Our Master’s Last Five Days

“I [Jesus] have glorified thee [the Father] on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” —John 17:4

SOMETIMES THE QUESTION is asked, What would you do if you knew that you had only a few days to live? Each person’s answer to this question naturally depends to a large extent upon his general outlook on life and on what his understanding of the hereafter may be. An atheist who, even in the face of certain death, continues to believe that the moment of death is the end of everything, might naturally decide that in his last few days of existence he should obtain as much enjoyment as possible; hence he would spend those days in revelry. One who believed the false teachings of the Dark Ages concerning the doctrine of eternal torment for the wicked would probably do all he could to make sure that at death he would escape such a horrible fate. But a faithful footstep follower of the Master, having no dread of death, would simply want to make sure that nothing was left undone in his life which was involved in his covenant to do the Heavenly Father’s will. This was the attitude of Jesus, and he was our perfect exemplar.

It is not given to many of the Lord’s people to know definitely just when they will finish their course of self-sacrifice, so it behooves all of us to live each day as though it were the last—to zealously make use of every opportunity of service, and courageously accept and discharge every responsibility which divine providence may place upon us. Paul wrote, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.”—Heb. 4:1

Jesus did know that he had reached the end of his earthly ministry. He was undoubtedly acquainted with the prophecy of Daniel which foretold his being “cut off” in the midst of the seventieth symbolic week from the time a certain decree would be issued authorizing the returned exiles from Babylon to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. (Dan. 9:25-27) He knew that he commenced his ministry at the beginning of the seventieth week of this prophecy, and he knew that this symbolic week was a period of seven literal years. He knew, furthermore, that the “midst” or the middle of this week would fall at the Passover season in the spring of the year. He also was aware that he was the antitypical Passover Lamb, and that therefore it was the Father’s will for him to die for the sins of the world on the date appointed for the slaying of the typical Passover lamb, which was the 14th day of Israel’s first month—Nisan. This year the 14th day of Nisan begins after sundown, Sunday, April 20th.

It is apparent, then, that Jesus knew the exact day he was to die, and it is both enlightening and inspiring to observe how he conducted himself during those last few days, and what his chief concern was. Our text beautifully summarizes his viewpoint—“I have glorified thee [God] on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Throughout the Master’s entire ministry his great objective was to glorify his Heavenly Father; and he had always known that the only way he could accomplish this was by faithfully doing the work which had been assigned to him by his Father.

Having been faithful to his Heavenly Father throughout the entire period of his ministry, when the Master came within a few days of the end of that faithful service there was no need that he change his course of action: To be finally faithful—faithful even unto death—it was but necessary that he continue in the same course he had been following, that he keep doing the things he had been doing. And it is this that we find in the perfect example of Jesus’ life. From the inception of his ministry, which began immediately after his forty days temptation in the wilderness, Jesus began “doing good” (Acts 10:38), unselfishly using his time, his strength, his talents, for the blessing of others, and in this way glorifying his Heavenly Father.


The last five days of the Master’s earthly ministry were particularly crowded with activity, beginning with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and being acclaimed king of the Jews. In all that he did, Jesus was very careful to conform to the instructions which had been recorded for him in the “volume of the Book” (Heb. 10:7), that is, the Old Testament Scriptures. On another occasion he noted that a large group of sympathizers were determined to take him by force and make him king, but he did not then permit it. Now, however, he recognized that the time had come when a certain prophecy of the Old Testament had to be fulfilled, so he gave his disciples instructions to procure an ass, and in keeping with that prophecy, rode through the gates into the city, being enthusiastically acclaimed king by a multitude of his friends.—Zech. 9:9

There is a lesson in this for all who endeavor to follow the example of Jesus. Those who are faithfully ministering the truth as the Master did, and in connection with their ministry manifest the same spirit of sympathy and kindness toward those to whom they minister, may at times have a considerable measure of appreciation shown them. They may to some extent, and temporarily, be honored. But we should not allow such experiences to divert our minds and hearts from the course of sacrifice for which our covenant with the Lord calls. We should remember that possibly those of the world who today honor us may by tomorrow be brought under a spell of prejudice and opposition by the great Adversary, and turn against us.

It was so with Jesus, although he could have had it otherwise had he chosen to follow a course less faithful to his Heavenly Father. Exaltation is a test to the consecrated, and especially so when viewed in contrast with ignominy, shame, suffering, and death. This test came to Jesus just before it was time for him to be arrested and put to death. He possessed a marvelous personality, and great persuasive abilities, so even at this late date, and although his enemies were already plotting to kill him, had he swerved from his course of loyalty to God and agreed to work with them, he could have become a prominent leader in Israel. Worldly honor always presents a temptation to please men in order that more honor might be attained, but Jesus did not yield to this temptation.

After riding into Jerusalem in such kingly style and receiving the enthusiastic plaudits of so many people, we find Jesus in the Temple. There he performed an act calculated to increase the antagonism of his enemies—he drove out the moneychangers from the Temple. In connection with this act, he denounced those responsible for having turned God’s house of prayer into a den of thieves. (Matt. 21:13) No matter what the religious rulers of the people may have thought concerning Jesus before this, they would now conclude that their only safety, the only means by which they could hope to maintain their prestige in the eyes of the people, was to get rid of this impostor, this one who was so bold as to expose their hypocrisy and corruption.


While in the Temple on this occasion—only five days before he was to die—the blind and lame came to Jesus and “he healed them.” (Matt. 21:14; John 12:12) For more than three years he had been healing the blind and lame, so this was no new experience, but it emphasizes that, although Jesus knew he had but a few days to live, he was still willing to use his time and strength to help others, to extend to them temporarily the blessings which his death would make available permanently for all mankind when he actually became king of the whole earth. Jesus did not feel that he had a right to devote even those few remaining days of his life to his own interests. He was still to do his Father’s work and to glorify him.

Nor was Jesus’ service at any time based on merely a duty love. He really loved the people, and worked tirelessly among them to the very end. Yes, his interest and zeal were genuine. It could not have been more so had he expected to convert all Israel, and even the whole world at that time. This is evidenced by a statement he made later, and nearer to the time of his death, when he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”—Matt. 23:37

After driving the moneychangers from the Temple and devoting time to healing the sick, the day was drawing to a close. Jesus knew that his enemies were in Jerusalem seeking the first favorable opportunity to seize him. He was not afraid of this, but the exact day in the divine plan for him to die had not yet come, so he did not risk remaining in the city that night. Instead, he and the Twelve went to Bethany to spend the night there—although we are not informed exactly where. The night before it is evident that they were entertained by Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. This is said to be six days before the Passover (John 12:1), and it was on this occasion that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with the costly ointment, wiping them with her hair.


The next morning, Jesus and the Twelve returned to Jerusalem, and to the Temple. En route, he paused to pluck figs from a tree, but found none, and cursed the fig tree—not because he was angry with it, but apparently he used it to represent Israel, their unfruitfulness and rejection of him, and of their being cast off and withering. Later, he gave the sign of the budding fig tree at the time of his second presence, picturing returning favor to Israel and finally their acceptance of him. (Matt. 24:32) Arriving at the Temple, Jesus again began to teach, using his usual parable form of instruction.

Shortly after he began, “the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him” demanding by what authority he was doing “these things,” evidently referring to his teaching, and to his driving out the moneychangers the day before. (Matt. 21:23) From here on to the end of the 22nd chapter, we have a marvelous array of instructions, directed mostly to the religious rulers who had come to question him.

Again, let us remember that Jesus knew he had but four days to live, yet we find him continuing to let his light shine, witnessing to those to whom he could have little hope of being a real blessing at that time. But his Father had given him a mission, and to that mission he was determined to be faithful. In addressing these religious rulers who had rejected him and plotted to kill him, Jesus took occasion to point out the exact position in which they stood as opposers of the divine plan.

It is in this discourse that Jesus gives the parable of the two sons. One of these, when asked to work in his father’s vineyard, refused, but later repented and went to work. The other agreed to do the work, yet failed to live up to his agreement. The chief priests and the elders agreed that the son who at first refused and later repented would be the most pleasing to his father. Then Jesus applied the parable, telling them that publicans and harlots—represented by the son who repented—would go into the kingdom of God before they would; for their position was that of the son who agreed to serve, then failed to do so. Only those who do the will of the Heavenly Father shall enter into the kingdom.

Jesus then followed with the parable of the householder who planted a vineyard, and hedged it about, digged a winepress in it, etc., then entrusted its care to husbandmen, while he went into a far country. Later, the householder sent his servants to gather fruit from the vineyard, but the husbandmen beat and stoned two of them, and killed one; then “he sent other servants: … and they did unto them likewise.” Then the son of the householder was sent, but the husbandmen killed him also, hoping that they could inherit the vineyard. Jesus asked his listeners, “What will he [the lord of the vineyard] do unto those husbandmen?” They replied, “He will miserably destroy those wicked men.”—Matt. 21:33-41

Jesus asked the chief priests and the elders if they had never read in the Scriptures about the stone which the builders rejected that later became the head of the corner. He explained that those who fell on this stone would be broken, and that “on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” The lesson in all these illustrations was that the kingdom would be taken from these religious rulers who, until this time had sat in ‘Moses’ seat’ and were recognized by God, and would be given to a “nation bringing forth the fruits thereof”—the “holy nation” described by the apostle in I Peter 2:9,10.

This was not a bitter denunciation of his enemies, for Jesus had no bitterness in his heart toward them. It was simply a plain statement of fact, and a witness to them of their wrong course and its certain result. And they understood the witness: “They perceived that he spake of them.” (Matt. 21:45) But their hearts were not softened. Rather the reverse, for they would have immediately seized the Master; but they saw that the crowd was sympathetic toward him, so they held back, waiting for a more favorable opportunity.

However, Jesus did not fear them. His ‘times’ were in the hands of his Father. So he continued with another parable—that of the marriage feast that a king made for his son, but which the invited guests did not attend. Then the servants were sent out into the byways and highways to find others to fill the vacancies. Thus were they reminded that because of their unfaithfulness, others would take their places at the marriage supper of the King of kings.—Matt. 22:1-11

Not daring to lay hand on the Master while the majority of his audience was friendly, his enemies then sought to entrap him by ‘catch questions’, and thus reveal their own superior wisdom, and possibly show that Jesus was not a safe teacher. This, they doubtless hoped, would turn the people against him, and then they would get their long awaited chance. But in this also they failed.

The same day the Sadducees went to Jesus with a question on their special theory—their disbelief in the resurrection of the dead. Apparently they propounded to the Master what they thought was an ironclad argument to prove that there could not be a resurrection of the dead—that it would result in chaos among the human race. It was the question about the woman who had had seven husbands: “In the resurrection whose wife shall she be?” But again the wisdom of this world failed, for when the people heard the Master’s answer, “they were astonished at his doctrine.”—Matt. 22:33


In Matthew 23:1-39, we have a message which Jesus gave to the multitude, and to his disciples. The religious rulers were still the representatives of God on behalf of the nation; and there were yet three-and-one-half years before the full end of the seventieth symbolic week of exclusive favor which had been given to them. Jesus therefore admonished his hearers to obey these rulers; that is, to obey their teachings of righteousness, but not to follow their example of unrighteousness.

That “woe” would ultimately come upon these blind guides there was no question, as predicted again and again in Matthew 23rd chapter, where Jesus made this very plain. They were to be punished—the whole nation was to be punished—not in the dim and distant future, for, as he said, “All these things shall come upon this generation.” (vs. 36) Then comes that pathetic, fateful decree, “Your house is left unto you desolate,” and also, “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”—vss. 37-39


‘Ye shall not see me henceforth’—yes, he was about to leave the unbelieving nation of Israel—not for eternity, but until the time when they would be ready to accept him as the Messiah, the one sent of God. The rulers were plotting to kill him, but Jesus recognized in this only that his Father’s time for him to finish the work assigned to him was fast running out. While he had uncompromisingly pointed out their sins, he rejoiced that even though they were about to kill him, the time would come when he would bless them.

With this assurance of blessings to come, Jesus and his disciples left the Temple. His major work of witnessing to Israel was finished, but he wanted an opportunity to instruct and encourage his own. He told them that the Temple would be destroyed, that there would not be one stone left upon another. Retiring to the Mount of Olives, his disciples went to him privately, inquiring, “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming [parousia, meaning ‘presence’], and of the end of the world [aion, meaning ‘age’]?”—Matt. 24:3

They had just heard Jesus tell the people that they would see him no more until he came again. He had told them that the Temple would be destroyed, so they were anxious to know more about these events. When will these things be, and how will we know when you return? It was in response to these questions that our Lord’s great prophecy pertaining to the end of the age was given. Previously he had said little on this subject, for it would have been untimely. Not having the Holy Spirit, the disciples had difficulty in grasping much that Jesus did say to them, and had they prior to this been confronted with the fact that his kingdom was not then to be established, that there was to be an intervening age during which he would be away from them, they would have been confused and disheartened.

But now, truths which previously may have injured them were necessary for their encouragement. They had learned from the Master’s own lips that the Temple was to be destroyed, and that he was going away and would come again. This upset their calculations as to when he would be enthroned as king, and when they would reign with him. It would tell them that his acclamation as king the day before was not to be ratified by the Romans, or meet with the approval of Israel’s religious rulers. If their faith in Jesus as the Messiah was to be maintained, they needed to know more about his going away and returning again.

It is doubtful, however, if the disciples at that time grasped the real meaning of much that Jesus told them in answer to their questions pertaining to the end of the age. In God’s providence, though, the circumstances afforded the Master an excellent opportunity to outline an impressive array of events which would serve his people as signposts when the due time came for them to see these things. His prophecy, moreover, has served to lead the watchers to a proper understanding of Old Testament forecasts. By this means, and later through the Book of Revelation, the Spirit of prophecy has guided the Lord’s earnest people throughout the night until the day dawns, and particularly now, when the “day star,” a harbinger of the sunrise, has arisen.—II Pet. 1:19

The outlining of these dispensational truths was part of the work which the Heavenly Father had given the Master to do, and while death was near, he was more concerned with completing this work than with the suffering which even then he knew would be involved in consummating his sacrifice. He probably could have given the disciples a much shorter answer to their questions. In a sense, he went beyond what they asked, for he outlined the work of the Millennial Age and the restitution work of the kingdom which would follow the calamitous world events which would constitute some of the first signs of his Second Presence. This he did in his wonderfully interesting and revealing parable of the sheep and the goats.—Matt. 25:31-46

What a wonderful example! Because of the frailty of our flesh, if we knew that we had but two or three days to live, we would probably be so concerned with ourselves that we would give little thought to helping others by informing them of events far in the future. But Jesus did. He not only preached this marvelous sermon of prophetic forecast, but having shown that Satan’s world would be destroyed as a result of his Second Presence, he revealed that there was to be a new world, a time during which “all nations” would be given an opportunity to return to God and to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.—vss. 31-34


Portions of the Master’s great prophecy are recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but not by John. In the Lord’s providence John was used to give us a more intimate account of a special season of fellowship between Jesus and his disciples in the “upper room” where, as revealed in the other Gospels, he instituted the Memorial Supper. The King James Version of John 13:2 reads: “… supper being ended …” Some authorities say this should read: “… supper being laid …,” that is, ready to serve. It was at this juncture that Jesus arose from the table and washed his disciples’ feet—a service which properly preceded the supper, but had been neglected because none of the disciples had wanted to perform this menial task.

Thus began a wonderful evening of instruction, the first lesson being on humility—humility stemming from a recognition of that vital and fundamental truth that in the body of Christ none are masters, but all are servants. Jesus asked, “Know ye what I have done to you?” (John 13:12) They knew, of course, that he had washed their feet, but did they grasp the meaning of the fact that their Lord and Master had done it? Jesus wanted to make sure that they did understand the lesson, so he explained, “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.”—John 13:15,16

“Little children,” Jesus said to the eleven, after Judas had departed on his mission of betrayal, “Yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come.” (John 13:33) During the last four days he had experienced exaltation when acclaimed king; he had driven the moneychangers from the Temple; he had healed the sick; he had met the challenge of the religious rulers when they questioned his authority as a teacher and tried to trap him in an argument; he had pointed out their sins, and told them that their house was left desolate; he had preached a long and revealing sermon on prophecy, the Day of Judgment and the coming ‘times of restitution’. All of this had been important in finishing the work the Father had given him to do, and without it he could not properly have glorified his Father.

But there was yet more to be done. There was a message to be given which none but his disciples could appreciate, “So now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another; as I have loved you. … By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples.” (John 13:3335) Peter’s mind ran ahead of the Lord’s instructions, and he wanted to know where Jesus was going. Told that at that time he could not follow, Peter said that he would gladly lay down his life for the Master. Peter meant this, although at the moment did not realize his weakness which later caused him to deny his Lord.

This interruption being over, Jesus returned to the special things he wanted to say to his own on this day when he would be taken from them in death. And how precious were those things which he said! See John, chapters 13-16. Summarizing what Jesus said: “Let not your heart be troubled; I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also; I am the way, the truth, and the life. He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also: and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do. If ye love me, keep my commandments. The Father … shall give you another Comforter. He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.”

Continuing this summary: “I am the vine, ye are the branches. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit. These things have I spoken unto you, that your joy might be full. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. The Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth. Your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. The Father himself loveth you. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”


John does not record the instituting of the Memorial Supper, but he does give us that wonderful prayer which Jesus uttered in the upper room that night—the prayer that followed the Master’s long message of exhortation, warning, and comfort. (John 17) The work the Father had given him to do was now finished, and through it all he had glorified his Father. How fitting that at the conclusion of his work he should invoke his Father’s blessing upon those who would represent him after he had gone. The only personal request which Jesus made in this prayer was that he might be glorified with the Father with the glory which he had with him before the world was. But even this was less than the Father had planned as a reward for the faithfulness of his beloved Son. Jesus was concerned about his disciples, so he prayed for them. He prayed that they might be one as he and the Father were one; prayed that they might be sanctified with the truth, and that they might realize that the Father loved them even as he loved him.

Nor did Jesus, in this closing benediction upon that sacred gathering in the upper room, forget the world, for he extended his petition to the ultimate purpose of the redemption work—“That the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21) It was after Jesus had spoken these words of comfort to his disciples, and of prayer to his Father, that he went forth with them from the city to Gethsemane, where he was betrayed by Judas, and arrested. During those closing days of his earthly life he had worked harder than ever in order that nothing be left undone, and now the end had come.

For Jesus, the ‘dark night’ (John 9:4) when no man can work had settled down. Now it was to be a case of enduring the mental and physical suffering which his enemies would heap upon him. He would have been glad to escape this had it been his Father’s will, but he was resigned to whatever would glorify his Father—“Not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) His work was finished, but still he did not hide his light under a bushel. When asked by Pilate if he were a king, Jesus replied, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world,” explaining, nevertheless, that his kingdom was not of this world.—John 18:36,37

When hanging in agony on the cross, and the thief requested to be remembered in his kingdom, Jesus gave another witness, saying to the thief even on that dark day of ignominy and death, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) He knew that although he was being crucified by his enemies, he would be raised from the dead and exalted to be king over all the earth, and that the result of his reign would be the restoration of paradise, and that the thief as well as all mankind would be there and given an opportunity to believe on him, obey the laws of his kingdom, and live forever. Knowing this, Jesus was glad to use his fast-ebbing strength to say so, and thus to preach a sermon on the “times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”—Acts 3:19-21

The heart-bursting trial of his life came while Jesus hung there upon the cross, for he recognized that momentarily his Father had hidden his smiling face from him, and he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) Actually this was a quotation from the 22nd Psalm. It may have been through meditation on the prayer recorded in the remainder of this psalm in which mention is made of other incidents which Jesus saw taking place before him, that his faith lifted him out of this moment of despair. Regaining his confidence, in his last dying breath he said, “It is finished”—wholly finished. “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” my life.—John 19:30; Luke 23:46

Thus were completed the last five days in the greatest life ever lived—five days during which Jesus was fully aware of the time limit of his ministry. His one concern during those days—even as during the entire period of his ministry—was to glorify his Father, and to do this by “working the works” of his Father, finishing everything which had been given him to do. Self, as always with Jesus; was forgotten. His thoughts were those of glorifying his Father, serving his disciples, and the future blessing of all mankind.

And Jesus is our great Exemplar. While none of us today is able to know just when we may enter our last five days, it is generally conceded among truth-enlightened Christians that the time is short—perhaps shorter than we think. How are we using our time? Are we thinking of self, and of how we can be sure of our own glorification in the kingdom; or are we content to leave that in the hands of our Heavenly Father while we, like Jesus; redouble our efforts to do the works of him who has called us to be his witnesses?

Remembering how Jesus gave his strength to serve his disciples because he loved them, do we love our brethren as he loved us? Are we laying down our lives for them, as he did for us? These are sobering questions which all the consecrated will do well to ponder carefully and prayerfully during this season when shortly we will memorialize the death of the Lamb of God. Let us consider him, follow him, die with him; believing his promise that if we are faithful unto death we shall receive from him the “crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10

Dawn Bible Students Association
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