They were unaware of what lie ahead as they prepared the meal for the Passover. No one wanted to miss the celebration and the food. But who would get the places of honor? Was this going to be like an awards ceremony and finally each of them would get recognized for their true greatness?
Can you imagine the conversation of the disciples as they prepared the Passover feast? This was an important meal and celebration. It was in remembrance of the Jews being freed by the hand of God from enslavement to Egypt. I wonder, like our holiday's and celebrations if they really remembered the reason for the Passover Feast. What is the reason for this season? Could there be any relation to Jesus' going to the cross to Passover? Hmmm... Read for yourself (Exodus 12 & Matthew 26; John 13...)
But Jesus was fully aware of the present moment. "Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world." (John 12:1-30). He knew his time had come to die the death that is written about him in all of scripture. This is something that I think, one day we will all understand ourselves as we approach "our hour"..
By watching my own wife in her last moments of life on this side of heaven, when the hour is approaching, they know. In July of 2018 she sat on the bed in our room. She said, "Todd, I think I'm dying." I looked at her and said, "No, sweetie. It's you're just tired and the meds are affecting you." I may have been in denial at this point. But in the back of my mind I was storing up these moments. Then a few weeks later we headed out on a week of vacation to a beach house of one of our friends. It was a great time the entire week. The weather was sunny, the water was warm-ish. And we had our family all together and our troubles with cancer we left behind in Wisconsin - though it seemed. But late one evening as we were preparing for bed, she looked at me adoringly, but with sadness. "Todd, I'm sorry. But I'm ready to go home." I stared right into her eyes, feeling the tension of the moment. "What do you mean sweetie?"
"Todd, I'm ready to go home. I'm ready to die." I took a deep breath and stepped to her and wrapped my arms around her." "I'm so sorry Todd. I'm so sorry..." She repeated these words and began to weep. We held tightly to each other as she continued to repeat, "I'm sorry.." I looked into her eyes again. I could tell at this point that she meant her words. I replied, "Laina, you don't have to be sorry. Neither of us chose cancer. We each are in the Lord's hands. I love you Laina." We held each other as she cried. At this point I didn't cry. But I felt a preparedness and strength come upon me. It was a strength not my own. Just 9 months earlier I was at my worst. Fear of death causing anxiety and depression overwhelmed me. I wrestled with God and had to surrender my own will, to His will. And now at this point I was coming to a full surrender. What choice did I have? I had to let go. I had to trust God with her.
Later the next evening, I sat with Laina's friend David out on the deck and talked with him.
"I'm afraid things are going to move quickly when we get back home." I said. "I feel like the world is coming to an end."
David replied, "Your world as you know it, yes it is ending." I had a good talk with David that night. I think I just needed to share with someone who would listen. I knew the time was near.
Early in Jesus' ministry, his disciples had heard him say several times that "his time had not yet come." And then later "my time has come." All through his ministry (3 1/2 years) he talked about his death. But the disciples didn't really understand or they were in denial. They had hopes of a new kingdom on earth where they each would have an important role in that kingdom. Jesus turned their dreams upside down, as he did mine! Yes, they had an important role in His kingdom, but not as they anticipated. To be great you must serve. To live you must die. And if we would come after him we must take up our own cross (a Roman device of excruciating pain leading to a suffocating death) and follow him. Talk about confusion. The disciples knew Jesus was from God and had great hopes for his Kingdom with all of his healings, miracles, food and even raising the dead. Nothing would stop this kind of king! Yet what is all of this talk about death? Jesus knew his time had come, the scriptures clearly reveal this as God's plan to redeem the world from sin and death.
What was Jesus thinking these last moments prior to his death? Jesus brought honor to the man who would betray him. He gave Judas a seat next to his at the Passover meal. He then washed his disciples feet to teach them how to lead by serving and that they were "clean". They sang hymns and walked through the vineyard, all the while he taught them. Then they made their way to Gethsemane to pray. The time was getting closer. He earnestly prayed and even sweat like drops of blood. His humanity was facing death and thousands of years of sin was falling on him. In God's mercy an angel came to strengthen him. His disciples fell asleep when three times he pleaded with them to "watch and pray."
They all had a full belly, were tired and now were beginning to fear and grieve. If you've experienced any of these I am sure you know how burdensome and exhausted you feel. Jesus then went on "trial" though none of it seemed very just. First going to Annas' house, then to Caiaphas the High Priest. The irony of words spoken is incredulous. The Jewish High Priest speaking insolently to "The High Priest." From there they went to Pilot's house. Pilot sent him to Herod and then Herod sent him back to Pilot. By this time it was morning. All night Jesus was questioned, humiliated and I'm sure very tired. Yet he had strength and sharpness of mind. He was fully in control. He knew his hour had come.
I imagine some of these same emotions, feelings and thoughts as Jesus walked his passion. God the Father sending an angel to strengthen him. I wonder if the disciples would have stayed awake and prayed, would they have had different responses to Jesus' arrest? Perhaps they would have had strength to resist temptation to flee or to lie. Perhaps they would trust Jesus at his word that yes he would die, but he would be raised on the third day?
The weeks prior to Laina's death were rough. She spent several weeks in the hospital. Her mom stayed by her side, while I went back and forth between our daughters and the hospital. The times she was able to come home were scary; Often resulting in late night trips to the E.R. or another hospital stay. One day she would be in good spirits and we'd have great conversation. Another day she was in pain and confused. The ups and downs were exhausting for all of us, just as I'm sure the last days with Jesus were for the disciples.
The last night it was clear that God was calling Laina home. Her pain was the greatest it had ever been (and she was a tough woman with a high pain tolerance), but none of her meds would work. So we called in the hospice care team. While her mom was talking to them on the phone, her dad and I sat next to her on our bed. He was on her right and I was kneeling on the floor to her left, with my head on her lap. Suddenly, she seemed to be in a lot of pain or fear and cried out, "Oh daddy!" She was looking up towards the ceiling and began talking. "No, not now! You know how much I have to lose!" I sat and listened trying to discern this moment. Then I asked, "Laina, are you arguing with God?" She responded with a definitive "Yes!" Her dad responded, "Honey, this is one argument you are not going to win." Then after that there were very few words, as the hospice nurse arrived and we hurried to get her on an ambulance and to the hospice facility. That night was a long night. We were tired, grieving and uncertain on how quickly things would progress. But in the midst of it all, I felt God's strong hand upon me, strengthening me for this moment.
The last moments are important in our lives. But the fact remains, none of us really knows when that "hour" shall arrive. Perhaps that will give us something to meditate on this Holy Week. If tomorrow is our Last Moment, what will we say and do today? What would you teach your children? How would you serve your family, neighbors, strangers? How would you use your resources? If Jesus really is the only way to heaven, then would you believe?
The last moments of Jesus before the cross and his death, are packed with grief, suffering, injustice and the pride and fear of the leaders. But these last moments are also an inspiration for future believers, offering strength, hope, love, power, authority, wisdom and trust in Almighty God's plan. This was the only way our sins could be atoned for and that we could once again have fellowship with a Holy God. The depths of sorrow and suffering have turned into the greatest joy and comfort that will last for eternity - for those who believe!
Jesus had all of us on his mind in his last moments on earth. Yet there is an eternity ahead... both now and your last moments have great significance. Choose wisely!
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