Jesus’ Last Days
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Anointed, the son of the living God.” then he ordered his students to tell nobody that he himself was the Anointed. After that Jesus began to show his students how he had to go off to Jerusalem, and have many things done to him by the elders and chief priests and canon-lawyers, and be killed, and rise up the third day.—Matthew 16:16, 20, 21.
By Leonard Griehs
Nisan 9, Saturday, March 28 sundown to Sunday, March 29 sundown.
The year is 33 C.E.
“What do you say? He’ll never show up for the festival will he?”
While the people talked amongst themselves in the temple courtyards, the high priests and Pharisees instructed that anyone seeing Jesus should let them know.
Jesus and his disciples had come to Bethany around noon on this Sunday, the sixth day before the Passover to enjoy fellowship with Simon Leper, Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Martha was serving a great supper when Mary came in with sweet smelling perfume and began to rub it on Jesus’ feet.
“Why wasn’t that perfume sold for three hundred drachmas and given to the poor?” said Judas Iscariot.
Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you giving her grief? She did a fine thing for me. You always have the poor around, and whenever you want you can do them good, but me you do not always have. What she could do, she did: she started in advance to perfume my body for burial. I assure you, wherever the good word is proclaimed in all the world, what she did will also be told in memory of her.”
Meanwhile a great crowd of Jews gathered outside the home when they found out Jesus was there. They were hoping to see both Jesus and Lazarus, whom many of them had heard Jesus raised from the dead. But Jesus and his disciples spent the night inside. They wouldn’t venture to Jerusalem until the next morning, when Jesus would show that he was in complete control of his circumstances. He wouldn’t be caught in any religious intrigue. He would force the issues. He would become the willing sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Nisan 10 Sunday, March 29 sundown to Monday, March 30 sundown
It was Monday morning. As he came up to Bethphage near the Mount of Olives, Jesus looked at the walls of the city. He turned to two of his disciples. “Go into the village ahead of you, and right away you’ll come upon a donkey tied up and her foal with her. Untie them and bring them to me. And if anyone says anything to you, you’ll say ‘the master needs these,’ and they’ll send them right back with you.”
When the two returned with the donkey, Jesus mounted it and began to ride down toward Jerusalem. The people were excited to see that he did come for the feast. They began to throw branches in front of him while a crowd formed to follow him into the city.
“Hooray! Bless him who comes in the name of the Lord. Bless the coming kingdom of our father David! Hooray to the highest heavens!” The people’s shouts were growing louder and louder until the Pharisees came out to Jesus.
“Teacher, restrain these students of yours.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they fell silent, the rocks would scream out.”
As he got near the city, Jesus paused for a moment and began to cry. He looked at the people gathering in the city. “If you only knew on this day which way leads to peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes; because they will come upon you and press in on you from every side, and hurl you and your children to the ground, and leave no stone upon another amongst you all, because you didn’t know when then the time of your inspection was.”
The crowd came on him as Jesus entered the temple. Blind and lame people ran to him and were cured. Children shouted, “Hooray for the son of David.” Suddenly the priests and lawyers appeared.
“Do you hear what these people are saying?”
“Yes.Didn’t you ever read where it says, I will round out my praise in the mouths of babies and toddlers?”
Outside in the courtyard some gentiles came to Jesus’ disciples inquiring to see him. As Andrew and Philip told Jesus, he looked up to the heavens and spoke.
“The time has come for the son of humanity to be glorified. Truly, truly I tell you, if the grain of wheat never falls to the ground and dies, it remains the only one. But if it dies it produces a great crop. The one who loves his life, loses it; the one who doesn’t care about his life in this world will keep it safe for life everlasting. If someone serves me, let them follow me, and wherever I am, my servant will also be. If anyone serves me they will be honored by my Father. Now my soul is in consternation, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But that is what I came to this hour for. Father glorify your own name.”
“I glorified it before and I will glorify it again.”
The crowd became aroused as they heard what they thought was thunder, but someone said “A holy messenger has spoken to him.” But Jesus looked around at them and said, “That voice wasn’t for me, it was for you. Now it is judgment time for this world, now the ruler of this world will be thrown out the door. And I, if I am raised high above the earth, will draw all people toward me.”
Someone in the crowd came forward. “We heard in the Law that the Anointed remains forever. So how can you say that the son of humanity must be raised on high? Who is this son of humanity?”
“For a little while longer the light is among you. Walk around while you have light, so the darkness doesn’t overtake you; the person walking in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become sons and daughters of the light.”
Jesus went outside the gates until everyone had left the temple for the day. Then he came back and looked around inside and stood for a moment. His eyes glanced at everything around him—he thought about what would be coming the next few days—then he gathered his disciples and returned to Bethany to spend Mondaynight.
Nisan 11 Monday, March 30 sundown to Tuesday, March 31 sundown
As they came from Bethany that Tuesday morning, the disciples watched Jesus approach a fig tree. When he saw there was no fruit, he said, “Never again shall anyone eat your fruit.”
Jesus walked into the city through the sheep gate and up the steps into the temple court. His eyes fell on the men selling pigeons for the sacrifices, and on those changing foreign coins for profit to those waiting to put money in the temple treasury. He upended the tables of the money changers and turned over the chairs of the pigeon sellers. He blocked the entry of those bringing goods into the temple.
“Doesn’t it say, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations? You have made it a den of robbers,” he told the people.
The priests and lawyers, angered by all this, looked for a way to get rid of Jesus, but they were afraid to seize him because the crowd liked what he was saying.
When he finished teaching it was late, and Jesus took his disciples to spend Tuesday night once again in Bethany.
Nisan 12 Tuesday, March 31 sundown to Wednesday, April 1 sundown
It was early Wednesday morning. Peter led the way into Jerusalem. He came upon the fig tree that Jesus had cursed, “Master, look, the fig tree you cursed has withered away.” “Have faith in God,” Jesus told him. He pointed toward Mount Olive. “I assure you that whoever says to this mountain, get up and throw yourself in the sea, and doesn’t waver in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will come true for him. Therefore I tell you, everything you pray for and ask for, believe that you’ll get it, and it will come true for you. And when you stand praying, forgive anything you may have against anyone so that your Father in the skies may also forgive your transgressions.”
Jesus walked into the temple and found the high priests waiting for him to challenge his right to teach the people.
“What authority do you have to do this?” they asked. “Who gave you any such authority?”
Jesus would not be intimidated. “I also want to ask you something, and if you tell me that I’ll also tell you what authority I have to do this: where did the washing of John come from? From heaven or from the world?”
The priests huddled around each other. “If we say from heaven, he’ll say to us, then why didn’t you believe in him? But if we say from the world, we have the crowd to be afraid of, since they all consider John a prophet.” They turned back to Jesus. “We don’t know.”
Jesus turned away. “I won’t tell you what authority I have to do this either.” He continued teaching the people.
A few minutes later another group of priests appeared.. “Teacher, we know you talk and teach straightforwardly and are no respecter of persons, but rather teach God’s way based on truth: is it all right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Jesus knew they were trying to trap him. “Show me a denarius,” he said and someone handed him a coin. “Whose picture and inscription does it have on it?
“Caesar’s,” the men replied.
“Well, then, give Caesar’s things to Caesar and God’s things to God.”
Suddenly the Sadducees stepped up. “Teacher, Moses prescribed for us that if someone’s brother dies who had a wife, but was childless, let the brother take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. So once there were seven brothers and the first took a wife and died childless. And the second, and the third, and in this manner finally all seven died without leaving children; last of all the wife died. So in the resurrection, whose wife will that woman be? After all, all seven had her for a wife.”
Jesus responded to them quickly, “The sons and daughters of the here and now take wives and husbands, but those who have proven worthy to receive that other life and be resurrected from the dead take no wives and no husbands, because they can’t die any more: being sons and daughters of the resurrection. That the dead rise again was mentioned even by Moses before the burning bush, when he talks about the Lord, God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. There is no God of the dead, only of the living: to him, everyone is alive.”
One of the lawyers who heard Jesus’ reply came forward, “Which commandment is the first of all?”
Jesus looked at him kindly. He knew that this was the first sincere questioner who had come forward. “The first is ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord, and you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your thoughts and all your strength. The second is this: you are to love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Jesus looked him in the eyes and saw his agreement. “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Seeing no more came forward to challenge his authority, Jesus turned to his interrogators and said, “How can the canon-lawyers say that the Anointed is the son of David? David himself said in the holy spirit, `Said a lord to my lord, sit at my right while I put your enemies underneath your feet.’ David himself calls him Lord, so how is he his son?” No one answered.
Jesus walked over and sat down in the temple across from the collection box. He watched the rich throw in a few coins and then a widow carefully placed two pennies in the slot. He turned to his disciples, “I assure you that this widow put in more than all the other people who put something in the box, because all the others threw in what they had left over, while she threw in the last of all she had to live on.”
Jesus got up to leave. Before he reached the gate he did he took a last look at the priests. He motioned toward them as he spoke to the crowd: “Where Moses sat, the Pharisees and canon-lawyers now sit. So do and keep what they say to you, but don’t go by what they do, because they say things and then don’t do them.”
As they walked down the steps and out the gate towards the Mount of Olives, Jesus paused for a moment. “You see all these great buildings? There isn’t one stone upon another here that won’t be destroyed.” Peter, James, John and Andrew followed Jesus up to the mountain. “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to end at once?”
Jesus proceeded to tell them of wars, earthquakes and signs of his return, but they didn’t understand. Finally, Jesus ended his discourse and said to them, “You know in two days it will be Passover, and the son of humanity will be handed over to be crucified.”
Meanwhile, Judas had remained in the temple and was meeting with the priests about how to hand Jesus over to them. After getting a promise of thirty pieces of silver, Judas gave his word that he would find a way for them to take Jesus when there was no crowd around to protect him.
Nisan 13 Wednesday, April 1 sundown to Thursday, April 2 sundown
“Where do you want us to go get ready for you to eat the seder?” the disciples inquired of Jesus as they neared Jerusalem Thursday morning.
“Go into town and you’ll be met by a fellow carrying a water jug. You’re going to follow him and wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, our teacher says, where is my banquet hall where I can eat the seder with my students? And he himself will show you a big upstairs room spread out and ready, where you can make preparations for yourselves.”
When the sky began to dim, Jesus departed for Jerusalem with the rest of his disciples. Jesus knew the time for his last meal was approaching.
Nisan 14 Thursday, April 2 sundown to Friday, April 3 sundown
Jesus sat down at the table. “I wanted with all my heart to eat the seder with you before my suffering begins, because I’m telling you, I’ll never eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Jesus spoke to them of brotherhood and service. Judas was getting restless. Jesus looked at him. “Do what you’re doing and be quick about it,” he said. Judas picked up a piece of bread and made his way to the door. Despite their protests, Jesus washed their feet and sat back down. After sharing bread and wine with them and asking them to remember him by doing this, Jesus took his disciples out to Mount Olive.
“All of you will let me down tonight—just like the scripture says, `I will strike at the shepherd, and the sheep in his herd will scatter.’ But after rising up I will go on ahead of you into Galilee.”
Peter protested, “Even if everyone lets you down, I will never let you down.”
Jesus gazed into Peter’s eyes, .”I promise you, in the night ahead, from now till cockcrow, you will say you don’t know me three times.”
Again Peter protested, “Even if I had to die with you, I would never say I didn’t know you.” All echoed Peter’s response.
Jesus led them across the side of the mountain to Gethsemane.
“Sit here till I’ve finished praying,” he told them.
Twice Jesus came back to find them sleeping and rebuked them. Finally, he heard a commotion in the garden. “Up now!” he said. “Come on! Here he comes, my betrayer!” The disciples couldn’t believe it! There was Judas with a group of soldiers. He stepped up to Jesus.
“Good evening, master,” he said as he kissed Jesus.
“Judas, are you going to betray the son of humanity with a kiss?” Jesus stepped around to confront the group behind Judas. “Who are you looking for?” he asked.
“Jesus of Nazareth.”
“Here I am.”
The men drew back so quickly that some tripped and fell. Jesus asked them again, “Who are you looking for?”
“Jesus of Nazareth.”
“I told you, here I am, so if you’re looking for me, let these people go.” The group came slowly forward.
Peter jumped in front of Jesus. He drew his sword and cut off the ear of the fellow about to grab Jesus.
Jesus stopped him, “Let’s stop short of that.” He picked up the ear and healed the man. “Put your sword back where it belongs,” he told Peter, “those who fight swords with swords are lost. You think I can’t call on my Father and have him supply me even now with more than twelve legions of his messengers? But how will scriptures be fulfilled that say this must happen?” Jesus turned back to the mob surrounding him.
“As if in pursuit of a robber you came out to get me with swords and clubs? I used to sit in the daytime in the temple when I was teaching and you didn’t take me then. This has happened to fulfill all the prophet’s writings.” As the mob descended on Jesus, the disciples turned and fled. They tried to grab a young boy who was in the garden with them but he got away.
The mob took Jesus to the house of Annas. Peter followed at a distance behind and lingered outside as the priest questioned Jesus. A maid at the door spotted him. “You aren’t one of that fellow’s students too, are you?” Peter replied quickly, “No, I’m not.”
Inside Jesus responded to the inquiries of the former high priest. “I have publicly spoken to the world. I constantly taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews gather, and I said nothing in secret. What are you asking me? Ask the ones who heard me what I said to them. See these people? They know what I said.”
One of the servants slapped Jesus, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
Jesus showed no fear. “If I said something bad, testify about the evil. If I spoke well, why are you beating me up?”
Eager now to punish Jesus, they rustled him about and took him to the house of Caiaphas. There the priests tried to find some who would talk against Jesus, but no two could give the same testimony. Jesus refused to answer the false accusations. Caiaphas was frustrated and finally decided he had had enough. He would take matters into his own hands Caiaphas moved face to face with Jesus. “Are you the Anointed, the Son of the most blessed?” he asked Jesus.
Jesus’ eyes did not move from Caiaphas’ eyes. “Yes I am, and you will see the son of humanity sitting on the right hand of power and trailing the clouds of the sky.”
“What do we need witnesses for any more?” shouted Caiaphas as he turned to the others. “You heard that blasphemy! How does it look to you?” They all judged that he should be killed.
They began spitting on Jesus, and covering his face while they punched him and said, “Prophesy! Who just hit you?” They hit him again and again.
Peter stood outside in the courtyard, warm now from the fire. “You were with the Nazarene too —you know: Jesus,” those around him said.
“I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about.” Peter ran the other way. The girl at the door saw him again.
“This guy is one of them.” she said. Others said “Of course you’re one of them. After all, you are a Galilean.”
“Fellow, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Peter shouted. Suddenly, he heard a rooster crow. Peter looked inside the house and saw Jesus, bound and bleeding from the beating, turn and look at him. Peter ran away and wept more bitterly than he had wept in his whole life. Caiaphas ordered his men to put Jesus in the cellar for the night.
Early Friday morning, they took Jesus to Pilate’s mansion. Meanwhile Judas went back to the elders at the temple.
“I was wrong to betray innocent blood,” he protested.
“What’s that to us? That’s your problem.” They were happy now.
Judas threw down the silver at their feet, turned and ran outside. Later they found him hanging from a tree outside the temple.
“What charge are you bringing against this person?” asked Pilate.
“If he wasn’t doing something wrong, we wouldn’t have handed him over to you,” they protested.
Pilate hated dealing with these Jews. “Take him yourself and try him by your own law.”
“We’re not allowed to kill anybody. We caught this guy undermining our society and keeping people from paying taxes to Caesar and saying he had been anointed the king.” Pilate summoned Jesus in front of him. “You’re the king of the Jews?” he asked.
Jesus looked at him. “Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”
“Do I look like a Jew?” Pilate was annoyed. “Your people and your high priests handed you over to me. What did you do?”
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom was of this world, my servants would fight to the death for me not to be handed over to the Jews; but in fact, my kingdom isn’t here.”
Pilate kept up the inquiry. “So you are a king?”
“You say I am a king. What I was born for and what I came into the world for was to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth responds to my voice.”
“What is truth?” asked Pilate, without expecting a reply. He went back out to the Jews. “I don’t see any charge against him.”
The priests protested, “He’s inciting the populace, teaching all through Judea, starting with Galilee and ending here.”
Pilate saw his opportunity to get rid of this once and for all. He sent Jesus, a Galilean, to Herod, the governor of that region, who happened to be in Jerusalem during the festival. Herod was excited. He had heard about Jesus but had never seen him. Jesus refused to talk. As Herod listened to the accusations he grew disappointed that Jesus wouldn’t do or say anything. Finally Herod ended it. He put Jesus in a robe and sent him back to Pilate. Pilate smiled at Herod’s joke.but Pilate was done dealing with the Jews’ stupidity.
“You brought me this person on the grounds that he was undermining society and you see how I examined him in front of you and found no charge against the fellow of the kind you accused him of. Nor could Herod. That’s why he sent him back to us. He just hasn’t done anything worthy of death. So we’ll whip him to teach him a lesson and let him go.”
The crowd would have none of it. “Keep him and release Barabbas,” they shouted. “Crucify him, crucify him.”
Pilate couldn’t understand it. “But what did he do wrong? I couldn’t find any capital charge against him. So I’ll whip him soundly and let him go.” But the Jews still protested for Pilate to order Jesus’ execution.
Pilate’s wife sent word to him. “Have nothing to do with that innocent man,” she said. “I dreamt last night that I suffered horribly because of him.” Finally, Pilate tried one last gesture. He washed his hands in front of the crowd and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood, see to it yourselves.”
The crowd cried in unison, “Let his blood be on us and our children.” Pilate’s soldiers dressed Jesus in a crown of thorns and cloak of purple. They spit on him and hit him over the head with a cane. Pilate led Jesus out on the arch that stood above the city.
“See, I’m bringing him out here to let you know that I see no charge whatever against him. Here’s the fellow.”
“Crucify, crucify,” the crowd shouted.
Pilate was at the end of his wits. “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I don’t see any charge against him.”
“We have our law and by that law he deserves to die because he made himself out to be the son of God.”
Pilate’s face showed a blush of sudden fear. He knew stories of Roman gods visiting the earth to test human compassion. He took Jesus back inside.
“Where are you from?” he asked. Jesus did not answer.
“You won’t talk to me? Don’t you know I have the power to let you go and also the power to crucify you?”
Finally Jesus spoke,.”You would have no power at all over me if it wasn’t given you from above. So that the one who handed me over to you has the greater fault.”
That was it. Pilate told the Jews he had made a judgment to let Jesus go.
“If you let this guy go you’re no friend of Caesar’s. Anyone who makes himself out to be a king is speaking against Caesar.”
Pilate was shattered. He could not let Caesar think he was disloyal. After all, this man was just another Jew. He gave orders for the execution. The crowd cheered.
As Jesus was led through the streets, they grabbed a man named Simon to carry his cross. Women wept as they watched Jesus pass by. He turned to them, “Daughters of jerusalem, don’t cry for me, cry for yourselves and your children, because watch, there will come days when they will say, ‘Lucky for those who were sterile, for the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ Than they will start saying to the mountains, ‘fall upon us’ and to the hills, ‘cover us up’ and if they do that when the wood is still green, what will they do by the time it dries?”
They reached Golgotha outside the city, nailed Jesus to the cross and hung him between two criminals. The crowds passed by on their way into the city and mocked Jesus as he hung there. One of the criminals hanging with him joined in the jeering, “Aren’t you the Anointed? Save yourself and us.” The other interrupted, “Do you have no fear of God, just because your sentence is the same? We’re rightly getting what’s coming to us for what we did, but he did nothing unlawful.” He turned his eyes toward Jesus. “Jesus, remember me when you get to your kingdom.”
Jesus looked at him.”I promise you today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus looked down at his mother standing by John. “Madam, here is your son.” He looked at John. “Here is your mother.”
As the afternoon wore on, the light began to dim. By three o’clock came it was dark all over the land. Jesus looked up and cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”
Those around wondered why he was calling Elijah.. Finally, Jesus cried out again. “It is finished. Father, I put my spirit in your hands”. As Jesus dropped his head, the Jews all over Israel killed their lamb for the Passover feast which would start at sundown.
All quotes are as translated by The Unvarnished New Testament, translated by Andy Gaus. The order of scriptures is designated by comparative studies of the four gospels, and citations are available on request