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“Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that his hour had come that he would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1 NAS).
Jesus’ last day on earth by the reckoning of our present calendar
was April 3, 33 AD. He spent 33½ years on earth as a perfect human being with the last 3½ in his active ministry. The most compelling hours of that short life were those of his final day, the culmination of which meant that Adam’s race would not eternally perish in their sinful condition.
Our day begins at midnight, but the Jewish day started six hours earlier, at sunset, approximately 6 pm. In 33 AD that day was a Friday (beginning at six the evening before). Jesus died three hours before the end of that day. During the previous 21 hours, Jesus would endure seven distinct experiences, each of approximately three hours.
In scripture, three hours is a “watch.” Identifying a particular hour of the day when an event took place was somewhat difficult to ascertain without precise time keeping mechanisms, so a three hour period was more practical and often used. It is a convenient reference for discussion.
- Fellowship and Communion (In the Upper Room)
The first of these periods is best summarized as one of fellowship and communion. It occurred between sunset and mid-evening, approximately 6 to 9 pm. The major events were the observance of the Passover and the institution of the Memorial.
The import of how this day would conclude surely was foremost in Jesus’ mind as he entered the upper room to join the Apostles. Yet being surrounded by those he lived so close to for the past few years certainly must have been encouraging.
One might think that because Jesus had direct communion with the Father, the need for human contact would be minor. However, the trials and death that lay ahead were distinctly human in nature and not previously experienced by our Lord. Nothing in his experience in the heavenly realm or thus far in his human experience would compare to what lay ahead. Our human nature longs for sympathy in time of need. Not that we need pity, but human beings need to share feelings with friends or family and seek support of others of like mind.
It was no sign of weakness that Jesus craved human sympathy. He was not stoic, insensitive to physical pain and the emotions of shame and loss. He was not proud, self-centered, or aloof, even though he was far above all others of the race. His was a refined nature, keenly appreciative of all that is lovely and good, and correspondingly sensitive to pain from everything contrary to these.
Human degradation and human woe must have continually borne heavily upon him during all his earthly life. But at this hour all the grief and burdens of the world were rolled upon his shoulders and he was to suffer as though he himself were the sinner, to suffer death, the extinction of his being, trusting alone in his Father’s grace for a resurrection. Death to him was a different proposition from what it is to us. Although his
(1) Editor’s note: The author expresses the viewpoint that Jesus’ last supper was a Passover meal. Not all editors share this viewpoint.