Since 20 centuries separate us in time from the events that occurred when Jesus was crucified, it might be helpful for us to retrace His steps, through a compilation of the gospel accounts, the final steps of our Savior that led Him to Calvary. In so doing I believe we will have a greater appreciation for what He did for us the day He died. Let’s walk where Jesus walked the last 24 hours of His earthly life.
It began on Thursday afternoon, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, better known as Passover. As was the custom, the Passover meal would be eaten in the evening with family or close friends, so, on that Thursday afternoon, Jesus’ disciples began to ask Him where they could prepare the Passover so that they could eat together. Jesus told them to go into the city where they would meet a man bearing a pitcher of water. They were to follow the man to his house and then say to the Goodman (Butler): “The Master saith, my time is at hand: I will keep the Passover at thy house. Where is the Guest chamber that I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” Jesus assured them that they would be shown a large upper room that was already furnished. “There make ready for us,” He told the disciples. They went and did as He commanded, and finding the man and the house and the room, they made ready the Passover meal.
By Thursday evening the meal had been prepared and Jesus was gathered in the Upper Room with the 12 Apostles to eat the Last Supper. Sitting at the table with them, Jesus said, “With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Taking bread, Jesus blessed it and brake it and gave it to the Disciples, saying, “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.” Next, taking the cup, He gave thanks again and then passing it to them said, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood which is shed for you.” In those words, the Lord Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper which New Testament churches everywhere have been commanded to keep until He comes again.
Rising from the table, Jesus took a towel and a basin of water and began to wash the feet of His Disciples. Peter protested, but Jesus overruled his protest declaring, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” Peter then asked His Lord to wash not his feet only but his hands and head also. The spiritual meaning of this very act Jesus then revealed by assuring the Disciples that he who had been washed spiritually—that is cleansed by the washing of water by the Word, or as He told Nicodemus, “Born again,” needed never again to be washed all over, or “saved” again, but he only needed to be cleansed or restored to fellowship through confession of sin, and this restoration or cleansing was represented by the washing of the feet of the Disciples by Jesus.
It was at that moment that the Lord, knowing that His betrayer was still with them, became troubled in spirit and announced to His Disciples that one of them would betray Him, and that it was one whose hand was at that very moment on the table! Consternation swept through the room. In sorrow and amazement, the Disciples began to look at one another wondering which of them would dare do such a dark deed. Peter motioned to John who sat next to Jesus, asking him to enquire of the Master who the betrayer would be. Jesus replied, “He is he to whom I shall give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” Then, dipping the sop, Jesus gave it to Judas Iscariot with the command, “What thou doest, do quickly.” Judas abruptly got up and went out into the night to seek those with whom he would conspire.
The Devil having departed, Jesus was left alone with the 11 in the Upper Room. In the few hours that followed, the Master shut the world out and drew to Himself those 11 men who would form the foundation of the Church that would bear His name and of which He would be the chief cornerstone. He taught them that night many precious truths concerning the Holy Spirit whom He would send to be with them after He departed. “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you,” He promised. And again, “Nevertheless, I tell you, it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you.” Precious moments of learning and loving were spent in the Upper Room that night, and just before Jesus was to conclude His famous discourse (John 17) He turned His eyes toward Heaven and prayed what we now call His great Intercessory Prayer: “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son that Thy Son may glorify Thee. I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest me out of the world; Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou has given me that they may be one as we are one…Father, I will that they also… may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me, for Thou lovest me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hast not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me.”
Having finished that great prayer, Matthew says,” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Making their way toward the Mt. of Olives, nearing the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus startled the eleven when He announced, “All of you shall be offended because of Me tonight.” He then went on and predicted His death and subsequent resurrection. When He was finished, it was Peter who broke the long silence: “Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, I shall not be offended!” And, lovingly, Jesus said to the well-meaning Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you that thy faith fail not.” “Lord,” Peter said with fervor, “I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Just before they reached the Garden, Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Peter, before the cock crows twice this night, thou shalt deny me three times.” “No, Lord, though I should die with Thee, yet I shall never deny Thee.” Ten other disciples, in a chorus of assent, affirmed that they, like Peter, would never deny their Lord.
Coming now to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to His followers, “Sit here, while I go yonder to pray.” Then, beckoning to Peter, James and John, Jesus went on ahead and, as Matthew tells us, He became very sorrowful and heavy. “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here and watch with me.” Going about a stone’s cast further, Jesus fell upon His face and prayed, “Oh, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless, not My will be done, but Thine.”
Coming back He found the three disciples asleep. He wakened them and asked them again to watch and pray, and again Jesus went back to His place of prayer. Luke, the beloved physician, tells us that an angel came from heaven and strengthened Jesus, for He was in great agony of spirit, and as He prayed His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground.
Three times Jesus returned to His select inner circle of three disciples, only to find them asleep each time in spite of His warning to watch and pray lest they fall into temptation. Upon finding them sleeping the third time, Jesus said, “Rise up, let us go: Lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.”
A noise and lights appeared in the dark distance and soon the clanging of swords and flames of torches and lanterns was heard and seen. A band of men and officers sent from the chief priest, with lanterns, torches, swords and staves, led by Judas Iscariot, was coming to the place where Jesus was concluding His early morning prayer time. As they approached, Jesus said, “Whom do ye seek?” to which they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said, “I am He,” and when He said those words the soldiers fell to the ground. Again, Jesus said, “Whom do ye seek?” and again they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
(To Be Continued)