The Week After Palm Sunday

The day after Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, on that Monday, we read He furiously cleansed the outer Temple Court.  But there was more than just overthrowing the tables of the  moneychangers and stopping the sale of sacrificial animals.  In Mark 11:16, in the old King James, we read,”And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.” That word, “vessel” has been changed in the more modern translations, but it shouldn’t have been.  (Remember, our New Testament is straight from the Greek and did not suffer the same indignities as the Old Testament did at the hands of Akiba and co.).  Modern translators seem to think that this had to do with the merchandising going on in the Outer Court.  But that is not what was being referred to.  Those vessels which Jesus stopped from going through the Temple were the vessels carrying the blood and other sacrificial remains of the killed animals as well as other sacrifices (grain, etc. at various times of the year).  Jesus stopped the sacrifices themselves.  God Himself was providing the Lamb, in just a few days.

As the days of that last week passed, Jesus concentrated on some of His most important messages. Why was He still just talking and not collecting an army to fight Rome? Was He, then, not the Messiah? Was He a fraud? It is important to remember that if He was truly the Messiah, then the leaders of the Temple would be losing their authority. So they continued to try to rid themselves of this Person. When He refused to establish Himself as a conquering leader, it gave them an excuse for what was about to happen. When Judas (was he trying to force Jesus' hand?) offered to tell the Temple leaders where Jesus could be found, the leaders were delighted, and paid Judas the famed 30 pieces of silver.

A word about Judas' death here. Accusations have been made that the Bible contradicts itself regarding the manner of his death. We read in Matthew 27 that when Judas realized Jesus had been condemned to death, he tried to return the thirty pieces of silver and went out and hung himself. In Acts 1 we read that "With the reward he got for his wickedness Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all hs intestines spilled out." First, although Matthew records Judas as throwing the silver at the priests, who refused it, it seems Judas picked it up again and bought that field. Remember that Jesus was condemned on the Passover. Even the bodies on the crosses had to be taken down before sundown to avoid uncleanness during the feast. In addition, touching a dead body made one unclean. Judas had hung himself on that day -- the same day Christ died. But no one took down his body; he was a suicide. So for three days he hung there, his body rotting and swelling internally. That is why, when he fell (or was cut down), his body burst open.

Now there is a question about the Last Supper: There is an apparent contradiction in the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Passover celebration. For example in Luke 22:7-8, 13-15 (and similarly in Matthew 26:17-19 and Mark 14:12-17) we find that Jesus asks his disciples Peter and John to go and prepare the Passover meal for them in the Upper Room. Jesus explicitly makes the statement that He has wanted to share this Passover with them (Luke 22:15) before He suffered. So there is no doubt that it really was a Passover meal that Jesus shared. Some claim that it was not the classic Passover “Seder” since that was only introduced some time after the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

In apparent contradiction to this, the Gospel of John notes in 19:14 that Jesus was before Pilate on the 6th hour of the Day of Preparation for the Passover. He further reiterates in verse 31 that, because it was the Preparation Day and the following Day was a high holy Sabbath, then those crucified had to die and be taken down off the crosses before sunset. John’s comments mean that the High Sabbath started at sunset, and the sacrifice of the lambs had to occur a short time earlier on that Day of Preparation for the Sabbath between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm, just about the time that Jesus died.

These facts are important in resolving the apparent contradiction. It shows that John was using a calendar based on Sunset ending to each day and marking the beginning of a new day. It also indicates that John was following the Pharisees’ calendar since they held to a Sunset division of the days, which Jews today still follow. This contrasts with the Sadducees who held to a Sunrise beginning for the day, as did Josephus in his writings (as in Antiquities II 15:1). There is a second reason that confirms John’s choice of calendar; it is the fact that the Pharisees held that the first day of Passover was the high Sabbath, no matter on what day it actually occurred. In contrast, the Sadducees held that “Sabbath” meant Saturday exclusively. The wrangling over this issue originated in how to interpret the word “Sabbath” in Leviticus 23:15-16 and encompassed a number of related matters. One commentator noted that, to outsiders, these differences seemed to be relatively minor, but within the Jewish community such differences typically produced fierce conflicts over control and influence.

It has been noted that, in the first century AD, many Jews of the Dispersion followed the Sunset calendar that was adopted by the Pharisees. Later, since the Rabbis followed the Pharisees teachings and traditions, it became standard Jewish practice. In contrast, the Sadducees considered that God had given to Moses the Luni-solar calendar with a day beginning at sunrise and a year beginning in Spring. Since the Sadducees controlled the Temple and its priests, this was the calendar used for Temple functions and ceremonies. Today, it is often claimed on the basis of statements in the Mishna and Talmud that the Pharisee calendar was used in the Temple. However, it has been pointed out that those documents were written by rabbis after 100 AD who wanted to suppress the Second Temple calendar of the Sadducees. In addition, those documents do not accord with other historical facts.

Because the Jewish month began with the visual sighting of the New Moon by the Sanhedrin representative (and both Pharisees and Sadducees made up the Sanhedrin), then the Sadducee calendar starting the day at sunrise often put it a day earlier than the Pharisee calendar that started at sunset. At the time of the Crucifixion, this difference allowed Jesus to eat the Passover the night before the Crucifixion and still keep the feast as stated in Matthew, Mark and Luke. This was in adherence to the calendar used by the Sadducees and the Temple functions. However, it is still in accord with the statements in John as well as the Crucifixion occurred in line with the popular Pharisee calendar which was used by the Jews of the Dispersion who were in Jerusalem in their thousands for the Festival and following their own tradition. Late in the 1st century AD and then for a considerable time after, Jews of the Dispersion celebrated Passover, Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and some other festivals on two days instead of one to cover all possibilities from any calendar error. This is discussed in an article about the evolution of the Jewish calendar.

That is why Jesus did celebrate the Passover dinner with His disciples while still being the Passover Lamb. The Upper Room, in which this dinner took place is often thought to be in the house of John Mark. This, or a similar, upper room is mentioned in Acts 1:13 where the disciples are gathered to choose a replacement for Judas. Then, in Acts 12:12, we read that when Peter was miraculously released from prison, he went directly to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where the disciples were gathered. This combination of verses leads to the possibility of that upper room where the Last Supper was held also being the place, later, for the general meeting of disciples.

Something else was going on the night of the Last Supper: a full eclipse of the moon. When the moon is fully eclipsed, reflected light turns its 'shadow' red, thus giving it the name "Blood Moon." In Joel 2:31, the prophet refers to the sun turning to darkness and the moon to blood "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." Although we usually think of the great and dreadful day of the Lord as referring to the Tribulation, Peter picked up that quote from Joel in Acts 2, referring to its fulfillment at the time of the Last Supper and then, the next day, at the Crucifixion. We know, historically, that there was a full eclipse of the moon in both 32 and 33 AD at the time of Passover.

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