The Crisis

Chapter 31

In the upper room of a home at Jerusalem, Christ met with His disciples to celebrate the Passover. The Saviour wanted to keep this feast alone with the twelve. He knew that His hour had come. He Himself was the true sacrificial lamb; and on the day the Passover was eaten, He was to be sacrificed. Only a few quiet hours yet remained to Him, and these were to be spent for the benefit of His beloved disciples.

When the disciples gathered in the upper room, their hearts were full of resentful feelings. Judas pressed next to Christ on the left side; John was on the right. If there was a highest place, Judas was determined to have it; and that place was thought to be next to Christ.

Another cause of contention had arisen. At a feast it was customary for a servant to wash the feet of the guests; and on this occasion preparation had been made for the service, but no servant was present. Each of the disciples, determined not to act the part of a servant, did his best to show a lack of concern, as though unaware that there was anything for them to do. By their silence, they refused to humble themselves.

Jesus waited for a time to see what they would do. Then, arising from the table and laying aside the outer garment that would have hindered His movements, He took a towel and wrapped Himself with it. With surprised interest, the disciples looked on and in silence waited to see what He would do next. "After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded." This action opened the eyes of the disciples. Bitter shame and humiliation filled their hearts. They understood the unspoken reproof and saw themselves in an altogether new light.

The disciples saw that Christ appeared greatly troubled. A cloud settled over them all, a foreboding of some dreadful calamity, the nature of which they did not understand. As they ate in silence, Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me." As they heard His words, amazement and alarm seized them. They could not understand how anyone of them could deal treacherously with their divine Teacher.

As they realized the seriousness of His words and remembered how true His sayings were, fear and self-distrust seized them. They began to search their own hearts to see if one thought against their Master was hidden there. With the most painful emotion, one after another inquired, "Lord, is it I?" Judas, however, sat in silence saying nothing. John in deep distress at last inquired, "Lord, who is it?" Then Jesus answered, "He that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall betray Me. The Son of man goeth as it is written of Him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born." The disciples had searched one another's faces closely as they asked, "Lord, is it I?" And now the silence of Judas drew all eyes to him. Amid the confusion of questions and expressions of astonishment, Judas had not heard the words of Jesus in answer to John's question. But now, to avoid the attention of the disciples, he asked as they had done, "Master, is it I?" Jesus solemnly replied, "Thou hast said."

In surprise and confusion at the exposure of his purpose, Judas rose hastily to leave the room. "Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly . . . . He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night." Night it was to the traitor as he turned away from Christ into the outer darkness.

Wonderful had been the patience of Jesus in His dealing with Judas. Nothing that could be done to save him had been left undone. By reading the secret purpose of his heart, Christ gave to Judas the final, convincing evidence of His divinity. This was the false disciple's last call to repentance. Although surprised and alarmed at the discovery of his guilt, Judas became only the more determined. From that last supper he went out to complete his work of betraying Jesus.

After a time of solemn fellowship, Jesus and the remaining disciples sang a hymn and then left the upper room. As they began to make their way toward the garden, Jesus said, in a tone of deepest sadness, "All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad." The disciples listened in sorrow and amazement.

Jesus looked with compassion on His disciples. He could not save them from the trial, but He did not leave them without hope. "But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee."

Jesus and His disciples were on the way to Gethsemane at the foot of Mount Olivet, a retired spot which He had often visited for meditation and prayer. Near the entrance to the garden, Jesus left all but three of the disciples, bidding them pray for themselves and for Him. With Peter, James, and John, He retired further into the garden. These three disciples were Christ's closest companions, yet He could not bear that even they should witness the agony He was to endure.

"Tarry ye here, and watch with Me."

Continuing on a little farther, He fell exhausted upon the ground. He felt that by sin He was being separated from His Father. The gulf was so broad, so black, so deep, that His spirit trembled. As man, He must suffer the consequences of man's sin, enduring the wrath of God against transgression.

For the last fearful struggle, the tempter had been preparing during the three years of Christ's ministry. Everything was at stake with him. If he failed here, his hope of mastery was lost; the kingdoms of the world would finally become Christ's; he himself would be overthrown and cast out. But if Christ could be overcome, the earth would become Satan's kingdom; and the human race would be forever in his power. With the issues of the conflict before Him, Christ's soul was filled with the dread of separation from God.

As the agony of soul came upon Him, "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." The trees, silent witnesses of His grief, dropped heavy dew from their leafy branches upon His bowed form, as if nature wept over its Author wrestling alone with the powers of darkness.

The Son of God trembled in that trying hour. He prayed not now for His disciples, but for His own tempted, agonized soul. The awful moment had come—that moment which was to decide the destiny of the world. The fate of humanity trembled in the balance. Will the Son of God drink the bitter cup of humiliation and agony? The words fall tremblingly from the pale lips of Jesus, "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt."

Three times has He uttered that prayer. Three times has humanity shrunk from the last, crowning sacrifice. But now the history of the human race comes up before the world's Redeemer. He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, must perish. He sees the helplessness of man. His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself. He will not turn from His mission. His prayer now breathes only submission: "O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done."

The worlds unfallen and the heavenly angels had watched with intense interest as the conflict drew to its close. Satan and his confederacy of evil, the legions of apostasy, watched intently this great crisis in the work of redemption. The powers of good and evil waited to see what answer would come to Christ's thrice-repeated prayer. In this awful crisis, when everything was at stake, a light shone forth amid the stormy darkness. The mighty angel who stands in God's presence, occupying the position from which Satan fell, came to the side of Christ. The angel came not to take the cup from Christ's hand, but to strengthen Him with the assurance of the Father's love. He assured Him that His Father is greater and more powerful than Satan, that His death would result in the utter discomfiture of Satan. He told Him that He would see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied, for He would see a multitude of the human race saved, eternally saved.

Christ's suffering did not end, but His depression and discouragement left. A heavenly peace rested upon Him.

Looking sorrowfully upon the sleeping disciples, He said, "Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners."

Even as He spoke these words, He heard the footsteps of the mob in search of Him and said, "Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me."

Jesus stepped forth to meet His betrayer. Standing in front of His disciples He asked, "Whom seek ye?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied, "I am He." As these words were spoken, the angel who had lately ministered to Jesus moved between Him and the mob. In the presence of this divine glory, the murderous throng could not stand for a moment. They staggered back and fell as dead men to the ground.

Quickly the scene changed. The mob started up. They seemed ashamed of their weakness, and fearful that Jesus would yet escape. He then asked again, "Whom are you seeking?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." The Saviour then said, "I have told you that I am He." Pointing to the disciples, He said, "If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way." He knew how weak was their faith and sought to shield them from temptation and trial. For them, He was ready to sacrifice Himself.

Judas the betrayer did not forget the part he was to act. When the mob entered the garden, he had led the way, closely followed by the high priest. Now he pretends to have no part with them. Coming close to Jesus, he takes his hand as a familiar friend. With the words, "Hail, Master," he kisses Him repeatedly and appears to weep as if in sympathy with Him in His peril.

Jesus said to him, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?" His voice trembled with sorrow as He added, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" Judas stood bold and defiant, showing no inclination to yield. He had given himself up to Satan, and he had no power to resist him.

The mob grew bold as they saw Judas touch Jesus. They now laid hold of Him and proceeded to bind those precious hands that had ever been active in doing good.

Turning to the priests and elders, Christ fixed His gaze upon them. The words He spoke they would never forget as long as life should last. They were as the sharp arrows of the Almighty. With dignity He said: "Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness."
The disciples were terrified as they saw Jesus allow Himself to be bound. They were displeased and hurt that He did not resist the mob but passively allowed them to humiliate Him and themselves as well. They could not understand His behavior. In their feeling of disappointment and fear, Peter suggested that they save themselves. Following this suggestion, "They all forsook Him, and fled."

This chapter is based on Matthew 26; Luke 22; John 13, 18