The Real Jesus
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The Real Jesus

Chapter 19

The Day the Earth Shook

   It was the month of Nisan in the land of Palestine, and a prettier spring one could hardly remember.
   This "beginning of months" in the Jewish calendar (corresponding roughly to the latter part of our March and the first of April) marked the end of three-and-one-half years of Jesus' ministry, and the approximate end of thirty-three-and-a-half years of His human, physical life.
   It was the thirteenth of this first month, sometime during the day, when Jesus was asked by His disciples, "Where would you like to take the Passover this year?" (Mk. 14:12 ff.).
   Always before, Jesus seemed to have known where they would partake of the Passover together, but this time His instructions were rather strange, even to those disciples who had long since overcome their constant surprise at the things Jesus would say and do.
   He told Peter and John, always leaders in special circumstances, "I want you to go and get a place ready for us to partake of the Passover." They said, "Where do you want us to prepare this place?"
   "Go on into Jerusalem, and you're going to see a man carrying a pitcher of water on his shoulder. I want you to follow him, and whichever house it is he shall enter, you ask for the owner of the home, and tell him, 'My Master [teacher] asks, Where is the best room where I can keep the Passover in your home with my disciples?'
   "He will show you a large upper room at the rear of his home, completely furnished. I want you to stay there and make all the necessary preparations."
   Peter and John left Bethany, and went on to Jerusalem. Entering the city, they eagerly looked at the passersby up and down each street until at last they saw a man carrying a large jar of water on his shoulders.
   Peter nudged John, and John, startled, saw the same thing, the two of them falling into cadence behind the man, a discreet distance away.
   Twice, in the jostling throngs, they almost lost him, but finally succeeded in following him into a narrow side street, where he stopped to bang on a large door. Peter and John got close enough so that, when the door opened, they looked beyond the man and asked the servant at the door, "Could we see the master of the house, please. It's important!"
   They repeated the statement as Jesus had instructed them, and were surprised to see the master of the house tell them happily, "Come in, come in. Yes, I've been expecting you!" Peter and John were led through the interior courtyard, through the kitchen at the rear, and up a flight of stairs to a large upper room where they saw tables and furniture easily able to accommodate Jesus and His disciples.
   Why did this man expect Peter and John? Had an angel previously delivered the message? There is no record of it. Had Jesus Himself made arrangements a full year earlier, telling the man that He would send His disciples with such a message on the afternoon of the thirteenth? There is no way of knowing.
   For about a month now the entire city had been in preparation for this most important of feasts. Bridges were repaired, walls whitewashed, sidewalks and drains repaired and replaced, decorative friezes painted, as the whole city took on an expectant, exciting pace.
   Thousands of lambs were brought in from all parts of the countryside, and ceremonial preparations were underway in all homes for days in advance.
   The priests would carefully select lambs "without blemish" out of the herds on the tenth day (about three days before Jesus sent Peter and John into Jerusalem to find their guest chambers) to be brought into the slaughtering places in the cities.
   The candlelight searches were made through the nooks and crannies of homes for leavening. and the scrubbing and washing of utensils, pots and pans, the careful cleansing of silverware, the collection of the bitter herbs and baking of unleavened cakes were busily taking place throughout the city.
   Citizens noted, with some chagrin, that the Roman legion always sent additional concentrations of troops, both to remain within the city and to bivouac in the nearby countryside, for they always expected the possibility of an insurrection at this season, when perhaps somewhere between one-and-a-half and two million people would be thronging Jerusalem and its immediate environs for the Passover. (Ancient writers such as Josephus indicate the population of Jerusalem during the Passover season to be from one to three million, though recent scholarship suggests this number could be exaggerated.)
   Whose home was this where Jesus planned to take His last supper?
   The Bible does not say. but there may be reason to speculate it could have been the home of Nicodemus, or the home of young John Mark's father, or a large home rented for the purpose of the Passover by Joseph of Arimathaea, a very wealthy man who provided the tomb wherein Jesus was buried, and who actually helped carry the body there.
   In any event, Peter and John remained there for a time, making sure all of the required rites for preparation of the Passover had been completed, that there was ample tableware and seating, and that other provisions had been made for the exact number that Jesus would bring to this special Passover supper.
   The servants couldn't understand it. The whole house was thrown into an immediate uproar. Even though the master of the home had tried to insure that all was in readiness, the household help couldn't understand why in the world they were doing this one day earlier.
   For, notice carefully, Jesus intended sitting down to a Paschal lamb supper about 20 to 21 hours before all of the other Jewish homes would be doing the same thing!
   Jesus intended eating the Passover supper early!
   This truly was to be, then, a special "supper," later referred to by the Apostle Paul as "the Lord's supper," and was taken before the Jewish Passover! (See John 13:1.)
   After sunset that evening, it was the beginning of the fourteenth of Nisan, the day when the Israelites had been commanded to eat the Passover "between the two evenings."
   Jesus' mind was almost continually fixed on that "other dimension" now, and a great heaviness began to settle upon Him. Still, it was mixed with the deepest sense of fulfillment, and even personal satisfaction and warmth toward His disciples. Jesus knew how much He really loved them, and how much spiritual information He wanted to convey to their minds during His last hours on this earth, so that they themselves could give the greatest witness possible at a later time.
   We know from later Jewish sources that the Paschal supper followed a rigorously exacting schedule, including specified Psalms and prayers, four cups of red wine per person (which would even require an individual who was too poor to afford it to sign notes for future labor), plus the question and answer session between father and son concerning the significance of the Passover in Egypt, and many other rites. Some sort of similar ceremony may have already been customary even at this time.
   But Jesus' supper was far different. After they had all taken their seats around the table, Jesus, having led them in prayer and asking God's blessing on the food in a particularly moving manner, told them, 'I have had the deepest desire to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. Because I'm telling you, this is the last time I will eat it on this earth until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."
   The disciples were no doubt puzzled. They knew they were sitting down to a lamb supper with the bitter herbs, unleavened bread, the cups of wine; they knew that Jesus was particularly heavy and seemingly serious and saddened; and they no doubt expected that Jesus would be eating the regular Passover supper with them either here or in some other place the following evening. Therefore, all the disciples were quite surprised when He told them this was the last time He would eat of it until it was fulfilled in the kingdom of God!
   Suddenly, wild hope leaped into their breasts. They began to talk excitedly among themselves, believing that true to the Romans' apprehensions, Christ was finally going to seize upon the opportunity of the Passover on the following night to rally nearly one-and-a-half million people around Him (probably by an awesome series of miracles), simply overwhelm the Romans by force of numbers, and establish a new kingdom of Israel right then and there!
   Peter probably hastily excused himself during part of the noisy discussion that followed Jesus' sober words, and rushed downstairs to the foyer where they had left their outer cloaks, and retrieved his cherished Roman short-sword he had bought in a bazaar during their visit to the Syrophoenician coast.
   While he was at it, he rummaged through the disciples' personal effects and found another sword hanging on a peg beneath a cloak. Expectancy and determination boiling up within him, he climbed back up the stairs and slid the swords under the mat on which he was sitting and rejoined the conversation.
   The talk had turned to the deeds that had been done.
   Peter could see Judas was getting in his licks down the table, and it seemed that Bartholomew, James, Alphaeus's son Thaddeus, and even Simon the Canaanite were nodding agreement.
   Peter had been disgusted several times in the past over James's and John's constant discussions about who would "be the greatest" in the kingdom, and especially resented some of the interference of parents of some of the men, notably Zebedee's wife who had lobbied so heavily that "when Jesus came with His kingdom her boys ought to have the two top seats."
   The talk swirled back and forth along the table, concentrating on certain qualities of character: who had been stronger in this or that confrontation, who had been used to cast out demons, who had attracted the largest crowds which had listened in this or that town during their earlier evangelistic campaign trips when Jesus had sent them out two by two. Finally, faces began to redden, voices raised a little, and a full-fledged argument seemed to be developing.
   Jesus rapped for attention and said, "Now wait just a minute! You all know that the kings of Gentile nations exercise lordship over their subjects, and they that have authority over the people are usually called 'benefactors.'" (He said this somewhat sarcastically, for the record of bestial brutalities by Gentile kings, even including the oft-told tale of Herod's assassination of the children at Jesus' own birth, was well known.)
   "But with you it will not be that way! He that is the greatest among you, let him become as if he were the youngest. And he that is the chief, as if he were a servant. For which is the greatest, he that sits at the table, partaking of the meat, or he that is doing the serving? Is it not he that is obviously sitting at his own table, partaking of his own meat? But I am in the midst of you as he that serves. But you right here are those special few that have continued with me in all of my temptations and trials; and I am appointing unto you a kingdom, just as my Father has appointed that kingdom unto me; that you will finally eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will all sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel!"
   They didn't understand this statement though we in retrospect can easily understand it today.
   Jesus was showing the futility of reasoning carnally, bickering over special favors, and striving to use political methods and influence to gain prominence.
   Rather, He reminded them how, just prior to the meal, He Himself had helped set it out, had arranged this or that place setting, had gone willingly to the kitchen to carry some of the food to the upstairs room, as He had always done; pitching in with His own hands to do task work. Jesus never followed the examples of the aloof Pharisees and Sadducees who loved to posture and flaunt their importance while they allowed others to wait on them hand and foot.
   Judas, in lively discussion with several of the disciples whom he had greatly influenced, was seated close enough to Jesus that he could hear snatches of conversation between Jesus, John, James and Peter from time to time.
   His mind was tormenting him. Was this the time? How could he slip out? Was there any way he could bribe a servant? He knew Peter had secretly stashed away a couple of swords, but he didn't feel this would be enough to resist an armed guard, arriving quickly and without announcement. Judas thought he had better bide his time — perhaps wait until the supper was over and maybe everyone would be asleep from the effects of the delicious meal and the few cups of wine.
   But Judas used every opportunity during the lively discussion concerning rulership to get in telling blows about how he had saved them a great deal of money by his skillful financial transactions, and how much more popular he would prove to be with his deferential ways and especially his programs for the poor.
   Judas seized what seemed to have been his best opportunity, with Jesus particularly preoccupied during the Passover supper, to launch into one of his longest and most emotionally intense accusations of Jesus.
   Jesus had gotten up several times, but this time He returned to the table carrying some brazen pots and pans. When He had accumulated enough of them, Jesus stood up from the table, and began to take off His inner layer of garments until He was stripped to the waist, wearing only His loincloth. He then took a large towel and wrapped it around Himself, poured water into a large brass basin, and, beginning with one of the men at the end of the table, laid heavy emphasis on His words of a few moments before, "I am in the midst of you as one that serves," literally acting out His part of a "servant" by, of all things, beginning to wash the disciples' feet!
   Bemused, Judas watched Jesus wash the feet of Thaddeus and Simon the Canaanite. When Jesus came to Judas, he probably rolled his eyes, winked significantly at a couple of people nearby, grimacing in hopelessness, as Jesus, with His head and shoulders bowed, washed Judas's feet.
   Finally, it was Peter's turn. And Peter blustered.
   He said, "Lord, what in the world do you think you're doing — are you going to try to wash my feet?"
   Jesus looked at him and said, "What I am doing now, you don't understand, Peter, but you will understand afterward."
   Peter couldn't stand all of this "serving" any further and so he said, "You're never going to wash my feet!"
   Jesus smiled and said, "Peter, if I don't wash your feet, you won't have anything to do with me whatever."
   Peter said, "Lord, you go right ahead — and don't wash just my feet, but wash my hands and my head as well!"
   Jesus had to smile more broadly at this. "He that has had a bath does not need to wash anything but his feet, but is clean every bit.... " And, looking at all of them, while still noticing the glittering eyes of Judas, Jesus turned his statement into a direct and pointed lesson by saying, "And you are clean" — then with a glance in Judas's direction — "but not all of you." "Because," John added, "He knew who should betray him, therefore he said, 'You are not all clean.'"
   Finally, He finished washing the feet of all twelve of them, replaced the basins, removed the water jars, swabbed up the remaining droplets of water with a towel, and, picking up His garments, got dressed.
   He sat down again, then with voice rising above the hushed conversations he went on and said, "Do you know what I have done to you? You all refer to me as Master [teacher] and Lord and you say well, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and your Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. Because I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done unto you! In plain point of fact, I am telling you, that a servant is not greater than his lord; neither one who is commissioned or sent greater than the one who commissions or sends him.
   "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them! And I'm not talking of every one of you; I know each of you that I have chosen, and that the scriptures must be fulfilled that say, 'He that eats his bread with me lifted up his heel against me.' [Compare with Psalm 41:9] It is absolutely true that he who receives whomever I send is doing the same thing as receiving me; and he who receives me will receive Him who sent me!"
   Only moments later, Jesus said loudly enough for several of the disciples to hear, "I am telling you the truth that one of you right here at this table is going to betray me! His hand is partaking of the food right here at the table, and that hand is going to betray me! But I'll tell you this, Woe be unto that man through whom I am betrayed!"
   A deadly hush fell over the crowd.
   Judas's face was sober. With widened eyes, he looked, with a combined pretense of shock and curiosity from one to another near him as if wondering which one of those other disciples could dare do such a thing.
   A few tears sprang into a few eyes, and several of them were sorrowful.
   Perhaps some few who had been influenced a great deal by Judas and had allowed themselves to criticize Jesus from time to time were suddenly conscience-stricken. Several of them had to take the opportunity to say, "Surely you don't think I would ever do a thing like that, do you, Jesus?" Jesus reaffirmed again, "It is one of you who is eating with me right out of this common bowl, who dips his bread in the dish and who will betray me. The Son of man will go through with all that is required and written of Him, so it is all predetermined; but woe unto that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had simply never been born!" John had had a moment to express himself to Jesus, and in a particularly moving moment leaned over and placed his head on Jesus' chest.
   Peter thought John was whispering to Jesus, not recognizing that John was overcome with sympathy and compassion, or the emotion that he felt.
   Peter crooked a finger at John and whispered in his ear, "Tell us, who is this he is speaking about?"
   John leaned back a little further, and lifting his lips to Jesus' ear, said, "Lord, who is it?"
   Jesus said quietly, but with a searching look at His three closest disciples near Him, John, Peter and James, "It's the one to whom I'm going to give this sop."
   Picking up a piece of the bread, Jesus dipped it in the common vessel, picking up slivers of roast lamb with its juice, and purposefully leaned far over and gave it to Judas Iscariot.
   Judas noticed that John's face whitened with shock, and suddenly Judas felt his body convulse with both rage and guilt.
   Judas was thunderstruck. He sneered, "I suppose you think it is I, don't you Rabbi?" Jesus said, "Well, you said it."
   This final, public break was more than Judas's tormented emotion could stand! His bitterness had grown in the recent days and weeks during the tortuous confrontations with the leadership in Jerusalem. And now, inside himself, his mind snapped and he lost all mental control.
   While he probably couldn't really realize the enormity of the evil that was engulfing him, his hatred for Jesus became so fierce, so intense, that his normal reserves were destroyed.
   Judas had become fair game for Satan the Devil!
   Satan was always hovering near Judas in a constant attempt to get him to whisper in this or that ear, to influence this or that mind — all in order to bring about Jesus' degradation and death by any means possible. Judas's mental collapse was Satan's golden opportunity. He immediately took complete possession of Judas's mind, brain and body, entering directly into him so that he completely controlled his every act, word and thought.
   Jesus was still looking at Judas, and recognizing with His powerful perception of the spirit world that the glint in Judas's eye had suddenly taken on a wild demonic glaze, He spoke even more to Satan than He did to Judas: "Get on with it; whatever you intend doing, you'd better do it quickly!"
   The other disciples all heard Jesus' words to Judas — yet none understood. They probably supposed Jesus was giving Judas a special commission to go out and strike some special deal for a specific purpose. Perhaps Jesus had asked Judas to buy some extra provisions for the Passover. Judas, after all, was still the treasurer of the group; and Jesus had often told Judas to go buy things that they needed or had urged him to give an offering to some poor person. Therefore, there was no special uproar at the table when Judas hurriedly gathered his garments, got to his feet, and went clattering down the stairs.
   And so, while Jesus was still talking in calm tones to His disciples, Judas was cursing, flinging stones, and kicking at things in his path as he determined to seek out the officials and bring them back to Jesus to have Him arrested!
   Instantly, after Judas had departed, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him; and God will glorify him in himself." Jesus explained to them it was all going to come to a rapid head now, and began to urgently teach the disciples in a kindly but firm manner, words which seemed to recall for them the most striking example of Jesus' teachings they had ever heard, that time when they had slogged, lungs gasping for breath and foot-weary up to the heights of that mountain near Capernaum so long ago when Jesus had told them, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
   Jesus now said, "Little children, I'm only going to be with you for a short while longer and then you're going to seek me, and as I have told the Jews, where I am going, you cannot come. so now I am telling you, A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another even as I have loved you, that you love one another in exactly that same way!
   "So long as you do this, all men will know that you are my disciples. Your primary characteristic must be the love you show for one another!"
   Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Simon, I'm telling you something; Satan the Devil has tried to get a hold of you, time and again, so he can sift you just like wheat; but I have been praying especially for you, that your faith will not fail! Even though I know all of you are going to be offended against me, because I remember what Zechariah wrote, 'I will smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered abroad.' But, nevertheless, after I am resurrected, I am going to precede you into Galilee."
   Peter, having already asked Jesus, "Lord, where are you going to go?" said, "Lord, even though everybody else at this table would leave you, I never would! I am ready to go to jail with you, or to be killed!" Jesus said, "Really Peter? Are you really ready to lay down your life for me? I'm telling you the truth, that this very same night, before the cock crows two times, you are going to deny me three times!"
   Peter raised his voice vehemently! Tears sprang into his eyes. Mortified, furious, indignant, and at the same time filled with an urgency to convince Jesus of his sincerity, Peter wondered why in the world Jesus would be talking this way when Peter himself was ready for the breathtaking announcement that the time had come to go out into the streets of Jerusalem and begin proclaiming the news that the Messiah was taking over and setting up His government.
   Peter felt his whole life's calling disintegrating around his ankles. Searching wildly for what could possibly be behind Christ's words, he said again at the top of his lungs with tears filling his eyes, "Lord, even if I've got to stand there and die beside you, I will never deny you!" His speech was so moving that all of the other disciples were nodding their heads, with tears in their own eyes, and were saying the same thing!
   "You bet!" "Yes!" "That's right!" "Me, too!" all of them said.
   Jesus interrupted, "When I sent you out without a bag or a wallet, or without even extra sandals for your trip, did you lack anything?" They answered, "No, nothing." "Well, I'm telling you now, if you have a valise, you'd better take it, and likewise a wallet. And whoever has none, had better sell his cloak and buy a sword. Because I'm telling you that this which is written must be fulfilled in me [compare Isa. 53:12 — "And he was reckoned among the transgressors"] so that everything which has been written of me will be completely fulfilled!"
   That was more like it!
   Now Jesus was making more sense, Peter thought. With alacrity, he reached under the mat, and pulled out the two swords. Several of the others had seen him bring them and, nodding their heads, backed up Peter when he said, "Lord, look! We've already got two swords!"
   Jesus said, "That is quite enough!"
   Peter had carried the sword in its sheath around his belt as a utilitarian utensil for a long time. With it he had done everything from severing fruits and vegetables, trimming and cleaning them, butchering and skinning animals, or wiping or scraping the mud off his shoes. He had kept the sword exceedingly sharp, for its manifold uses kept the edge somewhat dulled if he didn't see to it constantly.
   Then, a new phase of the supper seemed to develop.
   They had all commenced to eat again, when Jesus took a loaf of the flat bread, began to break it, and again fulfilling His servant's task work, "blessed" (asked God's blessing on it in a brief prayer), broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take and eat of this, because this is my body which is given for you."
   Jesus may have winced a little while completing the act of breaking the bread, for He knew that in only a few hours, His very flesh would be broken open in great wounds — that He would be fulfilling His role in this human life as a great sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins for those down through the ages who would believe in the symbol of "His body," broken through a vicious scourging and terrible wounds, as offered in sacrifice to fulfill the scripture, "by whose stripes are you healed" (I Pet. 2:24).
   Later, He took the larger vessel of wine and poured it into individual cups, and after asking God's blessing, said, "Drink, all of you, because this cup is the New Covenant represented by my blood which is to be shed for many and which is poured out for you, for the remission of sins. Because I'm telling you I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the day that I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. Whenever you drink this cup, I want you to do it in remembrance of me, because whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you will be proclaiming the Lord's death until He comes again."
   Paul would later be inspired to write, "Whenever you eat this [broken] bread, and drink this cup, you are portraying the Lord's death until the time He returns.
   "Whoever eats this [broken] bread, and drinks of this cup of the Lord without really discerning the deep meaning of it, thus taking of the symbols unworthily, will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
   "But let a person examine himself, and then let him eat of that [broken] bread, and drink of the cup.
   "Because he that eats or drinks unworthily is condemning himself by eating and drinking these symbols; not clearly seeing the Lord's body! It is for this precise reason many are weak and sickly among you, and that many have died!" (cf. I Cor. 11:26-30).
   Jesus knew His body was being offered in summation of all sacrifice; that every bullock, lamb, turtle dove or any other sacrifice was only a "schoolmaster" (Gal. 3:24) looking toward this one great sacrifice; the very body, in perfect physical condition, unblemished by any sin either in spiritual intent or through physical accident, and the blood of the Son of God!
   By this institution of these New Testament symbols, Jesus was changing the character and the time of observance of the "Passover" for all Christians to observe hereafter. He was partaking of His own "supper" about 20 or so hours before the time of the Old Testament Passover, when the tens of thousands of families would be sitting down to their sacrificial roast lamb; and establishing new symbols which would look back to the reality of Christ's sacrifice of His broken body and shed blood, rather than forward (through the slaughter of animals) to the need for such sacrifice for sins!
   No wonder He spoke with such fervor; no wonder He was so deeply profound!
   One can imagine that, humanly, Jesus so wanted His disciples to "get" what was about to happen to Him! When we're distraught, fearful, or terribly shaken, our most urgent human need is for those we love the most to understand! Jesus was reaching out during this supper for the compassion and the empathy of His closest and dearest friends. Perhaps John alone, who was chosen to write almost all that Jesus spoke, and who leaned over against His shoulder in an expression of deep compassion, really came close to feeling the heaviness that was on Jesus — and managed to communicate his understanding.
   Again, the disciples were both elated and puzzled. It seemed He was contradicting Himself time after time. First, He would send the wildest hopes to fill their breasts with a statement which seemed to imply He was virtually ready to rush out into the streets and begin His kingdom; and then He kept talking of His imminent death!
   A gloom settled over the room again.
   Peter was shaking his head in sorrow, wondering when they were going to get on with it. Others were deeply troubled.
   Jesus then began to say, "Don't let your hearts trouble you. You believe in God; I want you to believe also in me. In my Father's house are many places and positions. If this were not true, I would have told you; because I go away to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you myself, that where I am at that time, you can be there also!"
   "And the place to which I go, I have shown you the way!"
   Thomas, one of the skeptics of the twelve, piped up, "Lord, we don't know where in the world you are going, and not knowing this, how can we know the way?"
   Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one can come unto the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also: And from now on you will come to know Him, because you have seen Him."
   Philip responded, "Lord, show us the Father, and it will be sufficient."
   Jesus retorted, "Have I been so long with you, Philip, and you still do not know me? He that has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, Show us the Father? Don't you believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say unto you I do not speak from my own self, but the Father who abides in me accomplishes His works through me! Believe me, that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe me for the very works' sake. And truthfully, I am telling you, he that believes on me, the works that I do, he can do also; and even greater works than these can he do, because I will go to the Father.
   "And whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask me anything in my name, that will I do!"
   These lengthy, moving, final instructions to His disciples recorded in John 14-17 contain not only some of the most important doctrinal essentials of Jesus' teaching, but also graphic insight into His "other dimensional" awareness of precisely who He was, what He had come to accomplish, and where He was going. This was the great God who had created the universe, trying to pack as much meaning into every word with His human disciples during these last moments on earth as He possibly could.
   This was the Son of Man, the Son of God, a member of the Divine Family, having changed Himself into a tiny collection of human cells, growing to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem, and living human life as it had never been lived before for thirty-three and-one-half years.
   The final chapters were about to be written. His hour was coming, and He knew it.
   With a profound resignation, knowing that He had conquered and overcome Satan the Devil and could have commanded him to come out of Judas, Jesus allowed the furious tide of onrushing events to carry Him along to the completion of His human destiny.
   He reminded His disciples that soon another "Comforter," the very Spirit of God, would come, and would "bring to your remembrance everything I have told you"!
   He chided them for not understanding much of what He had said; reminded them that He understood they didn't "get it," but gave them such a powerful discourse that His closest and most beloved disciple, John, was able to put in writing most of the essential words even some years later.
   Jesus told them they could never bear fruit apart from remaining "in Him," and gave them the analogy of the branch of a vine which could never produce fruit except it remain joined to the major vine from which it received nourishment.
   He told them, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do those things which I command you!"
   Jesus told them the world would hate them, even as the world had hated Him, and would hate their disciples on down through the ages to come.
   He said, "If you were of the world [humanly devised societies] the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore, the world will hate you."
   He told them some frightening things during this last "Lord's supper." He even warned them that the time would come when religious zealots would "put you out of the synagogue; yes, the hour will come that whoever kills you will think that he actually offers a special service to God!"
   And then He made one of the strongest statements of all; that, even though He had told them that the cup was the "blood of the New Testament which was shed for them," the bread was "His body" which was offered for them, and sure martyrdom would come to them later, He said, "I have yet many things to say to you, but you couldn't stand to hear them now! However, when the spirit of truth has come, it will guide you into all the truth!"
   Jesus well remembered that when He had previously given His larger group of disciples the teaching that He was "that bread which cometh down from heaven" and that "His flesh" was the "bread" they would have to eat, that many of them had left Him and refused to go along with Him any further (John 6:48-66).
   He remembered even then how Peter had said, "Lord, to whom shall we go; you have the words to eternal life!"
   Now He was telling His disciples even stronger things, if that were possible, and furthermore stating to them that many of the things He wanted to say were so strong they would not be able to understand and appreciate them at that time. Jesus reminded His disciples that God's Holy Spirit would lead them into greater understanding and into "all truth" at a later time!
   He concluded a portion of the discourse by saying, "In a little while now and you will not be able to see me any more; then a little later, you will be able to see me!"
   Some of the disciples began reasoning among themselves, and one asked, "What is this that He is telling us? Why is He telling us that in a little while you will not be able to see me, and then a little later and you will see me?" And, "What does He mean when He says, 'Because I go to the Father?' "
   They said, "Just what in the world does He mean, 'In a little while?' We don't know what He is telling us."
   But Jesus perceived they were desiring to ask Him and He said, "Don't reason around among yourselves about what I said, 'A little while and you won't be able to see me,' and then, 'A little later and you will see me.' I am telling you the truth that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice! You will be sorrowful but your sorrow shall be turned into joy!
   "When a woman is giving birth she is full of pain because her time has come; but later when she has delivered the baby, she forgets all about the anguish, because of the joy that a child is born into the world!
   "And you are growing sadder now, but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and that joy no one can ever take away from you!"
   These chapters of the book of John (14 through 17) are some of the most beautiful in all the Bible, especially the real Lord's prayer contained in the 17th chapter of John.
   Finally, Jesus' lengthy discourse and prayer was over. Supper was finished now. It was a custom to sing hymns (from the Psalms) during the Jewish Passover observance, and Jesus wanted to sing a special hymn with His disciples prior to leaving the large upper room in which the lengthy dinner had been eaten.
   They all stood, and Jesus leading in a clear voice, sang one of His favorite hymns. Probably it was one of the psalms, and one may speculate if it could have been the twenty-second and/or twenty-third psalm considering the former's application to Jesus' moments of agony on the tree, and especially the latter's promise of deliverance.
   In any event, one can well imagine the emotions flowing through these men, after such a particularly heavy atmosphere during the lengthy meal, Jesus' very pointed statements and long discourse, and especially His tone of unusual finality in so much of what He had said.
   Clearly, the disciples knew that something very unusual was about to occur.
   They filed out of the room, and gathering their outer garments, after thanking the householder and the servants, went their way out into the streets of Jerusalem, down a steep slope, fording the brook Kidron which still ran full in those days, and began to walk along pathways winding up the opposite slope until they arrived at a beautiful arboretum and garden place which was named Gethsemane. There were benches and stones, and it was a site to which weary travelers could resort and enjoy the beauty of the plantings. Realizing the imminence of His situation, Jesus told the disciples, "Sit here while I go over there a little and pray."
   As He had done so often, He took with Him the leading three disciples who had accompanied Him on so many special occasions in the past — including the transfiguration — Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John.
   They noticed that a terrible troubled look had come over His face, and He turned to them and said, "I am terribly sorrowful, and deeply aching inside, to the point that I feel death upon me!"
   He said, "Stay here and watch for me," and then, going forward a few more steps, about a stone's throw, dropped to the ground quickly, and even pressing His face forward on the ground, began to pray loudly enough that the three closest disciples could hear Him saying, "Father, Father, everything is possible with you! If there is anyway to remove this cup from me... nevertheless, it is not my will that should be done, but your will!"
   The prayer continued, Jesus being in an agony of intense communication with His Father, until, looking up, feeling a strong hand on His shoulder, He could see a powerful angel standing there to give Him encouragement and strength. It was as if He had received a direct communication that the turbulent events swirling about Him would continue exactly as they had been intended, and that there would be no respite from the suffering of the next few hours. After looking at the angel's face, He prayed even more earnestly, until He quite literally broke out into a sweat, with rivulets of perspiration falling from His nose and chin, dropping down on the ground.
   He got up, wiping His face, and walked back and found the disciples curled up on the ground, asleep.
   He grabbed Peter's shoulders and shook him, saying, "What! Couldn't you keep your eyes open and watch for me here for one hour? I'm telling you, watch and pray that you enter not into temptation; the spirit of course is always willing, but the flesh is weak."
   Peter, James and John stumbled to their feet, rubbing their eyes and looking foolishly about. Then, after saying these words, Jesus groaned, turned away, and went back to His place of prayer a second time, dropping to the ground and praying the very same prayer again, begging His Father to "take the cup from Him" but quickly saying, "If this can't pass from me except I have to partake of it, then your will be done!"
   After this second earnest prayer, He came back to this same area and found them sleeping again, because they couldn't keep their eyes open.
   Again He rebuked them and told them they should be watching and praying with Him, and turning away for the third time, went back to the same place and began earnestly and intensively praying the same prayer.
   As the being who was the God of the Old Testament, He knew the case of Elijah and the third request for the dead boy's life; Jesus was after all the very designer of numerical symbolism and its revelation to the prophets of old, and as surely as He had designed a seventh day for the perfection of the weekly cycle, knew that three represented finality. After He had prayed so movingly for the third time, Jesus knew He had His final answer. The original plan would continue.
   Thus, returning after His third intensive prayer, Jesus said, "Well, go ahead and get what rest you can, then, because the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners!"
   As Jesus returned the third time, He heard the clatter of an approaching group, and saw the torches they carried as they forded the creek below. He cried, "Get up! We'd better be going, because the one who will betray me is right here!" He had no sooner finished the statement to Peter and John when Judas materialized out of the dancing light of the torches held by the nearest of the group, followed by a large number of others including the chief priests and elders, a number of soldiers, the officers of the temple, all of them obviously heavily armed, carrying the lengthy lances, Roman short-swords, and some wearing helmets and breastplates.
   It was well known among the disciples that Jesus resorted to the area of Gethsemane, and Judas knew precisely where to find Him since he had heard Jesus discussing His plans for the later evening.
   Jesus stepped out from the gloom into the flickering glare of the torches and lanterns and said, "Who are you looking for?"
   Those in the nearest ranks answered, "Jesus of Nazareth."
   Jesus said, "I am he!"
   When these words came out of His mouth, the strangest phenomenon you could imagine occurred!
   Several ranks of the group seemed to quickly stumble backward and actually toppled over and fell to the ground! A babble of excitement went rippling through the crowd as they tried to disengage themselves from each other. One or two leaped about, slapping wildly where a torch had touched their garments! They picked up their spears, readjusted their helmets and swords, as the whole group tried to create some semblance of dignity and order out of the chaos of the sudden, unexplained idiocy of those boobs up in the front rank leaning suddenly backward causing the whole group to lose their footing and fall over backward!
   (Several cases in the Bible show that when a person is under demonic influence, he always "falls away backward," when confronted by the influence of God, or in the presence of an angelic messenger.)
   While reasonable order was being restored to their ranks, Jesus waited; He then asked them again, "Who are you looking for?"
   Again, one of them said loudly, "Jesus of Nazareth!"
   "Fine!" he said, "I told you I am he, so if I'm the one you're looking for then let these others go," indicating His frightened disciples standing nearby. "Let these go their way." John later wrote that Jesus said this to fulfill the word that He had spoken in His prayer when He said, "Of those whom you had given me I lost not one."
   About that time, Judas came directly up to Jesus and in the most cheerful possible fashion said, "Hello, Rabbi!" And, taking Him by the shoulders, kissed Him quickly on the cheek.
   Jesus stood rigidly, looking at Judas in scorn and hurt, and said, "Judas, do you mean to tell me you would betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"
   Peter and some of the other disciples had drawn protectively about Jesus, as if to try to conceal Him from the leaders of the mob; Peter said, "Lord, shall we attack them with these swords?"
   Several of the soldiers leveled their pikes and spears, and one of the officers of the high priest made as if to seize Jesus. Peter took a step backward, and the whisper of his sword coming out of his sheath had barely been noticed when the flashing blade descended with a vicious arc through the air! The servant of the High Priest dodged nimbly, or Peter's Roman sword would have split his head open like a ripe melon! The priest's officer stumbled backward, and Peter's blade barely sliced through his ear, completely severing it from his head! Peter was raising the blade for a second blow as a wild yell went through the crowd behind.
   Jesus quickly spoke with great authority, saying to Peter, "Put your sword away into its sheath! All those that take the sword will perish with the sword! Don't you think that I could turn to my Father and beseech Him and that He could send me more than twelve legions of angels?" Saying this, Jesus stooped down to the ground, picked up the officer's severed ear, and touching it to his head spoke briefly. The officer, amazed, put his hand to his ear and found it as whole as the other! Peter, mumbling, put away his sword and stepped back with the other disciples.
   Jesus said, "Have you come out here to arrest me as if I were some robber; do you believe you have to be heavily armed with swords and spears to seize me? Here I was, sitting daily with you in the temple teaching and you didn't arrest me; but this is all being allowed to happen that the scriptures the prophets wrote might be fulfilled; but this is your hour and the power of darkness and desolation shall prevail. However, your time will be short."
   The mob moved forward with several of the soldiers trotting quickly left and right with their spears at the trail, intending to surround the whole group. Quickly, the disciples all melted into the darkness, and fled as fast as they could.
   Years later, young John Mark (the author of the second gospel) admitted that he had been among the group when he wrote about "a certain young man" who followed along after them, being clothed only with a linen cloth about his naked body, and when they mistook him for one of the disciples grabbing at his clothing, he left the linen cloth and fled away naked (Mark 14:51-52).
   This took place probably either a little before or a little after the hour of midnight.
   They bound Jesus, and, with significant jabs with the butt of their spears and wild talk among the officers and the chief priests about what would happen next, plus any number of threats that "we will finally find out about all of this" and "see just who is in authority here" and other threatening statements, they clattered their way along the trails back to the brook Kidron, and began to climb the other side.
   The boisterous crowd took Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem, where the curious peered out of their upper windows at the throng going by at this ridiculously early time just before the Jews' Passover preparation. The noisy band finally came to the residence of Annas, who happened to be Caiaphas's father-in-law, the high priest for that year.
   Caiaphas was the one who had given instructions to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people — little realizing the awesome spiritual significance of his remark.
   At Annas's home, the high priest demanded to know of Jesus, "Now just who in the world do you think you are? What is all this teaching you have been bringing in the temple? Who are your disciples, and where are they from?"
   Jesus answered, "I have spoken openly to the world; I continually taught in synagogues all up and down the country, and even in the temple, where all the Jews gather together. I have taught nothing in secret. Why are you asking me these questions? Ask those who have listened to me what I have taught them. Look! These people standing right here by you know exactly what I have said!"
   At Jesus' sincere yet authoritative tone, one of the officers standing by slapped Him with a ringing blow to the head, saying, "Do you think you can talk to the high priest this way?"
   Jesus, His ear ringing from the blow, turned to the man and said levelly, "If I have spoken evil, then accuse me of the evil deed; but if I have spoken well, why are you hitting me?"
   The confrontation came to an end when Annas indicated they should leave Him bound, and take Him to Caiaphas's house where the scribes and the elders were gathering together in a "kangaroo court," having already sent runners far and wide to roust out of bed as many as they could recall who might have agreed in advance to bear false witness against Jesus.
   Again, the noisy group clattered its way along the streets until it came to Caiaphas's house, where Jesus was held bound, while the final preparations were being conducted with the false witnesses.
   One after another they whispered their stories in the high priest's ears, only to have them rejected because the high priest realized some of these wildly absurd tales would never stand up with the people.
   Finally, however, two of the false witnesses agreed that Jesus had allegedly said, "I will destroy this temple, made with the hands of man, and then in three days, I will build another temple made without hands!"
   Another said Jesus had actually claimed that He "would be able to destroy the temple of God and build it again in three days."
   Jesus had been ushered into the presence of the high priest as these two false witnesses were making this statement, and it was then that the high priest stood up and said? "Do you have nothing whatsoever to say about this? What is this that these witnesses are telling against you?"
   Jesus looked straight at the high priest, and didn't open His mouth.
   The high priest, growing angrier by the moments said, "I adjure you by the living God [the words reassured him, and gave him a greater consciousness of his alleged godly authority] that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God?" Jesus said, "As you say, I am! And I am telling you you will see after this the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven!"
   That did it!
   The high priest was beside himself with rage! Furthermore, Jesus had finally spoken out so publicly and in such a supercharged environment with all of the essential leaders there, that the high priest could seize this opportunity to dispense with any need for further testimony from the false witnesses. Ripping at his garments so that he tore them (the habit of rending one's garments in the time of great emotional stress must have given deep emotional comfort to these posturers) in an anguished scream, the high priest exclaimed, "He blasphemes! What further need have we of witnesses? Listen all of you! You have heard that blasphemy yourselves! So what do you think we ought to do about it?"
   The crowd began answering, "That demands the death penalty! He ought to be killed! He is worthy of death!"
   Some of them walked near and began to spit in Jesus' face, while others slapped Him ringing blows across His cheeks, hitting Him about the head and ears, as the scene disintegrated into mob violence.
   Here and there, one would reach over the outstretched arms and fists of others pummeling Him and shriek, "Prophesy! Who is this who just hit you?"
   Of course, Jesus had been quickly blindfolded upon entering into the house, so He could not recognize any of the witnesses who appeared against Him. This was done as a precaution in case this thing should get out of hand and develop in an unwanted direction, or if Jesus should prove to have so many sympathizers that for some reason the high priest and religious leaders could not execute their plan of getting rid of the man once and for all.
   While He was both tied and blindfolded, these "courageous" religious leaders continued to beat Him on the face, shredding His lips against His teeth, opening up cuts with their bare knuckles, spitting on Him and saying, "Go ahead, prophet! Who is this hitting you? Tell me!"
   Many were shrieking, "Bastard! False prophet! False teacher, friend of whores and harlots!" and other epithets of every sort.
   Outside the high priest's home was the large outer court. After the clattering group with their flickering torches and lanterns had left the garden of Gethsemane, Peter picked himself up behind a large boulder where he had hidden, and stumbling along in the dark managed to parallel their course until they entered the city gate. He waited until they were sufficiently far ahead, and then followed along behind. Peter and John were both surprised to find each other in the streets as they were about to turn in to the court of the high priest. John had already entered the court, and was standing by a fire that had been hastily kindled so some of the officers and the soldiers could warm themselves.
   John, wondering what was happening in the large lighted rooms, and waiting to see what would develop, noticed a furtive figure just outside the door, and in quick whispered consultation with one of the maids who guarded the door, asked if the man could be brought in.
   She ran to do as John asked, and said, "Are you one of this man's disciples?" Peter said, "I most certainly am not!"
   He then walked over to join John and the officers and some of the servants warming themselves by the brazier.
   The girl wouldn't quit, it seemed. Standing across the fire, she gazed steadfastly at him and said, "I believe this man was with Jesus, that Galilean!"
   Peter denied it again, saying loudly before all of them as they were murmuring about the events of the last hour or two and, looking now and then toward the lighted rooms where the screaming epithets were dimly heard, "Woman, I don't know what you're talking about! You don't know what you're saying! I most certainly was not one of his disciples. I don't even know who he is!"
   Peter had to get away from this stupid girl, and so, leaving the warmth of the fire, went out on the porch. As he arrived there, when it was just darkest before the dawn, he heard a rooster crow. Another of the female servants said to a group of the others standing there, "This fellow here was with Jesus the Nazarene!"
   Peter cursed at this, and said, "I don't know the man!"
   He began to use epithets and oaths, cursing and swearing, and saying, "I don't know what you're talking about! I have never seen him before!" But a relative of the servant of the high priest whom Peter's own sword had nearly killed, said, "Didn't I see you in the garden with him?" Peter continued to vehemently deny Jesus for the third time, and while the denial was still on his lips, heard the second crowing of a rooster nearby.
   Peter could see the raised fists, hear the distant "smack" of the blows descending on Jesus just inside the lighted hall. From time to time, he thought he caught a glimpse of Jesus in the midst of His tormentors; then, shockingly, just as Peter finished his third loud cursing denial, a hush seemed to fall over the group inside. It seemed they had knocked Jesus' blindfold loose, and, quickly stooping to retrieve it lest He could identify all of them later, several bent to pick it up off the floor. Just then, in the hush, Jesus glanced Peter's way; and, just after the cock had crowed for the second time upon Peter's third denial, their eyes met. Jesus seemed to give a wan smile through pulped lips, just as His face was blotted from Peter's stricken gaze by those surrounding Him. (See Luke 22:60-61.)
   Peter was thunderstruck.
   Knowing that Jesus was inside the hall being treated like a common criminal while Peter was standing out here denying having ever seen Him, Peter threw himself down the steps into the streets, and finally leaned against a wall in the deserted darkness of predawn Jerusalem and sobbed until he thought his heart would break.
   This was our Tuesday night, or by Jewish reckoning the nighttime part of Wednesday, the fourteenth of Nisan or Abib.
   By the time it was daylight, the chief priests, elders and scribes dragged Jesus to the formal court of the Sanhedrin and demanded again to know "who he was," as part of their preconceived, carefully staged plot.
   Earlier, while He was being kept bound and blindfolded, they had called a hasty consultation of the entire Sanhedrin, and agreed on a course of action that would surely result in His death.
   True to their hopes, upon their repeated demand, "If you are the Christ, tell us!" Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe: and if I ask you, you will not answer.
   "But I'll tell you this! From here after shall the Son of Man be seated on the right hand of the power of God!"
   "Are you then the Son of God?" they sneered.
   "You say that I am the Son of God!"
   "What further need do we have of witnesses?" they shrieked. "We ourselves have heard this blasphemy from his own mouth."
   To insure they had the complete approval of the top Roman governor, and to give the "kangaroo court" the semblance of legality, Jesus was secured in His bonds again, and led away to the residence of Pilate, the Governor.
   At about this time, a servant came to some of the priests, and mentioned that a man was desperately wanting to see them on "a most urgent matter" concerning Jesus.
   It was Judas. He said urgently, "I have sinned — I betrayed an innocent man!"
   He thrust toward them the bag with 30 pieces of silver in it, and begged them to take it back.
   The chief priests said, "Whose business is that? That's your problem!"
   With that, Judas simply cast down the bag in the sanctuary, and left.
   The chief priests gathered up the silver, and terribly careful to make sure they complied with Deuteronomy 23:18 said, "It isn't lawful to put this into the treasury, since it is the price of blood" and so decided after a hurried caucus to buy a potter's field to bury strangers in.
   Even this fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 18:2; 19:2; 32:6-15 with Zechariah 11:13). From that time on the field they bought with that money became known as the "Field of Blood."
   John's account is particularly important at this point because he said that they led Jesus from Caiaphas into Pilate's palace while it was early "and they themselves entered not into the palace that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover"! (This passage absolutely proves that the Jews were going to eat the Passover later on in the afternoon of the fourteenth of Nisan or the early evening of the fifteenth as was their custom. Consequently, the supper Jesus had eaten with His disciples at the beginning of the fourteenth, called the Lord's supper by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians the 11th chapter, was about 20 hours earlier than the Jewish Passover!)
   Pilate wanted to know what the man was accused of, and the delegation said, "Obviously, if this man were not an evildoer we wouldn't be here with him! But we found him perverting our nation, forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar [all lies!] and even claiming that he himself is a king!"
   Pilate said, "Fine. Do what you want. Take him yourselves and judge him according to your own law." But the religious leaders answered, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death!" They knew they had to have the Roman governor's full permission before they could get away with their hasty "kangaroo court" and put Jesus to death.
   Pilate relented and asked to see Jesus Himself. He knew the crafty dealings of these religious types. But he also knew their power over the people. So Pilate's curiosity was now really aroused. Who could possibly have elicited such feelings of jealousy and rivalry from these religious leaders?
   In due time, Jesus was brought in, the blood-spattered garments and open cuts on His face, the spittle in His hair and His beard, testifying to the terrible treatment He had received.
   Pilate asked Him, "So you are the one they are calling the king of the Jews?"
   Jesus answered, "You are the one who is telling me! Are you saying this of yourself, or did others merely bring this story to you?" Pilate responded, "What am I, some Jew? It's your own people and the chief priests who have delivered you to me. Just what is it you have done?"
   Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this society. If my kingdom were of this time, then my servants would fight, I will assure you, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this time!"
   "So you're a king?" Pilate asked.
   Jesus said, "You claim I am a king. To this end have I been born, and for this purpose I came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.
   "Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice!"
   Sighing, remembering his Roman education, and the teachings of some of the great philosophers, Pilate asked the age-old question still being repeated plaintively today, "So what is truth?"
   Turning from Jesus, Pilate told the Jewish leaders, "I can't find any crime whatsoever in this man!"
   The chief priests and Sadducees fell all over one another clamoring about the great crimes and sins Jesus was alleged to have committed.
   Jesus, standing there, heard it all. Pilate turned to Him and said, "Won't you answer any of their accusations? Listen to how many things they are accusing you of!"
   But Jesus stolidly refused to open His mouth in answer to the hideous tales they were telling, including everything from theft to adultery, robbery, a threatened destruction of the temple, insurrection, rebellion, refusal to pay taxes and every other crime and sin that they could imagine.
   The more urgently they accused Him, the more Pilate marveled that Jesus would stand there quietly taking it, and never saying a word.
   Hearing all these railing accusations, Pilate finally realized that the man was a Galilean and thought he could find a way to get out from under the calamitous insistence of the Jewish leaders in this riotous mess.
   Obviously, the man belonged under Herod's jurisdiction, and Pilate, knowing Herod would be in Jerusalem for the feast, told them to take Him away to see Herod.
   Herod was actually happy when he heard he would have an opportunity to interview Jesus, because he had heard about Him for a long time. Herod earnestly wanted to see Jesus privately, and had even hoped that maybe some miracle could be performed for him.
   When Jesus was brought before Herod, it was much like the scenes at Annas's house, the house of Caiaphas, and the court of Pilate.
   The chief priests and the scribes took turns vehemently accusing Him, with Herod sitting on his throne, the soldiers standing about, and all listening attentively.
   Jesus repeatedly refused to answer. Question after question was hurled at Him; carefully worded, laboriously explained, doubly and trebly repeated accusations of the filthiest nature.
   Herod thought he had found a way at last to build some bridges between himself and Pilate, with whom he had been having the coolest of relations.
   If he could appear to be totally cooperative even with one of his own subjects in asking for Pilate's help, perhaps he could heal some of the wounds.
   Seizing upon a ridiculous idea, knowing Pilate would appreciate his little joke, Herod decided to make a mock "king" out of Jesus.
   He quickly gave some orders to his soldiers, who, searching through Herod's wardrobe, found a purple king's robe, together with all the other trappings of the royal attire, and hurriedly dressed Jesus, cackling and laughing in glee as they arranged the gorgeous apparel on him (see Luke 23:6-11).
   When Herod was satisfied he had fully developed the charade and Jesus looked suitably attired to tickle Pilate's funny-bone, he had the men take Jesus back to Pilate's residence.
   It had been a custom for a long time for the governor of the province to grant a pardon for one leading prisoner as a sign of clemency at the time of the feast.
   A very famous prisoner named Barabbas, a leader of a large group who had tried to overthrow the Roman government, was in jail. During the insurrections they had caused in this and that town, some had lost their lives, and Barabbas was up for murder. The early morning hours were waning by the time Pilate called together the chief priests and the rulers of the people. Finding Jesus had been delivered back to him from Herod again, Pilate said, "Look, you've brought back to me this man as if he were someone who is perverting and subverting the people. Now look, I have examined him before you, listening to everyone of the accusations you've brought, but I can find no fault in this man, and no corroboration for those things you accuse him of.
   "Even Herod, when I sent him over there could find no fault in him, and has sent him back to me again. So far as I can tell, he has not done anything that would mean he is worthy of the death penalty. As you know, there is a custom that I should grant clemency to one prisoner at this time of the Passover."
   Pilate hoped his words were scoring well with the Jewish leaders, for he seriously wanted to see Barabbas killed! The man had been the scourge of the countryside, and Pilate had had to send his legions clattering around in their chariots in fruitless searches here and there, but Barabbas had always eluded him until a fortuitous circumstance involving the bribery of a certain maid Barabbas was known to favor had delivered him into the hands of some of Pilate's more skilled lieutenants.
   Pilate had no intention of seeing Barabbas get away this time, and was hoping that by making a public example of his death he could have a little peace for the next few months or so.
   Therefore, he was sincerely hoping that these Jewish leaders, screaming for the death of Jesus, would listen to both the testimony of Herod and of Pilate himself, and would agree that Jesus had done nothing worthy of the death penalty, and conclude that Jesus was the one who should be released.
   Pilate finished his speech, "Therefore, seeing that he has done nothing worthy of death, would you want me to release unto you this one who claims he is king of the Jews?"
   Pilate had another very important reason for making this speech, because while he was sitting on the judgment seat during the very time Jesus was being interviewed by Herod, his wife had interrupted him, saying, "Don't have anything to do with that righteous man! I'm telling you I have suffered many things just last night in a vivid dream because of him!" She went on to tell her husband of some of the frightening things she had experienced in a very real vision, and urged him with all of her persuasive powers to see to it that he kept completely uninvolved
   But his speech before the religious leaders was to no avail, and they began screaming that Jesus be crucified and Barabbas be the one released! Pilate asked, "Well, if I release Barabbas, then what am I supposed to do with this person you claim is the King of the Jews who is called Jesus the Christ?"
   The mob screamed the louder, "Crucify him, crucify him, crucify him!'
   It began to become a chant-surging, ebbing, flowing, growing increasingly louder! They began to stamp their feet in unison, jam the butts of spears on the court floor, some of them jumping up and down with rage as the chant grew ever louder, until it literally rang against the walls and echoed down the corridors of the governor's residence, "Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!"
   Finally, Pilate gained their attention by gesturing to the soldiers nearby, and when he had quieted the crowds, he said, "Why in the world should I do such a hideous thing as pass on him our Roman form of death sentence? What evil has he done?"
   Jesus stood there with the blood draining out of the livid scratches and scars on His cheeks, His mock crown of thorns glistening wetly with the blood of His own head where it had been jammed cruelly down over His forehead and had gouged deeply into one eyelid. The gorgeous purple robes, so gleefully and playfully arranged by Herod, were now darkening with the drops of blood dripping out of His hair and from His beard. Pilate said, "Crucify him yourself! I can't find any crime in him whatsoever!"
   One of the leaders finally gained Pilate's attention while he stood talking to the mob in the courtyard and said, "We have a law; and according to our laws that man ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God — and that is blasphemy!"
   When Pilate heard these words, that the man had actually "made himself the Son of God," something struck his mind with a resounding jolt.
   His wife's beseeching eyes and her urgent voice came to him, as did a great deal of his earlier teaching, and his own religious doubts.
   He turned, went back into the palace again, and coming before Jesus who had been standing there with the drops of His own blood spattering the floor about Him, said, "Where did you come from?"
   Again, Jesus did not move His lips; did not acknowledge Pilate's presence, and gave no answer.
   Pilate, irritated, said, "Do you refuse to talk to me? Don't you know that I have the power to either release you, or the power to crucify you?"
   At this, Jesus said, "You would have no power against me whatever, except it were allowed you from above. Therefore, because of this, those who delivered me unto you are guilty of the greater sin!"
   That clinched it in Pilate's mind. A man who could speak this way, and act with this incredible dignity in the face of such a hideous death, saying such striking things in utter honesty, must not die. Pilate wanted very badly to release Him.
   Returning to the men outside, Pilate again encouraged them to allow him to release Jesus. But they screamed the louder, saying, "If you release this man, you're going to be in terrible trouble with the Emperor! Everyone that makes himself a king is after all claiming to speak directly against Caesar!"
   Pilate was perplexed. What should he do now? The Jews had scored a telling blow with this statement that any insurrectionist was actually looked upon as a direct rebel against Caesar's claim to divine powers himself. Pilate was in fact being blackmailed. He therefore decided to bring Jesus down to the judgment seat at a place on a wide courtyard called, The Pavement or in Hebrew Gabbatha.
   John says, "Now it was the preparation of the Passover, about the sixth hour (by Roman reckoning probably 6:00 A.M.), and when Pilate had descended with Jesus to the courtyard where the mob stood, he said, 'Behold your king!'"
   They screamed loudly again with the same chant, "Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!"
   Pilate shouted over their heads, "What? Am I supposed to crucify your very king?"
   The high priest screamed, "We have no king but Caesar!"
   Pilate sighed, realized he was getting nowhere, and that a riot was about to develop. So in the eyes of all, he called for a basin, dipped his hands, held them aloft so they could see the water, and went through the ceremony of hand washing, finally turning to the crowd and saying aloud, "You see it! I am washing my hands of it! I am proclaiming myself completely innocent of the blood of this righteous man. It's your problem, you see to it."
   Willingly, the leaders screamed, "Fine! Let his blood be on us — and upon our children!"
   Pilate, worried deeply about keeping his own office if this riotous tumult caused such an upset that it actually got all the way back to Rome, and recognizing he couldn't escape the full legal and even spiritual and moral responsibility for this surrender to the Jewish leaders, nevertheless couldn't seem to find any other way out. He desperately wanted to keep his own office, and had sincerely hoped that he could talk these rabid religionists into letting him release Jesus, and go ahead with his scourging and crucifixion of Barabbas. Instead, he found himself faced with the doubly obnoxious decision to release Barabbas, whom he knew assuredly would cause him terrible problems in the future, and to go through the brutal process of commanding his Roman soldiers to beat Jesus with a scourge, and lead Him out to be crucified.
   Legionnaires in a Roman army were a motley collection from nations all over the Roman world; they came from Africa, from Germanic tribes on the continent, from faraway Spain, or even Gaul.
   Most of them were totally illiterate save a few of their officers, and because of the harsh conditions under which they lived and fought, were wont to be as brutal as any soldiers at any time.
   It was the soldiers who were finally given the nod at sometime between 6:00 and 9:00 A.M. in the morning on that Wednesday to lead Jesus away within the court (called the Praetorium). The Roman soldiers actually looked forward to venting their wrath and frustrations on this one man who claimed to be King of the Jews. What better way to attack this hated race than by scourging and crucifying their "king"!
   The soldiers began by stripping Him of His blood-spattered clothing, finding a newer robe made of scarlet, and then, following the idea that Herod's own men had devised, jammed the crown of thorns back down on His head. They gave Him a useless reed for His right hand, and then, one by one came forward to do mock obeisance before Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!"
   As each leering soldier shuffled forward with his brawny forearms glistening with sweat, his leering, filthy face grinning in cruel expectancy, he would kneel before Jesus, grasp the rod (it was more like a cattle prod or a stick than a reed) out of His hand, and strike Him right across the top of the crown of thorns on the top of His head, saying, "Hail! King of the Jews!" Then, each one would hawk up a clot of spit and expectorate it fully into Jesus' face!
   Finally, getting no response, save a wincing now and then, and the tightest shutting of His eyes, the Roman soldiers tired of their play, and took all of His garments away until He was naked.
   The leader of the group grasped the heavy handle of his scourge, letting the metal chunks grate ever so slightly on the polished floor, and, with a cruel leer at his fellow soldiers, his eyes feverishly glinting with a perverted bloodlust, he flailed at Christ's back with all his strength.
   A scourge was the Roman version of the "cat-o'-nine-tails," and featured leather thongs with bits of metal wrapped in the ends of each one, fastened to a wooden or a heavy leather handle.
   Oftentimes, a person who was so scourged died in the whipping, just as many seamen in the navies of the world, both then and in the generations thereafter, have died during a particularly vicious whipping on the gratings.
   Jesus grunted in terrible pain, his back arching spasmodically, lips torn back from bleeding face and gums. The first blow had cut him deeply, splattering blood and chunks of flesh on those soldiers closest; they stepped back quickly, wiping at their faces and clothing.
   "Chunk!" "Splat!" "Smack!" The raining blows continued; opening great gouges in his arms, chest, stomach, back, thighs and legs. The soldier's great chest heaved with his efforts; his companions laughed with perverted, bestial pleasure; Jesus' moans were becoming a dull sob, a bare whimper, until He almost fainted!
   A splashing bucket of water in the face, and, jerking Him upright again, the hideous beating continued! Jesus was stark naked and terribly vulnerable; and the soldier now and then deliberately flayed the whip at his hips so as to strike out at his manhood.
   The Roman soldiers, delighting in their animal — like bloodlust, took turns whipping Jesus' body until they quite literally laid open His flesh, exposing the ribs through the wounds, with chunks of lead and metal biting deeply into His body, and splattering the hall and the Romans themselves with His blood.
   They beat Jesus until He fell, hauled Him to His feet, and beat Him until He fell again. Finally, they had to tie Him upright and continue the vicious beating until Jesus' head slumped down in total exhaustion and He had to be revived once again.
   "Wait! Wait!" an officer cried out! "TenSHUN!" he screamed. The whip trailed bloodily on the floor. The soldier's face glistened with blood and sweat; his crazed eyes bulging with half-insane, animal-like incomprehension.
   "You'll kill him, you fool!" the officer screamed! "If he dies here you'll be crucified in place of him, I assure you!" "Let's get on with the crucifixion. You two, pick him up; revive him, and let's get going — a huge crowd is gathering, and we may not be able to get him through it to the gate alive if we don't hurry! I'll want a triple guard, and a runner sent to the gate; we've got to keep this thing from getting out of hand!"
   With a bitter glance at the still-dazed leader of the group carrying the whip, the officer said, "You stay here! I may have to talk to you later!"
   With that, another bucket of water was splashed into Jesus' face, and they dragged the hideously deformed man to His feet. Quickly throwing His own clothes back on Him, they half-dragged, half-carried Him from the garrison room back to the street. They led Him out, and, holding up the heavy wooden beam He was to bear, slowly lowered it onto His hideously torn back. Then, urging Him on with whips, they began to lead the procession through the crowds.
   By now, with His face a purpled, livid, blackened and bloody swollen mass, His eyes swollen nearly shut, one eyelid laid horribly back, huge open wounds in His scalp, shreds of skin and flesh openly exposed, Jesus would not survive much longer, the soldiers knew. So they hurried along the street, urging Jesus along when He stumbled and fell, inexorably moving toward the denouement of their bestial drama — crucifixion.
   He could still speak even though His lips were torn and swollen twice to three times their normal size. As He felt His strength draining from Him, He knew He could not survive much longer. It was becoming increasingly difficult for Jesus, wracked with pain, to keep His mind focused on God and His own mission. But He prayed to God, utilizing all His mental efforts, and God gave Him the strength to continue.
   When they first placed the heavy beam on Jesus' back, He trudged a few painful steps, and crying out in pain, stumbled and fell under the weight.
   As the mob wound through the streets, they grabbed a man out of the crowd who happened to be Simon of Cyrene, a well-known older man, the father of Alexander and Rufus. The soldiers laid Jesus' stake on him, so he could trail along after Jesus. This cruel treatment of an elder, and a known person in the Jewish community, was only one more example of the utter contempt in which the Roman soldiers held the Jewish populace.
   A large crowd began to gather, including dozens of women and men who were weeping and throwing dust in the air, sobbing aloud and letting out gasps of pity and remorse each time Jesus slipped and fell as the bedraggled figure lurched forward along the stony streets toward the gate of Jerusalem. On one occasion, Jesus turned to a group of the women and said, through thickened, swollen, purple and livid lips, "Daughters of Jerusalem — don't cry for me! Cry for yourselves and your children! I'm telling you that the days are coming in which they will say, 'Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that were never nursed!'
   "Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us, and to the hills, cover us!' [Compare with Hosea 10:8.] Because if human beings can do these things in easy times, what will they do when terrible tribulation comes?"
   The grisly procession continued out of the gate, turned slightly to its left and passing through a stony area where the herdsmen gathered their flocks for sale, descended along a pathway into a pleasant garden area bounded by a group of trees against the bluff of a large limestone outcropping.
   Turning to the left, they started climbing this rocky hill, until they achieved the grassy slope atop it, and thus could look back at the city of Jerusalem only about two or three city blocks away from this height. The hollowed-out caves in the face of the limestone outcropping had given rise to its name, "the place of the skull," which was the meaning of its Hebrew name, Golgotha..
   There the hole was dug for the stake, and Jesus' body was nailed to it, His arms wrenched over His head and driven firmly to the timber with a single spike through them, while His feet were fastened to the wood with a large spike driven between the bones of His toes.
   Then He was hoisted in the air as the stake was jammed into the ground. A scream of sheer agony spasmodically burst forth from Jesus as the soldiers labored with shovels to insure that the stake was propped upright.
   A carefully inscribed inscription had been arranged and had been tacked on the top of the stake. The inscription said, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."
   Interestingly enough, Pilate himself composed the title plainly stating that Jesus was the King of the Jews! (John 19:19).
   Why? Was he being sarcastic? Was it a joke? An oversight? A mistake? Or just perhaps could he have begun to think that it might be true!
   Seeing the inscription the priests and their officers were outraged. And panicked.
   A delegation was quickly dispatched to Pilate's residence once more. Upon being admitted, they said, "The inscription is wrong! You should have put, 'This man says he is king of the Jews'; or 'claimed to be King'; or even included the word 'impostor,' or 'pretender,' or 'criminal,' or 'fool,' or something. But you have said, 'This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews'.!
   "It is as though the sign is actually stating that Jesus is in fact the king of the Jews. This is disastrous. What will the people think? There are citizens here from all over the Roman Empire. We're all terribly embarrassed."
   Pilate sighed wearily. It had been a long, hard night. First, these frenzied religious fanatics had roused him out of a sound sleep. Next, he had been involved in a political maneuver with Herod. Then, he had narrowly averted a riot in Jerusalem. Then he had been terribly bothered by his wife's dream.
   Pilate's mind was plaguing him to death at the manner in which this person, Jesus, had allowed Himself to be manhandled, and at the strange answer He had given Pilate about being a "king" of some yet future, unknown kingdom.
   "I have written what I have written," he said, eyes red-rimmed, heaving a weary breath, "and I'm not about to change it! The inscription stays!"
   Muttering oaths to themselves under their breath while simperingly bowing, stepping backward, and, finding their way out to the street again, the tight-lipped group started back to Golgotha to report the bad news.
   The inscription stayed as it was — well, he was still dying, wasn't he?
   But the thought lingered: the inscription categorically stated that Jesus of Nazareth was the king of the Jews. It kept everybody on edge.
   One of the soldiers had stripped Jesus' clothing from Him and another one of them reached up and tore the last of His garments off. Later, the Roman soldiers who had been sent to finish the whole sordid mess sat at the foot of the three stakes after they had finished hoisting each in place (including two criminals who were being crucified with Jesus) and began to gamble for His clothing (which was expensive).
   Even this fulfilled a scripture (see Psalms 22:18) which said His garments would be parted among them, and "upon his vesture they would cast lots." John explains that Jesus' coat was "without seam, woven from the top throughout" and that the soldiers agreed that because of this it would be a shame to cut it into pieces.
   By then it was about noon, but what was happening to the light? It seemed to be growing strangely dark!
   Large crowds now had been informed of the proceedings, and they came by in the hundreds, reading the inscription, making their comments, wagging their heads, screaming epithets at Him, with each one trying to outdo the other with his bitterly clever invectives. One such person screamed, "Ha! Hey, you up there who claimed you could destroy our temple and then build it again in three days! If you are the Son of God, why don't you come down from that stake?"
   The Scribes, elders and leaders of the people were standing around, so they could make comments to different ones who came by; their favorite chiding remark, repeated to many, was, "Sure! He claimed to have saved others, but he can't seem to save himself, can he?
   "If he is the Christ, the King of Israel, then let's see him come down from that cross so everyone can believe on him!"
   Finally, one of the dying criminals could stand it no longer, and turned to Jesus and said, "What is all this they are saying? You claim you are the Christ. If you are, for pity's sake, save us and yourself!"
   The other thief said, "Shut your mouth! Even while you're dying, don't you have any fear of God, seeing you're in the same condemnation — and you and I are only paying for our own crimes which we deserve, but this man has done nothing!" Turning his head painfully he said to Jesus, "Remember me, please, when you come into your kingdom!" Jesus said, "Truthfully, I am going to tell you right now — you will be with me in paradise!"
   It was indeed growing very dark now, and more torches and lanterns had been lit.
   Mary, Jesus' mother, her sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene had managed to come forward in the crowd, weeping, looking with terrible anxiety and shock at the emaciated, disfigured, swollen, puffy, purple and livid figure, naked on the stake. Mary thought her heart would break. She didn't think she could stand it, but, unable to tear her eyes away, and yet seemingly unable to look, she stood aghast at this hideous spectacle who had been her firstborn, announced by angels, protected of God, and used to perform great miracles which she herself had seen, beginning in the household, from Cana of Galilee to the last moments of His teaching, just yesterday, here in Jerusalem.
   Jesus opened His swollen eyes, and, blinking, saw His mother and John standing at the foot of His stake. Rousing Himself sufficiently that He could say in painful tones what He had in mind, knowing that their homes and properties would be seized by the leaders, that His brothers would be hunted and possibly even killed if they did not escape, that His disciples would disintegrate and flee back to their own businesses and into the security of anonymity, He said, "Woman, behold your son." Indicating John, He said, "Behold your mother!"
   John got the message, as did Mary. John never left Mary from that moment on, and when they finally left the site of Jesus' death, John continued to stay right at Mary's side, taking her into his own home, and taking her with him on a trip which was to occur within a few months. (Could Mary have later gone with John to the Isle of Patmos?)
   Gradually, everybody began to mutter in hushed and excited tones that something extraordinarily strange was happening!
   "It's growing very dark, isn't it?" one or two began to exclaim. Others began to chime in about how dark it seemed to be getting, that the sun seemed to be growing dimmer, until finally it actually appeared as if a great eclipse or some terrible blackness was occurring. But this was unlike any eclipse they had ever heard of or seen before; it grew darker and darker until it was as black as midnight. It remained that way from after noon until 3:00 P.M. that afternoon! Torches in the streets were lit, and people were groping about because now it was completely dark!
   During this time, Jesus was praying as hard as He could in His mind, calling out to His Father in heaven as He felt His life ebbing and seeping away from His body. From time to time, He saw visions of angels, knowing that powerful angels were all around Him, in the air over Him, at the foot of His stake, and there beside Him.
   But suddenly, the angels were gone!
   He felt a terrible cold blackness beginning to descend over His own mind and body. It was almost as if someone had put an impenetrable veil between Him and His heavenly Father.
   Jesus was startled! This had never happened before. He was totally alone!
   Something horrible had happened! Something completely unexpected. This wasn't part of their plan! Something had gone wrong!
   Jesus, in constant prayer, had gained the spiritual strength and courage to stand the hideous beatings, the torment and torture. He had even been able to withstand the wrenching, shattering pain when the nails had been driven through His hands and feet and the stake jammed into the ground. Jesus had always been able to find methods of renewing His determination by His continual prayers to God the Father, and the feeling of God's Holy Spirit being renewed within Him was God's sure answer.
   But now, suddenly, at the very time when He most needed comfort and sustenance, it was gone! Jesus looked out into space, as it were, and seemed to see the retreating back of God!
   Jesus was cut off. Alone.
   He couldn't believe it! It seemed that even His Father had now forsaken Him. He cried aloud, wanting desperately to see a strong angel standing by; remembering the time when at His very last moment of life in the wilderness with Satan to torment Him, He had been picked up by strong angelic hands and given nourishment and succor.
   But now, nothing.
   God the Father had placed the sins of all humanity on the body and being of Jesus.
   Feeling the continual draining of His strength, and sensing the horror of His solitude, Jesus cried out in shock, pain and surprise, "My GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?!"
   Because He said it in Aramaic, using the word Eli ("my God"), some of those nearby misheard and thought He was calling for the prophet Elijah.
   Only a few moments had passed after Jesus, in great mental shock, cried out those terrible words — "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me!" — when, with His head bowed, He seemed to feel a moist, bitter softness pressed against His torn, terribly swollen lips and, stirring slightly, opened His dry, aching mouth and allowed a small trickle of the bilious mixture of vinegar and a strong soap-like cleansing agent made from a bitter plant called hyssop to pass His teeth. No sooner had this been done than the sponge was pulled away from His mouth and the soldier who had affixed it to the staff of his spear, reversed his spear, and, with a derisive laugh, thrust it into Jesus' side!
   Screaming out in pain, Jesus' head hit the back of the stake with a solid whack, His body arched, His limbs straining against the large spikes pinning His members to the upright pale, and, muscles spasming and trembling, said, "Father, I commend my spirit into your hands!"
   With this final soft utterance, the straining muscles relaxed, the bubbling stream of stomach fluids and blood running in a full rivulet down His hip, along His leg and dripping in a steady stream from His feet, gradually ebbed to a slow dribble, and His head lolled forward.
   His body became pale, shockingly waxen beneath the livid blues and red of His dust-encrusted wounds, and looked even more grotesque in the flickering torchlight.
   The blood dripped from His matted hair, from His nose, from His chin, and from the great gaping wounds up and down His body where the dull, yellowish color of blood and lymph could be seen here and there.
   Isaiah's prophecies that He would "sprinkle all nations" with His own blood, thus providing one sacrifice for all sins, and that He would be so disfigured that He would no longer resemble a human being, had come to pass. So had the prophecies that not a bone of His body would be broken, and the graphic fulfillment of David's twenty-second psalm, in which, as Jesus had read and studied so many times as a young growing man and later had sung in hymns through His ministry, the very thoughts which went through His mind on the stake had been set to writing centuries before.
   "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me! Why are you so far from helping me, and the words of my roaring. Oh my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer;... I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
   "All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they stick out their lower lip, they shake their head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him, so let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
   "But you were the God that took me safely out of the womb; protected me and gave me hope when I was a baby on my mother's breast.... You were my God from my mother's belly.
   "Be not far from me; for trouble is all around me, and there is no one to help.
   "Many bulls [cherubim] have compassed me, strong bulls of Bashan beset me around, and gape at me with their mouths as a ravening and roaring lion.
   "I feel my strength pouring out like water, and all my bones are being pulled out of joint: my heart is like soft wax, it is melted in the midst of my innermost parts.
   "My strength is drying up like a potsherd, and my tongue is stuck to my jaws; and you have brought me into the dust of death.
   "Dogs have compassed me; the assembly of sinners have surrounded me; they have pierced my hands and my feet.
   "Look! I can actually count my bones, my own bones seem to stare at me!
   "They are parting my garments among them, and gambling over my clothing.
   "Be not far from me, O Eternal, O my strength, hurry to help me."
   This striking psalm of David, seemingly echoing the deepest and innermost thoughts of Jesus' own last moments on the stake, concludes with, "From one end of the world to the other they will finally remember and turn to God; all the people of all nations will worship before you!
   "Because the kingdom is the Eternal's and he is the ruler among nations. It makes no difference whether they are healthy, successful and wealthy, every human being who goes back to the dust from which he came will finally bow before God, and no one can preserve his own life.
   "They shall come and shall declare his righteousness unto generations net yet born, that God has done this."
   Immediately afterward comes one of the most beautiful and most well-known of all the psalms and one that perhaps Jesus Himself could well have repeated just before He perished!
   "The Eternal is my shepherd, I will never lack anything.
   "He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the restful waters; He restores my soul, He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
   "Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
   "You are preparing a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
   "Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life — and I will dwell in the house of the Eternal forever!"
   The moment Jesus died, a great earthquake rocked the land from one end to another; a deep subterranean noise rumbled like a thousand Niagaras, bricks and mortar began falling, people were knocked to the ground or swayed on their feet as they reached out for trees or walls to prevent them from toppling over.
   Though not so great a quake as to lay waste the city, there was significant damage to any number of buildings. The shattering event was extremely frightening, especially on the heels of the mysterious blackness that had crept over the land beginning about noon and caused thousands upon thousands to drop to their knees, believing it was "the Day of the Lord" as Joel had prophesied!
   "The end of the world, the end of the world!" some screamed and sobbed! John, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and Joseph and Salome were standing a distance away from the stake when the earthquake struck. They had actually seen the soldier thrust his spear into Jesus' side, and had watched Him die.
   Going back several minutes and shifting the scene to the center of Jerusalem, people could see the flickering torches which had been lit about noon to provide light in the temple court, where the thousands were going about the ritual of the slaughtering of the Paschal lambs.
   Though they had to work by the light of hissing torches, flickering candles and glittering lanterns, the priests were determined to follow their prescribed rituals. The high priest, having been awake most of the night before planning Jesus' death and with Jesus' own testimony still ringing in his ears, had been terribly upset all morning. He couldn't keep his tormented mind and twisted emotions off that horrendously misleading and terribly embarrassing sign over the crucified Jesus which was still informing multiple thousands that Jesus of Nazareth was the King of the Jews!
   But the high priest finally went through the prescribed washings and changed into his purest linen vestments with shaking hands, all the while looking over his shoulder at the black, lowering skies, and frantically trying to maintain some semblance of calm for the sake of all of the people who were nervously chattering, milling about, glancing around in apprehension, looking upward, or even praying quietly from time to time.
   After all the required pronouncements and blessings had been completed, and amidst the leading families who had been admitted to the temple court with their lambs, the high priest approached the very first of the Paschal lambs to be slaughtered. held by two of his assistants a distance from the altar. Waiting in two lines were a group of priests with gold and silver bowls ready. The blood would be collected from the animals' throats, and passed hand over hand along the line of priests to be splashed at the base of the altar. The gleaming white marble columns led toward the entry to the Holy Place where the shewbread and the altar with its lamp of seven brazen pipes stood.
   Beyond it, the veil — which was opened only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) — was securely fastened. Behind the veil had once stood the ark of the Covenant; dully gleaming with its gold overlay, its two cherubim with wings outstretched almost touching over the mercy seat, with the sacred and prized jar of manna, along with the two tables of stone which Moses had put there so many centuries ago at Horeb. But this had been lost before the Exile, and the Holy of Holies now stood empty.
   The formalities all finished, the high priest beckoned to all the people; and as a hush fell over the crowd, he raised the ceremonial knife high above his head.
   It was then about three o'clock in the afternoon and the land had been engulfed in terrible darkness for almost three full hours.
   The knife descended on the exposed throat of the lamb, and with a swift sure cut, the high priest slit the animal's throat. Just as the knife had accomplished its mission, a sudden dull, huge rumbling began to erupt from the bowels of the earth. The buildings and court of the temple began to slightly sway, some few people lost their balance as others clung to each other or grasped at a pillar or wall for support. The priest had to steady himself as he finished the sacrificing of the lamb. Screams, shrieks, cries and exclamations of dismay swept through the crowd and all over the city. Then an extraordinary sound was heard — as a large tearing noise from inside the Holy Place!
   A servant, dispatched by the high priest, quickly ran to the entry, and face pale, came back to report, as the rumbling subsided and the first groups were catching the blood of the slaughtered animal in their ceremonial vessels, that "the veil that covered the Holy of Holies has been completely ripped from top to bottom!"
   The high priest desperately tried to still the nagging voices of conscience plaguing his now tortured mind, and with the most urgent beckoning toward his assistant and the other priest, he indicated that the ceremony, already begun, should swiftly continue!
   Nothing could prevent the precise timing of this centuries-old celebration of the Passover, the killing of the first ceremonial lamb, and then the swift butchering of the hundreds and thousands of additional lambs as each clan or large household came into the temple court to sacrifice its own lambs with the same ceremonies: the slitting of the throat, the passing of the blood, its dashing against the altar, the hanging of the lambs on pegs round about the walls or over strong men's shoulders while the viscera was dumped in a growing pile, the hides quickly stripped while the animal was still warm, and the fat thrown on a blazing pyre in offering.
   What an incredible scene!
   But the most incredible part of all was the ultimate spiritual significance that multiple millions of human beings would forever after understand was contained in those stupendous events. For little did the high priest realize that just as his ceremonial knife descended upon the exposed throat of the lamb, flashing with dull radiance in the flickering torchlight, so had a Roman soldier on a hill just outside Jerusalem quickly reversed the staff of his spear, shaken off the wet sponge with its bitter contents, and with a vicious laugh, thrust his spear into Christ's side!
   Did Jesus of Nazareth die on the stake at the precise instant the sacrificial lamb died in the temple? Was Jesus Christ brutally slain at the exact moment of time when the very same high priest who had just plotted His death ritualistically slaughtered the unblemished lamb?
   Paul wrote that "Christ our Passover" is sacrificed for us (I Cor. 5:7). The Gospel accounts state that Jesus Christ died at the ninth hour, which was three o'clock in the afternoon of the fourteenth of Nisan.
   The Jewish historian Josephus, who was born a few years after Jesus' death and lived throughout the last years of the temple in Jerusalem reports that the Passover lambs were sacrificed from 3:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. on the afternoon of the same fourteenth of Nisan!
   "Accordingly. on the occasion of the feast called Passover, at which they sacrifice from the ninth to the eleventh hour [3:00 to 5:00 P.M.], and a little fraternity, as it were, gather round each sacrifice, of not fewer than ten persons" (War 6.9.3).
   The indication from Josephus's description seems to be that all the Passover lambs from all the people were sacrificed within that two-hour time period. If this was indeed the case, the first unblemished lamb that had to be ceremonially sacrificed by the high priest had to have been scheduled for the beginning of the period, or precisely at 3:00 P.M. on the afternoon of Nisan 14th!
   Independent confirmation of the approximate time of the Passover sacrifice comes from the Book of Jubilees (written in the second century B.C.) which gives a time between about 2:00 P.M. and 5:00 P.M.; and from early rabbinic literature (edited in the second century A.D.) which gives a time of sometime after 2:30 P.M.
   If this temporal "coincidence" between the sacrifice of the Passover lamb and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is striking, its spiritual implications are absolutely overwhelming.
   The unblemished lamb that was required to be sacrificed every year by the high priest represented the recognition by Israel that death was the only way to absolve sin. This practice of sacrificing animals had been continuing from time immemorial. Yet it was really "not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin" (Heb. 10:4).
   So God was now making a way to remove sin. God was raising the stakes of the sacrifice — infinitely!
   Rather than offering the physical life of a lamb for the physical transgression of Israel, God the Father was now going to offer the life of His Son for the spiritual transgressions of all mankind (see Hebrews 9 and 10)!
   The sacrifice of the lamb enabled human beings to live their physical lives forgiven from sin; the sacrifice of Jesus Christ would now enable human beings to attain a spiritual life — the promise of eternal inheritance — forgiven from sin (see Heb. 9:12-15).
   God states that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Consequently, it would take a death to pay the penalty for the sins of each and every human being. But God planned to offer in our place Jesus Christ, whose life, as Creator of the universe, was worth more then the combined lives of all mankind from all time put together. Christ would only have to die once (Heb. 9:26; 10:10-12), and through that death every man would have the chance to be justified before God and live forever.
   Now what about Caiaphas, the high priest that year? It was his responsibility to sacrifice the unblemished lamb as an offering for all Israel. And he was also the very same person who plotted, organized and expedited the crucifixion of Jesus.
   What powerful spiritual concepts are contained in Caiaphas's dual role that fateful year. The high priest symbolized all Israel when he ritualistically slaughtered the lamb as a sin offering to God. And this very same high priest just as surely symbolized all mankind when he accused and condemned Christ!
   Then, bringing the overwhelming spiritual plan of God to its climactic point of spiritual impact, this same high priest slits the throat of the sacrificial lamb just as the Roman soldier spears the side of the sacrificed Christ!
   Previously, Caiaphas had reasoned that it was "expedient that one man should die for the people" (John 18:14). What he had said was absolutely true — but in a way, and for a reason, incredibly beyond his limited and parochial understanding.
   Caiaphas thought that Jesus was causing so much commotion among the people that the Roman authorities might use such crowd fervor as an excuse for a major attack on the population, even a pogrom. Therefore, to save the entire Jewish population from such possible atrocities, Jesus would have to die as a sacrifice.
   Ironically, the high priest was right. More right than anyone could have ever even imagined. For it was now God's time to fulfill His plan formulated before the foundation of the world (Heb. 9:26; Rev. 13:8). It was indeed absolutely essential that Jesus of Nazareth, Christ and Creator, would have to die as a sacrifice so that all humanity could have the opportunity to live forever!
   Another spiritually startling revelation was that direct contact with God the Father was now for the first time available to all human beings. This was symbolized by the dramatic rip in the veil, which had previously concealed the Holy of Holies, at the precise instant of Jesus' death.
   The spiritual significance of this tear in the sacred tapestry is enormous. The Holy of Holies represented God's Throne, and the access to it, under the Old Covenant, was restricted to one human being (the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement). Other than this one occurrence, access to the Holy of Holies or, in its spiritual meaning, access to the throne of God, was completely concealed from mankind (Heb. 9:7-8). But the death of Christ ripped the veil apart — the Holy of Holies was literally revealed and direct access to God was now literally possible in personal prayer through the mediation of Jesus Christ.
   The servants in the innermost sanctuary of the temple had felt a rumbling beneath their feet and had tried to grab hold of anything to keep themselves from toppling over. Brazen pots and pans were clattering about the floor, and dust was everywhere in the air when suddenly the veil which hid the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place in the temple had been split from the top to the bottom!
   Thousands were thrown violently to the ground. Many were injured, some died. Nearby, those in the villages saw one of the most frightening spectacles in all of history, when stone tombs were jostled loose from the ground and virtually heaved upright, with their stone lids sliding loose in the enormous earthquake. (After Jesus' resurrection terrified citizens went screaming to tell their friends that some of these people had actually risen out of those tombs and had been seen walking! — Mat. 27:52, 53.)
   Even the three stakes on the hill were swaying gently back and forth as the gradual rumbling of the great earthquake subsided in the land, still dark as if it were midnight.
   Some Roman soldiers who were standing at the foot of the stake nervously jerked off their helmets, dropped to their knees on the dusty and bloody ground, and looking about them with fear, said, "Truly, this must have been the Son of God!"
   Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James the Less and of loses and Salome, along with a number of other women who had been faithful servants of the disciples and Jesus were nearby when the earthquake struck, as were the mother of the sons of Zebedee and Mary, the mother of Jesus.
   Gradually, as the dust began to settle, the shaking of the mortar, stones and bricks came to a stop, and as the rumble of the earthquake disappeared, it seemed to grow lighter. Bewildered people began picking themselves up where they had fallen; mobs of perplexed people came out from under trees where they had clung for stability to keep from being thrown to the ground, and everyone looked with fear at the cracks in some of the buildings as they went about the business of inspecting the amount of damage that had occurred.
   It seemed that most of the large buildings and homes had survived. Thankfully, the temple was completely intact, though the veil separating the Holy of Holies had been split.
   This caused some consternation. How could it be, some of the priests thought to themselves, that the temple was not damaged at all and yet that heavy veil was cleanly torn in two almost as if it were a deliberate act?
   Still, there was much to be done, because it was the preparation for the Passover day. (John says that Sabbath was a high day — John 19:31.) The Jews therefore asked that the ghastly business be finished as quickly as possible, and that if the men weren't dead yet, the Roman soldiers should break their legs to hasten the process.
   Pilate gave permission, and the soldiers came. They lifted up their heavy spear handles and smashed them into the shin bones of the first criminal, who screamed in pain. Now unable to keep heaving himself upward for desperately needed air, he kept gasping with painful exclamations until his gasps became weaker and weaker, and in the hideous agony of his inability to heave himself further upright on his shattered legbones, he finally died.
   The soldier broke both criminals' legs, but when they came to Jesus and saw that He was dead already, they did not break His legs in order that additional scriptures could be fulfilled, "For these things came to pass that the scripture might be fulfilled." (Compare with Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalms 34:20; Zechariah 12:10; Deuteronomy 21:22-23; — "a bone of him shall not be broken.")
   As the land grew lighter and the sun seemed to gradually emerge from behind the dark veil which had been holding the land in its vise-like grip of blackness for over three hours, Joseph of Arimathaea, having seen Jesus' death throes, heard His cry from a distance, hurried down the hill, and half running, entered the city to proceed as quickly as he could to Pilate's governor's residence.
   Upon being admitted, he was finally ushered into Pilate's presence. Pilate looked nervous and apprehensive. Repeatedly during the last three hours he had been going out on to his balcony above the courtyard of The Pavement where the terrible scene of the near riot had occurred some hours earlier, and he had finally been forced to turn around and ceremonially wash his hands of the whole incident. Still, the nagging doubts that had been assailing his mind like repeated hammer blows of a nine-pound maul would not let him alone. His wife's feverish warnings and anxious face kept coming back into his mind.
   Joseph of Arimathaea told him Jesus was dead!
   Pilate sighed. There had to be some connection between the most incredible phenomenon he had ever witnessed in all of his life — the blackness of the land for three hours and now the great rumbling earthquake.
   Distraught, brushing a hand across haggard face and into unkempt hair, Pilate peered at Joseph with red-rimmed eyes and said "Yes, yes, you can have the body!" Gesturing for his servant, Pilate hastily wrote out the order and signing the short scroll with a sweaty hand, beckoned to the servant who dribbled the wax upon it and Pilate impressed it with his own ring.
   Beckoning to a guard, one of Pilate's own private bodyguards, he told the man to deliver the order to the centurion at Golgotha, and see to it that Joseph of Arimathaea was granted permission to bury the body.
   Quickly, Joseph wound his way through the streets, back out the gate, and trotted along the way toward Golgotha. As he began climbing the low hill, he saw a figure toiling along ahead of him. Suddenly he recognized one of the most respected of the Jewish leaders — Nicodemus.
   Nicodemus, together with his household servants, was laboring up the hill with several bundles. Joseph commented to him briefly, and Nicodemus said he was carrying about a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes to use in the embalming procedures.
   Joseph told him of Pilate's written order he carried, and Nicodemus, nodding, signaled to his servants to join those of Joseph of Arimathaea, and they went about the task together.
   The Roman soldiers helped them dig around the base of the upright stake, and, lowering it to the ground, Nicodemus and Joseph began to gently detach the body from the stake. It was bitter, frightening, tearstained work as the men sought to pry the torn feet and hands from the spikes pinning them to the splintered wood without causing further damage.
   Finally, rolling the body in a large wrapper, slinging it between two of the servants who carried a long stave, the procession started down the slopes, winding its way to the bottom, turning a sharp left until it came to a garden where Joseph had long since purchased a family tomb. The tomb was still being built; the workers had not yet completed the chambers Joseph had wanted for his entire family, but it would have to do.
   The main feature of the tomb was that no other human being had ever been buried there; it was brand new, not even finished, and therefore totally clean. Further, Joseph had asked for a specific design which featured a deep trough running along the face of a sheer wall in front of the aperture, and a huge, round stone which was fixed in place at the upper level. When the chocks were taken out and the stone slowly set in motion, it would roll gradually along the narrowing trough until it would come to rest against a stone abutment and, by the force of its own weight, would wedge itself into the gradually narrowing trough so that it would have been impossible for anything short of a small army of men or several teams of mules to have dislodged it.
   Now that it was growing lighter again, the party could proceed with the burial rites.
   John, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Zebedee's wife all joined with Joseph and Nicodemus and their household servants in washing and carefully cleansing the body, no doubt weeping with grief as they meticulously placed patches of skin or sections of flesh back in place, gently pouring or rubbing on the ointments and spices they had brought, until, gradually, with layer after layer of the finest linen cloth, they had succeeded in encasing the body so it appeared to be almost completely mummified.
   There had been no chance for the women, in the sudden precipitousness of the events of the last hours, to have made preparation for such a burial, so they could only assist the servants of Nicodemus in the spreading of the myrrh and aloes they had brought. In a whispered conversation, the women determined to come back as soon as they could with additional spices and ointments, and sprinkle them over the body and about the tomb, for they wanted to ensure that this beloved man, and Mary's own son, had the finest possible burial.
   Returning to their abode, they spent the last few hours on that Wednesday afternoon grinding up the leaves and the berries, working hard to prepare as much of the spices and ointments as they could. But at sunset on that fourteenth of Nisan, which brought on the fifteenth, they ceased from their work, for that Thursday was an annual Holy Day, the first day of Unleavened Bread, the first annual Sabbath of the sacred year (Luke 23:56; Mk. 16:1).
   Pilate had spent a restive night. The next day, hoping that some sanity could return to the land, he requested that a quick damage report be given from all military installations in the area following the devastating earthquake of the afternoon before. But halfway through breakfast, he was interrupted by a servant who told him that a delegation of the chief priests and Pharisees were below wanting an audience.
   Highly irritated, he wondered, "What could it be now?" as he stopped to pick up his official governor's robe.
   The simpering voice said, "Sir, we remember that this deceiver, while he was still alive, said, 'After three days I will rise again.' We therefore respectfully request you to give an order that the sepulchre be made absolutely secure for that whole period of time, lest by any chance his disciples might steal away his body, and then claim to the people, 'He is risen from the dead.' Because if that should happen, it would be the last straw, and such a terrible mistake would be worse than all of this mess we have gone through in the last hours."
   Pilate could immediately see the sense of that; the last thing he wanted on his hands in this hypersensitized region, following such remarkable phenomena and the restlessness of the crowds thronging Jerusalem, was a gigantic emotional uprising resulting from some contrived plot.
   Therefore, he gave the order and wrote it out to make it official, saying, "I am going to have a guard accompany you, and you go along and make the sepulchre as sure as you possibly can!"
   The priests went to the sepulchre at the foot of Golgotha with the Roman guard, and watched the sweating bodies toiling (which they knew was the deliberate breaking of this annual Sabbath day — but by this time they were willing to take any risk, and probably discounted it as "an ox in the ditch") to drive great wooden and stone wedges behind the huge round stone blocking the entry to the tomb. They then insisted that a full-time guard of several heavily armed soldiers be retained in the small stone court in front of the stone.
   After the next day, when it was again Friday, and an ordinary working day, the women, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Salome, continued their work throughout that day of the preparation of spices to return to the tomb prior to the fourth day.
   They rested on the weekly Sabbath as they were commanded: Then, late at night after that Sabbath day, knowing they could go to the work of layering the body with yet another wrapping of graveclothes, bringing additional sweet-scented spices and ointments with them, and that their work would best be done under cover of dark when most were asleep, they started toward the tomb in the hopes they could ask the men there to roll back the stone long enough for them to give the body another complete dressing.
   It was still quite dark, in the early hours prior to dawn, as the women made their way up the gradual slope toward the top of Golgotha.
   Little did they know what had been occurring inside that tomb a few hours earlier!

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Publication Date: 1977
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