This entry, which covers TWO days of reading, examines the last few hours of Jesus’ life before He was arrested, and looks at lessons like LOVE, SERVING, MERCY GRACE, THE HOLY SPIRIT, OBEDIENCE and PEACE, including a theory that JESUS may have been CRUCIFIED ON THURSDAY, NOT FRIDAY; from Luke 21:37-38; John 12:37-50; Luke 22:7-30; John 13:1-21; Matt 26:22-25; John 13:22-35; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38; John 14; Luke 22:35-38; Matt 26:30; John 14:31b; Matt 26:31-35; John 15-17.
A note for new Chronological Bible readers: You may notice that the verses are all over the place – that is because Dr F LaGard Smith’s chronological Bible harmonizes the gospels in this order – so fasten your seat belt and get ready to turn some pages!
Traditional reckoning puts the crucifixion of Jesus on Friday but Dr F LaGard Smith believes that it happened on Thursday. (And since we are following his chronological Bible, we will explore his theories!) His reasoning: First of all,
while there is a great deal of activity described in the gospels for Monday and Tuesday, there is nothing for Wednesday if in fact Jesus was crucified on Friday and arrested on Thursday. And why would all four Gospel writers leave one day blank? However, if one assumes that he was crucified on Thursday, and therefore arrested on Wednesday, there is no “blank day” in the story at all.
Even more compelling, according to Dr Smith, is the fact that Jesus said He would be crucified and be in the earth for three days and nights, which can hardly be true using the traditional dates. Dr Smith then points us to what he believes is a better understanding of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the way that the Jews reckon time (they begin at sunset the previous day, which means that Wednesday night is Thursday, etc.) The apostles would have begun preparing for the Passover on Wednesday night, which was evening of and beginning of the 14th day.
The “Last Supper” was not the Passover meal, but the meal on the eve of the Day of Preparation before the Passover, and Jesus himself was killed on the day of Preparation when the Passover Lamb was traditionally killed – He became the Paschal Lamb whose blood causes the angel of death to Pass-over us! The book of John is more specific about these days than the other gospels, so read through those verses especially carefully.
For a more thorough picture of his explanations, get Dr Smith’s Bible – I have loved reading it since 1984!
John 12 contains Jesus’ last public speech, the one where He cried out about belief in Him and how the words He spoke will condemn those who do not accept Him. Then His apostles went out to make preparations for the Passover, and Jesus told them to find the “Upper Room”. In Dr Smith’s account, this would have happened on Wednesday afternoon. This “Upper Room” becomes, in Dr Smith’s words, “the calm at the centre of the storm.” Even though outside there was much activity being generated that would lead to Jesus’ death, inside that room, Jesus was focused on one thing – the legacy He would leave to these future proclaimers of the greatest story ever told. One last time, He taught them about love, servant hood and humility, and before role-modeling it on the cross, He did the unthinkable – He literally put a towel over His arm and washed His disciples’ feet. In the Luke version, they had just had one last dispute over who was the greatest – perhaps that is what prompted it. But the John version is the one that paints the picture – “he showed them the full extent of his love”. Talk about turning things upside down – the teacher serves the student! Complete role reversal in the first century. When He finished, he simply said,
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Jesus expects us to lead this way. There is no place for boastful entitled leadership in Jesus’ kingdom. That is why it is so hard to find good leaders – none of us has all the qualities of Jesus, so whoever tries to lead (I say this as a leader!) is setting themselves up for failure. Ha ha. However, if we remember that success in the kingdom is differently defined than success in the world, we will be all right. Success in God’s eyes is not doing everything perfectly, but understanding one’s short comings, being open and humble about them, asking for forgiveness where necessary, and then trying one’s best to be bold and still compassionate, truthful and yet merciful, disciplined without being annoying, and righteous without being self-righteous. It is a tall order. Please have grace on your leaders, and understand that they need your support. While it is right to feel that you can speak up to leaders when they fall short or are not Christ like, it is also right for you to encourage them, support them, and not assume the worst!
(Side point – it was hard for Peter to allow Jesus to wash his feet. Sometimes it is hard for us to allow people to serve us. That is actually another kind of pride. Examine yourself to see if you struggle with this. It usually comes from either false humility or not wanting to “owe” anyone.)
Jesus then predicted His betrayal, and sent Judas out, and then He called for love as the greatest sign of discipleship. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
This is a beautiful teaching that supersedes anything else Jesus ever taught – that we are to love one another as Jesus loved us, and that love will be the sign that we are His disciples. Bottom line – if people see us love like Jesus, they will be moved.
That is a very high standard, and everyone has a different love language, so Christians often get bad attitudes with each other when they feel like a brother or sister has been unloving.
For example, if your natural inclination is to be compassionate and forgiving but also a bit of a conflict avoider, you will tend to be gracious to others and kind in your speech, and you may get a bad attitude toward a Christian who is not so full of mercy and who at times uses unkind words. However, the same person who you feel to be unloving may think that you are unChristlike/unloving because you do not speak the truth to people, which is a different way to show love, or perhaps you sometimes do not let your yes be yes, which some people may take as being hypocritical. So, it is not as simple to love like Jesus as you may think!
Hopefully, armed with this explanation, you will be more loving AND more gracious to other Christians!
After acknowledging Peter’s heart and his reality, as well as vision for Peter’s future, Jesus began to comfort the remaining ELEVEN apostles. He shared about heaven, made His famous claim of being THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE, and helped them to see how He was linked with the Father. Jesus also stressed several times how LOVE & OBEDIENCE were inextricably woven together, and promised the HOLY SPIRIT, who He referred to as THE COUNSELLOR. The Messiah tried to explain that PEACE from His point of view might be different than the peace they were expecting. He told them once more to not fear, sang a hymn (that always helps to calm me down!) and then took them to the Mount of Olives.
As they walked, Jesus explained that they would fall away because of Him, but that He would be with them in Galilee when they repented (of course they didn’t believe it…). According to John’s gospel, Jesus spoke all of this on the way to the Mount of Olives just before crossing the Kidron Valley. His classroom was the world. He didn’t have to sit them down to teach a lesson. Imagine as they were walking, they may have passed a vineyard. What a perfect way to launch into the teaching of John 15 – I am the vine, my Father is the gardener…and you are the branches…
Jesus didn’t have power point, but He used visual markers to put the lessons in the disciples’ hearts and minds forever! And as they grew in their understanding of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit over the next 30 years, they would think of Him every time they saw a vineyard, a shepherd, broke bread, even drank water! What a gifted teacher!
Jesus repeated many of the lessons of John 13 & 14, and He added a sweet component by calling them FRIENDS! Then He warned them of persecution, encouraged them with more explanation of the Holy Spirit, and told them that their sorrow would turn to joy. He ended His discourse with the affirming, “I have overcome the world!” and then launched into His “UNITY PRAYER”.
Top three lessons from that prayer:
(A) Eternal life = Knowing God!
(B) When we cling to the word, we are sanctified by it and protected by God.
(C) Jesus wants us to be as united as He and the Father are.
You can’t read these last words of Jesus without feeling amazing love, and being stricken by the need to understand the Holy Spirit, and being convicted about obedience. The journey is almost over…