Hey everyone, I’m Josh Hawkins, welcome to Episode 131 of Opening up the Gospels. Since Episode 125 we’ve been looking at the events of the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus ate with His disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem just before His crucifixion. In the last episode I developed Jesus’ words in Matthew 26 when He used elements of the Passover meal to describe His broken body and His blood poured out. I talked about what the phrase “the blood of the covenant” meant, linking it to Moses’ words to the people of Israel in Exodus 24. The blood of Jesus is the blood that will ratify the covenant between God and the whole house of Israel at the end of the age, when God establishes a “new” covenant with them. As Moses and the prophets spoke about, God would write the Law on the hearts of His chosen people Israel so that they would obey it and never again turn away from Him. Oh, what a day that will be - Paul says in Romans 11:15 that if Israel’s rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? Wow. Well in today’s episode I want to conclude our look at the Passover meal with a few final details and then begin to look at the journey from the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is captured and His disciples are scattered. But before we read from Mark’s Gospel, I want to review something I’ve mentioned several times throughout this series, and that’s the fact that John’s Gospel, likely written later than the others, is complementary to the others. Now the parallels to the Matthew 26 passage that we looked at in the last episode about Jesus’ broken body and poured out blood are in Mark 14:24 and Luke 22:20. John doesn’t mention this at all, which is very revealing about one of John’s purposes for writing His Gospel. John’s Gospel is intentionally trying to complement the others, and you can really see it here in his account of Passion Week. John doesn’t describe some of the biggest events of Jesus’ suffering. In fact, the Last Supper is not recorded by him at all - not even a hint. If John wasn’t trying to be complementary, it makes no sense for him to exclude something as important as the Last Supper. Does that make sense? Well let’s continue our look at the Passover meal by reading from Mark 14:
"And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same."
(Mark 14:27–31 ESV)
The parallel passage to this is in John 13:37 and 38. Jesus had begun a dialog with the disciples after Judas had left in John 13:30. So this entire section of John’s Gospel, John 13:31 through 17:26, is a massive section of red words in our Bibles, where Jesus shares the depths of His heart with the eleven. Now it’s a little bit difficult to place this statement from Mark chronologically, but remember, all we have from the Gospel authors are summaries of the Passover meal. It would have transpired over a number of hours, but at some point in the dialog that John is describing, Jesus spoke these words including the prediction of Peter’s denial, where He quotes Zechariah 13:7. That passage says:
"“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the Lord of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones."
(Zechariah 13:7 ESV)
Now Jesus isn’t just randomly quoting that scripture out of its larger context. In Zechariah 13, God promises that Israel and Jerusalem would one day be cleansed of its sin, its idols, and its false prophets, but also that two thirds of the people would perish and the remainder, a remnant, would be tested through fire and would call upon the name of the Lord for deliverance. Just as we’ve talked about Jesus “playing out” Israel’s story as Moses wrote, the eleven disciples are representative of that righteous tested remnant. The disciples would be humbled through their scattering, and would be forced to admit that their strength to remain loyal to Jesus amounted to nothing. Remember, just a few hours before, they were all arguing about who the greatest was. I looked at that back in Episode 126. But Jesus’ capture and arrest will finally force them to admit that they too are “little ones”, as Zechariah 13 said, and that they are to not put any confidence in the strength of the flesh. Well, let’s read again from Mark’s Gospel:
"And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."
(Mark 14:26 ESV)
The final stage of the Passover meal involved raising a fourth cup and singing Psalm 118. The group of Psalms 115 through 118, called “the Hallel”, was sung or, said more literally, “hymned”, during the Passover meal. These are psalms of praise, thanksgiving, and trust in Yahweh for His covenantal faithfulness. The singing concluded with Psalm 118, which ends this way:
"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!"
(Psalm 118:22–29 ESV)
Oh, what a fitting conclusion to the evening and everything that’s happened so far in the upper room. Though the promised Messiah was about to be crucified and though there would be a delay because of Israel’s rejection of Him, God would still bring glory to His name and would be loyal to bring to pass all that He had promised through the covenants with Israel.
Now remember that Judas had left the upper room already, and so it’s at this point that Jesus and the eleven begin the journey toward the Mount of Olives. Recall that Jesus has withdrawn to Bethany during the other nights of Passion Week. But here, on this Thursday night, He withdraws to the Mount of Olives, and as we’ll see, specifically to the Garden of Gethsemane. Let’s take a look at a map of the city to get a better idea of the route they might have taken. First, we don’t really know exactly where the upper room was, but many commentators and Biblical scholars place it in the area of Jerusalem known as the Upper City, a wealthier area of Jerusalem in the southwestern part of the city. Regardless of the exact location and thus the exact route that Jesus and the disciples would have taken, it would have been at least a 45 minute walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, which you can see is here, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives to the east of Jerusalem.
So what was the path that they took? Well, I think we can have a little more certainty if we examine the words of Jesus that John records in His gospel. Remember, John is being complementary to the other Gospels, and has recorded for us a total of 5 chapters of Jesus’ words after Judas’ departure. Now look back for a second at John 14:31. There, Jesus says:
"but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here."
(John 14:31 ESV)
See that last part? “Rise, let us go from here”. Where are they when all of Jesus’ words in John 13:31 through 14:31 are spoken? Well from the other Gospels we know that they have been in the upper room. Jesus says “ok guys, let’s get out of here”, and so they depart. But now, look at John 18:1. There, it says:
"When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered."
(John 18:1 ESV)
So all of the dialog between the beginning of John 15 and the end of John 17 is all taking place somewhere other than the upper room or the Mount of Olives. Do you see that? Let’s look again at the map. So Jesus and the eleven leave the upper room in John 14:31, and then all this other dialog happens in John 15 through 17, and then we don’t see them crossing the Brook Kidron until John 18:1. So where are they, and could the details of the text in John give us any clue? I think they can. Though of course we can’t be completely certain.
Now we’re talking about some of the most precious and even some of the more well-known words of Jesus in the Gospels here. John 15, 16, and 17 include Jesus’ famous words about the vine and the branches, the purpose and the work of the Holy Spirit as a helper and a teacher, and the great “high priestly prayer” of Jesus in chapter 17. Again, we do know for certain that those words weren’t spoken in the upper room or in the Garden of Gethsemane. So, where did they happen? To me, it would be so odd, so out of place, for Jesus to be speaking these deeply important words to His disciples as He walked the narrow streets of Jerusalem out to the Mount of Olives. One proposition is that they traveled through the “catacombs”, the extensive network of tunnels beneath the city of Jerusalem at the time. They could have walked through these to make their way out of the city walls and up to the Mount of Olives. While this is plausible, I think there are some details in the text that would indicate otherwise. It’s my opinion that Jesus took the eleven through the main city, which was still very active and festive with all of the people in town for the Passover feast. I believe He entered the Temple complex, which would have been opened at midnight during the Feast in order to make all the necessary preparations for the sacrifices that were to occur on the following day. So let’s look again at our map. Jesus and the eleven leave the upper room and pass through the Temple on the way to the Garden. Remember, this city was full of people, so it would have taken a while to get to the Temple. I believe that it’s here, in the magnificent, vast Temple, with its gold and marble glowing under the moonlight and flames from the massive torches in the complex, that Jesus speaks the words of John 15 through 17.
I want to develop this more in the next episode and give you the reasons why I believe this… So be sure to come back next time. In the meantime, you can watch any of the past episodes in this series on my website - www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. If these videos have been an encouragement to you, don’t forget to share them on social media too. God bless.