A man is walking up a hill towards a garden called Gethsemane. There’s eleven other men following beside. They listen to him speak.
“I am the true vine… Abide in me.”
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
“You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.”
These disciples have followed this teacher for three years. They’ve seen amazing displays of His power over sin, nature, sickness and death. They’ve heard Him teach with authority. But they’re not prepared for what will happen today.
Jesus and his disciples cross a small stream, and enters the garden.
“Sit here while I pray.”
And going a little farther, he stumbles onto the ground, distressed and troubled.
“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Just then, through blurry eyes, Jesus sees the line of torches slithering like a snake up the hill to the garden. A mob of soldiers and priests arrive with weapons. Judas is with them, and greets Jesus with a kiss.
As the soldiers lay hands on Jesus and seize him, His friends flee, like sheep being scattered.
Jesus’s world becomes a swirl of torment and mockery.
It’s 3 o’clock.
Jesus, hands bound, is led to the house of the High Priest. All the chief priests, elders and scribes have come together at this unseemly hour to try and find him guilty of death.
False accusations, mocking, lies fill the air.
Then the High Priest stands up.
“Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
God then declares he is God.
“I am: and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
“You’ve heard his blasphemy!” the High Priest screams, as the assembly howls in uproar. They all condemn him as deserving death (Mk 14:64).
As he is dragged from the High Priest’s house, bruised, blood in his eyes, Jesus glances at a watching Peter.
Peter, who had run from the garden. Peter, who had followed the mob here. Yet this friend has just denied the Friend of sinners three times: “I do not know of this man of whom you speak.”
And as the rooster crows, and Peter realises what he’s done, he breaks down, weeping.
It’s 6 o’clock.
The city is still asleep as the priests and soldiers lead Jesus to the palace of Pontius Pilate.
But as news of Jesus’s arrest passes from house to house, it’s not long before the priests have a sympathetic crowd.
They level their charges to the governor: “This man forbids us to pay tribute to Caesar and he calls himself a king.”
Pilate stares intently at Jesus. He questions him and finds no guilt.
Neither does Herod.
So Pilate offers to release Jesus to the swelling crowd. But no – the crowd chooses to free the murderer Barabbas instead.
“Then what should I do with Jesus of Nazareth?” Pilate shouted to the mob.
The mob thunders back: “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And their voices prevailed.
So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, and having scourged Jesus, delivers him to be crucified.
And now it’s 9 o’clock.
Falsely accused by the priests.
Judged innocent by Pilate.
Jesus, God’s chosen King, is led towards a hill called Golgotha, where he will display on the cross for us God’s love, wrath, justice, power, victory, hope, forgiveness, and peace.
(William: I adapted this from the gospel accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with help from Josh Byer’s Passion Week infographic and some narrative licence from Rick Gamache’s “A Crucifixion Narrative”, italicised above).