Preparations for Passover
Thursday — “T-minus 1 day and accounting” — begins a long stretch of hours for Jesus that will include…
preparation for Passover,
time with His closest friends,
a lesson about humility and servanthood,
the celebration of Passover,
moments in worship,
moments of loneliness, and,
perhaps the most passionate time of prayer in recorded history.
After Jesus got up on Thursday morning, He wouldn’t rest until He had accomplished His purpose and mission. In fact, in Matthew 26:18, as Jesus gave instructions to His disciples about preparation for Passover, He told this disciples to tell the owner of the home, “My appointed time is near.”
Jesus began Thursday knowing that in approximately 36 hours he would die.
The day started with an assignment to members of His ministry team to make preparations for Passover.
7 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread arrived, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, “Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together.” 9 “Where do you want us to prepare it?” they asked him. 10 He replied, “As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, 11 say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ 12 He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” 13 They went off to the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there.—Luke 22:7-13 NLT (Cf Matt 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16)
Many believe that when Jesus and his disciples gathered that evening they gathered to eat the traditional Passover Meal or Seder. The meal included roasted lamb; unleavened bread; a bowl of salt water commemorating the tears Israel shed while in captivity; bitter herbs symbolizing the bitterness of the people’s bondage; charoset, a sweet, dark-colored paste made of fruits and nuts; and, four cups of wine.
Washing His Disciples Feet
At some point that evening, all of the preparations had been made, the meal had been prepared and Jesus and His closest friends gathered to observe this very important Jewish feast.
There was only one problem. A servant was often assigned the role of washing the feet of the guests. Travel during this period was almost exclusively by foot along very dusty roads. Dining tables were only a few inches off the ground. People often ate by lying on their left side, propped up by their left elbow, with their feet pointing out so that they could eat with their right hand. Obviously, having dirty feet so close to another person’s face wasn’t acceptable, so appointing a servant to wash the feet was an assumed courtesy. The problem in the minds of every disciple that gathered for that meal was that a servant hadn’t been appointed. The biggest question in their minds was, “Who will wash the feet of all the guests?”
“I’m not a servant…” “Well, neither am I…”
Not a single disciple volunteered to wash the feet of the other men. Not a single one of Jesus’ team members even offered to wash His feet?
How could they? Why would they? According to Luke, they were too busy arguing about who was most important and who would be the greatest (Lk 22:24-27).
Jesus: The Model of Servant Leadership
That’s when Jesus gave them an example of what servant leadership looks like, by getting up, taking off His robe, wrapping a towel around His waist and humbly washing the dirty feet of every man in the room.
“Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.”—Jn 13:1-5 NLT
The lesson came on the heels of this moving and intimate act.
“After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, ‘Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you…’” —John 13:12-15a NLT
Jesus loved object lessons. Evidently, He wanted His disciples to hold the image of Him tenderly touching, washing and drying their feet on the screens of their minds as a way of inspiring them — and us — to serve one another in the same selfless, humble way He served.
Through this simple, selfless, really practical act, Jesus was saying something like, “This act represents all the ways I’ve loved you. I want this love — my selfless, unconditional and sacrificial love — to carry you into the world so that everyone you meet will experience my grace-filled love through you. I’ve done this because I love you. Do the same thing for each other.”
Just hours before His arrest, Jesus wanted us to understand the importance of regularly taking off the garment of our own self-importance, turning away from our own self-centeredness, kneeling before our family, friends, neighbors and strangers in humility and pouring the water of our resources on the feet of someone else’s need. This is what love is all about.
That evening Jesus made His priorities for His inner circle crystal clear — in His example and His words.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” —John 13:34-35 NLT
This was His message in the closing hours of His life. “Hey, guys… The way you’ve seen me love. That’s the way I want you to love. Love is more than a feeling. It’s an attitude that reveals itself with an action. This is the new standard for love…”
A New Standard For Love
- LOVE one another SELFLESSLY!
- LOVE one another UNCONDITIONALLY.
- LOVE one another SACRIFICIALLY.
John 15 beautifully describes the nature of Jesus’ sacrificial love.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.” —John 15:13-14 NLT
It was during these incredibly intense and intimate moments with His friends that Jesus and His disciples also observed Passover together. Preparation for Passover took place on the 14th of Nissan — from nightfall on Wednesday to nightfall on Thursday. The Passover Meal itself took place on the 15th of Nissan — nightfall on Thursday to nightfall on Friday. It’s very likely that Jesus and His disciples ate this meal together some time Thursday evening.
According to one first century historian, the number of sacrificial lambs slain at Passover was approximately 260,000 lambs. One lamb was usually offered for every ten people. Conservative estimates indicate that at least 2,000,000 people had gathered in Jerusalem for the Celebration of Passover. Imagine that.
Jesus knew His time “was near.” Imagine the emotional trauma and spiritual weight of Him potentially hearing the deaths of so many of those Passover lambs, and knowing that within a few hours He would become the true and ultimate “Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).
No wonder it was at some point during this special meal, that John gave this commentary on the mental and emotional state of Jesus, “Now Jesus was deeply troubled…” (Jn 13:21). The Aramaic text of this verse means something like, “[He felt] a profound tenderness” or “His spirit felt a longing.”
The sights, sounds and smells of Passover connected with Jesus on a visceral level, reminding Him every moment of the events about to unfold and His role in all those events.
Incredibly, gathering His strength and resolve, at some point during the Passover Meal, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, by taking some of the meaningful elements of Passover and transforming them into Holy Communion.
26 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. 29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” 30 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. —Matt 26:26-30 NLT
This really was the “…’last Supper’ in a number of ways: [it was] the last meal that Jesus would eat with his disciples, the last meal that Jesus would eat in his pre-glorified body, and the final Passover meal of the old covenant.” 
No wonder during the meal, just before transforming it into Holy Communion, Jesus said, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15 MSG).
Jesus knew that through His sacrificial death, the true meaning of Passover would be revealed and realized!
Combining all four of the Gospel narratives, it was during this meal and time together that Jesus poured his heart out to this inner circle by…
- speaking peace to their fears,
- giving them promises about their future,
- warning them of the plans of the evil one,
- praying for them personally, and,
- praying for their unity (John 14-17).
Jesus even took time that evening to worship with the disciples by singing hymns. Later that evening, He invited the core of His inner circle — Peter, James and John — to join Him in the Garden of Gethsemane for a time of prayer and intercession (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Luke 22:39).
So much action is packed into this single day. But it’s important to point out that in the waning hours of His life — just hours before His arrest, torture and execution — Jesus spent time with His closest friends and later with His Heavenly Father. This is a statement about the value He placed on time with friends and time with the Father.
Early Friday AM — The War in Gethsemane
(Matthew 26:30, 36-46; Mark 14:26, 32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1)
Late Thursday evening or early Friday morning, knowing that He was destined for the cross — that in a few hours He would bear the weight of the sin of the whole world throughout all of human history on His shoulders — Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He invited the core of the inner circle to join Him.
What occurred next is unlike anything we’ve seen up until this moment in Jesus’ life.
- War In The Garden: Mental Torment and Anguish
Mark 14:33 says that it was in Gethsemane — just hours before his death — that Jesus “…began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” The Message describes it like this, “…He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony.”
He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became
deeply troubled and distressed.
—Mark 14:33 NLT
The word Gethsemane means “oil or olive press.” It was located in an area known as the Mount of Olives where there was evidently a grove of olive trees.
The entire scene was a visual picture or metaphor of what Jesus was about to experience and endure in every aspect of His being. Just as olives are pressed and crushed to produce oil. Jesus was about to be pressed and crushed on our behalf.
It’s not surprising that The Passion Translation of Mark 14:33 describes the emotional and mental state of Jesus with these words.
[Jesus] took Peter, Jacob, and John with him. An intense feeling
of great horror plunged his soul into deep sorrow and agony.
—Mark 14:33 TPT
Don’t miss that. “…an intense feeling of great horror plunged His soul into deep sorrow and agony.”
It was in the garden that Jesus began to feel the weight of the crushing He was destined to experience (Cf Isa 53:10).
- War In The Garden: Emotional Pain and Agony
Not only was Jesus under mental stress in the garden, He was under emotional distress in Gethsemane, as well. The emotional and interior struggle was so severe, that He looked at three of his closest friends and said, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)
“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.
Stay here and keep watch with me.”
—Matthew 26:38 NLT
The vulnerability and humanity in Jesus’ words is touching: “I really don’t want to be alone right now. This moment is just too heavy. The pressure is too great. I need my friends. I need you.”
This is such an example for us. If Jesus needed to be surrounded and supported by a group of friends, we all need friends who will stand with us and by us in moments of celebration and despair (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
Phillip Yancey described Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane like this:
“By instinct, we humans want someone by our side in the hospital the night before surgery, in the nursing home as death looms near, in any great moment of crisis. We need the reassuring touch of human presence — solitary confinement is the worst punishment our species has devised. I detect in the Gospels’ account of Gethsemane a profound depth of loneliness that Jesus had never before encountered.”  —Philip Yancey
Tim Keller once tweeted, “Every single emotion you have should be processed in prayer.” 
“Every single emotion you have should be processed in prayer.”
That’s what Jesus did in Gethsemane. He shared His heart with His friends and He poured His heart and emotions out to God in prayer.
Luke 22 describes it like this:
And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
—Luke 22:44 NKT
The Passion Translation renders this passage:
He prayed even more passionately, like one being sacrificed, until he was in such intense agony of spirit that his sweat became drops of blood,
dripping onto the ground.
—Luke 22:44 TPT
The word “agony” means, “…being in the grip of a shuddering horror in the face of the dreadful prospect before him.”  It’s also used “…of a man who is rendered helpless, disorientated, who is agitated and anguished by the threat of some approaching event.” 
This gives us a glimpse as to what might have been going on inside Jesus just before His arrest and crucifixion. He knew exactly what He was about to experience and endure. He understood every second of anguish and the extent of the brokenness He was about to take on. He understood the spiritual, mental, emotional, relational and physical pain ahead of Him.
This is why, when He entered the garden, He walked a few yards away from his circle of friends and “threw himself face down on the ground” (Mark 14:35-36). The burden and weight He was carrying was so heavy and horrific that He couldn’t even manage to stand! He crumbled to the ground and passionately began to pray.
Jesus understood that He was about to bear God’s judgment against sin as our substitute; suffering and dying in our place. So He prayed with a fierce passion and heavy burden unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed.
Again, the spiritual, mental and emotional anguish He experienced was so intense that Luke writes, “…His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
Medically, this condition is known as hematidrosis. It’s an extremely rare condition that is usually associated with an individual who is experiencing a high degree of psychological stress, severe anxiety or fear. The fear and anxiety causes the body to release chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands. As a result, there’s a small amount of bleeding in the sweat glands, and the sweat becomes tinged with blood.
In other words, Jesus was literally bleeding through the pores of his skin as He prayed in the Garden. Part of our redemption was actually taking place in these moments.
The blood loss was probably minimal, but hematidrosis “leaves the body weak, dehydrated, and with skin so tissue-thin and tender that even a touching of skin is excruciating.”  It is also accompanied by an accelerated heart rate, high blood pressure, abdominal cramps and vomiting  which would have left Jesus completely exhausted and dehydrated at the end of this three hour session in prayer.
- War In The Garden: Spiritual Warfare
The word “agony” here can also mean struggle or conflict. It’s from a root word, which was used to describe the place where the Greeks assembled to celebrate their Olympic Games. It can refer to “a place of contest, conquest and physical struggle for the purpose of overcoming all opposition in the attainment of a goal.”
Satan had avoided any direct confrontation with Jesus since the smackdown Jesus gave him in the wilderness. But now, in Gethsemane, Satan made one last, all-out frontal assault on Jesus attempting to prevent Him from making it to the cross. (Cf Matt 16:23; 1 Cor 2:8)
Some Bible scholars like J. Vernon McGhee believe that Satan was actually attempting to kill Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. 
Mel Gibson hints at this in his groundbreaking film, The Passion of the Christ. The film begins with this scene from the Garden of Gethsemane. As Jesus prays in the Garden, Satan appears, whispering to Jesus, tempting Him to abandon His path to the cross. The battle is fierce, but Jesus is resolved. He eventually stands to His feet, looks Satan in the eyes and crushes the serpent Satan has placed in His path.
While Mel takes some artistic liberties with the Gospel’s account of what went down in the Garden, the scene is a reminder of what Paul would later write in Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” It’s also a fulfillment of the “protoevangelium” or first gospel that God Himself announced in Genesis 3:15 when He said that the serpent would strike the Messiah’s heal, but that the “seed of woman would crush the head of the serpent.”
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
It’s worth noting that the failure that plunged this world into terror and placed us under the curse began in a garden (Gen 3). Jesus also faced one of the greatest battles in history in a garden. A few hours later, He would be betrayed by a kiss in that same garden (Luke 22:47-48). But the news that trumps all of this news is that Jesus would eventually be resurrected in another garden, redeeming the story of the garden (John 19:41).
This was the prayer Jesus prayed over and over and over again in that garden.
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” —Matthew 26:39 NLT
Jesus Switched Cups!
The symbol of a “cup” is used several times in the Bible. Sometimes it’s used in Scripture for a “cup of blessing.”
For instance, Psalm 16:5, “Lord, You alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.” Or, Psalm 23:5, “You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows with blessings.” And also, Psalm 116:11, “I will lift up his cup of salvation and praise him extravagantly for all that he’s done for me.” That’s the cup of blessing.
But the symbol of a “cup” is also used in the Bible for the “cup of divine wrath and judgement.” For instance, Psalm 75:8, “For the Lord holds a cup in his hand that is full of foaming wine mixed with spices. He pours out the wine in judgment, and all the wicked must drink it…” (Also see, Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 49:12-16)
Amazingly, in the Garden Jesus switched cups with us!  Because of His sinless perfection, He could drink from the cup of God’s blessing. Because of our sin, we were destined to drink from the cup of God’s judgement and wrath. Amazingly, at some point in eternity past, Jesus decided to switch cups! In the Garden and on the cross, Jesus took our judgment so we could receive His blessing! He took our sin so we could receive His righteousness. (See 2 Cor 5:21) 
Don’t make the mistake of believing that the events we’ve covered thus far and the events we’ll cover tomorrow were somehow the tragic upending of God’s plan. They were not! This was the fulfillment of God’s plan — a plan established in eternity past. Revelation 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Everything Jesus experienced in the Garden, during His trials and on the cross was in fulfillment of the plan of God. The hour of Jesus’ most intense agony was the hour for which He had come into the world.
Jesus anticipated the time and manner of his death (Matthew 20:17-19). He even taught His followers that His death would be the climax of his earthly mission and ministry.
“…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
— Mark 10:45
It was on the heels of three hours in prayer that a group of more than 200 people – including Judas, members of the Sanhedrin, the temple guard and a detachment of soldiers entered the Garden to arrest Jesus.
We’ll cover the events of Good Friday tomorrow. I’ll close with this question today:
Have you completely surrendered your life, your purpose, plans, calling, energies, efforts, giftedness and destiny to Jesus?
I love the way The Passion Translation renders Jesus’ prayerful surrender to the Father’s will in the Garden.
“Yet what I want is not important, for I only desire to fulfill Your plan for me”
—Matt 26:39 TPT
As you contemplate all that Jesus went through and all that He has done, can you make the prayer of Jesus your own? “Father, what I want isn’t really important. I only desire to fulfill Your plan and purpose for me.”
In some ways, there are only two options to the way we live our lives: 1) Like Jesus, in SURRENDER to the Father’s will. 2) Or, like the disciples, SLEEPING through the moments and opportunities God brings our way, inviting us to join Him in His redemptive purpose and plan.
Today — this Maundy Thursday — is the perfect day to examine every area of our lives and evaluate whether or not we’ve completely surrendered that area to God.
Surrender is difficult.
But surrender is also essential.
Jeremiah 10 contains a prayer that at some point in life is important for us all.
“I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course. 24 So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle. Do not correct me in anger, for I would die.” —Jeremiah 10:23-24 NLT
Jeremiah prayed that prayer on the other side of the cross.
You and I pray in the aftermath of the cross. So, even in our failures to submit and surrender to God’s plan and purpose, we can always approach God knowing that He will never “correct [us] in anger,” for the anger and wrath of God was poured out upon Jesus, so that we could become the objects of His love, mercy and grace today.
But our lives “are [still] not our own.” In fact, Paul would later say the same thing in 1 Corinthians 6:19. But this time He would tag Jeremiah’s statement with this line, “…for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God…”
Today, in reverence for the way Jesus perfectly surrendered Himself to the will of God — on our behalf — for our redemption, let’s make it our goal to live our lives in surrender to Him. After all, we have been “bought with a high price.”
Will you join Jesus in prayerful surrender?
 Kostenberger, Andreas J.,Taylor, Justin. The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived (Kindle Locations 743-744). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
 Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew (p. 195). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
 Tim Keller, Twitter Feed, July 20, 2017, @timekllernyc
 George Knight, Exploring Mark: A Devotional Commentary, page 262.
 Erich Kiehl, The Passion of our Lord, page 70.
 Sweet, Leonard. Jesus (p. 220). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
 See J. Vernon McGhee, Thru The Bible Vol 51, Hebrews 1-7, commentary on Hebrews 5:7; Also see John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary Set of 33 Volumes, commentary on Matthew 16:23
 Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, Jesus: A Theography, page 221.
 Jesus: A Theography, Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, page 220 of 418. The idea of Jesus switching cups is covered in this book by Sweet and Viola.