Last week, in preparation for Easter, we began an overview of the events that transpired during the last week of Jesus’ life. We covered the main events that transpired from Monday through the Passover meal he celebrated with his disciples on Thursday evening. Jesus transformed the Passover into what we call today “the Lord’s Supper.” From the very beginning, bread and wine were significant parts of the Passover meal. But on this evening, Christ departed from the normal use of these elements at the Passover Feast as he gave new significance to both the bread and wine (Luke 22:19, Matthew 26:28). Jesus communicated that just as the broken bread would provide for their physical nourishment, soon, his broken body would nourish them spiritually. The wine symbolized Jesus’ blood as the new covenant between God and man, both Jew and Gentile, based on the death and resurrection of Jesus. At some point during the meal, Jesus turned to Judas, who he knew was about to betray him, and said, “Do what you do quickly.” Judas left the group and disappeared into the night.
Matthew tells us that the meal concluded with the singing of a hymn and then they all proceeded to the Mount of Olives. There was a garden there, where Jesus liked to pray. Here, Jesus fell to the ground and began to pour out his heart to God, asking Him three times to “remove this cup from me” if there was any other means for mankind’s redemption (Mark 14:36). Of course, God chose not to shield Jesus from the trials of the cross. It seems that it was the only way to accomplish our redemption. And so Jesus endured the cross willingly, because of his great love for us. Jesus arose from prayer and as he proceeded out of the garden he was greeted by Judas and a large band of soldiers carrying torches, lanterns and weapons (John 18:3). The soldiers arrested Jesus after Judas greeted Jesus with a kiss. No doubt that was the agreed-upon sign that this was indeed the man they were to arrest. All these events took place late Thursday night to early Friday morning.
Jesus underwent six trials on Friday somewhere between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. It was a stormy eight hours. There were three religious trials where he was found guilty, and three civil (Roman) trials where he was found innocent. His final hearing was before Pontius Pilate (Luke 23:13–25). The result of this hearing was that a guilty man (Barabbas) was released and an innocent man (Jesus) was condemned. Then, things began to move quickly. Pilate delivered Jesus to be stripped and scourged…a beating that would leave him close to death. Jesus arrived at the place of execution at about 9 a.m. Friday morning. As they were driving the spikes through Jesus’ hands and feet, He prayed for his tormentors and enemies around the cross saying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That’s incredible, isn’t it? Most victims of crucifixion would beg, shriek or curse or spit at their tormentors. But not Jesus. He was kind and gracious under the most trying circumstances imaginable.
The gospel writers tell us that a strange, supernatural darkness fell upon the land from noon to three. At that time Jesus cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Do you know why Jesus was forsaken by God at that moment? It was because he was bearing the guilt of your sin and mine. The fellowship Jesus had enjoyed with the Father from eternity past was broken for the first time. The separation from God that we deserve Jesus endured in our place. John tells us that Jesus cried out one more time declaring, “It is finished,” after which he yielded up his spirit and died.
As Jesus breathed his last, a very strange thing happened: “And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). This veil separated the temple proper from the holy of holies—the most sacred part of the temple. This is the part of the temple where God manifested his presence to man. Only the high priest could enter in one day every year, on the Day of Atonement, to make sacrifices for the people. History tells us that this veil was 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and four inches thick. It was torn from top to bottom—only God could do that. This tearing of the veil symbolized that God had accepted Jesus’ sacrifice making God’s presence freely available to all who would place their trust in Jesus as their Savior. At this point in the biblical narrative, it is Friday afternoon and Jesus is dead. Things looked bleak for Jesus’ followers. But Sunday is coming, and when it does, things will never be the same again!
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
After witnessing the crucifixion of Jesus and interactions and events surrounding it, the Centurion exclaimed, “Surely this man is the Son of God!” Study the life and works of Jesus with an open mind and see if you reach the same conclusion. Undoubtedly you, too, will embrace Him as the Son of God!