NISAN 14, AFTER SUNDOWN
Jerusalem is shrouded in the soft light of dusk as the full moon rises over the Mount of Olives. In a large furnished room, Jesus and the 12 are reclining at a prepared table. "I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer," he says. (Luke 22:14, 15) After a while the apostles are surprised to see Jesus get up and put his outer garments to one side. Taking a towel and a basin of water, he begins washing their feet. What an unforgettable lesson in humble service!—John 13:2-15.
However, Jesus knows that one of these men—Judas Iscariot—has already arranged to betray him to the religious leaders. Understandably, he becomes very distressed. "One of you will betray me," he reveals. The apostles are highly grieved at this. (Matthew 26:21, 22) After celebrating the Passover, Jesus tells Judas: "What you are doing get done more quickly."—John 13:27.
Once Judas has left, Jesus introduces a meal to commemorate his impending death. He takes a loaf of the unleavened bread, expresses thanks in prayer, breaks it, and instructs the 11 to partake. "This means my body," he says, "which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me." He then takes a cup of red wine. After saying a blessing, he passes the cup to them, telling them to drink out of it. Jesus adds: "This means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins."—Luke 22:19, 20; Matthew 26:26-28.
During that momentous evening, Jesus teaches his faithful apostles many valuable lessons, and among these the importance of brotherly love. (John 13:34, 35) He assures them that they will receive a "helper," the holy spirit. It will bring back to their minds all the things he has told them. (John 14:26) Later in the evening, they must be very encouraged to hear Jesus say a fervent prayer in their behalf. (John, chapter 17) After singing songs of praise, they leave the upper room and follow Jesus out into the cool late-night air.
Crossing the Kidron Valley, Jesus and his apostles make their way to one of their favorite places, the garden of Gethsemane. (John 18:1, 2) While his apostles wait, Jesus goes a short distance away to pray. His emotional stress is more than words can describe as he earnestly petitions God for help. (Luke 22:44) The very thought of the reproach that would be heaped on his dear heavenly Father if he failed is agonizing to the extreme.
Jesus has barely finished praying when Judas Iscariot arrives with a crowd carrying swords, clubs, and torches. "Good day, Rabbi!" says Judas, kissing Jesus tenderly. This is the signal for the men to arrest Jesus. All of a sudden, Peter slashes out with his sword and cuts off an ear of the high priest’s slave. "Return your sword to its place," says Jesus as he heals the man’s ear. "All those who take the sword will perish by the sword."—Matthew 26:47-52.
Everything happens so fast! Jesus is arrested and bound. In fear and confusion, the apostles abandon their Master and flee. Jesus is led away to Annas, the former high priest. Then he is taken to Caiaphas, the present high priest, to be tried. In the early hours of the morning, the Sanhedrin falsely charges Jesus with blasphemy. Next, Caiaphas has him taken to Roman governor Pontius Pilate. He sends Jesus to Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee. Herod and his guards mock Jesus. Then he is sent back to Pilate. Jesus’ innocence is confirmed by Pilate. But the Jewish religious leaders pressure him to condemn Jesus to death. After considerable verbal and physical abuse, Jesus is taken out to Golgotha where he is mercilessly nailed to a torture stake and suffers an agonizing death.—Mark 14:50–15:39; Luke 23:4-25.
It would have been the greatest tragedy in history if Jesus’ death had brought a permanent end to his life. Happily, that was not the case. On Nisan 16, 33 C.E., his disciples were amazed to find that he had been raised from the dead. In time, more than 500 people were able to verify that Jesus was again alive. And 40 days after his resurrection, a group of faithful followers saw him ascend to heaven.—Acts 1:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.
JESUS’ LIFE AND YOU
How does this affect you—indeed, all of us? Well, Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection magnify Jehovah God and are crucial to the outworking of His grand purpose. (Colossians 1:18-20) They are of vital importance to us in that we can have our sins forgiven on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice and can thus have a personal relationship with Jehovah God.—John 14:6; 1 John 2:1, 2.
Even mankind’s dead are affected. Jesus’ resurrection opens the way to bring them back to life in God’s promised Paradise earth. (Luke 23:39-43; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22) If you want to know more about such matters, we invite you to attend the Memorial of Christ’s death on March 30, 2010, at a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in your area.