Reliving Passion Week


The Last Supper

It is now Jewish Friday. The sun has gone down and Jesus eats with his disciples. They are in the upper room of a certain house in the city.

They break bread. Jesus knows what Judas is up to, trying to force his hand, trying to make him reveal who he is to Israel.

"One of you is going to betray me," Jesus says.

"Surely not I," says Judas. Perhaps they have talked. Perhaps Judas has tried to convince Jesus to make his move against the Romans. The action in the temple was a start. Now Jesus must finish the work. Judas is clever. He will force Jesus into it by bringing the Jewish leaders against him. Then God will come and reveal who Jesus is.

Jesus knows that's not how God has it planned. He has already told them--this bread you eat, it is like my body, broken for you.

They eat. Drink up, he says. I will not drink with you again until we drink afresh in the kingdom of God.

It is now after supper. Judas has left.

They drink again. This wine is like my blood. God will make a new covenant with you all through my blood. My life will be like a ransom for God's people. Through my death God's wrath will come to an end.




Jesus knows what is coming. They go to the Garden of Gethsemane, a place where Jesus had been meeting with his disciples.

He is troubled. He knows what Judas is doing. He knows they are coming. He knows what is about to transpire.

Pray, he tells Simon, James, and John. You will be tempted to sin. Pray not to give in to temptation. "I will not give in," says Simon.

"Simon, tonight you will deny me thrice."

In his humanness he does not want to die. "Lord, let this cup pass from me if it is at all possible." But he knows. He knows.

Peter is asleep. John is asleep. James is asleep. He is awake.

Let them sleep. The time has come.



Middle Night

Judas comes to the garden with a crowd holding swords and clubs. He greets Jesus with a kiss on the cheek. They don't know which one is Jesus. One of those with Jesus cuts the ear off of one of the high priest's servants.

"Funny that you arrest me this way," Jesus says. "You'd think I was a revolutionary. You always could have arrested me when I was teaching in the temple."

The disciples with Jesus scatter. A young man, maybe a son in the house where they ate the last supper, has come out with only an outer garment. They grab it, and he flees away naked.

They take him to the high priest's house. Peter follows from a distance. As he warms himself outside by a fire, he is accused of following Jesus. He denies it--three times before the night is done.

Annas, the high priest's father-in-law, interrogates him. Jesus is mostly silent. Perhaps he turns Jesus over to the guards for the night. They mock and beat him.



Early Morning

Early in the morning Caiaphas and some elders interrogate Jesus. Witnesses testify that Jesus has said words against the temple, words about its destruction.

"Is this true? Are you an insurrectionist?"

Jesus remains silent.

"Are you going to take over Israel? Do you think we priests have made the temple unclean? Are you going to take it over and purify it? You're not even a priest."

Jesus remains silent.

"Do you really think you can defeat the Romans and us? Where are your supporters? Where is your army? What Judean will follow a Galilean? You're from Galilee. A king of Israel must be from the tribe of David, a Son of David."

Jesus remains silent.

"Tell us now, do you really think you are the coming king? Look at you, beaten up by my guards. Do you really think you are the king of the Jews? How can you think you are God's anointed one? Are you indeed the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?"

Jesus waited. He certainly did not look like a king. But he looked the high priest right in the eye.

"I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God. You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds to visit God's judgment on the earth."

The high priest dismissed him. "Take him to Pilate. I have too much to do today to worry with this guy. Tell Pilate he's another fake messiah. Tell him to crucify him."




Some Jewish leaders take Jesus to Pilate. Pilate has come down from Caesarea to keep close watch over the city at the Passover.

The Jewish leaders ask Pilate to come out to them. They want to observe the festival that evening, so they do not want to become unclean by entering a Gentile's house and such a place of uncleanness.

Pilate wants to know the charge.

"He's another fake messiah."

Pilate takes a look at Jesus and smiles. "Bring him in."

"So I finally get to meet the king of the Jews." Pilate says. "Are these charges true? Are you the king of the Jews?"

Jesus said nothing.

This intrigued Pilate. Jesus was not like the usual insurgent. He did not seem violent.

"You know I hate these priests. They're suck ups. It's all about themselves and their power. They're paranoid you know. But why do they hate you?"

Jesus remained silent.

"You know you don't help yourself if you don't say anything. And I have better things to do today than stand here talking to you."

Still Jesus said nothing.

"It's a simple question. If you aren't planning on being king just tell me. Maybe I'll set you free. You either think you are and are a lunatic, or you're not. Tell me, are you indeed the king of the Jews."

Jesus looked him straight in the eye and smiled.

"I am."

Rarely did Pilate feel at a loss for words, but this one stumped him. He looked away.

"This guy's crazy but harmless. We'll set him free to the people at the festivities."



The Crowds

A little later Pilate takes Jesus and a murderer to the crowds.

"Because I am such a good man, I will release a Jew to you. Here are two kings. Which one do you want? Barabbas? He has murdered one of your own. He's a thief."

"And then there's Jesus. He's your messiah. Sometimes he turns tables over in the temple. He doesn't talk much."


Pilate looked at his assistants puzzled. "What's with these Judeans?"

"Barrabas or Jesus?"


Pilate looked at Jesus. Why were the crowds so angry with him?

"Then what do you want me to do with Jesus, your king?"


Pilate was puzzled.

"Very well, then. Release Barabbas, flog Jesus and crucify everyone in the prison."



The Third Hour

It was about the third hour when they crucified him, nine in the morning.

They had flogged him. The Roman soldiers had mocked him, putting a purple robe on him like he was a king. They fashioned a crown out of thorns and put it on his head.

"Hail, king of the Jews," they said, bowing before him in mockery.

Jesus was in no condition to carry the cross. He was physically exhausted. His body had been beaten to a pulp. But most of all he carried the weight of the world.

A man from Cyrene named Simon had come for the Passover. The Roman soldiers grabbed him from the crowd and forced him to carry the crossbeam for Jesus. They brought Jesus just outside the gate to a place the Jews called "Golgotha," the place of a skull.

Pilate had fashioned the charge carefully: "THE KING OF THE JEWS." He wanted to mock the people.

They offered him wine vinegar to deaden the pain, but he refused it.

Two criminals were crucified with him. They mocked too. One of them was particularly harsh: "You're a disgrace, claiming to be our messiah. Where's the Son of Man now?"

The soldiers threw dice to see who would get Jesus clothes. Meanwhile Jesus hung naked from the cross.



The Sixth Hour

At about the sixth hour, darkness came over the land.



The Ninth Hour

At the ninth hour, about three in the afternoon, Jesus cried with a loud voice the Aramaic words of Psalm 22:1: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Some around him didn't understand what he was saying. They thought he was calling for Elijah. They had heard him talking about someone coming from heaven. Maybe he was calling for him.

Someone saw his pain and ran for some wine vinegar, and offered it to Jesus.

Then Jesus gave out a long cry, and breathed his last breath.

A centurion was struck by his death. This was not the death of a criminal or an insurgent. This man must be innocent. This man must be righteous.

But Jesus remained hanging on the tree while the others were dying and his followers looked on from a distance.



Almost Evening

It was the day before the Sabbath, and evening was quickly approaching when the Sabbath would begin.

A member of the Sanhedrin called Joseph went to Pilate to ask for the body. He had an unused tomb carved out of the side of a rock face.

Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead. Most people suffered much longer, that was part of the idea.

But after Pilate had verified it, he allowed it.

Joseph wrapped Jesus' body in linen, and placed it in the tomb.

Mary Magdalene and another Mary watched where they laid Jesus' body. Because the sabbath was on them, they would have to wait till Sunday to anoint the body.



Sabbath Evening, Friday

What had happened?

Less than a week before, they had entered Jerusalem triumphantly. Jesus had authoritatively condemned the temple establishment by overthrowing the tables in the temple.

Just twenty-four hours ago they were eating supper with him. Now he was in the tomb.

Peter had gone back to Bethany. He, James, and John kept looking out the window, half expecting someone to come arrest them.

How could they have been so wrong? He had said he was the Messiah. God was going to restore His kingdom on earth. Peter had been ready to die for Jesus. But he was not ready for Jesus to die. That was completely unexpected. He would have fought to the death, but Jesus simply went with the men from the high priest.

What would he do now? How could God forsake Jesus? How could God let them crucify him?

There had to be something else to do. There had to be something more. What should I do? What should I do?



Saturday Evening

Back to Galilee, that's what to do, go back to Galilee.

It had been Sabbath. Can't travel that far on the Sabbath. He had to wait till the end of Sabbath. Now it's dark. Now it's the first day of the week. Peter would sleep and leave early in the morning.

Would they want me back in Galilee? Did Herod know who to look for? I'll go back to fishing. I'll go back to my wife and family.

The Marys were going to try to anoint his body in the morning. Not me. I couldn't stand to see his body, not after all that.

I would wait for the women to get back from anointing the body, then we would all leave for Galilee.



The First Day of the Week

Early in the morning just after sunrise, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Joses, and Salome took spices they had bought and went to Jesus' tomb to anoint his body.

But when they arrived to the tomb, they found the stone rolled away from the entrance. Jesus' body was nowhere to be found. They encounter a man who startles them.

"Do you, do you know what's happened to the body?"

"He is not here. Tell the disciples to go back to Galilee; he will appear to them there."

Trembling and bewildered they left the tomb.

Where was his body? Who had taken it to Galilee? Should we tell anyone? What if they accuse us of taking the body. They decided they would not tell anyone until they could figure it out.

"Back so soon," Peter asked. He, James, and John were waiting on them, and they would all go to Galilee together.

"You're back awefully soon," Peter said.

"Were you able to get the stone rolled back?" Peter asked. The women remained silent.

Finally Mary got up the courage to say. "It was already rolled back."

"What?" A look of distress came over Peter and John.

"Did you see the body?" John asked.


Peter and John ran out of the house in Bethany. They both ran all the way to Jerusalem to the tomb. Nothing was there but the linen cloth.

John immediately began to think of resurrection. Peter just couldn't quite get his head around it all. They both hurried back to Bethany.

"Was there anything else that happened, anything else that you remember," Peter asked the women.

"There was a man there. He said that Jesus would appear to you in Galilee."



At Even

Just after darkness fell at the end of the first day, the disciples were gathered together in one place in Jerusalem. Since morning, both Peter and Mary Magdalene had seen Jesus, risen from the dead. They had gathered to make sense of it. Some of the disciples still didn't believe it was real. They thought Peter and Mary had wanted to see Jesus so badly that their minds had played tricks on them.

Two other followers suddenly rushed in. "We've seen Jesus!" they exclaimed. "We were on our way home to Emmaus when a man joined us. We invited him for supper and when he broke bread, we knew it was him. Then he just disappeared."

As they were talking, Jesus just appeared, out of nowhere, in the room with them."Shalom lechem," he said, Peace to you.

When they were convinced that it was he, he reminded them that he would appear to them again in Galilee. Over the next forty days he appeared to them at different times and places. He appeared to Peter, Thomas, and Nathaniel by the Sea of Galilee. He commissioned the disciples on a nearby mountain. Then forty days after his resurrection, back in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, over five hundred believers saw him ascend to the skies.

He would appear to others at various times for the next three years. The most notable were James, his own brother, and last of all, the apostle Paul.

No one has ever claimed to find Jesus' body. Indeed, one of the earliest rationalizations about the empty tomb comes from individuals who accused the disciples of stealing his body. But you'd think they would have confessed when they were about to die for their faith. They didn't.