The Event of the Cross 2

The messianic prophecies and types of Christ in the Old Testament that apply to the cross are too numerous to exhaustively cover in this essay.

Briefly…Abraham says to Isaac: “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen. 22:8).

The blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the two sides and upper door lintel of the house, representing the human heart (Ex. 12:1-28).

The rock which Moses struck once with his rod in Horeb…to produce water out of the rock…is a type of Christ (Ex. 17:5-6; Jn. 4:14).

The bronze serpent on a pole is a preview of the cross (Num. 21:8-9; Jn. 3:14).  Psalms 22:16 says: “they pierced my hands and my feet.”

Psalms 22:17 foretells that the Romans did not break the legs of Jesus on the cross to hasten His death before sunset preceding the Sabbath, because He was already dead.

Psalms 22:18 says: “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”

The 53rd chapter of Isaiah says that Christ will be despised and rejected of men (53:3), wounded for our transgressions (53:5), open not his mouth in his own defense (53:7), make his grave with the rich (53:9), and be executed alongside transgressors (53:12).

Within the hostile environment that Jesus operated throughout much of His ministry (Jn. 7:1), but especially during His final week in Jerusalem (Jn. 7:32; 8:59; 10:31), how is it that God the Father can orchestrate the timing of the crucifixion down to the precise day of the Passover, and the traditional hour of the day the Passover lamb is killed?

Jesus is betrayed by Judas after the Last Supper on Thursday evening, is hastily tried at the house of Caiaphas very late on Thursday night and early Friday morning, the sentence of death is ratified by the Sanhedrin at daybreak on Friday, the prisoner is placed before Pilate for formal sentencing early Friday morning, and Jesus is hanging on the cross around 9:00 in the morning of Friday the Passover.

Jesus dies around 3:00 or 4:00 that afternoon, the time that the Passover lambs are traditionally killed.

God the Father steps on the accelerator pedal to speed up events before and during that last week, first by creating a sense of urgency on the part of the religious leaders, through Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem.

God then alternately taps with His foot on the brakes and then touches the accelerator pedal again lightly…through the indecisiveness of the religious leaders on the one hand…and the information that Judas provides on the other.  This achieves just the right velocity to get Jesus crucified within the narrow time window between sundown Thursday and sundown Friday, according to all of the ancient Old Testament prophecies on the very day of the Passover.

This is an incredibly difficult thing to orchestrate over the span of a three-and-one-half-year long ministry, when the life of Jesus was in danger on several occasions, starting at the beginning of His ministry in His own hometown of Nazareth (Lk. 4:29).

This achievement is even more remarkable considering that the Pharisees, scribes, and religious leaders in Jerusalem were not prophets of God being led by His Spirit, but deadly adversaries in opposition to the ways of God.  God was using them for His purposes without their knowledge or awareness of this fact.

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 (Lk. 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” (Lk. 21:38).  A crowd of people was awaiting Him alongside the road during His triumphal entrance into the city (Jn. 12:12).

The gospels tell us that the religious leaders did fear the reaction of the people should they make a move against Jesus (Mk. 12:12; Lk. 19:47-48; 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 (Jn. 7:30; 7:45-46; 8:20; 8:59; 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 (Mt. 20:17-19; Mk. 10:32-34; Lk. 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 (Jn. 6:64; 6:70-71; 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” (Jn 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 (Mt. 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 (Mt. 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 (Jn. 18:30).  Pilate then proceeds to wash his hands of the whole affair (Mt. 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 probably can see the procession of lanterns and torches a long way off as the crowd approaches (Mt. 26:46).  Jesus also knows that Judas is heading for the Garden of Gethsemane.

[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 worked 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 seven Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (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 more books on building construction.

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