There they had been, camping out as they usually did. We don’t get much of a sense of the daily life of Jesus as He and His disciples tramped the roads of Judea, but the Gospel narratives give us some insight. They settled down for the night in Gethsemane. They’d had a good evening, and only one person at that supper knew why Judas had left early. We get a sense of companionship, and we can grasp something of the feeling of love which Jesus inspired in those close to Him. They were calm and rested, so much so that when Jesus asked them to watch with Him, they fell asleep. Like us all, they had no idea that the their world was about to be torn apart – and that the world and history would be changed forever.
How small a series of events came together that evening as they camped in Gethsemane. The Jewish High Priest had had enough. The events of what we call Palm Sunday had warned him that the ever volatile population of Jerusalem might be roused to rebellion – and he knew what the consequences of that would be. Within a generation of the crucifixion Caiaphas’ fears had come to pass, and in AD 70 the Temple would be destroyed and thousands of Jews killed or dispersed; it is easy to dismiss Caiaphas, but he was, by his lights, doing his duty. How often do men of power think it better than one man should die than thousands suffer?
Judas had clearly had enough. Though the Synoptic Gospels tell us he betrayed Jesus for silver, John gives us the clue that it was Mary’s use of expensive oil to anoint Jesus’ feet which pushed him over the edge. It might, of course, be, as John said, that he had been dipping into the till and helping himself to money, but his taking offence was clear enough evidence of what type of man he was. He was a zealot, a puritan – how dare Jesus allow people to waste oil which could have been spent to help the poor. He, Judas, knew what was right, and he had lost patience with Jesus.
Simon Peter was headstrong, and didn’t always get it right. After supper, when Jesus had said He was going to wash the feet of the disciples, Peter protested and said He wouldn’t allow it. But when Jesus told him that if he didn’t, he couldn’t be with Him, Peter didn’t ask for an explanation, he told Jesus he wanted to be washed all over.
Caiaphas and Judas reasoned their way through to a conclusion based on their own insights, and they saw, as we all do, only so far. Peter also reasoned his way to what seemed to him a sensible conclusion, but the love he felt for Jesus opened his heart and he saw further than he had with his intellect. Jesus warned him that he had been handed over to Satan to be ‘sifted’. Peter declared he never would deny Jesus – but Christ knew what was coming.
As the disciples slept and the Romans and the Jewish guard came closer, the silence of that dark night was broken only by the anguish of Jesus. His time had come.
[First published on nebraskaenergyobserver on 29 March 2013]