Jesus Christ Our Passover



Part Five

[*** Be sure to read Part Four before continuing.]

Because the events of the thirteenth of Nisan are given in such detail in the Gospels, this study of that day is divided into two sections. We have taken the developments of this day from its beginning at sunset on Monday, when Jesus and his disciples were eating the last supper, through the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed and then was arrested. Jesus was then taken before the high priests where he was subjected to the mockery of a trial, and finally beaten and mocked by the Sanhedrin. This was Jesus' first appearance for trial before the Sanhedrin, which can be referred to as his "night trial." During this same time period, Peter had come to the palace of Annas and Caiaphas where he denied his master six times. The next information given about Jesus takes place close to dawn, early on Tuesday morning.

Matthew 27: 1 -- When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.

Mark 15: 1 -- And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. . . .

Luke 22: 66 to 71 -- And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying,

Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:

And if I also ask you,  ye will not answer me, nor let me  go.

Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.

Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.

And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.

Each of these records given above from Matthew 27, Mark 15, and Luke 22 focuses on one and the same event. It is Jesus Christ's second appearance for trial before the Sanhedrin, which can be called his "day trial." The people before whom Jesus had appeared the previous night, only a few hours before, were now reconvened. The whole council of the Sanhedrin was there. The chief priests, the elders of the people, the scribes, recorders, and legal counselors were all in attendance. This "trial" has the appearance of being more proper than the one which had taken place just a few hours previously. The Sanhedrin had a legal standard mandating two trial appearances for capital offenses. Thus, with an outward show of justice, they continued to subject Jesus to their illegal proceedings.

What exactly happened to Jesus between that night trial and this one? God's Word does not say. The denials of Peter and the night trial of Jesus were probably over by 1:30 on Tuesday morning. The religious leaders were absolutely outraged and fanatically determined to make Jesus suffer. They had already mocked, beaten, thrashed, and scourged him. They could well have had him beaten throughout the rest of the night. Jesus had caused them so much trouble and had embarrassed the religious leaders so many times that now was their opportunity to vent their wrath and retaliate.

In this early Tuesday morning confrontation the chief priests and elders asked him basically the same thing they had asked him a few hours before: "Art thou the Christ?" Jesus essentially gave them the same honest, affirmative answer: Yes, he was the Messiah. He was the Son of God and one day he would sit at God's right hand. They decided again that this personal testimony made him worthy of death. With this "blasphemy," they bound Jesus and dragged him to the Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate.

Luke 23: 1 -- And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.

John 18: 28 -- Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early. . .

Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect or governor of Judea. As such, he was invested with the legal authority of life and death of the inhabitants of Judea. He had legal control, if he chose to utilize it, over the priests and the Temple treasury. He could even reverse capital sentences passed by the Sanhedrin. Pilate was generally unpopular with the Judeans and was in fact hated by many, because he was an outsider (a Gentile and a Roman) who had ordered many unpopular and cruel governmental actions.

John 18: 28 tells us it was yet early when Jesus was brought to appear before Pilate in the hall of judgment. It must have been soon after the Sanhedrin had gathered around daybreak, according to Luke 22: 66 and 23: 1. This makes it probable that the records in John 18: 28 to 38 and Luke 23: 1 to 6 record the same appearance before Pilate. This was Jesus Christ's first appearance before Pilate. It was early morning on Tuesday, the thirteenth of Nisan. Later he would appear before Herod Antipas and then return for a second trial appearance before Pilate. John gives more details about this first appearance before Pilate.

John 18: 28 -- . . . and they [the Judean religious leaders] themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

Pilate was a Gentile. For a Judean to enter the court of a Gentile so near to the Passover would cause him to be ceremonially unclean and unable to participate in the Passover.**

** [Ezra 6: 19 to 21 is another record where separation from idolatrous Gentiles was necessary to eat the Passover. The judgment hall was a place of torture and death. Entering it could also have been associated with defilement according to the laws regarding the touching of a dead body or touching other items associated with death as set forth in Numbers 9: 5 to 13 and 19: 11 to 22.]

Here again is further proof that Passover and the Passover meal had not yet transpired. It is ironic that these religious leaders should suddenly become so legalistic about observing the Passover when they had broken one law after another during their own makeshift "trial" of Jesus. It is remarkable how false religion can twist the minds of men.

John 18: 29 -- Pilate then went out unto them [the chief priests and elders], and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?

Putting Luke 23 and John 18 together shows the details of their response to Pilate's question.

John 18: 30 -- They answered and said unto him [Pilate], If he [Jesus] were not a malefactor [evildoer], we would not have delivered him up unto thee.

Luke 23: 2 -- And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow  perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.

John 18: 30 relates that the accusers told Pilate they would not have brought this man to him had he not been an evildoer. Finally, as Luke 23: 2 shows, three charges were leveled against Jesus: he perverted the nation, he forbade tax payment to Caesar, and he claimed to be a king, God's Messiah. The first charge was vague; the second charge was false and unprovable. Note that neither of these two charges had surfaced during the interrogations and trials held previously. But both charges were related to the third charge. This last charge, that he was the Christ, seemed to Pilate to be a religious question, especially in view of the fact that the religious leaders were bringing the charge. Pilate avoided involving himself in such matters.

John 18: 31 and 32 -- Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful [according to the governing Roman laws] for us to put any man to death:

That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what [manner of, method of] death he should die.

Verse 32 of John 18 simply calls attention to the fact that Jesus would die a Roman death; this means he would die by crucifixion, as he had prophesied. A Judean execution would have meant stoning him.

It is notable that none of those who tried Jesus wanted to take the responsibility for executing him. Pilate wanted the Judeans to judge Jesus according to the Old Testament law and their religious law. But the Judeans insisted that it was illegal for them to put a man to death. By Roman law, only the Romans could pass and execute a capital sentence. As noted before, the religious leaders were known to ignore this technicality and take matters into their own hands. However, in Jesus' case, they wanted Pilate to do their disreputable work for them. If they could persuade Pilate to cooperate, people could not turn on the priests and elders to blame them for killing Jesus, especially so close to Feast time. [See Matthew 26: 3 to 5] Furthermore, anyone directly killing a person at this time would become legally unclean for the Feast according to Old Testament law. [See Numbers 9: 5 to 13 and 16, 31: 17 to 20] These are the reasons the religious accusers utilized the legal technicality that only the Romans were to execute a death sentence. They further supported this by presenting Jesus' claims to be a king as political treason. This was not the charge of blasphemy of which they had previously condemned Jesus, for they knew Pilate would find blasphemy an unacceptable religious charge.

John 18: 33 to 38 -- Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?

Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king [again, an affirmative answer]. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

Luke 23: 3 and 4 -- And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.

Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to  the people, I find no fault in this man.

While Pilate did not comprehend what Jesus was saying, it was clear to him that Jesus was not looking for political power. If Jesus had wanted to be that kind of king, Pilate would have considered him a threat to both Caesar and himself, for Pilate himself was then ruler of the Judeans. But Pilate realized that Jesus was not seeking political position. After personally interrogating Jesus, Pilate declared to the Judeans that he had found no fault with the accused.

God's Word does not say how many Judeans were present. From the context, it is clear that all the religious leaders who had sentenced Jesus were there. Included were the chief priests, scribes, elders, and the seventy of the Sanhedrin. These religious leaders were described as a "multitude" in Luke 23: 1. The Gospel of Luke gives more details on this first appearance before Pilate and some subsequent events.

Luke 23: 5 to 7 -- And they [the chief priests] were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.

When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean.

And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.

The religious leaders were determined to convince Pilate that Jesus was dangerous. Pilate, wanting to avoid dealing further with this matter, found a convenient excuse for transferring the responsibility of Jesus' judgment to someone else. Since Jesus was a Galilean, Pilate immediately wanted Jesus taken to the ruler of Galilee, Herod Antipas. And it so happened that Herod was in Jerusalem at this very time.

This Herod was a son of Herod the Great, the man who sought the life of Jesus shortly after hearing of his birth from the wise men. Herod Antipas, like his father, was an unscrupulous man, he had imprisoned John the Baptist and then was tricked by his wife and her daughter into beheading the prophet. For some time after John's beheading, Herod Antipas had heard stories that Jesus was John raised from the dead. On one occasion, Jesus described Herod as a "fox," depicting Herod's sly, vicious character.

Luke 13: 32 -- And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day  I shall be perfected.

With this background, the next confrontation can be more fully understood.

Luke 23: 8 to 12 -- And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season,  because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.

Then he [Herod] questioned with him [Jesus] in many words; but he [Jesus] answered him nothing.

And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.

And Herod with his men of war set him at nought [treated him with contempt], and mocked him,  and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.

And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.

This is the only record of Jesus' appearing before Herod. Herod mocked Jesus by desiring that he entertain him with a miracle. Then he interrogated Jesus, but Jesus did not respond. At the time of this questioning by Herod, the religious leaders were still hovering around shouting their accusations. The Word of God says Herod put a "gorgeous robe" on Jesus. The word "gorgeous" in Greek is lampros  meaning "bright" or "resplendent." The word "robe" in Greek is esthes  meaning "ornate raiment." Annoyed by Jesus' silence, Herod mocked him by putting royal robes on this beaten man. His soldiers dressed Jesus in a gorgeous, resplendent piece of apparel. It was very ornate, of the kind that would be worn by a king. They were mocking Jesus' claim that he was a king.

This is the first of four different garments placed on Jesus before he was finally clothed in his own seamless tunic and his own outer garment and led forth to be crucified. Little did his enemies know how far he surpassed any royal robe or title. Ultimately, Jesus Christ was not mocked; man mocked his own stupidity in mocking the Son of God.

The series of ironies in these remarkable events could not be greater. For instance, it is ironic that on this day Pilate and Herod became friends after having feuded with each other for so long, and that Herod finally sent Jesus back to Pilate wearing this "royal" robe. It is also ironic that the true, eternal king was treated so disgracefully by the temporal rulers.

In the meantime, while Jesus was embroiled in one torture after another, Judas returned to the Temple with the money paid him for his act of betrayal. This record is unique to the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 27: 3 and 4 -- Then Judas, which had betrayed him [Jesus], when he [Judas] saw that he [Jesus] was condemned, repented himself ["himself" is not in the text], and brought again [returned] the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the [omit "the"] innocent blood. . . .

The word "repented" in verse 3 is the Greek word metamelomai  meaning "to regret or be annoyed at the consequences of an act." It literally means "after-care." It is not the word used that signifies a repentance from sin, rather metamelomai  simply expresses Judas' regret that Jesus was being condemned to death. In betraying Jesus, Judas did not believe that things would actually turn out as they did. Confused and frustrated by the consequences of his action, Judas brought the betrayal money back to the religious leaders at the Temple and claimed Jesus' innocence. Perhaps he hoped that giving back the money would ease his conscience, or perhaps he thought he could use the money to make a deal and change Jesus' fate. The religious leaders were interested in neither his problems nor in the money.

Matthew 27: 4 -- . . . And they said, What is that  to us? see thou to that.

In essence they were saying, "So what? That money doesn't concern us anymore. You  take care of it." Now that Judas had served their purpose, the Temple leaders were finished with him. They had simply used him to serve their own ends; his personal feelings of regret and guilt were his own problem.

Matthew 27: 5 -- And he [Judas] cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

This verse when related to Acts 1: 18 has been misunderstood for several reasons.

Acts 1: 18 -- Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

People have maintained that the thirty pieces of silver Judas was paid to betray Jesus was the selfsame "reward of iniquity" spoken of in Acts. In maintaining this, they have consistently overlooked the fact that here in Matthew 27 Judas threw the thirty pieces of silver into the Temple, so he no longer had the money. How could he purchase the field referred to in Acts 1 with thirty pieces of silver he no longer had? As we'll see when we study Acts 1, the answer is very simple. The "reward of iniquity" was money which he had stolen from the apostles' treasury, not the betrayal money.

The second misunderstanding of Matthew 27: 5 is that Judas, after casting down the silver in the Temple, immediately went and committed suicide by hanging himself. Later in this study we'll see very clearly that Judas did not kill himself until after the ascension which was more than forty days later, as recorded in Acts 1: 18. According to God's Word, Judas was with the other apostles during those forty days; he was not dead.

The third misunderstanding in this verse concerns the words "hanged himself". There is abundant evidence that the phrase "hanged himself" in Matthew 27: 5 is an inaccurate translation. In the Greek, this reflexive verb is the one word apanchomoi.  Matthew 27: 5 is the only Biblical usage of this" verb. In secular literature apanchomai  is used to mean "choking or squeezing one's self" as with great emotional grief. In Estrangelo Aramaic the word translated "hanged himself" is knq, also meaning "choked." The word knq  is used other places in God's Word and does not imply death at all. In relation to the parable of the sower, the thorns (cares of the world) "choke," knq, the seed (God's Word) so that it becomes unfruitful. The seed does not necessarily die, it is simply stifled from growing and bearing fruit (Mark 4: 7 and 19). The word knq  is also used in Matthew 18: 28 in a parable. Here it is used of choking a person and then throwing him in prison. Neither the Aramaic nor the Greek words imply death at all.

In the context of Matthew 27: 5, when Judas came to the Temple and threw down the thirty pieces of silver, he was very upset over what was happening to Jesus. To add to his emotional turmoil, the religious leaders whom he had previously helped showed total indifference to his feelings of regret. So in despair and confusion, Judas left the Temple. In view of the word apanchomai,  Judas must have left doubled over, squeezing himself in tremendous grief. Thus a literal translation according to usage of Matthew 27: 5 is: "And he cast down the pieces of silver in the Temple, and withdrew, isolating himself, and departing, doubled himself over with grief."

Matthew 27: 6 to 10 -- And the chief priests took the silver pieces [which Judas had cast down in the Temple], and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.

And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in.

Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;

And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.

The chief priests who had taken Temple money, paid for the arrest of God's Son, and had him sentenced to death by a dishonest trial, now had "religious" reasons for not putting the money back in the Temple treasury. The money used in arranging the capture of Jesus (which act ended in death) was "blood money." Consequently they used the money to purchase a field in which to bury strangers. The field the chief priests bought was completely different from the property bought by Judas as referred to in Acts 1: 18. This one bought by the priests in Matthew was called "the field of blood" because it was bought with blood money. They bought it with money that had purchased the life of Jesus Christ, with the result that a prophecy spoken by Jeremiah was fulfilled.

In chronological order the next record is the second appearance of Jesus before Pilate. After his first appearance (Luke 23: 1 to 6), Jesus was sent to Herod (Luke 23: 7 to 12), and from there he was returned to Pilate (Luke 23: 13 to 24). This second appearance before Pilate is found in each of the four Gospels. It begins with Pilate's interrogating Jesus once again.

Matthew 27: 11 to 14 -- And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.

And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.

Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?

And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.

Mark 15: 2 to 5 -- And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.

And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.

And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee.

But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.

Notice that Jesus did a minimum of speaking. Pilate was astonished at Jesus' attitude and controlled expression. Jesus simply said nothing.

Luke 23: 13 -- And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people.

Pilate had now called together everybody: the priests, the rulers, and the people. No longer did Pilate speak only to the religious leaders. This gathering to hear Pilate took place outside of the judgment hall in the area of the judgment seat. There a great crowd could gather. The following passages record Jesus Christ's second "trial" appearance before Pilate. During this second appearance, Pilate would go out before the people three times to appeal to them. The record begins to unfold in the Gospel of Mark.

Mark 15: 6 and 7 -- Now at that  feast he [Pilate] released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.

And there was one  named Barabbas, which lay  bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.

These verses again describe the custom of releasing a prisoner at the Feast near Passover time. John 18: 39, Luke 23: 17, and Matthew 27: 15 document the custom. Barabbas appears to have been not only a bandit or robber, but he also enjoyed notoriety as a political rebel, being involved in an attempted insurrection against Roman rule. For this reason, Barabbas was probably popular at this time with the common people as they were constantly annoyed by their Roman subjugation. During the political insurrection in which Barabbas had participated, he had committed murder. Yet Pilate was willing to offer the release of such a political nuisance as Barabbas while prosecuting a man in whom he found no fault.

End Of Part Five