Thursday, April 18th, 2019
In Mark 14:12, “on the first day of unleavened bread,” the disciples asked where Jesus wanted them to go prepare to eat the Passover meal. According Exodus 12, the Passover lamb was to be killed on Jewish date of Nissan 14 and eaten that evening which would have fallen on the 15th of Nissan. Officially, Nissan 15th is considered Passover and this is the day that Jesus was crucified on. If you recall the night of the Israelites escaped the plague of the death of the firstborn and fled from Egypt, there were two parts: one was killing the passover lamb and sprinkling it’s blood upon their doorpost, and the second was eating the meal with the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs. So the feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover are connected but not the same. It is clear in Scripture that Jesus breathed his last breath and his body was taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea before Sabbath which is one of the reasons we know that he died on Friday. It was imperative that Jesus and his disciples have this meal together. Their Passover meal, or what we call the Last Supper, was surely different from all the other observant Jews eating this meal within the city walls on this night, for Jesus broke the unleavened bread, and said, “Take eat, this is my body which is broken for you.” Paul also makes this substitution clear when he says, “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:7):”
Most of the events that we recall for Thursday of Passion Week would have been considered to be Friday since the Jewish day started at nightfall, but for clarity, we will stay with Thursday night. Leaving the upper room on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, he stopped at the Kidron Valley and prayed his famous high priestly pray of John 17. There just aren’t any more eloquent words found than the ones here in this prayer about our unity with God and Jesus and with each other. Onward to the garden, Jesus reveals the secret to receiving strength to endure temptation. He calls three prayer partners, Peter, James, and John, to sit close by while he went further to pray (Matt. 26:36). He told them, “Tarry ye here, and watch with me (Matt. 26:38).”
In his place of prayer, Jesus asks the Father to let this cup from him. He comes back only to find his prayer partners asleep. He then singles out Peter and asks, “What, could you not watch with me one hour?” Here is the secret: “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation:” Why? Because “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41).” He goes back and ask the Father again to let this cup pass from him. When he returned he again and found his prayer partners sleeping. He left them sleeping and returned to ask the Father for the third time to let this cup pass from him, but said “nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39, 44). When he returned from his place of prayer he told his disciples, “Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners (Matt. 26:45).”
Those last words are disturbing to me. Have you ever asked the Lord to be excused from early morning prayer, or just simply slept through it? Can’t you just hear Jesus say, “Sleep on now!” But I don’t think those words are equivalent to our telling our children, “Sweet dreams,” before sending them off to bed. For in the next line he essentially said, “The devil just arrived.” Let’s see if we got this straight. If we are going to come out victorious during our time of testing, we must pray sufficiently ahead of time. For this particular trial, Jesus prescribed one hour. The real problem being, even though as believers, we have a willing spirit, our flesh is weak. I think this would be easier to understand if we said it like this: we have a weakness in our flesh where we normally yield to a particular temptation, like falling asleep during prayer! If we cover this weakness in prayer we will overcome. The sad commentary here is that Jesus singled out Peter for a reason. In Luke’s account of this prayer meeting, Jesus told Peter that “Satan hath desired to sift you as wheat (Luke 22:31):” In one sense, we might say Peter did yield to temptation because he denied the Lord, just as had been foretold, but on the other hand, Jesus assures Peter, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not (Luke 22:32):” Yes, he did yield to temptation, but he did come out the other side strengthened his brothers after he was converted (Luke 22:32). We should thank God that even in times of our prayerlessness, God found someone who was awake and answered the call to pray for us!