Jesus Christ Our Passover
LAST SUPPER THROUGH BURIAL:
OUR LORD’S SUFFERINGS
The events of the thirteenth and fourteenth of Nisan are documented in more detail than any other two days in the entire Word of God. This alone should demonstrate to us the vital necessity of rightly dividing these records with minute accuracy. If God thought these two days important enough to merit such full reporting, then surely we can consider them important enough to merit our careful scrutiny. We will not see God's Word fit together if we stretch information or ignore details or say, "What difference does it make?" These two days must be given a careful and complete examination for they are filled with some of the most important events of all time.
In the previous three chapters we have studied in detail the events of the thirteenth and fourteenth of Nisan. Because each study was so lengthy, this chapter will review the events of these two days, placing a special emphasis on the sufferings endured by our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
The thirteenth of Nisan began with the last supper and ended in the judgment hall. About the time of sunset closing Monday the twelfth, the last supper began. There is good reason to believe that the location of this supper was Bethany. We also know that this last supper was not the Passover meal, as the supper occurred some forty-eight hours before the Passover meal was scheduled to be eaten. Besides the twelve apostles, other disciples were probably present. The supper included a teaching by Jesus about service, demonstrated by his washing the disciples' feet. At this point in time, Jesus knew that this would be his last meal. He told those present that one of the twelve apostles would betray him. Later, he told Judas he would be the one to do it. Though he had been given the coveted sop, denoting great honor and friendship, Judas left to carry out his plan of betrayal. Also at this meal, Jesus Christ instituted the "holy communion." After the diners finished eating, he foretold that Peter would deny him; he gave them the commandment concerning love and taught them great truths about God's peace and the future; and he taught them of the coming comforter, the gift of holy spirit. They sang a hymn of praise and departed to the Mount of Olives. Their eventual destination was a familiar spot, the Garden of Gethsemane.
During this walk to the garden, Jesus spoke forth the magnificent truths of John 15 and 16. He stopped and prayed the tremendous prayer of the seventeenth chapter of John. He taught them of fellowship, of the future, their power of attorney, and of his death. Also during this walk, he twice declared that Peter would deny him, while Peter persistently insisted that he would stand for Jesus in the face of all difficulties.
Finally, Jesus and his disciples arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane. There, while his disciples fell asleep, Jesus prayed fervently three separate times. As Jesus put his entire heart and soul into the prayer, his perspiration was profuse. In his prayers he asked God if any other way could be found to accomplish God's purpose without the agonizing suffering and death Jesus had before him. After three prayers, the final and complete answer was established: there was no other way. Jesus was to go through with the stream of coming events as they had been revealed to him.
At this point in the late evening, hundreds of armed Roman soldiers, officers of the Levitical Temple guard, and incensed religious leaders arrived at the Garden. Awed by Jesus Christ's collected, fearless behavior when he came out to them to ask whom they sought, the questioning soldiers stepped back and dropped to the ground. Judas came and kissed Jesus hoping to fool the disciples while secretly showing the soldiers which man to arrest. Jesus, however, was not deceived. In the turmoil and tension of the moment, Peter pulled out his dagger and cut the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest. Jesus demanded that Peter stop his fighting and turned to Malchus and performed a miracle of healing, restoring his ear. Jesus reproved those arresting him, and then he gave himself over to the soldiers. As the soldiers led him away, the disciples scattered.
Jesus was then brought to the palace of the high priest where he first appeared before Annas. In the meantime, Peter had followed and had managed, with the help of an influential disciple, to get into the inner courtyard of this palace. That disciple had used his influence to convince the young, female doorkeeper to let Peter in. This doorkeeper suddenly asked Peter if he were one of Jesus' disciples. Peter denied it. While Jesus was before Annas, the high priest began to interrogate him and Jesus responded with even-tempered emotions and boldness. Outraged by a challenge given the high priest by Jesus, an officer standing nearby beat him with a thin, whip-like cane, the first of many beatings dealt to Jesus before his crucifixion.
From Annas, Jesus was taken to Caiaphas. At this time two noted events occur simultaneously. While Jesus was within the palace facing Caiaphas, Peter was out in the courtyard facing a series of accusations.
When Jesus was taken before Caiaphas, he faced not only Caiaphas, but the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin gathered there as well. This trial was full of illegalities. It began late at night, an unlawful hour for such a gathering. The priests and Sanhedrin illegally sought and used false witnesses in an attempt to frame Jesus. Finally the high priest himself interrogated Jesus. When they heard him say he was the Messiah, for he would one day sit at God's right hand, Caiaphas ripped his priestly mantle in anger and accused Jesus of blasphemy.
The Sanhedrin, following Caiaphas' lead, judged Jesus guilty and called for the death penalty. Having done this, the high priest, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders began to torture Jesus: they spit in his face; they put a covering over his head so he couldn't see and began to beat him repeatedly on the face and body with their fists and whip-like rods; they thoroughly thrashed him, opening terrible wounds. While beating him on the head, they jeered at him to prophesy who was hitting him. They were mocking his being a prophet by challenging him to identify his unseen attackers.
In the meantime, Peter was still out in the courtyard cold, weary, afraid, and restless. He was growing increasingly fearful of the people around him. As he sat by the fire, a young maiden came up and directly accused him of having been with Jesus. Peter, trembling, denied it, his second denial. After a little while a man walked up and accused him of being one of the disciples. Peter denied Jesus a third time. Peter went back to the courtyard entrance and a cock crowed. Peter was nervous about those who had accused him, for he was deep in enemy territory and did not want to be caught. The fourth accuser was another maiden who kept the door. She accused him of having been with Jesus (who at that very time was being beaten inside the palace). With an oath, Peter swore he did not know Jesus and returned to the fire in the courtyard. Before long, several of those at the fire suspiciously began accusing him of being one of the Galilean disciples of Jesus. Swearing and cursing, Peter vowed that he did not know Jesus. Very quickly a man who had seen him at the Garden of Gethsemane spoke up in recognition and confidently accused him. Peter denied Jesus for the sixth time and he heard the cock crow a second time while yet speaking the final denial. With that, he looked up and saw the beaten face of his master. Their eyes met in an emotion-filled moment no words will ever adequately describe. Remembering his lord's prophecies only a few hours before and seeing his master so badly marred, Peter walked out of the courtyard into the street in tears. By now it was early morning, approximately 1:30 A.M. Concerning what occurred between this moment and sunrise, God's Word is silent.
Around dawn the priests and Sanhedrin met again to try Jesus, according to their legal standard of two trial appearances for capital offences. This trial appearance also was a sham, though it had the pretense of looking official. They brought up the same questions and accusations they had used a few hours before. Jesus unwaveringly gave the same responses. The accusers' judgment became final: this man should die. With that, Jesus was led away to the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate.
Before Pilate, the religious leaders presented a distorted version of their accusation in order to convince him. Pilate questioned Jesus and found no fault in him. Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the religious leaders persisted. Pilate finally found respite for himself when he heard that Jesus was a Galilean. With this, Pilate conveniently had an excuse to send Jesus to Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee. A tetrarch was a governor of one-fourth of a province. The religious leaders followed Jesus as he was taken to Herod.
Herod happened to be in Jerusalem that day. Upon seeing the renowned Jesus, he mockingly asked him to do a miracle. The religious leaders were vociferous in their accusations. Receiving no reply from Jesus, Herod and his soldiers treated him with contempt. They dressed him in ornate, royal raiment as if he were a king and sent him back to Pilate. With this mutual involvement in the case of Jesus, Pilate and Herod became friends for the first time.
In the meantime, Judas had become distraught by the chain of events. He returned to the Temple to bring the thirty pieces of silver, the betrayal money, back to the priests and elders. They rejected it because it was "blood money." Judas, greatly distressed, threw the money down in the Temple and left, choked with emotion and grief. He could get rid of the money given him for betraying Jesus, but he could not erase the deed itself. The chief priests and elders took Judas' money. But since they could not put "blood money" into the Temple treasury, they used it to buy land for burying strangers.
By this time Jesus had been returned from Herod to Pilate. Once again, Pilate asked Jesus if he were a king. Jesus agreed that he was. As the religious leaders then began to barrage him with accusations, Jesus did not respond. Neither did he respond to Pilate. Pilate was totally amazed by this Jesus of Nazareth. Realizing that the religious leaders were trying to get rid of Jesus out of envy, but still afraid of going against their wishes, Pilate decided he would take the issue of what to do with Jesus to the people.
By involving the people, Pilate thought he would get them to support Jesus' release. When the religious leaders and the people were gathered before Pilate, they cried for the release of a prisoner according to the custom of releasing one prisoner at Passover time. Pilate gave them a choice: Jesus Christ or a murderer and revolutionary named Jesus Barabbas. By this time, Pilate was becoming increasingly disturbed and inextricably caught in a web of emotion. At a crucial, awkward moment, his own wife warned him to let Jesus go. But the people, influenced by the religious leaders, called for the release of Barabbas. Pilate offered to scourge Jesus and let him go. But the crowd insisted on having Barabbas released, not Jesus Christ.
Shaken, Pilate went back into the judgment hall. It is here that he had Jesus scourged. Jesus was brutally flogged by Roman soldiers with a whip having bone or metal at the end of the thongs. The effects of such punishment are described by the Psalmist.
Psalms 129: 2 and 3 -- Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.
The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.
When being whipped in this way, the condemned man would be stripped and tied to a stake. The whipping on his bare back would hideously gouge the flesh, literally plowing it loose from the ribs and vertebrae. Large ugly welts would be raised on the body as the rows of plowed flesh lined his back. Bleeding would be profuse. Pilate's soldiers also beat him again with their whip-like rods and placed a crown of thorns on his head.
We must remember that there is no record of Jesus' getting any sleep between the time of his arrest (or even for some time before it) until the time of his death. His disciples were too weary to pray with him as early as the time of his arrest. Think how weary Jesus must have been by the time he appeared before Pilate. Such fatigue heightens a person's sensitivity to pain.
Pilate then put a purple outer garment on Jesus, possibly a mantle. Having so badly scourged him, Pilate paraded him before the people, a laughingstock of a king. Pilate hoped that seeing a man in this condition would cause the crowd to sympathize and call for his release.
With bloody visage, Jesus was disgraced, a public spectacle. Pilate said, "Behold the man!" One wonders how much Jesus even resembled a man at this time. Long before, Isaiah had prophesied of the extreme physical disfiguration the Messiah would suffer.
Isaiah 52: 14 -- . . . his form, disfigured, lost all the likeness of a man, his beauty changed beyond human semblance. – [New English Bible]
Jesus Christ was beaten so badly that he was changed beyond human semblance. Despite Pilate's ploy to gain sympathy for Jesus, the mob's reply, again under the influence of the religious leaders, was to crucify Jesus. With this, Pilate went back into the judgment hall and interrogated Jesus one last time. It did no good. He still found no way to convince the crowd to call for Jesus' release. Pilate tried one more appeal to the crowd. Though desperate in his desire to let Jesus go, Pilate dreaded going against the crowd's wishes. The crowd taunted his position as a Roman ruler by pitting Jesus' claim as king against the kingship of Caesar, thereby insinuating that Pilate was allowing Jesus to commit treason. This was unbearable pressure for Pilate. The crowd prevailed. By this time it was about noon on Tuesday.
After conceding to the crowd, Pilate washed his hands, a symbolic act of ridding himself of the responsibility of Jesus' death. He placed the responsibility on the Judeans--who readily accepted it. Although the execution was carried out by Pilate's Roman soldiers, in the final analysis, the Judean religious leaders were responsible for the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pilate gave in to the pressure they heaped on him. The contradictory and desperate actions of Pilate make him one of the most intriguing personalities in this record.
After this Pilate sent Jesus into the judgment hall (called the Praetorium) with the soldiers on the afternoon of the thirteenth of Nisan. Little is known about what occurred between then and the next morning. What is recorded tells of horrendous torture.
Pilate had Jesus brutally flogged again. At the Praetorium, a cohort of four to six hundred soldiers gathered to mock and torture him some more. They stripped Jesus again. Each time his garments were stripped from him, the dried blood and scabs sticking to them would be painfully ripped off. They mockingly dressed him in a royal purple garment and a scarlet military cloak.
After braiding a crown made out of thorns, the soldiers mercilessly pressed it into his scalp and stuck a reed in his hand as if it were a royal scepter. They tauntingly began bowing before him as if he were a king. Then they spit on him, grabbed the reed, and began beating him on the head with it. Each blow drove the thorns into his head with agonizing pain. Head wounds are known to bleed profusely. Every garment put on him would become stained and soaked with the blood. As the blood collected on his scalp, his hair would be grotesquely matted down. Along with the torture, the mocking continued.
By morning, the soldiers put his own garments back on him, once again renewing the pain and bleeding by changing his clothes. Then they dragged him out of the judgment hall. By this time it is doubtful that he was capable of walking on his own.
As the soldiers left the Praetorium, they singled out a man passing by named Simon of Cyrene. The soldiers compelled him to bear the cross that Jesus could not possibly have had the strength to carry. He was so weak and badly beaten that he could barely stand on his feet, let alone bear a cross. The soldiers would have to carry him to Golgotha.
Going through the streets of Jerusalem, the throngs saw a completely battered man, one who was a bloody mass of beaten, torn flesh; one who was beyond human semblance; one who was hardly recognizable as a man; one who had been thrashed savagely with whips and rods, pounded with fists, cuffed with palms, and repeatedly beaten with sticks; one who had his face and head covered and beaten savagely while being taunted to name his unseen strikers; one who had his dried scabs repeatedly torn off by those changing his garments to mock him; one who had two crowns of thorns placed on his head, at least one of which was beaten into his scalp; one who, in the face of all this physical torture, was accused and interrogated in a manner totally illegal, unfounded, and relentless; one who was spit upon repeatedly, dressed and undressed by others at will, paraded as a fool's "king" before a multitude clamoring for his death, and mocked as a fool's "king" by hundreds of torturing soldiers.
This is the man whom the crowd lined the streets of Jerusalem to see that day. This is the man the soldiers carried, with his accusation in full display, to Golgotha that Wednesday morning. This was our savior. This was our Passover lamb. This was the ultimate sacrifice. This was a man who had done nothing but love people, heal people, and declare God's truth. This was the man who could have summoned over 72,000 angels to free him at a moment's notice, but rather chose to bear the full pain and humiliation. This was the man who did it all because he so loved you and me. This was God's only begotten Son.
As the soldiers dragged Jesus up to Golgotha, he managed to turn his head toward some women among the crowd. Rather than asking for pity, he declared to them the truth of what was coming to pass. Jesus' tremendous ability to rivet his mind on God's Word at all times, under all circumstances, is awesome.
Two malefactors were taken to Golgotha for crucifixion at the same time Jesus was. As they approached Golgotha, a drink of wine and myrrh was given to him, which he refused to drink. Such drinks were normally offered as painkillers for the victim, but Jesus Christ chose to bear the full pain and agony for us.
Upon arriving at Golgotha a second drink was offered to him. This was a cheap wine mixed with gall, a painkiller. He tasted it but again refused to drink. In crucifying him at Golgotha, the law of killing the Passover lamb outside the city gates was fulfilled.
The soldiers then nailed Jesus to the cross, with the two malefactors on crosses to each side of him. It was about 9:00 A.M. The soldiers guarding Jesus' cross took off his outer garment. They ripped it up into four parts, giving a part to each of the four attending soldiers. Then they took his seamless tunic and gambled for it. Once again the mocking crowd began their derision, urged on by the religious leaders. They challenged Jesus to prove himself to be the Messiah by getting down off the stake. Mocking him, the soldiers offered him another drink of cheap wine. The soldiers then sat down and watched Jesus. The accusation, which had been ordered by Pilate to be written in three languages, was then placed over his head on the cross. While one of the malefactors reviled him, the other one spoke kindly and believed. To the latter, Jesus turned and promised a future paradise. Then two more men, robbers, were brought out to be crucified with the three who had been crucified earlier. There were now five crucified.
The railings continued. From noon until about 3:00 P.M. there was darkness over the face of the earth. Then with a shout of triumph, Jesus Christ exclaimed, "My God! My God! For this purpose was I spared!" His purpose was the accomplishment of our redemption. It was a cry of victory in the midst of what appeared to be total defeat. The hardened, sceptical crowd misunderstood Jesus to be crying for Elijah. One of them ran, filled a sponge with the wine, placed it on a reed, and lifted it, offering it to Jesus. This was the fourth drink offered to him.
During his last hours on the cross, Jesus thoughtfully entrusted his mother to the disciple whom he loved. Then he finally requested a drink with the short statement, "I thirst." One of his friends or one of his family, with the use of some hyssop, lifted a drink to Jesus' lips.
Then he cried, "It is finished!" He had finished the work God had sent him to do. With that he proclaimed, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." He bowed his head and gave up his life. After approximately forty hours of relentless mental and physical torture, the Son of God was dead. At that moment, the veil of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, eliminating the separation between God and man; our sins had been atoned for. Simultaneously there was a great earthquake. The entire series of events caused the centurion, the military officer in charge, to believe. The people looking on at Golgotha beat their breasts in fear and awe.
Before long, soldiers came from Pilate. Breaking the legs of two of the criminals on the first two crosses in order to hasten their death, the soldiers came to Jesus on the center cross. Jesus was dead already so they did not break his legs. However, one of the soldiers took a spear and pierced his side, causing blood and water to gush out.
Finally, a highly respected man named Joseph of Arimathea requested from Pilate the body of Jesus. Believing that Jesus would rise from the dead, Joseph, with the help of his servants, took the body down from the cross on Golgotha and buried it in a sepulchre close by. The women watched as Joseph simply wrapped Jesus' body with a linen cloth and laid him in the tomb. He closed the tomb and left. The women left to make preparation for a proper burial later on. After they had gone, Nicodemus, another Judean ruler, came with his servants to the tomb and buried Jesus again. This time the burial was according to Judean custom. The burial was completed before sunset ending Wednesday, the fourteenth of Nisan.
As we look back on the crucifixion, we see the extreme in agony and suffering. Jesus had been beaten, whipped, mocked, interrogated, and accused during a period of well over thirty hours from the time of his arrest to the time he was led to Golgotha. The mental pressure before and during this time was every bit as agonizing as the physical beatings. His visage was so marred that Isaiah prophesies, "we hid as it were our faces from him."
Finally, he hung on the cross for approximately six hours before his death. Hanging on a cross was terrible torture. Breathing was painful, almost impossible. There would be terrible muscle spasms and cramps. Nails through the hands or feet would sever extremely sensitive nerves and tendons. Compounded with the pain, blood, and wounds prior to crucifixion, the experience of our savior's last six hours of life from 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. was the ultimate degree of agony.
Jesus suffered every physical hurt imaginable without having any bones broken. The buffeting with clenched fists would have caused great bruises or contusions. The thorns beaten into his head could cause penetration wounds pouring forth blood. The nails driven into his hands and his feet would cause wounds of perforation. The flogging and whipping he underwent would cause tremendous lacerations. But Jesus Christ experienced many other painful wounds, mentally and physically, besides these.
He was a man acquainted with sickness, pain, and grief. He was a man who became the lowest so that he could uphold anyone who would believe. He is a man who can save to the uttermost those who want to believe. He is our brother, who suffered and died for you and for me. He so loved us that his wounds overcame our transgressions, our external sins. His bruises overcame our iniquities and internal sins. His mental distress overcame our lack of peace and our unsound minds. His stripes overcame our physical sickness. He is a complete savior. He is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 52: 14 to 53: 12 -- As many were astonied [amazed] at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
For he [Jesus Christ] shall grow up before him [God] as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry [parched] ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him [no beauty that we should be attracted to him] .
He [Jesus Christ] is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows [pains], and acquainted with grief [sickness]: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs [sickness], and carried our sorrows [pains]: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
In dying this ignoble death, Jesus Christ was numbered with the transgressors. Yet, because he who knew no sin became sin, God has made us the righteousness of God in him. In Jesus Christ we have the most precious gift of all: eternal life.