Day 6: Good Friday and Jesus the Passover Lamb

Jews celebrate several festivals that come from events unique to their history. One of their more well-known festivals is Passover.  Jews celebrate this festival in memory of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt about 3500 years ago.  Recorded in Exodus, Passover climaxed the Ten Plagues on Pharaoh and Egypt. For Passover, Moses instructed every Israelite family to slay a lamb and paint its blood on their house door frames.  Death would then pass over their house. But houses without the blood on the door frames would see the oldest son die.  

Jewish Passover

The first Passover occurred on a specific day in the Jewish calendar – Nisan 14. God, through Moses, instructed the Jews to celebrate this festival every year on Nisan 14.  Now, as a part of their culture, Jews continue celebrating Passover every Nisan 14.  Since the ancient Jewish calendar is lunisolar, Nisan 14 moves around in the modern calendar, occurring sometime in March – April.

Jesus on Passover

We have been looking at Jesus through his Jewish lens, and are going through every day of his Passion Week.  Day 6 of that week, Friday, was Nisan 14- the Jewish Passover.  A little review before covering the events of that Friday.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Sunday, Day 1 of that week, he stood on top of Mount Moriah, where 2000 years earlier Abraham had prophesied that there a great sacrifice ‘will be’ (future tense) provided.  Then after his entry Jesus declared:

Confronting Serpent at Cross has given much artwork

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.

John 12:31

The ‘world’ would revolve around the struggle about to take place on that Mountain, between himself and Satan, the ‘prince of this world’, who had entered Judas on Day 5 to strike the Christ.  

The Last Supper

Friday, Day 6 of Passion week began with Jesus sharing his last supper with his disciples. We reckon this was on Thursday evening. But since the Jewish day started at sundown, their Friday began on what we would consider to be Thursday evening. Here is part of Jesus’ discourse at that meal.

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26: 27-28
Holy Bread and Wine

Then he explained through example and teaching how to love one another and he talked about God’s great love for us. This is all recorded here from the Gospel.  Afterwards, he prayed for all his followers (read here).

In the Garden of Gethsemane

Then, he began his all-night vigil in the Garden of Gethsemene, just outside of Jerusalem.

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane
Heinrich Hofmann, PD-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Matthew 26:36-38

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Matthew 26:36-46

The disciples could not stay awake and the vigil had just begun! The Gospel then describes how Judas betrayed him.

The arrest in the Garden

Judas leads soldiers to Gethsemane take Jesus

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”

10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.

John 18:2-13

Jesus had gone to the garden to pray.  There, Judas brought soldiers to arrest him. If we are threaten to get arrested, we might try to fight, run or hide.  But Jesus did none of these.  He admitted that he was the person they were looking for.  His clear confession (“I am he”) startled the soldiers so his disciples escaped.  Jesus submitted to arrest and they took him away for interrogation.

Jesus Arrested: Movie Scene

The First Interrogation

The Gospel records how they interrogated him:

19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face.“Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

John 18:19-24

So they sent Jesus to the high priest for a second interrogation.

The Second Interrogation

There they interrogated him in front of all the leaders. The Gospel also recorded this second interrogation:

Jesus in front of High Priest

53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.

55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any.56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.

60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.

Mark 14:53-65

Jesus calls himself the ‘Son of Man’ in this exchange. This is a title full of prophetic meaning, which we explore here.

However, the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death.  But since Romans ruled them, only the Roman governor could approve an execution.  So they took Jesus to the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate.  

Jesus interrogated by the Roman Governor

Jesus or Barabbas was to be executed

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Matthew 27:11-26

The Crucifixion, Death & Burial of Jesus

Jesus humiliated on the Cross

The Gospel then records the details of Jesus’ crucifixion.

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Matthew 27: 27-31

The Crucifixion of Jesus

21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

Two Rebels Crucified with him
After Peter Paul Rubens , FAL, via Wikimedia Commons

25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.

27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!” 31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

The Death of Jesus

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Mark 15: 21-39
Jesus Crucified: The Most Depicted Scene of his life

‘Pierced’ in his side

The Gospel of John records a fascinating detail of the crucifixion.  It states:

Jesus’ side pierced

31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.

John 19:31-35

John saw the Roman soldiers pierce Jesus’ side with a spear.  Out came blood and water separated, indicating that he died of heart failure.

Jesus’ Burial

Jesus Burial

The Gospel records the final event that day – his burial.

57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

Matthew 27: 57-61

Day 6 – Good Friday

Each day in the Jewish calendar began at sunset. So Day 6 began with Jesus sharing his last supper with his disciples.  By the end of that day, he had been arrested, put on trial many times throughout the night, crucified, pierced with a spear, and buried. Pain, sorrow, humiliation and death marked this day and so people remember it in solemn contemplation. But this day is called ‘Good Friday’.  But how can a day of betrayal, torture and death ever be called ‘good’? We get a hint in Psalm 22, written 1000 years before Jesus.   

Why Good Friday and not ‘Bad Friday’?

Jesus’ drinking the ‘cup’ given to him by his Father saved the world. It fell on Nisan 14, the same as Passover day, when sacrificed lambs saved the people from death 1500 years before. It is the same day when Jews remembered their deliverance from the death. The timing of Jesus’ crucifixion was coordinated to the Jewish Passover.  This is why Passover occurs very close to Good Friday, with the variance explained in the footnote below[i]

The Sign on Mount Moriah at Passover

The location of his crucifixion, was on Mount Moriah just outside the gates of Jerusalem. This was the place where 2000 years before, a lamb had substituted for Isaac when Abraham offered him to God.  Jesus’ crucifixion so clearly coordinates by date to the sacrificed Passover lambs and by location to the lamb sacrificed for Isaac. This is a sign that Jesus’ crucifixion forms the centre of God’s plan.  It is not mindless faith to believe this, but it simply allows these historical facts to speak their significance.  The chart for Friday, Day 6 of Passion Week shows this coordination through the centuries.

Day 6 – Friday, compared to the Hebrew Torah regulations

Accounts of men conclude with their deaths, but not Jesus. Next came the Sabbath – Day 7.

[i] Jesus was crucified on Passover, Nisan 14 of the Jewish Lunisolar calendar.  But the standard calendar used internationally is the Gregorian calendar with its 365.24 days per year.  So in the 3rd Century CE, church officials devised another way to calculate Good Friday and Easter for this calendar.  Easter Sunday was set to the first Sunday after the first full moon following the March 21 equinox.  Since Jewish months are lunar, Nisan 14 will always land on a full moon.  With the revised method to calculate the date of Easter, the festivals of Passover and Easter are usually close together. But they are not generally on the same day.  

Day 5: Through Treachery Satan coils to strike

Persecuted Jews

Jews have been persecuted, loathed, feared and mistreated in many ways and this is recorded both in the Bible and in history outside it.  Of course, many people have experienced persecution and discrimination at the hands of other nations.  But history demonstrates a tendency to inevitably target Jews in a unique way over other groups.  A special word has been coined to label discrimination specifically against Jews – antisemitism. This demonstrates the enduring peculiarity of their mistreatment.  But the most perplexing aspect of antisemitism is that it is not confined to one time period, one region of the world, or simply a small group of perpetrators.  

A Brief List of Anti-Semetic events

For example, consider these:

 Medieval ghetto
Russian pogroms
Dreyfuss affair
The annihilation of Kaifeng Jews in Imperial China
Historical Expulsions of Jews across Europe

Causes of Antisemitism

But what causes antisemitism? Wikipedia, in its series on antisemitism, can show many instances of antisemitism through history and across cultures, but cannot point to a definitive cause that explains it. The difficulty with any explanation is that it cannot adequately explain both the breadth and long history of antisemitism.  A racial cause might explain Nazi-derived antisemitism, but does not explain Christian antisemitism of the Middle Ages.  A Christian/Judaism polemic might explain the Christian antisemitism, but it does not explain the 19th century French antisemitism that broiled France for over a decade in the Dreyfuss affair.  And then there is the ancient antisemitism of the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans.

The Bible on the root cause of Anti-Semitism

However, the Bible offers a simple and straightforward explanation for the cause behind antisemitism. It spans the Book from its beginning to end. In the beginning, after Adam & Eve’s disobedience, God pronounced a curse upon the Serpent. He then prophesied a pattern of ‘enmity’ between it and the “Woman”.  That woman was not Eve but Israel. (details here)  

Then, at the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation, a vision references back to that showdown. It identifies the ‘serpent’ and the ‘woman’.  Here is the vision:

The Women, the Son, and the Dragon

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne… 

Revelation 12: 1-5

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him…

13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.

Revelation 12: 9, 13

The Enmity focused particularly on the Child of the Woman

The child born of the Woman is Jesus.  The Woman is the Jewish Nation, from which Jesus came.  The Serpent, also called ‘the dragon’, is identified as Satan. Back in the Garden, God had said that there would be ‘enmity’ between the woman (Israel) and the serpent (Satan). History has documented the ever recurring antisemitism. That it comes from a wide variety of social conditions and perpetrator nations shows the enduring reality of this enmity.

But God also predicted enmity towards the offspring, or son, of the Woman. We see this enmity build on Thursday, Day 5 of Passion Week, when the Dragon rises to strike the Son.  We have been looking at Jesus through his Jewish lens. The Bible presents him as the archetype of the Jewish Nation (synthesis of that thesis here).  So it is not surprising that the Offspring of that Woman should also experience that same enmity.

Judas: Controlled by The Dragon

The Bible portrays Satan as a ruling Spirit who manipulates hatred and intrigue behind the scenes.  Satan had plotted to have everyone worship him, including Jesus.  When that failed, he set about to murder him, manipulating people to carry out his scheme.  Satan used Judas on Day 5 to strike Jesus, just after he taught about his return.  Here is the account:

Judas betraying Jesus for 30 Silver Coins

22 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people.Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

Luke 22: 1-6

Satan took advantage of their conflict to ‘enter’ Judas to betray Jesus.  This should not surprise us.  The Revelation vision describes Satan like this:

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Revelation 12:7-9
Michael and His Angels Defeat Satan

The Bible likens Satan to a powerful dragon cunning enough to lead the whole world astray.  As that ancient serpent he now coiled to strike. He manipulated Judas to destroy Jesus as the Gospel records:

16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Matthew 26:16

The next day, Friday, Day 6 of the Week, was the  Passover Festival.  How would Satan, through Judas, strike?  We see next.

Day 5 Summary

The timeline shows how on Day 5 of this week, the great dragon, Satan, coiled to strike his foe Jesus, the Seed of the Woman.

Day 5: Satan, the Great Dragon, enters Judas to strike Jesus

Day 4: Look to the Stars

Perhaps nobody has invited modern culture to imagine the stars like the pioneer science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and the innovative science-fiction franchise Star Trek have.  

Isaac Asimov
Rochester Institute of Technology, PD-US-1978-89, via Wikimedia Commons

Isaac Asimov – 20th century most prominent science fiction writer

Born into a Soviet Jewish family, Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) moved with his family to the USA while still young. He was the most prolific writer of the 20th century, writing over 500 books. But he rose to fame with his science fiction writings, particularly the Foundation Series. Begun in the 1940s, the Foundation series a galaxy-spanning Empire. The Empire opposed two newer governments covering star clusters on opposite ends of the galaxy, called Foundation. The two Foundations were launched because the hero, through a fictional mathematics called psychohistory, predicted the decay of the Empire. The establishment of the Foundations would guard intergalactic civilization’s downfall. The book series has the heroes and villains blasting off between stars and planets we jet across oceans today.

20th Century most prominent Science Fiction on the screen

Shatner and Nimoy

This imagining of inter-stellar travel went from printed pages to TV screens with the broadcasting of Star Trek.  Star Trek featured William  Captain James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as First Officer Mr. Spock. They led their crew of the starship USS Enterprise into adventures across deep space as they traveled by warp speed across star systems. Shatner (1931-) and Nimoy (1931- 2015), were both born into Jewish families, only 4 days apart. Shatner was born in Canada and Nimoy in Ukraine.

These three superbly talented Jewish visionaries led the entire world to imagine stars, space travel, and mankind’s future there. In doing so, they followed their fellow Jew, Jesus, who also told us to look at the stars. However, he foretold a future cosmic sign so drastic that Asimov, Shatner, and Nimoy never visualized anything like it.

Jesus references the Stars

We are going through each day of Jesus’ final week, exploring him through his Jewish roots (synthesis here). He had uttered a Curse on Day 3, dooming his Jewish nation to desolate exile.  Jesus also predicted that his curse would expire, setting in motion events closing this age.  The disciples asked about this and Jesus explained. He predicted his return and how it would extinguish the stars. 

The Gospel records it like this. 

24 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.”

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Matthew 24: 1-3

He started by giving details of His Curse, predicting it would begin with the Temple’s destruction (occurring in 70 CE). Then in the evening, he left the Temple to go to the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem (i1). Since the Jewish day begins at sunset, it was now Wednesday, Day 4 of Passion Week. This was when he described his coming return.

Anticipating The End

We have an instinctive fear that the world is heading to some catastrophic end.  Whether through nuclear war, an asteroid impact, climate change, environmental collapse, or another pandemic, we fret over this threat.  Elon Musk’s reported motivation for SpaceX is so he can escape from the doomed Earth and restart mankind on Mars.

So we hope that, maybe somehow we can find some way to set the world right. Jesus claimed that this was precisely the mission he was on, but he taught that before he could fix wrong ‘out there’ he had to first cleanse our corruption within. Then, later, he would right the world in his Second Coming. Jesus anticipated his Second Coming on Day 4 of this week, describing the Signs of his return.

Day 4 – Signs of his Return

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

29 “Immediately after the distress of those days

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Matthew 24: 4-31

Signs: The False and the True

On Day 4 Jesus looked past the coming destruction of the Temple. He taught that increasing evil, earthquakes, famines, wars, and persecutions would characterize the world before his return. Even so, he predicted that his message of Good News would still be announced across the whole world (v 14). As the world learned about Christ there would be growing numbers of false teachers and pseudo-claims about him and his return. Indisputable cosmic disturbances would be the true sign of his return in the midst of wars, chaos, and distress. 

Thus he calmly asked us to picture what science fiction visionaries famous for imagining all sorts of things in space could not imagine. He predicted an instantaneous and timed snuffing of the light from all stars, the sun, and the moon. A scene like that has not even been imagined by our brightest. Yet he soberly predicted a cosmic extinguishing of light to signal his return.

Then he calls himself the ‘Son of Man’, coming on the clouds of heaven. This references an ancient prophecy from Daniel about the coming of the Son of Man.

Assessing the Signs

In Asimov’s Foundation Series, mathematicians used the (fictional) science of psychohistory to predict the coming events in galactic history. Here Jesus also predicts large, sweeping events. He does so without using any analytical discipline, but based solely on his ability to foresee the future.   

This raises the all-important question:  Are his predictions accurate?

We can see that war, distress and earthquakes are increasing – so events generally seem to follow his outline.  But there are no disturbances in the heavens so his return is not just yet. 

How close might we be? 

Luke’s Perspective

To answer this we look at how Luke records, the conclusion of Jesus’ discourse.

20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Luke 21: 20-24
Jerusalem Destroyed

We see here that Jesus not only predicted details of how the curse would unfold (Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews scattered around the world – which happened in 70 CE), he also predicted what would happen to the land during their exile (It would be in ‘desolation’ and ‘trampled on by the Gentiles’). For almost 2000 years, the land was trampled on by various Gentiles (Romans, Byzantines, Arab Muslims, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans, and British). But Jesus predicted that this succession of foreign rulers would one day come to an end. He did so by qualifying that the land would be trampled ‘until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled’. The Jewish people regained Jerusalem in 1967, after a 1900-year exile.

The Roaring and Tossing Seas

He then continued.

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.

Luke 21: 25-26
Global Sea Level Past 40 years

An ongoing global discourse today concerns climate changes, rising sea levels, and increasing the intensity of ocean storms. Nations come together regularly in conferences like COP26/COP27 to try to develop global guidelines. That sounds a lot like, “Nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea”. Not all his predicted events have occurred yet, but some seem to be happening right now.

He concluded his predictions of events with this:

29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

Luke 21: 29-31

The Fig Tree greening up before our eyes

Remember the fig tree, symbolic of Israel, which he had cursed on Day 3? The withering of Israel began in 70CE when the Romans destroyed the Temple and it remained withered for 1900 years.  Jesus told us to look for green shoots from the fig tree to know when His return was ‘near’. In the last 70 years we have witnessed this ‘fig tree’ beginning to green and sprout leaves again. We literally saw this greening of the land from satellite imagery.  

Perhaps we should exercise care and watchfulness in our times since he warned against carelessness and indifference regarding his return.

Stay Alert!

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready,because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 24:36-51

Jesus then taught on his return using specific parables or stories. They are given here.

Day 4 Summary

On Wednesday, Day 4 of Passion Week, Jesus described the signs of his return. It climaxes with the extinguishing of the luminous heavenly bodies.

Day 4: Events of Passion Week compared to the Hebrew Torah regulations

He warned all of us to carefully watch for his return.  We can now see the fig tree greening, exactly as he said it would one day. So perhaps we should take heed.

The Gospel next records how His Enemy moved against him on Day 5.

  1.  Describing each day that week, Luke explains:  
    Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives.
    Luke 21:37  ↩︎

Day 3: Jesus utters The Withering Curse

In 1867 celebrated American author Mark Twain, visited the land of Israel (Palestine as it was called). He travelled across the land, writing his observations in his best-selling book Innocents Abroad. He used the words “unpicturesque”, “unsightly”, and “desolate” to describe what he saw. Twain wrote,

“Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes…. desolate and unlovely.”

Innocents Abroad

Of the Jezreel valley, Twain wrote,

“Stirring scenes … occur in the valley no more. There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent-not for thirty miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings.” 

Innocents Abroad

He described the Galilee as

“the sort of solitude to make one dreary … Come to Galilee for that … these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness, that never, never do shake the glare from their harsh outlines, and fade and faint into vague perspective; that melancholy ruin of Capernaum: this stupid village of Tiberias, slumbering under its six funereal palms … “

Innocents Abroad

Mount Tabor …

“stands solitary … [in a] silent plain … a desolation … we never saw a human being on the whole route … hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country”

Innocents Abroad

Desolate Land or ‘flowing with Milk and Honey’?

Mark Twain was particularly baffled because what he saw did not match at all what he read in the Bible, where powerful kings ruled over people, multitudes of people thronged around Jesus, and what was described many times in the Bible as:

… a land flowing with milk and honey.

Jeremiah 32:22

So what happened to the land?

It is what Jesus said and did on this Tuesday – Day 3 of Passion Week – that explains it.  Jesus used mannerisms replete with symbolism and withering criticism of the people in his day.  In doing so he demonstrated a gift for drama which we regularly witness from some similarly gifted fellow Jews today.

Witty & Gifted Critics Present and Past

Among the most gifted and well-known today for directing withering criticism, drama loaded with irony, and symbolic denunciation are Bill Maher, Seth Rogen, Ivan Urgant, and Sasha Baron Cohen.  

Bill Maher, long running host of Real Time with Bill Maher, one of the most popular late night shows in the USA, regularly engages in political satire and social commentary, leaving none free of his withering criticism.

Seth Rogen, a Canadian comedian and filmmaker, achieved unique notoriety with his movie The Interview, portraying journalists undertaking an assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un. North Korea threatened ‘merciless’ retaliation unless the movie was withdrawn.  The controversy generated wide publicity and gained Rogen prominence for his ability to needle the North Korean dictator.

Sasha Baron Cohen, the well-known British satirist who, through his wild alter-ego characters Borat– the Kazak journalist, Bruno– the gay Austrian fashion reporter, General Aladeen in The Dictator has enraged so many groups that Cohen has had to increase his security detail.

Ivan Urgant, the host of the most popular Russian late-night TV show, had his show Evening Urgant cancelled because he criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Apart from being well-known for their satirical criticism, what these four all have in common is their common Jewish heritage.  They illustrate that, though small in number, Jewish satirists are among the leaders in this genre of drama.

Jesus likewise was a master critic.  But the criticism he leveled on that day has affected human history far more than modern-day critics’ ability to arouse satire lasting only through the next news cycle. It evoked Mark Twain’s wonder centuries later

Jesus’ Looming Conflict

First we review the week and then look at what he did that day.

Jesus had entered Jerusalem on Sunday as prophesied and then shut down the Temple on Monday. So the Jewish leaders planned to kill him.  But it would not be straight-forward.  

God had selected Jesus as His Passover Lamb when Jesus entered the Temple on Monday, Nisan 10. The Torah regulated what to do with the selected Passover lambs

Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.

Exodus 12:6

As the people cared for their Passover Lambs, so also God cared for His Passover Lamb. Thus Jesus’ enemies could not get at him (yet).  The Gospel then records what Jesus did the next day, Tuesday, Day Three of Passion Week.

Jesus Curses a Fig Tree

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

Matthew 21: 17-19

Why did he do that?  

What did it mean?

The disciples were amazed, leading to a puzzling statement from Jesus about casting mountains into the sea.

20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21: 20-22

The meaning of the Fig Tree

The earlier prophets explain it to us.  Notice here how the Hebrew prophets used the Fig Tree to picture Judgment on Israel:

The prophet Hosea went further, using the fig tree to picture and then curse Israel:

10 “When I found Israel,
    it was like finding grapes in the desert;
when I saw your ancestors,
    it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree.
But when they came to Baal Peor,
    they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol
    and became as vile as the thing they loved.

Hosea 9:10

16 Ephraim is blighted,
    their root is withered,
    they yield no fruit.
Even if they bear children,
    I will slay their cherished offspring.”

17 My God will reject them
    because they have not obeyed him;
    they will be wanderers among the nations.

Hosea 9:16-17 (Ephraim=Israel)

The destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE fulfilled these and Moses’ curses (see the history). 

When Jesus cursed the fig tree, he symbolically pronounced another coming destruction of Jerusalem and Jewish exile from the land.  He cursed them into exile again.

After cursing the fig tree, Jesus re-entered the Temple, teaching, debating and clarifying his curse, especially on the Jewish leaders.  The Gospel records it this way.

Not an empty one – The Curse takes hold

We know from history that this destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple, along with the expulsion of the Jews into worldwide exile, happened in 70 C.E. 

With the Temple destruction in 70 CE Israel’s withering took place. Then, it remained withered for thousands of years. 

Roman Destruction of Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE. Preserved Roman sculptures show them looting the Temple and taking the Menorah (large, 7-place candle)

This curse does not reside simply in the pages of the Gospel story.  We can verify it happened in history.  This Withering Curse pronounced by Jesus lasted many generations.  The people of his day ignored him to their destruction.

19th Century panorama view of Jerusalem – desolate
The destroyed Temple ruins visible today

 The Curse to Expire

Jesus later clarified how that curse would come and how long it would last.

Jerusalem trampled by Gentiles

24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Luke 21:24

He taught that his curse (exile and Gentile control over Jerusalem) would last only ‘until the times of the Gentiles (non-Jews) are fulfilled’. He thus implied that his Curse would expire, explaining this further on Day 4.

The Curse Lifted

Historical Timeline of the Jews on larger scale – featuring their two periods of exile 

This timeline shows the history of the Jewish people with further details here.  Coming to our modern day, the timeline shows the end of the exile.  In 1948, from a UN declaration, the modern state of Israel was founded.  In the 1967 six-day war the city of Jerusalem, now the capital of Israel, was regained.  We see the ‘times of the Gentiles’ coming to a close in modern-day news events.

Jews now pray again at Temple Wall

The beginning and expiration of Jesus’ curse, uttered symbolically to the fig tree and then explained to his listeners have not remained simply fiction on the pages of the Gospel.  These events are verifiable, making news headlines today (ex., USA moved its embassy to Jerusalem).  Jesus taught profoundly, voiced authority over nature, and now we see that his curse left its imprint on his nation for thousands of years.  We ignore him at our peril.

Aerial view of Jerusalem today – from wikimedia

Summary of Day 3

The updated chart shows Jesus cursing the fig tree on Day 3, Tuesday, while taken care of as God’s Selected Lamb. We see on Day 4 he foretells his coming return, coming to set right many wrongs.

Day 3: Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

 Postscript on the Day 3 Withering Curse

Jews have a reputation of leading in many areas of human undertaking. This is regardless of whether they are Israeli or part of the world-wide diaspora of Jews. But this is not true in agriculture. Only Israeli Jews carry this distinctive.  Israel has carved out a hard-earned reputation as a leader in agricultural technology. This started when the Jews first made Aliyah to Palestine over a hundred years ago. They then formed kibbutzim and moshav (essentially different kinds of co-operative communal farms).  The Galilean north was swampy, the Judean hills were rocky, and the south was desert. The land was exactly as Mark Twain had experienced and described it. So the first settlers had to drain malaria infested swamps, clear land, and learn to irrigate.  

Blossoming Green in Today’s desert

Today Israel is a world leader in drip irrigation technology, growing and exporting many fruits, vegetables, grain and dairy products.  This is true in spite of the fact that Israel is not naturally conducive to agriculture. Over half the land is natural desert.  With water shortage being a major and continual problem there, Israeli farmers have become world leaders in irrigation technology.

Israel Farmers

Israeli farmers in just this last generation have been able to transform the land from a barren, withered landscape into a panorama of green. The satellite view in Google Maps shows this, comparing the borders they share with their neighbours. On Day 4, Jesus prophesied this would occur, holding a special meaning.

Israel-Egypt border (red highlight) with irrigated circles prominent on Israeli side
Israel-Jordan border (red highlight) with green irrigated fields visible on Israeli side
Demarcation line between Israel and Syria. Israelis have greened their landscape
Lebanon – Israel border: The cultivated block of fields on Israeli side  basically follows the border
Northern Gaza border with Israel.

Day 2: Jesus Selected

Richard Wurmbrand, Ivan Urgant and Natan Sharansky represent the Jewish spirit of unarmed civil protest voicing objection to powerful and abusive institutions.  As a result of their outspokenness, they became targets of the systems that they criticized. In that regard they followed in the footsteps of their fellow Jew – Jesus of Nazareth.

Richard Wurmbrand

Tortured for his FaithRichard Wurmbrand

Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001), was a Romanian Jew who later became a Lutheran priest. He publicly taught from the Bible in a time when Romania strictly enforced communist atheism. Authorities imprisoned him from 1948-1956, including a three-year period of solitary confinement in an underground hole with no light. Upon his release he resumed leading the underground church. So the authorities imprisoned him again from 1959 to 1964 with frequent beatings. Authorities finally released him to the West because of an international campaign highlighting his plight.

Ivan Urgant

Cancelled for his ConvictionsIvan Urgant

Ivan Urgant (born 1978) hosted the most popular late-night talk show on Russian state TV called Evening Urgant. He followed the format of well-known American late-night talk shows like The Tonight Show and The Late Show.  Ivan Urgant gained notoriety in February 2022 by protesting the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He posted “No to War” on his Instagram account. In a country that declared public dissent on the invasion illegal, it was a bold and high-profile stand. Russian Channel One then suspended his late-night show.  Shortly thereafter Ivan left Russia and appeared in Israel.

Refused for his BrillianceNatan Sharansky

Natan Sharansky

Natan Sharansky (born 1948), gifted physicist, mathematician and chess prodigy, became one of the most recognized Soviet refuseniks. Refuseniks were Soviet Jews who were denied exit visas to Israel in the 1960s and 1970s. Soviet authorities denied Sharansky his exit visa in 1973 under the pretext that his work in physics gave him access to state secrets. Sharansky then became a public activist for all refuseniks in the 1970s, a risky move under the Soviet regime.  Arrested in 1977 by the KGB, the authorities moved him around prisons and forced labor camps. In response to an international campaign highlighting his plight, he was freed in 1986 by Mikhail Gorbachev. Thereafter, Sharansky emigrated to Israel, where he has conducted a successful political career.   

Jesus – Selected for his Perfect Timing 

Jesus of Nazareth also demonstrated this inclination to activism, at great personal risk, through bold protest against a powerful bureaucracy.  But his ability to time his actions and link them to past era-defining events, as well as directing them to future freedoms affecting you and me, remains unmatched.  We have been looking at Jesus through his Jewish lens and here we examine his protest actions, unpacking their remarkable timing, and their meanings. After reviewing specific instances of the Jesus-as-Israel thesis, we reflect on it here.

On the second day of Passion Week, Jesus took his protest to a whole new level, setting in motion a chain of events that would forever alter history. 

Significance of the Date

Jesus had just entered Jerusalem at the exact day prophesied hundreds of years before, revealing himself as the Christ and a light to the nations.  That date, in the Jewish calendar, was Sunday, Nisan 9, the first day of Passion Week.  Because of regulations in the Torah, the next day, 10thof Nisan, was a unique day in the Jewish calendar.  Long before, Moses had decreed the steps to prepare for Passover:

12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.

Exodus 12: 1-3

So, every 10th of Nisan since Moses, each Jewish family would select a lamb for the upcoming Passover festival. It could only be done that day.  In Jesus’ day the Jews selected the Passover lambs in the Temple in Jerusalem. This was the same location where 2000 years before God tested Abraham in the sacrifice of his son.  Today, this is the location of the Jewish Temple Mount and the Muslim Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.  

So at one specific location (the Temple Mount), on one specific day of the Jewish year (Nisan 10), Jews selected the Passover lamb for each family.  As you might imagine, the vast number of people and animals, the noise of the bartering, the foreign exchange (since Jews came from many locations) would turn the Temple on Nisan 10 into a frenzied market.  The Gospel records what Jesus did that day.  When the passage refers to the ‘next day’ this is the day after his royal  entry into Jerusalem, the 10thof Nisan – the exact day that Jews selected Passover lambs in the Temple.

Cleansing the Temple

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”And his disciples heard him say it.15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.”

Mark 11:12-17
Jesus cleanses the Temple
Distant Shores Media/Sweet PublishingCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the human level Jesus went into the Temple on Monday, Nisan 10, and stopped the commercialism.  The buying and selling had created a barrier for worship, especially for that of non-Jews.  Jesus, a Light for these nations, therefore broke this barrier by stopping the commercial activity.  

The Lamb of God Selected

But something unseen also happened at the same time.  We can understand this from the title that John the Baptist had previously given to Jesus.  In announcing him John had said:

Jesus holding a lamb

 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

John 1: 29

Jesus was ‘the Lamb of God’.  In Abraham’s sacrifice, God was the one who had selected the lamb replacing Isaac by catching it in a bush.  The Temple was at this same location.  

When Jesus went into the Temple on Nisan 10 God selected him as His Passover Lamb.   

Jesus had to be in the Temple on this exact day in order to be selected. And he was.

The Purpose of Jesus as the Passover Lamb

Why was he selected as Passover lamb?  Jesus’ teaching above provided the answer.  When he said, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’ he quoted from Isaiah.  Here is the full passage (what Jesus spoke is in underlined).

And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
    to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
    and who hold fast to my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain
    and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
    a house of prayer for all nations.

Isaiah 56: 6-7
Historical Timeline of Isaiah with some other prophets of the Old Testament

The ‘Holy Mountain’ that Isaiah had written about was Mount Moriah, where Abraham had sacrificed the lamb selected by God in place of Isaac.  The ‘house of prayer’ was the Temple which Jesus entered on Nisan 10.  However, only Jews could sacrifice at the Temple and celebrate Passover.  But Isaiah had written that ‘foreigners’ (non-Jews) would one day see that ‘their burnt offerings and sacrifices would be accepted’.  In quoting the prophet Isaiah, Jesus announced that his work would open a path to God for non-Jews.  That path had started opening the day before when Greeks asked to meet Jesus.

Nations around the world noticed the protests of high-profile Jewish activists like Wurmbrand, Urgant and Sharansky. Jesus said that his work would similarly arouse the attention of the world’s nations.  He did not explain at this point how he would do this.   But as we continue the gospel account we will see how God had a plan to bless you and me.

Next days in Passion Week

After the Jews selected their lambs on Nisan 10, the regulations in the Torah commanded them to:

Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.

Exodus 12:6

Since that first Passover at the time of Moses, the Jews sacrifice their Passover lambs every Nisan 14.  We add ‘taking care of the lambs’ to the Torah regulations in the timeline we are building for the week.  In the lower half of the timeline we add the activities of Jesus on Day 2 of the week – his cleansing of the Temple and his selection as God’s Passover lamb.

Activities of Jesus on Monday – Day 2 of Passion Week – compared to Torah regulations

Marked and Selected by the Authorities 

When Jesus entered and cleansed the Temple, this also had an impact at the human level.  The Gospel continues by stating:

The Angry Chef Priest
James Tissot, PD-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons

18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

Mark 11:18

In cleansing the Temple the Jewish leaders targeted him for death.  As Wurmbrand, Urgant and Sharansky were targeted by the leaders they protested against, Jesus was from this point on, a marked man.

They started by confronting him.  The Gospel recounts that the next day:

 27 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 28 “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”

Mark 11:27-28

We follow the schemes of the authorities, the actions of Jesus, and the Torah regulations on Tuesday, Day 3 of Passion Week, next.

Day 1: Jesus – Light to the Nations

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, the galvanizing figure of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has become a familiar face to the nations of the world. Against the Russian claim that they invaded Ukraine to get rid of its Nazi government, Zelensky replies that he is Jewish. How then could his government then be a Nazi one, he asks. Zelensky has since gone on a virtual tour of the halls of power of nations around the world. He has given pitch-perfect addresses to government bodies of many nations. Zelensky spoke to the British Parliament, US Congress, the German Bundestag, the Israeli Knesset, the Canadian Parliament, the Italian Parliament, the Japanese Parliament, and the United Nations General Assembly, among others. He has been given the highest Czech honor, as well as national honors in Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.     

The Jews – Light to the Nations

Zelensky has gone on a virtual tour of parliaments and halls of power of the world’s nations. He chastises, encourages, pleads, and goads them into moral action on behalf of Ukraine. He illustrates so well the prophecy that Isaiah foretold 2700 years ago about the Jewish people. Isaiah had prophesied:

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
    I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
    to be a covenant for the people
     and a light for the Gentiles,

Isaiah 42:6

Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Isaiah 60:3

Jews have since carried this mantle of being a ‘light to the nations’ given 2700 years ago through Isaiah. They ponder its meaning. We know this from search results on popular Israeli websites. Here are the ‘Light to the nations’ results in TimesOfIsrael, and here similarly for the Jerusalem Post.  

Claims to be a ‘Light to the Nations’

In spite of his prominent voice before nations today, Zelensky has never claimed to be a ‘light to the nations’. That would be presumptuous. The one Jewish person in history who is on record as having claimed that distinction is Jesus. But it is not only his claim to be such a ‘light’ that stands out. Rather, it is when and how he made it is remarkable. We look at this here and reflect on whether his legacy justifies this claim.

After the Triumphant Entry on Palm Sunday

Jesus had just entered Jerusalem mounted on a donkey as prophesied 500 years earlier. He did so on the exact day that the prophet Daniel had prophesied 550 years before. The Jews had been arriving from many countries for the upcoming Passover festival. Therefore Jewish pilgrims crowded Jerusalem.

The manner of Jesus’ arrival had caused a stir among the Jews. But it was not only the Jews who noticed his arrival. The Gospel records what happened right after he entered Jerusalem.

Jesus coming through Jerusalem on a Donkey

 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

John 12:20-22

 The Greek – Jew barrier in ancient times

It was extremely unusual for Greeks, (that is Gentiles or non-Jews), to be at a Jewish festival like Passover. The Jews shunned the Greeks and Romans of that time since they were pagans and considered unclean. And most Greeks considered the Jewish religion with only one (unseen) God and its festivals to be foolish. So these people regularly stayed apart from each other. The Gentile, or non-Jewish, society was many times larger than the Jewish society. So the Jews lived in a sort of isolation from much of the world. Their different religion, their kosher diet, and their exclusive Book created a barrier between the Jews and the Gentiles. Each side displayed hostility toward the other side (as we saw with the Maccabees and bar kochba).

The Jews and Greeks

… Prophesied to come down

But Isaiah (750 BCE) claimed to see far into the future and he foresaw a change for the nations.  He had written:

Isaiah in Historical Timeline

 49 Listen to me, you islands;
    hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the Lord called me;
    from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name…

Isaiah 49: 1

And now the Lord says—
    he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
    and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
    and my God has been my strength—
he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
    to restore the tribes of Jacob
    and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
    that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Isaiah 49: 5-6

 60 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Isaiah 60:1-3

So Isaiah had foretold that the coming ‘servant’ of the Lord, though Jewish (‘the tribes of Jacob’), would be a ‘light for the Gentiles’ (all the non-Jews). He prophesied that this light would reach to the ends of the earth.  But how could this happen with this barrier between the Jews and the Gentiles firmly set these hundreds of years?

Jesus’ Entry that Day begins the dismantling

That day when Jesus entered Jerusalem the light began to draw the first Gentiles because we see some approaching him.  Here at this Jewish festival were Greeks who had journeyed to Jerusalem to meet him.  Jesus had raised their interest. But would they, considered unclean by the Jews, be able to see him?  They asked Jesus’ disciples, who brought the request to Jesus.  What would he say?  The Gospel continues

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies,it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus: The Light of this World

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

John 12: 23- 36

Belief and Unbelief Among the Jews

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
    nor understand with their hearts,
    nor turn—and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

John 12: 37-50

Against the prevailing Jew-Gentile animosities of that day, Jesus said that he would be ‘lifted up’. He predicted that this would draw ‘all people’ – not just the Jews – to himself. 

Jesus boldly claimed that he had ‘come into the world as a light’ (v.46) which the previous prophets had written would shine on all nations.  And on the day when he entered Jerusalem, that light first began to shine on the Gentiles.  

Jesus’ Light to the Nations in History

Consider now how the halls of power, with their accompanying institutions, where Zelensky has been speaking recently, have come about by Jesus’ influence on the nations. 

Here are some quick examples.

These practices, customs, and institutions that we often take for granted today across the many nations came about as people throughout history were influenced by Jesus. From a strictly historical point-of-view, Jesus of Nazareth has been the brightest Jewish light shining upon many nations. Isaiah’s predictions 2700 years ago have come true through Jesus’ historical influence on the nations.

Passion Week Day-by-Day

But Jesus did not simply come to be a Light to the nations. He had also declared War on death itself. How he goes about this struggle is reviewed in a day-by-day recounting of his activities in Passion Week. We will go through each day of Passion or Holy Week and note what Jesus does and says each day. From these we will recognize patterns going back to the beginning of the world, bringing fresh meaning to his activities that week. We also reflect on the Jesus-as-Israel lens we have adopted. 

The following chart goes through each day of this week. On Sunday, the first day of the week he fulfilled three different prophecies given by three previous prophets. First, he entered Jerusalem mounted on a donkey as prophesied by Zechariah. Second, he did so in the time prophesied by Daniel. Third, his message and miracles started to light an interest among the Gentiles. Isaiah had foretold this would shine as a light to the nations, growing brighter to people around the world.

Events of Passion Week – Day 1 – Sunday

We continue looking at the events of Monday, Day 2 of Passion week next.

Jesus declares War: As King, To an undefeated Enemy, Precisely on Palm Sunday

The Books of Maccabees, found in the Apocrypha, vividly recounts the warfare waged by the Maccabees (Maccabeus) family against the Greek Seleucids. The Seleucids were trying to impose Greek pagan religion upon the Jews of Jerusalem in 168 BCE. Most of the historical information about this war comes from the First Book of Maccabees (1 Maccabees). It describes how the Seleucid Emperor, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, instigated a de-Judaizing of Judea.  

Maccabean Wars in Biblical Timeline
Judas Maccabees

In 168 BCE Antiochus IV entered Jerusalem by force, killing thousands of Jews. Then he desecrated the Temple by mixing pagan religious practices with the Temple worship handed down by Moses. Antiochus IV forced Jews to also adopt pagan practices by sacrificing and eating pigs, desecrating the Sabbath, and forbidding circumcision.

Matthias Maccabees, a Jewish Priest, and his five sons then rose in revolt against Antiochus IV, adopting a successful guerrilla warfare campaign. After Matthias died, one of his sons, Judas (The Hammer) Maccabees led the war. Judas was very successful because of his brilliant military planning, bravery, and prowess in physical battle. He eventually forced the Seleucids to retreat. So the region around Jerusalem was briefly independent of the Hasmonean dynasty until the Romans took control. The Jewish festival Hanukkah today commemorates the winning back and cleansing of the Jewish temple from Antiochus IV’s defilement.

Zealous Jews going to war for the Temple

Model of Second Jewish Temple: Many fought for its purity

Religious convictions about the Temple, strong enough to go to war for, have been part of Jewish heritage for 3000 years. Josephus and Bar Kochba are well-known historical Jewish figures who waged war to preserve the purity of the Jewish Temple. Still today, some Jews risk conflict and battle to pray at the Temple Mount.  

Like the Maccabees, Jesus was also very zealous for the Temple and its worship. He was zealous enough to also go to war over it.  However, how he engaged in his warfare, and who he fought, was very different than the Maccabees.  We have been looking at Jesus through his Jewish lens and we look now at this warfare and opponent. Later we see how the Temple figured into this struggle.  

Triumphant Entry

Jesus had revealed his mission by raising Lazarus and now he was on his journey to Jerusalem. The way he would arrive had been prophesied hundreds of years before. The Gospel explains:

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:

15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
    see, your king is coming,
    seated on a donkey’s colt.”

16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

John 12: 12-19

Jesus’ Entry – according to David

Period of Kings when they led processions into Jerusalem

Starting with David, ancient Israelite kings would annually mount their royal horse and lead a procession into Jerusalem. Likewise, Jesus re-enacted this tradition when he entered Jerusalem riding a donkey on the day now known as Palm Sunday. The people sang the same song from the Psalms for Jesus as they had done for David:

25 Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up to the horns of the altar.

Psalm 118:25-27

The people sang this ancient song written for the Kings because they knew Jesus had raised Lazarus. So they were excited at his arrival into Jerusalem. The word they shouted, ‘Hosanna’ meant ‘save’ – exactly as Psalm 118:25 had written long before. 

But what was he going to ‘save’ them from? 

The prophet Zechariah tells us.

The Entry Prophesied by Zechariah

Though Jesus re-enacted what the former kings had done hundreds of years earlier, he did it differently.  Zechariah, who had prophesied the coming Christ’s name, had also prophesied that the Christ would enter Jerusalem mounted on a donkey. 

Zechariah and other Old Testament Prophets in History

The Gospel of John quoted part of that prophesy above (it is underlined).  Zechariah’s complete prophecy is here:

 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,

    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
    and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
    and the battle bow will be broken.

He will proclaim peace to the nations.
    His rule will extend from sea to sea
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
    I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

Zechariah 9:9-11

The Coming King will fight … who?

This King prophesied by Zechariah would be different from all other kings. He would not become King by using ‘chariots’, ‘warhorses’, and ‘battle bows’. This King would remove these weapons and would instead ‘proclaim peace to the nations’. However, this King would still have to struggle to defeat an enemy. He would have to fight in a war to the death.

The Final Enemy – Death Itself

The “pit”

When we speak of saving people from death we mean saving someone so that death is delayed.  We may, for example, rescue someone who is drowning, or provide some medicine that saves someone’s life.  This ‘saving’ only postpones death because the saved person will die later.  But Zechariah was not prophesying about saving people ‘from death’ but about rescuing those imprisoned by death – those already dead.  This King prophesied by Zechariah to come on a donkey was to face and defeat death itself– freeing its prisoners. This would require an enormous struggle.

So what weapons was the King going to use in this struggle with death? Zechariah wrote that this King would only take “the blood of my covenant with you” to his battle in ‘the pit’.1 Thus, his blood would be the weapon with which He would face death.

By entering Jerusalem on the donkey Jesus declared himself to be this predicted King – the Christ.

Why Jesus weeps with sorrow

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (also known as the Triumphant Entry) the religious leaders opposed him.  The Gospel of Luke describes Jesus’ response to their opposition.

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Luke 19:41–44

Jesus said specifically that the leaders should have ‘recognized the time of God’s coming’ on ‘this day’.  What did he mean?  What had they missed?

The Prophets had Predicted ‘the Day’

Centuries before, the prophet Daniel had prophesied that Christ would come 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. We had calculated Daniel’s expected year to be 33 CE– the year that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. Predicting the year of the entry, hundreds of years before it happened, is astonishing, but we can even calculate his arrival on the day. (Please review here first as we build on it).

The Length of Time

The prophet Daniel had predicted 483 years using a 360-day year before the revealing of the Christ.  Accordingly, the number of days is:

483 years * 360 days/year = 173 880 days

But in terms of the modern international calendar with 365.2422 days/year this is 476 years with 25 extra days. (173 880/365.24219879 = 476 remainder 25)

The Countdown Starts

When was the decree to restore Jerusalem which started this countdown?  It was given:

In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes …

Nehemiah 2:1
Jewish Calendar

Nisan 1 began their New Year, giving reason for the King to talk to Nehemiah in the celebration.  Nisan 1 would also be marked by a new moon since their months were lunar.  Astronomical calculations place the new moon of Nisan 1 of the 20thyear of Persian Emperor Artaxerxes at 10 PM on March 4, 444 BCE in our modern calendar.2 

The Countdown Ends…

So adding the 476 years of Daniel’s prophesied time to this date brings us to March 4, 33 CE. (There is no year 0, the modern calendar going from 1BCE to 1 CE in one year).  The Table summarizes the calculations.

Start year444 BCE (20th year of Artaxerxes)
Length of time476 solar years
Expected arrival in Modern Calendar(-444 + 476 + 1) (‘+1’ because there is no 0 CE) = 33
Expected year33 CE
Calculating the arrival of the Anointed One (= Christ)

…to the Day

Adding the 25 remaining days of Daniel’s prophesied time to March 4, 33 CE gives us March 29, 33 CE. This is shown in the table and illustrated in the timeline below.  

Start – Decree IssuedMarch 4, 444 BCE
Add the solar years (-444+ 476 +1)March 4, 33 CE
Add the remaining 25 daysMarch 4 + 25 = March 29, 33 CE
March 29, 33 CEPalm Sunday Entry of Jesus to Jerusalem
Calculating to the Day

March 29, 33 CE, was Sunday– Palm Sunday– the very day that Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey, claiming to be the Christ.  

By entering Jerusalem on March 29, 33 CE, seated on a donkey, Jesus fulfilled both the prophecy of Zechariah and the prophecy of Daniel – to the day. 

Daniel had predicted 173 880 days before revealing of the Christ ; Nehemiah had started the time. It concluded on March 29, 33 CE when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday

These many prophecies fulfilled on one day indicates the signs God used to identify His Christ.  But later that same day Jesus fulfilled yet another prophecy from Moses.  In doing so he set in motion the events leading to his struggle with the ‘pit’ – his enemy death.  We look at this next.

  1. Some examples on how ‘pit’ meant death for the prophets:

15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
    to the depths of the pit.


18 For the grave cannot praise you,
    death cannot sing your praise;
those who go down to the pit
    cannot hope for your faithfulness.


22 They draw near to the pit,
    and their life to the messengers of death.


They will bring you down to the pit,
    and you will die a violent death
    in the heart of the seas.


 23 Their graves are in the depths of the pit and her army lies around her grave. All who had spread terror in the land of the living are slain, fallen by the sword.


You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.


 2. For conversions between ancient and modern calendars (e.g. Nisan 1  = March 4, 444BC) and calculations of ancient new moons see Dr. Harold W. Hoehner’s, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ.  1977. 176pp.