The Final Week: Thursday 2nd April, AD 33
(Mt 26:17-46; Mk 14:12-42; Lk 22:7-46; Jn 13:1-17:26)
Passover arrives on Thursday night. Jesus has booked a large ‘upper room’ inside Jerusalem. Secretly, and quietly, he and his disciples gather to eat. At the place of honour, the beloved disciple, John (whom Jesus would entrust his mother’s care to on the cross), and on the other side of Jesus, is Judas, who would be instrumental in putting him on the cross. Jesus however knows of Judas’ treachery, but does not stop him. He even identifies that Judas would betray him (Mt 26:25), yet does nothing to stop him. This is because the plan was not man’s plan. Judas was not the one who crucified Jesus. We didn’t kill Jesus. The Romans didn’t kill Jesus. Jesus laid down his life of his own accord, and Judas was a pawn in his hand bringing death’s defeat all the nearer.
Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper at this meal. He adds new meaning to (or rather, he reveals the true meaning of) the bread and the wine which the Jews would eat and drink at the Passover meal. His body was about to be broken, and his blood spilled. That is what we remember when we take the Lord’s Supper.
Time is short now. Jesus would not be physically present for much longer. He takes the time to show an incredible act of love, service and humility out of love for his disciples, and as an example of true servant-leadership. He washes their feet. Jesus says that this kind of action will be the defining mark of his disciples… he says that the mark of a true disciple is that they love one another (Jn 13:34-35).
So much happens during this meal it would be too much to cover here. Jesus gives instructions, prays for his disciples and also tells the future. He foresees that the disciples would abandon him for fear; that Peter would deny him three times. They then rise, and leave for the Garden of Gethsemene… without Judas.
Eleven disciples and Jesus arrive at the Garden of Gethsemene. Thousands of years ago, there had been a man in a garden with a test placed in front of him. Adam failed that test. Here is a true and better Adam, once more in a garden, and once more with a test. Jesus passes this test and says to his Father: “not my will, but yours be done” (Mk 14:36). The disciples had been left to keep watch and support Jesus, but as Jesus is praying, they fall asleep.
His only source of human support and friendship had fallen asleep. However, in the absence of human support, God sends an angel to support Jesus where we had failed (Lk 22:43). Yet, just like many trials we face, the support of God does not remove the pain or suffering, but strengthens us to endure it.
Praying long into the night on Thursday, Jesus has begun his suffering. He sweats blood, begs God for another way, submits to the difficult way, and awaits Judas’ return…