Jesus Christ Our Passover
THE FOURTEENTH OF NISAN:
[Be sure to read Part One before proceeding.]
Luke 23: 43 should read: ". . . Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise." The placement of the comma AFTER today makes all the difference between truth and error. That is the accuracy of God's Word.
Now let's consider the events that happened soon after this exchange of words between Jesus Christ and the two malefactors.
Matthew 27: 38 -- Then [not before then] were there two thieves [Greek: duo lestai,† two robbers] crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another [the word another is "one"] on the left.
Mark 15: 27 and 28 -- And with him they crucify two thieves [duo lestai,† two robbers]; the one on his right hand, and the other ["other" is "one"] on his left.
And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
The King James Version calls these two wrongdoers "thieves." Actually the Greek word lestai†† means "robber" as does the Aramaic lstya.† A robber was a blatant criminal who might use violence. In contrast, a thief was one who used stealth and who was not considered such a dangerous criminal. In Luke 23 we read of "two malefactors" or evildoers. Here in Matthew 27 and Mark 15 we read of "two robbers." While every robber is a malefactor, an evildoer, there are many malefactors who are not robbers. Now, the question we must ask is: are the malefactors of Luke 23 identical with the robbers of Matthew 27 and Mark 15? The answer is clearly no.
Luke 23: 32 explicitly declared that the two malefactors were led out with Jesus and were crucified at the same time as he. Also in Luke 23: 32 to 43 we saw that Jesus and the two malefactors were led to Calvary and crucified before† any of the following incidents occurred: Jesus' garments were parted, he was reviled by the people, the superscription was placed above his head, and he was jeered at by one of the malefactors.
In Matthew 27: 35 to 38 and Mark 15: 24 to 27, the two robbers are shown to have been brought after Jesus was put up on the cross, after the parting of the garments, after the guards sat to watch him, and after the placement of the superscription. Clearly the two malefactors and the two robbers were not identical. Thus, in total, four men were crucified with Jesus.
Matthew 27: 39 to 44 -- And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it† in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, †with the scribes and elders, said,
He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
He trusted in God; let him [God] deliver him now, if he [God] will have him: for he [Jesus] said, I am the Son of God.
The thieves [robbers] also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth [notice that both robbers reviled Jesus].
Mark 15: 29 to 32 -- And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it† in three days,
Save thyself, and come down from the cross.
Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.
Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they ["they" refers to the "robbers" of verse 27] that were crucified with him reviled him.
In the Gospel of Luke we learned that only one of the malefactors reviled Jesus; the other one became a believer. Here in Matthew 27 and Mark 15 both robbers reviled Jesus. This is more evidence that the two robbers were different from the two malefactors. Concluding evidence is found in John 19: 18.
John 19: 18 -- Where [at Golgotha] they crucified him [Jesus], and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
This verse is not set chronologically. The context emphasizes the place of the crucifixion. The word "one" in John 19: 18 is omitted in every† critical Greek text. It was added by translators simply because they assumed only two were crucified with Christ. In adding the word "one," they manufactured a discrepancy in God's Word. The phrase "on either side" is, in the Greek, enteuthen kai enteuthen.† It means "on this side and on that side." In Revelation 22: 2, these same words are translated in the phrase "on either side of the river." But here in John 19, the word duo, †two, tells how many were on each side. Literally, from the Greek, John 19:18 reads, "Where him they crucified, and with him others, two on this side and on that side, and Jesus in the midst." This is a tremendous truth from God's Word.
To seal the accuracy of John 19: 18, we should note the word "midst." Grammatically, one person would be crucified "between" two; when more than two surround a person, he is in the "midst" of them.
*** [At Ploubezere near Lannion, in the Cotes-du-Nord, Brittany, there is a representation at an early Christian shrine of Calvary with five crosses. Why would this old shrine have been built this way if there had only been two crucified with Jesus? The altar slab when consecrated in a Roman Catholic Church has five crosses cut into it: one cross is in the center and one cross is in each of the four corners. This has become a popular symbol known as "the Jerusalem cross." Perhaps its origin may be traced to the four others crucified with Jesus. See The Companion Bible, Appendix 164, pp. 187 to 188; Donald T. Kauffman, The Dictionary of Religious Terms† (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1967), p. 262; and Encyclopaedia Britannica,† 1954, s.v. "Altar."]
While these five men hung suspended on their crosses, observe how the religious leaders and those passing by mocked Jesus as recorded in Matthew 27. Even when their enemy Jesus was a beaten, dying man, they would not relent in their verbal pummeling of him. They jeered at him, saying he should walk right off the cross if he were God's Son. Little did they understand that it was Jesus' obedience to God that kept him from doing just that.
Matthew 27: 45 -- Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
Mark 15: 33 -- And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
Luke 23: 44 and 45 -- And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
And the sun was darkened. . . .
As we reckon time, the earth was dark from about noon to 3 PM.† Around the time of the ninth hour, about 3 PM, several things happened that are very intriguing and spiritually significant. To see this we must look at one of the least understood records in God's Word.
Matthew 27: 46 -- And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?† that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Mark 15: 34 -- And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?† which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
These two verses from Matthew 27 and Mark 15, as translated in the King James Version, indicate a cry of defeat and as such have misled well-meaning people for hundreds of years. By this time Jesus had gone through nearly forty hours of interrogation, mockery, beatings, and suffering, all without so much as murmuring one complaint. Yet now it would appear that he, in a loud voice, accused God of deserting him.
That God forsook Jesus has been explained by the rationale that Jesus became sin and God could not tolerate sin; consequently, God left Jesus to die alone. This idea contradicts every other pertinent scripture in the Word of God.
Matthew 27: 46, as well as the same record in Mark 15: 34, should have caught our attention from the beginning. Why did the translators leave those foreign words in the verse? This deviation from normal translation procedures should have caused us to wonder and question.
To see exactly what God's Word does say, we need to do some background study. Look at the Gospel of John where Jesus had spoken earlier to his apostles.
John 16: 32 -- Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
In this statement, Jesus was referring to the time of his crucifixion and of his death. Of that time of suffering, Jesus said, "The Father is with me." Yet Matthew 27: 46 says, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
John 10: 30 testifies, "I and my† Father are one." II Corinthians 5: 19 says, "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself . . . . .†† ". In purpose, God and Jesus Christ were totally united. John 8: 29 says Jesus Christ always did those things that pleased God. Would a loving father forsake an obedient son in an hour of need? God indeed was with Jesus Christ while he was dying on the cross.
We read previously in Matthew 26 what Jesus said at the time he was taken captive.
Matthew 26: 53 -- Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions [twelve legions equals 72,000] of angels?
A person has to be in good standing with God to get that kind of assistance. Jesus' Father would have given him over 72,000 angels. Jesus could have walked right out of the situation should he have so desired. Why? Because "I and my† Father are one," "the Father is with me," "I do always the things that please him." If Jesus Christ was always doing the Father's will, he must have been doing his Father's will when he was dying upon the cross. Yet Matthew 27: 46 says, "Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?† that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This verse clearly contradicts the rest of God's Word.
So how do we make sense of all this? First of all, the foreign words in verse 46 of Matthew 27 are not Greek words, they are Aramaic. Jesus spoke Aramaic. These Aramaic words show up in this particular scripture because the translators were not absolutely certain about their meaning. When Jesus' words were translated into Greek, the translators let the Aramaic words remain and then added what they thought the Greek translation might be. Later the King James translators, when translating from the Greek manuscripts, simply translated the Greek and left the Aramaic words in the text.
Let's carefully study Matthew 27: 46 to learn exactly what it says. According to all Aramaic sources, the word lama† is actually lmna.† Lmna† is used as a declaration of "for this purpose" or "for this reason." The root of sabachthani† (or shbqthni ) is shbq.† Shbq† means "to spare, to leave, to reserve, or to keep." The word "reserved" found in Romans 11: 4 is, in the Aramaic, from the root word shbq.† Since this is a quote from I Kings 19: 18, the word shaar† in the Old Testament text is the Hebrew counterpart of the Aramaic shbq† in this case.
Romans 11: 4 -- But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved [shbq] to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of† Baal.
I Kings 19: 18 -- Yet I have left [Hebrew: shaar] me† seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
Romans 11: 4 is a quotation of I Kings 19: 18. The word "left" in I Kings 19: 18 is the word "reserved" in Romans 11: 4, where it is taken from the Aramaic word shbq.† Shbq† is translated "remaining" in the following three scriptures.
II Kings 10: 11 -- So Jehu slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolks, and his priests, until he left him none remaining [shbq].
Deuteronomy 3: 3 -- So the Lord our God delivered into our hands Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people: and we smote him until none was left to him remaining [shbq].
Joshua 10: 33 -- Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua smote him and his people, until he had left him none remaining [shbq].
This, along with the other scriptures revealing that God remained with Jesus, shows that shbq† does not mean "to forsake" in Matthew 27: 46. Rather it means "to reserve," "to spare," or "to leave remaining." Going back to Matthew 27, the time was approaching the ninth hour, three o'clock in the afternoon, when Jesus spoke from the cross. Hanging on the cross at that critical hour, Jesus came forth with this utterance from the depth of his soul, "Eli, Eli, lmna shbqthni?† that is to say, My God, my God, for this purpose I was spared" or "My God, my God, for this purpose was I reserved. "
Soon after this, Jesus uttered the words, "It is finished." What was finished? The work God had laid before His Son. Jesus Christ had given his own life and paid the price, he had borne his spiritual cross. He who knew no sin had become sin so that you and I might become the righteousness of God in him.
II Corinthians 5: 21 -- For he hath made him to be† sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
His sacrifice for us as the Passover lamb was finished. The soldiers and accusers did not take his life. It was not the nails driven through his hands that held him to the cross, not the nails driven through his feet. He could have come off that cross at any moment for he had over twelve legions of angels at his command. Do you know why Jesus kept hanging on that cross? Jesus stayed on the cross for he so loved that he gave his own life for man's redemption. Under these circumstances do you think God would desert His only-begotten Son?
Suppose you had an only son and right now your son was dying. Would you be reading this book on Jesus' life or would you be with your son? The answer is obvious. You would be with your son. And yet, your son has sinned; he has done things contrary to your will. Still you would want to be with him. Do you think that God Almighty is less caring for His Son than you are? Jesus Christ was God's only-begotten Son; Jesus always did the Father's will. When he was dying upon the cross, whose will was he doing? The Father's. Where do you think the Father was? With him.
When Jesus was dying upon the cross, he did not cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" . . . but rather, "My God, my God, for this purpose was I spared, for this purpose was I kept, for this purpose came I into the world, for this purpose was I reserved."
Now we have an accurate translation of Matthew 27: 46, one of the most commonly mistranslated verses of scripture in the King James Version. Now, accurately translated, this verse harmonizes with the other passages in the Word of God.
God stayed with His Son. This was not only their† triumphant hour, but ours also, for it was at this point that Jesus Christ, the second Adam, fulfilled the legal requirements for our redemption and salvation. This was Jesus Christ's purpose for coming into the world. This was his cry of triumph.
Evidently, this cry caused as much confusion to the listeners there at the cross that day as it has to readers since then.
Matthew 27: 47 -- Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man† calleth for Elias.
Mark 15: 35 -- And some of them that stood by, when they heard it,† said, Behold, he calleth Elias.
These are very informative verses if looked at with spiritual understanding. "Elias" is the Greek rendering of "Elijah", one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. In Malachi 4: 5, one of the last verses of the Old Testament, God declared that He would send Elijah before "the great and dreadful day of the Lord." God was here figuratively speaking of John the Baptist, as Jesus so plainly showed his disciples.
Matthew 17: 10 to 13 -- And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
However, during the four hundred or so years from the Prophet Malachi to Jesus Christ, many pagan beliefs influenced Judaism. One of these beliefs was reincarnation. Thus, the meaning of Malachi's prophecy had become corrupted and people began believing that Elijah would be reincarnated and literally return. This concept is totally contrary to God's Word which declares that the dead will remain dead until Christ returns to resurrect them. Reincarnation is totally contradictory to God's Truth. If you remember, some people even believed that Jesus Christ was either Elijah or John the Baptist or another of the prophets reincarnated. That is how doctrinally corrupt Judaism had become by the time of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 16: 13 and 14 -- When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art †John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
In looking at Matthew 27: 46 and 47, we can now understand the confusion. When Jesus said, "Eli," the onlookers thought he said the Aramaic word for Elijah. They thought Jesus was calling for a reincarnated Elijah to come and rescue him from the cross. Because of their corrupt religion, they misunderstood his words and missed out on one of the greatest cries of all times.
Matthew 27: 48 and 49 -- And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge [Greek: spongos] , and filled it† with vinegar [cheap, sour wine in both Greek and Aramaic], and put it† on a reed, and gave him to drink.
The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias [Elijah] will come to save him.
Mark 15: 36 -- And one ran and filled a spunge [spongos] full of vinegar [cheap, sour wine in both Greek and Aramaic], and put it† on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying [Aramaic reads, "they said"], Let alone; let us see whether Elias [Elijah] will come to take him down.
This was the fourth drink offered to Jesus Christ. The wine was a cheap, sour wine offered on a sponge and stuck on the end of a reed. This was held up to Jesus. There is, again, no indication that he accepted it. With the offering of this drink came the comment, "Leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah will come and save him." The jeering beholders were sure Jesus had called for Elijah.
Included among the events occurring while Jesus was hanging on the cross, at a time not exactly specified, are instructions Jesus gave to some people he dearly loved. This information is given in John 19.
John 19: 25 to 27 -- Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife† of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home †[the word "home" is incorrectly supplied].
Sometime during the agonizing hours on the cross, Jesus looked and saw his mother standing close by. Also standing by was the disciple whom he loved, perhaps Lazarus of Bethany. Referring to this disciple, Jesus told his mother Mary, "Behold thy son." Jesus was telling her, "I'm dying. From now on he will be to you as a son." Then Jesus looked at the disciple whom he dearly loved and said, "Behold thy mother." In other words, "You treat her as your mother; see that she is well provided for." What a tender, loving gesture by Jesus Christ at a time of intense pain. He was still concerned about others and wanted to meet their needs.
Sometime after this, very near his death, Jesus Christ expressed his desire for a drink with the simple statement, "I thirst."
John 19: 28 to 30 -- After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that [so that] the scripture might be [was] fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar [cheap, wine]: and they filled a spunge [spongos] with vinegar [cheap, sour wine], and put it †[the wine] upon hyssop, and put it† to his mouth.
When Jesus therefore had received [lambano] the vinegar [cheap, sour wine]. . .
Psalms 69: 21 says, ". . . and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." He had already been offered and refused four drinks. Now finally he requested a drink. The context indicates that this request was made to his family and close friends standing nearby. One of them responded and utilized hyssop to offer this fifth drink to him. This use of hyssop is a throwback to the first Passover when the children of Israel were to dip hyssop in the sacrificial blood and then use it to sprinkle the blood across the doorposts and lintels of their houses. According to Exodus 12: 3 and 4, that first Passover was to be observed by individual families and close friends. Here at the sacrifice of the true and final Passover lamb, hyssop, family, and friends are again involved.
Verse 29 of John 19 has been misread to say the sponge was attached to the hyssop. That is very doubtful because hyssop is not a firm stick that could support a sponge. They filled the sponge with the wine and then used the sponge to squeeze the wine onto the hyssop. The hyssop's thick, hairy leaves and branches can be made into a bunch that holds moisture very well. Hyssop tied with a scarlet cord to a cedar handle was used in purification ceremonies of the Old Testament.
Hyssop has long been known for its value in healing and purifying. Besides Passover, hyssop was also used in the Old Testament in the cleansing of a healed leper and of a house delivered from plague and was to be used in the cleansing of anyone who had been in contact with a dead body. Psalms 51: 7 says, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean . . . ." It was used by Moses in sprinkling blood on the book of the covenant before all the people. Only this fifth drink did Jesus request and accept.
It is interesting that, Biblically speaking, the number five signifies grace. All of these details are meaningful when we consider the words of John 19: 28.
John 19: 28 -- After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
Immediately after drinking, Jesus said, "It is finished."
Matthew 27: 50 -- Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice. . .
Mark 15: 37 -- And Jesus cried with a loud voice. . . .
Luke 23 : 46 -- And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice. . .
John 19: 30 -- . . . he said, It is finished. . . .
Of all the words from the cross that are recorded, the words "It is finished" are the only ones that could be the loud cry referred to above. Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not say what the words were that he cried with a loud voice. But in all three Gospels this cry is placed very close to his death. Knowing this, it is clear that, if the words of this cry are recorded, they must be the words found in John 19 at a time very close to his death. The only words that fit this timing are the words, "It is finished." What was finished? The complete Passover - once and for all. The perfect lamb of God known and prepared for since the foundation of the world. He had come and finished the work he came to do.
Jesus Christ's first recorded words as he was growing up included, "Know ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" From the beginning to the end, his life was committed to the work to which God had called him. This sense of calling is demonstrated shortly before he took his disciples to the garden where he was apprehended. Jesus Christ prayed to his heavenly Father, as recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John.
John 17: 4 -- I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
Finally, just before dying on the cross, he declared with a loud cry that it was finished. He had accomplished the business that God his Father had sent him to do. But these words "It is finished" were not his final words.
Luke 23: 46 -- And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend [give] my spirit. . . .
With these great words Jesus Christ gave his spirit back to God and entrusted all to Him.
Luke 23: 46 -- . . . and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
Matthew 27: 50 -- . . . yielded up the ghost.
Mark 15: 37 -- . . . and gave up the ghost.
John 19: 30 -- . . . and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
The Son of God was dead. The phrase "gave up the ghost" indicates that he willingly gave up his life. No one took it from him; he laid it down. He did not die until the time when all was fulfilled. But when all his work for the complete fulfillment of God's righteous redemption of mankind was finished, he bowed his head and died. He breathed his last breath of soul life and the spirit that God had put upon him returned to God who had given it.
About forty hours after his arrest, including prolonged periods of unspeakable physical and mental torture, including six excruciating hours of hanging on the cross, Jesus Christ gave up his life for you and for me. He died about the ninth hour, 3 PM, the hour the Passover lamb was to be slain.
Matthew 27: 51 -- And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.
Mark 15: 38 -- And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.
Luke 23: 45 -- . . . and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. ***
***[Luke places the rending of the veil just before Jesus' death. The others place it just afterwards. The two events were virtually simultaneous. However, only one detail can be recorded at a time, hence we have the variation in order.]
At the time of Jesus' death, even the physical environment reverberated with the effects of that death. The veil in the Temple, a very heavy linen curtain embroidered with spun gold, was torn from top to bottom. This veil formed the entrance to the Holy of Holies, the most sacred and the innermost part of the Temple. The Holy of Holies represented the presence of God with Israel. Only once a year could anyone enter it, and that was on the Day of Atonement when the high priest alone, after a period of cleansing, would enter into it through the veil. Only he could enter into God's presence. There he, as the representative of Israel, would intercede with God for Israel. For this reason the veil represented the separation between God and Israel. At the moment of Jesus Christ's death, this separation was done away with. Ephesians teaches us that his death also abolished the separation between the Gentiles and God.
Ephesians 2: 12 -- That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.
Ephesians 2: 14 --For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.
The tearing of the Temple veil from top to bottom demonstrated that it was God's work in Christ which abolished this separation between Israel and God. God had been in Jesus Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Man could not work his way into God's presence. So God was reaching down to man, giving free access of Himself to man. Since the death of Jesus and the tearing of the Temple veil, every believer has access to the presence of God.
Matthew 27: 54 -- Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
Mark 15: 39 -- And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.
Luke 23: 47 and 48 -- Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.
And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.
The earthquake was so astounding that the Roman centurion in charge of the soldiers guarding the crosses at Calvary was convinced by this that Jesus was in truth the Son of God. There were four other men on crosses, yet the centurion said nothing of them. Others nearby began beating their breasts, expressing great awe and concern at Jesusí death and the subsequent events.
End Of Part Two