Easter: Why I Identify with Jesus & His Apostles in the Moments Before and During his Crucifixion
Mood Music: Will the Lord Remember Me? (Traditional)
Humans understand pain, tragedy, and grief more than any other emotion.
This is why, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I identify most with the Jesus of Holy Week. The Jesus who was marching the road to his own death as we all are.
If you aren’t a believer don’t clock out, this isn’t a sermon it’s a story of a man and his friends who we can all relate to. A special group of people in a special point of history who had to fight their flesh like never before.
Walk with me as I explain why I identify most with Jesus and his apostles during the time now known as Easter. Perhaps, you will find a morsel of yourself along the way too.
Jesus’s Washing the Apostle’s Feet- John 12: 1-9
Jesus had just risen Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus from the dead and in celebration the family threw Jesus a grand party. He was a hero, a healer, and now identified as a savior! He was about to enter the Holy City for Passover as a king praised and loved for his good deed.
Mary, Lazarus’s sister, who had before been tight with Jesus about waiting until Lazarus had died to try and heal him, was now humble and thankful. So thankful she found the most expensive perfume she could and washed Jesus’s feet with it and used her hair as a towel.
The guests were taken aback. It was sensual, it was indulgent, it was plain weird, but to the treasurer of the disciples, Judas, it was wasteful.
You see, soon Judas would betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and it was also rumored that he was stealing from the treasury that was meant for the ministry. Judas was all about his coins so he spoke up and basically yelled,” That perfume was worth a whole year’s salary, that’s money you could have given to the poor”.
Obviously, Judas didn’t care about the poor. He wanted the money for the essence of nard in the ministry money bag so he could partake, but even so Jesus’s reply seems a little strange even off putting for a man so loving, “The poor will always be with you, I will not.”
Was Jesus’s saying, “Screw the poor?” Did be not care? Sure, he cared! He cared more than anyone in the world, but his statement was true.
The poor was always with the disciples and they would have the rest of their lives to help, but Jesus knew that his time on earth was limited.
Have you ever been sick mentally or physically and desired a little pampering- a back rub, a bath drawn, a cooked meal, or a hug? Jesus knew that in less than a few days he would be beaten, spat on, publicly humiliated and nailed to the cross.
Though this act of Mary’s foreshadowed his impending burial ritual, it probably was also very comforting to a man who knew he was soon to be treated like a hated criminal. It was a last bit of love and reverence before his life as flesh and bone ended on earth.
The Foot Washing Ritual at the Last Supper- John 13: 1-17
The Last Supper is the last Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples before being crucified.
A Passover meal was special for any Jew not only was it holy, but it would consist of foods that couldn’t be afforded every day.
The meal to them was like a modern day American Thanksgiving meal. They would enjoy wine, bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and the oh so rare roasted lamb.
At this point in history, people followed after the Greek tradition and ate in a reclined position. There were raised pallets around the table, so the bottom of the person’s foot who reclined next to you would be visible as you ate. The tradition was that the lowliest person at the meal would have to wash the feet of all the diners.
Jesus, the Highest of the High, surprised the disciples and took the lowly role of water boy. He washed each person’s foot like a servant. Not the disciple’s version of the Savior.
If you knew it was your last night on this earth wouldn’t you want to do something special for your family and friends? Something to let them know that you loved them more than they ever knew?
Jesus’s dearly loved the disciples and at the Last Supper not only did he verbally express it, he showed them his enduring love by preforming one of the lowliest acts in the world.
When you love someone dearly you don’t mind those roles that are less than enjoyable. Changing the diapers of a baby or an older adult or cleaning vomit off a tispy friend is a second reaction.
Love isn’t just a word it’s action and Jesus didn’t mind showing his love through action.
The Garden of Gethsemane/ The Disciples- Matthew 26:36-46
The Last Supper was over and Jesus suggested the disciples leave the comfort of the Upper Room and go with him to pray in the Garden of Gesthsemane in the chilly spring night air.
Jesus knew his time before the crucifixion was winding down and he was a nervous wreck. He wanted to pray to the Father surrounded by his friends (Judas had already ran off to rat out Jesus for a few coins).
He asked the disciples to just stay up with him a while and pray. What did his loyal followers do? Go to sleep!
After a long work week, have you ever had a great shower before an evening out? Then headed out with some friends, enjoyed amazing conversation, and outstanding food?
If you are anything like me, you soon go off into a happy little trance as the evening seems to be ending. With a clean body, a full tummy, and surround by great company my eyes start to roll back in my head and I know it’s time to head home, but it always seems to be that one friend who suggests a movie, a club, or dessert and because everyone else is game you get stuck for another round of ‘fun’?
How about you get settled in bed or into a good TV show and right as the drama starts heating up or the sleep gets real your phone goes off and it’s a friend who is having a problem and needs some advice.
As humans, we aren’t always the best friends we could be and we often put our needs first. The disciples have had a busy week, their feet are clean, bellies’ full and as much as they want to be there for Jesus, sleep is calling and they make a very poor choice.
The Garden of Gethsemane/ Jesus – Scripture Above
Jesus knows he is moments away from being betrayed by Judas and the Roman guards are going to carry him off to trial after trial, before he must face the cross.
He is a mess. He’s asking the disciples to stay up. He’s mildly chiding them because they won’t stay up. He’s literally exuding a mixture of blood and sweat, a medical condition brought on by extreme stress, and he is pleading with his Father in prayer:
If it be your will let this cup pass from me,” he fervently begs. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
As a Christian, as an individual, as a person who was been in serious need of a miracle, I have pleaded with God on countless occasions.
Pleaded he’d pass the cup of bills, pleaded he’d pass the cup of sorrow, and pleaded greatly fervently, seriously, with all in me, he would pass the cup of death.
This is the Jesus I love, because this is the place I know most – pleading.
You dear reader may know what it feels like to have been in a hospital room pleading with God that your loved one doesn’t go and if you have been in my situation you have pleaded over a dead body for life.
Paradoxically, I hate that Jesus had to know this sorrow, but I am so happy he did!
In his sorrow, I see myself. An individual who has been broken by circumstance looking to my Father in heaven for a way out, even when I know the answer has already been decided.
Peter John 13 & 18
At the Last Supper, Jesus confesses that someone will betray him and Peter wants to know who because he’s sure it’s not him.
Peter tells Jesus that he’d go to jail with him, die for him, even tried to refuse having his feet washed by him. Jesus’s swears that Peter will have denied him three times before the roster crows the next morning and Peter says, “Never, Lord.”
When the Roman soldiers bust into the Garden of Gethsemane to collect Jesus for trial Peter pops off and uses his sword to cut off one of the soldier’s ears (Jesus picks it up and reconnects it and tells Peter to let him go in peace).
But when Jesus is being trialed and it is now dangerous to be a disciple, does Peter stay loyal to Jesus? Nope. He hides, denies that he knows Jesus twice and on the last time when a servant girl asked if he use to hang with Jesus he literally cusses as he denies his friend he only hours earlier promised to die for.
This last denial takes place all as the roster crows and Jesus looks at Peter knowingly. As a side note, you have to love Jesus’s comedic timing.
Like I said earlier, we don’t always do the right thing or choose our friends first. Sometimes in attempt to look good or save ourselves we hurt the people we love when they need us the most.
Peter is a prime example of good intentions and conflicting actions.
Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the disciple John, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea- John 19
All the disciples accept John had fled and at the foot of the cross there was Mary Magdalene a woman Jesus casted seven demons from, his mother Mary, and of course John.
All the others had ran as not to be trialed, whipped or killed. But the faithful few stayed until Jesus gave up the ghost and died.
Jesus had been beaten with a whip that had hard bone on the end which penetrated and dragged into his flesh. He was spat on and mocked, nails were hammered into his wrists and feet. He had a crown of thrones pushed into his skull, he was hot, hungry, thirsty, and unlike Classical and Romantic art illustrates he was totally naked.
His mother saw what she hadn’t see since she diapered him in Bethlehem and Egypt, but was there. John who abandoned his own life to follow Jesus saw his master broken, and Mary Magdalene rumored to be a reformed prostitute whom Jesus saved from a life of sin was there to see her everything die shamefully.
When the third hour came and Jesus laid down his life Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (not to be confused with Jesus’s earthly father who had long since passed) begged for Jesus’s body and they laid him to rest in Joseph’s own tomb.
They performed a quick burial ritual by rubbing expensive oils on his body. They wrapped him in linen and placed him in the tomb until after the Sabbath Day when it would be lawful for the woman to come in and finish the process.
As a side note, Jesus’s mother sister who was also named Mary was at the foot of the cross.
I love this part of the story so much because I have been all these characters in my life.
I was the only person in the room when the corners picked up my grandmother- 10 days after my birthday 9 days before Christmas.
I remember helping the guys wrap her in a white blanket as her limp body went side to side. I wrote her obituary including a special poem, I helped decide the funeral arrangements and coffin, I picked out what she would wear, and my sister and I redid her hair in her coffin because her curls were wrong.
When my first love died a few days before Easter I rushed to his side the week after. I stayed in a quite chapel with him for ages as I confessed every piece of love I ever felt for him.
I ran my fingers through his beautiful hair willing it to stay down, I wiped the makeup from his eyelashes and brows so that he would look more natural, held his hand and almost lost my mental stability when I saw that he had a ticking watch still going on his lifeless wrist.
I have walked away from funeral homes empty and broken with no idea what would be of the rest of my life.
I’ve been Mary, Joseph, Mary, John, and Nicodemus. So have you and if you haven’t, unfortunately you will be.
Death is a fact of life. Staying when it hurts, when there’s seemingly no soul left to stay for is powerful, beautiful, and tragic.
Jesus and his disciples were Jews and it was unlawful to do anything on the Sabbath which happens to be Saturday (John 19:42) .
On this day, Jesus’s body lay dormant in the tomb (His Spirt, however, was rescuing souls from Paradise and taking them up to heaven while preaching the gospel to the wicked who had died before his crucifixion – Ephesians 4:8-10 & 1 Peter 3:18-20).
On Earth, Saturday was a tragic day. The disciples’ master was gone. They had gone back to the Upper Room to hide from the soldiers who might be looking for them (John 20: 19).
I’m sure the disciples were not only sad that Jesus was dead, fearful that they might also have to die horribly for association, but also upset about their behavior.
They had ran. Even John had ran for a moment before he met back up with Jesus at the cross.
The teacher who they loved so much, the man they vowed to protect, the father figure who had made them all famous and saved them from storms and starvation over and over again was dead and they had all done nothing to prevent it.
They had no idea what to do next, where to go, they were broken, hurting. Embarrassed and depressed.
I got this concept from Max Lucado -“Saturday”. Is this the Saturday of your life?
Did you vow to protect someone, but threw them to the wolves? Were you dismissive with someone who needed you most?
Has a loved one been buried, the funeral over, and there’s nothing to do but grieve? Have you been fired from a job, flunked out of school, fling bankruptcy and you are now hiding out from everyone in embarrassment?
We all have faced a Saturday in our lives, but good news….. with the help of the Lord, Sunday is coming!
As the story goes, Jesus arose from the dead with all power in his hand! Death has lost its sting! Victory is in the hands of all who believe!
I am not perfect friends, but I believe this story more than I believe in my own life and I am thankful to God for this model. This model of humanity that helps me know that Jesus can understand my griefs and cares, because he and his friends faced them too.
This blog can, has, and probably will go in all kinds of directions. Some might not be the most Christian, but I am thankful to God for God and I pray that this post has been interesting, informative, and leads you to know that there is a Risen Savior who can turn all your Friday’s and Saturday’s into a Sweet Sunday !
Happy Easter and I dearly love you all.