An Emotional Night

Take control of them and choose wisely which way you should go.

WARNING: Long read ahead!

We are walking through the last evening with Jesus, this side of the grave. This night is jam packed full of emotion. It is filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to peek under the surface and see what is driving the different participants.

Because this night is so complex and the participants widely varied, I want to break it down by event and then by participant. We will NOT be able to look at ALL the participants but I will try to touch on several during each different event. I’m going to confine our time to the hours of the night which will take us from the dinner table to Jesus’ “trial” before Caiaphas. We will have to back up a couple of steps to find motivations in some of our participants though.

So let’s begin at the dinner table. It is evening as Jesus and all twelve of His disciples (plus any other guests and servers He included in His party) gather for the Passover meal. Jesus’ disciples have been on “high alert” throughout their time in Jerusalem. Jesus has been speaking of His death and they know the religious leaders are out to get Him. I imagine they are nervous and jumpy. But I also imagine that they are excited and anxious because of the crowd’s reactions to His teachings. I can imagine them saying “Is it time yet” every few hours as Jesus references His Kingdom. When dinner time finally rolls around they are tired from being on guard all day. They have also tired from being engaged in preparations for this meal.

Passover is a time of remembrance of what God has done and the promises still to come. This group was probably experiencing the usual excitement induced by the holy days. They were enjoying the company and the meal. But there was also confusion, sorrow, suspicion, and jealousy floating around in the mix.

Jesus has mentioned on more than one occasion that He is going to be betrayed by someone in that very room. Sorrow says, “How could He even think that of any of us! We have followed Him EVERYWHERE. We would DIE for Him!” Confusion says, “Who could He possibly be talking about? Who could it possibly be? Is it me somehow? I know I’m not perfect, but to betray Him, HOW? WHO?” These emotions and thoughts are rolling around in eleven of twelve of Jesus’ disciples’ minds. One mind has an added layer; that of suspicion. “Does He really know or is He trying to trick me into tipping my hand?” He is not honestly asking “Surely not me Lord”, but trying to see if Jesus will point him out. I can see the sweat on his brow and feel it trickling down his back in fear of being discovered. “What would the others do to me if they really knew?”

Jealousy is also flying around the room. This is evident in the discussion at the table. “Who is the greatest out of all of us (Jesus’ disciples)?” I believe Judas’ initial motivation was jealousy too. He was jealous of Jesus’ status with the people. He was jealous that he wasn’t the favorite. He may have even been jealous of Jesus’ power. “If I had that kind of power I would be rich and famous beyond my wildest dreams! Why does He get it and I don’t?” Jealousy and envy were what Satan used to bring Judas by the nose.

Another HUGE attitude that night was pride. It kept building in the face of opposition. Jesus’ disciples started out with confusion (“Is it me?”) and moved onto pride (“I’d DIE first!”). They didn’t change their tune because their faith had been strengthened during dinner but because their pride had. Each time Jesus didn’t point the finger at them and say, “Yes. It’s you”, the more they began to believe their own internal dialogue.

As we move from the dinner table to the garden Jesus’ demeanor changes. He has been ramping up the “hints” about His death since the first time He told them about it. Those “hints” have gotten more and more pointed as time went along. His statement to Peter about “this very night you will deny Me three times” should have clued the disciples into the timeline Jesus was operating on. Jesus’ words have taken on an urgency that His disciples are not tuning into. That was a big portion of the sorrow He was experiencing as He entered the garden that night to pray.

In the garden we experience sorrow, desperation, fear and depression. We know for a fact that sorrow was flowing all through that garden as our authors tell us that Jesus told His disciples, “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34). Luke tells us that the reason Peter, James and John were sleeping while Jesus was praying was because of their own sorrow. They couldn’t even stay awake for an hour while He stepped away to pray. I believe depression played a part in their falling asleep. “He doesn’t trust me. He has no faith in me. He has already counted me out and a failure. I have nothing left to give Him. I don’t even know why He took me along with Him since He believes I’m going to crumble! I GIVE UP! Why try anymore?”

As Jesus steps away to pray I believe He not only wrestled with sorrow, for Himself and His disciples, but genuine fear and desperation. He knew what lay ahead and even how far ahead it was. Jesus knew every torture device that would be brought to bear on Him. He knew the pain and humiliation that lay just on the others side of the dawn. He had not experienced that physical pain in His own body, yet, but its anticipation wasn’t far from His mind. He DID NOT want to go through with this plan! He DID NOT want to experience the agony that awaited Him; physical or spiritual. He was afraid and desperately looking for a way out. But He had three attitudes/emotions that He had to call into play to conquer these two plaguing Him that night. It was NOT an easy decision. Jesus wrestled with it three times. I wonder if each of these attitudes/emotions were cemented with each of His three conversations with God.

The first attitude/emotion I’m identifying is love. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a). This doesn’t say that fear never happens to those who love God but that perfect love casts out that fear. And we also know that Jesus was tested in EVERY way, like us. Fear is not a sin but letting it direct your path away from God’s path leads to sin. I honestly believe Jesus was afraid but His love for His Father AND us took that fear captive and smashed it under His heel.

The second attitude/emotion Jesus used in the garden is obedience/surrender. He was an obedient Son. He asked His Father for another way out. He begged Him to consider all other options. But when God said there were no other options, Jesus followed the plan exactly as God laid it out. He didn’t deviate or try to find wiggle room in it. “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42b). He stopped asking when He received His answer and surrendered Himself fully to His Father’s plan.

The final attitude/emotion that completed Jesus’ prayer was determination. Now that His path had been cemented, He would not turn from it. No matter the pain. No matter the humiliation. No matter what others thought or tried to do to divert Him. This was HIS path and He was walking it “come hell or high water!”

As we near the end of our garden time Jesus’ disciples are feeling shame for falling asleep on Him. Their sorrow, despair, and probably even after dinner heaviness have lulled them into sleep when Jesus asked them to pray. He told them to pray so they would not fall into temptation. Could it be that they also didn’t believe they would succumb to temptation and therefore didn’t need to pray on that account? Talk about a wasted opportunity. Would their prayers have made a difference in their behavior? We will never know because they chose to ignore His warning.

Hate, fear, jealousy and anger enter the garden with Judas leading the pack. I don’t believe Judas really knew the extent of what was to become of Jesus when he agreed to turn Him over to the religious leaders. I believe Satan blinded him to the full intentions of those he signed on with. Satan worked on the, “Let’s see how He likes it” jealousy in Judas’ heart instead of planting an outright death wish for Jesus. I can almost see the snide little smile Judas wore as he walked up to kiss Jesus. “Let’s see who is in charge now.”

Those following Judas had a mixed bag of emotions propelling them that night. Hate; they had been led to believe Jesus was their enemy and a danger to their way of life. Fear; at what Jesus might do to them as He had proved Himself a powerful presence on more than one occasion. Why else would they come with weapons if not to “protect themselves and subdue this violent Man.” Anger; at being called upon to do this task in the middle of the night. “Couldn’t they have picked an easier time and place for this? Why couldn’t He have just played ball with us in the first place instead of making us resort to these tactics? It’s His own fault what happens to Him.” I’m surprised that there is even order in this angry mob.

Jesus demeanor is quiet. It is not a “meek shaking in the corner” quiet but a “resolved” quiet to go where the path takes Him. When Peter steps up to try and derail the path Jesus is to walk He puts a stop to it immediately. I believe this is where Peter’s doubts begin to grow. Where “I don’t know THIS Man” comes from.

Let’s go to that setting next. There were MANY attitudes/emotions flowing around the fire, the courtyard and the home of the high priest. Let’s take it one area at a time. We will work our way to Jesus’ side in our examination.

Around the fire are gathered those who came along on the raid but weren’t invited in to see the proceedings. They aren’t free to go home yet but are also not serving any current purpose. I imagine curiosity is what is keeping them there. Their anger has died down now that the “Prisoner” had been delivered. He isn’t going anywhere as He still has some guards with Him. One person in particular is paying close attention to the proceedings; Peter. He is more than curious about what is happening. He is also VERY frightened! “What will become of Jesus? What will become of us?”

Please forgive me if this sounds impertinent to you, but there is another question I can hear going through Peter’s head that I feel compelled to write; “What is He going to do? Will He rat us out to save His own skin?” Jesus has confronted the religious leaders at every attempt to trip Him up. He has bested them in any argument. He even walked right out from under their noses when they picked up stones to throw Him a personal “rock concert.” But now He stops Peter from standing up for Him. He even HEALS the man’s ear from Peter’s failed attempt to rescue Him. This isn’t what Peter was expecting. “Why doesn’t Jesus DO something! Surely He could call fire down from Heaven on these people! I don’t understand what is going on. This isn’t the Jesus I thought I was following! What is to become of us now?” That fear and confusion fed Peter until he gave voice to his doubts. “I don’t know this man!” We will pick up with Peter again as morning begins to break.

Next we watch those moving about in the courtyard, between where Peter stands and where Jesus faces His accusers. This would include the servant girl and the other disciple watching the proceedings. We know this disciple is either in the vicinity of Jesus or somewhere in the courtyard. He is the one who got Peter access to the proceedings. We don’t hear what is going on with him so I assume he is silently observing. He doesn’t stand up and refute the witnesses. He doesn’t speak up for Jesus. He doesn’t challenge the high priest’s processes, as illegal as it is. He stands silent witness. It is believed this “silent witness” is John but he doesn’t name himself as this disciple when sharing the story (John 18:15-16) but he doesn’t give this figure the same name he gives himself in all other references; the disciple whom Jesus loved. Maybe he left this moniker off because he didn’t feel very “love worthy” in his actions that night. Or maybe it was a disciple who had more political clout, like Matthew. We will have to ask that question when we get there.

Another figure in the courtyard is the servant girl. She is moving about serving the people gathered there. She is the one who opened the door for Peter at the other disciple’s request. She is curious, warry and accusing. She should know that Peter is one of Jesus’ disciples just from the fact of who asked her to let him in but she questions him anyway. Does she want HIM to admit to this in front of the soldiers so he can seal his own fate? She doesn’t tell them the real reason she thinks he was with Jesus; her knowledge of the other disciple. She is curious as to how Peter is going to answer her charges. She then becomes wary of Peter as she believes he has lied to her. Her response is to examine her memories more clearly and outright accuse him of lying. I wonder what she would have done if Peter had answered her truthfully when she asked in private. Would she have outed him? Would she have asked again in front of the soldiers? Was she testing his dedication to Jesus? She was certainly being Satan’s vessel of trial for Peter.

Finally we move in close to Jesus, where the action is. We meet up with Caiaphas and the “secret sect” conspiring to rid themselves of Jesus forever. Their attitudes are UGLY. They are motivated out of fear on many fronts, along with pride and contempt. They have orchestrated this entire event out of fear. They have taken Jesus in the middle of the night to avoid the crowds. They fear the people because they love what Jesus has been doing. They are conducting an illegal trial to circumvent anyone possibly acquitting Him.  They fear a regular trial as someone would question their motives and their methods. They have enlisted false witnesses in the hopes of generating some kind of legal ground for their actions. They fear opening the stand to other witnesses as those helped by Jesus would outweigh their position. They fear Jesus will destroy their authority and way of doing things. They are comfortable with how things have been done in the past and DON’T want Him messing with their good thing. They have authority, standing and money. What do they need with His ideas of how God wants things done? Nothing! It gets in their way so do away with Him! They are proud of who they have become and are in utter contempt of ANYTHING He does, no matter what it is or who it helps.

Jesus is our last attendee to focus on. He has two main attitudes/emotions during this period. The first is obedience/determination to continue on the Father’s path. He won’t halt the proceedings. He won’t challenge their witnesses. He barely questions their authority, illegal as these proceedings are. He stands before them resolute in His role. He doesn’t rise to the bait of their questions unless it fits His Father’s agenda. His second attitude is love mixed with sorrow. He still loves those accusing Him. He cares about their eternal souls. But He is filled with sorrow at the knowledge that they will continue to reject Him. He is also aware of His disciple’s behavior. He loves both these men in attendance. But His heart breaks for Peter as he digs himself deeper and deeper into sin. Jesus knew this would happen and He warned Peter about it but that doesn’t make it any easier to witness in person. And it doesn’t make it any less painful to Jesus’ heart to hear Peter speak these words.

I know we have gone a LONG way in one sitting but I want to impress on you one final thought about this emotion filled night. None of the emotions themselves in our stories MADE the characters act one way or another. Each participant CHOSE their actions that night. None of them can say “the Devil made me do it.” He whispered long and loud in ALL of the ears but each person made the decision to act. I won’t even try and convince you that there weren’t “good intentions” underneath these horrible acts but that didn’t change the fact that most of the acts that night resulted in sin.

Jesus showed us the pattern for dealing with our emotions and attitudes. Take them to God and surrender to HIS perfect will in our lives. Jesus’ sorrow drove Him to His knees, not to curl up in a ball and wallow in it. “Easy for Him to do” you say? No. No easier than it is for us. He sweat blood making that decision. Can you say that about any of your decisions? I know I can’t. I’ve had sleepless nights and racing thoughts but when I FINALLY bring them to my Father, as my Savior demonstrated, then I can find peace. Jesus had peace with the Father’s decision. Not because He liked where it led but because He trusted the one who laid the path.

Father God, I’m nowhere near as skilled at controlling my emotions/attitudes as I want to be or even as I should be. I have grown over the years, thanks to YOU but I still have a long way to go. I let fear motivate too many of my choices. Sometimes that choice, made in fear, actually turns out to be a good thing but more often than not it doesn’t. I want to walk in Your perfect love by taking hold of my fear and smashing it under a rock of obedience instead. I want to put pride, anger, jealousy, and ALL other ugly attitudes under that same rock. Don’t let that rock just hold them in place or push them deeper but let it grind them into powder and totally destroy them!

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your example. I wish there was some other way too but I SO grateful You chose to walk in obedience instead of according to Your own will. I can NEVER repay You for what You bought for me with Your decision that night. Honestly, I believe in the garden is where Satan lost the battle. Once You made Your decision, nothing else would stand in the way. Thank You for that battle!

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