“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'”
– Matthew 26:39
We have now entered into the final days of Jesus’ life and ministry. The teaching has been done, the miracles have been performed, and now the sacrifice must be made.
Jesus clearly knew what awaited him. He was able to tell his disciples that in just a matter of days, he would be arrested and crucified. Jesus knew that this must take place according to his Father’s will. While Jesus was aware of this, the chief priests and elders were conspiring to make this happen. They plotted to arrest and kill him, but they did not want to do so during the feast of Passover which lasted several days. If they wanted to get it done, they had to act quickly.
In , we see an example of love being poured out upon Jesus. The disciples were displeased with the woman’s actions for two reasons: first, it was inappropriate for a woman to do this and, second, the ointment was very expensive and could have been used to help the poor. The disciples may have had good intentions considering what Jesus had just said in , but they did not see the immediate picture. Jesus allowed the woman to anoint him because it was symbolic for his preparation for burial. He says to his disciples that the poor will always be with them for them to help, but soon, he would not be with them.
In contrast to Jesus’ anointing, we also see an outpouring of hate in Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Judas initiated the betrayal by going to the priests. He knew they were wanting to kill Jesus, so he went to see how much they would pay him to hand him over. Judas’ motive was not that he hated Jesus or his teaching – his motive was pure greed.
This section records the account of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. The Passover was a traditional meal held by the Jews to commemorate the exodus from Egypt. Jesus would soon initiate another exodus from sin and death. It is interesting that the disciples would question Jesus as to whether or not they would betray him. It would seem that they would know if they had any reason to betray Jesus. Even stranger is that Judas asked Jesus if he was the one to betray him. Judas had already agreed to do so. Maybe he was putting up a ruse to appear innocent.
It is difficult to explain how Judas acted as part of God’s plan, yet he still is responsible for his own actions. God did not force Judas to deceive Jesus – this would make God the author of evil. Instead, Judas acted of his own free will in agreeing to betray Jesus. This, however, was still part of God’s plan. God does not meticulously ordain every detail of human life, but his overarching plan will still be accomplished no matter what.
Many people interpret Jesus’ actions in as a ritual that is to be practiced in churches today. Many churches have different interpretations as to how this should be done and who can participate in such a ritual. As you may be aware, The Salvation Army does not practice what is called the “Lord’s Supper” or the “Eucharist” in the ritualistic manner that other churches do. There are many reasons for this, but here are three:
- Jesus was not initiating a ritual. He used regular parts of the traditional Passover meal and placed a specific emphasis on it. In reality, he was just sharing a meal with his disciples and explaining the significance of what was about to happen to him.
- In , Jesus is recorded as saying, “do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus’ emphasis is not on the eating and drinking, but on the act of remembering. That is why we remember Christ’s sacrifice when we fellowship at every meal. The remembrance is not to be a once-a-month sort of thing, but a constant state of remembrance.
- The act of eating bread and drinking wine or grape juice cannot save us. Some groups say that partaking in the “Lord’s Supper” is necessary for salvation. Jesus said otherwise in .
Jesus tells his disciples that all of them will abandon him in his time of need. When persecution arises, followers of Christ are challenged on their loyalty to him. Many of the disciples would simply be scared away when they see their teacher arrested and crucified. Peter, hard-headed Peter, said that he would never desert Jesus. He thought he would even go to death with Jesus if that was what it took. However, Jesus knew that Peter would deny him before others and would desert him.
Jesus comes to the garden of Gethsemane to pray before he is arrested. In this desperate moment, he asks one simple thing of his disciples: sit and keep watch. All he needed was the support of his disciples during this time, but they could not even do that. As Jesus prays, he asks the Father to let the cup of God’s wrath pass away from him. He wished there was another way, but he knew he must be obedient to his Father. Despite Jesus agonizing over the cross, he humbly submits to the will of God. Jesus returns to find his disciples sleeping. They were already showing their abandonment of him in his time of need. Jesus prays and comes back two more times to find his disciples asleep. Now the hour has come for Judas to betray Jesus and for Jesus to be arrested and tried.
Here we see the betrayal of Judas and the arrest of Jesus. Judas uses a sign of affection as a sign of betrayal; he uses the greeting of “teacher” even though he has not learned the lessons his teacher taught. John’s Gospel identifies Peter as the one who struck the high priest’s servant. Peter probably lashed out to show Jesus that he was willing to defend him, but Jesus rebukes these efforts. He does not need anyone to protect him because he could call down an army of angels at any minute, but this arrest must take place to fulfill God’s plan. Jesus points out the cowardice of those who came to arrest him. These people came with clubs and swords as if he were the most dangerous criminal, but they had ample time to seize him when he was in the temple with them. They must have thought that any action taken against Jesus would result in some sort of fight.
Jesus is arrested and brought before the high priest. It says something about the integrity of the Sanhedrin that they needed to employ false witnesses to convict Jesus. They must have known that they could not pin any wrongdoing to Jesus. The one thing they could pin on Jesus was his statement that he would destroy and rebuild the temple in three days. Jesus was not referring to the literal temple, but to his body. The prophecy that they condemn him on would soon be fulfilled.
As they were questioning him, Jesus remained silent. He had no need to contradict these false witnesses or try to defend himself. Being placed under an oath, Jesus was required to give an answer to the question of the high priest. When asked if he was the Christ, Jesus firmly said that it was so. The religious leaders interpreted this as blasphemy because he was claiming to be God. Such an act was punishable by death.
This passage records the three times that Peter denies Jesus just as Jesus had predicted. The persecution of Jesus and the interrogation of others drove Peter to deny Christ. Though he thought he would be willing to even die with Christ, he soon became a coward. After the rooster crowed, Peter remembered Jesus’ words and went outside to weep. He may have also remembered the words of Jesus in or . Peter’s weeping is a gesture of repentance. He knows what he has done and is sorrowful for his sin. He had just denied his rabbi, but we later see Peter as one of the greatest proclaimers of Jesus Christ.