Jesus Christ Our Passover

THE FOURTEENTH OF NISAN:

Part One

 

Jesus Christ's crucifixion is one of the most written about subjects in human history. In terms of meaning, it is only surpassed by his resurrection and its implications. Yet despite the volumes that have been written, seldom has anyone clearly and accurately set forth the record.

We have seen time and again throughout this research that traditional teachings repeatedly contradict the accuracy of the Word of God. And so often tradition has thus blinded us from the fullness of God's greatness. For example, people have taught that Jesus Christ was in the custody of Caiaphas and Pilate just a few hours. This cannot be true if the Word of God is accurate. Jesus was taken captive in the Garden of Gethsemane on Monday evening. After many documented intervening events, Jesus was sent by Pilate to the Praetorium about noon on Tuesday. God's Word does not give details in terms of time from Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday morning. We are informed, however, that a cohort of Roman soldiers tortured and mocked Jesus during this time. The Gospel accounts begin marking time again on Wednesday morning, the fourteenth of Nisan, while Jesus was still in Pilate's judgment hall, the Praetorium, almost a day and a half after being taken prisoner.

Matthew 27: 31 and 32 -- And after that they [the soldiers] had mocked him, they took the robe [Greek: chlamus] off from him, and put his own raiment [Greek: himation, outer garments] on him, and led him away to crucify him.

And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear [Greek: airo, to raise, to carry] his cross.

Mark 15: 20 and 21 -- And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple [Greek: porphura] from him, and put his own clothes [himation, outer garments] on him, and led him out to crucify him.

And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear [airo, to raise, to carry] his cross.

Luke 23: 26 -- And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear [Greek: phero, sustain, support] itafter [behind] Jesus.

All of the above records are clear. After beating and mocking Jesus, the soldiers put his own garments on him and began to lead him out of Pilate's hall towards the place of crucifixion, Golgotha. The word "led" used in all three of the above scriptures can also be translated "dragged" or "carried." As they left the judgment hall, the soldiers randomly singled out Simon of Cyrene from the crowd, laid the cross on him, and forced him to carry it behind Jesus. There is absolutely no indication that Jesus touched the cross during any of this. He certainly was in no physical condition to carry a cross; he had so suffered that he could not even carry his own body's weight. The soldiers had to support Jesus under the arms and drag him to Calvary.

Simon seems to have been a Judean from the city of Cyrene in Libya. He had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He had no more desire to go to a criminal's execution than you or I have. Yet he became one of the central figures in the events of that Wednesday morning. Imposed upon Simon was a task of utmost humiliation in having to do the will of the Roman soldiers and carry the cross behind a condemned criminal. The mention of his two sons indicates that they were known to the believers for whom the Book of Mark was written. This incident may have resulted in the salvation of Simon and his house, as disciples from Cyrene are noted later on in the Book of Acts.

Acts 11: 20 -- And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.

Simon's being forced to carry the cross was an extreme annoyance and indignity. He had plans of his own, and possibly family and friends waiting for him. The great Feast he had traveled so far to attend was suddenly denied him, for this act of carrying the instrument of death in a Roman execution made him ceremonially unclean for the Passover. Had Simon entered the city one hour sooner or later, his whole life may have turned out differently. Instead he encountered what seemed to be unfortunate humiliation and disgrace. In the end, however, this incident possibly turned out to be his gateway to life. The greatest changes in our lives often hinge on unplanned experiences.

It is commonly thought that Jesus, rather than Simon, carried his own cross. This misconception stems from misunderstanding a scripture in the Gospel of John.

John 19: 16 and 17 -- Then delivered he [Pilate] him [Jesus] therefore unto them [soldiers] to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led himaway.

And he [Jesus] bearing [bastazio] his cross went forth into a place called the placeof a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha.

The word bastazomeans "to lift or carry" in the Greek. It is a totally different word from the one used when Simon was singled out to bear the wooden cross. Bastazois never used in the Bible in reference to bearing a literal wooden cross. ***

*** [The word bastazois used of carrying physical burdens as well as bearing judgment, the law and the sicknesses, mental burdens, and spiritual burdens of others. Biblically, itís only use with the word "cross" is in a figurative usage (Luke 14: 27) which will be shown.]

Therefore, if Simon bore the wooden cross, what was the cross that Jesus Christ bore? That cross was not a wooden cross; rather it was a spiritual cross composed of our sins, our transgressions, our sicknesses, the law, and everything that separated us from God. Isaiah 53 tells in part about the kind of cross Jesus Christ bore.

Isaiah 53: 4 to 6 -- Surely he hath borne our griefs [sicknesses], and carried our sorrows [pains]: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he waswounded for our transgressions, he wasbruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace wasupon 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.

The Lord, Jehovah, "laid on him [Jesus Christ] the iniquity of us all." Jesus Christ bore our sicknesses and pain. These things make up the cross that he bore.

Colossians 2: 14 -- Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.

Jesus Christ blotted out "the handwriting of ordinances" that was against us and contrary to us. This is an Eastern expression. In the East, the name of a man who went bankrupt was posted at the gate of the city by the elders of that city, stating the names of his creditors and the amount of his debt. When all debts were completely paid, the elders would double the paper (Isaiah 40: 2), folding together the writ of debts, so that all the debts were "blotted out." (A partial payment of debts by the bankrupt person was unacceptable.) The folded-together document would then be nailed up at the city gate so that all passing by could see that the man's debt was paid in full. All the negatives against that man were eradicated. Jesus Christ paid in full for all our debts of sin. He paid in full for our release from the bondage of the law. He was subjected to pain, sickness, suffering, and death for us. By taking these things upon himself, he "blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us . . . nailing it to his cross."

II Corinthians 5: 21 -- For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Matthew 8: 16 and 17 -- When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with hisword, and healed all that were sick:

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare [bastazo] our sicknesses.

Notice that the Greek word bastazo,"to bear" in Matthew 8: 17 is the same as in John 19: 17, "And he [Jesus] bearing [bastazo] his cross went forth into a place called... Golgotha." Some other interesting usages of bastazoare given below.

Galatians 6: 2 -- Bear [bastazo] ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

In bearing his spiritual cross for us, Jesus Christ was the prototype burden-bearer of all time. When we bear one another's burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6: 17 -- . . . for I bear [bastazo] in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

The "marks" are the brands of a bondslave. ***

*** [In Eastern culture, a man would receive the brand or tattoo of a master upon becoming his bondslave. Similarly, in Old Testament law a Hebrew servant would have a small hole bored in his earlobe to signify his position as a permanent slave to that master. See Exodus 21: 1 to 6.

Paul was saying he was a servant, a bondslave, of Jesus Christ his lord. His master was known by the manner in which Paul served him. This branded Paul as a burden-bearer.

Luke 14: 26, 27, and 33 -- If any mancome to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

And whosoever doth not bear [bastazo] his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

This is the only time besides John 19: 17 that bastazois associated with a cross. Yet, once again, it is not a literal wooden cross. Here the phrase "bear his cross" involves a commitment, a willing acceptance of responsibility. ***

*** [The phrase "bear his cross" was a common expression at the time of Jesus for describing one's taking on the responsibility of doing another's will, even if it resulted in public humiliation or in giving priority to the master's will over himself, family, or friends. Similar expressions are also found in Matthew 10: 38, 16: 24, Mark 8: 34, 10: 21, and Luke 9: 23.]

A person could put nothing ahead of doing the will of his master; not friends, not family, not one's own life could come before obedience to the master. That was the commitment required by Jesus to be his disciple. That was "bearing the cross."

From studying these scriptures we can understand the expression in John 19: 17 that says Jesus bore his cross. Jesus Christ had over twelve legions of angels at his command. He could have left this situation and gone on the offensive at any moment. So why did he go through with it? The answer is that Jesus Christ so loved us that he willingly laid down his life for us. He had to obediently subject his own will to that of his Father. For it is he that prayed three times, "Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." He accepted his Father's will and went through the greatest suffering in history. He was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

I Corinthians 1: 17 and 18 -- For Christ sent me [Paul] not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

Here we see another usage of the word "cross." Paul was not making reference to the preaching of a wooden cross. Rather he utilized the word "cross" to stand for the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and the accomplishments of that death. This is known as the figure of speech metalepsis.When a person realizes what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, he can enjoy the benefits of it. He can live without the sin, frustration, legalism, and sickness so prevalent in the world. That is how the accomplishments on that cross can be unto us "the power of God." A wooden cross could never give us anything but death.

Galatians 6: 14 -- But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

This cross which Paul gloried in was not the wooden cross on which Jesus died; rather, it stands for everything Jesus Christ accomplished for us by dying in our place. It stands for all that he bore for us. This cross stands for our release from the bondage of law, sin, sickness, and guilt. Truly that is something in which we can rejoice. This is the cross he bore for us. This is what his death accomplished. In this Paul could glory and say that by the Lord Jesus Christ "the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Paul was alive in Christ, no longer walking in the bondage of the world. We no longer need to bear a cross of burden and pain; Jesus Christ bore it for us. We simply look at what he did and rejoice, glorying in the deliverance we now have.

We have covered three of the basic usages of the word "cross": (1) the literal wooden cross which Simon of Cyrene carried and upon which Jesus Christ was crucified, (2) a figurative usage in which "bearing the cross" refers to voluntarily accepting and carrying out a responsibility given by one's master, and (3) another figurative usage, metalepsis, in which the "cross" stands for the death of Christ, but rather than dwelling on its negative features, accentuates the accomplishments and atoning merits of that death.

The second and third usages must apply to John 19: 17. Simon of Cyrene bore the wooden cross; Jesus Christ obeyed his Father and bore all our reproach, our judgment, our sin, our guilt, and our sickness. He accepted this responsibility. By bearing this spiritual cross for us, Jesus Christ made us completely, completely complete. He gave us victory over all the negatives of the world. What a savior!

While the soldiers took Jesus toward Calvary, with Simon carrying the wooden cross behind him, many significant events occurred.

Luke 23: 27 to 32 -- And there followed [were following] him [Jesus] a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.

But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.

For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed arethe barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.

For if they do these things in a green tree [i.e., with God's Son present to bless them], what shall be done in the dry [when their Messiah is no longer around]?

And there were also two other, malefactors [kakourgoi], led with him to be put to death.

It is overwhelming that Jesus Christ was in such control of his faculties that with boldness he still spoke God's Word. He was not seeking pity. As badly as he was physically beaten, Jesus Christ still wanted people to hear God's Word, even as he was being dragged toward his death.

Notice that here in Luke 23 God's Word plainly teaches that two malefactors, duo kakourgoiin Greek, were led with Jesus from the Praetorium. At this time only two were going with Jesus to be crucified. We will see later in this study that two others were also brought to Calvary after a period of time.

Another significant incident happened on the way to Golgotha.

Mark 15: 22 and 23 -- And they [soldiers] bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.

And they gave [were giving] him to drink wine [Greek: oinos, wine] mingled with myrrh: but he received itnot.

This is the first drink offered to Jesus during this ordeal. The Greek word for "bring" is phero,meaning "to bear" or "to carry." It is in the present tense indicating they were still on their way to Golgotha. As the soldiers carried Jesus to Golgotha, they were continually pouring this drink on his lips. Such drinks were customarily offered to victims as an anesthetic to help deaden the pain. Yet Jesus did not receive the wine mingled with myrrh, choosing instead to bear the full pain and suffering. The second drink offered to Jesus is recorded in Matthew 27.

Matthew 27: 33 and 34 -- And when they were come [having come] unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,

They gave him vinegar [Greek: oxos] to drink mingled with gall [Greek: chole]: and when he had tasted thereof,he would not drink.

The Greek word for "were come" is erchomai.Here it is in the aorist tense indicating they had already attained the action, they had arrived at Golgotha. This drink is different from the one in Mark 15, for this one was given after they had reached Golgotha; the one in Mark was offered on the way. The word "vinegar" in verse 34 is oxosin Greek, meaning "vinegar-like" - cheap, very sour wine. This drink was mingled with gall (rather than the myrrh of Mark), also a bitter substance known to deaden pain. Jesus Christ tasted it and refused to drink. Both the first and second drinks were offered and refused before he was put on the cross.

Matthew 27: 35 -- And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.

Mark 15: 24 and 25 -- And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.

And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

Luke 23: 33 and 34 -- And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

John 19: 23 and 24 -- Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also hiscoat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.

Before crucifying Jesus and the two malefactors, the soldiers took off Jesus' clothing. They took off his outer garment and ripped it into four parts, giving a part to each of the four soldiers standing guard at the crucifixion. These soldiers were there to prevent the victim from getting away and to deter friends from trying to rescue the convict. The word "coat" in John 19: 23 is actually "tunic." The tunic was an undergarment that sometimes had sleeves and was usually knee-length. The tunic of Jesus was distinctive in that it was seamless. So rather than tearing the seamless tunic, the soldiers cast lots to see who would get it. This fulfilled the prophecy of Psalms 22: 18.

In Luke 23: 34, we read the often-quoted prayer by Jesus: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." ***

*** [Significantly, this is omitted in Lachmann's Greek text, the Codex Siniaticus, Codex Bezae, Codex Vaticanus, the Sinaitic Palimpsest, and the Washingtonian Koridethai.]

The time of the crucifixion, as stated in Mark 15: 25, was the third hour, about 9 A.M. At this time Jesus was put on the cross and the malefactors were crucified with him.

Luke 23: 35 to 37 -- And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him,saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.

And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar [Greek: oxos, a cheap, sour wine],

And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews [Judeans], save thyself.

Once Jesus was on the cross, the rulers (probably some of the Sanhedrin and other religious leaders) began heckling him. Then the soldiers offered him a drink of cheap, sour wine-the third drink he was offered, this time after he was suspended on the cross. (The first two were offered before he was put on the cross.) God's Word does not indicate whether or not there was any added painkiller like myrrh or gall in this wine, and there is no indication that Jesus received this third drink offered.

Matthew 27: 36 -- And sitting down they watched him there.

This "sitting down to watch" refers to the soldiers' guarding the victim to make sure there is no escape or attempted rescue.

As the Gospel accounts proceed, we come to a controversial topic, involving the written accusation nailed on the cross over Jesus' head.

Matthew 27: 37 -- And [they] set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS [JUDEANS] .

Mark 15: 26 -- And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS [JUDEANS].

Luke 23: 38 -- And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS [JUDEANS].

According to Matthew 27, this accusation was set up over Jesus' head after he had been placed on the cross, mocked, and watched for a period of time. It would be termed a "superscription" because of its position over his head. In Luke 23: 38 the phrase "in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew" should be omitted according to most critical Greek texts and the oldest manuscripts in Estrangelo Aramaic.

In comparing the Aramaic and Greek manuscripts, as well as the four Gospels, it is evident that scribes introduced slight changes into the wordings of the written accusation over the years. However, by careful study it is possible to learn the essence of what this accusation said.

The words "THIS IS" in Luke 23: 38 can be deleted, as they are omitted in some Greek manuscripts. Mark 15 and Luke 23 would then both read, "THE KING OF THE JEWS [JUDEANS]." Matthew 27: 37 added the words "THIS IS JESUS" by way of scripture build-up. This part of the superscription was simply not recorded in Mark and Luke because it is not necessary for one's understanding of the accusation. The Gospel of John says the following about the accusation.

John 19: 19 to 22 -- And Pilate wrote a title, and put iton the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS [JUDEANS].

This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, andGreek, andLatin.

Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews [Judeans]; but that he said, I am King of the Jews [Judeans].

Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

This section in John 19 is not strictly chronological. Unlike the other Gospels, it talks about the accusation before the parting of the garments. This is simply because it goes back to the actual writing of the accusation by Pilate and then deals topically with all the events associated with it. The other Gospels only describe the accusation and refer to the placement of it over his head.

The Gospel of John is the only Gospel which in both Greek and Aramaic manuscripts informs us that the inscription was written in three languages: Aramaic (called Hebrew in the King James Version), Greek, and Latin. The differences in the languages may also be involved in some of the differences among the wordings of the accusation recorded in the four Gospels.

When John 19: 19 says Pilate wrote this title and put it on the cross, it is obvious that he ordered it to be written and put on the cross. Pilate himself did not do the actual writing or nailing.

There were several ways a written accusation could be displayed. The Gospel of Matthew indicated that it was nailed above the head of Jesus. Customarily the accusation went with the condemned from his place of judgment to his place of crucifixion. The accusation was transported to his execution by a soldier carrying it before the convict to exhibit it to all onlookers. Some scholars believe accusations were etched into wood. More likely, however, they were thin placards smeared with white gypsum and then, with black letters, the name of the accused and his offense was written on the placard. This would make accusations readily visible and readable even from a distance. Once the victim was placed upon the cross, the accusation would be attached to the cross above him.

According to John 19: 21 and 22, the Judeans wanted to change the written accusation, because to have a Galilean from Nazareth displayed as their king and being crucified could be embarrassing. The Judean religious leaders despised the Galileans, especially Jesus Christ. However, they could not change what Pilate had written. Neither Pilate nor his soldiers would allow it. If they had changed the title or put up a new one, they would have also added the qualifying words, "He saidI am King of the Judeans," as recorded in John 19: 21. Pilate would not allow them to do this, stating emphatically, "What I have written I have written." Pilate would no longer allow himself to be pushed around.

We have noted that all four Gospels refer to the same accusation. It is called a "superscription," an "accusation," and a "title." Every Gospel states that it said, "THE KING OF THE JUDEANS," ho Basileus ton Ioudaion.Matthew and John tells us that the superscription included Jesus' name. John tells us that it included the name of Jesus' hometown, Nazareth. John also tells us it was written in three languages. And, after having the accusation written, Pilate refused to change the wording, ordering his soldiers to place it on the cross when Jesus was crucified. Thus, by careful study of the Gospel records and the variations in the extant Aramaic and Greek manuscripts, the most likely reading of the superscription was: THIS IS JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JUDEANS.

The accusation was a mockery of both Jesus and the Judeans. It mocked Jesus by showing his claims of kingship juxtaposed with his hanging on a cross. Who could imagine a genuine king being executed as a criminal, looking so pitiful and powerless? The accusation further mocked the Judeans by giving them a king from Galilee, one who was crucified as a full demonstration of Roman authority over them.

Time and again, the mockers at the cross jeered at Jesus for claiming to be the king, the Messiah, the Son of God. Yet Jesus Christ could have summoned over twelve legions of angels and have been delivered from the situation. He endured this intense suffering and humiliation because he loved.

After the account of setting up the accusation on the cross, the Gospel of Luke records some interesting developments regarding the other men crucified with Jesus.

Luke 23: 39 to 42 -- And one of the malefactors [kakourgoi] which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.

But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?

And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

At this time only two malefactors had been crucified with Jesus. One of the two malefactors (Greek: duo kakourgoi ) reviled Jesus as the bystanders had been doing. The other malefactor turned and reproved the first one, saying, in essence, "Be quiet! You've got your nerve since you're being crucified too, especially since we deserve to be crucified and this man did nothing wrong." Upon saying this, the second malefactor turned and asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom. Isn't that amazing? This dying criminal believed Jesus was the Messiah. Look at Jesus' response.

Luke 23: 43 -- And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

The translator of this verse made a grave error in punctuation. The comma after "thee" belongs after "today," or it should be deleted since the original manuscripts had no punctuation. The words "shalt thou" should be reversed and read "thou shalt." Paradise is always a place of perfection on earth. If we do not correct the translators' errors as shown above, we will end up having Jesus and the malefactor in a perfect place on earth on the day of the crucifixion. That contradicts God's Word because there is to be no paradise until God establishes a new heaven and a new earth, which is still future.

End Of Part One