Here are some highlights from the Easter Story that I have “discovered” over the past couple years. Some were also brought up by my sister this week after she went to our church’s Good Friday Silent Service yesterday.
Two days before the Passover, Jesus foretells His coming death to His disciples, “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2, NKJV).
He knows it’s coming. He even knows the day. Even His own killers don’t know this much, as they plot His death. In fact, they say the opposite, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people” (Matt. 26:5).
It’s a further demonstration that God was in complete control. He knew the day and the hour, for He had fore-ordained it long before. The rulers said, “Not during Passover” – but God said otherwise, because Jesus is the Passover (1 Cor. 5:7).
Not only that, but as the Passover was such a major feast, thousands of Jews would be present in Jerusalem for the events of His death, burial, and resurrection – meaning that thousands would have a chance to hear His story.
While Jesus was in Bethany, a woman came and anointed Him with very costly oil. I’m not sure if there was only one anointing, or if there were two similar anointings that took place within a week of each other, as Matthew and Mark’s accounts are slightly different from John’s account. Whether different or not, the response by the disciples was the same, “Why this waste?”
In John’s account, the main rebuker was Judas Iscariot (John 12:4). He thought it would have been better for the oil to have been sold and the money given to the poor (or actually, put in the money box for his own use!). From his perspective, he had missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime – to steal a year’s worth of wages for himself, had that costly oil been sold for money rather than poured out on Jesus.
What a contrast between Judas and the woman! One gave up so much for love of her Lord, while the other gave up His Lord for only 30 pieces of silver!
As the disciples celebrated Passover with Jesus, hardly understanding the significance of that day in relation to Him, Jesus continued to warn them of what was to come. He even foretold that one of them would betray Him.
“Surely not!” was the cry of the disciples’ hearts. Yet something about Jesus’ manner this evening must have affected them. Each examined himself – could he be capable of such an act?
“Lord,” they asked in turn, “Is it I?” (Matt. 26:22).
Last of all, Judas, perhaps scarcely trusting himself to speak, repeated the question. But he did not dare to call Jesus Lord – no, not when he was about to betray Him!
“Rabbi,” he said instead, “Is it I?” (Matt. 26:25).
Peter, so bold and fearless, spoke up, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”
To which Jesus sorrowfully replied, “This night you will deny Me three times.”
Imagine all of what was running through the disciples’ minds. In one sitting they had listened to Jesus prophesy that He would be killed, that He would be betrayed, and that He would be forsaken and denied. They must have felt so shaken. If all of them would be made to stumble, then all were equally likely to be His betrayer!
And now Jesus said that Peter – so fiercely adamant in his love for Jesus – would deny Him that night. Not once. Not twice. But three different times!
I wonder if some of the disciples glanced his way, wondering if Peter would turn out to be the betrayer.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
According to John’s account, the washing of feet occurred before Jesus predicted His betrayer and Peter’s denial. This means that Judas was still present, and that Jesus washed his feet as well.
I wonder, what was that like? For Jesus to lovingly and humbly wash the feet of the one who would turn Him in to His enemies before the night’s end? And for Judas to experience this love and humility, knowing what he had planned?
Some of you may have done this already yesterday, but if not, I encourage you to do it today: read from the Bible the events leading up to Jesus death and burial. Read aloud with your family, if possible. I remember doing this a couple years ago, and there was such a sense of solemness as we ended the reading. All I could think was, “What if this had been the end?”
I understood what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. . . If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (15:14, 19).
If that had been the end, if the silence of the grave were the end of the story, where would our hope be?
No hope of forgiveness.
No redemption for Peter.
No joy for the shame-faced disciples.
No understanding of Jesus’ mission, nor purpose to His life.
No promise of life eternal for each one of us.
And as I meditate on the stillness of today, I appreciate more fully the great joy of tomorrow.