The Final Passover
Dr. John Boyd, Holywood, N. Ireland
Opposition seems to have greatly increased after the Lord went up to Jerusalem to His final Passover as described in Matthew 21. At the start, He had a triumphal reception by the multitudes as He entered the city. On the third day Jesus went into the temple, and found it desecrated by moneychangers and those who sold doves. These He rebuked, overthrew their tables, and generally purified the temple. This incensed the chief priests and the elders of the people. These leaders were so indignant, that from that time forth they sought every opportunity to get rid of Him. They gathered a council to consider what they should do, for they realized that Jesus, by reason of His miracles, was gaining favour with the people, so the elders feared an onslaught by the Roman authorities. To save the nation Caiaphas, the high priest, considered that Jesus should be put to death. To this end the chief priests and Pharisees issued a decree for His arrest, John 11. 47-57. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy that Jesus had spoken to the disciples, indicating the increased suffering that He must expect after He came to Jerusalem, Matt. 16. 21. By this means the sorrow of the Lord's Passion developed.
The next two days were spent by the Lord in communion with His disciples near to the wilderness in Ephraim, John 11. 54, in meditation and preparation of Himself and them for the consummation of the events of Passion Week, 12. 35. On the fourth day the Lord was conscious that His hour had come. It was the hour anticipating His glorification, 12. 23; the hour of His trouble, v. 27; the hour of the world's judgment, v. 31 ; the hour that He had so often spoken about; the hour of the bitter cup He must drink. The first of its bitter ingredients was His betrayal.
On this fourth day of Passion Week Judas was even then making his nefarious arrangements. Satan had entered into him, and he had gone away, Luke 22. 4 r.v., in person and in heart from Jesus to the chief priests. He had conferred with them as to how he would betray Jesus. He had covenanted with them to receive thirty pieces of silver. In all likelihood, greed for money, John 12. 6, was the beginning of his undoing, for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, 1 Tim. 6.10 r.v. He consented to their proposals. He considered what would be a convenient time and place to carry out his plans—a time and place when there would be few men around the Lord. He knew a time, after dark, when the people had gone to their homes, and a place, Gethsemane, whither Jesus had often resorted to be alone with His God. This would be the opportunity he sought. With these thoughts in his mind Judas joined the other eleven disciples to partake of the Passover Supper with their Master.
This feast was marred from the commencement by the announcement that the Lord must make to the disciples, namely, that one of them that night would betray Him, John 13. 21. With what sorrow the Lord must have made that revelation, and yet He did it without specifically stating who the traitor should be! Even when Judas went out to commit the awful deed, none of the others knew definitely his purpose, v. 28. The Lord gave this information to the other eleven disciples in vague terms, "Ye are not all clean", that is, it would be one of the twelve whose feet He had washed, v. 11. "He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me", v. 18; "He it is, to whom I shall give a sop", v. 26. Thus Jesus alone knew His betrayer, but oh, how disappointing to Him! Thus His passion continued ! Little wonder we read of such agony later in Gethsemane!
The traitorous act of Judas Iscariot had a profound effect on the mind of the Lord Jesus Christ. In His foreknowledge He had spoken of it often in His ministry. It was the subject of a long discussion during the Last Supper. It undoubtedly added to the sorrow of His Passion.
During the last year of His ministry on earth, when opposition was increasing the Lord began to give hints of a betrayal. These were no more than hints, but when examined in the light of subsequent events, the reference to Judas is clear. To the wider circle of His disciples Jesus revealed that some of them were unbelievers, John 6. 64. Sixty years later, John wrote that this statement was an indication that Jesus knew who should betray Him. At the same time the Lord startled His twelve chosen disciples by telling them that one of them was a devil, v. 70. John, recording it after many years, saw in this an allusion to Judas, for the word "devil" implies one who informs against another with a desire to harm. Yet at that time the Lord did not reveal to which one of the inner circle of His disciples He was referring.
The Lord led the party to the upper room. He was conscious that the hour of His Passion had come, and He had particularly longed to eat the Passover with His disciples on this last occasion. He knew the treachery in Judas' breast; He knew that contention would break out amongst the disciples as to who was greatest; because of this He knew that they had all sat down with unwashen feet. In such an atmosphere He rose, and washed all their feet, including Judas in His ministration. What grace! What love, even to the uttermost!