What Happened the Day Before Jesus Died – Passover and Prayer in the Garden*

{Read the introductory post for the survey of the major events of Holy week that we’re doing together on Servant Girl Stories during March. Then, read the previous post – detailing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.}

The Jaffa Gate – Jerusalem/Image Credit: holy-landpilgrmage.com

Two things made it clear that the Passover Celebration was at hand in Jerusalem – extra Roman soldiers and extra sheep. The increased presence of soldiers was to quell uprisings that threatened to flare up as the number of people in the city swelled close to 2 million (and since Jesus had made his presence known earlier in the week). Pilate didn’t want to have to deal with any overzealous Jews.

As for the sheep, they would be ritually sacrificed and eaten during the Passover meal.

When Peter and John arrived in Jerusalem Thursday morning, the streets were jammed with people making their last-minute preparations for the evening’s Passover meal. With the city’s population at about 6 times more than normal, the two men were concerned they wouldn’t be able to find the place Jesus had chosen to eat the meal. He had sent them into the city early to prepare it, giving them instructions about who to find and what to say.

Fortunately, it did not take them long to locate the person Jesus told them to look for: a man carrying a water jug. This man stood out from the bustling crowd since it was usually a woman’s duty to fetch the water.

Peter and John followed the man through the packed streets until he entered a three-story house. Once inside, they greeted the owner of the house and said, “The Teacher wants to eat the Passover meal in your guest room.”

A Proposed Site of the Upper Room – Jerusalem/Image Credit: steemit.com/travel

The owner showed them up the stairs to a large, furnished, upper room. There, Peter and John began preparations for the meal.

Readings for the second week of March

*As you read the various accounts of each event this week, note similarities and differences.  How does each writer describe the events?  How are they similar and how are they different?  How do the different perspectives give you a fuller picture of the event?

**Always pay special attention to the things Jesus said/direct quotes.

***When you’re reading, try to imagine the scene in your head: see the people, hear the sounds, inhale the smells. Visualize the events happening as clearly as something you’ve witnessed with your own eyes. For example, with the arrest in the garden, see the soldiers’ torchlight dancing off their armor, hear the worried voices of the disciples as they realize what the soldiers have come to do…imagine you are there in the scene as it unfolds.

Thursday, morning – Jesus and his disciples prepare for the Passover meal in the “Upper Room.” 

READ:

  • Matthew 26: 17-19
  • Mark 14:12-16
  • Luke 22:7-13

Thursday, after sunset – Jesus and his disciples eat the Passover meal in the “Upper Room.” 

We see the Last Supper in our minds with the men sitting in chairs at a table (because this is how much of the artwork depicts it). However, the Bible describes the men as “reclining” at the table. The above image is more like how they would have sat to eat the Passover meal. This was customary for this culture at this time. Image Credit: lessonsnblessings.com

READ:

  • Matthew 26:20-29
  • Mark 14:17-25
  • Luke 22: 14-23
  • John 13:1-30 – John’s gospel does not describe the meal in the Upper Room, but it provides the only account of the Master washing the feet of his disciples after supper. 

Consider this:

  • Scripture and prophecy predicted Jesus’ death, so we know God ordered these events. However, Judas is still responsible for his part in betraying Jesus to the religious leaders (see Matthew 26:24, Mark 14:21 and Luke 22:22).  How do we reconcile God’s sovereignty with human responsibility – the fact that God is in control of all things, but we are still held responsible for our actions?  (Read also Genesis 50:18-21; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28, Acts 18:9-11, and 2 Timothy 2:10 for other scripture references that affirm God’s sovereign ordering of events while at the same time pointing to human responsibility for those events).

Thursday, late in the night and into early Friday morning – Jesus and some disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested.

Olive grove in the Garden of Gethsemane – Jerusalem/Image Credit: beinharimtours.com

READ:

  • Matthew 26:30-56
  • Mark 14:26-50
  • Luke 22: 39-53
  • John 18:1-12

Consider this:

  • Matthew’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ arrest give details about Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane.  (ESV translations are used here) – Matthew 26:37-38 describe Jesus as “sorrowful and troubled” and “sorrowful even to death.”  Mark 14:33, 34 uses the terms “distressed and troubled,” and Luke 22:44 describes him as being in “agony.”  These are strong descriptions, but maybe the original language can give us an even clearer picture of Jesus’ state of mind in the garden.  Use the Blue Letter Bible app, your Bible’s commentary or other source to look up the original Greek words for “sorrowful,” “troubled,” distressed,” and “agony” as they were used in these specific verses.  What do these words mean?  What insight do they give you into Jesus’ emotions at that point?  Why does he feel this way?
Jesus arrested in Gethsemane – Image Credit: biblestudy1.com

During the week, reread the verses as many times as possible. Try to read them in different translations as well. Also, read commentary on these verses. Listen to them on a Bible app that will read them aloud. This will help you visualize everything and write the events on your heart. Journal your thoughts on the questions to consider above. Share our survey of events with a friend so you can discuss together what God is showing you as you pray and read.

I pray the Lord will show you something fresh in these familiar stories as you prepare your heart for His resurrection.

*Along with the Bible verses listed above, the following articles helped inform the narrative at the beginning of this study:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/when-jesus-celebrated-passover-11555685683

https://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/Jesus%20Last%20Week%20in%20Jerusalem.htm

https://www.chosenpeople.com/site/passover-in-israel-past-and-present/

https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney1/6-jesuss-last-journey-to-jerusalem/the-last-supper/

What Happened the Week Before Jesus Died – Triumphal Entry

{Read the previous post – an introduction to the posts I’ll be sharing this month as we lead up to Easter}

It’s midday on Monday, springtime in the city of Jerusalem. People bustle in the streets, preparing to celebrate the Passover. You’ve been observing the feast your entire life, commemorating the night the Angel of Death passed over the houses of your ancestors and killed all the firstborn in Egypt.

You hear a commotion in the street ahead and follow the noise and other curious people until you come to a place where the crowd has stopped to watch a man riding by on a donkey colt. Some of the people begin waving palm branches and throwing their cloaks into the road for the donkey to walk over. They shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed if he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9, ESV). Your eyes widen as you realize the man is Jesus of Nazareth! You’ve heard about his miracles and his teaching, but you’ve never seen him before.

You watch him ride slowly by and continue looking until he’s out of sight. Then, you return to your work, too busy with your preparations to realize that something life-changing is about to happen…

Image Credit: pinimg.com

Readings for the first week of March

*As you read the various accounts of each event this week, note similarities and differences.  How does each writer describe the events?  How are they similar and how are they different?  How do the different perspectives give you a fuller picture of the event?

**Always pay special attention to the things Jesus said/direct quotes.

***When you’re reading, try to imagine the scene in your head: see the people, hear the sounds, inhale the smells. Visualize the events happening as clearly as something you’ve witnessed with your own eyes. For example, with the Triumphal Entry, see Jesus on the donkey, hear the crowd shouting Hosanna…imagine you are there in the scene as it happens.

Monday, midday – Jesus enters Jerusalem.  It is springtime, and the city is preparing to celebrate the Passover.

READ:

  • Matthew 21:1-11
  • Mark 11:1-11
  • Luke 19:28-44
  • John 12:12-19

Things to Consider:

  • Why do you think it was significant that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey?
  • Some accounts say the people shouted “Hosanna” as Jesus entered the city.  Use the Blue Letter Bible app, your Bible’s commentary or other source to look up the original Greek word for Hosanna.  What does it mean?  What were the people saying?
  • What is the overall feeling of “the people” or “the crowd” (not the religious leaders) in the city as Jesus entered?

Tuesday – After spending the night in Bethany, Jesus returns to Jerusalem and cleanses the temple*.

READ:

  • Matthew 21:12-17
  • Mark 11:15-19
  • Luke 19:45-48
Image Credit: hearthymn.com

*Just a little piece of geographical information – Bethany is roughly a 2-mile walk from Jerusalem (cited in John 11:18. It would have taken about an hour to walk at a decent pace). Details from several writers show that, rather than staying in the city, Jesus went back to Bethany at night to rest. Some speculate he may have even stayed with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, his dear friends, who lived in Bethany.

{Optional Event and Reading}

Wednesday, midday – Jesus enters the temple in Jerusalem to teach and is challenged by chief priests and elders. 

  • Matthew 21:23-22:14 (Chapter 21 verse 23-Chapter 22 verse 14)
  • Mark 11:27-12:12 (see above)
  • Luke 20:1-19

Wednesday, evening – Back in Bethany, Jesus is anointed by Mary at dinner and Judas conspires to betray Jesus.

READ:

  • Matthew 26:6-16
  • Mark 14:1-11
  • Luke 22:3-6
  • John 12:2-8
Image Credit: pinterest.com

During the week, reread the verses as many times as you can. Read them in different versions of the Bible. Listen to the verses on a Bible app that will read them to you. This will help you visualize everything and really write the events on your heart.

I pray the Lord will show you something fresh in these familiar stories as you prepare your heart for His resurrection.

What Happened the Week Before Jesus Died?

The triumphal entry. The Last Supper. The Garden of Gethsemane. The illegal trial. Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.

Image Credit: bible.com

It’s likely you’re familiar with the events. You’ve been to church or Sunday school or Bible school or youth camp. You’ve heard the stories. But have you ever explored them on your own? Would you like to get a fuller picture of what happened to Jesus in the week before He died and after His death and resurrection?

We celebrate Easter in 4 weeks (Sunday, April 4, 2021) , so let’s start now to prepare our hearts.

Over the next 4 weeks, I’ll post guided readings from the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – as well as questions to consider that will help you survey the events of Jesus’ Passion week – the week before he was crucified – through His resurrection and ascension. We’ll get a fuller perspective of the events of his last days in the flesh by reading accounts of the events as described in three and sometimes all 4 gospels. This allows us to do a side-by-side comparison and to contrast the information – not to find contradictions, but to give us a more well-rounded look at what took place.

Image Credit: biblegateway.com

What to do before and during the study:

  • Pray to prepare your heart. Ask God to show you new information, something you haven’t seen before in stories that are well-known.
  • Read the listed verses. (Reread if you have time). If a verse or group of verses stands out to you, make note in your Bible or your journal.
  • Study words in the original Greek that catch your attention or that you’d like to understand better using apps like Blue Letter Bible.
  • Follow the cross references listed in your Bible.
  • Read commentary on the verses.
  • Pray some more.
  • Journal about what you’re reading and learning. About what stood out that you hadn’t noticed before. Note any questions you still have.
  • If you’d like to engage with me or other readers, comment on the blog or on Facebook when I publish the posts.
  • Reach out to me personally through the blog or through Facebook if you’d like to talk about anything.

As you read the gospels remember:

  • They highlight major events in Jesus’ life as he carried out his Father’s will.
  • They are historical writings – told by eye witnesses or collected from eye witnesses.
  • Most are organized topically rather than chronologically. (This is the way many people talked and wrote at the time. They grouped events together that were similar in topic – not necessarily based on the order in which they happened. This is why events aren’t always in the same order in the different books).

{The following are short introductions of each of the four gospels and their authors. Information is taken from the English Standard Version Study Bible and the MacArthur Study Bible}.

Matthew

Image Credit: Steppesoffaith.com
  • one of Jesus’ 12 disciples – an eye-witness to Jesus life. Matthew saw first-hand the things he wrote about because he was there – talking with Jesus, eating with Jesus, walking with Jesus, healing with Jesus, learning from Jesus.
  • a former tax collector – a Jew by birth – would have been familiar with Jewish law, the books we call the Old Testament, etc.
  • also called Levi
  • gospel written between late 50’s and early 60’s AD (after Jesus died)
  • Matthew’s purpose in writing down his gospel was to persuade Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Events are organized topically. Matthew’s gospel is known for not having events in the same order as the other gospels.
  • Although the exact way Matthew died is unknown, it is accepted that he was martyred (died for preaching and teaching the gospel). Many accounts say he was in Ethiopia at the time of his death.

Mark

Image Credit: flickr.com
  • not an eye-witness to Jesus’ life, but a close friend and companion to Peter – one of Jesus’ disciples. Mark was Peter’s writer – he wrote down many of the letters and things that Peter dictated to him. He is mentioned in Acts and other New Testament books.
  • also called John-Mark
  • He wrote his gospel mostly for Gentiles emphasizing discipleship, having a relationship with Christ, trusting God, and letting Jesus be Lord and Savior of believers’ lives.
  • gospel written in mid-50’s AD – likely in Rome while working with Peter

Luke

Image Credit: pinimg.com
  • a Gentile who converted to Christianity (the only Gentile to write any book of the Bible).
  • originally a physician/doctor from Antioch
  • a close friend of Paul’s
  • His gospel isn’t a first-hand account as he was not an eye-witness to the events he wrote about. However, he was known to have researched by talking to people who had been with Jesus and had seen the things Jesus did during his ministry.
  • also wrote the book of Acts
  • gospel written in 60 of 61 AD in Rome at the same time as Acts was written.
  • Luke wrote his gospel for Gentiles. He wanted people to know that the Good News was for everyone.
  • {interesting side note – Luke emphasized the central role of women in Christ’s ministry – he talked at length about the women who supported Jesus ministry with money or other forms of assistance}

John

Image Credit: bible.com
  • one of Jesus’ 12 disciples (His gospel is eye-witness testimony.)
  • the brother of James – also a disciple. They were known as the sons of Zebedee.
  • known as “the beloved” and “the disciple who Jesus loved.” {side note – From the cross, Jesus requested his mother Mary be cared for by John}.
  • time frame of writing is hard to pin down – some scholars say between 70 and 100 AD. Others say between 80 and 90 AD
  • gospel written well after the other 3 – Matthew, Mark, and Luke, known as the Synoptic Gospels
  • John’s gospel supplemented and complimented the other 3 gospels. His account of the events added a unique perspective and fill in other details that aren’t found in the synoptic gospels.
  • Most scholars believe John was the only disciple to die of old age although he did spend time exiled on the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel.
Image Credit: zazzle.com

I’ll send out the first official readings tomorrow evening, but I wanted to share with you an optional reading to provide some more context for the next 4 weeks of study.

John 11 tells the story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. The chapter ends with the Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus as the Passover week is about to begin.

John provides the only account of this event.

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Susan’s Story – Part 1

Author’s Note: All my sisters in Christ are Servant Girls, and we’ve all been given God’s stories to tell. I’m grateful to be able to write to you over the next few weeks about Susan.  We sat at her home one Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago and talked about how she met Jesus and some of the valleys He’s carried her through. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Susan Elder…

“It tickles me,” Susan grinned, “to look back and see where God gave His grace and where He answered my prayers.  So, I keep a journal, and I write down dates and what I prayed for or what God showed me that day. Then, when a prayer is answered, I can look back and see when I prayed for it.”

We sat on the floral-patterned couch in the den of her home.  The great room was still and quiet. The only light was from the big windows flanking the front door and the windows overlooking the back porch. The only sound was the soft whir of the fan as it steadily spun overhead.

My notebook sat on my lap, and I scribbled furiously as she told me the story of her life and her family’s walk with Jesus.

“I’m from Chattanooga, Tennessee,” she told me.  “My family was the trash of the neighborhood. I always knew we were bad.  My dad was a violent alcoholic, and everybody knew it.”

Susan’s family included her parents and their five children.

“I always wanted to be good,” Susan said, matter-of-factly, “but we were trash.  I was helpless. I knew a few Bible stories, but I didn’t know Jesus died for me.”

When her older brother was 17, he bought a car and started going to church with his girlfriend.

“When he invited me to go to church with them, I went!”  She exclaimed. “I learned all sorts of things,” she said, more excited.  “Most importantly, I learned Jesus died for me. I never knew that,” she told me again.

Susan described a Sunday morning church service when her brother made a profession of faith.  She followed him and did the same. “I wanted to be saved,” she stressed, “but I didn’t understand how.  The Bible says, ‘All that call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ I followed my brother, and I said I believed in Jesus, but I didn’t call on His name.”

She laughed a little, and I looked up.  Her hand covered an embarrassed smile.

“I remember learning,” she began, “that the trump would sound and the Lord would come back.”  She paused again, and her sheepish grin spread larger. She didn’t cover it this time.

“Well, one night, I was in bed, and a car horn went off out on the street somewhere in our neighborhood.  It got stuck and just went on blaring. It scared me half to death. I thought the Lord was coming back,” she laughed.  “I jumped out of bed, went down on my knees, and prayed! I begged, ‘Lord, please forgive me of my sins. Please save me.’  And I heard Him say, ‘I forgive you.’ And He saved me and forgave me of all my sins right then and there. See it wasn’t until I fell on my knees beside my bed that I actually called His name.  That’s when I was truly saved.”

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Photo Credit: believers4ever.com

She laughed again to herself, no doubt remembering the car horn that heralded her arrival into the arms of the Lord.

Susan was 16 when she accepted Jesus as her Savior.

After that, her brother’s girlfriend gave her a Bible.

“I read it every night,” she breathed.  “And I prayed, and I talked to God, and I went to church.”

It was in church youth group that she met Steve.

“I noticed his smile,” she confessed when I asked what got her attention at first.

“We started dating,” Susan explained, “and I prayed to God asking Him to show me ‘the right one.’  I always ask God what to do,” she added.  “If you ask Him, He’ll tell you.”

Apparently, Steve was the right one.  They married in 1972. Three daughters followed: Vicki in 1974, Jenny in 1978, and Stephanie in 1981.

Susan said of Steve, “His strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa.  He just thinks differently than me.”

“What do you mean?”  I asked.

She didn’t even have to think before she clarified, “He is very detailed.  He thinks in three dimensions. He’s extremely thorough, always thinking about the next step, and I just want to hurry up and get things done.”  She laughed. Then she gestured at the room around us. “He drew up the plans for our house,” she continued. “He made sure there was no wasted space inside these walls.  Our half bathroom and master bathroom,” she said, pointing toward the hall, “are back to back so that all the plumbing is in the same place.”

She told me about the family’s move to Monroe in 1992.

“We didn’t know much about the area, the schools, or the churches,” she clarified.  “I remembered reading in Proverbs that you could flip a coin, and God would make the decision.  So, we said, ‘Heads, Piedmont; tails, Sun Valley.’ We flipped the coin, and it was heads. It tickles me,” Susan gave a little giggle, “because Vicki, our oldest, wasn’t satisfied with how we made the decision.  So, she grabbed the coin, flipped it three more times, and each time, it landed on heads. So we built our house in the Piedmont area of Union County, and all 3 of our girls graduated from Piedmont High School.”

The Lord guided their decision for a church to attend when they sought His will in prayer over that decision.  They prayed for God to send people to their home who would invite them to church. It happened just as they prayed it would, and they attended that church for eleven years.

“Some strife arose there,” Susan reported, “so we prayed again that the Lord would show us where to go.  We prayed and visited about 17 other churches in a 3-year span. We asked, ‘Lord, would you send someone to our house who’ll ask us to join their church?’  A few of the churches we visited sent people to our house, but no one actually invited us to join until the third visit from a member of First Baptist Church of Indian Trail.  He was sitting right where you’re sitting,” she pointed at me,” when he said, ‘we would like you to join our church.’ Well,” Susan stopped, grinning widely,” I looked at Steve, and Steve said, ‘did you hear what he said?’  It was exactly what we asked from God. So, we joined the church in 2006. Now, Steve and I enjoy teaching 4th graders in Sunday school, and you know I love singing in the choir,” she finished.

Bill and I started going to First Baptist of Indian Trail about the same time, and I met Susan around 2010 when she was a mentor mom in MOPS.  When we met, we realized we sang in choir together, too.

“We love our life group and our church family at Indian Trail,” she beamed, but then somberly looked at her hands in her lap.  “They stood with us and prayed with us through some terribly dark times.”