On Thursday of the Holy Week, in preparation for the Passover feast, Emmanuel sent his apostles to obtain a room wherin they would eat the Paschal meal: they would eat a sacrificial lamb, as well as unleavened bread, and the following 8 days would be spent without leaven in their diet.
Though the beginning of the Jewish Friday, for our reckoning, it would have been Thursday night that He gathered His chosen 12 into the upper room of a prepared house to break bread with them. Here, the Apostles prepared for an annual feast, but the Lord prepared for His last mortal meal. I imigine some solemnity appropriate to the celebration, but the most astute of the 12 might have noticed an additional sorrow permeate the room.
Here they ate together, and in His true prescience, Jesus declared that he knew that one of his chosen would betray him. In an audacious attempt to further cover his evil design, Judas asked “is it I?” Christ’s reply, “thou hast said”, would undoubtedly have been as cutting to Himself as it was to the traitor.
Here it was that He introduced the sacrament of the last supper, and the ordinance of washing of feet. Here he taught that the greatest must become the servant of all. Here Peter, misunderstanding the ordinance, and zealous as ever, argued that he would never allow his Master to debase himself by washing Peter’s feet. Christ warned him, “if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me,” Peter cried “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” The Lord’s gentle rebuke showed the nature of the ordinance “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” The Master continued “and ye are clean, but not all,” showing again that, while his chosen 12 allowed him to cleanse them and make them pre, 1 remained stained in his heart, preparing even now to complete the sale of his soul and commit the final act of treacherous murder and betrayal that he kept hidden in his heart… And Jesus knew it.
Soon after, they men sat again to eat, ““I speak not of you all,” Jesus said, “I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.” Understanding his meaning, Peter motioned John, who sat with Jesus, to ask who it was that was the traitor: Jesus told John, “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.”
In the Jewish tradition, it wasn’t uncommon for the head of the table to offer a dipped piece of bread to a guest at the table, so when the Head offered the Sop to the traitor Iscariot, Judas took it. To him, Christ said “That thou doest, do quickly.” Surely, the bulk of the followers understood Christ as sending Judas on some pre-arranged task, or they would have tried to stop him. But imagine the dismay of the zealous Peter and the beloved John who watched as the betrayer, having been identified as such by the master, skulked into the night to fulfil his malevolent plans. John comments darkly “and it was night.”
Following the exit of the evil one, the Teacher shared his last sermon to his brothers. He prayed with them, and for them, that “they may be one,” pleading unity among the leaders that he had ordained. Then they departed, as planned, to a garden, for Jesus to pray.
In Gethsemane, Jesus set his remaining 11 to guard and watch over him as he wrestled in the Spirit. We cannot know, we cannot fathom the burden that the Lord carried. For centuries the Jews had symbolically banished a goat into the wilderness carrying the sins of the Children of Israel. Since the beginning of man, they had sacraficed pure and perfect lambs to redeem them and atone them with the Farher. Here, in the garden, the Lamb of God prepared himself to take take all of those roles upon himself, to fill the Plan of the Father, and to end the symbolic sacrifices forever.
It was here that He bore the sins, the sorrows, the pains of all mankind from the beginning to the end, on his own shoulders. Here, he who was with the Father in the beginning, struggled with the load he had been given. Here he plead with his Father: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
Having never sinned, the law of death did not bind him, he could have chosen to walk away, saving himself and damning us forever, but instead surrounded by trees and oil presses, he bore the weight of the infinite atonement, and as the olives are pressed for their precious oil, he was pressed until he bleed from every pore.
Again he pled “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”
We often remember the cross as the place of atonement, but it was here in the garden that the Master of Creation, the King of Kings, took upon himself the consequence of sin, and began the redeeming atonement that saved all mankind from death, and all who would follow him from damnation.
Still later, the traitor returned with the Jewish guard, and, having shown them the sign by which they would recognize the Master in the dark, condemned his Lord with a kiss. Ever zealous, Peter prepared himself to give his own life in defense of the Savior, but was stopped, and Jesus mended the soldier’s wounded ear. Did the healed guard turn away in shame? Or had his hate already filled his heart?
Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin, where he was condemned for daring to speak the truth: that he was, and is, the Son of the Father. Enraged, they sought his life, but fearing the Romans, sent Him to Pilate for his sentencing, for while blasphemy was punishable by death (though he had not blasphemed, they convicted him of that crime, and in so doing, committed the very act of which they accused him), capital punishment needed to be pronounced by the Romans for violating Roman law. So they sent him to the Romans and accused him of treason, stating that the King of Peace was trying to insite rebellion against the Empire.
Through the night he was passed from one coward to another, and the Lord of All was humiliated and beaten, scorned and shamed. Having prophetically seen the atrocity, Isaiah wrote about the horrors of this Thursday night:
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
As we remember the Great Reedeemer, and walk with Him on his road to the cross, let us remember that He bore our sins. It was because of His love for us, His obedience to the Father’s Plan, and His infinite mercy that he suffered the presses of Gethsemene, that He submitted to the traitor’s kiss, that He allowed the abuse of those charged with watching over Isreal and the looking for His coming.
Let us allow Him to carry our burdens, lest we scorn His sacrafice. If you have once believed, but are lost: come home! His arms are outstretched still! If you have yet to feel his endless love, accept it! For it there for you, no matter your sins or sorrows. If you have already accepted Him, then use today as a chance of reflection and repentance.
Jesus Christ is the Promised Messiah, the Lamb of God!