Narratives Of The Passion (Part I).
Matthew 26 – 27; Mark 14 – 15; Luke 22 – 23; John 18 – 19.
The Feast of the Unleavened Bread formed the Pharisaic conspiratorial backdrop against Jesus that led to his eventual crucifixion and resurrection. However, in hindsight, the last word belonged to Yahweh, as He prepared His sacrificial Lamb for the greatest historical rescue this side of eternity. The human perspective marked the beginning of the end of a troublesome religious cultic leader and His band, but in reality, it was the beginning of a glorious triumph over sin and death, and its consequential reconciliation between man and God. The Gospels provide us with four perspectives of the Lord’s last days on earth. Each, however, addressed that God had foretold centuries beforehand, through His various Prophets, the ensuing fulfilment of His timeless will (c.f., 1 Cor 15: 3-4).
After the Last Supper, Jesus took eleven of His disciples aside to watch in prayer with Him. At Gethsemane, neither the larger group of His disciples, nor the inner circle of Peter, James and John, were able to empathise with His palpable pathos and pain, as He faced the imminent prospect of being condemned alone for our sins (c.f., Isa 52: 13- 53: 12). They fell asleep, leaving their Lord to bear His own anguish. However, an enduring lesson for us was Jesus’ exemplary immediate pursuit in prayer to His Father in the midst of His distress. The drift of His request to the Father was critical: despite His human struggles with a death that would tear apart temporarily His distinctly inseparable relationship with His Father, His emphatic desire to choose God’s will in preference to anything else, modelled for us a priority towards obedience and trust in His Father. The disciples’ lackadaisical attitude typified a normal human response in their inability to perceive what God was doing. You would have thought that despite all the prior notices that Jesus foretold of His last days on earth, which would have somewhat alerted them, His disciples not only did not appreciate the enormity of what was to transpire, but made little attempt to clarify. They were simply uninterested! This incident at Gethsemane revealed the innate blindness of the human condition to the things of God. Focusing on God’s will ultimately means that other distractions which do not have a priority, ought not to supplant it. Likewise, possessing ‘a heart of flesh’ is no guarantee of our intimacy with our Saviour (c.f., Ezek 36:26).
Prior to His appearance before Pilate, the Roman Governor, a significant interregnum was played out in a courtyard where Jesus was held. Like the other disciples, Peter ran away after Jesus’ arrest. Soon after, as he made his way towards the enclosure where His Lord was being verbally and physically abused, he was recognised. Despite an earlier warning that he would deny his Lord, he vociferously disowned any knowledge of affinity to Jesus. When a threat became intolerably personal, Peter saved his own skin. On that tragic night, we all learnt that there are inherent risks in our desire to follow Jesus in a hostile world, where neutrality is non-existent, as Peter discovered, despite his initial promised declaration that he would die for his Lord (c.f., John 13:37). The truth of our faith will eventually be tested one way or another (c.f., Roms 8:38-39).
The flip-side of Peter’s betrayal was Jesus’ perseverance in the face of abject injustice and condemnation, staged by the Jewish authorities (Matt 26: 3-5; Mark 14:55; Luke 19:47-48; John 11:53). The purpose of the overnight seizure and summary judgment was to expedite a trumped up charge that would eventually be acceptable to Pilate, without a fair trial. The expedited execution was planned so that it would not interfere with the seven days of feasting following the 15th day of Nisan (the 14th day being the Passover). It is critical to grasp that Jesus was not crucified because of who He was, another challenging cultic figure, but because of who He claimed to be – the Son of God, an equal with Yahweh (John 8:48-59; John 10:22-39; Luke 22:66-71). The Jewish elite denounced and convicted Him.
Who is Jesus of Nazareth? We follow Him at our own risk!