The Plot against Jesus: Jesus is aware that the time of his death is approaching rapidly. We learn that the conspirators want to avoid the Feast of Passover, because of Jesus’ popularity.
A woman anoints Jesus: Matthew reports that all the disciples objected to the waste of the valuable perfume. John’s gospel will focus on Judas’ objection as a precursor to his betrayal of Jesus, but here the objection is treated purely as a teaching opportunity:
1. Jesus defends the woman who is trying to demonstrate love and reverence.
2. Jesus reveals a hidden purpose to this anointing: a sign of his pending death and burial. It is implied that the Holy Spirit had a part in moving her to this act.
3. “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” Jesus quote here seems to need some explanation: he is not saying we should not try to eradicate poverty. (Though I’m fairly certain the best we can do is reduce it.) He is saying that poverty is not the only thing we need to spend our resources on. True worship of the true God is logically of first importance. And since the True God actually loves the poor, worshipping Jesus and bringing people to true faith in him is the surest way to increase care for the poor (and for all people whatever their need). Although we all know of people who claim to be great believers who care only for themselves, we can see, in the previous chapter, what Jesus’ thinks of such ‘faith’.
The Plot thickens: Judas agrees to betray Jesus. We are being prepared for the crisis to come.
The Lord’s Supper: The preparation of the Passover meal is pre-arranged by God. A room is set aside. A Jewish Seder meal is the context, as Israel remembers how a lamb’s blood on their doorposts caused the last plague in Egypt, the death of the firstborn, to ‘pass over’ their houses. In the Seder meal every food and every act is scripted and filled with symbolism to remind them of how God delivered their ancestors and is with them still. Now Jesus adds new symbolism to the meal – the broken bread is his body, the wine is the blood shed to seal a divine contract – a promise to forgive sins. We take this to be symbolism, as we should. But this doesn’t mean take it lightly. It is an association God has established. When ever we eat and drink at this table, as we remember Jesus’ sacrifice, we ought to allow his Spirit to turn us from every sin, and fill us with a wondrous joy. The testimony of the church through the ages is that this meal will build faith, community, holiness and love.
Gethsemane: Jesus predicts the scattering of the disciples, Peter counters with a profession of loyalty. Jesus begs to differ. Peter disagrees. (Spoiler alert: Jesus was right this time.)
Jesus begins to pray fervently concerning his impending death. The Disciples, even the ‘best’ of them start nodding off. I can’t blame them – they’ve had a big Passover meal, with all the wine involved in that, and they are increasingly confused about the way Jesus is talking. Jesus doesn’t blame them either, but he urges them to keep praying.
Judas arrives on the scene accompanied by Guards, When Jesus is seized, Peter, suddenly wide awake strikes out with a sword cutting off a servant’s ear. (Don’t worry: Luke reports that Jesus heals the servant).
Jesus draws attention to the cowardice of his accusers who operate under the cover of darkness, and secrecy. The disciples flee, and Jesus is taken to the Sanhedrin. The trial is a sham, yet even so they can not get enough testimony, by their standards to convict Jesus. Improperly they ask him to incriminate himself, which Jesus readily does. He is the Christ, the Son of God.” But this truth is the ‘blasphemy’ they’ve been waiting for. Now the insults and beating begin.
A note about Peter’s denial: Just as Peter was the only disciple to dare to get out of the boat, he is now one of only two disciples to dare come close to the trial of Jesus. He was caught in denial only because he did not flee like the others. Let us also remember that the Lord readily restored Peter after his sorrowful repentance.
Thank you Lord that this whole story is about your readiness, as God, to forgive and restore to new life. Our failures have been many, and we can’t compare our faith and courage to Peter’s, yet we know that we also are forgiven, blessed and loved!