Chapter 12 Preparation

That evening was the Day of Preparation, when people got ready for the Passover that would begin at sunset the next day (Matthew 27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 13:1, 19:14, 31, 42). Among Jews we begin the day at sunset and it continues overnight till the next afternoon. This goes back to the creation of our world. "And there was evening and there was morning, the first day (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). The reason is simple. The evening and night are to prepare us for the morning's work.

For women the Day of Preparation is a mad rush getting ready for Passover. In the original escape from slavery the Pita bread had to be made without yeast so it would not go bad for the journey (Exodus 12:15-20). But the Pharisees made so much fuss about not eating anything leavened (Exodus 12:15-20, 33-34) that women were made to sweep and scour every nook and cranny to make sure not a trace of yeast was anywhere in the home. In addition to the mazoth (unleavened bread), all sorts of traditional foods and herbs had to be prepared exactly according to their rules.

For the religious leaders, that Day of Preparation was their last opportunity to get me arrested. They would have to work all night to get the Sanhedrin to meet, get me officially condemned, and then to persuade the Roman Governor to get me crucified. I had to be dead and buried by the time the Day of Preparation ended at sundown and the Passover began (Matthew 26:5, John 19:14, 31). After that, no work of any kind, let alone mounting a trial and crucifixion, would be possible for another week and by then I would have escaped their clutches.

For me, that Day of Preparation began with a chaburah supper with my disciples. Often a rabbi would gather his close disciples together the evening before one of the major feasts and go over the meaning of the ritual the next day. One of my followers in the city had a big upper room, and he had told me I could use it any time. So I sent Peter and John to get ready a Passover supper so I could have a final teaching session with the twelve (Luke 22:8-13. N.B. There is no way a group of twelve men could have the actual Passover seder ritual apart from their families -The mother and the children each had parts of play).

As guests arrived the usual practice was for a servant to wash their feet. They would have bathed at home, but their sandals did not protect them from the dust on the way, Peter and John had forgotten to arrange this. So I got up, filled a basin with water, took a towel, and did the needful (John 13:3-5). Peter was very embarrassed and at first refused to let me wash his feet. But I insisted. "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me" (John 13:6-10).

I then explained that "if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another's feet" (John 13:12-17). Disciples all have faults, their feet get dirty, and they need to accept being forgiven, and forgiving one another every day.

But that did not apply to Judas. He had already made a deal with the leading priests, and agreed on a sum of money to guide the temple police to arrest me when no crowd would be around (Luke 22:3-6). A deliberate decision to betray a friend is not ordinary badness (John 13:18). And the other disciples could see I was extremely uneasy. They wanted to know who the betrayer could be? John was reclining next to me, and Peter asked him to find out. I said it was the one to whom I gave a piece of bread dipped in the tasty sauce (John 13:21-26). Judas took this sign of special affection, and immediately went out into the night (John 13:27-30).

Somehow I felt relieved, and I went on to remind them that everywhere they went they would be recognized as my disciples by their love for one another (John 13:35). I had warned them on three occasions that I would eventually be killed by the Sanhedrin elders and chief priests but I would then be raised from the dead (Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19). The day had now arrived, and Peter wanted to know where I was going. I said "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward." Peter insisted he would go with me and die with me, but I told him he would in fact deny me three times before the cock crowed that morning (John 13:38).

I then explained to them about the heavenly home I was going to prepare for them (John 14:1-3). I was astonished at how little they had really grasped of what I had taught them over three years about my relationship with the Father (John 14:4-24). For the rest of the meal I kept explaining their relationship with us (John 15:1-8), and how the Holy Spirit would guide them into all the truth they would need (John 16:12-13). They would actually be able to do much more by the power of the Spirit than if I were still physically present with them (John 16:7).

I also gave them a simple way to keep gathering as a group of friends (John 15:12-16), as we had done. All they needed was to share the ordinary bread and wine of any Jewish home in my name, give thanks (Luke 22:19-20), I would be there (Matthew 18:20), and they could pray in my name (John 16:23-24).

Finally I prayed that they would be able to be in the world, but not live according to the world's agenda (John 17:9-17, Romans 12:2). I also prayed that the Father would send them out with the good news to bring in those who had not yet understood how much we love them. (John 17:1-26). We sang Psalms 115-118 (Matthew 26:30), and went out across the Kidron valley in the moonlight to the olive garden where I loved to go and pray. I warned the twelve again that they would all fall away and deny me, but I expected to see them again in Galilee (Matthew 26:26-35). Then the real battle began.

The first satanic onslaught was on Peter (Luke 22:31). He was eventually going to lead my disciples after I was gone (Matthew 16:18) but right now he was scared and confused. I asked him and James and John the sons of Zebedee to come aside and support me in prayer. I told them I was terribly disturbed (Mark 14:34). They watched as I knelt and asked the Father that if it were possible there might be some other way to avoid what was coming upon me (Mark 14:34). They also saw the angel that came to strengthen me as my sweat looked like great drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:43-44). By the time I came back to them, they were fast asleep.

I told Peter to keep his eyes on me and pray for himself as I could see his faith was faltering. "I know you have a big heart, but your human instincts are taking over" (Mark 14:38). Meanwhile the forces of evil threw wave after wave of fiery darts to dislodge my grip on the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (as described in Ephesians 6:12-17).

Then I saw a big crowd of temple police arriving with swords and clubs (Mark 14:43). They did not know me, so Judas had given them the sign that the one he went and hugged was the criminal. As he kissed me, he said "Greetings, my Rabbi!" I felt sick to my stomach. Peter pulled out his sword, slashed at the slave of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. I just had time to push the ear back into place, and asked the Spirit to heal the poor fellow (Mark 14:4, Luke 22:51).

The police hesitated, and I asked the crowd, "Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I was a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!" (Luke 22:52-53).

They grabbed me and took me into the house of Caiphas, the high priest. The whole sanhedrin had already assembled there, and they began examining the witnesses, whose testimony did not agree sufficiently to convict me (Mark 14:53-61).  I refused to say a word till finally the high priest said "I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the son of God?" I said  "I am."  There was a moment of silence because ehyeh asher eyeh (Hebrew "I am who I am) was what God said to Moses (Exodus 3:13-14).. And of course our name for God was yieheh (Hebrew "He is" from which we got the term Yahveh or Jehovah). The high priest ruled that was obvious blasphemy, and they immediately declared me guilty. The scene wasn't exactly a dignified supreme court of justice (Mark 14:61-65). They spat in my face, beat me, and covered my head and told me to prophesy who slapped me (Mark 14:61-65).

Just below in the courtyard, as people warmed themselves around a brazier (Luke 22:55), Peter was recognized by one of the maids, and by his Galilean dialect. He cursed and swore on three separate occasions that he had never known me. By the third time it was early morning, and he heard a rooster crow. He remembered what I had said at supper (John 13:36), and again on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:30-35), and he ran out and cried bitterly (Mark 14:66-72).

The kangaroo court, meeting illegally half the night, had finally got me condemned. But I knew they couldn't have me crucified unless they could get the Roman governor to do the sentencing. As a special favor Pontius Pilate agreed to hold court early that morning of the Day of Preparation (Matthew 26:5, 27:1-2). But they would not go in to his headquarters because that would have defiled them so they would not have been able to celebrate the Passover with their families. So he agreed to hear the case outside (John 18:28-30).

The first thing he asked me was whether it was true that I claimed to be the King of the Jews, and I agreed that was the case. But by Roman law that was no crime. What Jews believed and did was irrelevant as long as they did not question the absolute authority of the Roman emperor. So the chief priests and elders accused me of all sorts of other things, to which I refused to respond (Mark 15:2-5). Pilate was impatient, and pronounced me not guilty (Luke 23:4). They should try me according to their religious laws. But that would not allow them to assign the death penalty (John 18:31-32).

Then they said "He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place." When he heard I was a Galilean he sent me to Herod the Tetrarch who was in Jerusalem at that time. I also refused to answer him, or do a miracle for him as he had hoped. So he got the soldiers to dress me in one of his own royal robes, and sent me back to the Governor. I could see Pilate thought this was a great joke, and he had Herod's robe sent back to him with an appreciative note (Luke 23:5-12).

Meanwhile things were looking ugly in the city. A riot would be viewed very badly by the emperor. So the Governor tried another way of getting himself off the hook. Every year he had made it a custom to release any prisoner the Jerusalem crowd particularly wanted released. He thought they might go against their religious leaders and ask for me to be freed. But they chose Barabbas, who had murdered a Roman soldier in a recent insurrection. "Then what shall I do with the man you call the king of the Jews?" And the crowd yelled "Crucify him" (Mark 15:6-15).

Pilate could see the crowd was getting out of control, so he got a slave to bring a basin of water, and ceremonially washed his hands saying "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." They answered "His blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:24-25). As I had said to the Pharisees, the blood of the prophets would inevitably be demanded of their generation. And I felt for Jerusalem like a hen wanting to gather her chicks under her wing, but they were rejecting her protection (Matthew 23:32-36).

Pilate was being forced to act totally against the principles of Roman justice. So as a last resort he decided to try the trick he had learned from Herod. He first had me publicly flogged. Then he got his soldiers to dress me up in one of his most sumptuous purple robes. They put a crown of thorns on my head, mocked me as king of the Jews, and slapped my face. Then he stated I was innocent, and he again offered to release me instead of Barabbas. They answered "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God" (John 19:1-7).

That really got him worried. So he took me inside the praetorium (the military headquarters) and questioned me some more. He could see I was innocent of any crime by Roman law, but the crowds were shouting "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor" (John 19:8-12). I could see that for him that settled it.. There was now no way he could release me. By then it was about noon and that only left a few hours before the Day of Preparation ended and the Passover celebration began (John 19:14).

Chapter 13 .....