This Post was originally published in March, 2008.

It’s been a long night.  In some ways this day is just beginning.  Yet, looking back at last night’s events, it’s hard to tell where yesterday stopped and today began. 

The long night began when Jesus gathered with his disciples for the Passover meal.  John tells us that, “Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his father.” (John 13:1)  They met in an upper room as instructed by Jesus.  It had been an interesting week with Jesus – some wild events had occured and he’d been saying things the disciples didn’t quite get.  He’d talked of dying, going where they couldn’t go, then coming back again, and later they would follow him.  They didn’t question him much.  He often spoke in ways they didn’t understand.  Other times, they thought they understood, but really didn’t.  Although Jesus seems to be at peace, John states he is also in a state of  great anguish. (John 13:21)  Jesus knew that Judas would later betray him, thus putting into motion the events that would lead to the long, painful night ahead and his eventual death on the cross. 

So they gathered for the traditional Passover meal, but theirs was not to be completely traditional.  Jesus, their beloved leader, upon which they hung their hopes of saving the people of Jerusalem, the one who would lead them to a new kingdom, began the evening by lowering himself to a servant’s status and washing their feet.  He did this to set an example for them.  Then said that the servant is not greater than the master and commanded them to serve each other.  (John 13:12-17)

After observing the usual symbolic procedures of the Passover meal, Jesus went on to break the bread, telling the disciples the bread was his body, and that they were to partake of the bread in remembrance of him.  Surely the disciples were wondering what he meant!  Then Jesus went on to lift his cup of wine, not to make a toast, but to tell the disciples that the wine was his blood, poured out for each of them.  That, too, was to be taken in remembrance of him.  Did the disciples understand the importance and meaning of what Jesus was teaching them? Did they wonder what it meant that Jesus had poured out his blood for them?

Jesus used the time during the meal to continue teaching and encouraging the disciples.  He also shared what he could about things to come so later they would know he truly was the Messiah – even foretelling that one of them would betray him.  He also gave them a new commandment: “Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  (John 13:34-35)  Jesus ended their evening by praying for himself, the disciples, and future believers.  Then it was time to go.

Jesus led them across the Kidron Valley to an olive grove known as the Garden of Gethsemane.  It was there he met Judas, his betrayor, who came with Roman soldiers and Temple guards.  It was here, in the dark of night,  that Jesus was arrested, tied up and led away – secretly so as not to begin a riot with those who supported him – to a preliminary hearing.  From there Jesus was secretly led to another hearing before Caiaphas, the high priest.  At this ‘hearing’, those who opposed Jesus looked for men willing to bear false witness against Jesus.  When Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the rulers declared his words to be blasphemy, declared him guilty, and said that he must die!  Then they spit in Jesus’ face, slapped him and mocked him. (Matthew 26:63-68) By this time it was late at night.  Notes in my Bible (NLT) say that this ‘trial’ made a mockery of justice. 

Early in the morning, Jesus was bound and taken before Pilate, the Roman governor.  Only the Roman governor could impose the death penalty.  Pilate saw Jesus was innocent, but was afraid of political upset and riots, so he sent Jesus to Herod for judgement.  However, when Jesus refused to perform a miracle for Herod, Herod lost interest in him and sent him back to Pilate.  It was at this last meeting with Pilate that Jesus’ fate was handed over to the public, and they cried out for him to be crucified. 

While you were sleeping, Jesus spent the last evening before his crucifixion sharing a Passover meal with his disciples, using his last moments with them as effectively as he could to teach them, prepare them for times to come, and prophesying to establish that he was the Messiah.  His emotional agony was so great over what was to happen that he suffered physical agony, too.  Then, the events of the night led to him being arrested, mocked, spat upon, physically abused, and abandoned by those closest to him.  In addition to his physical and emotional suffering, Jesus traversed 21 miles from where he was arrested in the Garden to his final meeting with Pilate.  Now that morning has come, in addition to all he endured through the night, his final journey to the cross will begin.

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