His Last Days

Through the Eyes of the Master

MarApr2013_coverpic_past

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His Foremost Concern

 

“Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment” (John 12:1-3).

Brad Bach

Jesus had come to the home of his dearest friends for comfort and refreshment. This would be his last week of life. Finishing the work that his Father had given him to do was now right before him. The salvation of the world rested on his shoulders. At the home of his friends, we can imagine that Jesus would have received each moment, each passing glance, each touch, and each snippet of conversation, in a magnified, intensified, and height-ened way. While others were not tuned to the intensity of Jesus’ ordeal, somehow Mary was.

Mary’s Expression of Love

Considering the great gift that Jesus had given Mary in reviving Lazarus, far greater than anything she could ever repay, her gift was but a small token of her appreciation for the life of her brother. The ointment was very costly, possibly worth a whole year’s wage. But it wasnot the cost that was her concern, it was simply the very best she could give. It was from her heart. It was to show her love to the master. Had she hesitated, even another week, it would have been too late. Her purposeful act is a good lesson to us. Never delay anointing your brethren with the perfume of your love. Do not hold silent your expressions of love.

Was Mary moved by her own sensitivity to Jesus, or by an inspiration of the holy Spirit? We cannot be certain. Jesus may have seen her gesture as fulfilling Song of Solomon 1:12 (NASB),”While the king was at his table, my perfume gave forth its fragrance.”

Mary may have known of this passage too, but, either way Jesus would see it as a double blessing. It was an expression of Mary’s love, and, more importantly, it was a late moment assurance of God’s love.

A challenge came, led by Judas, as to the use of this valuable ointment. Jesus responded, “Leave her alone … it was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial” (John 12:7 NIV). This rebuke of Judas created the final rift between him and Jesus. This moment would naturally have stirred the master’s emotions. In his eyes these were all processional steps to fulfilling the words of prophecy written of him long before. Each fulfillment would have been an encouragement, even though some were wholly unpleasant.

Jesus Views the Multitude

“On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel, that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:12-13). How would Jesus have seen this multitude as they cried out “Hosanna?”

It would be easy to imagine that he would have seen them as very fickle, as crowds often can be, praising one day and threatening violence the next. But in this instance it is not likely that he thought this way. Most people think of “Hosanna” as a cry of praise, but it is not. “Hosanna” means “save now.” Even the name “Jesus” includes this thought. It means “Jehovah is Salvation.”

So theirs was a cry of need. As Jesus passed by, hearing their cry of “Hosanna,” he would have seen a crowd that recognized their oppressed and desperate condition. They were looking to him as the one to restore their nation and make them whole again. Jesus would have been touched by this scene, knowing that now he could do nothing, but that one day he would return to restore, to “save,” and to make of them a blesser nation.

His Final Thoughts

As Jesus came to the final days of his earthly life, we want to understand what predominant thoughts occupied his mind. Foremost was, “Have I thus far met all of the objectives that my heavenly Father had set out for me, and have I done so obediently, submissively, meeting with full divine approval? Will I remain faithful through the remaining tests? How will I see my persecutors and accusers? Being nailed upon the cross, will I prevail, will I gain the life promised, so that I may give life to the world?”

Next in his mind was, “Who will care for my natural family that would normally have come under my care?” Following that, “How can I best encourage my spiritual family, especially my apostles, and prepare them for my departure, and the events near at hand?” We know that these were the predominate thoughts of our Lord because of the things that he said and did during the final hours of his earthly ministry.

We begin with the second matter on Jesus’ mind, caring for his natural family. Who would have come under Jesus’ care more than his mother Mary, whom the angel termed “blessed … among women”? (Luke 1:28). The fifth commandment found in Exodus 20:12 reads, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” The Apostle Paul expanded on this in 1 Timothy 5:8 saying, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” This “honouring” includes caring for aged parents. In Jesus’ eyes Mary was not only his mother, but a woman of great faithfulness and grace. She had sacrificed much, serving God, having been accused of giving birth to an illegitimate son, and living out her life under the stigma of that suspicion. Mary surely had been on his mind, for Jesus lovingly paid her the highest of honors, as well as discharging his responsibilities for her physical care, when he gave one of his final utterances from the cross. “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:26-27). We marvel at the purity of heart displayed as his final thoughts rested upon the well being of others.

But, as has been written, family need not be defined merely as those with whom we share blood but as those for whom we would willingly give our blood. And so the next primary consideration of Jesus revolved around the well being of his spiritual family. Of course Jesus foreknew that it would be his closest, specially selected followers that would scatter in fear at his arrest. We can well imagine his concerns for those that were to carry on the work he had begun. Knowing that he would soon be taken and put to death, Jesus quoted to them from the prophet Zechariah as they walked the path toward Gethsemane. “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad” (Matthew 26:31).

But Jesus was a perfect man! Can we grasp how this all would have appeared through his eyes, and how it would have affected him at his core? Scriptures say that Jesus had “compassion on the multitudes,” but how much more toward his apostles in their moment of distress? But what does this word “compassion” mean? It is defined as, “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering” (Collins English Dictionary, Complete and Unabridged, 10th Edition). The word translated “compassion” in the New Testament is splagchnizomai, and is defined in Strong’s concordance as “to have the bowels yearn, to feel sympathy, to pity.” These definitions help us gain insight into the intensity of deep emotional care that Jesus felt for his followers.

We merely need to recall how moved Jesus was by the grieving family of Lazarus to realize how their circumstances profoundly impacted him emotionally. The entire 11th chapter of John denotes the personal care that Jesus felt. “Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou had been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!” (John 11:32-36).

Jesus groaned in spirit; he was so troubled, in fact, that he was literally brought to tears. Why? His tears were not so much for Lazarus, for Jesus knew that Lazarus was asleep in death. No, Jesus’ emotional reaction came as he absorbed the grief of Lazarus’ family. His tender response in this earlier narrative may help us understand the compassion that he later felt towards his disciples as he contemplated what they were about to experience, beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Yes, the apostles were about to forsake him, but Jesus knew the heart of his spiritual family, just as he can read our hearts today. He knew that they were far more capable and committed to him than they even knew themselves to be. Peter denied with curses that he even knew Jesus. “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him” (Luke 22:61-63).

Just imagine this heartbreaking scene. Yet in spite of Peter’s digression, Jesus looked past it. He had prayed for Peter. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). Embedded in Jesus’ words is a full expectation that Peter would eventually overcome his weakness. The Lord saw in Peter, the rock, the man that he would become, and Jesus prayed that Peter should become that man. What potential does the Lord see in each of us that we may not yet perceive?

Be Not Faithless But Believing

Jesus also knew the faith potential existing within the Apostle Thomas, the one who would doubt the fundamental truth of his resurrection and the word of his brethren. He demanded physical proof that Jesus had truly been raised from the dead. “The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:25-27).

Jesus did not chastise Thomas, but rather gave him what he needed to be convinced. In this way he assured Thomas of his love. This can be an example to us. With what eyes should we see the world that presently lacks sufficient faith? We can look forward with hopeful expectation to the time when they will be given “convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3 NASB) and, in due course, be believers too.

How about you and me? Would Jesus likely have thought about us in those stressful times? In fact, we know that he did by the words that he spoke to Thomas. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). In his earlier prayer Jesus had said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20, 21).

How wonderful to know that Jesus thought about us, and desired God’s blessings upon us as well. Often brethren focus on their shortcomings. They fail to realize that, just as with Peter and Thomas, Jesus looks at us with “compassion” (recall the above definitions). He sees us, not only for what we are, but for what we can become through his spirit and help.

Concern For His Disciples

On the night of his betrayal, Jesus knew that the disciples were facing a crucial test. He also knew that they were to help lay the foundation for the Gospel Age church. So, beginning in John 13, we see Jesus taking special measures to prepare the disciples for his death. Read through John chapters 13-17 to see the important lessons Jesus wanted to emphasize to them. The lesson of becoming humble servants to the brethren (13:4-17), the new commandment of love (13:34-35), the coming comforter, the holy spirit (14:16-18, 25-26), etc. He was deeply concerned for them and wanted to give them every assurance of God’s help. Notice the words of Jesus’ prayer:

“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth; Thy word is truth. As Thou hast sent me into the world … I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be santified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me” (John 17:16-21).

In his prayer, Jesus taught the disciples (including us) to pray in his name and ask anything and it would be done unto them ( John 16:23-24, 26-27). Then, in John 17:4-5 and 17:24, Jesus made two of his own requests of God. The first was that he might have his previous glory restored. His second says, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). His request was that he might have his bride present with him in heaven, beholding his glory, and witnessing God’s love for his son that existed from before the foundation of the world. Try to grasp the full meaning of this request. It is awe-inspiring that we should be the subject of Jesus’ desire, that we should be so considered during his final trying hours.

He Died For His Enemies Also

Now consider, how would Jesus view his accusers? There was no shortage of enemies — Judas, the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, lawyers, members of the Sanhedrin, to a lesser extent Herod, Pilate, the false witnesses, and the crowd that shouted “crucify him.” There were so many arrayed against him. How did the master see them? To be sure, he knew some were much more culpable in their deceits and cruelty than others. But Jesus had come to die for them all. In fact, as he contemplated the matter, it says that he wept over Jerusalem (Luke19:41). Later, Peter implied that there was a greater evil behind their actions when he said, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:17).

Jesus saw that Satan was the true enemy behind the evil, “the god of this world” blinding the minds of unbelievers. Peter had come to accept the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus. Fully receiving that mercy enabled him to compassionately reflect those same sentiments toward others. As we understand the goodness that we each have received, we can likewise come to practice more compassion and generosity of heart, separating sin from sinner, seeing the potential for good within each person. This is not always easy to do, but it is the goal, indoctrinating our hearts in agape love.

His Foremost Concern

As Jesus lingered in the darkness of Gethsemane, awaiting his arrest, in deepest humility he saw matters through eyes of uncertainty. Had he perfectly accomplished all the work God had sent him to do? There was no room for error, no minor infraction would be allowed. Perfection was the only acceptable standard. Beset with apprehension, this weight bore down upon the master with great intensity. He wept “with strong crying and tears” (Hebrews 5:7, Luke 22:41-44).

“St. Paul assures us that the master’s Gethsemane experiences were linked with fear — not fear of dying, but fear of remaining dead, fear that he would not be accounted of the Father worthy of that glorious resurrection which had been promised to him on condition of absolute obedience … an angel of God appeared to him in the garden and strengthened him — gave him the assurance from the Father that he had been faithful up to that moment, and that the divine blessing would be with him in the hour of trial just at hand. From that moment onward, all the fear and agony were gone. If the Father had approved him thus far, and if the Father’s blessing and smile went with him, he could endure all things, come what might. Throughout the remainder of that night and the following day, Jesus was the calmest of the calm, under the most trying circumstances” (R5551).

From our vantage point we see that his faithfulness was confirmed by his resurrection. But if our Lord, being perfect, labored under these concerns, is there any wonder that, at times, we should find ourselves similarly burdened? We all may have fears regarding the faithfulness of our walk, when we see the ugliness of our own imperfections glaring out, and, at times, suffer the anxiety of wondering what our future holds. How wonderful to know that our merciful high priest stands by us. “In these experiences of the master, we find more or less a repetition in his disciples. When assured that their sins are forgiven, that the Father Himself loves them, that His grace is sufficient for them, and that the redeemer’s robe of righteousness covers them, the followers of Jesus can, under such circumstances, be courageous, even while dreading death” (R5551).

In partaking of the memorial emblems, let us all be mindful of his words, for he himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NASB).

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

In the eyes of Jesus, each of us is his beloved. Let us all be worthy of that love and reflect it as we are able.

 

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