Today is the day that marks the first full day of the Passover celebration, although in the Hebrew calendar the first full day started at sundown yesterday. It is the day that all the crowds had come to Jerusalem to celebrate and remember how God delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians through the Exodus. Jesus and his disciples had been staying out of the city again, but he tells them to go into the city and prepare for the Passover meal, the Last Supper, later in the evening. The events are recording in all the Gospels but only John records all that Jesus told his disciples during the Passover meal, probably because he was the only gospel writer that was there in person.
READ LUKE 22:7-53 (also in Matthew 26:17-56 and Mark 14:12-52)
You can also READ JOHN 14:1-17:26 for Jesus teaching and prayers at the Passover meal
This day is split into three parts in my mind. The disciples going and preparing for the Passover meal, the Passover meal itself and then the arrest at Gethsemane. So, I’m going to go through each of them briefly.
The first question that comes to mind is, had Jesus prearranged someone to prepare the upper room or was it the Spirit that had prompted the owner of the house? This is something that I don’t think we will know this side of meeting Jesus but whatever way it happened, the disciples had plenty to do as preparing the meal meant preparing the animal for eating, the bread, the herbs, the wine and all the other ceremonial food that serve as reminders of the Exodus. This would probably have been something they had done, or at least saw, many times.
I wonder what was going through Jesus mind as they all got together for the meal. It should have been a joyous occasion, celebrating Gods goodness, and in a way, it was but the disciples didn’t know that yet. The whole image around the Passover lamb, the sacrificial lamb at the time of the Exodus, was only a temporary arrangement but the ‘once for all sacrifice’ as Hebrews talks about, was sitting at the table celebrating with them. In a days’ time the idea of a sacrificial lamb in Gods eyes would be that of his Son dying on a cross. Jesus knew this as he sat to eat with his disciples and so it must have been such a mix of emotions. There would have been the joy, both in the Passover celebration and the fact that after it was all over he would have died to set us free from sin, but there must have been the sadness, the anxiety, and the pain of all that he was to face. Nobody sitting around the table, or us if we were there, would have known all that Jesus was going through already in his own mind.
I love the tone of the little account where Jesus begins by saying the disciples will all scatter when he is arrested and I can just imagine Peter, brave but sometimes ‘speak before you think’ Peter, piping up and saying, “I will never leave your side Jesus”. He had no idea what was to come and as we all know, it would only be the next day that Peter would deny Jesus. Would we have been prepared to own up to knowing Jesus or would we have run too? Would we stand up for Jesus today if we had to, even it meant that we could be put to death? We don’t know what lies ahead and if we stick by Jesus side it may not always be easy, but he promises to always be there with us. He died in the cruellest way invented so that he could be with us; what more proof do we need to believe that he wants to be with us.
As they finish up their meal, and Jesus finishes teaching and praying as recorded in John, they all headed out to an olive grove outside the city called Gethsemane. Judas knew Jesus was going there and had left during the meal to go and get the soldiers and temple guards. Jesus must have been in bits by this point. It had been a tiring week, he had just taught for the last time, it was late into the night and the time had come for his arrest. So, we read Jesus words, “my soul is crushed with grief to the point of death”. He pleads with his Father if there is any other way but acknowledges his Father’s will to be done. He is so anxious that he sweats blood (true medical condition that we know today occurs when someone faces great stress and anxiety). He was in agony, and this was all before the physical pain even started. I’m sure we all know the rest of the story, Jesus was arrested, Peter cuts off the servant’s ear, Jesus heals it and the disciples all scatter.
As we put ourselves in this olive grove and hear all the screaming and shouting, and see all the weapons and burning torches, I can’t imagine any of us would have done any different. The disciples were scared for their lives. We need to understand here what Jesus suffered for us, and know that it wasn’t only the physical, but the emotional and, as we will see tomorrow, the spiritual too. He took this all on himself so that we might have our sin forgiven and have a relationship with God the Father. Do we thank him enough for that? Have we ever really accepted all the Jesus has done for us? Have we given our lives to follow him considering all that he has done for us? These are only questions you can answer for yourself but if it would be helpful to talk then I’d love to hear from you.