In only two days the eight-day Festival of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread would begin. The high priests and religion scholars were looking for a way they could seize Jesus by stealth and kill him.
They agreed that it should not be done during Passover Week. "We don't want the crowds up in arms," they said.
Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head.
Some of the guests became furious among themselves. "That's criminal! A sheer waste!
This perfume could have been sold for well over a year's wages and handed out to the poor." They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her.
But Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me.
You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives. Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them. Not so with me.
She did what she could when she could - she pre-anointed my body for burial.
And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly."
Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the cabal of high priests, determined to betray him.
They couldn't believe their ears, and promised to pay him well. He started looking for just the right moment to hand him over.
On the first of the Days of Unleavened Bread, the day they prepare the Passover sacrifice, his disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations so you can eat the Passover meal?"
He directed two of his disciples, "Go into the city. A man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him.
Ask the owner of whichever house he enters, 'The Teacher wants to know, Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?'
He will show you a spacious second-story room, swept and ready. Prepare for us there."
The disciples left, came to the city, found everything just as he had told them, and prepared the Passover meal.
After sunset he came with the Twelve.
As they were at the supper table eating, Jesus said, "I have something hard but important to say to you: One of you is going to hand me over to the conspirators, one who at this moment is eating with me."
Stunned, they started asking, one after another, "It isn't me, is it?"
He said, "It's one of the Twelve, one who eats with me out of the same bowl.
In one sense, it turns out that the Son of Man is entering into a way of treachery well-marked by the Scriptures - no surprises here. In another sense, the man who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man - better never to have been born than do this!" "This Is My Body"
In the course of their meal, having taken and blessed the bread, he broke it and gave it to them. Then he said, Take, this is my body.
Taking the chalice, he gave it to them, thanking God, and they all drank from it.
He said, This is my blood, God's new covenant, Poured out for many people.
"I'll not be drinking wine again until the new day when I drink it in the kingdom of God."
They sang a hymn and then went directly to Mount Olives.
Jesus told them, "You're all going to feel that your world is falling apart and that it's my fault. There's a Scripture that says, I will strike the shepherd; The sheep will go helter-skelter.
"But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you, leading the way to Galilee."
Peter blurted out, "Even if everyone else is ashamed of you when things fall to pieces, I won't be."
Jesus said, "Don't be so sure. Today, this very night in fact, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times."
He blustered in protest, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you." All the others said the same thing.
They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, "Sit here while I pray."
He took Peter, James, and John with him. He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony.
He told them, "I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me."
Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out:
"Papa, Father, you can - can't you? - get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want - what do you want?"
He came back and found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, "Simon, you went to sleep on me? Can't you stick it out with me a single hour?
Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don't enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don't be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."
He then went back and prayed the same prayer.
Returning, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn't keep their eyes open, and they didn't have a plausible excuse.
He came back a third time and said, "Are you going to sleep all night? No - you've slept long enough. Time's up. The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Get up. Let's get going. My betrayer has arrived."
No sooner were the words out of his mouth when Judas, the one out of the Twelve, showed up, and with him a gang of ruffians, sent by the high priests, religion scholars, and leaders, brandishing swords and clubs.
The betrayer had worked out a signal with them: "The one I kiss, that's the one - seize him. Make sure he doesn't get away."
He went straight to Jesus and said, "Rabbi!" and kissed him.
The others then grabbed him and roughed him up.
One of the men standing there unsheathed his sword, swung, and came down on the Chief Priest's servant, lopping off the man's ear.
Jesus said to them, "What is this, coming after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal?
Day after day I've been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me. What you in fact have done is confirm the prophetic writings."
All the disciples cut and ran.
A young man was following along. All he had on was a bedsheet. Some of the men grabbed him
but he got away, running off naked, leaving them holding the sheet.
They led Jesus to the Chief Priest, where the high priests, religious leaders, and scholars had gathered together.
Peter followed at a safe distance until they got to the Chief Priest's courtyard, where he mingled with the servants and warmed himself at the fire.
The high priests conspiring with the Jewish Council looked high and low for evidence against Jesus by which they could sentence him to death. They found nothing.
Plenty of people were willing to bring in false charges, but nothing added up, and they ended up canceling each other out.
Then a few of them stood up and lied:
"We heard him say, 'I am going to tear down this Temple, built by hard labor, and in three days build another without lifting a hand.'"
But even they couldn't agree exactly.
In the middle of this, the Chief Priest stood up and asked Jesus, "What do you have to say to the accusation?"
Jesus was silent. He said nothing. The Chief Priest tried again, this time asking, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed?"
Jesus said, "Yes, I am, and you'll see it yourself: The Son of Man seated At the right hand of the Mighty One, Arriving on the clouds of heaven."
The Chief Priest lost his temper. Ripping his clothes, he yelled, "Did you hear that? After that do we need witnesses?
You heard the blasphemy. Are you going to stand for it?" They condemned him, one and all. The sentence: death.
Some of them started spitting at him. They blindfolded his eyes, then hit him, saying, "Who hit you? Prophesy!" The guards, punching and slapping, took him away.
While all this was going on, Peter was down in the courtyard. One of the Chief Priest's servant girls came in
and, seeing Peter warming himself there, looked hard at him and said, "You were with the Nazarene, Jesus."
He denied it: "I don't know what you're talking about." He went out on the porch. A rooster crowed.
The girl spotted him and began telling the people standing around, "He's one of them."
He denied it again. After a little while, the bystanders brought it up again. "You've got to be one of them. You've got 'Galilean' written all over you."
Now Peter got really nervous and swore, "I never laid eyes on this man you're talking about."
Just then the rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered how Jesus had said, "Before a rooster crows twice, you'll deny me three times." He collapsed in tears.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)