Passover time

It was Passover – the fourteenth of Abib, later called Nisan.   It was the time when pious Jews ate unleavened bread and the roasted flesh of an unblemished lamb, painting their doorposts with its blood.   They did so ‘in haste’ for it was a memorial of their protection from the angel of death which killed the first-born of Egypt and their deliverance from the armies of Pharaoh as they began their journey to the Promised Land.

The year was AD33.   Jerusalem was swollen to breaking point with thousands of pilgrims come to keep the feast.   The city was febrile with excitement over Jesus of Nazareth, the man they had hailed as ‘...the King who comes in the name of the Lord’.   The Jewish authorities plotted to bring about his death, while the Roman occupying forces struggled to maintain order.

800px-davinci lastsupper_high_res_2_nowatmrkIn the upper room

In the upper room Jesus and the twelve were met together.   ‘With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,’ said Jesus, ‘for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.’   Then, in the course of the meal he took bread and wine and instituted a new act of remembrance and deliverance, anticipating his cruel death on the cross.

Despite the solemnity of the occasion, the twelve argued among themselves as to which of them should be considered the greatest.   Jesus rebuked them, pointing to the example he had set by washing their feet, and urged them to become as servants to each other.   Even worse, one of the twelve, Judas Iscariot, went out into the darkness to bring about the betrayal of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

Betrayal, trial and crucifixion

Jesus and the eleven left the upper room for the garden, where Jesus prayed in an agony of anticipation: ‘Father, if it is Your will, remove the cup from me; nevertheless not my will but yours be done’ and God sent an angel to strengthen him.   From that point events moved rapidly forward: Judas betrayed his master, Jesus was arrested and the disciples fled in disarray.

The trial, if it can so be called, was a mockery.   The so-called witnesses couldn’t agree among themselves, and Pilate, declaring that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death, offered his release.   Yet our Saviour, the only begotten Son of God, was mocked, beaten and scourged and died an agonising death on the cross.

crucifixionLives touched by Jesus

Jesus touched the lives of many by his power to heal and the authority of his teaching.   Even on the cross there were those whose lives were changed.   One of the thieves crucified with him pleaded that Jesus would remember him when he came into his Kingdom – and Jesus heard his plea.   The centurion who witnessed his suffering was moved to glorify God and say ‘...truly this man was the Son of God’ and Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus at the last openly declared their allegiance.

What of the followers of Jesus?   On the first day of the week certain of the women and Peter and John went to the tomb and found the stone rolled away and angels conveyed the joyous news: ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?   He is not here, but is risen!’   For forty days the risen Lord stayed with the disciples speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God, and they then witnessed his ascension and the promise of the angels: ‘This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1:11)

From that point their lives could never be the same.   They had been with Jesus, heard his teaching, seen the miracles, sorrowed at his crucifixion and now rejoiced at his resurrection and ascension.   The words of the apostle Paul  are as relevant today as ever: ‘...these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has appointed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom he has ordained.   He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.’ (Acts 17: 30-31)

ascension2An appeal to you!

Will you repent and allow Jesus to change your life?   Then be baptised and confess him as your Saviour, and await his second coming with joy and hope in your heart!