthew 16:21-23). As the cross drew nearer, the prospect of the spiritual death that He would suffer there filled Jesus with terror. This is nowhere seen more dramatically than in the scene in Gethsemane. This garden was not a public place; it was privately owned, and the owner made it available for Jesus when He was in the regions of Jerusalem (John 18:2). Notice that Dr. Luke provides us two remarkable notes that give us insight into the trauma Jesus endured in this experience – the reference to His sweating “great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44) and to His need for angelic assistance (Luke 22:43).

Questions/Observations:

  1. Compare Jesus’s prayer to the Father in John 12:27-28 with His thrice-repeated prayer in Gethsemane. What do these two suggest concerning the depth of Jesus’s despair in Gethsemane?
  2. There are only two times in Jesus’s ministry when the Father dispatched angels to attend to His needs. What was the other event? What was Jesus’s need at that time? Again, what does this suggest concerning the depth of Jesus’s need and trauma in the Garden of Gethsemane?

E. Jesus Arrested (Very Late Thursday Night or Very Early Friday Morning)

Scripture: John 18:2-12; Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; and Luke 22:47-53

Notes: Judas, having doubtless gone first to the upper room, now finally arrives with the arresting force. Using a signal (intended for the soldiers whom the Sanhedrinists were required to use for an arrest), Judas identified Jesus. The disciples – after Peter’s brief bravado – all flee, and Jesus is led back to the Western Hill, to the priestly residence of Caiaphas, where He will be “tried” in an illegal nocturnal tribunal intended only to find some charge that could be taken to Pilate.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Compare Jesus’s words to Peter at the arrest (John 18:11) with His prayers in the Garden (specifically the reference to a “cup”). What does this suggest concerning Jesus’s struggle with the temptation to turn back from the cross?
  2. As Jesus faced temptation, what spiritual resources did He employ? How do those compare to the spiritual resources available to believers today?

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

32 “Silent” Wednesday

Dr. Doug Bookman

Scripture: Matthew 26:16; Mark 14:11; Luke 22:6; John 12:37-50*

Notes: The record of the gospels moves from late Tuesday to Thursday afternoon, omitting entirely any explicit record of the events of Wednesday. (It’s for this reason that those who insist that the Triumphal Entry occurred on Sunday and the crucifixion on Friday – speak of this day as “silent Wednesday.”) Jesus doubtless remained in Bethany. But it was a busy day, as elaborate preparation was made by Jesus’s enemies for the arrest and trial (all designed to get Jesus on the cross before the city woke up, as His enemies and the Romans remembered the wild-eyed devotion to Him they had seen on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday), and as Jesus made preparation for the room in which He would keep the Feast with His disciples.

*It is virtually impossible to determine when the words of Jesus recorded in John 12:37-50 were spoken, and it is virtually certain that they were not spoken on Wednesday of the Passion Week. However, they are placed at this point by the apostle John because he regards them as an appropriate way to summarize the first section of his gospel (“He came unto His own and His own received Him not“) and to introduce the last part of the gospel account (“having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end“). Read those verses in that way – as a Spirit-breathed transition from the period of Jesus’s offer of Himself to the nation to the record of His offer of Himself as the lamb of God.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).

31 Jesus Silences His Enemies and the “Olivet Discourse”

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. Returns to Jerusalem, Passing by the Withered Fig Tree

Scripture: Matthew 21:20-22 and Mark 11:20-26

Notes: This occurred early on Tuesday morning, as Jesus and His disciples return to the city of Jerusalem. Mark presents the event chronologically, but Matthew grouped them together, as he tends to present events thematically.

B. Jesus Possesses the Temple Precincts and Defeats His Enemies in Open Debate

Scripture: Mark 11:27-33; Matthew 21:23-46; Luke 19:47-48; and John 12:20-36

Notes: Notice Luke’s survey of these two days: Jesus’s dramatic teaching and the consequent frustration of His enemies (Luke 19:47-48). Mark says that during this time, Jesus so thoroughly controlled the temple precincts that He would not allow a person to carry a vessel through the area (Mark 11:16). Notice that Jesus is teaching great multitudes (Luke 19:47-48), putting to silence His enemies in open debate (Matthew 21:23-27; Matthew 22:15-22, Matthew 22:23-33; cf. Luke 20:40 – all this in a culture which honored above almost all things the prowess of a man who could thus silence His enemies in this fashion), speaking scathing parables of denunciation against unbelieving Israel (Matthew 21:28-45), proving His claims from the Old Testament (Matthew 22:41-46), and finally pronouncing blistering woes specifically upon the Pharisees/Scribes, the spiritual heroes of the people and the purveyors of works righteousness by means of the Mosaic law (Matthew 23:1-36). Two notes are intriguing concerning the close of this day: Jesus’s comment concerning the widow who gave her last two mites, in such stark contrast to the spirit of the leadership (Luke 21:1-4; Mark 12:41-44), and Jesus’s weeping over the city as He departs for the final time (Matthew 23:37-39; cf. Luke 13:34-35).

Only John records the remarkable and poignant interview of Jesus with some Greek proselytes who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover and of His consequent contemplation of His own soon-coming death. It is difficult to know precisely when this event occurred, but the best guess is that it was sometime on Tuesday, during the season of teaching and confrontation in the Temple precincts. Contemplate this narrative carefully; it is very important in anticipation of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Questions/Observations:

  1. How might the events of Monday and Tuesday help explain why the city that welcomed Jesus as King on Sunday will cry for His death on Friday?
  2. Again, given the drama of these two days, what must the disciples have felt concerning the issue of the soon-coming of the Kingdom?

C. Jesus Leaves for Bethany and Preaches the “Olivet Discourse”

Scripture: Matthew 24; Mark 13:1-47; and Luke 19:5-38

Notes: Notice that the question asked by the disciples (Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:4; Luke 21:7) indicates that the idea – the bare concept – that perhaps the kingdom will not come immediately is beginning to sink into the heads of the disciples. Note further that this “Olivet Discourse” (so-called because it was spoken on the Mount of Olives, the hill that dominates Jerusalem on the eastern side) was spoken privately to the disciples and that Jesus concludes the sermon with the command to “Watch” (Mark 13:37) because the drama Jesus describes here could commence at any moment. After this discourse, Jesus and the disciples return to Bethany once again for the night; they will remain there through Wednesday and until Thursday afternoon when they will return to the city for the Passover Feast in a borrowed room of a large home on the Western Hill. However, late on Tuesday night, one of the twelve will steal away to perform an unspeakably dastardly act of betrayal.

D. Judas, Stung by Jesus’s Rebuke (over the Expensive Anointing), Sneaks Off

Scripture: Matthew 26:1-16; Mark 14:1-11; Luke 22:1-6

Notes: Notice several elements of this very important scene. 1) The Jewish leadership in all of its parts – Pharisees/Scribes and Sadducees/Priests – are galvanized in their hatred of and anger toward Jesus and are taking counsel together to put Him to death. (This is because of the events of the last three days.) 2) The reason they are convinced they cannot kill Him until after the Feast is the wild-eyed fascination of the people with Jesus – they (i.e., Jesus’s enemies) “feared the people.” (Jesus knew how superficial and self-serving that fascination was, but the Jewish leadership did not – and neither did Jesus’s disciples.) 3) Because of Jesus’s popularity, the Jewish leadership knew that they would have to get the Romans (Pilate) to execute Jesus. That is, they were persuaded that had they spirited Him off and stoned Him, as they would later do to Stephen, there would be riots, and the Romans would exact retribution of those who sparked those riots. It is for this set of reasons that Jesus would die by crucifixion (Roman method) rather than by stoning (standard Jewish method). 4) The elaborate preparations necessary to the drama which would culminate with the crucifixion on Friday morning could not commence until Tuesday night when Judas showed up to help the Sanhedrinists get it done.

Questions/Observations:

  1. Notice carefully what Judas agreed to do to assist the Sanhedrinists in the execution of Jesus (Luke 22:6).
  2. As you read concerning the events of subsequent days, remember that Judas is convulsed by a desire to fulfill this commitment; he is looking for an opportunity to “betray Jesus to them in the absence of the multitude.”

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).