Friday, 6 April 2012

Passion Week: Day 4 (Crucifixion)

Judas, having received a detachment from the Chief Priests and Pharisees, came to Gethsemane with ... weapons. Jesus, knowing all things that would come upon Him, said, ‘Whom are you seeking?’   They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’  Jesus said, ‘I AM He.’  Judas also stood with them.  When He said, ‘I AM He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.  John 18.3-6 

Judas was accompanied by a detachment of the Temple guard, not by any Roman soldiers.  The Gospels do not use the word Roman’ in this incident.   It is an important detail because Jesus fulfilled the prophecies in the Old Testament, not Roman Law. When Jesus identified Himself they drew back and fell to the ground.  

Why did they fall to the ground?  
The phrase ‘I AM’ is represented in the Hebrew text by YHVH.   This is the tetragrammaton, the four letters, the untranslatable Name of God. No wonder they drew back and fell to the ground. 

Following His arrest He was led to a night time assembly of the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders:
They led Jesus away to Annas first, for he was the father in law of Caiaphas who was High Priest that year...and all the Chief Priests, Elders, and Scribes…. sought testimony to put Him to death, but found none for many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.   Then some bore false witness against Him, saying, ‘We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’   But not even then did their testimony agree.  
John 18.13 &  Mark 14.53-59

At this stage of the Feast, the families in Jerusalem were searching their houses for leaven.   They would eventually find some leaven ‘planted’ earlier, remove it, and their houses would be declared clean for Passover on Nisan 15.  At the same time, the Chief Priests were searching Jesus for the leaven of sin, despite the fact that they had failed in their tests on Nisan 12 when He was proved to be the Lamb ‘without blemish’.  Finally, they ‘planted’ their own leaven by using false accusations.  Unfortunately, their testimonies did not agree, so:
The High Priest stood up and asked Jesus, ‘Do You answer nothing?’  But He answered nothing.   Again the High Priest asked, ‘Are You the Messiah?’   Jesus said,  ‘I AM (YHVH) and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ 

The High Priest said, ‘What further need do we have of      witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?’ They all condemned Him to death.  Mark 14.60-64

Jesus kept silent and answered nothing because according to the Talmud, a King is forbidden to testify; Sanhedrin 2.19a. Whilst He kept the instructions in the Talmud, His accusers broke at least three instructions in Sanhedrin 4.32a and 5.40a:
·         The arguments for acquittal must first be marshalled.
·         Capital cases…are not held on the eve of Sabbath or a Feast.
·         If the witnesses contradict each other….their testimony is void.

Each Gospel includes the following detail:
Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. The writing was:
JESUS THE NAZARENE AND KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.   The Chief Priests said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but write, ‘He said, I am the King of the Jews.’    Pilate said, ‘What I have written, I have written.’    John 19.19-22

The Chief Priests were so concerned because the first letters of each of the four words in Hebrew spelt YHVH; the Name of God:

They took Jesus and led Him away. He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, called in Hebrew,Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the centre.  John 19.16-18

In the same way that Jesus fulfilled all the requirements in the Old Testament before He was crucified, there were requirements that had to be fulfilled at His crucifixion:
1. He had to be crucified ‘outside the camp’ in accordance with all capital cases, as decreed in Leviticus 4.21.
2.The distance required to be ‘outside the camp’ was 2000 cubits, about 1000 metres.
3.Since He was the fulfillment of Abraham’s prophecy in Genesis 22.8, God will provide Himself as the Lamb, He must be crucified on the same site as the Akeidah, the Binding of Isaac.
4.He was the ultimate sacrifice for sin, so He must be sacrificed near the Altar of the Red Heifer, the substitute sacrifice for purification from sin, described in Numbers 19.

Since ‘the Place of the Skull, Golgotha,’ must fulfill these requirements, where was it?
Golgotha’ is an Aramaic word, and the Hebrew equivalent is gulgoleth’, which means ‘skull’, ‘poll’ or head’, in the sense of poll tax or census. Golgotha’, therefore, was the place where the Census was taken.  The Census point was on the Mount of Olives, and it was reached from Jerusalem by going through the Miphkad Gate on the Temple Mount, and crossing the Priestly Bridge that spanned the Kidron Valley.

Was it also the site of the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22.2?:
Take now your son...go to the land of Moriah, and offer him..on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.

It is important to notice that God told Abraham to go to the land of Moriah.   The land of Moriah is the area around Jerusalem. He then adds, on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you. The specific mountain in the land of Moriah was the Mount of Olives. 

It was the third hour, (9am) and they crucified Him. When the sixth hour had come, (12am) there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. (3pm). At the ninth hour Jesus cried out , ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ Jesus said, ‘It is finished!’ ..and He gave up His spirit. Mark 15.25,33-34, John 19:30 

There was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour because God provided His own Lamb for the Passover sacrifice, and therefore He stopped the preparation of the substitute lamb in the Temple. Jesus died at the time of the Passover sacrifice set out in the Talmud:
The sacrifice is slaughtered at eight and a half hours (2.30pm) and offered at nine and a half hours (3.30pm) because the flesh of the Passover sacrifice may not be roasted until evening.  Pesachim 58a
The veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom; …..when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, ‘Certainly this was a righteous Man!’  Matthew 27.51-53, Luke 23.47

The removal of the spiritual separation between God and humanity had been completed by Jesus, the Eternal High Priest and only mediator between man and God. The task is finished as Psalm 22.31 states. 

The comment that the centurion saw what had happened is additional evidence that Jesus was crucified on the Mount of Olives, because it is only from there that the centurion could have seen the veil of the temple torn in two.   The Mount of Olives is some 75 metres higher than the Temple Mount.   It must have been a spectacular sight because the veil was 25 metres high, about 7.5 metres wide, and at least 10 centimetres thick.

Now in the place where He was crucified there was a  garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid...When evening had come...Joseph of Arimathea had taken the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed...because of the Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.  John 19.41-42 & Matthew 27.57-60

The underlined phrase in the place where He was crucified indicates that Jesus was buried on the Mount of Olives. In the first century, there were a large number of graves on the Mount of Olives, as there are today.   Since He died at 3pm it was necessary for Him to be buried by sunset, which was about 6pm.  

If we take into account the spectacular events of the darkness and the tearing of the veil, together with the fact that there were probably over 500,000 people on the Temple Mount and on the Mount of Olives, we can understand how they only just managed to put Him in the grave before sunset at the end of the Day of Preparation, Nisan 14.

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