“For consider him … lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:3).
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On Thursday, April 21st, the footstep followers of Jesus will meet together to commemorate the Lord’s Memorial. On that night we should feel a depth of spirituality and closeness to our Lord unmatched in any of our other experiences throughout the year. Contemplating the events of our Lord’s last seven days on earth serves as an excellent prelude for our meditations on April 21. Let us keep in mind our Lord’s experiences day by day that they might serve as examples for our own walk, not only in the weeks to come, but also for every day. There is some scholarly debate as to which day of the week some of the events took place. Our purpose is not to debate the exact timing of the events, but rather to gain the practical, uplifting lessons for us in each of them.
Seven Days Before Passover
The events of Jesus’ last seven days on earth began with a journey to Jerusalem from the north, passing through Jericho en route. One account is found in Mark 10:32-34. It says that Jesus told his disciples as they walked, that he would be mocked, scourged, spat upon, and killed. Yet, it says that Jesus walked before them — out in front — with determination to do the things he must do, and suffer the things he must suffer. Our Master did not dawdle along the way or delay his journey. He traveled purposefully, willingly, and unhesitatingly. We should be filled with admiration at this example of courage and emulate his strength of character. We, like our Lord, should have no thought of turning back, but be intent on accomplishing our Father’s will, even our sacrifice, in our journey along the narrow way.
In Mark 10:35-40, James and John requested of Jesus that they sit on his right hand and on his left in the kingdom. In the Matthew account it is their mother who made the request. In either case, Jesus knew the request was not prompted by a selfish lust for power or position, but rather by a love and a desire to be close to him for eternity. Jesus answered the request with a question: “Are ye able,” that is, are you willing “to drink of the cup that I shall drink of” (Matthew 20:22)? They answered him, “We are able.” When the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. In response, Jesus taught them the importance of humility and service to one another when he told them that while the Gentiles have kings who exercise lordship over them, by contrast, among Jesus’ disciples, whoever would be chiefest shall be servant of all (Mark 10:42-44).
No other lesson needs to be so carefully learned by the Lord’s people as this lesson of humility. It has to do with the very humblest of the flock, as well as with those who are teachers and elders.
Other events of this day included the healing of blind Bartimaeus, and dining with Zacchaeus who, being small of stature, climbed a tree so he could see Jesus. The lessons in these two events seem to be the example of our Lord’s willingness to bless all those who come to him in faith. We, too, were once blind, having the eyes of our understanding not yet opened. We, too, were once short of the stature of a perfect man. But our faith was strong like Bartimaeus who had heard of Jesus and believed on him and called out for mercy and would not be quieted until he received his sight. Likewise, the Lord saw the desire of our hearts to see his truth, and He opened our spiritual eyes to the truth of the Divine Plan of the Ages. Like Zacchaeus, we were elevated to a higher plane where we saw Jesus, the meaning of his sacrifice, and the privilege we have of being justified by faith and becoming joint-sacrificers with him. Jesus entered the house of our consecrated hearts and abides with us there. Thus, we were moved to give, not just half of our goods as Zacchaeus did, but all, our little all in consecration.
Six Days Before Passover
The events of the sixth day before Passover are recorded in John 12:1-8. In this account, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, whom Jesus had previously raised from the dead, entertained Jesus and the disciples in their home. Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with a costly perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. The sweet smell of the perfume filled the house, and Mary’s hair reflected the great service she had done. Love is the point of the lesson in these events of the sixth day before Passover. In Mary, our Lord apparently found a depth of love and devotion beyond even that of the apostles. She expressed her love and devotion to the Master not by her words, but by her deeds. She took a woman’s chief ornament, her hair, and devoted it to wiping the travel-worn feet of her teacher. She humbly gave the best that she had for even the least honorable service to him. The value of the ointment itself was very great — a year’s wages for a day-laborer (perhaps more than $10,000 in today’s money). Yet, Mary delighted in this costly sacrifice, the fragrance of which filled the entire house.
What is the personal application of that to us? We cannot, as Mary did, soothe and comfort the feet of Jesus. No, but we can anoint the feet members of his body — our brethren among us — with the sweet perfume of our love, kindness, sympathy, comfort, encouragement, gentleness, understanding, patience, longsuffering, and service. If our love for our brethren is like Mary’s was for Jesus, the sweet odor of our devotion will fill the entire household of our fellowship. The more costly this may be as respects our own self-denials, and the more humbly the sacrifice is made, the more precious it will be in the estimation of our Lord.
Five Days Before Passover
The events of five days before Passover are recorded in Matthew 21:1-11. On this day, Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey, as kings of Israel were accustomed to do. As he rode, the throng laid their clothes and palm branches on his path. They hailed him with shouts of “Hosanna to the son of David! Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9)!
There are many lessons we could draw from these events. But a rather subtle lesson is found in the words in Matthew 21:4, “all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” Our Lord had studied the Old Testament thoroughly and was well aware of the scriptures that prophesied of him — the Messiah — what he must do, what he must be, when and how he must die. Thus, Jesus was careful to do all the things spoken of him by the prophets at the right time and in the right manner. In riding upon the donkey, our Lord fulfilled Zechariah 9:9. The people’s shout was also foretold in that verse. Our Lord’s words to the people fulfilled Isaiah 62:11. So attuned was our Lord to the events of the day and their significance in the fulfillment of prophecy, that when some of the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke the crowd’s acclamation of him, he replied, “I tell you that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40). In other words, the prophecy must, and would be, fulfilled.
This fulfillment of Old Testament scriptures was more than simply a list of things for Jesus to do before he died. These things had to be done by him so that anyone objectively reading the prophecies concerning the promised seed and looking back upon Jesus’ life would conclude that he surely was the Son of God, the Messiah.
What then is the lesson for us in this? There are no scriptures that tell where we would be born or the time and manner of our death as they do about Jesus. Yet, there are scriptures that prophesy about us — about our lives, and we must be careful to be and to do all the things those scriptures declare. Consider a few of these texts about us, and note how they often describe true Christians in relation to our Lord:
● “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his son” (Romans 8:29).
● “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:3).
● “Only let your conversation (conduct) be as it becometh the Gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
● “If so be that we suffer with him that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17).
It is not only God’s will for us, as it also was for Jesus, that we do these things so that the scriptures will be fulfilled. It will also be a testimony for us, as it was for Jesus, so that in the Kingdom, anyone reading the scriptures concerning the Church class, the Bride of Christ, and knowing of our lives, will then with unblinded eyes be able to look back and say we surely had been children of our heavenly Father and brethren of our Lord.
Four Days Before Passover
The account of four days before Passover is recorded in Mark 11:12-17, and 20-24. For our Lord, this day was, as were all his days, occupied with being about his Father’s business. The most notable event of this day was Jesus casting the moneychangers and sellers of animals out of the Temple (Mark 11:15-17).
The Temple at Jerusalem was enclosed by three courts: the court of the men, outside of which was the court of the women, and the outermost court was the court of the Gentiles, where the moneychangers conducted their business. This business consisted of selling animals for sacrifice to travelers who could not conveniently bring with them a lamb or pigeon or dove. The business also consisted of exchanging money, because the temple tax, levied upon visitors, could only be paid in the shekel of the sanctuary, whereas the common money people used for ordinary commerce was Roman coinage.
The temple money had not been minted for centuries and was scarce, not only in the countryside, but even within the precincts of Jerusalem. On this day our Lord cast the moneychangers out of the Temple and drove away the animals and their owners with indignation and the declaration that they had turned his father’s house from a house of prayer into a den of thieves.
This cleansing of the literal Temple in Jerusalem applies to the church class as a whole, but even more importantly, at this time of year, to us as individual stones of the temple class. As Jesus purged the Temple, we must purge ourselves of any worldly influences and defilements so that we are fit to be a dwelling place of Jehovah. The battle within us calls for bold and decisive action, as Jesus took, not procrastination or half-measures. Only thus can the victory be won.
The other notable event on this day, as the Lord and his disciples walked from Bethany to Jerusalem that morning, was the cursing of the fig tree, because it bore no fruit. The fig tree, unlike most other trees, bears an early crop of fruit called taqsh by the Arabs with its leaves. The taqsh is a fore-runner of the real figs and when they are absent, the tree will bear no figs that year. This leafy fig tree, barren of taqsh, was symbolic of the Jewish nation. Israel professed to be God’s people, but was virtually barren of Israelites indeed. Our Lord’s casting off of the nation of Israel was pictured in this act of cursing the fig tree.
The next morning as the group passed by the fig tree again, the disciples marveled at how quickly it had withered. Jesus replied to them, “Have faith in God,” thus calling to their minds a higher meaning in this miracle (Mark 11:22). It was God’s power that was at work, and that mighty power would be exercised on their behalf as necessary, according to their faith. Are we resting in confident faith? Are we bearing the fruit of faith and all the other fruit of the holy Spirit? If the Lord passed by us, what would he see in our branches?
Three Days Before Passover
Three days before Passover was Jesus’ last day of teaching in the temple. The account of our Lord’s last public ministry is given in parts of Matthew chapters 22, 23 and 25. Parallel accounts are in Mark chapters 11-13. Jesus skillfully responded to trick questions put to him by the Pharisees and Sadducees. The questions were not asked in a sincere desire to know and understand truth. Rather, the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to embarrass
our Lord by asking supposedly unanswerable questions, thus showing off their own superior understanding of the Law and the Scriptures. In our study and discussion of the truth, let us beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Let us beware of pride in our own understanding of God’s Word and Plan, and let us beware of being contentious, unbalanced, and overly forceful in our presentation of truth. The truth is a sharp sickle. Let it do the work.
Jesus also taught the people with many parables on this day. The illustrations the Master used conveyed his final message to the people — a message of guidance and encouragement, not only to his disciples living at that time, but also for his followers throughout the age.
In the Parable of the ten virgins, Jesus taught us the importance of purity, faithfulness, and readiness. In the parable of the talents, our Lord taught the value of using our natural abilities to the fullest in the Father’s service. The parable of the fig tree is a faith strengthening sign of the now soon-to-be established kingdom on earth. The parable of the man taking a journey and returning at an unknown time is a lesson to be watchful (Mark 13:34-37).
Two Days Before Passover
There is no record of our Lord’s activities two days before Passover. That day was likely spent in retirement at Bethany where Jesus prepared himself for what he knew would be the final events of his life on earth. He probably looked back, in retrospect, on the three and a half years he had spent doing the Father’s will, recalling the many times he had been led and guided by the holy Spirit.
The joys, the sorrows, the friendships, the hardships, likely passed before his mind as he sat in silent reflection. Let us, likewise, take time to reflect on the blessings, the triumphs, the failures, and the lessons of the past year since we last came together to commemorate our Lord’s Memorial. An excellent Watchtower reprint article that would be helpful for our reflections at this season is found on page 3000, “Yearly Reckoning — Spiritual Accounts.”
One Day Before Passover
The final events of our Master’s life on earth began when Jesus told his disciples to go prepare the Passover in the upper room. Having gathered together that evening, there was, in the apostles’ conversation, a spirit of competition as to which of them should be accounted the greatest. Our Lord did not verbally scold or rebuke them, neither did he quiet their contention with a probing question as he had six days earlier when he asked, “Are ye able?” Instead, he quietly arose, girded his garments about him and washed the feet of the disciples.
The point of his silent scolding was, he that would be chief among you, let him be your servant. All were shamed to silence except Peter, who expressed his reluctance to have the Master humble himself on Peter’s behalf. Our Lord gently insisted that if he did not wash Peter’s feet, then Peter would have no part with Jesus. This provoked Peter’s exuberant response — “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9)!
The Master’s reply was full of meaning — “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet but is clean every whit” ( John 13:10). The point Jesus made was that the feet are the part of the body that come in contact with the earth. We, who are washed, having the righteousness that comes from justification by faith, need only to keep ourselves clean from the defilements of the world we come in contact with, as we walk along the narrow way.
On the night of the Last Supper, the particular defilement that manifested itself was pride. Likewise, today pride is a snare that needs to be avoided through humble service to our brethren, which is the mark of true greatness.
Then followed the Passover Supper and the institution of our Lord’s Memorial. We will celebrate the Memorial together with our brethren around the world on Thursday April 21. May we keep our hearts and minds stayed on the final experiences of our Master in the coming days and weeks as we dwell on the lessons of our Lord’s last seven days.
Categories: 2016 Issues, 2016-March/April