I will never leave you! Peter said to Jesus as they walked the dark streets of Jerusalem.
I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you do not know me, Jesus said to him.
I will never say that, Peter said. And all the disciples said the same.
They walked on to the Mount of Olives without saying another word. The night air was cold against their faces and not a star shone in the sky.
They came to a place called Gethsemane, a lonely garden on a hillside. Jesus said to his disciples, Wait here while I go to pray. And then he took Peter, James and John and walked on a bit farther into the night. Jesus said to them, The pain in my heart is so great it almost crushes me. Stay here and watch with me.
Then Jesus walked off a short distance and fell to the cold, hard ground. Father in heaven, he prayed, please take away the suffering I know is coming! It is too much for me. But I will do what you want and not what I want.
He prayed this way for nearly an hour. Then he struggled back to his feet and returned to Peter, James and John, and they were sleeping.
You couldnt stay awake with me for even an hour? he said to them. Your hearts are in the right place, but it is hard to do what is right.
Three times this happened, and each time Jesus found his disciples asleep. At last he said, Look, the time has come!
As he said this, the disciples saw a band of men coming towards them through the dark with lanterns, torches, clubs and swords.
The man leading the way was Judas.
He went straight to Jesus and kissed him. This was the signal that Jesus was the one that they were looking for. The chief priests of the Jews had paid Judas 30 pieces of silver to lead them to Jesus.
The crowd surrounded Jesus and held him tight. Peter grabbed a sword and swung it at one of the high priests slaves and cut off his ear.
Put your sword away, Jesus said. Dont you know I could call all the angels of God to rescue me? But I must do for you what God has promised through his prophets from long ago. And then he touched the mans ear and healed it.
At that moment all the disciples ran away into the night.
The crowd dragged Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem to the house of Caiaphas, the chief priest of the Jews. The council of the high priests was waiting there. They were looking for a reason to put Jesus to death, but they couldnt find any evidence against him.
So they convinced many people to come before them and tell lies about Jesus instead.
Two men came up and said, This man said he could tear the temple of God down, and in three days build it back up!
But Jesus didnt say a word.
Finally, the High Priest said, Tell us - are you the Messiah, the Son of God?
That is what you say, Jesus answered. But I will tell you this. You will see the Son of God sitting at the right hand of the Almighty God, riding on the clouds of heaven.
That is enough! the High Priest cried. This man claims to be the Son of God, and according to our law, for that he must die!
And then they began to spit in Jesus face. They blindfolded him and beat him, all the while saying, Tell us who hit you, Messiah!
...outside in the courtyard Peter was sitting by the fire warming himself.
Werent you with Jesus of Nazareth? one of the servant women said to him.
I dont know what you are talking about! Peter said as he stepped away from the light of the fire.
I know you! I saw you with Jesus! another servant woman said to Peter at the entrance of the courtyard.
Peter denied it again. I tell you, I do not know the man! he said.
A short time later, some men saw Peter standing in the shadows by the courtyard wall. Of course you are one of his disciples! they said. We can tell by the way you speak!
For the third time, Peter said, I swear, I do not know the man!
Just then, a rooster crowed.
And Peter remembered what Jesus had told him. Before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you do not know me. Peter went out and cried bitterly.
The chief priests had Jesus tied in chains and they led him off to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the city.
Are you the king of the Jews? Pilate asked Jesus.
So you say, was all that Jesus would answer.
At the time of Passover, Pilate would set free any prisoner the people wanted. A crowd had gathered outside the governors palace, and so Pilate said to them, Shall I set free this Jesus, your messiah?
We want Barabbas! the crowd shouted back. Barabbas was a well known criminal.
What shall I do with Jesus then?
Crucify him! the people shouted back.
But why? Pilate pleaded. What crime has he committed?
Crucify him! the people cried out all the more.
Pilate could see there was no use in arguing any more. The chief priests had convinced the crowd that Jesus had to die. And so he took a bowl and washed his hands. It was his way of saying he would have no part in it. I find no reason to condemn this man! he said.
Let his blood be on us and on our children! the crowd shouted back.
And so Pilate set Barabbas free. He escaped the sentence of death and Jesus took his place - just like Jesus would take the place of all sinners.
Pilates soldiers dragged Jesus inside of the palace.
They stripped off his clothes and whipped him. The metal barbs of the whips tore shreads of skin off his back. Then they put a purple robe on his back and made a crown out of thorny branches and pressed it into his head. They put a stick in his hands and knelt down in front of him. Long live the king of the Jews! they said, making fun of him. Then they spat in his face, and hit him over the head with the stick.
When that wasnt fun anymore, they took the robe away and led him off to be crucified.
They put a heavy cross on his bruised and bleeding back, and pushed him along, through the dusty streets of the city. Along the way the crowds pressed against the soldiers trying to get a better look. All the while they mocked him and spat on him as he passed by.
When Jesus could barely stumble another step, the soldiers took hold of a man from Cyrene named Simon, and forced him to carry the cross for him.
At last they came to the place called Golgotha, a hill they called the place of the skull. They offered Jesus a bitter wine mixed with a drug called myrrh, but he refused to drink it. Then the soldiers stretched Jesus out on the cross and drove heavy nails through his hands and feet.
And there they raised him up on the cross, and crucified him between two thieves.
The soldiers took his clothes and divided them among them. But his robe was made of one piece. Lets not tear it, the soldiers said. And so they tossed dice to see who would get it.
On his cross there was a sign that said, Jesus, King of the Jews. People passing by laughed at him and called out, If you are Gods son, then save yourself, and come down off that cross!
At noon, a terrible darkness fell over the whole land.
For three hours the sun did not shine. At last, Jesus cried out in a loud voice filled with pain and anguish, My God, my God, why did you leave me?
The people standing nearby thought he was calling for Elijah.
One of the soldiers took a sponge and soaked it in vinegar and tried to make him drink it. Wait! Let us see if Elijah will save him! someone in the crowd shouted.
But Jesus cried, It is finished!
And then, with a loud cry, he breathed his last and died.
The Earth Cries Out
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