Question: "What happened during Jesus’ last hours before His death?"
Answer: The night before Jesus’ death, He washed the feet of His disciples, and then shared the Passover meal with them. During this time Judas was revealed as the one who would betray His master (John 13:1-30). At the conclusion of the meal, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). After the meal, He took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. There, He pulled Peter, John, and James away, told them to pray they wouldn’t fall into temptation, and went off by Himself. The trio promptly fell asleep.
Alone, Jesus was grieved and depressed, so sorrowful as He approached death. His sweat fell like drops of blood (Luke 22:44)—His anguish was such that His life was practically dripping away from Him. He asked God to take the coming torment from Him, but only if it was the Father’s will (Luke 22:42). But it wasn’t the anticipation of scourging or the horrible hours on the cross that had Jesus so sorrowful. What had Him crying out in the Garden was the anticipation of being actually separated from God by the weight of sin (Matthew 27:46).
God sent an angel to strengthen Him enough to get through it. He asked Peter, James, and John to pray that they would stay loyal to Him, but they fell asleep. He had shared His life and His coming death with His disciples for three years. Then one of them walked up to Him, greeted Him as a friend, and handed Him to the Roman guards.
The next few hours were a blur of beatings, mockings, and whippings with leather thongs tipped with balls of metal and shards of bone. His skin was flayed off and blood dripped off His head from the long thorns in His crown. He also suffered the humiliation of numerous illegal mock trials before Annas (John 18:13), Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:57-68), and Roman trials before Pontius Pilate, then Herod, then Pilate again. Pilate, who knew Jesus was innocent, finally bent to the will of the crowd who were shouting “Crucify him!” and sent Jesus to the cross (Luke 23:1-25).
Once on the cross, He had the choice of resting His weight on the spikes driven into His hands or pushing up on the spikes in His feet and being able to breathe. People who had celebrated Him a week earlier now taunted Him. He watched the Roman soldiers divide His possessions before He died. And He took in His mother’s grief as she looked up at the One the angel had promised would save the world. It has been conjectured that Pilate had Jesus whipped in hopes that His broken state would convince the Jewish leaders to let Him go. At least it weakened Him enough that His torture on the cross was shortened; when the soldiers came to break His legs (a typical method of hastening the death of the crucified), He was already dead.
It is not given in Scripture the exact moment God separated His presence from Jesus. Maybe about the time Judas kissed Him, since shortly before that angels had been ministering to Him. And, in the scheme of things, it didn’t last that long. Somewhere between “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) and “It is finished” (John 19:30), God returned to Him. The veil tore, the earth shook, and rocks split apart (Matthew 27:51). His horribly dreaded separation from God was over. The reason He had come to earth was complete. His most terrifying life’s work was finished forever.
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