(59) Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God – Matthew 26:63

The events leading up to Jesus’ death are carefully documented by all four gospel writers. Jesus was in Jerusalem with thousands of others to celebrate the Passover, the meal that remembered the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. The chief priests and other religious leaders were keen to put him to death to avoid any disturbance to the status quo. Jesus was publically teaching in the temple courts each day and, ironically, the difficulty in arresting him was not finding him but ensuring that they found him away from the crowds that were hanging on his every word. For this they needed an insider, someone close to Jesus who could lead them to him at a time when he was away from the masses.

The first three gospels list the twelve disciples or apostles that Jesus chose to be with him during his time on earth. They heard most of his teaching and saw the most of his healings and went on to form the core of the church that spread the good news about Jesus. However, there was one notable exception. The twelfth on every list was Judas who Matthew and Mark refer to as “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him” (Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:19) and Luke calls “a traitor” (Luke 6:16). Despite all he had seen of Jesus, somehow Judas became disillusioned with Jesus and went to the chief priests to offer to betray him to them.

Jesus and the twelve celebrated the Passover together in an upper room in Jerusalem. This meal contained many symbols from the time of the Exodus: the lamb that was killed, its blood shed so that God passed over the house and didn’t punish its sin, and shared bread and wine. Jesus invested this, his last supper, with new meaning. He shared the bread and wine saying, “This is my body given for you” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:19,20). This meal became the Christian equivalent of Passover, reminding Jesus’ disciples of his sacrifice as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Christians regularly share bread and wine today, following Jesus’ command to eat and drink “in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24,25). Paul calls it “the Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20) while today it is also called communion, breaking of bread, or the Eucharist from the Greek word for thanksgiving.

After the meal, Jesus and his disciples went out to the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus wrestled in prayer, aware that he was facing a painful death in order to allow men and women to be reconciled with God. As he finished praying Judas arrived, leading the temple guard to Jesus in the garden. They arrested him and took him to the high priest’s house.

Jesus had a number of ‘hearings’, all of which were rigged and unjust. The high priest tried but failed to find false evidence to justify putting Jesus to death. Eventually in frustration he asked Jesus, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed one?” to which Jesus answered, “I am” (Mark 14:61,62). This blasphemy in the eyes of the high priest required the death penalty but only the Romans could carry out such a sentence so they took Jesus to the Roman governor, Pilate.

Despite the charges of the chief priests, Pilate was unable to find fault with Jesus and, hearing that he was from Galilee, was pleased to have an excuse to send him to Herod, the man who had killed John the Baptist. Herod was hoping that Jesus would perform a miracle for him but Jesus said nothing to him and so Herod sent him back to Pilate.

Pilate was baffled by Jesus’ claim to be the King of the Jews and frightened to hear that he had claimed to be the Son of God and so told the chief priests that he would release him but they stirred up the crowd into a frenzy shouting for him to be crucified. After a message from his wife warning him to have nothing to do with Jesus, Pilate took water and publically washed his hands to symbolise that he was innocent of Jesus’ blood (see Matthew 27:19, 24) before handing him over to be crucified.

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