Jesus before his death
61. The Last Supper
59. JESUS' ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM
Ref. : Matt 21 - Mark 11 - Luke 19 (29-49) et John 12 (12-43)
It was (says John), only 2 days before Jesus' crucifixion. The day before, He had gone to see Lazarus, Mary and Martha, who were all healthy and content.
The prescence of Jesus on the Mount of Olives caused quite a stir in Jerusalem, where vast crowds had gathered to celebrate Passover. The crowds' excitement annoyed the Sanhedrin who were already plotting to kill Jesus at the first opportunity.
At first light, Jesus sent 2 disciples to a village nearby, (probably Bethany) to bring back a a young donkey. As Jesus had promised, they found the donkey at a bend in the road, near the door to a house. They said, "The Master hath need of him" and led the donkey to the Mount of Olives, where they laid some of their garments on the donkey's back. Jesus was lifted on to his back, and as the Scriptures had predicted, He rode slowly into the Holy City, descending the Mount of Olives towards the Temple.
(Zach. 9vs9 says "Jerusalem, daughter of Zion, here is your King coming riding on a tiny donkey".)
As befitted the arrival of a king, the crowd went delirious with joy, covering the road with their garments as a sign of respect and gratitude for all the miracles they had seen or heard. They cut down olive fronds, which they waved, singing
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna to the Son of David, the King of Israel".
Several pilgrims asked:
- "But who is this important leader?"
- "It's Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."
Above, on the ramparts of Antonia, the Roman guards watched in amusement this peaceful procession. But the chiefs of the temple were shocked and grumbled amongst themselves:
- Look how the crowd is following Him! We must lose no time ..
They approached Jesus saying, "Keep your disciples quiet!" Jesus replied:
- "I tell you that if I kept my disciples quiet, even the STONES WOULD CRY OUT!"
However, the pharisees did not push Him further, as they knew from His previous miracles that He would make "THE STONES SING"! Their hearts were closed, as Isaiah had predicted in ch. 6:
"The spirit of evil has made them blind and hardened their hearts, so that they neither see, hear nor understand the message."
A few leaders believed in Him, but because of the all-powerful pharisees they did not acknowledge for fear of dismissal from the synagogue. This was Jesus' only day of earthly glory. The people were happy and believed that the Messiah, their liberator from Roman rule, had arrived! But all their hope was shattered 2 days later, when they saw Jesus a prisoner, being crowned with thorns and publically whipped. The man who had performed all those miracles seemed incapable of saving Himself!
The crowd then favored Barabas, a revolutionary, who was supported by the pharisees and the Sanhedrin.
Nebuchadnesar, Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao ..all had their days of glory when the crowds shouted their praises; then their days of rejection, criticism and oblivion.
Such is man's glory!
60. THE FALL OF JERUSALEM AND THE END OF THE WORLD
1. Prophesy of the destruction of Jerusalem
As Jesus left the temple, His disciples were amazed by the beauty of their temple.
The only vestige of the Temple: The Wall of Lamentations (and the Mosque of Omar).
Having been built at tremendous cost to the Jewish taxpayers, it was truly magnificent. A semi-century construction around the old temple of Zorobabel had transformed it into a temple even more magnificent than that built by Solomon on the same place.
- Flavius Joseph tells us that there was a huge door of bronze which took 20 men to open!
- Each courtyard was surrounded by 2 sets of galleries, supported by white marble columns, which reflected back light just like the rays of the sun on fresh snow.
- The inside was decorated with beautiful motifs, studded with precious metals:
There were grapes and vine leaves in fine gold leaf; elaborate chandeliers in silver. Stars of David shone in pure gold; silver censors sat beside both the perfumed altar of gold, copper and bronze and the sacrificial altar They also restored (in the "Holy of Holies") the 2 great angels of gold made for Solomon, which had been stolen by Nebuchadnesor's soldiers. A lamp burned day and night to symbolise the presence of God.
The foundation and the walls were built of pale yellow stone, which the Jews brought from the mountainous regions around Judea and Samaria.
Only the eastern wall remains to this day, and at this wall, "the Wall of Lamentations", Jews come from come from all over the world to pray.
They are proud to still have this last remaining remnant of their temple, which they call "a crown on the head of their daughter", Mount Zion. And yet Jesus said to His disciples: (Matt. 24 v 2):
- "You see all these buildings? Verily I say unto you: not one stone will be left on another - it will all be torn down".
The disciples were shocked and surprised by this prediction, but they knew that this had also happened before the Jews' exodus to Babylon. Jesus started to weep as he envisaged the terrible destruction to come, (Matt. ch 23), saying:
- Those who are in Judea shall flee into the mountains.
- Those on their rooftops will not come down to get what is in their houses.
- Those in their fields will not go back for their cloaks.
Luke 21 v24. "They shall fall victim to the sword, be taken captive and Jerusalem trampled under the feet of other nations, until the times of the Gentiles shall be accomplished!"
At that time, Jerusalem had already been destroyed 14 times
Amos 8. I shall send a famime over the land. This will not be a lack of food or water, but a thirst for the words of God.They shall wander from one sea to another; from East to West,
searching for God's words, and will not find them.
Hosea 10. The high places where Israel has sinned will be destroyed. Pine trees and brambles will grow over their altars. All their fortresses will be destroyed. When the dawn comes, this will be the fate of the king of Israel!
2. Prophesies about the end of the world
Matt. 24. You will hear much talk of war, but do not be troubled because "these things are inevitable". But this will not be the end of the world.
One nation will rise up against another; and one kingdom against another. There will be famines and earthquakes. False prophets will appear and deceive many people, and because iniquity will grow, most people will continue to sin. However, those who PERSEVERE to the END will be SAVED.
Luke 21 "There will be signs from the stars, the sun and the moon; there will be great suffering; the nations will not be able to bear the noise of the sea and the waves. Men's sould will be consumed with fear of what is coming on earth, because the power of the heavens will be shaken. When these things come to pass, stand up and hold your heads high, because your deliverance is at hand."
Matthiew 24 v 30 . "The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. The nations of the Earth shall mourn and see the Son of Man come in glory on the clouds of heaven. His angels will call upon the devoted from every corner of the world with the sound of their trumpet.
3. The event of the Day of Judgement ?
Mark 13 vs 32 and Matt. 24 vs. 36. No-one knows the hour or the day, neither the angels in the sky, nor the Son of God, but only GOD
Luke 21 vs 34. Take care not to be taken up with excess of food and drink and the worry of life. Deliverance will not come to them!
Matt. 25 On that day, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, He will separate the righteous from the wicked. Thus the king will say to those who are on his right:
- Followers of my Father-come to the kingdom which has been prepared for you since the beginning of the world, because I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was naked and you clothed me; I was in prison and you visited me. In truth, whenever you do these things to the least of these my brethren, you do it unto ME! And the sinful, who refused to help, you have refused ME.
4. Parables about the end of the world :
- The flowering of the fig tree. (The fig trre is the first tree to flower in Palestine in the spring.) (Matt 24 v 32)
- The workers who came at the eleventh hour. (Matt 25)
- The 10 virgins who waited for their husband with their lamps, (Matt 25).
- The watchful Servants. (Matt 22).
- The wedding feast (Matt. 22).
- The talents (Matt 25); or the servants. (Luke 19).
61. The Last Supper
The Last Supper - School of Novgorod - 15th century
Luc 22 Several days before Easter Judas Iscariot met the members of the Sanhedrin to discuss how to arrest Jesus. They were overjoyed and agreed to give Judas 30 deniers. He was to find an opportunity to dekiver Him to them when there was no-one around.
1. Preparation of the Last Supper
(Luke 22) Jesus told Peter and John:
- "You will find a amn in town who is carrying a pitcher of water; this man will show you a great room where you can prepare our meal."
(Notice the authority with which Jesus gave His predictions.)
2. Judas leaves the Table
Jesus invited all the disciples to partake of the last Passover meal. But first He sent away the traitor to let him know the time had come for him to acomplish his betrayal.
John 13 v 21. Jesus sat at the table with the twelve, but He was troubled in spirit. The Lord asked for quiet, then said:
- Truly, one of you will deliver me to those who want to kill me. The disciples looked at each other in silence. Then John whispered in His ear:
- Who is it Lord? And whilst the others protested their innocence, Jesus told John:
- It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread soaked in wine. He stood and took the great goblet of wine, soaked some bread in it and offered it to Judas, saying, "Go, do whatever you must do straight away". At this, Judas left and joined his accomplices.
3. The First Communion
Luke 22 v 19, Mark 14 v 22, and Matt. 26 v 26.
While they ate, Jesus broke some bread and after thanking God for this gift, He said:
- Take this bread and eat, for this bread is my body, given for you; (for the nourishment and strength for your souls).
- This is my blood which will be spilled for you; for the forgiveness of sins, and to eanble men to have eternal life. Drink (and you will drink my blood given for you.) The Bread and Wine became symbols of the sharing of his blood and body, just as we must share with our brothers and sisters "who are less fortunate".
4. Washing the Disciples' feet
The Master was not often as serious and sad at the same time! It was as if He were going to read His own will; the disciples felt something important was about to happen. The disciples began to discuss among themeselves as to whom would be greatest in the Eternal Kingdom. Jesus saw they didn't understand what He wanted to teach them by sharing the Bread and Wine, so He started to teach them about humility.
- The least among you shall become the greatest, and those who govern mow shall be the servants. Which is greater-he who governs or he who serves? In fact, I shall be in the middle of those who serve.
He then arose from the table to show them by example. He removed His clothes, took a cloth and, with a bowl of water, began to wash the feet of the disciples. At that time, it was the custom to wash both hands and feet before sitting down to a meal; there were jars of water at the doorway to the house.
As Jesus and His disciples often visited the houses of the very poor, they didn't always observe the Jewish ritual washing. The pharisees saw this and criticised them for this. To which Jesus replied:
- Hypocrites! It is not that which enters the mouth which is important, but that which comes out...(Matt.15 v. 2)
Washing the feet of amopther person was a way of honouring a guest and also a sign of humility by the host. Thus, when Jesus kneeled before Simon Peter, the latter was angry and protested:
- NO! You will never wash my feet!
- Peter, if I cannot wash your feet, I shall have nothing more to do with you (!) Then Peter began to change his mind:
- Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my head and my hands .
But Jesus did not smile at this He only asked Peter if he understood the lesson He was giving?
- I am showing you how you must also behave.
5. Predictions about Peter
John (13 v.33) "My children, I have only a short time left to be with you. You will look for me, yet you will not be able to follow my; where I shall go. Simon asked "Lord, where are you going?"
- Simon, you will not be able to follow me where I am going, but you will follow me later. (This was an allusion to Peter concerning his future life, which he would dedicate to Jesus' work.)
- Why cannot I follow you now?
- YOU WILL GIVE YOUR LIFE FOR ME. However, I tell you this, the cock will crow twice after you have denied me 3 times.
- Even if I must die with you, I shall not deny you. (All the other disciples agreed.)
6. John and the PASSOVER/EASTER Message
John is the only evangelist who does not mention the words spoken by Jesus at the FIRST COMMUNION, because by the time he wrote his Gospel the sharing of the Bread and Wine were already included in Christian ritual.
"As my Father has loved me, I shall love you also. Live in my love, and love one another as I have loved you".
"In this way, all will know you are my disciples: that you love one another. I tell you these things so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete."
"Those who love me will do as I ask.
If someone loves me, he will keep my word and My Father shall love him.
We go to Him and make our dwelling in Him."
"I leave you my peace, that your heart will not be troubled. You will know the tribulations of the world, but I have overcome them."
"I am telling you of these things before they happen. I will not leave you orphaned; I shall return."
"I came from the Father into the world, and now I return to my Father .."
The Last Supper of Jaume Serra - National Museum of Palermo
7. The Priestly Prayer
(John 17) "The Father glorifies His Son. Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, so that He can grant "Life Eternal" to all those whom THOU hast given Him. Through Eternal Life, they will know THOU to be the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom THOU hast sent."
"I do not pray for the world, but for those whom thou HAST given to me. I pray for those who believe in me and THY words, for THY words are truth, just as THOU , the Father are in me, and I am in THOU. Thus they will be with US and the world will believe that THOU hast sent me."
"Because THOU hast loved me since the beginning of the world, I glorified you on earth, and I completed the work THOU sent me to do. Now glorify me with THINE own glory, which THOU hast given me."
The master turned towards His disciples (John 14 v 30). "I shall speak no more to you, because *The Prince of the Earth* (the spirit of evil) comes. There is no evil in me."
"If you belong to the world, the world loves its own, but because you are not of this world, the world hates you. But know that the world hated me before you. So that the world may know that I love my Father, and I will do His will, let us rise and leave here .."
62. A NIGHT... ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES
Ref. Matthew 26 (36-57), Mark 14 (32-53), Luke 22 (35-54) and John 18 (1-12)
Jesus' last meal with the eleven disciples is over. They sang some chants, then the Master led them to the Mount of Olives.
The Garden of Olives near Jerusalem
Jesus had often spent the night in the 'olive garden', which was at that tive of the year full of flowers and the natural fragrancesof the hundred-year old olive trees. They also admired the higher slopes of this garden which dominated the holy city, whose lights seemed to rival the stars in the sky. But that evening, Jesus was sad and His thoughts dwelt on both past and future. He left eight of His disciples sitting on the ancient stone benches where pilgrims usually rested during the day, and took Peter, James and John with Him into the small garden of Gethsemene. There He wandered off from his three disciples, asking them to pray during the night for Him.
Simon, who sensed something was about to happen, hid two swords under his coat as a precaution.
Sometimes we would like to know our future, but perhaps it is due to divine providence that we do not know our future troubles or the hour of our death, as Jesus did!
In fact, that night Jesus, the man whom the wind and the sea obeyed, experienced such anguish that the doctor, Luke, recalled to Peter that he saw drops of blood run down his Master's face and fall onto the ground . Fortunately God sent an angel to help Him.
Three times, He prayed to God:- "Father, take this cup from me."
Later that night the three disciples, who had drunk copiously of the local heavy wine could notstay awake. Suddenly Jesus woke them and said:
"Could you not stay awake with me for even one hour? Stay awake and pray; although I know the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."
JESUS IS ARRESTED
At that moment they saw many soldiers bearing torches walking up the hill towards them. All the disciples drew close to the Master to protect Him.
But what could they do against a cohort of 600 armed men, not counting the temple guards and servants? .At their head, Judas Iscariot led them to the Master and pretended to salute Him by giving Him a kiss. Jesus, knowing this was the sign arranged between Judas and the soldiers to make sure they took the right man, said,
- "So you would betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"
- Then He asked the soldiers:-
- "Whom are you looking for?
- Jesus of Nazareth?
- I am He. You have found Him. Therefore let the others leave."
But Peter did not hear this and lifting his tunic, he took one of the swords and cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest Caiphus.
The soldiers seized Peter, but Jesus intervened. He touched the ear which hung bleeding from Malchus head and suddenly the servant was healed! Then turning towards Peter He said:
- "Peter, put your sword back in your scabard! For those who live by the sword will perish by the sword. Do you not see tht my Father would send twilve legions of angels (more than 72,000) to save me? But I shall be taken in order to accomplish that which is written in the scriptures"
Jesus addressed the chief priests (Matt. ch 26 v.55) thus:
"You are runnging me down as if I were a brigand, with swords and clubs. However, I have lived among you freely for a long time , teaching in the temple and you didn't take me then."
Then all the disciples deserted Him, disappearing into the night.
Mark tells us that a young man (perhaps Mark?) whom they wakened, before Jesus' arrest only had the time to cover himself with a sheet before fleeing . As he was near the Master the soliers tried to catch him but he slipped out of the sheet and escaped unclothed (Mark 14v.52).
John says that the Roman cohort, the tribune and the ushers from the temple seized Jesus. They bound Him up so He could not escape and took Him before the SANHEDRIN which was meeting at night expressly for this special trial.
63. THE TRIAL OF JESUS OF NAZARETH
1. Jesus before the Sanhedrin
Jesus was taken in the middle of the night from the Mount of Olives to the special session of the Sanhedrin. It was Anne and Caiphus, her son-in-law, who presided. When two thirds of the members were present in the chamber; (all of Jesus ' worst enemies were there) they started the debate.
These 'handpicked' concillors must act quickly and condemn Jesus before the world learned of it.
Caiphus, the 'infallible monarch' was in full ceremonail dress and swore to tell the truth as magistrate. They debated motives for condemning Jesus, but none were sufficient to merit capital punishment. Even the two interrogators for the conspirators could not make Jesus confess to anything worthy of punishment. Finally, Caiphus asked Jesus (Matt. 26 v.63),
- "I ask you to swear that you said that you are the Christ, 'the Son of God'".
- "You say that I am, and yet you know that the Son of Man sits at the right hand of God in heaven."
Leviticus 24 v.15. He who blasphemes against the Eternal will be punished by death, whether they be of this land or strangers.
At this the king excliamed,
- "He blasphemes! Do we need more evidence? And the crowd shouted as one man "Kill Him!"
Outside, in the courtyard reserved for the servants of the members of the Sanhedrin,women and men warmed themselvesbefore a great fire of wood. Peter had entered despite his fears, but during the events that followed he felt as if he wre truly in a nest of vipers!
A servant passing by looked at him and said
- "You too were with Jesus of Nazareth!" After a moment's hesitation, Peter asserted,
- "I don't know what you are talking about." And the cock crowed for the first time. Peter was upset and his face colored, but he did not change his answer.
A second servant insisted:
- "Yes, he was with Jesus of Nazareth. And under oath, Peter swore he did not know his Master. Another servant, who was more observant added,
- "But you are from Galilee. Your accent gives you away." But Peter repeated his denial and solemnly swore:
- "I do not know this man. Suddenly the cock crowed for a second time. Then he remembered Jesus prediction:- "
Before the cock crows twice,. you will have denied me three times (Mark 14 v. 72). Peter fled form the courtyard and wept bitterly.
However, another saying from his Master consoled him (Luke 22 v.31),
- "Simon, Satan called you but I have prayed for you so that your faith will never falter. When you are converted you will be a support to your brothers.
2. Jesus before the Roman Governor
Although the Sanhedrin had condemed Jesus to death, they had to present this judgement to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Usually Pilate lived in Caesarea, but he had come to Jerusalem to watch the Jews in the Holy City during Passover. He stayed in his palace which Herod the Great had built for himself in the highest part of the city.
At sunrise, the Jews brought Jesus before Pilate' they remained autside the palace door so they would not come into contact whith a pagan polytheist and thus be defiled. (If they were defiled, they would not be allowed to celebrate Passover .
Therefore, the governor had to come outside in order to ask the Jews what he should do with the prisoner? They said, "We have judged him and according to our Law he should be put to death."
- "So he deserves death; but what crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.
- "If he were not a criminal we would not have brought him to you. We have two complaints against him.
- He is encouraging our people to rebel and not to pay tribute to Ceasar. (Pilate probably smiled a little at this!)
- He proclaims himself to be the CHRIST and King of the Jews.
Pilate went into his anteroom and called for Jesus to be brought in. He asked,
- "Are you the King of the Jews?"
To which Jesus replied:
- "Do you say that of me or have others said it?"
- Pilate: "What would I know? I am not Jewish, it is your compatriots who delivered you to me. But what have you done?"
- Jesus: "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, surely my soldiers and servants would fight to protect me' but no, my kingdom is not of this world."
- Pialte: "But you are a King nvertheless?"
- Jesus: "You have suggested that I am a king. I was born into the world to give homage unto the truth. For those who love truth listen to my words."
And Pilate reflected on his own life and on the way justice was served at the time. He sighed to himself and lifting his eyes to the sky, where the sun was rising, mused:
- "What is truth?'
Then he left and declared to the Jews who waited outside impatiently:
- "I cannot find any fault in this man." But the Jews shouted against Jesus in Hebrew until a pharisee said in latin: "He is inciting the Galileans against the government here".
These words made Pilate think. He knew that Herod Antipas, the Tetrarchm, governor of Galilee, was in the Holy City for the annual celebration, so he called a tribune and told him to take Jesus under guard to Herod.
3. Jesus before Herod Antipas
Several years had passed since Herod had ordered John the Baptist's murder. He was still very interested in meeting Jesus and if possible seeing a 'miracle' for himself.
He asked Jesus many questions, but Jesus did not reply at all remembering that His interlocator had killed his cousin.
Herod treated Jesus with scorn, but he did not want to order a second murder, so he sent Jesus,clad in a white robe (the clothing signifying innocence) back to the Roman Procurator. And since that day we are told by (Luke ch 23 v.12), Herod and Pilate became friends.
4. Jesus taken before Pontius Pilate once again
Luke (23 v.13) So Pilate reassembled the magistrates before the people and declared:
"You have brought this man to me accusing him of inciting people to revolt. I have questioned him but cannot find any fault in himnor did Herod Antipas. This man does not deserve the death penalty.
Matthew tells us that at passover, the governor usually released a prisoner. He asked the people to choose whom he should release,
- ebel and murderer Barabbas,
- or Jesus of Nazareth, (the great healer and teacher).
Thus Pilate stood on the balcony overlooking the courtyard of his palace and addressed the Jews assembled there:
- "Whom shall I set free: Jesus of Nazareth or Barabbas?"
The crowd, who were being encouraged by the members of the Sanhedrin shouted vociferously "Barabbas".
Pilate was very annoyed but he commanded the soldiers to give Jesus 39 lashings; the fortieth was forbidden by Jewish Law, in the superstitious belief that the fortieth blow would be fatal.
The cohort of 600 men completely surrounded the prisoner during the beating. Then they countedout 39 lashings which badly lacerated Jesus' back.
Then the pagan soldiers, who were mostly foreign legionnaires, mocked him by placing a crown of thorns on his head and a purple cloak around his shoulders. Then they spit on Him.
Suddenly, an order resounded in the room and everyone made way for the governor, who had come to look for Jesus. For the third time, Pilate declared Jesus INNOCENT and hoped that the crowd would take pity on Him when they saw Him in this state. He made Jesus turn around to show the crowd His bleeding back, covered with lacerations. In the silence he added:
- "HERE HE IS!"
Whereupon the majority, speared on by the Sanhedrin shouted:
- "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"
To which Pilate responded:
- "But what has He done? Must I crucify your King?"
According to John, Pilate wanted to let Jesus go, but the crowd repeated:
- "We have a Law and according to OUR LAW, He must die, becouse He called Himself 'Son of God'. If you release this man, you are not a friend of Caesar".
Although the Jews hated the Romans, Pilate was able to show the people that he was murdering an innocent man. If necessary the Jews would use blackmail.
They threatened to denounce Pilate to the governor of Syria, claiming that he was not loyal to Tiberius Caesar. (At that time they were searching for those who were suspected of being taken part in a recent plot against the emperor.)
According to John 19 v8, Pilate was suddenly 'overcome with fear'. However, before delivering jesus to the unruly crowd demanding death, he asked for water in which he washed his hands before them all saying:
- "I am innocent of the blood of THIS JUST MAN. And this is to symbolise it to you."
The people replied: "Let His blood fall on us and on our children".
One could say that the blood 'fell' on the Jewish people for two thousand years and also over most of the world.
But Pilate was discouraged and after much argument he delivered Jesus to them to be crucified.
Lamb of God - Grunewald - Retable of Issenheim
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