Best-remembered Bible Stories
Despite warnings that evil men were seeking his life, Jesus set out for Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover — the great feast in memory of Israel's escape from Egypt under Moses. As he came near to the city, riding on a borrowed donkey, he was met by a great crowd.
"Hosanna," they cried. "These cheers for the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."
As he came to the city gate the crowds threw palm-branches before him in the roadway — a green carpet of welcome as the donkey carried him into the city of David (Jerusalem).
But his enemies watched the welcome, and they decided that he must die. They were afraid that one who was welcomed as David's son would claim David's throne.
Jesus knew that his enemies were plotting his death. He told his disciples so when they met to celebrate the Passover Supper (now called Last Supper). During the supper he took bread, broke it, and gave it to them. "This is my body," he said, "which is broken for you! Do this in remembrance of me." Strange words, but stranger were to follow. "You will all desert me," he said, "and one of you will betray me."
"I will never desert you," said Peter stoutly.
"You will," replied Jesus sadly. "Before the cock crows you will say three times that you never even knew me."
They went out from supper to a moonlit olive garden. There, while Jesus was praying, soldiers came, led by Judas — Jesus' own disciple. They arrested Jesus and marched him off to the High Priest, while the disciples ran away in the darkness, all except John and Peter. They crept along behind the soldiers to see what would happen.
At the palace of the High Priest they put Jesus on trial. "Are you the Messiah?" asked the High Priest, with all the gravity of his high office.
"I am," said Jesus calmly.
"Blasphemy," they cried, and they sentenced him to death. They arranged for him to be taken before Pilate, the Roman governor, first thing in the morning for only Rome could confirm and carry out a death sentence.
Peter and John were in courtyard. As Jesus was led away from his trial the cock crew, and Peter burst into tears. For now he remembered what Jesus had said at the supper table, and indeed three times Peter had denied knowing Jesus.
In the dawn light they led Jesus to the great open space in front of Pilate's residence, and demanded that their sentence of death be confirmed and carried out. Pilate questioned Jesus but could not find that he had done anything wrong.
"We have a Law," cried the High Priest, "and by that Law he deserves to die."
Led by agitators the crowd now started to chant, "Crucify! Crucify! Crucify him!" Afraid that there would be a riot, Pilate gave in. He called for a bowl of water, and there at the top of the steps he solemnly washed his hands in sight of all the crowd.
"See," he said, "I am innocent of the blood of this just man. Do with him as you will."
They led Jesus outside the city wall, and there between two thieves on a hill called Calvary (Golgotha) they crucified him. One of the thieves — perhaps to ease his own pain — jeered at Jesus: "If you are the Son of God, get us down off these crosses." But the other thief rebuked him. "At least we've got what we deserve," he said, "but he hasn't done anything wrong." Then turning to Jesus he said, "Master, when you come to your kingdom, remember me."
Jesus replied slowly, for death was very close, "Indeed I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
The sun rose high to noon, and the sky grew dark with menace as if the world would end. At about three in the afternoon Jesus cried with a loud voice: "It is finished." And so he died. But this voice sang with victory, so that the officer in charge of the execution said in awe, "Truly, this was the Son of God."