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Lesson Plan for Luke 22 & John 18



We have spent the last few weeks studying the Savior's final words to his closest associates and their families. The Gospel of John, as we read last week, dedicates a fourth of his gospel to the words the Savior gives in that setting. In this week's reading, we also get another reiteration of those events at the beginning of Luke chapter 22. The manual appears to want us to focus on the latter half of this chapter, so I will sum up the details of the first half of Luke 22 and how it sets the stage for what we see in Gethsemane.

πασχηα = Pascha = Passover

πασχηο = Pascho = to suffer sadly

Many of us are well aware of how Christ reconstituted the symbols of the Passover to implement the ordinance of the sacrament. Maybe a lesser-known idea, and it is exclusive to Luke who writes for a more Greek audience, is found in Luke 22:15. The Savior gives us some wordplay that ties the events of the Last Supper with the suffering descent in the garden:

"15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:"

As seen above, the Greek here for Passover and the word Luke chooses that conveys sad suffering are almost homonyms. Luke is also the only gospel that highlights the shedding of blood in Gethsemane, further underlining the connection he is drawing through wordplay. Jesus institutes the ordinance of the sacrament as a memorial for the eventual suffering that will overtake Him. There are other parts of this ordinance that Jesus discusses that we will come back to.

Jesus sends Peter and John to prepare an "upper room" for this last meal (see verse 12). This upper room, according to Christian tradition, was referred to as the Cenacle (which means dining room in Latin). Tradition holds that it was this same upper room where the future day of Pentecost took place, where the Lord appears to the twelve after the resurrection in Luke 24, and the same room where "sure signs and proofs" were given by the Savior in Acts 1:3. It goes without saying, therefore, that this was a holy designated place. Even further, tradition holds that the same building where this meal took place has in its lower level the burial sight of King David (1). In other words, this area would have had a kingly and priestly significance. 

In our own Church history, we have examples of upper rooms of various storehouses becoming make-shift temples. In other words, this shouldn't be far-fetched for us to believe. The significance of this is summed up by scholar John W. Welch:

"They obtained what is known as the “upper room,” a sacred site for the progression from the earlier covenantal symbols to the updated covenantal symbols. The Mosaic law of sacrificing animals had filled its purpose. The Lamb of God would offer an ultimate sacrifice for all humankind, and He established a means for us to remember and apply this updated covenant." (2)

In the verses that follow, the Savior speaks of not partaking the bread and water again "until the Kingdom of God shall come" (see verse 18). This is referring to a future event according to Charles W. Penrose:

"We take the sacrament not only in remembrance of the past but to direct our minds to the future. We partake of it to witness that we believe in the atonement wrought out by the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Calvary, and also that we expect his reappearance on the earth." (3)

There is much meaning here that I invite all to ponder. For example, the disciples (along with the Nephites in 3 Nephi 19) eat until they are filled and the meaning appears to have a more communal significance than what we think about today. Typically, we think of the sacrament on a very individualized level. To keep the lesson moving, I only provide this comment from Elder Neil L. Andersen:

"The title “renewing our baptismal covenants” is not found in the scriptures. It’s not inappropriate. Many of you have used it in talks; we have used it in talks. But it is not something that is used in the scriptures, and it can’t be the keynote of what we say about the sacrament. … The sacrament is a beautiful time to not just renew our baptismal covenant, but to commit to Him to renew all our covenants, all our promises, and to approach Him in a spiritual power that we did not have previously as we move forward." (Neil L. Andersen, “Witnessing to Live the Commandments,” General Conference Leadership Training on the Sabbath Day Observance at Church (April 2015). Available to priesthood leaders)

 This is followed by debate among the disciples about who the greatest is among them.  This occurs after the Mount of Transfiguration in the gospel of Matthew as well. Maybe the disciples are slow to learn the message just like most of us are as well.

Jesus also gives Peter a warning and prays for Peter's faith to fail not. He gives a prophecy that on this night Peter would deny Him 3 times. It is at this moment that Jesus and His disciples leave their makeshift holy of holies and make the trip to the Garden of Gethsemane, another sacred place where they often gathered.

GETHSEMANE: The Olive Press

READ LUKE 22:39-46

"39 ¶ And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.

40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.

41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,

42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: band his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,

46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."

The manual quotes President Nelson who counsels us to "invest time in learning about the Savior and His atoning sacrifice" (4).

The phrase 'Garden of Gethsemane' is never used in the New Testament. It is only referred to as a garden in the JST of Mark 14.  'Gethsemane' literally means oil press when read in Hebrew (Gat Shemanim). Olives would be gathered in this location and then a large rock would be used - with the help of a large animal - to crush olives until oil flowed. Olives are known to ooze liquid that is a brownish-red color when crushed. Some great visuals of how this process worked can be found here. Interestingly, the traditional spot of Gethsemane puts it inside a cave with a garden outside. The Grotto of Gethsemane is traditionally believed to be a very holy ancient place where Jesus and His disciples gathered often. Even further, ancient Christians wrote about how Adam & Eve worshiped in a temple inside a cave (5).

QUESTION: In these verses in Luke, what happens in Gethsemane that is meaningful to you?

Verse 42 is always of interest as it shows the Savior letting His will be known. We at times skip over that part in favor of Christ ultimately submitting to the Father's will, rightfully so. It is also of interest to know that the cup Jesus is referring to is the same word used earlier in the chapter when referring to the newly instituted sacrament. The connection could be that we, in our own small way, covenant to partake of similar cups.

QUESTION: What do we know of what the Savior was feeling at the beginning of His suffering in Gethsemane?

READ MARK 14:32-36

"32 And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.

33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

35 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt."

How was Jesus & the disciples feeling at this point? In Greek, the way verse 33 was written means that Jesus, Peter, James, and John all felt 'sore amazed' and 'very heavy'. 'Sore amazed' comes from the Greek ekthambeisthai which means to throw into terror and amazement. The phrase 'very heavy' comes from the Greek adēmonein which "is the strongest of the three Greek words in the New Testament for depression" (6). The Savior articulates His depression in verse 34 when He tells Peter and the others that He is so sorrowful that He feels like He might die from that alone.

QUESTION: What might it mean for you to know that the Savior experienced deep depression?

Neal A. Maxwell has written:

"Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen him! (See Luke 22:43.) Had not Jesus, as Jehovah, said to Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14.) Had not His angel told a perplexed Mary, “For with God nothing shall be impossible”? (Luke 1:37; see also Matt. 19:28; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27.) Jesus’ request was not theater!" (7)

QUESTION: Bruce R. McConkie has speculated that the angel sent to comfort Jesus during this time was Adam who himself had "fell that mortal man might be" (8). Others make a case for a female figure, possibly Heavenly Mother (9), based on what modern scholarship has learned about various ancient symbols. What does it mean to you that the Father, at this moment, did not leave His son comfortless?

Jesus proceeds to enter His awaited agony and sweats great drops of blood. It might be of interest to some that Luke 22:43-44 (the verses about the angel and sweating blood) are some of the most controversial verses among biblical scholars. In short, scholars use thousands of ancient manuscripts when trying to piece together biblical translations. In many of the most ancient manuscripts available, these verses have been taken out. While most Christian scholars will dismiss these scriptures because of this, we are fortunate enough to have this specific knowledge underlined in restoration scriptures. There has been great work done by biblical scholars who are also members of the Church who suggest that these verses were deleted anciently over doctrinal concerns.

Biblical scholar, Lincoln H. Blumell, summarizes the persecution brought on by critical 2nd-century Greek philosophers:

"Central to their respective criticisms was the conviction that Jesus lacked the proper moral courage and composure before death. He was sad and weak since he entreated God to be excused from his impending fate... [They also remarked] that Jesus was effectively a coward since he acted in such a manner and could not heroically accept his death with the proper disposition. With these accusations, they were attempting to undercut any divine claims made about Jesus, either by himself or his followers, and to present him as little more than a pathetic charlatan." (10)

QUESTION: Why might have some ancient Christians been embarrassed by these verses? How do we, today, make sense of a God who had to suffer and couldn't wave his hand to fix everything instead?

The answer to that question might lay at the heart of one of the most under-discussed fruits of the atonement of Christ and it also highlights just how remarkable Jesus' final submission was.

D. Todd Christofferson has quoted C. Terry Warner who said:

"Human agency was purchased with the price of Christ’s suffering. This means that to those who blame God for allowing human suffering, Latter-day Saints can respond that suffering is less important than the gift of agency, upon which everything else depends, and that none of us has paid a greater price for this gift than Christ." (11)

QUESTION: How can understanding that the gift of agency is a fruit of Christ's suffering impact us? What does it mean for us? What does it tell us about Christ?

It means Christ used His moral agency - meaning He willingly suffered - to preserve our moral agency. In the words of Elder Maxwell, "Jesus' character necessarily underwrote His remarkable atonement" (12).

Elder Maxwell further underscores the application this can have for us:

"... as we confront our own lesser trials and tribulations, we too can plead with the Father, just as Jesus did, that we “might not … shrink”—meaning to retreat or to recoil (D&C 19:18). Not shrinking is much more important than surviving! Moreover, partaking of a bitter cup without becoming bitter is likewise part of the emulation of Jesus." (13)

With all this in mind, I invite you to read sometime today the Savior's own personal recollection of His suffering in D&C 19:15-19. You will also find new meaning in His words in 3 Nephi 11. You sense a feeling of relief and final victory in His words. To bleed from one's pores is a "very rare [medical] condition called hematohidrosis... and is caused by extreme levels of stress and excessive exertion... It has been observed among soldiers preparing to enter battle and prisoners facing execution" (14)

What about Peter, James, and John? We get a detail in Luke 22:45 that we often don't discuss. The Savior repeatedly finds them asleep during His agonizing hours, but we are told specifically why they are sleeping. Better translations say that Jesus "found them sleeping, exhausted from grief" (New English Translation).

Why were they "exhausted from grief"? It is heavily implied and self-evident that Jesus invites them, His best friends, to comfort Him in the depth of His despair. He invites them to pray and watch. Through their prayers, which is a "form of work" (15), and their witnessing of the Savior suffering hematohidrosis, they were witnessing something spiritually exhausting. The cumulative spiritual intensity and heaviness of that event would have caused them to retreat to sleep (D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner, Verse by Verse: The New Testament, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2006), 1:607). Elder Holland suggests this is why the Savior shows compassion on them in Matthew 26:45 when he tells them to "sleep on, and take your rest" (16).


QUESTION: What other blessings and privileges flow from the sufferings and atonement of Jesus Christ?


From here we will be in John chapter 18. John's gospel doesn't include anything about the suffering or depression in Gethsemane. John, if you remember, was also present on the Mount of Transfiguration and doesn't include that in his gospel either. Some scholars have speculated that this is John's way of showing reverential silence for the most sacred experiences he had with the Savior. 

We pick up when Judas enters the Garden scene.

READ JOHN 18:3-12

"3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.

6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.

7 Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.

8 Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way:

9 That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.

10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him"

The King James Version misses an extraordinary detail in verse 3. The phrase "band of men" comes from the Greek word speiran which means somewhere between a 10th to a 13th part of a Roman Legion. Commentaries put it anywhere between 200-600 men who accompany Judas. This group of hundreds brought lanterns and torches with them because the large area nearby Gethsemane was known for its numerous tombs and caves. Judas probably knows exactly where they could have found the Master, so the lanterns and torches might take on increased meaning. For John, it is probably his way of fulfilling what he wrote in John 1:5 which says, "The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." Interestingly, the Kidron Valley they would have had to walk through to reach the Savior means "to be dark" at its root in Hebrew.

Jesus sees this large band coming towards Him and He initiates the communication, unlike the synoptic gospels which have Judas identifying Jesus with a kiss. John's gospel removes such a kiss in favor of Jesus' question, "Whom seek ye?" The word for seek here is the same word used many times by the Savior, particularly in Matthew 7:7 which invites us all to ask, seek, and knock. To seek the face of the Lord is probably the most prolific theme found in the Book of Psalms. In other words, this question is meant to be filled with irony as Jesus is literally the light that shines in darkness.

They respond by saying they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth. What follows is one of the most shocking displays of the Savior's power that we never talk about. Jesus responds by saying "I AM". If you notice in your scriptures, 'he' is italicized in the phrase "I am he". That means it doesn't exist in ancient manuscripts and it was an insertion by the translators to try and make sense of what they were reading. This declaration causes them to fall over either out of reverential worship or out of sheer power by the commanding presence of the Great I Am. Most scholars of our faith prefer the interpretation of falling over due to the Saviors' power because most instances where that word is used refer to an involuntary falling or being so overcome that they can't help but become prostrate.

Jesus invokes the phrase again, but they still seek to take Jesus. Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest's servant, Malchus. Jesus heals the severed ear in the other gospels, but not here. John has written this perfectly to fulfill messianic insight from Isaiah. It is important to understand the Malchus in Greek and in its Hebrew form means "King".

Isaiah prophesied anciently in Isaiah 52:13-15

READ ISAIAH 52:13-15

"13 ¶ Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:

15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider."

QUESTION: In the spirit of mental exercise, where do we see Christ in Isaiah's prophecy? Specifically in this story of His arrest?

1. Jesus deals prudently during His arrest by asking that all others with Him be left alone and holding off Peter's assault. Jesus tells Peter he could call down a legion much larger than the hundreds currently before them; that is pretty prudent.

2. Jesus is exalted at this moment after having just begun the atoning process and having just caused the band of men to fall to their knees.

3. Jesus was marred by having just bled from every pore an hour or so earlier. His completely blood-stained clothes and body would have made Him marred more than any man.

4. He had, figuratively, many nations before Him. He had Romans and very likely had Greeks before Him. This arrest event is very much a microcosm of the many nations who will be at war with their weapons, torches, and lanterns when the Savior will return and set His feet again on the Mount of Olives.

5. Kings are represented here by Malchus which means, again, "King". Healing Malchus' severed ear probably caused him to "shut his mouth" because the pain was gone. The severed ear was restored so that he could hear and see what he had not previously considered.

Sister Bonnie H. Cordon has recently said:

"Look for Christ everywhere―I promise He is there! True joy rests on our willingness to come closer to Christ and witness for ourselves. We know that in the last days, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess” that Jesus is the Christ. I pray this witness will become a normal and natural experience for us now." (17)

For the sake of time, I will not review the trial of Jesus but only point out a few things. First, John 18 verses 15-27 are beautiful in that they juxtapose Jesus' powerful answers before the Sanhedrin with the three denials of Peter. Jesus speaks with calm assurance after having no sleep and incomprehensible suffering while Peter appears to still struggle. 

President Spencer W. Kimball once gave a masterful talk on Peter's triple denial and gives many reasons why Peter may have reacted the way He did. Perhaps it is possible that Peter thought it was expedient to do so given the circumstances? Either way, President Kimball teaches us the overall lesson here:

"I do not pretend to know what Peter’s mental reactions were nor what compelled him to say what he did that terrible night. But in light of his proven bravery, courage, great devotion, and limitless love for the Master, could we not give him the benefit of the doubt and at least forgive him as his Savior seems to have done so fully? Almost immediately Christ elevated him to the highest position in his church and endowed him with the complete keys of that kingdom... Only hours passed until he was among the first at the tomb as the head of the group of believers. Only weeks passed until he was assembling the saints and organizing them into a compact, strong, and unified community. It was not long before he was languishing in prison, being beaten, abused, and “sifted as wheat” as Christ had predicted (see Luke 22:31)." (18)

QUESTION: What do Peter's frailties teach us about our potential?


Jesus is eventually brought before Pilate where they have an intense conversation. Jesus appears to be trying His hardest to have Pilate understand what is meant by "King of the Jews". It all comes to naught though as Pilate fulfills a Passover tradition and allows those present to choose who would be released; either Jesus or Barabbas. Jeffrey R. Holland has commented on this:

"It is one of the ironies of history that sitting with Jesus in prison was a real blasphemer, a murderer and revolutionary known as Barabbas, a name or title in Aramaic meaning “son of the father.” Free to release one prisoner in the spirit of the Passover tradition, Pilate asked the people, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?” They said, “Barabbas.” So one godless “son of the father” was set free while a truly divine Son of His Heavenly Father moved on to crucifixion." (19)

Some Syriac manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew say that Barabbas' full name was "Jesus bar Abbas" (20). In moving fashion, Pilate, unbeknownst to him, was performing a live-action version of Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement. 

To put it succinctly, during this most important annual day in ancient Israel, two goats would be used to symbolize the forgiveness of Israel's sins for another year. The first goat would be slain and have his blood sprinkled on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies (see Leviticus 16:15-20). Afterward, the high priest would go to the second goat, known as the 'scapegoat', and lay his hands on its head and confess the sins of the people. This goat would then be led out into the wilderness where it was set free from captivity (see Leviticus 16:21-22).

Jesus bar Abbas was the 'scapegoat', both literally as a political revolutionary and symbolically. He represents all of us who are set free because another child or "son of the father", Jesus Christ, went on to be slain for the sins, pains, weaknesses, and infirmities of us all.

"Every attempt to reflect upon the Atonement, to study it, to embrace it, to express appreciation for it, however small or feeble it may be, will kindle the fires of faith and work its miracle towards a more Christlike life.  It is an inescapable consequence of so doing." Tad R. Callister (The Infinite Atonement, p. 17).

"When all is said and done, when all of history is examined, when the deepest depths of the human mind have been explored, nothing is so wonderful, so majestic, so tremendous as this act of grace when the Son of the Almighty, the Prince of His Father’s royal household, He who had once spoken as Jehovah... gave His life in ignominy and pain..." - Gordon B. Hinckley (21)


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