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The Crucifixion – Another Look

         As we are in the midst of the “Easter season,” it might be interesting to take note of what the Bible says and compare it to what we have thought and heard all our lives.  I am not trying to be critical or to make any changes in anyone’s celebrations.  Whatever we think or do will not change what actually happened.  This is just another trip down one of the little traveled by-ways of the Word.   (Scriptures are printed at the last of the study and the underlining for emphasis is mine.)

 

Many years ago I was trying to reconcile the traditional idea of the crucifixion of Jesus on a Friday and the resurrection on Sunday with Matthew 12:39-40.  Because we are so familiar with the Jewish Sabbath beginning at sundown on Friday evening, it seems only reasonable that Jesus was crucified on Friday.  However, there is no way that Jesus’ own specific prophecy can be fulfilled by the time between Friday sundown and Sunday sunrise.  Even counting part of a day as a full day will not provide three days and three nights.

With that in mind I decided to work backwards from a known time, sunrise the first day of the week, our Sunday.  Going backwards three days and three nights from that point puts the crucifixion on our Wednesday rather than Friday.  That would make the ‘Last Supper’ on Tuesday evening and the trials on Wednesday morning.  (See the attached Crucifixion Timeline.)

But that left the dilemma of how the Sabbath could be Wednesday night and Thursday instead of the usual Friday night and Saturday.  Then I found that it was possible, because of the celebrations the Jews observed, that there could be TWO Sabbaths in a week.  One such celebration was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the day immediately following the Passover (referred to in John 19:31 as a ‘high day’).  This day could fall on any day of the week just as our holidays can move through the days of the week.  Then the regular Sabbath would also be observed.

This would make possible the literal fulfillment of Matthew 12:39-40.  It would also allow a day in between the Sabbaths for the women to purchase and prepare the spices they brought for Jesus’ body; something they would be prevented from doing on a Sabbath of either kind.  If Jesus were crucified on a Friday and rose Sunday morning, there would not have been opportunity for the women to purchase and prepare the spices they brought to the tomb.  The day between Sabbaths allows time to prepare for what the scripture says occurred.

It is likely that Jesus actually rose from the dead shortly after sundown on Saturday evening.  This would correspond to the time that the priests reaped a representative sheaf of grain to use in the sacrifice of firstfruits early the next morning.  We are not specifically told when the resurrection took place, only when the empty tomb was found.  A Saturday evening resurrection and Sunday morning presentation would fit well with the typology of the feast of firstfruits.  The grain for the Firstfruits was harvested after sundown, processed through the night and then presented the next morning.  Jesus was both our Passover (I Corinthians 5:7) and the Firstfruits from the dead (I Corinthians 15:20, 23).

Again, I neither require, nor even ask, anyone to agree or make any changes.  But I think it is something interesting to contemplate.  Have a blessed time celebrating His resurrection.  THAT is what is most important.

Click the timeline image below to enlarge and view.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 12.19.32 PM

BIBLE VERSES

 

Matthew 12:39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:

40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

 

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

 

John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

2 And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.

3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

 

13 And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.

 

24 Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.

 

28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

29 Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?

 

John 19:1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.

 

13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.

14 And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!

 

17 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

18 Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

 

30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

 

38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

 

41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.

42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

 

Luke 23:56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.

Luke 24:1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

 

John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

 

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

 

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

 

Leviticus 23:6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.

7 In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

 

Leviticus 23:10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:

 

Leviticus 23:15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:

16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.

 

I Corinthians 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

 

I Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

 

I Corinthians 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits ; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

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The Message of the Angel

“And the angel sad unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:lO-12).

 

 

          In December of each year there is a renewed interest in the second chapter of the Book of Luke. Bibles which have been closed since last December are opened, and the old story of the birth of Jesus is reviewed once again.

In innumerable churches around the world, plays and skits once again repeat the story in sight and sound, in flesh and blood. One of the principal characters in many of these skits is the angel who first announced to the Judean shepherds the birth of the Messiah.  Songs and stories abound in which this heavenly messenger and his message are mentioned.

Yet with all of this emphasis there is still a great need to examine what the angel really said. The angel’s announcement, properly understood, provides a remarkable description of the identity and nature of the child born in Bethlehem.

 

FEAR NOT

 

First, let us notice that when this heavenly envoy appeared the shepherds were sore, or very, afraid. This is still the reaction of many people when faced with a manifestation of God’s power. So the first words of the angel were “Fear not. . . .” God is good and His love for mankind is great. A desire to help, not harm, mankind was the motive behind the incarnation.

The message of the angel is initially that we do not need to be afraid of the will of God. Many seem to hesitate to follow God’s directions because they fear they will not like or enjoy what He has planned for them. Fear not. Being in His will will bring you more fulfillment and greater lasting happiness than anything else you could do. Fear not.

 

GOOD TIDINGS

 

In the message of the angel are broad but specific hints of things to come. Even today the whole of God’s Church echoes the angel when we mention the gospel. Gospel literally means “good news.”  The shepherds were thus the first to be informed that this babe’s coming was “good news” for the world.

This good news has, as the angel declared, brought great joy to all people who will accept it. The joy of the Holy Ghost is available because of Jesus’ coming. Throughout the centuries .the joy of the Lord has been the hallmark of His coming. From the Ethiopian eunuch who went rejoicing on his way (Acts 8:39) to the latest one to receive the Holy Ghost, the coming of our Savior has meant joy unspeakable.

And, as the angel proclaimed, this good news has been for all people. For the birth, life and death of this One, whose birth announcement was given by an angel from heaven, has brought about the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the salvation of the Gentile nations. This good news crosses all color, social, economic and political lines.

 

THE CITY OF DAVID

 

We, centuries later, know much more about the eventual outcome of this life than did those shepherds who first heard it announced. But all that they needed to understand about the mission and identity of this babe was given to them by the angel.

 

Unto You.   This child’s birth was important to the shepherds. They seem to have been chosen as representatives of the human race. They were hard working, diligent, probably not too wealthy, and most likely looked down upon by some. Yet from the sheepcote had come one of Israel’s greatest kings, David.

As there are good and bad shepherds, with dullards and potential kings within their ranks so it is with all of humanity. And it was to humanity that Jesus came. “Unto you. . .” seems to echo through the years until the Apostle Peter picked up the refrain on that special Day of Pentecost and amplified it: “. . .unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).

Is Born.  The Jews as a whole expected their Messiah to come into their midst in regal splendor and power. They were expecting something quite different from the normal birth of a child in a borrowed stable. It somehow had not occurred to them that His coming would not be with the nature of angels, but of the seed of Abraham.

They read the prophecies and gave mental assent to the human nature of the coming Messiah, while in their hearts they anticipated an angel. Their plans required a king, so they overlooked the pauper.

Jesus robed Himself in human flesh that He might taste death for every man. He would live facing all that life throws at us. And He would die as a man dies, that we might know that He knows our problems, not just theoretically, but from experience.

Besides the other things that He accomplished and the sacrifices He offered, He walked where we walk, and left us an example, that we should follow in His steps.

          David.  To these men especially the mention of Israel’s second king ought to have brought to mind memories of the promises made to the shepherd-king by a faithful God.

“The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne” (Psalm 132:11).

Among the many promises to David, this one stands out as a clear indicator of the identity of this Child in Bethlehem. For here the God of the Old Testament declared that He, and not some other, would come as a descendant of David to sit upon his throne “. . .and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever” (Isaiah 9:7). The One who would do this would come as a Child, as a Son, and yet be the mighty God and the everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).

The reference to David, in itself, should have quickened to the shepherds’ minds, and to ours, the fact that this Babe whose birth the angel announced was none other than Jehovah come to be among men.

Then the allusion by the angel to David’s city should bring to our minds the history of this royal family which proves the necessity of the virgin birth. Many years before this night one of the ancestors of Joseph, the carpenter, had been a very wicked man. This man, Jehoiachin, the Coniah of Jeremiah 22, and the Jechonias of Matthew 1, was cursed so that no male of his family could rule as king again (Jeremiah 22:30). Since Joseph, the supposed father of Jesus, was descended from Jehoiachin neither he nor his son could ever be king, although they were legal heirs of the throne.

But Jesus was literally a son of David on his mother’s side through David’s son, Nathan. Thus He fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 132: 11 only by being virgin born. He was the offspring of David through Mary. And from Joseph he inherited the throne, without inheriting the curse.

 

A SAVIOR

 

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).

By announcing that the child was a Savior, the angel let those who understand know who had come to this world. Isaiah told long ago that God is our Savior. In fact the word translated “salvation” in 1saiah 12 is the Hebrew word from which we get the name Jesus.

Salvation comes only through the Jehovah God of the Old Testament. “But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD” (Psalm 37:39). A clear understanding of the message of the angel will tell us assuredly that this Babe was Jehovah in the likeness of sinful flesh.

 

WHICH IS CHRIST

 

And as He dwelt among them, He revealed His name: Jesus. Christ is a title; Jesus is His name. There has arisen a strong misconception about the term “Christ.” This is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” which means “anointed of Jehovah.” The anointed of (or with) Jehovah is what this Babe was. But Jesus is who He was.

The angel was not giving the shepherds His name. They were merely being told “the Messiah you have longed for is finally here.” The Messiah, Christ, is the joining of human flesh with eternal Spirit. The flesh of this man was what had been anointed by the Spirit. Through that anointing, God was then in their midst in a new and different way.

And as He dwelt among them, He revealed His name:  JESUS.  Christ is a title.  Jesus is His name.

 

THE LORD

 

Then before giving the shepherds directions to the manger, this celestial messenger made things so clear about this One’s identity that none should miss it. The One you will find lying in a manger is the Lord!

The Hebrews who had had some two thousand years of training in religious matters could understand this only one way. The Lord is their God, the Jehovah of their fathers. In the light of the Scriptures there is no difficulty in conceiving of God being in flesh and at the same time filling heaven and earth. Even as far back as Moses’ day, God had made it clear that there did not need to be several gods doing things. He was, and is, great enough to do it all and still just be one.

“Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else” (Deuteronomy 4:39).

 

THE MESSAGE

 

Year after year the message of the angel is repeated. Multitudes fall under the sound of the words heralded so long ago.  Yes, we hear the message. But do we understand its meaning? This is more than just a high powered birth announcement. God sent this message that the world might know He had come. But more importantly, it was sent that they might know who He is.

 

This article first appeared in the Oklahoma District Beacon about 1974 or 75, and then in the Pentecostal Herald December, 1976.

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