Lent Readings: The Story of Jesus, Day 43

In the morning Jesus sent Peter and John into the city to make preparations for their Passover meal.

“Did You have any place in mind?” they inquired.

“Yes,” Jesus answered, “as you enter the city, you’ll come upon a man carrying a pitcher of water. Just follow him.  When he reaches his destination, explain to the master of the house that I have sent you. Tell him My time has come and we plan to keep the Passover at his place. Ask to see his guest room, and he will take you to a large upper room already furnished. You’ll just need to arrange the final details.”

His disciples went and found everything just as He had described. There they prepared the Passover.

Jesus knew that His time on earth was drawing to a close and that He would be returning to His Father. He loved His followers deeply and was preparing to demonstrate it in the greatest way possible.

That evening as they reclined around the large table, Jesus began by saying, “You can’t imagine how much I have looked forward to tonight’s meal together! I am about to face tremendous suffering, and this will be our last Passover together. We won’t be together like this again until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”

Then He took the cup of sanctification, gave the blessing, and passed it around, saying, “Take some, all of you. The next time I partake will be when the Kingdom of God comes.”

There had been no little rivalry among the disciples about who got to sit in the places of honor. Jesus, being satisfied with the honor given Him by His Father, didn’t need to prove His greatness to anyone. He knew where He had come from and where He was going; so since no one else had performed the lowly task of washing the guests’ feet, He got up to do it. He removed His outer robe, took up a basin and towel, and began wiping the feet of each disciple.

When He got to Simon Peter, Peter said, “You shouldn’t be washing my feet!”

Jesus explained to Peter that he would understand later why He was doing this. Peter recoiled, “I’ll never let You do this, Lord!”

Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you don’t belong to Me.”

To which Peter replied, “In that case, Lord, wash me from head to toe!”

Jesus smiled and said, “You’ve already bathed; this is just to get today’s dust off your feet. You are already clean. Well, most of you are!” He knew who was about to betray Him; that’s why He said that they weren’t all clean.

When He had finished, He put His robe back on and returned to His place at the table. “Do you know why I have done this?” He asked. “You call Me ‘Rabbi’ and ‘Lord’ and you are right. Your job is to learn from Me. I have just set an example by washing your feet. This is the way you must serve each other. The servant is not greater than his master, so you must not think yourselves above such lowly service. Now that you know this, you can only enjoy deep happiness if you live this way.

“As I’ve said before, do not follow the example of this world’s leaders. They dominate and control the lives of those under them. Your authority, like Mine, does not work that way! Humble, genuine service defines great leaders. Again, I say, you are used to a system in which the younger serves the elder, yet here I have ministered to you.

“Because you have stuck with Me through the ups and downs of the past three years, I will give you places of dominion just as My Father has given Me a Kingdom. Someday you will sit at My table in My Kingdom and rule over the twelve tribes of Israel.

“I don’t speak of all of you, however, for the Scripture must be fulfilled which says, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ I am forewarning you so that when it happens, you will be convinced that I am Who I am.

“Rest assured that whenever someone responds to you as My messengers, they are accepting Me; just as you, by responding to Me, have accepted the One who sent Me.”

After saying this, Jesus was visibly troubled and said, “Yes, one of you sitting here tonight will betray Me.”

The disciples were hurt by this; and some nervously asked, “Lord, is it I?”

Jesus said, “It will be the one to whom I pass the matzah after dipping it. Yes, Scripture must be fulfilled; but as for the one who betrays Me, it would have been better for him if he’d never been born.”

The disciples were more perplexed than ever and began questioning each other, trying to figure out who among them might be the guilty one.

With brazen mock innocence, Judas himself asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?”

To which Jesus replied, “You know who you are.”

Simon Peter nudged John, who was beside Jesus, to get him to ask once more. Jesus told him to watch closely to whom He handed the dipped matzah. Jesus then took some bread, dipped it, and handed it to Judas.

Immediately, Satan entered Judas. As he rose from the table, Jesus said, “Carry out your plans quickly.” Judas went out; darkness had fallen. In spite of all the clues, the disciples thought nothing of Judas’ exit, assuming that since he held the money, Jesus had sent him out either to buy something else for their meal or to help the poor.

Once Judas was gone, Jesus said, “God’s glorious plan is unfolding before your eyes. The genius and perfection of how He works everything out through Me will be indescribably brilliant.

“My dear children, before long I must be gone from here. You will look for Me, but as I told the Jewish crowds, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ But once I’m gone, you must love one another the same way I have loved you. The one thing that will set you apart as being My disciples will be your love for each other.”

Peter picked up on the fact that Jesus was going away and asked, “Lord, tell us where You’re going.”

All Jesus said was, “You can’t follow Me there right away, but someday you will.”

Peter replied, “Lord, why can’t I follow You right now? I mean, I’m ready to follow You to prison or even death!”

Jesus told Peter, “You think so, don’t you? The fact is that before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny Me at least three times. Dear Simon, what you don’t know is that Satan has asked for you, to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, that you won’t utterly abandon Me. Once you have been restored, you will be a real source of strength for your brothers.”

“Do you remember,” Jesus asked the men, “when I sent you from city to city and told you not to bother with taking along provisions? Did you ever run out of what you needed?”

“Not once!” they replied.

“Well, this time it’s different,” Jesus said. “Prepare for trouble. Get your money out of the bank and sell whatever you have to in order to buy a sword. Everything written about Me in the Scriptures is about to be fulfilled, even the phrase, ‘He was condemned as a criminal.’”

“Lord, we’ve got two daggers here!” someone said.

“All right,” Jesus remarked, “that’s enough about swords.”

As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, and broke it. As He passed it around to the disciples, He said, “Take, eat, this is My body which is given for you. Whenever you eat this, think of Me.”

Afterward He lifted up the cup of redemption, gave thanks, and passed it around, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood poured out for many, ushering in a whole new covenant which takes away all your sins. The next time we share this cup will be when we are together in My Father’s Kingdom.”

For the next hour or so Jesus shared His heart with the disciples, saying, “I have not told you all this to trouble you. You believe in God, so I urge you to trust Me when I tell you that in My Father’s house there are magnificent mansions. I’m going ahead of you to get your rooms ready. Once they are, I will come back to get you so that we can spend eternity together. You know all this already, and I’ve explained the way to God’s Kingdom to you.”

But Thomas spoke up, saying, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how could we possibly know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one can come to the Father except through Me. Truly knowing Me is how you know the Father. Since you know Me, you know Him and have seen Him.”

Philip didn’t understand this and asked, “Please, Lord, if You will introduce us to the Father, then we’ll be able to say that we’ve seen Him and know Him.”

“Philip,” Jesus replied, “are you saying that you don’t know Me? We’ve been together for so long. How many times have I told you that I am in the Father and He is in Me? That’s why I say that if you have seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. How can you ask to see Him as though it’s a new concept?

“Let me say it again, I am not just saying words which I’ve come up with. No, the Father who lives in Me is the One at work. If you can’t take My word for it, then believe because of the works you see Me doing. Everyone who trusts in Me will do the same amazing works and even greater things because I’ve gone to My Father. In that day you can ask the Father, using My name, to do great works. I will do those works through you, and all the glory the Father has endowed upon Me will be enhanced as a result. If you love Me, listen and live by My instructions.

“I am going to ask My Father to give you another companion, One who will be with you forever. The Spirit to Whom I am referring is a mystery to the rest of the world, but you are acquainted with Him because He has been alongside you. Though the world cannot receive Him, He will be in you. So you see, I am not abandoning you like orphans.

“I am going to come to you and you will ‘see’ Me in a way the world cannot. I will be alive inside you; and you’ll get to experience what it means that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you.

“Whoever loves Me listens to and follows My instructions. And if someone loves Me, My Father and I will love them and I will reveal Myself to them.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how are You going to show Yourself to us without the world being able to see You?”

Jesus said, “Listen to Me. If you love Me, you will be carrying on My work.  My Father is thrilled when that happens and together We will make Our home inside you. This does not apply to those who show that they don’t, in fact, love Me because they aren’t faithful to do what I’ve instructed. I tell you all this on My Father’s authority; it was all His idea and plan.

“I’m telling you all this, giving you a ‘heads-up,’ before I’m gone; but the Spirit will help you understand it. As I said, My Father will send Him at My request; and He will bring to mind the many lessons you’ve learned from Me.

“I trust that this settles your anxious hearts. I want to leave with you a kind of peace the world couldn’t possibly offer. I’m not telling you these things to trouble you, but rather to enable you to trust Me and to be thrilled with Me that I get to return to My Father who is everything to Me.

“It’s time now. The ruler of this world is about to attack; but don’t worry, he has no claim on Me. I must go through with this to show the world how much I love My Father and that I am willing to do whatever He asks of Me. Come now, let’s be on our way.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out, crossed the Kidron Valley, and headed up the Mount of Olives.

Passing through a small vineyard, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “Think of Me as the True Vine and My Father as the Gardener. He lifts up and secures the branches that aren’t bearing fruit and trims the ones that are so that they will be more productive.

“My words have had a pruning affect in your lives. See that you stay closely bonded to Me, letting Me live in and through you. Don’t think for a moment that I’m asking you to go do things on your own: no branch can produce fruit unless it’s attached to the vine. Are you seeing the picture? I am the Vine and you are the branches. As long as you are getting your life from Me, you’ll produce a lot of fruit. Apart from Me you can’t hope to do anything. Anyone who won’t get their life from Me is like a branch all withered and dry, good for nothing but burning in the fire.

“Do you want to be known as My disciples?  Get your life from Me. Let my words be like the life-giving sap flowing from the vine into the branches. Then you will find new desires taking shape deep within. As you ask Me for those things, I will answer; you’ll be very productive and My Father will be thrilled. That’s what makes a real disciple.

“Remember, love is what this is all about. You’ve experienced My love and I’ve explained that it flows from My Father’s love for Me. Now you can live inside that love by doing what I tell you just like I live inside My Father’s love by hearing His heart and doing whatever He asks Me to do.

“I’m so anxious for you to enjoy the kind of life that I have. Your whole being will be filled with inexpressible pleasure. More than anything else, I want you to demonstrate the same kind of love you’ve experienced from Me. Loving like this means, ultimately, being willing to lay down your life for your friends.

“You have become My friends by doing what I’ve asked of you. Ours is not a servant-master relationship because servants aren’t privy to their master’s thoughts and long-term plans. Because you are friends, I have openly shared with you everything My Father has told Me.

“It is so important that you love one another because the world isn’t going to love you. If you were part of the world system, they would; but I have chosen you to come out of the world, so they will hate you just like they have hated Me.

“Those who have accepted My word will accept your message, but you can be sure that anyone who has persecuted Me will harass you as well. They do that because they don’t know the One who sent Me. They have heard My words and seen My works, so they are accountable for their response. Those who haven’t seen and heard may have an excuse for not believing. That’s not the case with these agitators. They actively oppose both Me and My Father. Their own Scriptures predicted it, saying, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

“But remember, I just explained that the Father will be putting the Spirit of truth in you to help as you spread the word about Me. The Spirit will testify to you about Me. You have been with Me since the beginning of My ministry and will be effective witnesses.

“It’s not going to be easy, but I’m telling you ahead of time so it doesn’t stumble you when they kick you out of the synagogues. In fact, some of them will even believe they are doing God’s will by killing you.

“I didn’t say anything about this until now because I’ve been here with you, taking the brunt of the rejection. Now that I’ve told you, you’re so focused on what might happen when I leave that you aren’t interested in where it is that I’m going or that I get to reunite with Him who sent Me.

“Someday, after the Spirit has entered you, you’ll realize why it is to your advantage that I go away. Believe Me, as soon as I leave, I’ll send Him to you. Then, as you spread My Message, the Spirit will help people see how wrong it is NOT to believe in Me. He will use the fact that I have returned to My Father to convince them that I was right about how to be accepted by God. He will also cause them to realize they will either face judgment along with the ruler of this world or experience liberation from his domination because his authority has been broken.

“There’s so much more to say, more than you could digest right now; but that is another reason why I will send the Spirit. Do you recall that whenever I taught, I was being told by My Father what to say? Similarly, after I’m gone, the Spirit will take what is Mine and explain it to you.

“First, though, I must leave you. In a day or so you won’t see Me. Then shortly after that you will see Me again: I have to go to My Father.”

The disciples looked at one another and asked, “What does He mean – ‘not seeing,’ ‘seeing,’ ‘going to the Father’?” They couldn’t figure it out.

Jesus could tell they were confused, so He said, “Very soon, when you cannot see Me, you will be distraught. The world will rejoice while you weep. Then, soon afterward, your sadness will turn to joy. It’s kind of like a woman in labor. The process is painful; but as soon as the child is born, she feels tremendous joy at bringing another person into the world. Be encouraged. I promise you that the season of sadness will turn into joy the moment you see Me again. Finally all your questions will be answered and you won’t need to ask Me to explain.

“I have shared My heart with You; and because you have begun to desire the same things I do, you can pour out your hearts to the Father. Ask Him your questions and tell Him what you need. Because you have devoted yourself to Me, the Father loves you and longs to meet your needs. Fellowshipping with Him will fill you with intense joy!

“He sent Me into this world and soon I will return to Him. I can hardly wait!”

The disciples were feeling a bit less troubled and said things like, “Now we understand what You’re saying,” and, “You have answered all our questions,” and, “We have no doubt now that You came to us from God.”

                                                                                       

“Do you believe? Really?” Jesus asked. “What you don’t realize is that you’re about to scatter and leave Me all alone —except for the Father Who is always with Me.

“Just know that no matter what the world throws at you, in Me you will have peace. Yes, take heart, I have overcome the world.”

After saying this, Jesus looked up toward heaven and said: “Father, it’s time. Complete the glorious plan You have for Me so that I can display Your Supreme authority and goodness. Finally We can give them Our kind of life: an indestructible aliveness that is energized by their intimate companionship with You, the only true God, and with Me, the One Whom You have sent to make it all possible.

“I have been faithful to do everything You asked Me to do. I have shown them just how incredibly wonderful You are. I can hardly wait to return to You and to the glorious life We had together long before this world existed!

“These here with Me, Father, have heard every word You told Me to share with them. I have shown them exactly what You are like. Now they are convinced that You sent Me, that You have been speaking through Me, and that I get My very life from You. They have responded to Your word and have entrusted themselves to You.

“My heart goes out to them as I prepare to leave this world while they must remain in it. I want them to know that they belong to You and that You have given them to Me. I want them to see how their lives are intertwined with Mine in a glorious bond. Oh, Holy Father, watch over them and protect each of these whom You have given to Me. Recreate our oneness in them. While I was with them, I kept them safe on Your behalf. I didn’t lose any of them except, of course, the son of destruction, as the Scripture had predicted.

“Yes, I am coming Home! But I am talking with You about this while I am still with them. I so long to see them filled with the joy and pleasure I experience.

“Now that they have received Your word, they are no longer part of the world any more than I am. And the world hates them for it. I’m not asking that You take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Their relationship to the world is now what Mine has been; our life, our identity is not defined by the world.

“Continue to set them apart from this world by the truths of Your word. I have dedicated Myself to them and to their becoming utterly distinguished by the truth. Just as You sent Me into this world, I am sending them into the world.

“As they proclaim the Message, many more will believe; and I lift them up to You as well, Father. Recreate our unique oneness in all of them. They have realized that You are in Me and I am in You. Now show them that together, all of them are in Us. When the world sees their unity and love, then they will be persuaded that You sent Me.

“You treat Me with such dignity and delight, Father; and I have passed that on to them so that they can enjoy our kind of relationship with each other. What a picture: I in them and You in Me, the ultimate definition of oneness. Yes! When the world sees their amazing oneness with us and each other, they will know for sure that You sent Me and that You love them every bit as much as You love Me.

“O Father, all this makes Me more eager than ever to have all of them living with Me there. I want them to see for themselves how glorious it is to be at Home with You, to experience Your love in person. Yes, You loved Me long before We laid the foundations of this world.

“O righteous Father! This world doesn’t have a clue what You are really like! But I know You, and these with Me believe You sent Me to them. I keep telling them more and more about You because I want the love You have for Me to be in them and I want to be in them.”

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As the group approached the grove of olive trees known as the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus turned to the disciples and said, “It is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd and all the sheep will scatter.’ Tonight this will be fulfilled as every one of you gives in to fear and runs away.”

Peter rebuffed Him, saying, “Lord, what are You talking about? Even if all the others abandon You, I could never do that!”

Jesus looked at him and said, “Oh, Peter, by the time the rooster crows a second time tomorrow morning, you will have denied Me three more times!”

This really bothered Peter and he protested, saying, “Even if it means dying with You, Lord, I’d never deny You!” And all the disciples conveyed similar sentiments.

Jesus encouraged them to wait while He went on a little farther to pray. “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation,” He told them. He invited Peter, James, and John to go on with Him. They could see that He was very troubled.

“The burden is crushing Me,” He told them. “I need you to stay with Me.”

Then Jesus went a little further on and, kneeling down, said, “Father, oh, Father, how can I drink this awful cup? Is there any way out? Yet whatever You decide is best, for I do want what You want.” Right then an angel appeared to Him from Heaven to strengthen Him.

Weighed down with the burden, Jesus fell on His face and cried out, “Abba, dear Father, all things are possible with You. Could You possibly take this cup away from Me? O Father, I surrender My desires to Your perfect plan.” The intense pressure He felt even caused small blood vessels under His skin to burst so that He was sweating blood.

Eventually He got up and returned to where He had left Peter, James, and John. They, too, had been emotionally drained and had fallen asleep. “Peter,” Jesus said, shaking him, “how can you sleep? Can’t you stay alert even for an hour?”

“Wake up!” He said to them. “Watch! Pray that you don’t give in to temptation! The spirit is willing and ready, but the flesh is extremely weak!”

He left them again and spent more time crying out to His Father. Finally He said, “My Father, if there is no other way to deal with this, I will drink it. I do want Your desires to be accomplished.”

When He returned to the disciples, they were once again asleep and He could hardly rouse them. So He left them and went off alone to pray.

He came to His disciples a third time and woke them. “All right, men! That’s enough sleep! The betrayer is approaching, get up! Let’s go!”

Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew where to find them because Jesus often met there with His disciples. No sooner were the disciples on their feet than Judas showed up leading a crowd of soldiers and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, all carrying lanterns, torches, swords, clubs, or other weapons.

Judas had given them a signal to watch for; he would single out Jesus by greeting Him with a kiss. Judas was in the lead and, seeing Jesus, immediately went up to Him and kissed Him, saying, “Rabbi! It’s You!”

Jesus looked at him and replied, “Friend, what are you doing here? Would you betray Me with a kiss?”

Jesus knew what was going on so He asked the crowd, “Who are you looking for?”

They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Without hesitation, Jesus replied, “I am.” Instantly, the whole lot of them, including Judas, fell backwards to the ground.

When they had gotten back on their feet, Jesus asked them again whom they were looking for. “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

“I am the One you are looking for,” Jesus answered. “There’s no reason to detain these others.” With that He fulfilled the Scripture that said, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”

As the soldiers were taking hold of Jesus, one of the disciples asked, “Lord, is this why we needed swords?” And Peter, not waiting for a reply, took a swing at the nearest assailant, cutting off his right ear.  It happened to be a fellow named Malchus, one of Caiaphas’ servants.

Then Jesus said to Peter, “No, this is not the time or place for swords. Using swords to defend yourself only means you’re likely to die by the sword.

“Surely you know Me well enough to know that if I wanted to, I could ask My Father and He would send fifty thousand angels to protect Me. But if He did that, the Scriptures would not be fulfilled. No, I must drink the cup which My Father has given Me.”

Then Jesus said to His captors, “Hold on just a moment.” He reached out and touched Malchus’ ear. Immediately it was healed.

Turning to the crowd, Jesus said, “Really now, you come out under cover of night with weapons to arrest Me? I sat with you daily in the temple. Wouldn’t it have been a lot simpler to seize Me then? But no, it had to be this way. You prefer darkness to light. And this way, every detail written by the prophets gets fulfilled.”

About this time all the disciples left Him and ran for their lives. The troops tied Jesus with ropes and led Him out of the Garden. A boy had come out to watch the drama unfold; but when someone tried to grab him, he bolted and ran off naked, leaving them holding the sheet he had wrapped around himself.