By Bob Stacy
Have you ever wondered about the last night Jesus spent with his disciples before he was crucified? He spent nearly three years with them night and day. He walked with them on the dusty roads of the countryside. He preached to the multitudes as his disciples stood aside and listened, too. He sat around campfires with them as he taught them. He walked on water to them as they made their way across the stormy Sea of Galilee. He spoke, and they were astonished that the winds and waves became calm at his command.
They watched as he blessed little children whom they would have sent away. He fed 5,000 men (besides women and children) with five loaves and three fish. He raised Lazarus from the dead. They walked beside him as he triumphantly entered the city of Jerusalem just days before. In righteous anger he cleansed the temple of moneychangers and merchants. He spoke about events to come! And they had been made to wonder.
Now he sits with them in an upper room prepared for their observance of the Passover meal. But there’s a difference tonight. There seems to be a strange aura about it all, somewhat like a farewell meal. His disciples sense it, and their hearts are troubled as they wonder what is about to happen. Then Jesus speaks: “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
Betray him? Betray the one with whom they’d walked and talked and lived for three years? “Saddened by the prospect, one by one, they asked, ‘Surely not I?’” And even Judas asked, “Surely not I?” The question hung over them like a dark cloud throughout the rest of the evening. Did they remember that Jesus had predicted his own death? And so we wonder, too, what they thought when they heard the ominous word, betray.
The Last Night
But more than what his disciples thought, we wonder what that night must have been like for Jesus. To know that tomorrow he would die—what would that be like for him?
He had come for this time, hadn’t he? And now the time was at hand. Oh, how he loved these men to whom he had revealed his heart as he walked with them. He had washed their feet to prove his love, but the real proof would come the following day.
What were his thoughts? “Do they get it? Do they understand?” “Must this be the way, the only way?” “Father, let this cup pass from me!”
And then, in the midst of celebrating the release of the Jewish nation from Egyptian bondage, he took bread, broke it, gave thanks, and said, “Take it. This is my body.”
His body? And now questions trouble their already burdened hearts. “What does he mean? His body?” They’d never heard anything like this at the Passover feast.
They each took of the bread, but oh the questions that crowded their minds! Then he lifted the cup containing the fruit of the vine. “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many.” His body? His blood? They were confused and somewhat saddened by it all. He spoke as if he were going away.
But what about Jesus? He was leaving memorials. And that meant he was leaving them. Perhaps his thoughts ran something like this: “Could it be different? Is there another way? Must I suffer so? Must I be the sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the world?”
What were his thoughts that night as he stood there looking into the faces of those with whom he had spent nearly three years day and night? And what significance do they bear for us?
What Difference Does It Make?
Soon it will be Easter, and we will celebrate his resurrection once again. But even as the disciples had doubts that first Easter morning (and Thomas for a whole week), do we come to this day with doubts of our own? Do we ever wonder?
There’s nothing wrong with wondering. But what do we do about our doubts? Do we pray? Do we study the evidences of our faith? Do we share with a friend? Do we do everything possible to erase the doubts so we can confidently say, “I know my Savior lives”? Are we ready, as the early disciples became ready, to “give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope within” (1 Peter 3:15)?
As we worship the heavenly Father through the risen Savior this Easter, will we really worship? We will sing, sit, stand, bow, give, and commune, but what about our hearts? Will our worship be a “sweet, sweet sound in his ears?”
As the disciples looked at Jesus that night in the upper room, it is difficult to imagine the emotions they experienced. After all, for three years, they’d walked with him and talked with him. They could not have doubted his love for them or for all people. They’d seen him talk to an exalted Roman centurion and to a lowly woman at the well. How different our worship would be if we were to sit with the disciples in that upper room, listen to Christ’s words of comfort, look into his eyes, and hear him say, “Remember me!” Would we not shout, “Oh yes, Lord! I’ll remember You”?
We know what happened that night after those hours in the upper room. We know about the betrayal that followed, the trials, the whippings, the crown of thorns, the ridicule, the blood, the nails, the crucifixion, the words of forgiveness from the cross and finally, the death.
We, too, sit at a table with him each time we gather to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Think for a moment of the questions in the minds of his disciples and especially of that one that pierces the hearts of those who love him: “Surely not I?”
But is it you? Is it me? What temptations have we succumbed to in the past week? What grief have we caused him? As we take the bread and the cup, can we hear him say, “This is my body. This is my blood”? Or has it become commonplace? Surely not! Even now as we gather, he stands at the table, looks into our hearts, and says, “For you! For you!” And we cry out to him in thankful praise.
It Is the Risen Lord!
Go to the upper room. Walk to the garden with him. See the captors take him away. Watch from a distance as they try him, beat him, and curse him. Go to Golgotha. Hear his cries from the cross. Wait in that cold upper room for those hours and think him to be gone! And then see him. Hear him speak again. Remember that the upper room where he said, “Remember me” was but a shadow of the day when we will see him face to face and cry out, “It is the risen Lord! To him be glory!”
Bob Stacy is a minister and freelance writer in Middleton, Ohio.
A Time of Reflection
As you mentally trace the steps of Jesus and the disciples and imagine their thoughts, pray that God will give you a deeper understanding of his love, grace, and provision for us—his beloved children.
To spark deeper reflection:
Read aloud the Gospel passages that describe the week leading up to Jesus’ death.
Write down your thoughts and questions about the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual weight of these events.
Read these prayers and meditate on their words and images: