The Precision and Power of Pentecost

The Day of Pentecost always comes on a Sunday.  It celebrates a remarkable event. But it is not only what happened that day but when and why it happened that reveals the hand of God. It also offers a powerful gift for you.

What happened on Pentecost

If you heard of ‘Pentecost’, you probably learned that it was the day when the Holy Spirit came to indwell the followers of Jesus.  This is the day that the Church, the “called-out ones” of God, was born. Acts chapter 2 of the Bible records the event. On that day, the Spirit of God descended on the first 120 followers of Jesus. Then they started proclaiming loudly in languages from around the world.  It created such a commotion that thousands in Jerusalem at the time came out to see what was happening.  In front of the gathered crowd, Peter spoke the first gospel message. The account records that ‘three thousand were added to their number that day’ (Acts 2:41). The number of gospel followers has been growing ever since that Pentecost Sunday.

People were filled with the Holy Spirit
The story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, PD-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons

That day happened 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. It was during these 50 days that Jesus’ disciples became convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead. On Pentecost Sunday they went public and changed history. Whether you believe in the resurrection or not, the events of that Pentecost Sunday have affected your life.

This understanding of Pentecost, though correct, is not complete.  Many people want a repeat of that Pentecost Sunday through a similar experience.  The first disciples of Jesus had this Pentecostal experience by ‘waiting for the gift of the Spirit’. So today people hope that likewise by ‘waiting’ He will come again in a similar way.  Therefore, many people plead and wait for God to bring about another Pentecost.  To think this way assumes that it was the waiting and praying that moved the Spirit of God back then. To think this way is to miss its precision. In fact, the Pentecost recorded in Acts Chapter 2 was not the first Pentecost.

Pentecost from the Law of Moses

‘Pentecost’ was actually an annual Old Testament festival. Moses (1500 BCE) had established several festivals to be celebrated through the year. Passover was the first festival of the Jewish year.  Jesus had been crucified on a Passover day festival. The exact timing of his death to the sacrifices of the Passover lambs was meant as a sign.

The second festival was the feast of Firstfruits. The Law of Moses commanded its celebration on the ‘day after’ Passover Saturday (=Sunday). Jesus rose on Sunday, so his resurrection occurred exactly on the Firstfruits Festival.  Since his resurrection happened on ‘Firstfruits’, it Promised that our resurrection would follow later (for all those who trust him).  His resurrection is literally a ‘firstfruits’, just as the festival name prophesied.

Precisely 50 days after the ‘Firstfruits’ Sunday the Jews celebrated Pentecost. (‘Pente’ for 50.  It was also called Feast of Weeks since it was counted by seven weeks).  Jews had been celebrating Pentecost for 1500 years by the time the Pentecost of Acts 2 happened.  The reason that there were people from all over the world that Pentecost day in Jerusalem to hear Peter’s message was precisely because they were there to celebrate the Old Testament Pentecost.  Today, Jews still celebrate Pentecost but call it Shavuot.

We read in the Old Testament how Pentecost was to be celebrated:

Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD.

Leviticus 23:16-17

Precision of Pentecost: Evidence of a Mind

The Acts 2 Pentecost events precisely coordinate with the Old Testament Pentecost (The Feast of Weeks). We know this since they occurred on the same day of the year.  The crucifixion of Jesus occurring on the Passover, the resurrection of Jesus occurring on FirstFruits, and the Acts 2 Pentecost occurring on the Feast of Weeks, points to a Mind coordinating these through history.  With so many days in a year why should the crucifixion of Jesus, his resurrection, and then the coming of the Holy Spirit happen precisely on each day of the three spring Old Testament festivals? Unless they were planned.  Precision like this happens only if a mind is behind it.

Events of New Testament occurred precisely on the three Spring Festivals of the Old Testament

Did Luke ‘make up’ Pentecost?

One might argue that Luke (the author of Acts) made up the Acts 2 events to ‘happen’ on the Feast of Pentecost. Then he would have been the ‘mind’ behind the timing. But his account does not say that Acts 2 is ‘fulfilling’ the Feast of Pentecost. It does not even mention it. Why go to such trouble of creating these dramatic events to ‘happen’ on that day but not help the reader see how it ‘fulfills’ the Feast of Pentecost?

In fact, Luke did such a good job of reporting events, rather than interpreting them, that most people today do not know that the events of Acts 2 fell on the same day as the Old Testament Feast of Pentecost.  Many people think that Pentecost simply began at Acts 2. Since most people today are not aware of the connection between them, Luke would be in the impossible situation of being a genius to invent the connection but utterly inept in selling it.

Pentecost: A New Power

The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit
Max Fürst (1846–1917), PD-US-expired, via Wikimedia Commons

Instead, Luke points us to a prophecy from the Old Testament book of Joel. This predicted that one day the Spirit of God would pour out on all peoples.  The Pentecost of Acts 2 fulfilled that.

One reason that the Gospel is ‘good news’ is that it provides power to live life differently – better. Life is now a union between God and people. And this union takes place through the indwelling of the Spirit of God – which began on the Pentecost Sunday of Acts 2.  The Good News is that we can now live life on a different level. We live it in a relationship with God through His Spirit. The Bible puts it like this:

And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

Ephesian 1:13-14

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Romans 8:11

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

Romans 8:23

The indwelling Spirit of God is another firstfruits, because the Spirit is a foretaste – a guarantee – of completing our transformation into ‘children of God’.

The gospel offers an abundant life not through possessions, pleasure, status, wealth and all the other passing trifles pursued by this world. Solomon found these to be such an empty bubbles. But rather the abundant life comes by the indwelling of the Spirit of God.  If this is true – that God offers to indwell and empower us – that would be good news.  The Old Testament Pentecost with the celebration of fine bread baked with yeast pictured this coming abundant life.  The precision between the Old and New Pentecosts is perfect evidence that it is God who is the Mind behind this precision. Thus He stands behind this power of an abundant life.

The Revived Woman paired with the Resurrected Son

We have gone through portraits of Jesus presented in the Gospels by looking at him through his Jewish lens.  In doing so we have seen two over-riding themes.

  1. Jews have led in making contributions to mankind in many fields of activity.  However, their story is mixed with immense suffering and sorrow.
  2. Jesus has participated, even headed, this totality of Jewish experience. We see this in the numerous parallel patterns.  We review and look at a few more, including the modern revival of Hebrew and the Festivals prescribed through Moses.

Jewish Contributions to Mankind’s Progress

Consider the following in light of the fact that the total Jewish population is  15.2 million, 0.19% of the 8 billion worldwide population.  

We have surveyed Jews who have significantly impacted modern society:

We learned how Jews led in the initial development of the first alphabet. Innovation on many fronts continues to overflow from them. They have blessed the world by being a light to the nations.

Jewish Sorrows

Jewish people during the Holocaust

But it is not as though Jews have had an easy time riding the wake of success. The stories of Anne Frank, Simon bar Kochba, the Maccabees, Richard Wurmbrand, Natan Sharansky, and the repeated expulsions of Jews across Europe culminating in the Holocaust illustrate this. Humankind has been beset with many problems of racism down through history. However, Jews are the only people for which a term for unsuppressed hatred and persecution specifically against them needed creating (anti-Semitism).  Along with their propensity for innovation, an adversarial principle seems to continually confront them.   

In fact, Jewish success often raises the fears of others that they control society, harboring sinister intentions to take over. These fears, though unfounded, seem to spread through many social sectors. Many times they have been the cause of anti-Semitic outbreaks.

On other occasions, success for certain Jews has raised questions resulting in backlashes against Jews as a whole.  The Russian oligarchs associated with Russian President Putin serve as an example.  Of the 210 Russian oligarchs worth more than $1 billion, 20 of them, or 10%, are Jewish. This is far above the per capita Russian Jewish population at 0.16% of the Russian population.  Prominent among these Russian-Jewish oligarchs are Roman Abramovich, Petr Aven, Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Fridman, Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Alexander Smolensky.  Six of the top seven Russian oligarchs are Jewish. This weighting has started creating the impression that the oligarchs are all Jewish.  Here again, Jewish talent has exerted a disproportionate influence. So with the scrutiny of the oligarchs, some fear a coming anti-Semitic backlash.

The Power Shaping Jewish Destiny

So how to explain Jewish ability as well as their history of sorrows? We explored an adversarial spirit pitted against them here. The Bible presents their complete situation as even more complex than that.

At the call of Abraham 4000 years ago, the One Calling him declared:

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12: 2-3
Abraham and Moses in Historical Timeline with Jesus

Then five hundred years later (1500 BCE) this Same Presence, through Moses, pronounced Blessings & Curses. Moses predicted these would shape global history going forward, and they have.

Isaiah in Historical Timeline

Later (750 BCE), Isaiah, also in the name of that Same Power, predicted repeatedly that: 

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

These pronouncements line up with what we see recorded in history, and also happening in the world today.  History did not have to follow the path of these decrees after Isaiah wrote them down thousands of years ago.  

But it did.

It still does.

We should take note.

This shows a single-minded Intent, Purpose and Power behind these statements demonstrating itself through history.  Intent and purpose come only from persons. Since this intent and purpose spans thousands of years it cannot come simply from human purposes.  God shows His Hand through these Promises.

Was Christ the Messiah? Christians and Jews Disagree -
Light to the Nations

Jesus leads the Jewish Experience

We also saw that Jesus participated with his fellow Jews in the totality of their experience. He did so both in its heights and its depths.  It is not just that Jesus’ career has similarities with that of some well-known Jews. But his experiences match that of the Jewish nation.  He typifies national Israel.

Jesus’ Resurrection & the Jewish Hebrew Revival

For example, Jews underwent a national death when the Romans expelled them from the Biblical land. They remained exiled for 1900 years, during this period, their national language, Hebrew, died. For hundreds of years, Jews ceased to speak Hebrew in everyday conversation. People cannot live without their native language, but the Hebrew language recently revived.

Jews expelled by the Roman Empire

The revival of Hebrew began when the Russian-born Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, self-taught in Hebrew, chose to speak Hebrew with fellow Jews in Paris on October 13, 1881. This recorded the first time in hundreds of years that Hebrew had been spoken in everyday conversation.  Shortly afterwards, moving to Jerusalem, Ben Yehuda tried to persuade other Jewish families to speak Hebrew. He developed dictionaries, wrote plays for children in Hebrew and published a Hebrew newspaper.  

His efforts met with limited success since after ten years only four families spoke Hebrew conversationally. Obstacles loomed. Parents were reluctant to educate their children in Hebrew, an impractical language since no one spoke it. Hebrew schoolbooks did not exist. However, by the early 20th century Hebrew began to gain traction. Today over 9 million people speak it.  As Wikipedia says of the revival of Hebrew:

The process of Hebrew’s return to regular usage is unique; there are no other examples of a natural language without any native speakers subsequently acquiring several million native speakers,


Jesus died and then rose from the dead, a one-of-a-kind event. In the same way, Israel died and then came alive again as a nation with the one-of-a-kind revival of Hebrew. 

Jesus and the Torah Festivals

Jewish Festivals

Jews, as a nation, celebrate the festivals prescribed through Moses 3500 years ago. As a nation they celebrate Passover, Sabbath, First Fruits and Pentecost. These festivals partly embody and define them as Jews.  

Jesus underwent his:

Thus, Jesus embodies, represents, and experienced all the spring festivals as no other Jew, Moses included, has ever done.

Jesus’ career did not embody the remaining autumn Feasts prescribed by Moses. These occur in September-October: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. However, Jesus announced that he would return again and that the time of his coming would be precisely planned. His First Coming precisely matched the timing of all the spring festivals. So it stands to reason that his Second Coming will precisely match the timing of these fall festivals. 

Revived and Returning

Here again, in the mere expectation of his Second Coming, we see Jesus’ career, viewed through the span of history, typifying that of national Israel. During their long exile from the Biblical land they celebrated the annual Passover in exile with the phrase that became a tradition: “Next year in Jerusalem“. As a nation, they anticipated a return to the Land. As a nation, they have returned within our lifetimes. Jesus, likewise, has left the Biblical land and has been absent for over 2000 years. But, like his nation, he has promised his return.  He said that the return of the Jews to the Biblical land was a sign that his return was ‘near’. So he linked the two returns.  

Reach Out to the Presence at Work

Many think of Jesus solely through the stained-glass window of Christendom’s history in Europe and the Americas.  Therefore he is often seen simply as a dusty, (somewhat) historical figure who lived long ago. Perhaps he is a cultural relic that has some traditional value, but little potent relevance to our lives today.  

But the Bible, from its beginning and right to its end, appended thousands of years later, presents him as the Offspring of the Woman (Israel). It also presents him as the Christ, destined to return and reign. 

From the Beginning…

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15 (in writing as far back as we know, more details here)

To the last pages in its final book…

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…

Revelation 12:1-2
Bartolomeo Cesi , CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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 12:5 (written 1st Century CE)

We can see in the news headlines today that the ‘Woman’ is reviving. Since the Son is hers, tangibly linked to her, then we would not be foolish to reach out to Him. If we do, even without complete understanding, then we can experience his promise that

…he is not far from any one of us.

Acts 17:27b


The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3: 9

For Further Reflection

Cosmic Rhythm only God could Dance: From Creation to Cross

What is dance? Theatrical dance encompasses rhythmic movements, meant to be viewed by spectators and to tell a story.  Accordingly, dancers coordinate their movements with other dancers, using different parts of their own body, so that their movements generate visual beauty and accentuate rhythm. Usually this coordination occurs in a repeating time interval, called meter. Researchers have documented the crucial role that rhythm plays in our lives. So it is not surprising if we see a similar tilt to rhythm in God’s outworking since we are made in His image.

Tandava dancers

The Cross: Dancing on the Serpent’s head

The Gospel emphatically declares that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus was God’s defeat of His Adversary. We see this right at the beginning of human history, when Adam succumbed to the serpent.  The scripture back then (details here) had predicted to the serpent:

15 And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush  your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15
The Woman’s Seed would trample the serpent’s head

So this foretold a coming struggle between the Serpent and the Seed or Offspring of the Woman.  Jesus declared himself as ‘the Seed’ on Day 1 of Passion Week. Then he purposefully drove the conflict to its climax at the cross.  Thus, Jesus allowed the Serpent to strike him, confident of his final victory. In so doing, Jesus trampled the head of the serpent, making the way to life. Summing up, the Bible describes His victory and our way to live like this:

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Colossians 2: 13-15

Their struggle unfolded like a dance, in a rhythmic meter of ‘sevens’ and ‘threes’. We explicitly see this by looking at the Passion Week events of Jesus through the lens of Creation.

God’s foreknowledge revealed from the beginning of Time

How can we know if this was God’s Plan instead of some random events with no ultimate purpose behind it? Alternatively, could the Gospel story have simply been human-engineered?

We know that no matter how clever, gifted, eloquent, powerful, or rich someone is, they cannot foresee the future. No one has the ability to coordinate with events thousands of years into the future. Only God can possibly foreknow and predestine far into the future. So, if we detect evidence of this kind of coordination through history we can prove that he choreographed this drama. Thus, it would rule out chance or clever people behind the gospel.

In the whole Bible there are, in fact, only two weeks where the events of every day in the week are narrated.  The first week, recorded at the beginning of the Bible, describes how God created everything. 

The only other week with every day’s events recorded is Jesus’ Passion Week. No other Biblical characters have daily activities detailed for one complete week. You can read the complete Creation Week account here. Correspondingly, we went through each day’s events in Jesus’ Passion Week. The table below places each day of these two weeks side-by-side. The number ‘seven’, which forms a week, is thus the base meter or rhythm. Observe how all daily events correspond to one another even though separated time-wise by millennia. At the very minimum, because the Creation Week is included in the Dead Sea Scrolls the creation account was already in writing hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth. And textual criticism analysis of the New Testament reveals it has not been changed or corrupted.

So how to explain the coordination?

The Rhythm of the Two weeks

Day of weekCreation WeekJesus’ Passion Week
Day 1Surrounded by darkness God says, ‘Let there be light’and there was light in the darkness.Jesus says “I have come into the world as a light…” There is light in the darkness (John 12: 46)
Day 2God separates the earth from the heavens.Jesus separates that of earth from that of heaven by cleansing the Temple as a place of prayer from commercialism.
Day 3God speaks land to rise out of the sea.  Jesus speaks of faith moving mountains into the sea.
 God speaks again ‘Let the land produce plants’ and vegetation sprouts.Jesus speaks a curse and the tree withers.
Day 4God speaks ‘Let there be lights in the sky’ and the sun, moon and stars appear, lighting the sky.Jesus speaks of the sign of his return – the sun, moon and stars will extinguish.
Day 5God creates flying animals, including the flying dinosaur reptiles, or dragons.Satan, the great dragon, moves to strike the Christ.
Day 6God speaks and land animals come to life.Passover lamb animals are slaughtered in the Temple.
 ‘the Lord God … breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life’.  Adam started breathing.With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” (Mark 15: 37)
 God places Adam in the Garden.Jesus freely enters a Garden 
 Adam is warned away from the Tree of Knowledge with a curse.Jesus is nailed to a tree and cursed.  
13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” -Galatians 3:13
 No animal is found suitable for Adam. Another person was necessary.Passover animal sacrifices were not sufficient.  A person was required.

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;

-Hebrews 10:4-5
 God puts Adam into a deep sleep.Jesus enters the sleep of death
 God wounds Adam’s side with which He creates Adam’s bride.A wound is made in Jesus’ side.  From his sacrifice Jesus wins his bride, those who belong to him.   

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
-Revelation 21:9
Day 7God rests from creationJesus rests in death
Jesus’ Passion week in rhythm with Creation week

Adam’s Friday Choreography with Jesus

Events for each day across these two weeks correspond to each other, resulting in rhythmic symmetry like in a choreography.  Then, at the end of both these 7-day cycles, first fruits of new life bursts forth into a new creation.  So, Adam and Jesus link together, creating a composite drama. 

Significantly, the Bible says of Adam that:

… Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 

Romans 5:14


21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22
Days of Creation

By comparing these two weeks we see that Adam dramatized a pattern that prefigures Jesus.  Did God need six days to create the world?  Could He simply not have made everything with one command?  Why then did He create in the order and with a structure that He did?  Why did God rest on the seventh day when He cannot tire?  He created in the timing and order that He did to demonstrate that He anticipated the events of Passion week from the beginning of human history.

This is especially true of Day Six – The Fridays of both weeks.  Specifically, we see symmetry directly in the words used.  For example, instead of simply saying ‘Jesus died’ the Gospel says he ‘breathed his last’, a direct inverse pattern to Adam who received the ‘breath of life’.  Surely, such a pattern from Time’s beginning shows foreknowledge spanning time and the world.  In short, it can only be a dance orchestrated by the Divine.

Subsequent Prophetic Events of the Divine Choreography

Subsequently, the Bible recorded specific historical events and festivals picturing Jesus’ coming. They were written down and recorded hundreds of years before Jesus walked on earth. Since humans cannot foreknow the future that far ahead, this provides further evidence that this was God’s drama, not man’s, nor simply random chance.  The table below summarizes some.

Hebrew BibleHow it foretells the coming of Jesus
Sign of AdamGod confronted the serpent, announcing the Seed coming to crush the serpent’s head.
Sign of Abraham’s sacrificeAbraham’s sacrifice (2000 BCE) was on the same Mountain where thousands of years later Jesus would be sacrificed.  At the last moment the lamb substituted for Isaac so he could live. This pictured how Jesus the ‘Lamb of God’ would substitute and sacrifice himself for us so we could live.
Sign of the Passover Lambs were to be sacrificed on a specific day – Nisan 14, Passover (1500 BCE). Those who obeyed escaped death, but those who disobeyed died.  Hundreds of years later Jesus was sacrificed on this exact day – Nisan 14, Passover. Like those original Passover lambs, he died so we could live.
Where does ‘Christ’ come from?The title ’Christ’ inaugurated with the promise of His coming – prophesied 1000 BCE.
Was Jesus the son of a virgin from the line of David?The ‘Christ’ would descend from King David, but would be born from a virgin the ancient prophets foretold. Prophecies given 1000 BCE and 750 BCE and fulfilled in Jesus.
Sign of the BranchThe ‘Christ’ would sprout like a branch from a dead royal dynasty – prophesied 750 BCE and fulfilled in Jesus
The Coming Branch namedThis sprouting ‘Branch’ was named ‘Jesus’ 500 years before he lived.
Suffering Servant gives his life for allThe prophecy foretelling how this coming Servant would serve all mankind in his death – 750 BCE. Fulfilled by Jesus in the manner of his crucifixion and his resurrection.
Christ Coming in ‘sevens’The Prophetic Oracle foretelling when He would come, given through cycles of seven in 550 BCE. Fulfilled in Jesus by the precise timing to the day of his arrival to Jerusalem in 33 CE.
The Crucifixion Previewed Vivid details of the crucifixion prophesied 1000 BCE – and fulfilled in the details of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The Son of Man RevealedThe vision of a Divine person coming on the clouds in the air is fulfilled in the only way possible by Jesus
Festivals & Oracles prophetically choreographed to Jesus 

Your Invitation

The Gospel invites our examination. It also invites us to

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Revelation 22:17

The following are available to help both to examine and to ‘come’

Resurrection First Fruits: Life for you

The Jewish festival of First Fruits, is not as well-known as Passover. But First Fruits was also instituted by Moses under the command of God.  Leviticus 23 describes the seven festivals prescribed through Moses. We have already looked at Passover and Sabbath and have seen how Jesus fulfills them in remarkable ways.   

Isn’t it curious that both the crucifixion and death of Jesus happened exactly on these two festivals prescribed 1500 years beforehand? 

Jesus’ crucifixion occurred on Passover (Day 6) and his rest occurred on the Sabbath (Day 7)

Why?  What does it mean?

The next festival after Passover and Sabbath prescribed by Moses 3500 years ago was ‘First Fruits’. Moses gave these instructions for it.

Hebrew First Fruits Festival

The Lord said to Moses, 10 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest,bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. 11 He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.

Leviticus 23:9-11
First Fruits Harvest

14 You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

Leviticus 23:14

‘The day after the Sabbath’ of Passover was this third sacred festival, First Fruits.  Every year on this day the High Priest entered the Holy Temple and offered the first spring grain harvest.  It signified the start of new life after winter. It looked towards a plentiful harvest, enabling people to eat with satisfaction and live.

This was exactly the day after the Sabbath when Jesus rested in death. It was the Sunday of the next week, Nisan 16.  The Gospel records what happened on this day. The day when the High Priest went into the Temple offering ‘First Fruits’ of new life. See how First Fruits, now known as Easter Sunday, offers new life to you and me as this ancient Festival prophesied.

Jesus Risen from the Dead

The Women at the Tomb

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Luke 24: 1-12

On the Road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke itand began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Luke 24: 13-35

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you:Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24: 36-48
Jesus is Risen

First Fruits Victory of Jesus

In rising from the dead, Jesus gained victory over death, exactly on the ‘First Fruits’ Festival. This was a feat that both his enemies and his disciples thought impossible.  His victory on this day was a triumph of good.

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

1 Corinthians 15:54-56

‘First Fruits’ brought about the greatest role reversal. Previously death had absolute power over mankind.  But now Jesus has won power over death. He reversed that power. Jesus, by dying without sin, found the opening to defeat a seemingly invincible death. This was exactly as he had declared he would do when he entered Jerusalem the previous Sunday.

Victory for you and me

But this was not just a victory for Jesus.  It is also a victory for you and me, guaranteed by its timing with First Fruits. The Bible explains:

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

1 Corinthians 15:20-26
Jesus Destroyed Death
Distant Shores Media/Sweet PublishingCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus resurrected on First Fruits so we can know that he invites us to share in his resurrection from death.  First Fruits was an offering of new spring life with the expectation of a great harvest later. Likewise, Jesus’ rising on ‘first fruits’ holds an expectation of a later resurrection for all ‘who belong to him’. 

The Next Adam…

That quote above from the Bible explains Jesus’ resurrection using the example of Adam, the progenitor of all mankind.  We are all his children.  The Bible explains that through Adam death came to all mankind ,since it passed from him to his children. 

But Jesus is the next Adam.  With his triumph over death he inaugurated a New Age.  As his children, we also will share in this triumph over death by resurrecting like Jesus.  He resurrected first and our resurrection comes later just as the First Fruits festival pointed to the coming main harvest. He invites us to receive his first fruits of new life so our resurrection can follow his.

Easter: Celebrating that Sunday’s Resurrection

Today, we often call Jesus’ resurrection Easter, and Easter Sunday commemorates the Sunday that he rose.  The specific way to celebrate Easter is not that important.  What is important is the resurrection of Jesus as the fulfillment of First Fruits, and receiving its benefits.

We see this in the Timeline for the week:

Jesus rises from Death on First Fruits – new life from death offered to you & me.

‘Good Friday’ Reflections

This answers our question about why ‘Good Friday’ is ‘good’. 

 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Hebrews 2:9

When Jesus ‘tasted death’ he did so for you, me and ‘everyone’.  Good Friday is ‘good’ because it was good for us

Resurrection of Jesus considered

Jesus showed himself alive from death over many days to prove his resurrection, recorded here.  But his first appearance to his disciples:

…seemed to them like nonsense

Luke 24: 11

Jesus had to:

27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Luke 24:27

And again later:

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Luke 24:44

Rising from death is so unexpected that his disciples did not believe it at first. Apart from his appearances to them, Jesus had to also show them how the prophets predicted it.

When we are confronted with the claim of Jesus’ resurrection, we, like his disciples, probably find it hard to believe. How can we be confident that Jesus rose from the dead? How can we be sure if this is really God’s plan to give us everlasting life?  To help us think through questions related to Jesus’ death and resurrection, we explore:

Day 7: Jesus in Sabbath Rest

A striking Jewish distinctive is their keeping of the Sabbath, which occurs every Saturday. This Jewish keeping of the Sabbath goes back 3500 years to when Moses instituted seven special festivals. Leviticus 23 describes all these seven festivals, six of which are celebrated annually (including Passover, which we looked at previously).  

Sabbath Origins

Jewish Sabbath

But leading out the list of Festivals was the Sabbath. Today we call this Saturday, the weekly day the Jews were commanded to rest and not work. This included their servants and beasts of burden.  All were to enjoy one day of rest out of the seven-day weekly cycle.  This has been a blessing to all of us today since this seven-day cycle became the basis of our work week. The Saturday-Sunday weekend that we enjoy so much comes from this institution of Sabbath rest commanded by Moses.    

Moses had commanded that:

The Lord said to Moses,“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.

“‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord.

Leviticus 23: 1-3

Jesus keeps the Sabbath

Jesus in the Gospels disputed with the religious leaders of his day what Sabbath rest actually meant. But he did keep the Sabbath. In fact, we see him keep the Sabbath even in Passion Week.  The day before, Friday on Day 6 of Passion Week had seen Jesus crucified and killed.  The final event that day was his burial, leaving an uncompleted task.

55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Luke 23:55-56

The women wanted to embalm his body but time ran out and the Sabbath began at sundown Friday evening.  This started the 7th and last day of the week, the Sabbath, when Jews could not work. 

The women, though wanting to embalm Jesus’ body on the sabbath, in obedience to the command, rested. 

…While others worked

But the chief priests continued their work on the Sabbath. 

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Matthew 27:62-66
Secure Tomb

So on that particular Sabbath the chief priests worked, securing a guard for the tomb, while the women rested.  We may think it pointless to consider Jesus as also resting on that Sabbath.  After all, the authorities had executed him so obviously he was resting in death.  And stories of people always end with their death.  But Jesus is different and it did not end there.  He was resting on this Sabbath as all Jews should have been. But the next day, originally called First Fruits, saw him working again.

Day 7: Sabbath Rest for Jesus’ body compared to Hebrew Regulations 

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.