If you’ve never wrapped your mind around why Jesus was executed, I invite you to reread the four Gospels’ peak into Passover week. Whether it is Jesus' bold act of insurrection in the Triumphal Entry, the scattering of the corrupt Temple system, the bold prediction of Jerusalem’s fall, or the warning against the fraud of the religious ruling elite, Jesus gave the Sadducees every reason to put a plan in place to silence this great agitator.
The culmination of his three years of public ministry, the inclusion of the marginalized, the challenging of the socio-political-religious institution, the performing of miracles, the radical teachings about God’s ways, and the unconventional approach to including outsiders, sinners, and foreigners, was coming to a point during Passover week.
And yet, what is so fascinating about all the things Jesus did that week was the time he shared with his disciples just hours before his arrest. The Gospel of John most intimately gives us a glimpse into their conversations. Here, Jesus encourages and empowers them, reminding them that God will be with them and fill them with the Holy Spirit at the right time.
But the meal took on a different tone when Jesus took the bread, saying, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” But, of course, the disciples had heard him talk this way for years now, so how could they have known all was about to pass.
You must wonder if someone suspected something when he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. The disciples had shared many meals with Jesus, but this one must have felt different. We know from the Gospels that the anxiety was beginning to build within Jesus because, in just a few hours, he would begin to sweat blood by the amount of anguish he suffered over what was transpiring.
Looking back on this moment just days from now, you can imagine that the disciples wished they had understood those words at the moment, now as they hid in fear after Jesus’ death. But how could they have truly known? And what could they have done, even if they had understood what meant and what would happen?
But for now, all they can do is settle into the unsettling reality that their teacher and Lord had been arrested, falsely accused, brutally beaten, mocked and spat upon, scourged, humiliated, and excruciatingly executed in the most agonizing of ways. They had no idea what Sunday would bring, for all they knew was the sorrow, fear, shame, and regrets they were feeling on Thursday evening, Friday, and Saturday.
As Resurrection people, we want to jump to Sunday and bypass the anxiety of Maundy Thursday, the pain of Good Friday, and the sorrow of Black Saturday. But we are invited to settle into and bear through it.
In that anxiety, pain, and sorrow, we come to understand the horror of Jesus’ sacrifice. In the raw emotion of Jesus’ suffering, we can truly understand the incredible implications of what will dawn on Sunday.