16 “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)
Throughout the month of March, I am preaching a series entitled, “24 Hours that Changed the World!” The series examines events that took place in the last twenty-four hours of Christ’s life on earth.
The impact of Christ’s final hours was tremendous.
The night before Jesus died started in an upper room. Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover.
“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.” (Luke 22:7-13)
Before they began supper, Jesus visibly demonstrated His care and love for them by kneeling down and washing the disciple’s feet. In this very act, Jesus performed a task that was so below His true majesty that our minds cannot even comprehend His willingness to do it. He took the place of a lowly servant and washed the disciples feet. As if that demonstration was not enough, Judas the one who would soon betray Him, was one of the recipients of that heavenly act of humility.
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”(John 13:1-5)
After Jesus finished washing the disciple’s feet, the group shared the traditional Passover meal. Then, after the meal was completed Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, which would foretell for the disciples the events that were about to take place. Communion also reminds every believer of the sacrifice our Savior made for the sins of the world.
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”(Matthew 26:26-29)
Knowing His time had come, Jesus predicted that Judas would betray Him, and in fulfilling fashion, Judas left the dinner table and did just that—betrayed the Savior who had just washed his feet.
After supper, Jesus went with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there in the Garden that Jesus opened His heart in prayer being fully aware of the tragic events that would soon befall Him. Just how did Jesus’ disciples respond…they slept. Our Lord was in greater anguish than any one individual had ever known, and those who were closest to Him fell asleep.
45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”(Luke 22:45-46)
It was here in the garden that Judas returned with those who had been plotting against Jesus and betrayed Him with a kiss. Of all things—a kiss. This Savior, who had just washed his feet. This Savior who had made the lame walk, the blind see, walked on water and fed the 5,000 was betrayed by a kiss. Judas was there for each and every one of those miraculous happenings. Judas’ response? Betray Him with a kiss.
That kiss set into a motion a soliloquy of suffering and abuse that no man has ever known. Jesus was arrested, accused of blasphemy and then put on trial in rapid succession. Jesus was harshly interrogated, beaten, spit on, mocked, brutally whipped, convicted and then made to carry His own cross. Then, Jesus was nailed to the cross and hung there for hours in amazing agony until He died.
However, even from the cross, Jesus proclaimed Forgiveness and Hope. A message of Forgiveness–If there were ever a time you would have expected Christ to break free from the love that so compelled Him, it would have been right here. Betrayed by a friend, mocked, beaten, unjustly accused, delivered into the hands of sinful men and nailed to the cross. This was His opportunity to say what was on His heart…I mean what He was really thinking. And He did just that… forgiveness and mercy were always in the front of His mind and in the tender spot of His heart.
34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”(Luke 23:34)
A Message of Hope–Jesus hung on that awful cross between two criminals who actually deserved to be there. Neither was going to do anything for the Kingdom of God and certainly they did not matter to anyone on this earth. However, they mattered to Christ, and in one simple statement of faith, one of the criminals said, “Remember me.” And, Jesus did.
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”(Luke 23:39-43)
Then, the Bible tells us that Jesus looked up into heaven and died…thus ending those 24 Hours that Changed the World.
46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.(Luke 23:46)
During those twenty-four hours, Christ placed before us the ultimate example of love, prayer, and perseverance. But the greatest thing that took place in those last twenty-four hours was that the price for sin was paid, and the message of the Gospel was confirmed.
16 “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
John Mark Caton, Ph.D