The passion narrative of Luke emphasises the goodness and mercy of Jesus. He intervenes and severely rebukes Peter who countered the soldiers with his sword. Then he takes care of the wounded and healed him (Luke 22:51).
The message that the evangelist wants to give is clear: the disciple not only cannot attack anyone but is always ready to remedy the troubles caused by others. He also takes care of those who did and still continues to want to hurt him.
In another touching incident, Peter, after his denials goes out and weeps. Luke notes the moving gaze of Jesus on Peter: it is not a reproach, but a gesture of sympathy for the weakness of his disciple. Luke indicates to Christians of all times how they should consider their own and their brothers’ fragility: they are looked at with Jesus’ eyes; eyes that instill confidence and hope, eyes that discover, even in the biggest sinner, a spark of love and help him to restart.
During the passion, the disciples do not make a good impression: Judas betrays, Peter denies, all others flee (Mark 14:50). In the agony of the garden, when the disciples are found sleeping, Luke finds an excuse to explain their sleep: “They were worn out of grief” (Luke 22:45).
Luke is the example of the shepherd of souls who, while not justifying sin, understands it, attributes it to ignorance, human misery that unites us all.
Only Luke records that, moments before his death on the cross, Jesus still has the strength to say: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He is not referring to the soldiers, intent on dividing his garments, but the real culprits for his death: the religious authorities of his people. Jesus does not limit himself to ordering his people to always forgive and without conditions, but he gives the example.
It will be imitated by Stephen, the first martyr who, with bended knees under the blows of stones hurled at him, will cry out loud, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
At the beginning of the story of the passion, the enemy who had left him at the desert returns for the final assault, “the feast of unleavened bread was drawing near... Then Satan entered into Judas.”
The forces of evil are embodied in one of the twelve apostles and unleash the offensive. Jesus, as every athlete before the competition, must prepare himself and Luke—more than the other evangelists—emphasises how he prepares himself: with prayer. The story of the agony begins with the recommendation of Jesus to the disciples: “Pray that you may not be put to the test,” then he continues: “he went away a little further and kneeling down, he prayed... Having entered in agony he prayed more earnestly ... Then he rose from prayer ... And he said to the disciples: Get up and pray” (Luke 22:39-46). An insistence on prayer which aims to indicate to all Christians how to obtain victory.
Even in dying he became one with sinners dying between bandits to whom he offers his father’s kingdom. He dies in the way he lived. He came from God, completed his pilgrimage on this earth and now he returns to the Father. He returns with one who represents all people: a sinner regained by his love.
● Father Fernando Armellini CMF
Translated by Father John Ledesma SDB
Abridged by Father Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF