April 09, 2019

The life of Jesus: His last week - The last Supper.


The life of Jesus: His last week - The last Supper. Jesus is condemned by false testimony and the contempt of the mob.

Because he knew what was coming, Jesus spent most of Thursday morning in prayer and discussion with his disciples. The mood was both solemn and reverential. He invited them to join with him for a last supper, an idea that struck dread in the hearts of those around him. Jesus sent Peter with two other Apostles into Jerusalem to find a place and purchase food.

Thursday afternoon the Sanhedrin Council had a meeting to decide on a number of matters, including their rising concern about the rebellious preacher from Galilee. The Levites had assembled a crowd of pilgrims and friends to protest against Jesus. It was not hard to find people who would join the crowd. Although some were upset by the theology of this man from Galilee, most were angered because it had become obvious Jesus would not use his powers to banish the Romans from Israel. Their voices rose in an organized chant to condemn and mock Jesus just outside the Council Chambers.

Their raucous demonstration had the desired effect. Inside the chambers the mood turned against Jesus. Caiaphas, the High Priest, and his father-in-law Annas, were given the task of convincing the Romans to punish Jesus.

After the meeting Caiaphas and Annas sat together with several priests to discuss how to secure Roman cooperation.
“We can ask Pontius Pilate to imprison Jesus, perhaps at the same prison where he kept John the Baptist,” Annas said.
“But John was still able to influence many of our people even while he was in prison,” Caiaphas responded “do we dare let him do that?”
Another priest spoke up. “He has far more powers than John ever did. What happens if he decides to walk out of prison? He could do it. He could walk right out of prison and start a rebellion against us.”
“And the Romans,” added Annas.

They all looked to Caiaphas for his decision. He was reluctant to have Jesus killed. During Passover the priests had to be very careful to preserve their image of purity and holiness. Having Jesus imprisoned before Passover began would be acceptable. But sending him to prison during Passover would cause a rebellion among his disciples and give the nationalists even more to be unhappy about.

“We have a problem. We cannot be seen as violating any of our religious laws, especially during Passover.... and that ends today after sundown.”

 Caiaphas paused to look at each of the priests. His humorless demeanor was of a man who didn’t like his options. After all, perhaps he could control this teacher from Galilee. Maybe the punishment of prison would be enough to end his blasphemy. Or maybe it would not.

“We are out of time. We must be seen as protecting the laws of our faith and the sacred authority of our priesthood. The only way to resolve this problem is to give it to the Romans. Although the Council has the authority to banish Jesus, only the Romans can punish him with death. We will use the mob to convince the Romans this teacher is guilty of sedition. Then let them deal with Jesus.”

A sly smile crossed the face of his father-in-law. “Let us deal with Jesus tomorrow morning. Passover will have ended and we can place all the blame for our decision on the Romans.... We will look for Jesus Friday morning and take him to the Romans. They will crucify him.”

***

Peter found a house for the Last Supper in Jerusalem. Mary the mother of Jesus; Salome of Bethsaida; Joanna, wife of Chuza; Mary of Magdala; and her friend Susanna all came to the house that afternoon. They prepared the Last Supper with the help of several disciples. Jesus was the first man to arrive. He bathed his hands and feet, put on a white robe, and waited for his Apostles to arrive.

John and James Boanerges came first, followed in a few minutes by each of the other Apostles. One by one Jesus asked each apostle to sit down before him. He then washed the dust and dirt from the man’s feet. It was a symbolic act of humility. This was a task usually performed by the lowest person in the household, generally a slave or servant. When Peter arrived he asked: “Why are you washing the dust of Jerusalem from my feet?”

“The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Puzzled by the humility of his master, Peter joined the others at the table. A feeling of despair hung over the entire room. There was little talk. The Apostles knew Jesus was planning to be arrested. After they finished, Jesus stood up and raised his glass of wine as an offering. The Apostles also raised their glasses in silence.

“This is my blood which I shed for you.”
He motioned for each man to take a sip of wine.
Jesus took a crust of bread from the table, and raised it up for all to see.
“This is my body, which I give to you.”
He motioned for each man to take a crust of bread. They ate in silence.

The women and disciples who were present were awed by the sense of reverence and sorrow that seemed to echo through the room. Mary of Magdala began to weep.

Jesus spoke again. “We cannot stay here in Jerusalem. We will cross the valley together. I will go on to the Garden of Gethsemane. I want you to go to Bethany tonight and then to Jericho in the morning. Once across the Jordan, you should be safe from the Romans. Go home to Capernaum until you are ready to teach in my name once more.”

“But what about you?” Peter asked, clearly alarmed.
“I go to be tried by the priests and the Romans.”
Peter almost shouted his response. “I will never leave your side!”
Jesus, his face betraying his sadness, looked thoughtfully at Peter.
“You will deny me, Peter, three times before the cock crows.”
Peter was about to protest, but Jesus held up his hand.
“Remember me. Remember me and the message I have given to you. Teach it to all who will listen.”


The meal ended in the late afternoon. Jesus and his companions left the house and made their way toward the Garden of Gethsemane.
Crossing the Kidron Valley, Jesus stopped, gestured toward the Temple Mount, and addressed the Apostles and women. 
“Tomorrow will be dangerous for anyone associated with me, especially near the Temple Mount. You must go to Jericho as I have asked.”

He then turned to Judas and nodded toward the Temple Mount. Judas was despondent. It was difficult for him to look at Jesus.

“Do your duty, Judas.”

***

Once at Gethsemane, Jesus waited in the cold night air for the mob to come. His mental anguish gradually became more intense. Jesus knew what was coming. His skin became fragile and tender, occasionally oozing a slightly bloody sweat.

The Levites were told to create an angry mob. It did not take much effort to provoke a group of pilgrims into a frenzy of disorderly behavior. Then several priests and elders, accompanied by a mob of chanting pilgrims, followed Judas out of the Temple Mount.

It was a short walk to The Garden of Gethsemane and Judas found Jesus sitting in his customary place. The priests took Jesus into custody, roughly securing his hands behind him. The mob was vulgar and hostile. Although the priests briefly looked for the Apostles, there was no one else in the Garden. Unhappy they were unable to find anyone else, but satisfied they had done what Annas had told them to do; the priests seized Jesus and led the mob back to the Temple Mount. Judas, thoroughly shaken by the arrest of his mentor, watched the mob disappear into the darkness. He stood alone for several minutes in the cool night air, struggling with his thoughts.

They held a mock trial before Caiaphas who had hastily called the Sanhedrin into session. The agony of the confrontation lasted for more than an hour. Jesus was condemned by false testimony and the contempt of all who were there. Tired and fed up with the turn of events, the Council condemned Jesus and decided to refer him to the Romans for prosecution. The Levites took him down stairs and brutally heaved him into a cold stone cell. Despite his mounting exhaustion, Jesus would not sleep.

...............

Ron

30

No comments: