Jesus’ Last Days

Our Legacy From Jesus

“I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).

by Todd Alexander

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Jesus taught several beautiful doctrinal truths to his Apostles (and to us) during the last days of his ministry. The withered fig tree, the great prophecy of his return in Matthew 24, the parables of the wedding feast, wise and foolish virgins, talents, the sheep and the goats, cleansing of the Temple, and more.
These truths were part of Jesus’ transition that would provide important bridges from his earthly ministry to their individual ministries and from them to the Gospel Age church.

Jesus also left a powerful legacy of truth in the hearts of his disciples. His tender loving care for each of the Apostles gave them the ability to survive the shocking transition of Jesus’ departure, their own failed expectations, and enabled them to develop thriving ministries. Jesus personalized the experiences of his Apostles. He shared intimate words and precious moments in the upper room. He demonstrated servant leadership and submission to God’s will. This strengthened the Apostles and allowed them to get through the coming storm and to Pentecost.

This article examines some of the truths that Jesus left as a legacy in the hearts of his Apostles.

The Woman with the Alabaster Box (Matthew 26:6-13)

The woman’s desire to worship Jesus with her available resources was a welcome gift that Jesus greatly appreciated and which surely helped him through the coming storm. How did his disciples react? In their view, her emotional devotion to Jesus was beyond reason. Some were indignant and questioned the waste of money. Still, Jesus was patient with them and helped them understand that there are times when extravagance is appropriate.

This was one of those times, as she anointed him for his burial. It is no coincidence that Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests immediately after this anointing. Jesus’ instructive words did not subdue the rebellion in Judas’ heart. Instead, his self-will prompted him to act on his plan. Judas must have thought his plan would further his vision as a zealot for the overthrow of Rome. He surely believed he had matters under control. Jesus would let the sin of a self-directed Judas provide important lessons for his disciples. They would see in his example the importance of doing only God’s will, even when they thought they may have a better plan.

Preparations for the Passover (Luke 22:7-13)

Jesus asked Peter and John to prepare the Passover, and they, in turn, asked him for a location. Jesus gave them explicit details about an upper room and a man who would engage them! Surely Peter and John were inspired and energized when the experience unfolded just as Jesus predicted. Their explicit trust in Jesus to move forward in the preparations showed Jesus that they were engaged. This, and other short-term fulfillments of  Jesus’ predictions would provide the backdrop in their memory, a canvas to later recall all the precious events about to unfold.

Passover Supper (Luke 22:14-38)

Jesus specified a room away from the din of their daily lives, a place not associated with any of the Apostles. This neutral site allowed Jesus to gracefully take the role of a servant in the feet-washing experience and not embarrass (by pre-empting) any of his disciples in their own homes.

The Apostles found themselves sanctified (set apart) with Jesus, in a place where they could participate unfettered in an experience that would prove to be full of meaning. It was one last safe-haven with their Lord, a cocoon, a protected experience in which they could reflect during times of trouble, sorrow, or grief in their future ministries.

When Jesus told them that he would not eat with them again until the Kingdom of God, he created a mystery that they would only later understand. Their trust in him here without questioning was surely a blessing to Jesus, but it was also an indication of their growing maturity.

With the bread and the cup, Jesus gave his disciples a tangible, physical reminder of him as a person, a way for them to take Jesus’ loving fellowship with them after that evening. It was a way to participate in the joys and sorrows of following Jesus.

While hanging on the cross, Jesus cited portions of Psalms 22. “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). The entire chapter reflects his thoughts as he suffered for six long hours.

But above the thoughts of suffering, it is likely his thoughts continued into Psalms 23. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest
my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalms 23:4-6). As Jesus was led to green pastures and still waters, the disciples came to see they too were sheep led to the same green pastures and refreshing still waters of truth. They would now have the opportunity to internalize both of these elements before incorporating the same set of experiences in their personal ministries and then to the Gospel Age church through their written words.

Feet-Washing (John 13:1-17)

With this simple act, Jesus answered the argument his disciples had about who would be greatest in the Kingdom. He did not chastise them or make them feel foolish. He simply removed his outer garment and showed them that he considered cleansing them from worldliness a holy work. Feet-washing became a visual parable, a way of showing them how to support each other in their struggles against sin. They would also remember that Jesus washed Judas’ feet, and recall that Jesus did not speak evil of him before Judas carried out his plan of betrayal. These were important lessons Jesus placed before his Apostles.

At the end of the feet-washing experience, Jesus focused the teaching moment with a question: “Know ye what I have done to you” (verse 12)? With that question, Jesus caused the disciples to think deeply on the significance of what he had done. This helped prepare them for a leadership role in the early church. Judas, however, in his moment of decision, chose rather betray the Lord. These special moments when the Lord proposes such introspective questions should cause us to stop and search for the proper response. Kingdom leadership will require a servant’s mentality.

After the feet-washing was complete, Jesus said, “If ye know these things happy are ye if ye do them” (verse 17). While knowledge of how to serve was important, acting on that knowledge was the difference that would make them joyful and fulfilled. Judas “knew” the truth but he did not properly “act” on it. The other disciples learned an important lesson about faithfulness by observing Judas’ betrayal. They would have the opportunity to show their own faithfulness to Jesus by “doing these things” rather than just “knowing” them.

After-Meal Discussion (John 14:1-31)

Perhaps one of the most beautiful moments during Jesus’ last days was expressed in the intimacy of his words after the meal. His loving mentoring surely burned precious memories into the minds of his disciples. The hope of having Jesus prepare a new home with many mansions must have been an encouragement
to help them press on. The promise of Jesus’ return may have caused them to scroll back through their memories, searching for clues about their new home.

Jesus told them that he was the way, the truth and the life and the only way to access his Father was through him. He was connecting them to his Father through their eye of faith, and they would experience his great power through his spiritual gifts. The promise of the holy Spirit would comfort them, teaching them the truths of the Gospel, and give them the power of discernment.

The disciples were to trust Jesus and learn to use the power of his words. As they did, they were able to distinguish truth from worldly teachings. Jesus gave his disciples his own peace and desired that they would never be afraid because fear comes from ignorance. He had given them the truth. He had encouraged them to rejoice. He had shown them joy in the providence of God. A good place to be.

The Vine and Branches (John 15:1-11)

The lesson of faith taught by the Apostle Paul (Hebrews 11:1) was to make the invisible things more tangible with their eye of faith.  Jesus accomplished this with the parable of the vine and branches. He used this lovely metaphor to unveil God’s tender care for them. Jesus used the examples of pruning and fruit-bearing to encapsulate their future inner work of character development and outer work of bearing character fruitage.

Jesus emphasized that bearing fruit was the goal, and their connection to the vine gave them access to spiritual strength, connecting them to great power. If they were not nurtured by the vine they would not bear fruit, and therefore, could not receive life. His words were the source of their strength, and it was necessary to stay close to him. He told them that true love required obedience. Jesus then emphasized that the love of God is to be transferred; first from God to Jesus, then from Jesus to his disciples, and from them to others. They would faithfully show God’s love in their lives through their service to the Gospel.

Finally, Jesus revealed his desire that their joy may be full. Joy would only come to them through an understanding and application of truths they would learn from Jesus, especially
during his last days.

Prayer in Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-47, Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:31-54)

Jesus took the Apostles to a place that was familiar to them. The Mount of Olives would be the place where he would reiterate the importance of watching and praying. Prayer was an important legacy he would leave them, especially as a tool for their ministries. They were unprepared to stay awake and pay attention, but Jesus taught them something powerful in his prayer for the removal of the cup. God’s will would sometimes be different than their will.  God’s will is far-sighted and they should trust in Him. Perhaps this was part of the inspiration that led Peter to later emphasize faith in the precious promises. It was a tool which helped him escape the temptations of the world.

When the bubble of peace and safety that Jesus created for them burst into the commotion of Gethsemane, they had no trouble waking up and staying awake! Perhaps one of the intangible benefits Peter received from staying close to Jesus was a large measure of faith in God, a faith that would allow him to put his complete trust in his Heavenly Father. Later, this faith
would allow Peter to have enough confidence to sleep while in prison (requiring the angel to wake him up to escape) even though his spiritual brother James had been martyred just days
earlier.

Jesus’ Arrest and Peter’s Denial (Luke 22:48-62, Mark 14:53-72, John 18:3-27)

The disciples were not ready for what transpired in Gethsemane. As Judas and the temple guards entered the garden, Jesus asked, “Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he.  And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them” (John 18:4,5). Jesus made it clear that the situation was under control when his words caused the guards to miraculously fall backward. But Peter was armed with a sword
and struck out in defense of the Lord, cutting off the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant. Jesus then told Peter to put up his sword, saying “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).

This was an important lesson for his disciples to apprehend. They would soon receive the holy Spirit, which would be a comforter and teacher. But in these examples of Jesus’  obedience in the face of adversity, Jesus was demonstrating emotional fortitude and how to speak the truth and let God do the fighting.

Jesus showed his disciples how to submit to the will of God and put his life in God’s hand.  The disciples saw Jesus as a lamb going to the slaughter, but after his resurrection, Jesus would
connect the dots of prophecy for them and reveal the hidden picture of a suffering Messiah. In Gethsemane, Jesus showed his disciples that his Heavenly Father was in full control, and he
was drinking the cup of suffering God saw fit to provide.

Peter’s denial of Jesus in the courtyard of the High priest was a traumatic experience.  He now knew Jesus had been correct when he predicted the events of his denial. But, especially after having boasted of being willing to go both to prison and to death with Jesus (Luke 22:33), this painful experience of denying the Lord would develop great strength in Peter once he was restored by Jesus and properly exercised inside. His humbling would counterbalance the high esteem which his apostolic office would give him. Peter would go on to do the will of his Heavenly Father and use his unique gifts and opportunities to preach the Gospel with confidence, to stand in the face of his enemies, and let God do his fighting.

Conclusion

Like the faithful disciples, Judas, and the holy men and women who have gone before us, many must decide who they are and what they will become. Will they commit to a life of serving Jesus and our Heavenly Father, or will they live by their own will? The truth of the Gospel is everything we could ever hope for. It saved Peter from despair, it saved Saul of Tarsus from error, it showed Judas the error of his way, and it is now powerful enough to live inside us to do the inner work and outer work of the Gospel.

But Jesus showed his disciples that truth alone is not enough. They could not lead a successful spiritual life only on what they knew. Jesus taught them that his words of truth must abide in them in order to bear much fruit. This fruit-bearing required their “doing” in addition to their “knowing.” “Doing” the inner work and the outer work could only be done through a commitment beyond reason. Jesus ingrained this commitment in them by his actions, at the hands of injustice, in the face of danger and his eventual death.

Jesus taught his disciples to meld what they knew into what they did and he gave them an appreciation of Gospel truth to propel them forward. This truth of the Gospel, working in them to develop an undying commitment, is what Jesus transferred and developed in the hearts of his precious disciples during his last days. This is also the rich legacy Jesus has now left in our hearts. Let’s get to it! The truth of the Gospel is everything to live for and everything to die for!

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