OceanSide church of Christ
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THE NIGHT BEFORE THE CRUCIFIXION
Victor M. Eskew
Recently, a verse of the Bible that I have heard many times caught my attention. It was I Corinthians 11:23. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth about the establishment of the Lord’s Supper. This is what the apostle penned: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread.” Most of the time, my mind is focused on the words “took bread.” For some reason, the last time this verse was read, I heard the words: “…the same night in which he was betrayed.” The thought that came to my mind was “the night of betrayal.” From there, many other descriptions of the night before the Lord’s crucifixion came to mind. Let’s look at them in this article.
First, let’s begin with Paul’s description, “a night of betrayal.” Judas, an apostle and friend of the Christ, had betrayed his Lord to the chief priests and scribes for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14-16). After he left the upper room where Jesus and the apostles partook of the Passover, he went to the Jewish leaders and informed them of Jesus’ whereabouts. He then led to them to Jesus. “And while ye yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that had betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same he is; hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed him” (Matt. 26:27-49). The actions of Judas that night were shameful. He had allowed a covetous heart to lead him to betray an innocent man. A friend had lifted up his heel against his friend (See Ps. 41:9).
Second, the night before the crucifixion was a night of deep sorrow. Prior to Judas’ coming to the garden, Jesus experienced a profound sense of agony and sorrow. “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death…” (Matt. 26:26-28). Jesus knew what He was about to experience. He understood the pain of crucifixion. He was aware of the hurt of rejection. He fully realized the weight of sin that He was to bear. All of this brought heaviness and sorrow. Dear readers, Jesus fully understands what it means to be a man. He was a man just as we are. He hurt and suffered in like manner as we all do (See Heb. 4:15).
Third, this Thursday night was a night of prayer. Jesus knew how to handle inner affliction. He cast it upon His heavenly Father. “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 27:39). Three times He offered up this same prayer. It was intense and fervent. It was the expression of a sincere heart. He did not hold back His request from God. However, He was willing to yield Himself to His Father’s will. Jesus prayed in faith. After He prayed, we never read of any anguish of spirit within Him again. Jesus did not waver and doubt when it came to His prayer life. He knew His heavenly Father would take care of Him. He knew the Father would always do the right thing.
Fourth, this was a night of arrest. The multitude that followed Judas came with one intent. They were going to arrest Jesus and try Him that very night. “Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him” (Matt. 26:50). It is telling when authority figures exercise great strength against one individual. They try to display strength, but their “muscle” only covers their weaknesses and fears. It also shows the lengths to which they will go to get rid of anyone who threatens their position and power.
Fifth, the night before Jesus execution was a night of flight by the disciples of Jesus. Matthew 26:56 tells us: “Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.” These men had been with Jesus for over three years. They had experienced His teaching, His works, and His miracles. He had proven that He loved each of them. They acknowledged that He was the Messiah. Peter had confessed that He was the Son of the living God. Yet, when matters grew dire, these men preserved themselves. Courage is not an easy thing to manifest. We want to believe we still stand. We want to believe we will fight. However, when push comes to shove, many, like Jesus’ disciples choose flight instead of fight.
Sixth, when Jesus was taken before the Jewish counsel, the night turned into a night of injustice. The rulers of the Jews broke many laws that night attempting to rush this trial to its end. They refused to look at the evidence of Jesus’ works that proved His claims. They even brought in false witnesses to testify against Him. They listened to every word He spoke hoping to find just one thing against Him. When Jesus acknowledged that He was the Christ, the Son of God that was all the council needed to hear. “Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye, They answered and said, He is guilty of death” (Matt. 26:65-66). The Jews had made their decision. Jesus was to die. All they had to do is get Pilate to issue the order of execution. Laws, justice, evidence, and right and wrong did not matter to these men. They had one agenda. This would be the night they would destroy this man who brought so much controversy into Jerusalem.
Seventh, this was a night of sleeplessness. Jesus would not sleep at all that night. He would be moved from one court to another until His guilt was “established” and His sentence was set forth. Both His mind and His body must have been tired. Add to this the brutal treatment he received by the Roman soldiers and Jesus was exhausted by the time the sun rose over Judah. Many men could not have endured the loss of sleep Jesus experienced much less the brutal treatment He received. How He was able to carry the cross part of the way to Calvary is remarkable. This carpenter’s son must have been an extremely strong man.
Eighth, this was a night of prophetic fulfillment. The Old Testament prophets had foretold Jesus’ death. Jesus Himself had told His disciples that He would be crucified in Jerusalem. That night prophecy after prophecy was fulfilled. Had these doctors of the law been watching closely, they could have seen the prophetic words coming to pass right before their eyes. But, they saw nothing. Their wisdom and understanding was clouded by their hatred and envy for Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus had told them to search the Scriptures because they testified of Him. They had no desire to test His words. Their neglect, though, did not keep the words of the seers of old from coming to pass.
“Oh what a night!” It is the darkest night that has ever been experienced in the history of man. The only positive to be found in that night is the fact that God’s plan of redemption was executed. The Lamb of God was about to be slain for the sins of the world. Then, early on the first day of the week following Jesus’ death, darkness was turned into light. Jesus arose victorious over death and the hadean realm. He crushed the head of the serpent in His resurrection. Since that day, there has been no more night. The Light of the world has shined brightly calling men to come to Him and find rest for their souls (Matt. 11:28-30).