Easter: Victory for the Soul (Part I)

As the victorious season of Easter is upon us, have you ever stopped to wonder, “Could these things actually have happened?” Well, if so, you are not alone! For the sake of understanding the Easter story from a different angle, we will put ourselves into the shoes of the disciple called Thomas (in Aramaic) who was also called Didymus (in Greek) both mean “twin”. Although Thomas is famous for being remembered as a disciple who doubted (John 20:29), we will see that Jesus always provided comfort and answers to his questions. And, Ladies, may you be encouraged that God is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He will answer all of your questions, too. Why? Because you are eternally worth it to an infinitely loving God (1 John 4:9). The story of Jesus’ Resurrection is the ultimate story of epic and unabashed love as He carried out celestial victory over death and suffering for the entire human race! These are exciting times as we boldly declare, “He is risen! He is risen indeed” (John 20:18)! Allow us to begin!

 

We now join the other eleven disciples with Jesus in the town of Bethany. Jesus had chosen to return to Judea just after the Jews had tried to stone Jesus (John 10:31-39). Yet, Jesus had told His disciples that He was glad that each of them would be able to witness Lazarus being raised from the dead so that they, too, may believe (John 11:14-15). Thomas had resolved to go back to Bethany to die with Lazarus, given the hostile climate they had experienced from the Jewish leadership just a few days previous (John 11:16). Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, all of whom were dear friends of Jesus (John 11:1-3) was indeed raised from the dead, after four days in the tomb, by a simple shout from the mouth of Jesus (John 11:43). Many of the Jews who saw this marveled and believed in the power and divine nature of Jesus (John 11:45). His fame and following had grown greatly in the land of Judea and the religious leaders had finally heard enough.

 

The chief priests and Pharisees called for the seventy-one members to assemble, which was called the Sanhedrin (John 11:47). This prestigious council was made up of scribes, elders, prominent men of high priestly families and the high priest of the year, who was the head of the council. This council held much authority under the Roman government, as a tribunal, to govern the Israeli people. Not wanting to loose their political status and power under the Roman government, it was time to shut this Jesus character up for good (John 11:47-48). Jesus of Nazareth had a significant following with now even the confirmed deceased being brought back from the grave to highlight of His divine power (Mark 5:35-43, Luke 7:11-17 & John 11:38-44). The Chief Priest of the Sanhedrin that year was named Caiaphas. As word got to them of the raising of Lazarus from the dead after four days in the tomb, decided termination of Jesus was the topic of conversation. Yet, as the seventy-one members spoke, Caiaphas prophesied, under the influence of God, that Jesus would die to spare the nation (2 Corinthians 4:10) and unite the scattered children of Israel (Isaiah 53:8, Luke 1:7 & John 18:4). From that day forward, the Sanhedrin plotted of ways to kill Jesus (John 5:18).

 

53So from that day on they plotted to kill Him54Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews but departed from there to the countryside near the wilderness,  to a town called EphraimAnd He stayed there with the disciples.

55The Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country to purify themselves before the Passover. 56They were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple complex: “What do you think? He won’t come to the festival, will He? ” 57The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it so they could arrest Him.

John 11:53-57 (HCSB)

 

As the Festival of the Passover was drawing near, Thomas tried to wrap his head around all that had taken place to lead them to this hide out in Ephraim near the wilderness in Judea (John 11:54). He and the other eleven disciples had watched Jesus perform many miracles over the past three years of His public ministry. And now, they waited with Him as they prepared to purify themselves before the Passover in Jerusalem was to begin. (Numbers 9:4-11).

 

Seven Signs telling of the Messiah:

1.Turning Water into wine (John 2:7-10)

2. Healing an officials son (John 4:49-53)

3. Healing the sick (John 5:8-9)

4. Feeding the 5,000 (John 6:10-11)

5. Walking on water (John 6:19-21)

6. Gave a blind man his sight (John 9:6-7)

7. Raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43-44)

 

They had watched as over 5,000 people had been fed on a hillside from only two little fish and five little barley loaves (John 6:9 & Matthew 14:21). They had watched a little girl come back to life at the words of Jesus (Mark 5:40-43). They had witnessed the blind and paralyzed be given back their sight and ability to walk (John 9:6-7 & Matthew 9:1-8). Jesus had forgiven adultery (John 8:2-11), healed bleeding disorders (Mark 5:24-34), cast out demons (Mark 1:21-28 & Luke 8:26-39) and now, most recently, raised his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41-44). They had seen so many things come to pass at the hands of their leader, Jesus of Nazareth, who was indeed the Christ (in Greek) and Messiah (in Hebrew) which both mean the Anointed One (Luke 2:11).

 

A gentle breeze blew across Thomas’ face. He was lost in thought as the other disciples spoke to one another while Jesus prayed. He recalled with a deep sigh that a death warrant for Jesus had gone forth from the mighty Sanhedrin and any who saw Him was to report it immediately for His capture (John 11:48-53). It almost seemed surreal. He recalled the words declared from the high priest of the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas, relating to Jesus (John 11:49-53).

 

The Festival of the Passover was nearly upon them now. Thomas and the other eleven disciples had shared three Passovers with Jesus over the past three years. And this year would mark the fourth. Jesus was preparing with much prayer, to become the ultimate Passover sacrifice; not just for those in Judea and Galilee, but for each and every heart whom would put their trust and hope in His mighty name (Isaiah 53:5). Soon, very soon, Jesus Christ would offer up Himself to pardon the wrong and shameful things that each person alive has done, said and thought. The time had come to reveal the ultimate champion and protector of the human soul.

 

It was now six days before Passover, and Jesus traveled to Bethany with His twelve disciples. There he stayed with his friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha. It had only been a few days since Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. All was still so fresh in their minds. And now, as they reclined at the table, Mary entered the room with an alabaster box. As the meal finished, Mary kneeled at Jesus’ feet and poured a pound of costly perfume, pure nard, on His feet and wiped it with her hair (John 12:3). The disciples looked at one another in amazement. What were they to think of this? Judas Iscariot was very vocal with his disgust, but Jesus told Judas that Mary was preparing His body for burial (John 12:7).

 

Many had learned that Jesus was in Bethany and had come to see both Him and the man He had raised from the dead, Lazarus (John 12:9). The chief priests now had concluded to not only kill Jesus, but to have Lazarus killed as well! Seeing as many Jews believed in Jesus as a result of seeing this man. Lazarus was very much alive (John 12:10-11)! The crowd which had now gathered traveled with Jesus, His disciples and Lazarus the two miles from Bethany to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast.

 

12On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” 14Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15“FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT.” (Zechariah 9:9 & John 12:12-15 NASB)

 

As the young colt’s hooves crunched atop the palm branches, Thomas looked up to His leader, Jesus, whom was seated upon the young donkey as it plotted along. Excitement and praise were painted across the faces of those lining the path for Jesus to travel into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9-10). All were dressed in their best as they had come for the feast of the Passover. As the donkey’s colt walked closer to Jerusalem, the strong aroma from the pure nard perfume, which had been place upon Jesus’ feet by Mary, could still be smelled in the desert air. With arms raised and others running to lay more palm branches onto the ground, the atmosphere was filled with great anticipation and victory. It was truly one of triumphal entry. The death warrant from the Sanhedrin was still active for Jesus, but no one in that moment could think of anything but shouting for joy! The same people whom Thomas had seen at the tomb of Lazarus, when Jesus raised him from the dead, were now shouting of these very things! At this, even more people ran to Jesus to meet Him, who has power to raise people from the dead (John 12:17-18).

 

Not only Jews, but also a few Greeks were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They approached Philip and asked if they, too, could see Jesus. His fame had truly spread throughout the land. Philip and Andrew both asked Jesus if He would see them. At this time, Jesus foretold of His own approaching death.

 

23And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23 NASB)

 

Then, Jesus did something no one was expecting. From atop the young colt, He prayed to the God the Father in heaven, “Father, glorify Your name!” At that moment, Thomas, along with the other eleven disciples and all others around Jesus were startled as a voice was heard thundering from heaven!

 

“I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again!” (John 12:28 HCSB).

 

With eyes wide, loud gasps and murmuring were heard all around. This was now the third time a voice had thundered from heaven to affirm the deity and Sonship of Jesus. The first was at His baptism (Matthew 3:17), the second was at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) and now the third time was here at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem for Passover (John 12:28).

 

30Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.” (John 12:30 NASB)

 

After conversing with the crowd a while longer, Jesus and His disciples left the crowd as they were growing irritated by His responses. Jesus had performed so many signs and miracles in the presence of the Jewish people, yet many still did not believe. This fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah (John 12:37-40). Even still, people believed, but silently; seeing as they did not want to be cut off from the Synagogue for confessing faith in Jesus (John 12:42-43). They loved the approval of men more than that of God. Yet, Jesus had come to save them, and all of humanity, from disbelief and complacency by displaying His gift of ultimate love that would soon be hung from a cross (1 John 4:9).

 

44Then Jesus cried out, “The one who believes in Me believes not in Me, but in Him who sent Me. 45And the one who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness. 47If anyone hears My words and doesn’t keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48The one who rejects Me and doesn’t accept My sayings has this as his judge: The word I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49For I have not spoken on My own, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a command as to what I should say and what I should speak. 50I know that His command is eternal life. So the things that I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” (John 12:44-50 NASB)

 

While Jesus was alone with His disciples, prior to the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His time to reveal His Passion for all of humanity had come. He knew that He had been sent to Earth by the will of His Father, and had been given authority over all things by His Father (Matthew 11:27, Matthew 28:18 & John 17:2). And now, it was time to return to His Father in heaven (John 13:3). Jesus then took off His outer robe, wrapped a towel around His waist and poured water in a basin to wash the feet of each of His disciples (John 13:4-5). All the while, Jesus knew that Judas had been plotting evil against Him and that the time of ultimate betrayal had arrived (John 13:2-5). As Thomas and the other disciples reclined around the table, they were curious as to what Jesus was doing. Surely, He was not going to wash their feet! That was beneath such a man of power and prestige. Thomas looked at Philip, who looked at Andrew and Matthew. Simon Peter could not accept this. Yet, Jesus spoke to confirm the need of this very thing.

 

7Jesus answered him, “What I’m doing you don’t understand now, but afterward you will know.” 8You will never wash my feet — ever! ” Peter said. Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” (John 13:7-9 HCSB)

 

After Jesus had finished this act of servant leadership, He then instructed the twelve that no master is greater than his servants (John 13:16). Thus, seeing as Jesus had demonstrated how to take care of others, it was now their responsibility to take care of one another. Yet, Jesus shared that not all present really loved Him. The disciples looked at one another to see who could possibly be the one to betray Jesus the Messiah. And Jesus spoke,

 

26Jesus replied, “He’s the one I give the piece of bread to after I have dipped it.” When He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. 27After Judas ate the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Therefore Jesus told him, “What you’re doing, do quickly.” (John 13:26-27 HCSB)

 

Thomas and the others did not think anything out of the ordinary with this comment. Judas Iscariot was the moneybag holder. They thought that Jesus was telling Judas Iscariot to go purchase the necessary items for the Festival or to give money to the poor. No one anticipated the gravity of what Christ was telling Judas, except Judas himself. At this time, Judas Iscariot received the bread and quickly left. It was now night (John 13:28-30).

 

Once Judas Iscariot had left, Jesus told the eleven disciples that He would be with them only a little longer and gave them a new commandment. They were instructed to love others as He had loved them (John 13:34). The eleven listened diligently as candles flickers on their table which still held the remnants of dinner and the washing basin. Simon Peter wanted to know why he would not be able to immediately follow Jesus onto His next place. It was simply too much for the human mind to wrap around. Simon Peter then stated that he would lay down his own life for Jesus (John 13:37).

 

38Jesus replied, “Will you lay down your life for Me? I assure you: A rooster will not crow until you have denied Me three times.” (John 13:38 HCSB)

 

In sincerity of heart, Jesus then continued to speak to the eleven disciples. He described how to get to the Father in heaven (John 14:6), who is the Father (John 14:11), the power of praying in Jesus’ name (John 14:14), the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-18), the gift of peace from Jesus Christ (John 14:27) and many other spiritual truths. All of the eleven listened intently and with great desire to comprehend all that was being said by their Master and Lord, Jesus. As Jesus finished, He spoke plainly and the disciples breathed a sigh of relief. Thomas and the others told Jesus that now they believed Him and knew that Jesus was really from God (John 16:30).

 

31Jesus responded to them, “Do you now believe? 32Look: An hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:31-33)

 

Thomas and the other ten disciples marveled as Jesus then began to pray out loud to the Father. He prayed for Himself, for the disciples and for the believers that would hear the words of the disciples (John 17). The night had grown late and the tension in the room could be cut with a knife. The disciples did not know what was to come next, but it was obvious that they were standing on the brink of an eternal shift. 

(End of part 1)

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