The Event of the Cross 4

“For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.”  (Acts 13:27)

From The High Standards of God for End-Times Christians

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes could have arrested Jesus on any night of that final week on His way back from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives (Luke 21:37).  They could have arrested Him any morning of that week on His way to teach in the Temple.  They did not need Judas to tell them the whereabouts of Jesus.[1]  His movements were so well known that “the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, to hear him” (Luke 21:38).  A crowd of people was awaiting Him alongside the road during His triumphal entrance into the city (John 12:12).  The gospels tell us that the religious leaders did fear the reaction of the people should they make a move against Jesus (Mark 12:12; Luke 19:47-48; Luke 20:6).  That was certainly a restraining element in their calculations.  But the religious leaders also feared Jesus Himself.  Jesus was an unknown quantity.  They were not even sure if it was possible to arrest Him (John 7:30; John 7:45-46; John 8:20; John 8:59; John 10:39).  They knew they wanted to eliminate Him, they just did not know exactly when and how they would do it.  God Himself provided the answer.

It took a member of the inner group of His closest disciples, Judas Iscariot, to change allegiance from Jesus over to the religious leaders, to become the means of propulsion that God used to govern and adjust the speed of the events that led to the midnight trial and the Passover crucifixion.  Being one of the twelve apostles, Judas naturally heard Jesus speaking to the group as they approached Jerusalem that final week, preparing them beforehand for His upcoming death and resurrection (Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34).

The value of Judas’ information that week to the religious rulers was not so much the whereabouts of Jesus, which many people seemed to know about, but the fact that someone in His inner circle was telling them that Jesus was speaking mysteriously and unexplainably about His upcoming death.  That was the unexpected and welcome information that was worth thirty pieces of silver from Caiaphas the High Priest and the other rulers, not just where Jesus was at any particular moment.

Luke 18:34 tells us that the twelve apostles did not understand what Jesus meant when He told them, as they journeyed toward Jerusalem, that He would be put to death and rise the third day.  Even though Judas, like the other eleven apostles, would not have understood these words of Jesus, yet he could still pass along this critical information word-for-word to the religious leaders, having heard them first-hand from Jesus.

Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him (John 6:64; John 6:70-71; John 13:11).  There seems to be a sort of understanding between Jesus and Judas that Jesus would be waiting in the Garden of Gethsemane that Thursday night, when Jesus says to Judas: “What thou doest, do quickly” (John 13:27).  It is this startling, confirming information, accurately perceived by Judas during the Last Supper, and hurriedly communicated by him to the rulers, that sets in motion the final decision by Caiaphas the High Priest to go forward with the destruction of Jesus (Matthew 26:3-5).

But all of the proper proceedings must now be started and consummated by sundown the following day, before the start of the Sabbath.  Criminals executed by crucifixion could not be left dead on their crosses after sunset at the start of the Friday night Sabbath.  That is why the legs of the two thieves crucified next to Jesus were broken that afternoon, to facilitate their death and removal that same afternoon.  Add to this the complication that the Passover was the first day of the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread.  If Jesus could not be tried, executed, and disposed of that Friday, he would have had to be held over under their custody until after the festival week.  Any problem or glitch in the proceedings that did not result in a conviction and a crucifixion the following day, could have unforeseen and very unpleasant consequences regarding the reaction of the people, for these rulers.  The thing had to be carried out to its conclusion quickly, before public sentiment could galvanize one way or the other.

This explains why the party of Jesus lingers in the Garden of Gethsemane much later than usual, causing the disciples to fall asleep.  This is why Caiaphas himself probably went to Pilate late Thursday night (a reasonable inference, though not recorded in scripture) to get Pilate’s pre-arranged consent for the course of action the Jewish leaders proposed to take the following day.  This is why Pilate’s wife, becoming aware of the subject nature of the unusual late night visit of Caiaphas to speak with her husband, had bad dreams that very night about Jesus (Matthew 27:19), and sent a note forewarning Pilate at daybreak the next morning.  This is why Pilate seems to go back on his agreement with Caiaphas from the night before, to summarily go along with the Jew’s death sentence for Jesus, and instead attempts first to set Jesus free.  This greatly upsets the already committed Jewish leaders (John 18:30).  Pilate then proceeds to wash his hands of the whole affair (Matthew 27:24).

This is why Judas knows exactly where to take the hastily assembled group of armed men carrying lanterns and torches, when Jesus and the apostles should otherwise normally be asleep at that late hour elsewhere at the Mount of Olives.  This is why Jesus waits and stays where He is, even though He can probably see the procession of lanterns and torches a long way off as the crowd approaches (Matthew 26:46).  Jesus also knows that Judas is heading for the Garden of Gethsemane.

The timing of the final betrayal of Jesus by Judas on Thursday night (the Passover starts at sundown on Thursday), and the constraint of having to consummate everything by sundown the following day, the start of the Sabbath, effectively narrows the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) to the day of the Passover.  The religious rulers thought they were in control, but God set up all of these events to lead to the outcome He had planned long ago (1 Corinthians 2:8).

[1] Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press) 30-42.  The reconstructions of the events of the final week in Jerusalem described in this chapter, are taken from this insightful book.

Author: Barton Jahn

I work in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have six Christian books self-published through Create Space KDP. I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on two more books on building construction.

2 thoughts on “The Event of the Cross 4”

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