As the sun began to set, those who had followed the Lord could not let go of the events of the day. He had clearly told them, but what they had witnessed was beyond their imagination despite His words.
What would it have been like to be one of His disciples on that long, wrenching day at the end of such an incredible week?
Would I have steeled myself against the horror unfolding and clung to His words while still standing at the foot of the cross or would I have been one of those who were not present?
Would I have been overcome by grief and fear of what would happen next or would I have fallen prey to doubt?
So much had happened during this week…
The triumph of Palm Sunday had filled so many with hope and celebration! Then on Monday Jesus had entered the temple courts zealously overturning the tables of the moneychangers who were buying and selling. He was reminding them this place was to be a place of prayer and not one of robbers. A noisy melee broke out in the chaos of doves and money flying everywhere, people scrambling, and reeling at the scene. They had never seen Jesus this way.
Then on Tuesday as the disciples were walking along with Him, He had cursed the fig tree that was not producing fruit. How puzzled they seemed to be at how quickly the tree had withered before their very eyes! Once more He exhorted them if they had faith and believed as they prayed, what they prayed would be done.
How astonishing were those things the disciples witnessed, but now to think He was saying they could do such things was more than they could take in.
From there they went on to the temple courts that He had just cleared the day before and He was confronted by the chief priests and elders about where He had received authority to do what He had done. It was a trap they were setting for Him and He knew it. His wise answer rebuffed them and left them stymied as Jesus then refused to answer them and expose their unbelief.
Then came the Olivet Discourse where He warned the disciples through another story. This time He spoke of the foolish and wise virgins charging them to keep watch. To think this admonition came prior to that long night in the Garden of Gethsemane and yet they had not taken in the meaning for either the future or the present.
How Jesus loved them and longed for disciples to hear and understand!
I think He does for us as well. How can I possibly judge their behavior when I am not always listening and hesitating to follow if I don’t understand what He has asked of me?
It was on Wednesday that Judas slipped away from the others and made his bargain with the chief priests to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Did his fellow disciples have any clue he might be tempted to do such a thing?
It reminds me that in the “now” those I share the journey of faith with are also tempted even as I can be. How deeply and openly I share my doubts, fears, and temptations may well determine my ability or their ability to withstand it and make all the difference in this walk with Him. That means that I need to be purposeful in my times with those closest to me to help guard their hearts and allow them to guard mine as well.
Thursday was a feast day, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Jesus directed His disciples where to go in the city and whom to speak with about preparing a place at his house for Jesus and His disciples to celebrate the feast.
When they were gathered there, Jesus broke bread and served wine giving thanks and once more giving them information few could likely grasp. He plainly told them they would not share this meal with Him again until they were together again in His Father’s kingdom.
They sang a hymn and then left for the Mount of Olives to the garden in Gethsemane. As they walked along in the moonlight, what was their conversation? Did they wonder at the interaction between Jesus and Judas? Did they question Judas abruptly leaving them?
Jesus wanted them to be with Him, to watch with Him, and to pray.
He knew and understood what lay before Him and despite His willingness to be obedient to His Father, His heart was in anguish and He asked His Father if there was any other way while still being willing to endure what lay ahead.
As the disciples looked back on that last sweet time with Jesus in the upper room and then their failure to watch with Him as he asked, were their own hearts burdened with guilt and shame for their failure?
The ugly scene of Judas arriving with soldiers to arrest Him angered them. How could he have done such a thing? Yet their own fear caused them to flee the scene. Peter’s curiosity brought him to the courtyard where early in the morning the prophecy Jesus had spoken about his betrayal would come to pass.
It was 6 AM on that Friday that Jesus would stand before Pilate. It had been a long night. He had already suffered much, but within an hour He was sent on to Herod for a decision on what to do with Him. Pilate must have hoped Herod would handle things, but instead he was returned to Pilate where Pilate looked for a way out and offered to release one of the prisoners. The priests had spurred on the crowd and elders who had arranged the betrayal by Judas to choose Barabbas rather than Jesus.
So in the end, as Old Testament prophets had foretold, Jesus was sentenced to death and by 8AM had been led away to Calvary. An hour later the grisly crucifixion had begun with only a handful of those He loved standing nearby to testify to the events. They were the ones who watched the soldiers casting lots for his clothing and heard the insults and mocking railed at Him.
These few would bear witness to the exchange Jesus had with the criminal crucified to one side of Him who was promised paradise. They also heard His words to His mother and the admonition to John to care for her as a son.
By noon that day, darkness covered the scene and at 1PM Jesus cried out to His Father and spoke of His thirst. By 2PM they would hear His final words “It is finished”. At the end of three hours, the soldiers would thrust a sword in His side to assure He was dead and then as sunset approached He was taken from the cross and Joseph of Arimathea offered his own tomb as a burial place.
The sun sank further and further and I might think the disciples’ hearts weighed heavy as it dipped below the horizon.
Was it all over?
What would become of them?
It was God’s darkest hour as He set aside His Son’s life for me, for you, for any who believe in Him.
Perhaps we for whom He died can say it was good because He gave us the best gift we could have ever received.
He gave us life with Him.