Passion Week: Thursday

To get an idea of the significance of the next 36 hours we can look to the Book of John. The first 13 chapters of John deal with all of Jesus' life.  The next six chapters alone deal with this short period of time!

The Passover dinner
I imagine Jesus must have awakened with a sick feeling in His stomach as He knew He had just experienced His last night of sleep.  The story picks up with Jesus asking His disciples to find a place for them to have the Passover dinner.  That evening, Jesus and the disciples gather to take part in the Passover meal.  During this time, in an act of sheer humility, Jesus washes the disciple's feet.  I wonder what He must have felt as He washed the feet of Judas?  The feet that would soon be leading the soldiers to capture Him.  

Jesus begins to tell the disciples of His coming death and predicts Peter will deny even knowing Him by day break.  Jesus also identifies Judas as His betrayer to Peter and John with a simple piece of bread dipped in wine, an ironic symbol as Jesus later describes the bread and wine as symbols of His sacrifice.  

Shortly after nightfall Judas leaves the meal for a  reason unknown to the rest of the disciples.  Unbelievably, after listening to Jesus preach on humility and servanthood for three years, and after Jesus just washed their feet as a servant, a argument about which disciple is the greatest begins. This is an interesting argument for a group of men who in about three hours will experience the greatest fall of their lives.

Jesus's battle at Gethsemane
As the meal concludes, probably around 9 p.m., the group leaves the upper room and begins to walk to the Garden of Gethsemane which is located across a ravine, several hundred yards from the east gate of the city.  As they are walking, Jesus uses every last second to continue teaching these young men and comforts them as He speaks of His love for them. 

Once at the entrance to the garden, Jesus calls for Peter, John and James to accompany Him away from the rest of the group to pray.  Once they are separated, Jesus walks a little farther on and begins to passionately pray to the Father.  It is apparent to the disciples that Jesus is under some sort of stress as He has been acting strangely all day.  His demeanor has been very dark and here in the garden they see it reach its climax.  Jesus is literally brought to His knees by this unknown stress.  He actually begins to have droplets of blood form in His sweat (an extremely painful medical condition that has been observed in people under intense stress where the blood pressure rises to such a degree it begins to rupture the sweat glands).

Here, the salvation of the world hangs in the balance.  Every moment from the fall of man until now is fixed on this one place in time.  God has sent Jesus into the world to save it and in the garden we see Jesus actually express that He doesn't want to do it and pleads God to "...take this cup from me!" 

Jesus grapples with this decision for an hour or so in what had to be the most intense spiritual battle of all time.  One has to wonder if Jesus was still clinging to the slight hope that God would still spare Him?  I wonder if His mind wandered back to Abraham and Issac.  Perhaps He hoped that God would spare Him at the last second the way He spared Issac?  

This emotional battle is so intense that an angel actually appears to encourage Jesus.  I have to wonder why God had to send an angel to encourage Him?  Could it possibly have been due to the fact that when Jesus needed encouragement most, His most devoted followers fell asleep?  What if they had been praying with Him as He had asked them to?  Would the angel have still needed to come?  

Jesus faces his fate
In the end, we see a man who is completely exhausted and very much alone, suddenly gain the strength to rise to His feet.  All hope of being spared by God is now gone and Jesus submits to His fate as He says, "Not my will but Your will be done."  At the end of this time of prayer we see the same man who just a short time ago was in tears praying for the test to pass, now having the strength to actually walk out to meet the challenge.

The disciples are awakened by Jesus and jump to their feet as they hear a commotion coming their direction.  They have a sick feeling in the pit of their stomachs that something very bad is about to happen.  They watch with confusion in their eyes as Judas, who had just left the dinner a short time ago, approaches Jesus and identifies Him to the group of soldiers with the infamous kiss.

A fight breaks out and all the disciples, who had just sworn their willingness to die for Jesus, flee the area for their lives.  During this altercation a man loses his ear only to have Jesus heal him before being lead away.  It is now between 10 and 11 p.m.  Jesus is bound and beaten as He will spend the rest of the night enduring six unfair trials that will eventually condemn an innocent man.

Tonight as we prepare for bed, let's think about the pain Jesus experienced in the garden as He fought so hard to be obedient to His Father's call.  Let's not abandon Him to some other distraction tonight. No, tonight let us stand by our Savior in prayer as we failed to do 2,000 years ago and thank Him for choosing to provide us the salvation we so desperately needed.


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