The Finale — Day 10

Finally, then . . .

May 10, Sunday

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SCENE 4 – Bowls of God’s Wrath

After that I saw the Temple in Heaven thrown open wide.  Seven angels came out dressed in dazzling linen with gleaming golden sashes:

  • One of the four living creatures gave a bowl to each of the seven angels, seven bowls filled with the wrath of the Everlasting God.
  • The Temple was filled with smoke from the power and glory of God so that no one could enter the Temple until the seven angels had finished pouring out the seven bowls on the earth.

Then I heard a loud voice from the Temple commanding the angels, “Go! Pour out over the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God!”

When the first angel poured out his bowl, everyone on earth who had the mark of the beast and worshipped the statue broke out in painful, malignant sores.

The second angel…

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Jesus’ Story – Day 48

April 7, Tuesday  — These events actually occurred 40 days after the Resurrection (May 14)

thegreatcommissionSometime later Jesus sent the Eleven to a nearby mountain. When Jesus got there, they worshipped Him; but some still struggled with doubts.

“Shalom!” Jesus said. “God’s peace to you! Receive the Holy Spirit.” And He breathed on them and commissioned them, saying,

“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me. Just as the Father sent Me, now I am sending you. Go into the whole world proclaiming My Message, making disciples, and baptizing all who believe into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to how to live this new life just as I have instructed you. Powerful signs will accompany your message. If you forgive the sins of any, they will be forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they will be retained. Know that I am there with you every step of the way, right to the end of the age.”

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There were many other things Jesus did which were not included in this book.  To attempt to describe them all would, I suppose, fill all the libraries of the world.  These have been recorded to help convince you that Jesus is the true Messiah.  And when you believe, you receive life in His Name.

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This ends the gospel record of the Story of Jesus.  But it’s not over!!!  Tomorrow we begin Book Two of the Jesus Trilogy – The Sequel.  Don’t miss it!

Jesus’ Story – Day 47

April 6, Monday

feed my sheepOne day, a few of them, including Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and a couple others, were together when Peter said, “I’m going fishing!” The rest decided to go along.

They took out the boat and spent all night without any success at all. Early the next morning as they approached the shore, someone (they couldn’t tell that it was Jesus) called out and asked, “Any fish?”

“Not a one!” was their answer.

“I believe if you try once more and put the nets down on the right side, you’ll find some!”

What did they have to lose? Hadn’t this happened once before? They followed the suggestion and such a huge number of fish suddenly filled the net that they couldn’t get it into the boat. John looked over at Peter and said, “It’s the Lord!”

When Peter heard it was the Lord, he quickly put on his tunic, jumped overboard, and swam to meet Him. They were just a hundred yards or so from shore.

The rest of them slowly rowed toward land, dragging the heavy net. They were surprised to find a nice campfire with some fish already cooking and some bread. “Bring Me a few of those you just caught, men.” Jesus said.

Peter helped them bring the net onto shore and they just had to count this record-breaking catch. One hundred and fifty-three! There was more than one miracle that morning; the net didn’t break!

“Time to eat!” Jesus announced. Then He distributed the fresh-cooked fish and bread. This was the third time He had appeared to them since He had been raised from the dead.

After breakfast, Jesus took Simon Peter aside. “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?” As He asked, He pointed at the fish they had caught.

“Yes, Lord, You know that I love You!” Peter answered.

“Then feed My lambs,” Jesus told him.

“But are you sure that you love Me, Simon?” Jesus asked a second time.

“Yes, Lord, You know that I love You!” Peter replied.

“Take care of My sheep,” was Jesus’ instruction to him.

And then a third time Jesus asked, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

Peter was upset that Jesus had repeated the question a third time and answered, “Lord, You know all things; You know how much I love You.”

“Yes, as a young, independent man you dress yourself and go wherever you wanted to. When you are old, it won’t be that way. You will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and take you places you don’t want to go.” With these words, Jesus was indicating by what kind of death Peter would honor God.  “Just keep following Me,” Jesus said.

Peter turned and saw John nearby and asked Jesus what was going to happen to him.

Jesus smiled and said, “If I decide to keep him alive until I return, what difference will that make to you? You just keep following Me.”

Later on, from that statement a rumor started circulating that John was not going to die, but that wasn’t what Jesus had said. John did end up outliving the others and was one of the four who left us a reliable record of Jesus’ life.

Jesus’ Story – Day 46

April 5, Sunday

empty tombBefore daybreak on the Sunday morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb. They were primarily concerned with who could help them roll the large stone away from the entrance.

About that time there was a great earthquake. An angel of the Lord had descended from heaven, rolled the stone back exposing the tomb, and was sitting on the stone in blazing brightness. In great fear the guards were stunned and fell down as though dead.

As the women approached the spot, they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled away. They saw a couple of angels standing near the tomb in shining garments, and one sitting on the rock in his long white robe. They were terrified and were about to run when one of the angels said, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? Don’t be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen as He said.

“Remember how He explained all this to you back in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’

“Come, see the place where they laid Him. Then go quickly, find His disciples, especially Peter, and give them the good news!”

The women looked in the tomb; and indeed, there was no body there. They recalled what He had told them and hurried as fast as they could to tell the disciples. Never in their lives had they felt such intense joy mixed with fear!

Now, while they were looking for the disciples, the guards were reporting to the chief priests what had just happened. Quickly the priests assembled with the elders and decided to bribe the soldiers into saying that “they had fallen asleep and that Jesus’ disciples had come during the night and stolen the body.” Ordinarily this breach of duty would have meant certain death for careless guards; but the Pharisees assured them that if the governor ever heard about it, they would pay him off and there would be no reprisal.

The men took the money and spread their alibi so effectively that people today still believe the lie.

Mary Magdalene found Peter and John, the beloved disciple, and told them that the body was gone. Before she had time to tell the whole story, they started running for the tomb.

John got to the tomb first and could see the pile of linens, but he didn’t go in. When Peter got there, he ran right in to investigate. He saw the pile of linens which had been wrapped around the body and off to the side the handkerchief that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. It had been carefully folded before being placed there. John followed him in and believed Jesus was alive even though he didn’t yet understood from Scripture that He must rise from the dead.

The disciples returned to their homes, astonished and mystified.

By this time, Mary Magdalene had returned to the garden tomb and saw two angels inside, one at the head and the other at the foot of the ledge where the body of Jesus had been laid.

“Woman,” they inquired, “why are you weeping?”

She answered them, “Because someone has taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid Him.”

Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw someone coming up behind her. Assuming it was a gardener, she begged Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him and I will take care of the body.”

Blinded by her tears and consumed with grief, she hadn’t recognized that it was, in fact, Jesus she was speaking with. But then she heard His voice.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

She turned to look at Him more closely and exclaimed, “Rabboni!” (which is Aramaic for “Teacher”).

“Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus said. “Go tell My brothers that I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.”

Mary met up with several of the other women and went to tell all the disciples what had happened. Along the way, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Yes, rejoice!”

The women fell at His feet and worshiped. Then Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. Tell My brethren I’ll meet them in Galilee.”

However, when the women had told the whole story to the disciples, they wouldn’t believe them. It sounded like a fairy tale.

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That afternoon, two of them were heading to their home in Emmaus, a village about seven miles from Jerusalem.

They talked over the bizarre events of the week and tried to make sense of this new report from the women. Jesus came up alongside them, but for some reason they didn’t recognize Him.

“What is all this I hear you talking about?” He asked. “And why are you so sad?”

One of the two, whose name was Cleopas, answered Him, “Have You not been around Jerusalem this weekend? Haven’t you heard the news?”

“What news?” Jesus inquired.

So they poured out the details. “We’re talking about Jesus of Nazareth. He was a tremendous prophet whose teachings and miracles were praised all over the country. We really thought He was going to be the One to deliver Israel from oppression, but the chief priests and our rulers had Him condemned to death. He was crucified just three days ago.

“But that’s not all! Earlier today, some women we know went to the tomb; and, well, You’re not going to believe this, but they said that some angels appeared and told them that Jesus was alive. A couple of the guys ran to check it out; and sure enough, the tomb was open and empty, but they never saw Jesus.”

“Oh, you just don’t get it, do you?” Jesus remarked. “You just can’t wrap your minds around what the prophets have been saying down through history. Didn’t they state clearly that the Messiah would first suffer and then enter His glory?”

For the next few miles, Jesus explained the Scriptures to them from Moses to Malachi, highlighting every passage which pointed to Him.

They were nearly home, and Jesus indicated that He would be traveling on. They begged Him to join them for dinner, saying, “Please, won’t You stay with us? It is nearly evening already.”

So Jesus accompanied them into the house. During the meal, He picked up the bread, blessed and broke it, and handed each of them a piece. At that moment their eyes were opened and they recognized that it was Him. In that same moment He vanished from their sight.

“Unbelievable!” one exclaimed. “Did you feel what I felt along the road as He explained the Scriptures?”

“Yes, it was like my heart was on fire!”

They couldn’t contain themselves. They hurried out and retraced their steps all the way back to Jerusalem to find the other disciples. Most of the disciples, plus a few others, were gathered together, doors tightly bolted shut for fear of what the Jewish leaders might do next.

The two from Emmaus were ushered in. They could hardly keep themselves from shouting, “It’s true! The Lord is really alive! He appeared to Simon and now to us!”

They went on to describe the remarkable conversation along the road and that amazing moment when they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.

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Suddenly, while they were all discussing these extraordinary reports, Jesus Himself entered the room, but not through the door. He just appeared in the middle of the room.

“Shalom!” He said, “Look, it is really Me!” He showed them the scars where the nails had penetrated His skin.

They were all terrified, thinking that it was a ghost or apparition.

“Really,” Jesus assured them, “you can touch Me; I’m real. A spirit wouldn’t have flesh and bones, would it?”

They couldn’t believe their eyes. But they couldn’t deny what they were seeing.

Then Jesus said, “Have you got anything to eat here? I’m hungry.” So they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb. He ate it and they watched in wonder at the sight. Then He rebuked the men for not believing the reports the women had brought earlier in the day.

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Thomas, also called Didymus, wasn’t at this gathering; and when the rest of them reported about Jesus’ appearance, he stated categorically that he wouldn’t believe until he had personally put his finger through the nail print in Jesus’ hands and stuck his hand in the place where the spear had pierced Jesus’ side. He was in for a surprise eight days later when they were all together again. Just like the last time, with the doors fastened securely, Jesus appeared right in the middle of the room.

He motioned to Thomas, “Come, friend. Put your finger here,” He said, stretching out His hands. “Stick your hand in My side if you want to. Whatever it takes, be done with unbelief!”

Thomas melted. “My Lord and my God!” was all he could say.

Jesus addressed him again, saying, “Thomas, now that you can see for yourself, you believe. Blessed are all who believe even though they haven’t seen what you have.”

Jesus’ Story – Day 45

April 3, Friday

Guards_at_the_tombEarly the next morning, the chief priests and Pharisees called on Pilate. “Sir,” they explained, “we remember that this Man, this imposter, claimed that He would rise after three days. We need you to secure the tomb. Otherwise His disciples might come and steal the body just so they can perpetuate the myth. If that happened, the last deception would be worse than the first.”

“All right then, go,” Pilate replied. “Take what you need to make it as secure as you can.”

So they went and sealed up the tomb and posted guards.

Jesus’ Story – Day 44

April 2, Thursday

jesus-crucifixion-1127718-galleryThe late-night procession led first to the estate of Annas, the High Priest emeritus. His son-in-law, Caiaphas, was the official High Priest. It was Caiaphas, you may recall, who had previously counselled the tribunal that they would all be better off if one man were sacrificed for the people, thus avoiding a riot and increased tension with Rome.

Simon Peter and John followed from a distance. As they neared Annas’ residence, John was ushered in because he was acquainted with Annas; but Peter was left at the gate. John asked one of the maids to go get Peter and let him in, which she did. When she saw him, she said, “You’re one of that Man’s disciples, aren’t you?”

Peter denied it flatly, saying, “No, I’m not!”

It was the middle of the night and quite chilly, so some of the servants and officers had built a small fire in the courtyard. Peter joined them and they sat together warming themselves.

Meanwhile, inside the house, the High Priest grilled Jesus about what He taught and who His disciples were.

“You don’t have to ask Me,” Jesus said. “I’ve been teaching in your synagogues and in the temple all along. I have no secret agenda. Ask anyone here; they can tell you what I’ve said.”

One of the officers standing near Jesus slapped Him across the face, saying, “Is that how You talk to the High Priest?”

Jesus said, “Did I say something that wasn’t true? If not, why do you hit Me?”

Outside, where Peter was warming himself, another servant girl came up to him. After looking him over closely, she said, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” The others who were sitting there turned to him and said, “You aren’t one of His disciples, now, are you?”

Peter answered them all tersely, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Woman, I don’t know that Man.”

Peter decided to move a safe distance away from this group, so he found his way to a porch area. It wasn’t long before yet another servant came to where he was. He was a relative of Malchus, whose ear Peter had cut off. He took one look at Peter and said, “Hey, I saw you with Jesus there in the garden! You are one of them!”

Peter said, “Man, I am not!” As he turned to leave, a rooster crowed in the distance.

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Annas, getting nowhere with his investigation, decided to send Jesus over to Caiaphas’ palace. So once again Jesus was bound and led through the dark streets of Jerusalem. There, a great number of priests, elders, and scribes had come together.

Peter again followed as far as the courtyard and watched the mock trial from a distance.

The officials were scrambling to find someone who would testify against Jesus so that He could be condemned to die. Many came forward, but their testimonies conflicted. It looked like nothing could be found against Him. Finally, two of them said they had heard Jesus talk about destroying the temple. One said, “I heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and within three days I will build one that is not man-made.’”

The other man’s charge was similar but not exactly in line with it.

Caiaphas stood up and asked Jesus, “Aren’t you going to defend Yourself against these claims?”

But Jesus remained silent. He would not answer.

“I’ll make You talk,” the High Priest said, spitting out his words. “I adjure You by the living God to tell us whether You are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Jesus answered and said, “I am. And you will one day see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Almighty and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Shouts of “Blasphemy!” rose from all around the room. The High Priest tore his robe in mock horror at the claim. “Who needs witnesses? Every one of us has heard His blasphemy! What do you say?”

First one and then another of the elders and leaders spoke up in a chorus of, “He deserves the death penalty! He must die!”

Those nearest Jesus took up the verdict and began beating Him and spitting in His face. Someone blindfolded Him, and several slapped Him on the face and then mocked Him, saying, “Prophesy, Messiah! Who just hit you? You should know!” This abuse went on until sunrise when He was taken to stand trial before the whole Sanhedrin.

Peter, meanwhile, was facing his own interrogation in the courtyard where he had been sitting. A servant girl walked up to him and said, “You were with Jesus of Galilee.”

Peter glanced around nervously and said to all who were nearby, “I don’t have a clue what you are talking about.”

A few minutes later when he was standing near the gate, one of the servants who had confronted him earlier began telling everyone, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” But again he denied it with a curse.

Another hour passed and someone who had been standing there said, “This guy has to be one of His followers. His Galilean accent gives him away!”

Then Peter began to curse and swear. “I’m telling you,” Peter retorted, “I don’t know whoever it is you’re talking about!” Before he finished the sentence, the sound of a rooster crowed for the second time that morning.

Peter could see Jesus from where he was standing, and at just that moment Jesus turned and looked at Peter. All of a sudden Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him a few hours earlier concerning these denials. Immediately Peter went out and wept bitterly.

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As dawn was breaking, the whole council came together and made Jesus, already disheveled by the earlier abuse, stand and testify. “If You are the Messiah, tell us.” they demanded.

“If I said yes, you wouldn’t believe Me,” Jesus answered. “And if I were to question you, I’m sure you wouldn’t answer and you certainly wouldn’t let Me go free. Let Me just say that someday you will see the Son of Man enthroned with honor at the right hand of the Almighty.”

“So then You are claiming to be the Son of God?” they asked.

“You have obviously come to that conclusion,” Jesus replied.

“That’s all the evidence we need,” the council declared. “We have heard it straight from His own mouth.”

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When Judas, the betrayer, realized that Jesus wasn’t going to escape this time, he was overcome with remorse. He returned to the chief priests and elders and said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”

“We can’t do anything about that!” the religious leaders retorted. “The deed is done.”

At that, Judas threw the thirty pieces of silver on the floor of the temple at their feet and hurried out. He attempted to hang himself but ended up falling to his death.

This turn of events caused no small dilemma for the chief priests. “What are we going to do with this money?” they asked. “Because it’s blood-money, we can’t just put it back in the treasury. That just wouldn’t be right.”

After a brief discussion it was decided that they would use it to buy an outlying field where potters discarded their scraps. Their plan was to turn it into a cemetery for strangers. Over time, the field became known as the Akel Dama, the “Field of Blood.” This fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy which said, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value set on Him by the children of Israel, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

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Once the Sanhedrin had condemned Jesus, they simply needed the Roman governor’s consent. Because Israel was occupied territory, the Jewish leaders could not carry out capital punishment. Even though it was still quite early, they dragged Jesus to the Praetorium, Pontius Pilate’s courtroom, and called for the governor. The Jewish leaders sent in emissaries rather than defile themselves by entering a Gentile facility since it was Passover.

Pilate, irritated at having to conduct business at this early hour, came into the square and asked, “What are the charges against this Man?”

The spokesman said, “If He hadn’t done something wrong, do you think we’d be bringing Him to you?”

To which Pilate replied, “You have your own courts for petty crimes. Go try Him according to your law.”

The Jews said to him, “But you won’t let us put anyone to death!” The policy to which they were referring would lead to the fulfillment of Jesus’ words when He said that He would be lifted up, indicating death by Roman crucifixion as opposed to the Jewish method of stoning.

Someone in the crowd shouted, “This Man has been disturbing the peace and telling the people they shouldn’t pay taxes to Caesar. He claims to be the Messiah, the true King of Israel. He’s nothing but trouble.”

Pilate called for Jesus to be brought to him for questioning and asked Him outright, “So, are You the King of the Jews?”

Jesus responded by asking him, “Why are you asking —for your own sake or just because of what the others are saying?”

Pilate was affronted by this and retorted, “I’m no Jew! Your people, Your chief priests are the ones who brought it up. What have You done to cause all this trouble?”

Jesus said, “My Kingdom isn’t in this world. If it were, I’d call the subjects of My Kingdom to defend Me against these Jews. But My Kingdom isn’t from around here.”

“So,” Pilate exclaimed, “You are a King then!”

Jesus answered him, “Yes, in the truest sense of the title. I came into this world for one reason: to tell people the truth. Everyone who desires truth receives My testimony.”

This conversation wasn’t going where Pilate had expected and he asked sarcastically, “Truth? What is Truth?” He turned to the crowd and announced that he could find no crime worthy of prosecution.

That caused pandemonium as the chief priests and elders standing just outside the doorway began shouting, the crowd taking up all manner of accusations against Jesus. Jesus just stood there not saying a word.

Pilate turned to Jesus and said, “You hear their accusations! They’ve got some pretty serious charges. Aren’t you going to say something?”

But Jesus remained silent. Pilate marveled at His composure.

Once again Pilate called to the crowd, “I find no fault in this Man.”

“No! No!” they shouted, “He has stirred up this nation from here all the way to Galilee!”

“Galilee?” Pilate inquired. “Are you a Galilean?” he asked Jesus. With a sense of relief Pilate realized that this was technically under the jurisdiction of Herod, the tetrarch of that Northern Province.

Since Herod happened to be in Jerusalem at the time, Pilate had Jesus taken to him.

Herod relished the opportunity to finally meet Jesus. He had always wanted to watch Him do a miracle. Herod hammered Him with a barrage of questions, but Jesus would not answer or say a word. The chief priests and scribes threw in their vehement complaints, but Jesus stood silent. Herod and his body guard began to taunt Jesus, putting a royal robe over His shoulders and feigning honor to this would-be king. Then Herod sent Him back to Pilate.

Over the years, Herod and Pilate had been at odds with each other, but after this unusual charade they became friends.

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Each year at this feast, the governor had a tradition of releasing to the Jews a prisoner of their choice. About this time, the crowd gathered to watch the proceedings. Chanting and shouting, they announced to Pilate that it was time to release the prisoner. He was pleased, thinking that this would relieve him of having to deal with Jesus. To make sure they would choose Jesus, he offered Barabbas as the alternative. This Barabbas had been a notorious criminal, leading insurrection against Rome and violently murdering any who stood in his way.

Pilate could tell that the chief priests had trumped up the charges against Jesus because they envied His popularity. He was certain the crowd would want Jesus released.

While all this was going on in the court, Pilate’s wife had sent a messenger to him with a note, saying, “Don’t have anything to do with that good Man. I’ve just had the worst nightmare about all this!”

Pilate called the accusers and declared, “You have brought this Man to me claiming He is a trouble-maker. As you have seen this morning, I examined Him and found no cause for judgment. Besides, I sent Him to Herod and he, likewise, could find nothing deserving a death sentence. I will have my soldiers give Him a flogging and He will be your released prisoner this year.”

Immediately, the chief priests stirred up the crowd to demand that Barabbas be released instead. “Barabbas!” they shouted, “We want Barabbas!”

Pilate couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “What? Who would you have me release to you?”

They cried out in unison, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” “Take Him away and bring us Barabbas!” The din was deafening in the great stone courtyard.

Still looking for a way to get the crowd to choose Jesus instead, Pilate asked, “But what about your King? What shall I do with Jesus, your Messiah?”

It was too late; the leaders had prompted them to call for Jesus’ crucifixion, and with one voice they shouted, “Let Him be crucified! Crucify! Crucify Him!”

Pilate refused to give up. “What has He done? I can’t find anything as a charge against Him! I will scourge Him and let Him go!”

“No! He must be crucified!” the crowd demanded. “Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!” their loud shouts echoed over and over until Pilate, beside himself with frustration, took a basin of water and washed his hands before the crowd in a symbolic gesture. “You are my witnesses,” he announced, “that I am innocent of the blood of this upright Man.”

The crowd was unshaken in their fervor. “His blood be upon us and our children, then!”

Reluctantly, Pilate released Barabbas into the crowd and sent Jesus down to the whipping post to be prepared for crucifixion.

The whole garrison of soldiers gathered around Jesus as they stripped His robe from Him. Someone quickly fashioned a crown out of thorn branches and pressed it into Jesus’ head. Another mockingly gave Him a reed of grass as a scepter. One by one the brazen officers bowed down to Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

Relentlessly they beat Him with sharp whips, spit in His face, and cursed. Then, putting the robe back on Him, they sent Him up to Pilate and the waiting crowd.

Pilate announced Jesus’ return, saying, “I present to you the One in Whom I found no fault.” Hoping the crowd would be satisfied by the fierce scourging, he presented Jesus, dressed in the robe and wearing the crown of thorns. Pilate said, “Look at Him!”

But the moment they saw Jesus, the place erupted with cries of “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

Disgusted, Pilate shouted, “You take Him and crucify Him! I find no fault in Him!”

The Jews retorted, “But by our law He must die! He declared Himself to be the Son of God!”

This made Pilate all the more troubled so he pulled Jesus aside and asked, “Where are You from?”

Jesus didn’t answer him which only increased his anxiety. In frustration he challenged Jesus, “Are You not going to answer me? Don’t You realize who I am? I have the power to crucify You and the power to release You.”

That time Jesus did respond, saying, “Actually, you couldn’t do anything against Me unless a higher Authority had given you the power. Those who delivered Me over to you have committed the greater sin.”

From then on Pilate looked for any possible way to release Him, but the Jews shouted, “If you let this Man go free, you are no friend of Caesar! Anyone who calls Himself a king opposes Caesar.”

This threat stripped away Pilate’s resolve. He led Jesus to The Pavement where verdicts were read and final sentencing was announced. It was mid-morning, just hours before the start of Passover.

Rising from the judgment seat, Pilate motioned toward Jesus and announced, “Behold your King!”

The crowd went wild with angry shouts of “Away with Him! Take Him away!” and “Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!”

Pilate screamed over the noisy uproar, “You want me to crucify your King?”

To which the chief priests replied, “We have no king but Caesar!”

Pilate had run out of options. He handed Jesus over to be crucified. The soldiers ripped off the fancy robe and put His own cloak over the bruised and bleeding shoulders.

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Taking up His cross, Jesus was led out of the judgment hall into the streets of Jerusalem. Somewhere along the way, the soldiers apprehended a bystander and made him carry Jesus’ cross. His name was Simon. He was from Cyrene in northern Africa. He, along with his two sons, Alexander and Rufus, just happened to be passing through Jerusalem at that moment.

Crowds lined the narrow streets, pressing in to see the spectacle. Among them were many women who were weeping and crying out, distraught by the drama being played out before them.

Jesus gathered His strength and, turning to the women, stopped the procession long enough to say, “Oh, daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep over Me. Weep, instead, for what is going to happen to you and your children. Yes, a time is coming when you’ll wish you had never had children, never had to watch them suffer. It will break your hearts to hear them begging the mountains and the hills to bury them rather than suffer at the hands of invading troops. Look, if they’re willing to do this when the tree is alive and green, how much worse will it be when it is all just deadwood?”

The sobering death march continued to a crossroads just outside the city gates. Two criminals were facing execution along with Jesus on this fateful afternoon.

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Rising up steeply beyond the road was a rocky hill. The small caves gave it the appearance of a huge skull, hence its name, “Skull Hill.” There it stood, staring down on the grisly scene where soldiers prepared the three crosses.

The soldiers offered a strong drink for the condemned, something that would temporarily knock them out to minimize resistance as they secured them to the wooden stakes. Jesus would not drink it.

Midst cries of terror and cursing, the two criminals were crucified and placed on either side of Jesus’ cross. The prophet Isaiah had written, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”

As His cross was lifted up, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”

Often the specific violation was written on a placard and nailed above the dying criminal. Pilate had personally made the placard for Jesus, writing in bold letters, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” He even printed it in the three dominant languages of the region: Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.

Because all this happened very near the city, nearly everyone could see it. When the chief priests saw what Pilate had written, they ran back to him insisting that he change it to read, “He claimed to be King of the Jews.”

But Pilate was adamant, “What I have written, I have written.”

It was only nine o’clock in the morning and the soldiers’ only task was to keep an eye on their victims. They often made a sport of throwing dice to decide how to divide the dying man’s valuables and clothing. Jesus’ tunic was a made without seams, so they decided not to tear it apart but to give it to whoever won the toss. His other garments were distributed evenly among the four soldiers. Even this detail had been foretold in the Old Testament. David had written in Psalm 22, “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”

Over the next couple of hours, streams of people passed by, some stopping to taunt the criminals, others cursing and mocking, wagging their heads in disgust as they shouted, “Ha! Destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, will You? If You can do that, You certainly should be able to save Yourself! If You’re really the Son of God, come down off that cross!”

The chief priests, scribes, and even the rulers chimed in, “He saved others but He can’t save Himself!”

“If He is the King of Israel,” they sneered, “let Him come down from the cross. Then we’ll believe in Him!”

“God’s chosen Son? Why isn’t God delivering Him? See, even God won’t have anything to do with Him! Where is this God He trusted in, now that He needs Him?”

The soldiers weren’t used to this much attention at a crucifixion. So they joined in after offering more sour wine, “If you are the King of the Jews, prove it! Save Yourself!”

Even one of the robbers picked up the taunt, saying, “Come on, Messiah. If You are who You say You are, save Yourself and save us while You’re at it!”

The other robber, though, rebuked his friend, saying, “What are you doing? Do you not fear God, even just a little, seeing you’re about to die? We deserve to die for what we’ve done, but this Man has done nothing wrong!”

Then he addressed Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”

Jesus promised him, “Today, this very day, you will be with Me in Paradise.”

A small circle of mourners gathered near the cross: Mary, Jesus’ mother; her sister; Mary, Clopas’ wife; and Mary Magdalene; along with John, His beloved disciple.

Concerned as the first-born for His mother, He looked at her and said, “Dear woman, he (meaning John who was standing beside her) will be your son now.”

Looking at John, He said, “Take care of her as your own mother.”

From that day on, John took care of her in his own home.

At noon, the sky suddenly became dark. It was as if someone had shut off the sun. The whole earth was under a shroud of darkness. It lasted for three hours.

Then, about three o’clock, Jesus raised His voice and said, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?” Which in English means, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Someone in the crowd said, “Hey! He’s calling for Elijah!”

After this, Jesus, knowing that His work on earth was complete, and in fulfillment of Scripture, said, “I’m thirsty!”

Someone grabbed the sponge tied to a stick and dipped it in the bucket of sour wine. Holding it up to Him, the man said, “Now let’s see if Elijah comes to rescue Him!”

After Jesus had tasted the wine, He said, “Tetelestai!”  “It is completed!”

One last time, Jesus took a deep breath and said in a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” And having said this, He bowed His head, yielded up His spirit, and breathed His last.

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At that moment the darkness lifted and the huge veil in the temple that hid the ark in the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, and graves burst open. These things shook up the crowd, especially the centurion assigned to guard Jesus. Fear gripped many and they beat their chests in despair. The soldier, having heard Jesus’ words and seeing how He had died, remarked, “This Man was righteous!” Contemplating the phenomenon of darkness and earthquake, he went on to say, “Surely He was the Son of God!”

Slowly the crowd disbursed to attend to Passover preparations. The Jewish leaders, ever diligent to avoid defiling their holy days, asked if the criminals could be killed quickly so they wouldn’t be a distraction during the feast.

When they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they didn’t break His legs. But to make sure He was dead, a soldier pierced His side with a spear; blood and water gushed out. With that, two more prophecies were fulfilled: “Not one of His bones shall be broken,” and “They shall look upon Him whom they pierced.”

Several other women were watching the proceedings from a distance, including Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of James and Joses; and Salome, the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

_____________

Evening was fast approaching, so a wealthy member of the Jewish council, Joseph from Arimathea, felt compelled to take care of Jesus’ remains. He was an upright man who was looking for the Kingdom of God, and had been a secret follower of Jesus for fear of what the other council members might say. He had not agreed with the Sanhedrin when they condemned Jesus. Knowing that it would expose his loyalty, Joseph gathered his courage and went to Pilate to request permission to take Jesus’ body down and to attend to the burial.

When Pilate heard that Jesus was already dead, he was shocked. He summoned the centurion to verify Joseph’s statement. Satisfied then that Jesus had died, he gave permission for the body to be turned over to Joseph.

On the way back to Skull Hill, Joseph purchased some linen to use as a wrap. Nicodemus, another council member, the one who had privately approached Jesus at night several years earlier, joined Joseph. He brought along nearly one hundred pounds of ointments and spices, including myrrh and aloes.

Carefully, they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it in strips of linen, sprinkling the spices between layers of cloth according to the custom of the Jews.

Close by the site where the crucifixion had taken place was a private garden owned by Joseph in which he had hewn out a small crypt for himself in the rocky hillside. They laid Jesus’ body there and rolled a large stone over the entrance. The nearby location was convenient since the sun was setting and Passover candles were already being lit.

Two of the women mentioned earlier, Mary Magdalene and Mary, Joses’ mother, followed the men and watched to see where the body was laid. They had purchased spices and fragrant oils and planned to return as soon as Sabbath was over to give Jesus a proper burial.

Jesus’ Story – Day 43

April 1, Wednesday

washing disciples feetIn the morning Jesus sent Peter and John into the city to make preparations for their Passover meal.

“Did You have any place in mind?” they inquired.

“Yes,” Jesus answered, “as you enter the city, you’ll come upon a man carrying a pitcher of water. Just follow him. When he reaches his destination, explain to the master of the house that I have sent you. Tell him My time has come and we plan to keep the Passover at his place. Ask to see his guest room, and he will take you to a large upper room already furnished. You’ll just need to arrange the final details.”

His disciples went and found everything just as He had described. There they prepared the Passover.

Jesus knew that His time on earth was drawing to a close and that He would be returning to His Father. He loved His followers deeply and was preparing to demonstrate it in the greatest way possible.

That evening as they reclined around the large table, Jesus began by saying, “You can’t imagine how much I have looked forward to tonight’s meal together! I am about to face tremendous suffering, and this will be our last Passover together. We won’t be together like this again until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”

Then He took the cup of sanctification, gave the blessing, and passed it around, saying, “Take some, all of you. The next time I partake will be when the Kingdom of God comes.”

There had been no little rivalry among the disciples about who got to sit in the places of honor. Jesus, being satisfied with the honor given Him by His Father, didn’t need to prove His greatness to anyone. He knew where He had come from and where He was going; so since no one else had performed the lowly task of rinsing the guests’ feet, He got up to do it. He took off His outer robe, took up a basin and towel, and began wiping the feet of each disciple.

When He got to Simon Peter, Peter said, “You shouldn’t be washing my feet!”

Jesus explained to Peter that he would understand later why He was doing this. Peter recoiled, “I’ll never let You do this, Lord!”

Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you don’t belong to Me.”

To which Peter replied, “In that case, Lord, wash me from head to toe!”

Jesus smiled and said, “You’ve already bathed; this is just to get today’s dust off your feet. You are already clean. Well, most of you are!” He knew who was about to betray Him; that’s why He said that they weren’t all clean.

When He had finished, He put His robe back on and returned to His place at the table. “Do you know why I have done this?” He asked. “You call Me ‘Rabbi’ and ‘Lord’ and you are right. Your job is to learn from Me. I have just set an example by washing your feet. This is the way you must serve each other. The servant is not greater than his master, so you must not think yourselves above such lowly service. Now that you know this, you can only enjoy deep happiness if you live this way.

“As I’ve said before, do not follow the example of this world’s leaders. They dominate and control the lives of those under them. Your authority, like Mine, does not work that way! Humble, genuine service defines great leaders. Again, I say, you are used to a system in which the younger serves the elder, yet here I have ministered to you.

“Because you have stuck with Me through the ups and downs of the past three years, I will give you places of dominion just as My Father has given Me a Kingdom. Someday you will sit at My table in My Kingdom and rule over the twelve tribes of Israel.

“I don’t speak of all of you, however, for the Scripture must be fulfilled which says, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ I am forewarning you so that when it happens, you will be convinced that I am Who I am.

“Rest assured that whenever someone responds to you as My messengers, they are accepting Me; just as you, by responding to Me, have accepted the One who sent Me.”

After saying this, Jesus was visibly troubled and said, “Yes, one of you sitting here tonight will betray Me.”

The disciples were hurt by this; and some nervously asked, “Lord, is it I?”

Jesus said, “It will be the one to whom I pass the matzah after dipping it. Yes, Scripture must be fulfilled; but as for the one who betrays Me, it would have been better for him if he’d never been born.”

The disciples were more perplexed than ever and began questioning each other, trying to figure out who among them might be the guilty one.

With brazen mock innocence, Judas himself asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?”

To which Jesus replied, “You know who you are.”

Simon Peter nudged John, who was beside Jesus, to get him to ask once more. Jesus told him to watch closely to whom He handed the dipped matzah. Jesus then took some bread, dipped it, and handed it to Judas.

Immediately, Satan entered Judas. As he rose from the table, Jesus said, “Carry out your plans quickly.” Judas went out; darkness had fallen.

In spite of all the clues, the disciples thought nothing of Judas’ exit, assuming that since he held the money, Jesus had sent him out either to buy something else for their meal or to help the poor.

Once Judas was gone, Jesus said, “God’s glorious plan is unfolding before your eyes. The genius and perfection of how He works everything out through Me will be indescribably brilliant.

“My dear children, before long I must be gone from here. You will look for Me, but as I told the Jewish crowds, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ But once I’m gone, you must love one another the same way I have loved you. The one thing that will set you apart as being My disciples will be your love for each other.”

Peter picked up on the fact that Jesus was going away and asked, “Lord, tell us where You’re going.”

All Jesus said was, “You can’t follow Me there right away, but someday you will.”

Peter replied, “Lord, why can’t I follow You right now? I mean, I’m ready to follow You to prison or even death!”

Jesus told Peter, “You think so, don’t you? The fact is that before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny Me at least three times. Dear Simon, what you don’t know is that Satan has asked for you, to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, that you won’t utterly abandon Me. Once you have been restored, you will be a real source of strength for your brothers.”

“Do you remember,” Jesus asked the men, “when I sent you from city to city and told you not to bother with taking along provisions? Did you ever run out of what you needed?”

“Not once!” they replied.

“Well, this time it’s different,” Jesus said. “Prepare for trouble. Get your money out of the bank and sell whatever you have to in order to buy a sword. Everything written about Me in the Scriptures is about to be fulfilled, even the phrase, ‘He was condemned as a criminal.’”

“Lord, we’ve got two daggers here!” someone said.

“All right,” Jesus remarked, “that’s enough about swords.”

As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, and broke it. As He passed it around to the disciples, He said, “Take, eat, this is My body which is given for you. Whenever you eat this, think of Me.”

Afterward He lifted up the cup of redemption, gave thanks, and passed it around, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood poured out for many, ushering in a whole new covenant which takes away all your sins. The next time we share this cup will be when we are together in My Father’s Kingdom.”

For the next hour or so Jesus shared His heart with the disciples, saying, “I have not told you all this to trouble you. You believe in God, so I urge you to trust Me when I tell you that in My Father’s house there are magnificent mansions. I’m going ahead of you to get your rooms ready. Once they are, I will come back to get you so that we can spend eternity together. You know all this already, and I’ve explained the way to God’s Kingdom to you.”

But Thomas spoke up, saying, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how could we possibly know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one can come to the Father except through Me. Truly knowing Me is how you know the Father. Since you know Me, you know Him and have seen Him.”

Philip didn’t understand this and asked, “Please, Lord, if You will introduce us to the Father, then we’ll be able to say that we’ve seen Him and know Him.”

“Philip,” Jesus replied, “are you saying that you don’t know Me? We’ve been together for so long. How many times have I told you that I am in the Father and He is in Me? That’s why I say that if you have seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. How can you ask to see Him as though it’s a new concept?

“Let me say it again, I am not just saying words which I’ve come up with. No, the Father who lives in Me is the One at work. If you can’t take My word for it, then believe because of the works you see Me doing. Everyone who trusts in Me will do the same amazing works and even greater things because I’ve gone to My Father. In that day you can ask the Father, using My name, to do great works. I will do those works through you, and all the glory the Father has endowed upon Me will be enhanced as a result. If you love Me, listen and live by My instructions.

“I am going to ask My Father to give you another companion, One who will be with you forever. The Spirit to Whom I am referring is a mystery to the rest of the world, but you are acquainted with Him because He has been alongside you. Though the world cannot receive Him, He will be in you. So you see, I am not abandoning you like orphans.

“I am going to come to you and you will ‘see’ Me in a way the world cannot. I will be alive inside you; and you’ll get to experience what it means that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you.

“Whoever loves Me listens to and follows My instructions. And if someone loves Me, My Father and I will love them and I will reveal Myself to them.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how are You going to show Yourself to us without the world being able to see You?”

Jesus said, “Listen to Me. If you love Me, you will be carrying on My work. My Father is thrilled when that happens and together We will make Our home inside you. This does not apply to those who show that they don’t, in fact, love Me because they aren’t faithful to do what I’ve instructed. I tell you all this on My Father’s authority; it was all His idea and plan.

“I’m telling you all this, giving you a ‘heads-up,’ before I’m gone; but the Spirit will help you understand it. As I said, My Father will send Him at My request; and He will bring to mind the many lessons you’ve learned from Me.

“I trust that this settles your anxious hearts. I want to leave with you a kind of peace the world couldn’t possibly offer. I’m not telling you these things to trouble you, but rather to enable you to trust Me and to be thrilled with Me that I get to return to My Father who is everything to Me.

“It’s time now. The ruler of this world is about to attack; but don’t worry, he has no claim on Me. I must go through with this to show the world how much I love My Father and that I am willing to do whatever He asks of Me. Come now, let’s be on our way.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out, crossed the Kidron Valley, and headed up the Mount of Olives.

Passing through a small vineyard, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “Think of Me as the True Vine and My Father as the Gardener. He lifts up and secures the branches that aren’t bearing fruit and trims the ones that are so that they will be more productive.

“My words have had a pruning affect in your lives. See that you stay closely bonded to Me, letting Me live in and through you. Don’t think for a moment that I’m asking you to go do things on your own: no branch can produce fruit unless it’s attached to the vine. Are you seeing the picture? I am the Vine and you are the branches. As long as you are getting your life from Me, you’ll produce a lot of fruit. Apart from Me you can’t hope to do anything. Anyone who won’t get their life from Me is like a branch all withered and dry, good for nothing but burning in the fire.

“Do you want to be known as My disciples? Get your life from Me. Let my words be like the life-giving sap flowing from the vine into the branches. Then you will find new desires taking shape deep within. As you ask Me for those things, I will answer; you’ll be very productive and My Father will be thrilled. That’s what makes a real disciple.

“Remember, love is what this is all about. You’ve experienced My love and I’ve explained that it flows from My Father’s love for Me. Now you can live inside that love by doing what I tell you just like I live inside My Father’s love by hearing His heart and doing whatever He asks Me to do.

“I’m so anxious for you to enjoy the kind of life that I have. Your whole being will be filled with inexpressible pleasure. More than anything else, I want you to demonstrate the same kind of love you’ve experienced from Me. Loving like this means, ultimately, being willing to lay down your life for your friends.

“You have become My friends by doing what I’ve asked of you. Ours is not a servant-master relationship because servants aren’t privy to their master’s thoughts and long-term plans. Because you are friends, I have openly shared with you everything My Father has told Me.

“It is so important that you love one another because the world isn’t going to love you. If you were part of the world system, they would; but I have chosen you to come out of the world, so they will hate you just like they have hated Me.

“Those who have accepted My word will accept your message, but you can be sure that anyone who has persecuted Me will harass you as well. They do that because they don’t know the One who sent Me. They have heard My words and seen My works, so they are accountable for their response. Those who haven’t seen and heard may have an excuse for not believing. That’s not the case with these agitators. They actively oppose both Me and My Father. Their own Scriptures predicted it, saying, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

“But remember, I just explained that the Father will be putting the Spirit of truth in you to help as you spread the word about Me. The Spirit will testify to you about Me. You have been with Me since the beginning of My ministry and will be effective witnesses.

“It’s not going to be easy, but I’m telling you ahead of time so it doesn’t stumble you when they kick you out of the synagogues. In fact, some of them will even believe they are doing God’s will by killing you.

“I didn’t say anything about this until now because I’ve been here with you, taking the brunt of the rejection. Now that I’ve told you, you’re so focused on what might happen when I leave that you aren’t interested in where it is that I’m going or that I get to reunite with Him who sent Me.

“Someday, after the Spirit has entered you, you’ll realize why it is to your advantage that I go away. Believe Me, as soon as I leave, I’ll send Him to you. Then, as you spread My Message, the Spirit will help people see how wrong it is NOT to believe in Me. He will use the fact that I have returned to My Father to convince them that I was right about how to be accepted by God. He will also cause them to realize they will either face judgment along with the ruler of this world or experience liberation from his domination because his authority has been broken.

“There’s so much more to say, more than you could digest right now; but that is another reason why I will send the Spirit. Do you recall that whenever I taught, I was being told by My Father what to say? Similarly, after I’m gone, the Spirit will take what is Mine and explain it to you.

“First, though, I must leave you. In a day or so you won’t see Me. Then shortly after that you will see Me again: I have to go to My Father.”

The disciples looked at one another and asked, “What does He mean – ‘not seeing,’ ‘seeing,’ ‘going to the Father’?” They couldn’t figure it out.

Jesus could tell they were confused, so He said, “Very soon, when you cannot see Me, you will be distraught. The world will rejoice while you weep. Then, soon afterward, your sadness will turn to joy. It’s kind of like a woman in labor. The process is painful; but as soon as the child is born, she feels tremendous joy at bringing another person into the world. Be encouraged. I promise you that the season of sadness will turn into joy the moment you see Me again. Finally all your questions will be answered and you won’t need to ask Me to explain.

“I have shared My heart with You; and because you have begun to desire the same things I do, you can pour out your hearts to the Father. Ask Him your questions and tell Him what you need. Because you have devoted yourself to Me, the Father loves you and longs to meet your needs. Fellowshipping with Him will fill you with intense joy!

“He sent Me into this world and soon I will return to Him. I can hardly wait!”

The disciples were feeling a bit less troubled and said things like, “Now we understand what You’re saying,” and, “You have answered all our questions,” and, “We have no doubt now that You came to us from God.”

 

“Do you believe? Really?” Jesus asked. “What you don’t realize is that you’re about to scatter and leave Me all alone —except for the Father Who is always with Me.

“Just know that no matter what the world throws at you, in Me you will have peace. Yes, take heart, I have overcome the world.”

After saying this, Jesus looked up toward heaven and said: “Father, it’s time. Complete the glorious plan You have for Me so that I can display Your Supreme authority and goodness. Finally We can give them Our kind of life: an indestructible aliveness that is energized by their intimate companionship with You, the only true God, and with Me, the One Whom You have sent to make it all possible.

“I have been faithful to do everything You asked Me to do. I have shown them just how incredibly wonderful You are. I can hardly wait to return to You and to the glorious life We had together long before this world existed!

“These here with Me, Father, have heard every word You told Me to share with them. I have shown them exactly what You are like. Now they are convinced that You sent Me, that You have been speaking through Me, and that I get My very life from You. They have responded to Your word and have entrusted themselves to You.

“My heart goes out to them as I prepare to leave this world while they must remain in it. I want them to know that they belong to You and that You have given them to Me. I want them to see how their lives are intertwined with Mine in a glorious bond. Oh, Holy Father, watch over them and protect each of these whom You have given to Me. Recreate our oneness in them. While I was with them, I kept them safe on Your behalf. I didn’t lose any of them except, of course, the son of destruction, as the Scripture had predicted.

“Yes, I am coming Home! But I am talking with You about this while I am still with them. I so long to see them filled with the joy and pleasure I experience.

“Now that they have received Your word, they are no longer part of the world any more than I am. And the world hates them for it. I’m not asking that You zap them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Their relationship to the world is now what Mine has been; our life, our identity is not defined by the world.

“Continue to set them apart from this world by the truths of Your word. I have dedicated Myself to them and to their becoming utterly distinguished by the truth. Just as You sent Me into this world, I am sending them into the world.

“As they proclaim the Message, many more will believe; and I lift them up to You as well, Father. Recreate our unique oneness in all of them. They have realized that You are in Me and I am in You. Now show them that together, all of them are in Us. When the world sees their unity and love, then they will be persuaded that You sent Me.

“You treat Me with such dignity and delight, Father; and I have passed that on to them so that they can enjoy our kind of relationship with each other. What a picture: I in them and You in Me, the ultimate definition of oneness. Yes! When the world sees their amazing oneness with us and each other, they will know for sure that You sent Me and that You love them every bit as much as You love Me.

“O Father, all this makes Me more anxious than ever to have all of them living with Me there. I want them to see for themselves how glorious it is to be at Home with You, to experience Your love in person. Yes, You loved Me long before We laid the foundations of this world.

“O righteous Father! This world doesn’t have a clue what You are really like! But I know You, and these with Me believe You sent Me to them. I keep telling them more and more about You because I want the love You have for Me to be in them and I want to be in them.”

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As the group approached the grove of olive trees known as the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus turned to the disciples and said, “It is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd and all the sheep will scatter.’ Tonight this will be fulfilled as every one of you gives in to fear and runs away.”

Peter rebuffed Him, saying, “Lord, what are You talking about? Even if all the others abandon You, I could never do that!”

Jesus looked at him and said, “Oh, Peter, by the time the rooster crows a second time tomorrow morning, you will have denied Me three more times!”

This really bothered Peter and he protested, saying, “Even if it means dying with You, Lord, I’d never deny You!” And all the disciples conveyed similar sentiments.

Jesus encouraged them to rest while He went on a little farther to pray. “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation,” He told them. He invited Peter, James, and John to go on with Him. They could see that He was very troubled.

“The burden is crushing Me,” He told them. “I need you to stay with Me.”

Then Jesus went a little further and, kneeling down, said, “Father, oh, Father, how can I drink this awful cup? Is there any way out? Yet whatever You decide is best, for I do want what You want.” Right then an angel appeared to Him from Heaven to strengthen Him.

Weighed down with the burden, Jesus fell on His face and cried out, “Abba, dear Father, all things are possible with You. Could You possibly take this cup away from Me? O Father, I surrender My desires to Your perfect plan.” The intense pressure He felt even caused small blood vessels under His skin to burst so that He was sweating blood.

Eventually He got up and returned to where He had left Peter, James, and John. They, too, had been emotionally drained and had fallen asleep. “Peter,” Jesus said, shaking him, “how can you sleep? Can’t you stay alert even for an hour?”

“Wake up!” He said to them. “Watch! Pray that you don’t give in to temptation! The spirit is willing and ready, but the flesh is extremely weak!”

He left them again and spent more time crying out to His Father. Finally He said, “My Father, if there is no other way to deal with this, I will drink it. I do want Your desires to be accomplished.”

When He returned to the disciples, they were once again asleep and He could hardly rouse them. So He left them and went off alone to pray.

He came to His disciples a third time and woke them. “All right, men! That’s enough sleep! The betrayer is approaching, get up! Let’s go!”

Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew where to find them because Jesus often met there with His disciples. No sooner were the disciples on their feet than Judas showed up leading a crowd of soldiers and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, all carrying lanterns, torches, swords, clubs, or other weapons.

Judas had given them a signal to watch for; he would single out Jesus by greeting Him with a kiss. Judas was in the lead and, seeing Jesus, immediately went up to Him and kissed Him, saying, “Rabbi! It’s You!”

Jesus looked at him and replied, “Friend, what are you doing here? Would you betray Me with a kiss?”

Jesus knew what was going on so He asked the crowd, “Who are you looking for?”

They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Without hesitation, Jesus replied, “I am.” Instantly, the whole lot of them, including Judas, fell backwards to the ground.

When they had gotten back on their feet, Jesus asked them again whom they were looking for. “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

“I am the One you are looking for,” Jesus answered. “There’s no reason to detain these others.” With that He fulfilled the Scripture that said, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”

As the soldiers were taking hold of Jesus, one of the disciples asked, “Lord, is this why we needed swords?” And Peter, not waiting for a reply, took a swing at the nearest assailant, cutting off his right ear. It happened to be a fellow named Malchus, one of Caiaphas’ servants.

Then Jesus said to Peter, “No, this is not the time or place for swords. Using swords to defend yourself only means you’re likely to die by the sword.

“Surely you know Me well enough to know that if I wanted to, I could ask My Father and He would send fifty thousand angels to protect Me. But if He did that, the Scriptures would not be fulfilled. No, I must drink the cup which My Father has given Me.”

Then Jesus said to His captors, “Hold on just a moment.” He reached out and touched Malchus’ ear. Immediately it was healed.

Turning to the crowd, Jesus said, “Really now, you come out under cover of night with weapons to arrest Me? I sat with you daily in the temple. Wouldn’t it have been a lot simpler to seize Me then? But no, it had to be this way. You prefer darkness to light. And this way, every detail written by the prophets gets fulfilled.”

About this time all the disciples left Him and ran for their lives. The troops tied Jesus with ropes and led Him out of the Garden. A boy had come out to watch the drama unfold; but when someone tried to grab him, he bolted and ran off naked, leaving them holding the sheet he had wrapped around himself.