EDITOR’S NOTE: This groundbreaking series is being offered in celebration of a previously top-secret project and now unprecedented new 3-Volume book series (over 10-years in the making) from best-selling scholar Dr. Thomas Horn and acclaimed biblical history and theology majors Donna Howell and Allie Anderson: THE MYSTERY OF JESUS FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION—YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW
Those plotting the death of Jesus were already taking notes as to who knew Him and who could be trusted to betray Him. Meanwhile, Jesus remained free, teaching about the Kingdom in clear parables He, Himself, frequently interpreted (if or when His listeners were confused). Many of Christ’s stories ended with a statement such as, “As [these characters have done], so will the Father do for you,” or, “If [this character did that], how much more so will the Father do for you?” Jesus was in every way a Prophet of Yahweh, but He understood that many seekers needed more than just mysterious words.
Early on, Christ was always surrounded by twelve men who became the group of disciples we hear about most often. These twelve certainly weren’t His only followers, but were the ones who became apostles, leaving everything in their natural lives to follow Him because they believed so much in His identity as Messiah. Some of the men should have been, in any other setting, natural enemies. For instance, a tax collector (Matthew) and a Zealot (Simon) normally would never occupy the same dinner table, but an encounter with the personal Jesus changed all of that. Even while Christ still lived, the Gospels explain, these disciples went into the surrounding cities or back to their hometowns and preached the message of Christ to all who would listen; further, they healed the sick, cured the afflicted, and produced many miracles and signs of the Christ (Matthew 11:1; Mark 6:12–13; Luke 9:6).
Jesus had already, many times, warned His disciples of His upcoming death (John 1:29; 2:19; 3:14; Matthew 9:15; 10:38–39; 12:39–40). To make Himself more clear, He told them again, and in no uncertain terms (Matthew 16:21–23; Mark 8:31–33; Luke 9:22). He knew down to the very last detail what was coming down the pike, explaining these details “openly,” including those about His own Resurrection:
And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. (Mark 8:31–32)
A short time later, Jesus reiterated these predictions, once again explaining to His disciples that His death was nigh (Matthew 17:22–23; Mark 9:30–32; Luke 9:43b–45): “For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, ‘The Son of man is delivered [betrayed] into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day’” (Mark 9:31). But, each time Jesus tried to tell the twelve what was to become of Him, “they understood not” (Mark 9:32).
That Jesus was correct in His prophecies is not only clear to us now, it was clear to many then. In fact, though the plot against Jesus had begun earlier in His public ministry, as early as John 5:18, we read of the Sanhedrin’s official stance: “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, members of the general public were picking up on the rumors: “Then said some of them of Jerusalem, ‘Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?’” (John 7:25). Despite this, Jesus maintained a fearless face toward the public, even going to the Temple courts to teach (John 7:14). (And everyone who heard His teaching repeatedly left His presence in astonishment, saying He spoke with extreme authority [Matthew 7:28–29; Mark 1:22; Luke 2:46–47]. However, there were always some who believed His words originated from someplace dark [John 7:21].)
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Nevertheless, despite the rumors of murder and execution, Jesus’ following continued to grow, and everywhere He spoke or taught, murmurings of who He was and what He was doing echoed behind Him. This led to the first attempt at His arrest:
The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him. Then said Jesus unto them, “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.” Then said the Jews among themselves, “Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? What manner of saying is this that he said, ‘Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come’?” (John 7:32–36)
Those who had come to arrest Jesus ended up leaving empty-handed and perplexed. But on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus would say something damning. With a loud voice, Jesus cried out to a crowd: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37–38). One might wonder what the big deal was—why this statement would curl all toes that weren’t curled already.
First, this was a fulfillment of Ezekiel 47:1–10, which had spoken of a River of the Water of Life that would flow from Jerusalem to the surrounding regions—that is, the spread of the Gospel of Christ, which was developing now in their presence. This passage of Scripture was featured in one of the ceremonial readings of the Feast of Tabernacles.
But another passage—one also featured during the Tabernacles observance—was also fulfilled: “Living waters shall go out from Jerusalem” (Zechariah 14:8).
Whether the religious leaders completely understood that or not, however, one thing they did catch was the connection between Jesus’ declarations of being “Living Water” on the same day as their messianic water-pouring ritual, followed by His boldly identifying Himself as the very Light the Feast of Tabernacles foreshadowed. Allie Anderson, coauthor of The Messenger, makes short work of this conundrum for us:
At the time Jesus walked the earth, on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, also called Hoshanah Rabbah (meaning “The Day of the Great Hosanna”), something called the ritual of water pouring took place.[i] This was a petition for God to send the Messiah to save/deliver them. The water pouring was also an act of faith, as the rainy season had not yet arrived. Thus, this offering was as a statement of faith that God would send adequate rain in the upcoming months, but its deeper meaning was a supplication for the forthcoming Messiah, and the life-saving deliverance that He would bring with Him. The ritual consisted of one priest using a golden receptacle to retrieve water from the Pool of Siloam, which he then delivered to the High Priest in the Temple. The contents would then be emptied into a basin which sat below the altar, which signified the Messiah’s coming.
Meanwhile, nearby priests blew shofars as onlookers waved palm leaves and sang the praises of the Most High God. These traditions draw from Isaiah12:3 and 44:3: “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation,” “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”…
It was on Hoshanah Rabbah that “Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37–38). In other words, while those in the Temple poured water in petition to God to provide the blessing of rain in the upcoming seasons and to send the Delivering Messiah, Jesus stood in the midst of them and explained to them that the answer to their prayers had already arrived. Likewise, this was His way of explaining to them that while the waters of this earth (even those drawn from the Pool of Siloam) were temporary and fleeting, His was the true water of life which would forever satisfy.
Unfortunately, we see in the following verse that only some of them truly heard His message: “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). Of those who understood His message, many began comparing prophetic lineages and birth-origins to what they knew of Him in attempt to discern His true identity. Jesus, later (that is to say, later the same day on a Hebrew calendar, but by modern Gregorian day-counts would be considered the afternoon of the following day), also took ownership of another unique aspect of this feast’s elements.
The Lighting of the Temple
Another factor associated with this feast was the Temple Lighting. Because people would make a pilgrimage from miles around and then reside in temporary booths which were built on-site for the week of this feast, the entire area would be lit with tens of thousands of burning torches which illuminated the entire city of Jerusalem. The Temple was filled with golden lampposts which were lit, and other illuminations were located all throughout the town. All of this radiance signified the Light of the forthcoming Messiah (Isaiah 49:6). The glow held an ambient factor which became known as the “lighting of the Temple.” Since the entire city would be filled with torches of walking travelers, it illuminated a residual luminosity which could be seen from a distance. Jesus, after a night spent amongst these burning torches, said to those around Him, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Many modern readers overlook the significance of these statements made by Jesus (His being the Water and the Light) because they don’t catch the implications of such a statement within the cultural setting of the feast. Because of lack of cultural understanding, they often miss that Jesus essentially stood among the populace and told them that He was the very answer they were looking for: the cool drink to quench all thirst, and the brilliance that would never leave them in the darkness.[ii]
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Furthermore, while the priest was pouring the water, he would quote the prophecy from Isaiah 12:3: “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” The rock (or Rock) in the wilderness that sprang forth water was on the minds of the Jews. Jesus was linking Himself both to the wells of eternal salvation and to the Exodus account, when God’s people were freed from the dictatorship of Pharaoh. (Later, Paul would write that “all our fathers…drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ,” confirming Jesus was, in fact, the Rock in the wilderness, and now we see He was/is the Water as well [1 Corinthians 10:1, 4].) The reaction of the crowd shows just how close Jesus is to the time of His capture:
Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, “Of a truth this is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, ‘That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?’” So there was a division among the people because of him. And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. (John 7:40–44)
No longer were the multitudes appearing only outside Jerusalem. Jesus brought belief inside the city, to the very door of the Temple, in the middle of rich ceremony about a Someday Messiah, and people were seeing something within Him and His words that helped them recognize He was every bit the fulfillment He claimed to be. The people were “divided” about Him because not all of them knew His lineage; He was known publicly as a Galilean. It would only be a matter of time until everyone found out that He was, in fact, from “Bethlehem, where David was.”
As far as the officers who “would have taken him” but didn’t, they would answer to the Pharisees immediately after the event. When asked why He wasn’t arrested then and there, the officers reported that they were stunned because no man before Jesus had ever spoken like Him (John 7:45–46).
Our precious Yeshua had certainly been in a “challenge-and-riposte” position many times prior (for instance, His healings on the Sabbath: Matthew 12:10; Mark 3:2; Luke 6:7; review the subsection called “The ‘Word’” to revisit this public challenge). But on this particular day and event, things ramped up quite a bit. As Jesus was quietly teaching in the Temple the morning after His “Living Water” comments, the Pharisees and scribes burst in with a woman, standing her in their midst (probably roughly handling her, scholars believe), and said, “Master [or Teacher], this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4). Their eagerness is made clear by their repetition. Nobody needed to hear she had been “taken in adultery” and “in the very act” to believe she had been caught. We can almost imagine the “aha!” look in their eyes and the grin across their conniving lips as they went on to question the Savior: “Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” (John 8:5). Do you hear the same “nanny-nanny-noo-noo” tone these authors do? It’s like kids on a playground: “Teacher, the principal said that if anybody was caught doing what she just did, they would be expelled. But what do you say? Huh? Man I can’t wait to hear this…”
According to the Law, if a couple was found to be involved in this crime against fidelity, both the man and the woman were to be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22). Throughout the years, almost all scholarly sources visit the same question: Where’s the guy? The answer, apart from the obvious (we have no idea where he was), is that the scribes and Pharisees didn’t give a hoot where he was. Nor would they have been as interested in this woman if she wasn’t providing the means for a potential entrapment of the resident Messiah.
All who were present, no doubt, were on the edges of their seats as they waited to hear what Jesus would say to this. On one hand, if He told the religious leaders to stone her, it would go against everything loving the Messiah had stood for and taught about, while simultaneously marking Himself as one who would dare consider Himself capable of exacting capital punishment—a privilege only the Romans had the legal right to carry out. The Romans would have loved that, as it would have immediately usurped their authority and allowed them to then pursue Him criminally. On the other hand, if He told them not to stone her, He would be going against the Mosaic Law (which He came to fulfill, though that work was not yet complete). Either answer He gave would be lacking, and finally, they would have Him right where they wanted Him!
Challenge and riposte. Game, set, match. Go!
Yet, they were outmatched.
Jesus stooped down and wrote something with His fingertip on the ground, and then told His audience: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7).
In that short string of words, He beat them at their own game.
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As for what Jesus wrote with His fingertip, nobody has ever known for certain. However, considering the most recent “offensive” statement about Jesus being the “Water” the day before, and the way the religious men had forsaken God by this time, many scholars have guessed He may have referenced Jeremiah 17:13: “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters” (emphasis added). If this is in fact what He wrote (or even if it was a reference to it His audience would have recognized), then it would have been seriously, grievously convicting. The words “written in the earth” can also be translated “written in the dirt.” Jesus was essentially writing in the dirt with His finger, and the allusion would have been clear: These men had “forsaken” God and Israel, and they would be “ashamed” for also forsaking the “Living Water” to whom they had just rushed to ensnare.
Some in the crowd felt immediate conviction, and from the eldest to the “last,” they dropped their stones and walked away (John 8:9). They didn’t even take the woman with them (once again showing their concern was not for her, but for tricking Jesus). Jesus knew what they were up to, and He responded in the woman’s favor without going as far as dismissing her sin. In the beautiful, loving way Jesus often spoke, He simply told her, “Go, and sin no more” (8:11).
Now, before we assume Jesus outwitted these men only by logic and grace, keep in mind Deuteronomy 17:7 stipulated that the first stone was to be thrown by the witnesses of the adulterous act, while 22:22 stated both parties to be stoned. Before Jesus’ last, merciful words to the woman, He asked where her accusers were, and she admitted they were not present (John 8:10–11). Had Jesus, in His majestic oneness with the Father, already known her witnesses were not also among her accusers? If so, then we can assume He already knew they would never be allowed to execute her according to the Law anyway, and it was also obvious that the man who was also guilty was nowhere around, cancelling lawful execution on two accounts. This renders His reaction even more compassionate, as He made her case about love and redemption rather than standing up in the crowd and demanding they proceed to produce witnesses and the other offender (which they may have been able to do, but either way, it would have forced her already humiliating adultery case to drag on longer).
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Jesus went on with His teaching, once again declaring Himself the Son of God, to the chagrin of the Pharisees who were still looking for every opportunity to have Him arrested. For what must have been the hundredth time, He told His listeners He would have to depart from them, but again, they didn’t understand. It was in this very conversation that He said, “Before Abraham was, I am.”
If this sounds like broken English to you, that’s because it is. Jesus used a past-tense term, “was,” followed by the present-tense, “am.” Here’s what many Christians today miss: God’s “unspeakable name” (the Tetragrammaton)—the name that would someday be transliterated into “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”—was “I AM.” This was the name Yahweh used to identify Himself to Moses at the site of the burning bush (Exodus 3:14), and scholars generally agree it refers to the Father’s eternal, omniscient, omnipresent nature. In other words, “Before Abraham was ever born, I was and am God.” Whether or not we recognize it now, any devout Jew in Jesus’ gathering at the Temple would have instantly caught the significance of the expression.
Not only that, but the name was unspeakable! The Jews believed it was such a holy utterance that no mere human would ever be allowed to say it audibly. So, in one fell swoop, Jesus not only said something aloud that would have been more offensive to these unbelievers than a preacher dropping the F-bomb during a sermon today, but He also did so while claiming to be God in the flesh!
Man oh man, Jesus was bold…
In the very next verse, we read the unbelieving Jews amidst them picked up stones and readied themselves to kill Him on the spot, but Jesus slipped out of the Temple and went to heal a blind man on the Sabbath (John 8:59–9:7). At that scene, while the Pharisees were busying themselves with pelting the blind man with questions and trying to discover a loophole to pave the way for Jesus’ death, Jesus continued to teach and gather His followers, sending seventy of them out to heal the sick and preach to the surrounding regions that the Kingdom of God was near (Luke 10:1–16).
Yet another “sign” to these people would not prove anything further, and Jesus knew it. His response to them was that the only sign they would see was “the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation” (11:29–30).
In the upcoming act of death, burial in a tomb, and Resurrection on the third day, Jesus would fulfill every way the prophet Jonah had foreshadowed Jesus. As the “sign unto the Ninevites” was Jonah appearing from the “belly of a great fish” after three days, the “sign unto the unbelievers” would be Jesus appearing from the “belly of the tomb” after three days.
Herod Antipas was, not surprisingly, informed of the commotion surrounding the Messiah, and Jesus’ name therefore became “well known” to him. In his heavy misinterpretation of the news, the king thought Jesus was the resurrected John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1–2; Mark 6:14–16; Luke 9:7–9). Some of Herod’s servants were disciples of Christ as well (Luke 8:3), so it’s likely he felt intimidated by Jesus’ popularity. Not surprisingly, a few folks rushed to tell Jesus that Herod planned to kill Him (Luke 13:31). (The messengers were Pharisees, and it’s unclear whether they were supporters of Jesus who truly wanted Him to hide, or if they were in with Herod on some scheme to get Him back into Jerusalem sooner.) Jesus’ response is telling: “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose. Yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day I must proceed on my way. For it wouldn’t do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem!” (Luke 13:32–33; NLT [New Living Translation]). He knew His own end already, and had been warning His devotees for months about that reality. Then, He heard the king was officially hunting Him down and acknowledged that His execution would be carried out, but it would be done in Jerusalem—a detail no regular humans would know in advance of their own death, nor could they ever have the authority to arrange on their own, or His, behalf.
In addition, Jesus called Herod a “fox.” This was a term the Jews used when referring to a man whose worldly pursuits were cunning and sly, but ultimately worthless in light of eternity. It was a major insult in a day when language about a king and “god” of the Imperial Cult should have been worshipful and doting. Jesus’ unwillingness to acknowledge Herod’s majesty was a serious insult. Yet, far from responding with an aloof or uncaring reaction, Jesus wept for the state of Jerusalem (Luke 13:34–35).
After Jesus had raised Lazarus, which, as previously stated, caused the stir that sealed Christ’s fate:
[M]any of the Jews…believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.
Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, “What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.”
And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, “Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”…
Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. (John 11: 45–50, 53)
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One unusual detail that’s easy to misunderstand is why, at the time of Christ, there were two high priests. This was not a Jewish decision. When the Jews elected a high priest, that man maintained that seat until death. Annas had been acknowledged as high priest from AD 7–14. Then the Romans displaced him, and Caiaphas (Annas’ son-in-law) was appointed; he held the position from AD 18–36. But, in the Jews’ opinion, Annas was still the reigning high priest, so in the trial of Jesus, Annas—who held supreme power in the Jewish community and no power politically—both high priests would be involved.
The irony of Caiaphas’ words about “one man” dying for “the whole nation [who would therefore] perish not” is not lost on the modern audience. When he spoke them, he no doubt expected that Jesus would be the sacrifice for the better of all, though he didn’t know Jesus’ death would be the spiritual activity that would accomplish an eternal benefit for souls even outside his own “nation.”
Following His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus heard a group of Greeks were looking for Him, and His favorable response showed His willingness to die even for those who don’t belong to the nation of Israel: “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified… Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” (John 12:23, 27). When Jesus, in this heartfelt moment, asked the Father to glorify His own name, “Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, ‘An angel spake to him’” (12:28–29). Jesus explained the voice was for their sake (12:30), so they might see the end of the Son of Man and know it was what God intended despite the gruesomeness of what was necessary for His work.
As He taught in and around the Temple during His last week, He was again challenged by religious leaders regarding His authority. He rose to the occasion with His own challenge and riposte, and once again won, leaving them with nothing further to say (Matthew 21:25–27; Luke 20:6; Mk 11:32). He proceeded to teach three (terrifying) parables regarding the Kingdom implications of those who reject Him as the Son of God (Matthew 21:28–22:14; Mark 12:1–12; Luke 20:9–19).
In the face of continual threats, Jesus rose again and again in boldness, refusing to be intimidated by the circumstances He knew would come before the week was out. This obviously angered the religious leaders, who responded by setting a series of traps (Matthew 22:15). Each trap was a syrupy, lovey-dovey, innocent-sounding, and civilly worded question designed to stump the Teacher, and each one of them failed.
First, a group of Pharisees and spies of Herod asked Jesus if taxes should be paid to Caesar (Matthew 22:15–22; Mark 12:13–17; Luke 20:20–26). Had Jesus said “no,” He likely would have been arrested by Herod’s spies on the spot and executed immediately. Had He supported taxation, it would have gone against everything He had been teaching about alliance to a spiritual Kingdom (a concept people were still unsure of, but were willing to hear more about). “But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, ‘Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?… Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s,’” so they once again walked away in defeat (Matthew 22:18, 21–22).
Second, the Sadducees, who did not believe in a resurrection beyond the grave of Sheol, came with a riddle: A woman marries a man and does not have children, so, as per the Mosaic Law, after the woman’s husband dies, the brother of the deceased takes her as his own, yet she does not produce offspring for him, either. Seven times this woman marries into this family of brothers, and there is never a child. Therefore, in the resurrection beyond Sheol, whose wife of the brothers would she be? (Matthew 22:23–33; Mark 12:18–27; Luke 20:27–40). The Sadducees weren’t even remotely interested in a real answer because they didn’t believe in any of it anyway, but if Jesus said the woman would be a wife to all of them, it would indicate an incestuous scenario in heaven that defied the Mosaic Law. Jesus once again stifled their games by explaining the assignment of husbands and wives does not carry on into the afterlife. Then He warned His listeners regarding this kind of word-gamey religious abuse: “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation” (Luke 20:46–47).
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Third, an expert of the Law from within the circle of the Pharisees asked Jesus which of the Lord’s commandments was the most important. Note the scribe didn’t ask which one of the “Ten” Commandments, but which was most important out of all of the commandments (Matthew 22:34–40; Mark 12:28–34; see also Luke 10:25–27). This single question would have covered more than six hundred commands from the Old Testament, along with seemingly countless laws that had been intermingled with Jewish life from the Intertestamental Period forward. Absolutely any commandment Jesus could have chosen from this list could have been argued to be less important in some way than another, but Jesus was aware of the intent to trap Him. In His answer, He quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4–6, the Shema Yisrael, which was the “our God is one” statement the people of Israel wrote and placed above their doors and on their properties following the Exodus, and the Jews of Jesus’ day still read it daily. Its pinnacle was, itself, a commandment: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Obedience to this one directive, Jesus knew, would essentially drive one to accomplish obedience to them all, together. However, He took it a step further, showing from the command of Leviticus 19:18 that second only to loving God is to “love thy neighbor” as much as one loves one’s self. He finished by explaining: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40).
The crowd of followers couldn’t have been more pleased to see that the greatest and most pious minds of their day could not pull one over on Christ. Jesus used this moment of unadulterated attention upon Him to warn His audience not to ever become like those who had tried to entangle Him in terminological snares (Matthew 23:1–36; Mark 12:38–40; Luke 20:45–47). His rebuke was brave, indeed, as He went as far as to say: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). (By this, Jesus meant: They go to great distances to convert someone to their religion, and when they’ve succeeded, they’ve made him twice a child of hell than themselves because of their hypocritical religion.)
As Jesus’ righteous anger mounted, He identified that He was not the first prophet these “vipers” and “snakes” had killed, and then ramped up the future reality of His death by prophetically acknowledging that others would die for His name:
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:33–36)
As soon as the crowd broke up, Jesus continued to teach and instruct those who would listen regarding the future, including His words about a day when He would come again to this earth upon the clouds, though no man would know when (Matthew 24:29–31, 36–46; Mark 13:24–27, 32; Luke 21:25–27). Then He taught disciples how to be ready for that day through four more parables (Matthew 24:42–25:30; Mark 13:33–37; Luke 21:34–36). With that, the final preparations for death were in place, and Jesus began to submit Himself to that end: “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, ‘Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified’” (Matthew 26:1–2).
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, And said unto them, “What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?” And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14–16)
Jesus sat with His disciples to a legitimate Passover Seder meal. (For those who are curious about the timing of all these events and the apparent “contradiction” of days, please note that Jesus was a Galilean and, therefore, He followed the Galilean calendar, not the Judean one. This would have placed His meal in the evening a whole twenty-four hours prior to the Passover meal that most other Jews followed. A very well-researched and thorough treatment of these events is covered in The Messenger.)
He explained it was now His body, which would be broken for all, and His blood, which would be shed for all. This “communion,” as stated in our reflection of Exodus (volume 1 of this series), wasn’t new to the Jews. Prior to Christ’s birth, it had been known as the ritual of the afikomen, when an unleavened cracker would be split into pieces, hidden somewhere dark, located after the meal, and shared among the Jews of a single household as a way of looking forward to the Someday Messiah. This time, however, Jesus did not instruct that the afikomen be hidden. Instead, He took the bread, broke it, and announced that the Passover and all of its symbols were fulfilled in Him: It was now His body and blood that would forever replace the lambs of the Passover. By choosing next to wash His disciples’ feet, He set the example for all to follow in becoming lowly servants for others (John 13:12–20).
While they were eating, Jesus dropped a bomb: “Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me” (John 13:21). The disciples were puzzled; who could among these devoted followers could possibly do such a thing? Jesus explained to John and Peter that the betrayer would be identified as the one to whom He would give a dipped morsel. Dipping a piece of food in the sauce served at Passover, He then handed the morsel to Judas, instructing him that what he was about to do needed to be done quickly. With that, Judas slipped out into the night to take word to the enemies of Jesus (John 13:27, 30). The price he was paid for this information was thirty pieces of silver.
Later, Judas—out of guilt—returned the money to the religious leaders. The silver, which became tainted as blood money, was used to buy the potter’s field as a burial ground for foreigners.
In this, the prophecy of Zechariah 11:12–13 was fulfilled:
“If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear.” So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, “Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them.” And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.
The events that followed occurred rapidly…
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[i] Booker, Richard, Celebrating Jesus… 146.
[ii] Horn, Thomas, The Messenger… 196–198.
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