Jesus’ Time Was Near
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matthew 26:17 (Holman) On the first day of Unleavened Bread the
disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to
prepare the Passover so You may eat it?”
It was Thursday of Holy Week. This night one binding festival, the Passover, ended, and another binding festival, the Lord’s Supper, began.
Passover, also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was Israel’s birthday party; in our parlance, their Fourth of July. It celebrated their redemption from Egyptian bondage. On the night Israel was delivered from Egypt, Israel prepared to depart. They did not include leaven in their bread because they did not have time for it to rise. To commemorate the urgency of this saving night, the Jews left leaven out of their bread during Passover.
The disciples knew Jesus would observe Passover. Oh that we were as diligent in being baptized as Jesus was, in observing the Lord’s Supper as Jesus was in observing Passover, and in attending church regularly as Jesus did the synagogue. Beware sloughing off practices Jesus deemed important.
Matt. 26:18 “Go into the city to a certain man,” He said, “and tell him
‘The Teacher says: My time is near; I am celebrating the
Passover at your place with My disciples.’”
Tradition says this unnamed man was Mark, the young man who later escaped being captured by those who arrested Jesus (Mark 14:51). We know his mother owned a large house in Jerusalem; Peter fled there when he escaped from prison (AC 12:12). Some think this is the same room where the disciples assembled after the crucifixion (JN 20:19), and where they received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (AC 2).
Mark accompanied his cousin Barnabas (Col. 4:10) and the Apostle Paul on part of their first missionary journey (AC 13:5,13), and later became a source of controversy that divided the two missionaries (AC 15:36-39). Eventually Mark was reconciled to Paul (Philemon 24). Mark became like a son to Peter (1 P 5:13), and wrote the second Gospel on Peter’s behalf.
By not telling the disciples the man’s name, Jesus outfoxed Judas, who was seeking a time and place to betray the Master (26:16). He kept Judas from knowing in advance where He and the Twelve would eat the Passover meal. Since enemies wanted Jesus dead, it was wise to be cryptic.
His saying “My time is near” proves Jesus knew the final countdown had begun; Creation’s clock was ticking on toward the high noon of history.
In these dark hours, Jesus was not groveling, nor was He a puppet caught off guard. He was our willing sacrifice; His giving His life of His own choice made Him our Priest, in addition to being our sacrificial lamb.
He was commanding—tell the man I need the room. He was speaking with authority, as when commandeered the donkey—tell the man I need it.
Jesus owns all human property. If He wants your donkey, give it. If He wants to use your house, let Him. If He wants your children, yield them.
Matt. 26:19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and
prepared the Passover.
The disciples did what Jesus commanded them to do: no delay, no questions asked. Obedience, to be real, must be prompt and all-inclusive.
Matt. 26:20-21 When evening came, He was reclining at the table with
the Twelve. While they were eating, He said, “I assure
you: One of you will betray Me.”
Jesus unleashed a thunderbolt!! Paul later said of the Lord’s Supper, we are to examine ourselves before taking it (1 Cor. 11:28). He saw this modeled by Jesus, who pushed this very agenda at the first Lord’s Supper.
As we imagine the emotional carnage caused by this bombshell, don’t miss the love exposed in it. By letting it be known He knew of the treachery, without mentioning a name, Jesus gave Judas another opportunity to repent.
Matt. 26:22 Deeply distressed, each one began to say to Him, “Surely
not I, Lord?”
Jesus’ staggering blow broke their hearts. This lessened any likelihood of pride among them. It is hard to be sad and proud at the same time.
Almost all English Bible translations form the disciples’ response as a question. They had never thought of doing such a thing, and were shocked at the possibility, but could not escape a tinge of self-distrust. “Surely not! Yet maybe?” They could not be 100% sure. A lingering doubt hung over them.
These men wanted to know themselves. Hopefully, we want to know us. We would be wise to ask their question, for we do not know ourselves. “Every man is a mystery to himself” (Maclaren). My favorite Spurgeon quote is, “In nothing do people err more grievously than in self-analysis.”
Over the temple of Apollo at Delphi were written the words “Know Thyself”. Socrates often said it. The Greeks, and others, have known self-evaluation is hard work. It is a noble goal, yet one of our most difficult tasks.
Self-analysis is unpleasant and humbling, but to be the Christians we are meant to be, we must do it. We have to learn about us from sources beyond us, beginning with the Bible. It is our only hope to understand ourselves. It objectively and unfailingly tells us who and what we are.
One way the Bible helps us better know us is by pushing us toward prayer. This is essentially what the disciples did here. They prayed, as it were, directing their thoughts toward Jesus. They realized He knew them better than they knew themselves. They let Him analyze them. Live life in a fog of prayer. As my dad says, “Proceed on your knees.” David, in his hour of deep dyed sin, cried out to God for forgiveness, saying, “You teach me wisdom deep within” (PS 51:6b). In other words, God revealed David to David, teaching a hard lesson about what the king was deep inside himself.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way” (PS 139:23-24). Don’t miss the message here. The Psalmist was not asking God to do research so that He would know the writer better; God already knew everything about him. The request was that God would do the searching in order to lead the Psalmist in living life right. In other words, the writer was saying, God tell me what your thorough knowledge of me reveals about me.
Know thyself. Let the Bible and prayers guide us. Also learn from the failures of others, when we see someone else sin. The Puritan John Bradford, seeing a criminal going to the scaffold, said, “There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.” All the good in us is because of our being inwardly yielded to Jesus. This surrender is essential because another powerful principle, an evil one, lies within us. We have deeply buried volcanic depths that could erupt unexpectedly. Bad inclinations are hibernating, but there.
As we wince at another’s sins, know the motive underneath them is a commonality we all share. Our sins may differ from others’ sins, but our sins share with their sins a common root: worship of self. Cain, before he murdered, worshiped self; he was jealous. David, before committing adultery, worshiped self; he lusted. Judas, before he betrayed, worshiped self; he loved money. We all have the root that can sprout many sins.
Better to humbly ask “Is it I?” than to proudly say, “It will never be me.” Our best footing is when we are on our knees. Avoid foolish self-confidence. Be careful. Remain vigilant. An angel who lived in the innermost circle of God’s associates fell long, hard, and irretrievably.