The Gospel writers don’t have much to report about Jesus’ activities on Wednesday during the day, but there are some assumptions that we can make based on Luke 21:37, “Now during the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet.” So, it is safe to say that Wednesday evening (our Tuesday evening) Jesus had gone to the Mount of Olives (probably Gethsemane, where He was later arrested) and that Wednesday morning He went to the Temple to teach. This verse also makes it unlikely that the dinner in Simon the leper’s home happened on Tuesday or Wednesday evening (our Monday or Tuesday evening), since Bethany is another 1.5 or 2 miles (perhaps an hour’s walk, because of the hilliness of the road) away from Gethsemane.
It is not known exactly when Judas went to make arrangements with the chief priests to betray Jesus. It could have been Monday evening (our Sunday evening) right after Jesus rebuked him for criticizing Mary for anointing Jesus with the expensive perfume in Bethany. Or it could have been after Jesus began spending the night in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, perhaps Wednesday evening (our Tuesday evening). Knowing where Jesus was planning to be overnight would be advantageous to know where to lead the authorities for a quiet, non-public arrest. My personal conclusion is that it was Wednesday evening.
The Mount of Olives would have been a most convenient and beautiful place to “camp out” for Jesus and His disciples. The Mount of Olives faces westward toward Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. It is directly across from the former site of the Temple, which faced eastward, making a walk from the Mount of Olives to the Temple only a short half to three-quarter mile walk. As the sun arose in the morning, it would brilliantly light up the white facade of the Temple, which was reportedly one of the most beautiful buildings in the world at the time.
Wednesday would have been the 13th day of the month Nisan, a day spoken of as the Day of Preparation. It is about this point when the question is raised about why Jesus would be be preparing to eat the Passover (as many of the Gospel writers clearly state He was), when the priests and the rest of the nation would be preparing for Passover on Nisan 14th and celebrating it on Nisan 15th. The simple answer is that God originally set Passover as being Nisan 14th (Day of Preparation would be Nisan 13th), but rabbinic tradition had changed the dates, so that during Jesus’ lifetime the Day of Preparation had become Nisan 14th and Passover Nisan 15th — as it is even today. Jesus and His disciples were simply observing Passover as God had originally instructed. Thus, Jesus’ disciples asked Him where He wanted them to prepare the Passover meal. Jesus gave them instructions about how to identify where the meal was to take place, and left the remainder of the preparation details to them to arrange. The rest of that day, at least for Jesus, appears to have been spent teaching and perhaps healing in the Temple — despite the weight of grievous anticipation of the next 36 hours or so that surely must have been bearing down on Him.
So what can we learn?
One observation that I’d like to make is Jesus’ choice of day to celebrate the Passover. Rather than following the traditions (man-made changes to God’s will), Jesus chose to follow the original command. This is not just Jesus’ lone example (although that would be enough for any disciple, right?), but it is the constant call of the prophets throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.
- Isaiah 8:20 “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”
- Jeremiah 6:16 “Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
- Jeremiah 7:23 ““But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’”
- Malachi 4:4 ““Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.”
And even in the stories of the Old Testament, there are evil kings (e.g., Jeroboam and Ahab) who departed from God’s original patterns and great hero kings (like Hezekiah and Josiah) were those who sought to restore God’s original commands and patterns.
This call to restore the original continues through the New Testament, too. Jesus Himself criticized the traditions of the rabbis that contradicted the original commands of God; and Paul urgently charged men like Timothy and Titus to hold to the standard of sound words (e.g,. 2 Timothy 1:13) rather than be lured by the corrupted traditions (cum doctrines) of men.
Bottom line here: God doesn’t appreciate human innovation when it comes to His commands and will.
Secondly, we should observe the trust and focus of Jesus even on the brink of His arrest, kangaroo court of a trial, intense suffering, and cruel death. Still healing, still teaching, and letting tomorrow worry about itself. How could He do that? His implicit trust in His Heavenly Father. Yes, a brutal 36 hours lay ahead of Him — but Sunday was coming!! There was exquisite pain and shame yet to endure, but His Father was completely and absolutely in control.
Given our current circumstances of quarantine across the country, we might find a perfect example to follow and find the peace and comfort we all long for. But even beyond this, it gives to us the right example in enduring persecution and difficult times that we may yet be facing — keep focusing on the good works before us, leaving worrying for the those without God’s hope, and relax knowing that we win in the end — Sunday’s coming!!
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.