Thursday, April 9, 2009


Troubled. That was a good description. The entire region was gathering to remember, then to feast the goodness of The Eternal. But they were troubled.

Of Jesus' followers, those that slept did so fitfully. Some of them had nightmares. Members of the Council were like giant, black birds of prey swooping down to destroy the Teacher, then falling upon the rest of them.

What had begun with such promise as the people shouted "Hosanna" on Sunday, had grown darker each day since. When Jesus spoke the harsh words -- "The Twin," Thomas, had counted seven woes -- targeting the Council yesterday, it was as if he was throwing down the gauntlet. Then a few Pharisees were standing near to listen when, just outside the wall, the Teacher said that judgement would come soon and not one stone would be left standing upon another.

The hope for clarity came up empty last night. Jesus spoke graphically to them about the judgment to come. He gave ways to identify it. Many were hoping for a clear date so they could prepare, but he said that no one knows the day or the hour. Just be ready. What tension!

The more optimistic among them hoped today would be a little brighter. It was Passover. This was a day to remember how the Eternal delivers His people during difficult times. Surely it was time for a hope.

By mid-morning the markets were buzzing with activity. People were purchasing everything necessary for the Passover meal. Some of Jesus' followers returned from a walk through Bethany and asked him, "What do you want us to do for the supper tonight?"

He thought for a moment and said, "Andrew, you and Philip go into the city. You will see a servant carrying a water jar. Follow him home and tell the master of the house I will be there with my disciples tonight. He will be expecting you and show you a room upstairs which is already furnished. Then, go to the market and get all you need to prepare the meal."

Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime. The Devil by now had Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, firmly in his grip, all set for the betrayal.

Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron.
Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron.

When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, "Master, you wash my feet?"

Jesus answered, "You don't understand now what I'm doing, but it will be clear enough to you later."

Peter persisted, "You're not going to wash my feet—ever!"

Jesus said, "If I don't wash you, you can't be part of what I'm doing."

"Master!" said Peter. "Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!"

Jesus said, "If you've had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you're clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene. So now you're clean. But not every one of you." (He knew who was betraying him. That's why he said, "Not every one of you.")

After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table. Then he said, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as 'Teacher' and 'Master,' and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other's feet. I've laid down a pattern for you. What I've done, you do.
(John 13:1-15 The Message)

Just a few days earlier, the Teacher had amazed and infuriated a crowd when he declared his flesh was real food and his blood real drink. Tonight he added to their understanding...and their sadness. Taking a piece of the flat bread, he broke it and said, "This is my body." Later he took the cup known in Passover as "Redemption" and said, "This is my blood." Then, at the end of the meal, he said, "I won't eat this meal with you again until we eat it in my Father's kingdom."

They finished the Seder with the traditional hymn that night, but it was sung with heavy hearts and sad faces. Obviously, Judas was a defector. When Jesus mentioned betrayal, Judas stomped out. The others had looked on...speechless.

As they stepped into the night air, Jesus said, "Don't be troubled. You have learned to believe in God. Now, trust me. I have a job to do. Part of my work is going ahead to prepare you places for eternity. The day will come when this darkness will be permanently ended and we will be together again. Without sadness. Without goodbyes."

As the Teacher spoke, he was exiting the city gate. For some reason, he didn't start up the familiar road to Bethany. He turned aside to the garden they called Gethsemane. When they arrived at a familiar place, he told most of the disciples to wait awhile. Peter, John and his brother James followed him further in. Finally, he spoke frankly, "I need some time in prayer, but I need to be alone. Please wait here, but please pray for me."

To my readers: the eight days we have come to know as "Holy Week" is detailed graphically in Scripture. The parts we don't know much about are the human elements, especially from the viewpoint of Jesus' closest followers. My attempt this week is to stay true to the Biblical text, while shading in what it may have been like "between the lines." Please distinguish my ruminations from God's Word by reading the last few chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. My hope is that the reading of my words impacts you even a tiny percentage as much as writing them has impacted me.

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