Wednesday 13 Nisan. The Betrayal
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the
Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law
were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the
people. Then Satan
entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.
And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple
guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.
They were delighted and agreed to give him money.
He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to
them when no crowd was present. (Luke 22:1-6)
Much has been written about the motives that drove
Judas to betray the Lord. Some
say His intentions were honorable while others say they weren't, but the
Bible is silent on the issue.
What it does say is that the betrayal came as no surprise.
Jesus had already predicted it.
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of
you is a devil!”
(He meant Judas, the son of Simon
Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
Some of the disciples asked Jesus where He wanted to
celebrate the Passover because as soon as the sun set it would be Thursday,
the 14th of Nisan.
He told them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying
a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.
Say to the owner of the house he
enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the
Passover with my disciples?’
He will show you a large upper room,
furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” (Mark 14:13-15)
Thursday 14 Nisan. The Crucifixion
When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.
they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one
of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
They were saddened,
and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”
“It is one of the
Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me (Mark
John 12:26-30 confirms that it was Judas, who
went out to alert the authorities as soon as he had taken the bread. His
betrayal was a fulfillment of Psalm 41:9, written by
David 1,000 years earlier. Even
my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his
heel against me.
During the meal, which was eaten at the same time
Moses and the Israelites had eaten the first Passover in Egypt, Jesus
introduced the New Covenant. He
took bread and said it represented His body, given for us, and the wine in
the cup He held represented His blood, shed for the remission of sin.
He said whenever we eat
of the bread and drink of the cup we proclaim the Lord's death until He
comes (1 Cor. 11:23-26).
From that day to this, Christians have celebrated communion on a regular
basis, each time looking back to the cross, where He died in our place, and
forward to the crown, with its promise of eternal life. Paul called it the
crown of righteousness, which the Lord will award to all who have longed for
His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8).
After the meal they went outside the city heading
east toward the Mt. Of Olives, where the Garden of Gethsemane was located.
It was an olive orchard just across the narrow Kidron Valley from the
East Gate of the Temple. On the way, Jesus reminded them of His coming death
and told them they'd soon be scattered for fear of the authorities, in
fulfillment of Zechariah 13:7. But
He promised He'd see them again after His resurrection.
Peter denied that he'd fall away, even if all the others did.
In reply Jesus said “I tell you
the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me
three times” (Matt. 26:34) It happened just as He said.
When they arrived at the Garden, Jesus told them to
wait while He went a little further to pray alone.
1,000 years earlier, David had described what it feels like to be
crucified (Psalm 22:1-18) and Jesus knew full well the terrible
suffering and pain that awaited Him. Three times He asked the Father to not
to make Him go through with it if there was any other way to save mankind
from their sins. Some
theologians call this the unanswered prayer, but the Father's silence was
the answer. There was no other
Without the shedding of blood there can be no
remission of sin (Hebr. 9:22) but the blood of sacrificial animals
was not sufficient to the task.
It only served to remind the people of their sins (Hebr. 10:3-4).
It took the blood of a sinless man to redeem sinful mankind once and
for all (Hebr. 10:11-14).
Jesus knew His prayer had been heard when an angel from Heaven came
to strengthen Him, and He rose to face His accusers.
A couple of the most obvious indicators of the Lord's
messiahship happened during the course of His arrest. When the Temple guards
arrived, Jesus asked who they were looking for and they replied, “Jesus of
Nazareth.” Jesus said, “I am
He”, which caused them all to fall to the ground (John 18:4-6).
The word “He” doesn't appear in the original text. It was added by
the English translators. Jesus
only said “I am”, the name by which God identified Himself to Moses from the
burning bush (Exodus 3:13-14).
It was a clear demonstration of His power to
singlehandedly defeat them had He chosen to.
And as if that wasn't enough, He told Peter He had more than 12
legions of angels at His disposal (Matt. 26-53). That's 72,000
angelic warriors standing by, ready and waiting.
At that point Peter drew a sword and cut off the ear
of the High Priest's servant Malchus (John 18:10).
Jesus touched the man's ear and healed him (Luke 22:51),
telling Peter to put away his sword, saying all who drew the sword would die
by the sword (Matt. 26:52).
The word servant is misleading. Malchus was most
likely one of the High Priest's most trusted assistants, sent with the
guards as his representative to make sure the arrest went as planned.
There's no indication he was a believer, nor did he ask to be healed. With
this miracle the Lord protected Peter from arrest by reversing the effect of
his impulsive act.
By the way, Jesus was not arguing against the taking
up of arms in the general sense.
It was a reminder that Peter was hopelessly outnumbered by
professional soldiers. If he
insisted on brandishing his sword, he would surely die from the thrusts of
That night Jesus endured numerous trials, all of them
illegal. The Jews prided
themselves in their mercy and only rarely invoked the death penalty.
Formal charges always had to be filed before bringing an accused man
to trial. Trials were never held in secret or at night. Conviction required
a unanimous decision by the Sanhedrin, and they had a “sleep on it “ rule
that meant they voted again the next day.
It took the confirming testimony of two independent witnesses to
establish a man's guilt. None of this was the case in the Lord's conviction.
No formal charges were filed. The group of leaders who tried Him purposely
excluded anyone who would have been sympathetic toward Him.
He was convicted on His testimony alone, and confined to a cell for
an early morning execution. The
sleep on it rule was ignored.
When he learned that Jesus had been convicted Judas,
recognizing the terrible mistake he had made, tried to undo it by returning
the 30 pieces of silver he'd
been paid to betray Jesus.
Failing in this he threw the money into the Temple and fled.
Because it was tainted, the priests were unable to return the money
to the treasury, so they purchased a field to be used as a burial ground
from a man who earned his living as a potter (Matt. 27:6-7). All this
had been foretold in remarkable detail 450 years earlier (Zechariah
11:12-13). In his despair
Judas took his own life.
Because the Jewish leaders lacked the authority to
execute a criminal, Jesus had to be found guilty of a capital crime under
Roman law. So they took Him to
Pontius Pilate and stated their case.
But Pilate was not persuaded.
He tried to have Jesus released, but the unruly crowd that had
gathered around demanded that Jesus be crucified.
The Jewish leaders had stirred them up against Jesus and they weren't
going to settle for anything less than His execution.
When Pilate insisted that Jesus had done nothing deserving of death,
they shouted all the louder, “Crucify Him!” Finally he called for water, and
symbolically washing his hands, he said,
“I am innocent of this man's
blood. It is your responsibility” (Matt.
All the people answered, “Let His blood be on us
and on our children!” (Matt. 27:25) And so it has been for the
last 1980 years. Pilate had
Jesus flogged and turned Him over for crucifixion.
The Roman method of flogging was so brutal that many
prisoners didn't survive it.
When they were finished with Jesus He was in deep shock.
Their whips had torn the skin and muscle from His back exposing the
bones of His rib cage. But the worst was yet to come.
It was nine AM when Jesus was nailed to the cross and
for the next 6 hours He endured the most painful method of execution ever
devised. Crucifixion is essentially a death by suffocation.
Because the condemned
man was hanging by his arms, he couldn't draw a full breath unless he
supported His weight with His feet.
But pushing against the nails that were driven through his feet was
so painful he could only do it for a few seconds at a time, so his lungs
slowly filled up with carbon dioxide until he could no longer breathe.
Isaiah 53:4-5 tells us the magnitude of our sins made this
brutality necessary to ensure our spiritual and physical healing.
At noon darkness came over the whole land.
God had turned away, unable to watch, taking His light from the world
as He did. 750 years earlier
the prophet Amos had warned them this would happen.
“In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I
will make the Sun go down at noon and darken the Earth in broad daylight”
Throughout this unspeakable ordeal Jesus had uttered
not a whimper. With all the
power of the Universe at His command He allowed himself to be led like a
lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah
53:7). But the pain of
being separated from His Father was too much for Him to bear.
Finally, at 3 PM He cried out for the first time. “My God, My God,
why have You forsaken Me?”(Matt. 27:46)
Knowing that all was now completed, and so that the
Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put
the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he
bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30)
At the last supper Jesus said He wouldn't drink wine
again until the Kingdom came (Matt. 26:29), and He had refused a
drink of it earlier in the day (Matt. 27:34).
But now He was asking for one.
Also, the Greek word translated “it is finished” was a
commonly used term that meant “paid in full” in normal legal and commercial
affairs. The debt of sin mankind owed to God had been paid.
Taken together these two things indicate that with the Lord's death
phase one of the Kingdom, later to be known as the Church, had come.
Although it would be several hours before the Lord's
body was removed from the cross and placed in a tomb, by 3 PM His Spirit had
departed and was in paradise. All four Gospel accounts agree that the Lord's
death took place on Preparation Day, as Passover had come to be known (Matt.
27:62, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19:31). Christ, our Passover lamb,
had been sacrificed (1 Cor. 5:7) on Passover.
The Jewish leaders asked Pilate for the crucified men
to be off their crosses by sunset when it became the 15th of
Nisan, beginning the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
It was a special Sabbath on which no work could be done (Lev.
23:6-7) and they wanted the crosses to be empty by then (John 19:31).
Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man and a believer in Jesus, asked for
and received the Lord's body.
He and Nicodemus, another prominent believer, laid it in Joseph's own tomb
but were unable to complete the burial process before the sunset brought the
Friday, 15 Nisan. The Feast of Unleavened Bread
For most of Israel in Biblical times the 15th
of Nisan was a day of celebration and rest, commemorating their release from
slavery in Egypt. At the
beginning of the 14th they ate a quick ceremonial meal of lamb,
unleavened bread and bitter herbs like their ancestors had done.
The rabbis said if they consumed a piece of lamb the size of an olive
they had met the requirements for the day. Then they spent the rest of the
14th hurriedly preparing for the coming feast.
That's why the 14th became known as Preparation Day.
But on the 15th it was a different story,
because that's when they ate a large, leisurely meal while they recounted
the story of the Exodus. It was a national holiday on which no regular work
could be done.
For the disciples it was a time of mourning.
Their teacher, their Messiah, had been executed and it felt like 3
years of preparation for the coming Kingdom had been for nought. They were
also afraid they might hear the sound of soldiers coming for them too, in an
effort to completely stamp out the Messianic movement in which they had
placed such great hope. Jesus had told them they would weep and mourn while
the world around them rejoiced.
He said they would grieve, but their grief would turn to joy that no one
could take away (John 16:20-22).
But for now there was only grief.
Unseen to the living another group was having an even
greater celebration than the Jews in Israel.
The spirits of Old Testament believers who had died in the hope that
a redeemer would come to pay for their sins had finally met Him.
Jesus had promised one of the men being crucified with Him that
they'd be together in paradise that very day (Luke 23:42-43), and
there He was, preaching the Good News that their faith had been justified.
He would soon be taking them to Heaven (Ephes. 4:8).
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even
to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in
regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (1
He wasn't there to be tormented by the devil, as some
teach, but to announce His victory, a victory in which those in Paradise
would soon share. Remember, just before He died, He had said, “It is
finished.” The price had been
paid in full, the work was done. There would be no more suffering.
While He was there He also proclaimed His victory to
the spirits in prison who had rebelled against God in the days before the
Great Flood (2 Peter 3:18-20).
Some say these are the fallen angels who are being held in chains
while awaiting their final judgment (Jude 1:6).
Saturday, 16 Nisan. The
Coming on the heels of the previous day's special
sabbath meant that the women were once again prevented from preparing the
Lord's body for burial. Had
there been a regular work day between the crucifixion and the resurrection
they would have prepared the body immediately, as was the custom, and would
not have been there to discover that it was missing.
Sunday, 17 Nisan. The
Resurrection, the Feast of First Fruits
The Feast of First Fruits always came on the day after
the Sabbath that followed Passover.
As the priests were taking a sample of the harvest to the Temple for
dedication, the women were preparing to
finish the job Joseph and Nicodemus had begun three days earlier.
But when they arrived at the tomb they discovered the Lord's body
wasn't there. An angel told
them He had risen, just as He said He would, the first fruits of the first
Jesus appeared and spoke briefly with Mary Magdalene
outside the tomb that morning, asking her not to hold onto Him because He
was going to the Father. The writer of Hebrews tells us He was taking His
blood to sprinkle on the altar in Heaven in His capacity as our High Priest
(Hebr. 9:11-12). This
would open the gates of Heaven to all believers. Mary ran back to tell the
others, but by the time Peter and John got there the Lord was gone.
They both inspected the tomb carefully, amazed to find it was empty.
That afternoon Jesus came alongside 2 of his followers
on the road to Emmaus, but they were initially kept from recognizing Him.
When He asked why they appeared so downcast, they explained all that
had happened concerning Jesus of Nazareth and were surprised that He hadn't
heard about it. And what's
more, they said, it was the third day since all this had taken place (Luke
That comment alone should have forever put to rest the
controversy surrounding the actual day of the Lord's crucifixion.
Think about it. It was
Sunday, the third day since it happened.
That means Saturday would have been the second day since it happened,
Friday the first day since, making
Thursday the day it happened.
That evening Jesus appeared to ten of the disciples.
(Judas was dead and Thomas was missing.) For the first time they
received the Holy Spirit (John 20:19-22).
Then he opened their minds so they could understand
He told them, “This is what is
written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,
repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all
nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.
going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until
you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:45-49).
In these eight days the Lord lived out the essential
doctrine of our faith. Paul
would later write, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first
importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that
he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the
Scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3-4) Believing this is what makes us
Christians. The empty tomb is
proof that our faith is not in vain. Selah 04-07-12