Where we last left our creative adventures, we had found out that Palm Sunday had been nailed onto the calendar by the angel Gabriel when he appeared to Daniel and gave the 70 Weeks Prophecy. That definitely fits the “Weird but True” file. Well, hold onto your Easter hats while we take on the rest of Holy Week. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but stick with me.
The next big thing in Holy Week is Passover. Although the technical definition of Passover is the celebration of the exodus from Egypt, most people referred to the three holy days in that week as Passover. It’s a little like the gap between Turkey Day and Christmas being the “Christmas Season.” The people of Israel had Passover itself, then the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then the Feast of the First Fruits on the next Sunday. This week was one of the three times a year any able-bodied male in Israel was expected to show up in Jerusalem1.
Passover is interesting. If you look at the original event in Egypt2, you can learn some fascinating stuff. First off, look at Exodus 12:7. The Israelites were told to put blood on the side and upper door posts. If you take that literally and strike the blood on the two side door posts then the upper one. Mentally give that a shot for a moment and look at the motion you’re making. Yep. You made the sign of the cross. The bottom leg of the cross is formed when you lower your hand after smacking the top. Neat, huh?
Next, Christ fulfilled all the requirements for a Passover Lamb. He was without blemish until he became sin for us3. Fire is the symbol of judgment, and he was judged in our place. Through the application of blood, we are saved4. No bone of his was broken5.
To really understand that last one, you have to understand what happened the day Jesus was crucified. These Roman soldiers were ordered to break the legs of the men being crucified. That sped up the death because they could no longer relieve the pressure on their chest cavity by pushing themselves up with their legs. When the soldier got to Jesus, he didn’t follow his orders. If you know anything about how the Roman military, that’ll make you go, “Huh? He could’ve been executed for that!” I don’t think the soldier realized he was fulfilling prophecy, but it’s interesting how the situation worked out that way.
Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. We’re still on Passover. The modern celebration of Passover contains a lot of interesting references to Christ, too. During the celebration, Jews eat matzah crackers. These crackers are striped and pierced. By his stripes we are healed6. He was pierced for our transgressions7. They hide three of these crackers in a special bag. Then the second one is taken out, broken, wrapped in a cloth, and hidden somewhere. Later on in the celebration, the kids go running around trying to find the hidden matzah. When they do, there is much celebration. Did you catch that? One of the three (Think “Trinity.”) leaves it’s place, gets broken, wrapped up, buried, then found again. Interesting eh?8
So, after the Passover celebration, Jesus led the disciples to Gethsemane for some prayer time. Consider Jesus’ prayer9. There’s a significance to that prayer that some don’t follow. If there is any other way to heaven except through the blood of Christ, God didn’t answer Jesus’ prayer. God always answers prayer, doesn’t he? Then there’s no other way.
After the prayer time, the soldiers show up to arrest Jesus. Look who’s in control here. First off, the Sanhedrin didn’t want to take Jesus on a feast day to avoid riots, which would make the Roman soldiers a little unhappy10. It was the Passover festival. It doesn’t get any more “feast day” than that, but when Jesus told Judas Iscariot, “What you do, do quickly11,” they had to act immediately. Jesus was onto their plot, and they had to spring it now. Jesus arranged the timing.
Now check out John 18. When Jesus declares his identity (“I AM.” The “he” is added to make it more readable. That’s what the brackets in the KJV mean. My interlinear Bible shows no word for “he.”) The soldiers all fall flat on their bums. Before they can arrest him, Jesus commands them to let the others go … and the soldiers do. Who’s in charge here? Jesus is.
By the way, do you know why Jesus healed the servant Malchus? To save Peter’s neck. Otherwise, the highly trained soldiers on hand would have probably taken Peter out to prevent any further bloodshed.
Next came the six trials. If you track everything carefully across all four gospels, there were trials in front of Annas (the one the Jews recognized as high priest), Caiaphas (the Roman-appointed high priest), the Sanhedrin (the Jewish council), Pontius Pilate (twice), and Herod. The trials violated every rule imaginable, some Roman, some Jewish. No trials could take place at night12. The priest is forbidden to tear his garments13. A man can only be condemned by the agreement of two or more witnesses14. From the same verses, you can conclude that a man cannot condemn himself with his own testimony, since two or more are required15. The prisoner can’t be bound before condemnation16. The judges were involved in the arrest. Only acquittal could be announced on the same day. Any other pronouncement had to wait until the next day. They decided that night that the penalty had to be death. The judges had no objection to the violence against Jesus during the trial17. The judges sought false witnesses and had nothing to do with trying to protect the rights of the accused18. There are lots of others, but you get the idea.
Now we get to the really hairy part. Was Good Friday actually on Friday? Jesus said he would give them the sign of Jonah19. The sign of Jonah was that Jonah was swallowed by the great fish then came back out after three days and three nights20. Some people reconcile that by counting the partial days and nights Jesus lay buried in the tomb. You get Friday afternoon, Friday night, Saturday during the day, Saturday night, Sunday night (from midnight to dawn), then Sunday at dawn. There are also other presentations showing signs in the stars (Not astrology, which is forbidden in the Bible, but astronomy, which isn’t) that support Friday as the crucifixion day21.
On the other hand, there are other scholars who go a year or two forward or backward from the typically assumed year where the Passover is on an earlier day of the week, like Wednesday or Thursday. That gives you three full days and full nights for Jesus to lie in the tomb (Thursday day, Thursday night, Friday day, Friday night, Saturday day, Saturday night).
Which is it? I have no idea, and I really don’t think it matters. There are no holidays or feast days that Christians are obligated to honor. Jews, including Messianic Jews, are obligated to honor three feasts in the fall, three in the spring, and one really weird one in the middle. We, however, are admonished to let no one judge us on the matter of holidays22. I mean, we celebrate Christmas on a day that Jesus could not have been born. The flocks were in the fields, which means it couldn’t be December when there was likely snow all over the place. Yes, it does snow in Israel, sometimes so much that the roads are impassable. We celebrate Resurrection on a floating day that is only loosely tied to Passover these days. I’d say as long as Christ is getting the glory, go for it.
Well, however you want to count it, Jesus was buried for three days before he rose. Where’d he go? The Apostle’s creed would have you say he went to hell23. If you think about that a minute, though, that doesn’t make any sense. Why would he go there? To give the condemned the eternal Bronx cheer? “Pbth! You lose!” I don’t think that sounds like something a loving God would do.
God would preach the Gospel to the captives, though24. Where are these captives? To find that out, you need to take a gander at the story of the rich man and Lazarus25. This is a true story, not a parable. How can you tell? Parables don’t name people. Now check out verses 22-26 to get a grip on the geography. There are two areas mentioned. In one, Lazarus is with the faithful being comforted after a really rough life. In the other, the rich man who wouldn’t take care of Lazarus is being tormented. There’s a huge gulf between them26. This whole region is called Hades in the Greek and Sheol in the Hebrew. Unfortunately, Sheol is often translated as hell or the grave, but neither is accurate. First off, both good souls and evil souls end up there, so the whole place isn’t hell, but Clarence Larkin’s map shows that one side is hell. The other side is paradise, which is where Jesus told the penitent thief they would meet up later that day27. It’s also not the grave, because you can own a grave. Sheol is never spoken of as being something you can own. When Jesus died, he went there and preached the Gospel to all the folks in Abraham’s bosom28.
When Day 3 comes around Jesus is resurrected. Joy! (This was actually on the Feast of First Fruits. Jesus was the first begotten of the dead29. Do you think God might have done that on purpose? You betcha!) If there hadn’t been a resurrection, we’d be pretty hopeless people, and Jesus would be just another in a line of inspiring teachers. However, this plan to rescue all of us from sin and death was hatched before the foundation of the world30. Have you accepted the gift of salvation? If you have, are you using your gift and sharing it with others?
General source: Missler, Chuck. Learn the Bible in 24 Hours: Session 16: Passion Week. Koinonia House.
1 Exodus 23:14
2 Exodus 11 and 12
3 Isaiah 53:12, Hebrews 9:28, 1 John 3:5
4 Exodus 12:13, Matthew 26:28
5 Exodus 12:46, John 19:32
6 Isaiah 53:5
7 Revelation 1:7, Isaiah 53:5
8 For this whole paragraph: Jesus in the Passover. Jews for Jesus.
9 Matthew 26:39
10 Matthew 26:5, Mark 14:2
11 John 13:27
12 Matthew 26:4 tells you the trials started at night if you cross-reference it with Matthew 26:74.
13 Leviticus 10:6, Mark 14:63
14 Deuteronomy 17:6, Mark 14:56
15 Mark 14:64
16 Matthew 27:2
17 Matthew 26:67, Luke 22:63
18 Matthew 26:59
19 Luke 11:29, Matthew 12:40
20 Jonah 1:17
22 Colossians 2:16
24 Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18
25 Luke 16:19-31
27 Luke 23:43
28 For the whole paragraph: Missler, Chuck. Briefing Pack: Heaven and Hell. Koinonia House.
29 Revelation 1:5
30 Matthew 25:34, 1 Peter 1:19-21