HOLY THURSDAY IS THE first day of Passover: the remembrance of Israel being freed from slavery to Egypt and the angel of death passing over the homes of Jews whose doors were marked with blood. Jesus spent Wednesday before His death warning of the trials and tribulations Israel will face before He returns. He said the disciples must be vigilant and prayerful, adding, “when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near” (Matt. 21:31, ESV). He said all his parables and prophesies will come to pass: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (21:33). Jesus rested on the Mount of Olives Wednesday night.
The religious leaders hated Jesus to the point that they arrested Him, tried Him, and brought Him to Pilate for a sentence of death. What made them so angry at Jesus that they wanted to see Him dead? The website blueletterbible.org lists the following reasons:
- the claims that He made
- the deeds that He did
- His threat to their religious system
- the people with whom He socialized
- the lack of respect He had for their religious traditions
When Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, it meant His authority outweighed the authority of the Pharisees and high priests. These religious leaders knew some individuals who decided to follow Jesus were just plain ignorant: they didn’t know any better. But Jesus was garnering way too much attention. When Jesus cast out a demon from a man deaf and blind since birth, the Pharisees accused Him of doing so through the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. They wanted to discredit His ministry. Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:25-26, 28). Jesus then made perhaps one of His most paramount statements: “I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:31-32).
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, many turned to Jesus, claiming Him as the Messiah. The Pharisees and Sadducees reacted in fear and hostility, seeing this mighty man as a threat to their religious power. “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they waited until after the Passover feast “…lest there be an uproar among the people'” (Matt. 26:1-5).
Jesus knew His time was short, and He wanted to break bread with His disciples for one last time. As the Lamb of God, He was about to fulfill the meaning of Passover by giving his body to be broken and his blood to be shed in sacrifice, freeing all sinners from the bondage of sin. He asked John and Peter to prepare an upper room for the supper.
While the two were securing the room and the food, Judas was secretly preparing to betray Jesus by disclosing where He would be later that night. For his treachery, Judas received 30 pieces of silver. How could one of the twelve do such a thing? He was one of the twelve followed Jesus for three years, witnessing His ministry, teachings, and miracles. Surely, Judas knew Jesus was the Messiah. Money was important to Judas. John said Judas “…was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6).
As the disciples ate dinner with Jesus, He told them one of them was about to betray him. Each disciple denied it would be him. Judas said, “Is it I, Rabbi?” and Jesus replied, “You have said so” (Matt. 26:25). John tells us “…the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot” to betray Jesus (John 13:2). Jesus knew who would betray him and He said, “…you are clean, but not every one of you” (13:10). Peter insisted on knowing who it was. Jesus said, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas (13:26). Some believe Satan caused Judas to betray Jesus. John writes, “Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly'” (13:27). Acts 1:15 says, “In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, ‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.'”
From this moment on, Jesus began to prepare for the most taxing and brutal moment of his physical existence. He had already told the disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Steven Barto, B.S. Psy., M.A. Theology