An excerpt from the book
"Jesus and the Mystery of the Tamid Sacrifice" Chapters VII - IX
(available as an e-book here)

From the Passover Sacrifice to the Resurrection

Silence before Lord Yahweh, for the Day of Yahweh is near! Yahweh has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests.
Zephaniah 1:7 (NJB)

And after the feast of the new moon comes the fourth festival, that of the Passover, which the Hebrews call pascha, on which the whole people offer sacrifice, beginning at noon day and continuing till evening.
Philo of Alexandria, Special Laws II, XXVII.145

As the ancients counted, six days after Jesus' Saturday Sabbath meal in Bethany, on Thursday the 14th of Nisan, it was the day of the Passover sacrifice (Jn 12:1). As was the custom in the first century AD, St. Matthew combines the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread into one eight-day celebration and calls the day of the sacrifice of the Passover victims "the first day of Unleavened Bread." It was the day the disciples came to Jesus asking where they were to celebrate the sacred meal of the Passover victim: Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?" (Mt 26:17). St. Mark's Gospel reflects this same tradition but is more explicit in identifying the day the disciples came to Jesus as the day the Passover victims were sacrificed: And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover [lamb], his disciples said to him, "Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?" (Mk 14:12). The word "lamb" is not in the Greek text which reads: when they sacrificed the Passover (IBGE, vol. IV, page 140) and has been added to the English text; both lambs and goat-kids were offered in sacrifice at Passover (Ex 12:5).

The animal for the Passover sacrifice had to be an unblemished male lamb or goat-kid not younger than eight days and not older than a year (Ex 12:5; Lev 22:27). The animal had to be large enough to feed not less than ten people and not more than twenty: So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour [3 PM] till the eleventh [5 PM], but so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves), and many of us are twenty in a company ... (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 [423]). If there were more than twenty people, two groups could be formed with a separate Passover victim for the second group, or if the Passover victim was not large enough to feed a designated group, in addition to the Passover sacrifice a festival communion Hagigah offering was necessary. For the Hagigah, a male or female animal from the flock or the herd was offered in addition to the Passover sacrifice to allow for everyone to be adequately fed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:3-6:4). The communion Hagigah festival peace offerings were also offered for each day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was the way the people ate together for the entire week-long celebration after the morning Tamid service in noon-day meals of joyous celebration within the walls of the city of Jerusalem.

Jesus sent the Apostles Peter and John to prepare the place where the sacred meal of the Passover was to take place after sundown on the day of the sacrifice. When Peter and John arrived at the house, they discovered that an upper room was already arranged with the banquet tables and the couches for reclining at the meal (Mk 14:15; Lk 21:12-13a). However, Peter and John still needed to make certain necessary preparations (Mt 26:19; Mk 14:16; Lk 21:13b). They needed to be certain that there was an adequate supply of red wine for the banquet's four ritual communal cups and the additional wine that the guests were to consume during the meal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1C). They needed to insure that there were stone vessels filled with enough water for the three ritual hand washings. They needed to provide the other necessary foods for the women to prepare for the meal, and if it was not already prepared, they needed to set up a roasting pit and a spit of pomegranate wood to roast the Passover sacrifice (Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:1B).

In addition to all those arrangements, Peter and John also had to personally inspect the premises to be certain that all leaven, a sign of sin, was removed. According to the Law, it was necessary for the covenant people, prior to noontime on the day before the beginning of Unleavened Bread, to do a thorough search of the rooms of their houses in Jerusalem to be certain that all leaven was removed for the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 13:6-7; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:3-1:4).(1) They were also required to begin their fast at noon: On the eve of Passover from just before the afternoon's daily whole offering, a person should not eat, until it gets dark (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1A). The "afternoon's daily whole offering" is the afternoon Tamid and the "eve of Passover" refers to the Passover meal eaten on the first night of Unleavened Bread. The Mishnah and the writings of the Rabbis only refer to the entire eight days as "Passover," as does the Gospel of John and Jews today.

The site that is identified as the Upper Room of the Last Supper is above what is believed, by both Jewish and Christian tradition, to be the location of King David's tomb in the older part of Jerusalem known as the "Citadel of Mount Zion" or "the city of David" (2 Sam 5:7-9). It is located on the eastern ridge of the city just south of the Temple Mount. In his homily on the Sunday of the Jewish feast of Pentecost (Weeks), fifty days after the Resurrection when the Holy Spirit took possession of the New Covenant Church, St. Peter stood on the street outside the Upper Room and spoke to the Jewish crowd of Jesus' fulfillment of the Messianic promises. As he gave his Gospel message, Peter mentioned King David's tomb, perhaps even gesturing to the lower floor of the building (Acts 2:29). We do not know who owned the house in Jerusalem, but Acts 12:12 records that the house of the Jewess Mary of Jerusalem was where the Apostles regularly assembled after the Resurrection. Mary of Jerusalem was the mother of John-Mark, the inspired writer of the Gospel of St. Mark, and she was a kinswoman of Jesus' disciple Joseph Barnabas (Col 4:10).

All four of the Gospels and two thousand years of Christian tradition agree that the Jewish festival of the Passover, when the Passover victims were slain, took place on the Thursday of Jesus' last week in Jerusalem, the day before His crucifixion on Friday.

Those of the covenant community, who were offering the Passover sacrifice for their family and friends, gathered at the Temple with their Passover victims at noon for the afternoon Tamid worship service. The sacrificial ceremony of the Passover lambs and kids began immediately after the body of the afternoon Tamid lamb was placed on the altar fire (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:3).

On the day of the Passover sacrifice, it was necessary for the afternoon Tamid lamb to be offered an hour earlier to give enough time for the many Passover victims that were to be sacrificed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:1B). There was, however, an exception to the timing of the service if the day of the Passover sacrifice fell on a Friday, "Preparation Day" for the Sabbath (Mk 15:42; Jn 19:31). In that case, the Temple priests offered the Tamid sacrifice even earlier. This gave the people enough time at the end of the worship service to prepare for the Sabbath restrictions: If, however, the eve of Passover [meal] coincided with the eve of the Sabbath [Friday], it [the Tamid] was slaughtered at half after the sixth hour [12:30 PM] and offered up at half after the seventh hour [1:30 PM] (Mishnah:Pesahim, 5:1D).

On that Thursday, the 14th of Nisan, the lamb or goat-kid was taken to the Temple, probably by Peter and John. It was not necessary for everyone to attend the sacrifice. A relative or even one's slave, if he was a Jew, could present the animal for sacrifice since the Passover sacrifice was not a pilgrim festival (Mishnah: Pesahim, 8:1-8:4). The sacrifices for the Passover took place at the time the Tamid service normally took place, from the ninth hour (3 PM) to the eleventh hour (5 PM) at which time the Temple services were normally completed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:8B). The only other change in the liturgical service of the afternoon Tamid during the Passover was in the offering of the incense. The incense was normally offered immediately after the afternoon Tamid lamb was laid on the altar fire and was followed by the concluding prayers of the worship service. However, on Passover the incense offering was delayed and was not offered until the last of the Passover sacrifices. The offering of the community's prayers in the burning of the incense was always the climax of any worship service.

The groups that represented their households assembled at the Temple with their animals at noon. In fulfillment of Exodus 12:6, the different groups were divided into three large divisions: And the whole assembly of the congregations of Israel shall slaughter it ... (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:5A-B):

After the afternoon Tamid was placed on the altar fire, the first division came forward with their animals into the Court of the Priests. As soon as they entered the courtyard, the doors were locked. The priests blew three blasts on the silver trumpets as the signal that the lambs and goat-kids were to be sacrificed. The leader of each individual family/group carried a sacrificial knife with which to slit the throat of the animal while a Levite collected its blood in a chalice. The Levite then handed the chalice to a priest who tossed/splashed the blood against the base of the altar (2 Chr 30:16; Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:5-5:6). At this time, if the size of the Passover victim was not sufficient to feed the number of people who intended to eat the sacred meal in that particular group, then a free-will festival sacrifice (Hagigah), a male or female animal from the flock or herd, was also sacrificed at the same time and its blood was also collected and splashed against the altar (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:3-6:4).

While the sacrifices were taking place, the Levitical choir sang the Hallel Psalms 113-118, also called the Egyptian psalms. Psalms 113-117 recounts the story of the Exodus liberation, while Psalm 118 gives joyous thanksgiving to God the Savior and speaks of the Messiah as "the stone which the builders rejected" which "has become the cornerstone" (Ps 118:22). The Egyptian Hallel Psalms were repeated until all the animals of a division were sacrificed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:7). After the first division sacrificed its victims, the bodies of the animals were skinned, the entrails were removed and cleansed, the inside fat was removed, and then those parts were put in a bowl to be salted before being placed on the altar fire (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:10). When all was completed for the first division and they left with the bodies of their animals, the second division entered the Court of the Priests and the same ritual of sacrifice was repeated. When all the animals (Passover lambs and kids and the communion Hagigah offerings) were sacrificed, the afternoon Tamid worship service was concluded by the burning of incense on the Altar of Incense in the Holy Place of the Sanctuary and by the officiating priests praying the priestly blessing over the congregation.

Flavius Josephus wrote that during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (AD 54-68) a count was taken of the number of slain animals in the Temple during the Passover sacrifice. The count was 256,500 sacrifices meant to feed not less than ten and not more than twenty people. At the end of the afternoon, the blood from the sacrificial victims splashed against the sacrificial altar reached to the ankles of the priests, and the Kidron brook, where the Temple drains emptied out, became a river of blood (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 [424]); Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, page 44, note 33).

 

The Sacred Meal

When the liturgical celebration and sacrifice was completed, the skinned body of every Passover lamb or goat-kid and free-will Hagigah festival offering was taken by each group back into to city of Jerusalem. They were required to eat the sacred meal in the "camp" of God which was Jerusalem, and they had to be careful in roasting the Passover victim so that no bones were broken. Anyone who carelessly broke a bone of the Passover victim was to be punished by receiving forty lashes and the sacrifice became invalid (Ex 12:46; Num 9:12; Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:1B, 7:11C).

The meal had to begin after sundown and must be completed before midnight (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1A; 10:9). Sundown began the next Jewish day, Nisan the 15th, and it signaled the beginning of the celebration of the seven-day pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread. Non-covenant members or the ritually impure were not permitted to take part in the sacred meal. The meal was reserved only for those in covenant with Yahweh who were circumcised (if male) and ritually clean, a condition that reflected the spiritual purity of the covenant member's circumcised/purified heart (Ex 12:43-51).

The pilgrim Feast of Unleavened Bread allowed the covenant people to relive the themes of judgment and redemption that the Israelites experienced in the first Passover event; and to eat the sacred meal of the Passover was a sign of covenant renewal and continuation. So sacred was this meal that the penalty for deliberately failing to eat the sacrifice of the Passover on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was excommunication from the covenant people (Num 9:13). However, exceptions were made in case of illness, or the death of a family member, or if one was delayed because of a long journey, or if one became ritually impure. In those cases, it was possible to keep the feast a month later (Num 9:9-10; Mishnah: Pesahim, 9:1-9:3). There was no excuse for failing to keep the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread, and there was no excuse for failing to eat the sacred meal.

Some scholars have suggested that Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Last Supper a day or two earlier than the designated feast day, using a solar calendar instead of the liturgically required lunar calendar and thereby rejecting the date set by the Temple hierarchy. Other scholars have suggested that no sacrificed lamb or kid was present at the meal and that the Last Supper only consisted of the bread and wine transformed into Jesus' Body and Blood. It is unthinkable that Jesus did not celebrate this feast at its liturgically designated time and according to the obligations of the covenant. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus supported every aspect of Old Covenant Law saying: Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:17-19). Jesus' work to fulfill the Old Covenant was not accomplished until He pronounced the words It is finished (it is fulfilled/accomplished) from the Cross (Jn 19:30). Until that pivotal moment in salvation history obedience to the Law, as it was intended to be fulfilled in the true meaning and expression of the commands, prohibitions and rituals God established for His people at Mount Sinai, was supported by Jesus as the "way of life" (Dt 30:15-20).

Jesus fully supported the authority of the priesthood in fulfilling the rites and rituals of the Sinai Covenant, which certainly included appointing the dates of the designated feast days according to the lunar calendar (Num 28:11-15). On His last day of teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus addressed the issue of the authority of the Temple hierarchy: Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you..." (Mt 23:1-3; emphasis added). Jesus would not have told the people to obey the hierarchy of the Church one day and then do the exact opposite by celebrating the Passover on a day other than what was designated according to the liturgical calendar on the next day.

The eating of this sacrificial meal in the middle of the lunar month of Nisan at the time of the full moon was the last legitimate sacrificial meal of the Old Covenant. It was a sacred meal that was transformed and fulfilled in Jesus' Last Supper that became the first Eucharistic ("thanksgiving") banquet of the New Covenant people of God. It was absolutely necessary for the faithful remnant of Jews who became the restored Israel of the New Covenant to participate in this last Old Covenant ritual. It was necessary for them to be able to comprehend its transformation and fulfillment as a true sacrificial meal in the offering of Christ the Lamb of God in the Eucharistic banquet a New Covenant liturgy.(2) If the Last Supper did not take place during the legitimately designated meal of the Passover victim on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then the Jews present at the meal could not have understood Jesus' offering of the unleavened bread and red wine as His Body and Blood to be a continuing sacrificial meal and not only a symbolic gesture. The suggestion that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper on a night other than the prescribed Passover feast erodes the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is indeed a true sacrificial meal.(3)

In addition, it is ludicrous to suggest that only bread and wine were served at the meal Jesus hosted. This theory completely contradicts the Gospel accounts. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark each record that "as they were eating" Jesus took up the unleavened bread and then the red wine in which He offered Himself Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22). The Gospel of Luke even mentions two of the four communal cups of red wine that were consumed in the traditional meal, and it is in offering the second cup mentioned (actually the third communal cup) that Jesus announces the "New Covenant in His Blood" (Lk 22:17 and 20). The Gospel of John also records that Jesus passed the "sop" (the traditional mixture of fruit folded in a piece of unleavened bread eaten before the roasted flesh of the Passover victim) to His guests after which Judas left to betray Him (Jn 13:26). The four communal cups were represented the four ways God promised to redeem Israel from slavery in Egypt (Ex 6:6-7):

  1. The Cup of Sanctification (opened the meal)
  2. The Cup of Forgiveness (probably the cup mentioned in Lk 22:17-18)
  3. The Cup of Blessing or Redemption (the cup of Jesus' Blood; see 1 Cor 10:16)
  4. The Cup of Consecration/Acceptance (officially sealed the covenant and closed the meal for another year)

The inauguration of a New Covenant, within the context of the Old Covenant Passover sacrifice and sacred meal, established for the faithful remnant of Israel the importance of the sacred meal as the means of continued covenant union with the Messiah. It is the eating of the sacrifice in the banquet of the sacred meal that made the covenant people one with Christ and became the focus of Christian liturgical worship. On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus became the true paschal victim, instituting the first Eucharistic banquet as His disciples took part in the ratification ceremony and sacred meal of the New Covenant of the everlasting Kingdom in the Divine Presence of God the Son (cf. Ex 24:9-11).

The sacred meal had to be concluded by midnight, and the bones and remaining parts of the Passover victim had to be burned before sunrise (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:9). After the concluding hymn, Jesus and the Apostles left the Upper Room. Passing through the city's Eastern Gate they crossed the Kidron Valley Bridge by the light of the full moon. Jesus led them to a garden on the Mount of Olives where He often went with His disciples (Jn 18:1-2). As they approached the olive grove of Gethsemane on this moonlit night, the olive trees must have shut out much of the natural light, casting the garden into darkness. Despite the lateness of the hour, Jesus gathered His Apostles around Him as He asked them to stay and pray with Him in this His hour of darkness. The "hour" of His Passion was to begin at the same hour of the beginning of the preparation for the Tamid sacrifice.

Chapter summary points: The Last Journey to Jerusalem
1. Jesus rode into the holy city of Jerusalem on Sunday, the 10th of Nisan. He came in fulfillment of the prophecy of the prophet Zechariah. The people proclaimed Him the King of Israel. This momentous event occurred on the day, according to Exodus 12:3, on which the Passover victims were to be chosen for sacrifice, and the day the Tamid lambs were chosen for the liturgical service that would embrace the Passover sacrifice.

2. The triumphal ride into Jerusalem on the 10th of Nisan signified that Jesus is Himself both the promised Messiah and the chosen unblemished victim of the divine Passover, when death will "pass over" those who are safe under the sign of the blood of the Lamb (Ex 12:13, 23).

3. Jesus cleansed the Temple a second time on Sunday, the 10th of Nisan and a third time on Monday the 11th of Nisan, of the Passover/Unleavened Bread holy week. In Scripture a repetition of three of anything signifies the coming of an important event in salvation history. The third Temple cleansing signified the final preparation of the Old Covenant Church for the completion of Jesus' teaching ministry and the coming of His Passion.

4. The High Priest, Joseph Caiaphas, personally made the decision that Jesus had to die.
In effect, it was Caiaphas in his role as God's priestly representative who selected Jesus as the unblemished victim for sacrifice upon the altar of the Cross, just as the High Priest had the final approval for the selected the Tamid lambs.

5. According to the four Gospels, the Passover sacrifice of the last week of Jesus' life took place on a Thursday.

6. The Passover sacrifice took place within the liturgical service of the afternoon Tamid. The sacrifices began after the offering of the Tamid lamb on the altar and were concluded before the end of the Tamid worship service in the burning of the incense and priestly blessing.

7. In offering Himself, Body and Blood, in a sacred meal to those assembled in the Upper Room on the first night of Unleavened Bread, Jesus became the true paschal victim, instituting the first Eucharistic banquet as His disciples took part in the ratification ceremony and sacred meal of the New Covenant of the everlasting Kingdom in the Divine Presence of God the Son.

Endnotes:
1Today Jews do not observe the Passover sacrifice on the 14th of Nisan since there is no longer a Temple in Jerusalem or a sacrificial altar where the Passover sacrifice has to take place. Jews celebrate the Passover from the 15th to 21st of Nisan in Israel and a day longer in the Diaspora (The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 185). Like the Gospel of John and the Mishnah, modern Jews only refer the week-long feast as the "Passover." The Catholic Church sets the "appointed time" for Holy Week and Easter in much the same way as the priestly hierarchy of the Sinai Covenant. Easter is established as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Holy Thursday is always the night of the month's full moon.

2Jacob Neusner, "Money-Changers in the Temple: The Mishnah's Explanation," New Testament Studies 35 (1989):287-290, as cited by Brant Pitre, "Jesus, the New Temple and the New Priesthood," Letter and Spirit, vol. IV, page 67.

3 Also see Mishnah: Maaser Sheni, 1:3-1:4 and Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, pages 48-49.

 

CHAPTER VIII
THE ALTAR OF THE CROSS

Jesus said ... "But all this has taken place that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled."
Matthew 26:56

The Crisis in the Garden

The Gospels of Matthew and Mark identify the plot of land on the Mount of Olives where Jesus led His disciples as Gethsemane, a Aramaic name meaning "oil press," suggesting the location of a grove of olive trees with a near-by press (Mt 26:36; Mk 14:32). The Gospel of John, however, identifies the place to which Jesus led His disciples as a garden (Jn 18:1). It was in a garden that the first man, Adam, failed the first test of covenant obedience in his sin of rejecting God's sovereignty over his life by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree (Gen 2:16). His personal sin left him dis-graced (the loss of divine grace) and introduced sin into the world, resulting in a contamination of sin that affected all of creation and every generation of his descendants. Now Jesus, the second Adam, began to undo the damage wrought by the first Adam in a covenant ordeal in which He had to decide if He was willing to completely submit Himself to the will of God the Father for His life, no matter what the cost (CCC 359).

In His supreme act of obedience, Jesus was going to fulfill the promise of Genesis 3:15, to defeat the work of the serpent by destroying the power of Satan over man and creation. As St. John wrote: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn 3:8b). And in destroying the power of Satan, Jesus was going to fulfill the Old Covenant with the gift of sanctifying grace through a new and eternal covenant: ... He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10:9-10).

In His anguish over what He knew was going to be the human cost of His obedience and submission, Jesus knelt and prayed in the garden at Gethsemane as His sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood (Lk 22:44). Twice He returned to the disciples and found them asleep. In His agony He prayed, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt", referring to His suffering (Mt 26:39). And then, in Jesus' prayer of submission to the will of the Father, He said, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done" (Mt 26:42). After praying three times, Jesus roused His Apostles saying: "Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners" (Mt 26:45). At that moment Judas Iscariot appeared in the garden, leading men from the Temple guard and a detachment of Roman soldiers (Jn 18:3).

Coming forward Jesus took command by demanding to know who they wanted. The crowd of armed men answered that they sought Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus responded, "Ego eimi," "I AM."(1) When Jesus spoke the Divine Name, either the power of His words or His opponent's fear of Him caused the men, both Jews and Gentiles, to fall back onto the ground (Jn 18:5-6). For a second time Jesus asked them who they wanted, and when they repeated "Jesus the Nazarene;" Jesus again responded using the Divine Name, saying "I told you that I AM" (Jn 18:8 IBGE).

When a servant of the High Priest Caiaphas reached out to grab Jesus' arm, Peter swung his sword, cutting off the man's right ear. Jesus rebuked Peter saying: Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me? (Jn 18:11). In Scripture "drinking wine" is one of the reoccurring symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets (see Appendix III). The joy of drinking good wine is the imagery of covenant union with Yahweh and the promise of the future Messianic banquet (e.g. Ps 23:5; Is 25:6; 62:9; Zech 9:15-16). But imagery of "the cup" can also refer to judgment for sin associated with drinking "the cup of suffering" or drinking the "cup of God's wrath" that the wicked deserve for their sins (e.g. Is 51:17; 63:2-3; Jer 25:15-31; Joel 4:13). In the same way every Tamid lamb accepted his "cup" of judgment before his sacrifice for the atonement and sanctification of the covenant people (Mishnah:Tamid, 3:4B), Jesus was prepared to accept "the cup of suffering" and "the cup of God's wrath," as He stated in His prayer to the Father, to free mankind and all creation from the burden of sin and death. Then, in a final demonstration of His power and authority, Jesus healed the wounded man's ear, giving the crowd a miracle and revealing His true nature "He is the "I AM" who revealed Himself to the Patriarchs and spoke to Moses at the burning bush (Lk 22:51). Yet the guards, the soldiers, and Judas were blinded by the darkness of their sins and did not believe in Him.

The Lamb of God is Judged Worthy of Sacrifice

Not in every place, my brethren, are the daily sacrifices [the Tamid] offered or the free will offerings, or the sin offerings and trespass offerings, but only in Jerusalem; and there also the offering is not made in every place but before the shrine, at the altar, and the offering [the Tamid lamb] is first inspected by the High Priest ...
Pope St. Clement, 1 Clement, 41:2

The guards bound Jesus and took Him to the house of the former high priest, Annas, the father-in-law of the current High Priest, Joseph Caiaphas. The Romans no longer allowed the High Priest to serve for life as was previously the tradition of the covenant people (Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, page 148; Mishnah: Nazir, 7.1).

Although Annas was forced to give up the role of Yahweh's anointed High Priest in AD 16 (Antiquities of the Jews, 18.2.2 [34-35]), he still wielded the authority of that priestly office. Then too, perhaps taking Jesus first to Annas was intended to give Caiaphas enough time to convene an assembly of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish high court) and to prepare the false witnesses to testify against Jesus. After questioning Jesus, Annas sent Him to Caiaphas (Jn 18:24).

The guards led Jesus to the palace of the High Priest where the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes of the Sanhedrin were assembled (Mk 14:53). In this hastily convened trial, members of the council questioned Jesus and brought forward false witnesses to speak against Him (Mt 26:59-61). As the reigning High Priest, Joseph Caiaphas was there in his role as the president of the Sanhedrin, but he also took up the role of prosecutor and chief judge. The most dramatic moment of the trial came when Caiaphas stood up and demanded of Jesus: Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you (Mt 27:62; Mk 14:60)? When Jesus remained silent, Caiaphas bound Him by an oath in the name of God to tell them if He is the Messiah (Mt 26:63). This time Jesus answered, speaking the Divine Name again and invoking the words of both King David and the Prophet Daniel: Jesus said, "I am; and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mk 14:62).

Jesus' use of the Divine Name in His "I AM" declaration and His claim to Daniel's vision of the glorified "Son of Man" Messiah from Daniel 7:13-14, coupled with David's prophecy of a priestly Messiah in Psalms 110:1 was all that was needed to condemn Jesus for the capital offense of blasphemy. According to the Law: He who blasphemes is liable only when he will have fully pronounced the divine Name; if the blasphemy was proved then the judges stand on their feet and tear their clothing, and never sew them back up (Mishnah: Sanhedrin, 7:5E). The penalty for blaspheming the Divine Name was death (Lev 24:16). After Jesus' statement, Caiaphas immediately tore his robes (Mt 26:65; Mk 14:63). The tearing of the judges' robes and the prohibition against repairing the garment symbolized that the offender had broken with the covenant in such a way that his membership in the covenant family could never be restored (Mishnah: Sanhedrin, 7:1). Addressing the court Caiaphas said: "Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" (Mk 14:63-64).

As these events were transpiring, below in the courtyard St. Peter was facing his own ordeal. Servants in the High Priest's household recognized him as one of Jesus' followers; it was a claim Peter denied twice as those in the courtyard heard the "cockcrow." When Peter denied the Christ a third time he heard the "cockcrow" a second time in fulfillment of what Jesus told Peter earlier in the evening: And Jesus said to him, "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times" (Mk 14:30, 72). Like Jesus, Peter was also condemned; he was condemned by his own lack of trust in Christ in his crisis of expectation. The two "cockcrows" heard by those assembled in the courtyard were the trumpet signals of the guards of the night watches from the Temple and from the Roman Antonia fortress. The time was 3 AM.

 

The Tamid and the Passion of the Christ

The significance of the Tamid sacrifice in God's plan for salvation history is revealed in the Passion of Christ. At the trumpet signal of the "cockcrow," the priests in the Temple were rising to take their ritual baths before dressing in their priestly robes and preparing for the morning sacrifice of the Tamid lamb (Mishnah: Tamid, 1:2; Mishnah: Yoma, 1:8). When they were ready, the priests presented themselves for the first round of lots to determine who was to clean the sacrificial altar in the Temple's inner courtyard and prepare it for the morning sacrifice. After the trumpet signal of the "cockcrow", the guards placed Jesus in the dungeon of Caiaphas' palace where they beat Him and ridiculed Him, preparing the victim for His sacrifice (Mk 14:65).

The Sanhedrin did not have the political authority to condemn Jesus to death. In the Roman provinces, only the Roman governing authority had the power over life and death (Jn 18:31). But the Jewish leaders were also using the excuse that the prerogative of capital punishment belonged to Roman justice in order to avoid executing Jesus themselves. It wasn't to their advantage to have Jesus become a martyr to the common people. It was to their advantage to have Jesus condemned by the pagan Roman authority as a common criminal, and for Him to be disgraced by being "hung on a tree" in the Roman custom of crucifixion in fulfillment of the Law's covenant curse in Deuteronomy 21:22-23, And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day; for a hanged man is accursed by God. The Jewish religious authorities did not comprehend that in demanding a form of execution that was abhorrent to the Jewish sense of justice that they were fulfilling the prophecies Jesus made of His crucifixion and God's plan for the salvation of man (Mt 20:17-19). On His last day of teaching in Jerusalem, Jesus told the crowd: "Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." He said this to show by what death he was to die (Jn 12:31-33; also see 1 Pt 2:24 and Gal 3:13 quoting from Dt 21:23).

At dawn the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus to death (Lk 22:66, 71). At dawn in the Temple a Levite stationed on the pinnacle of the Temple shouted "Barkai!" ""Morning has arrived!", the signal that the ritual for the morning Tamid sacrifice could begin. The unblemished male Tamid lamb was led from its enclosure into the courtyard of the Priests where it was tied near the sacrificial altar. After condemning Jesus, the members of the Sanhedrin led Him to the courtyard of the residence of the Roman governor: When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death; and the bound him and led him away and delivered him to Pilate the governor (Mt 27:1-2). Caiaphas did not accompany the other chief priests who were charged with taking Jesus to the Roman governor, Pontus Pilate. As the reigning High Priest, he had to return to the Temple to prepare for the day's Sacred Assembly and Tamid liturgical service over which he was required to officiate.

Pontius Pilate was the fifth governor of Judea-Samaria, and he was the second-longest holder of that office, governing from AD 26-36. Pilate always traveled from his official residence in Caesarea Maritima to be in Jerusalem to maintain order during the holy days of the pilgrim feasts when Jews from across the Roman world converged on Jerusalem. According to the Gospels, it was now the morning of the 15th of Nisan and the first morning of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (the feast that began at sundown twelve hours earlier). It was also the sixth day of the week, Friday, which is called "Preparation Day" in the Gospels, meaning the day to prepare for the Jewish Sabbath that began at sundown (Mk 15:42; Jn 19:31).

When coming to Jerusalem, the Roman governor usually established his residence at either the Antonia Fortress or at Herod's palace. Wherever the man who represented the power and authority of the Roman Empire resided, a court of Roman justice was convened (Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus Christ, page 48). When the members of the Sanhedrin and the crowd of Jews accompanying them arrived at the Jerusalem residence of the governor, it was necessary for Pontius Pilate to come out into the courtyard to meet them, since the Jews refused to enter the building. Jews could become ritually defiled by entering a Gentile dwelling, but to remain in the open area of a courtyard was not subject to the Law regarding the defilement of ritual purity (Mishnah: Ohalot, 18:7B; 18:10).

If they became defiled , they could not attend the required Sacred Assembly that began with the Tamid worship service at the Temple that morning at 9 AM (the third hour Jewish time), nor could they present their Hagigah communion offerings to be eaten that day: They themselves did not enter the Praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover (Jn 18:28b), meaning the Hagigah festival communion meal on the first day of Passover week. They could not be referring the meal of the Passover victim; that had occurred the night before, and if one became ritually defiled by contact with a Gentile, one only had to take a ritual bath and be declared cleansed by sundown. The Passover sacred meal on the first night of Unleavened Bread didn't take place until after sundown, and there was more than enough time to become purified before sundown. In John's Gospel he only refers to the holy week as "Passover", and therefore, John 18:28b can only refer to eating the Hagigah festival communion meal.

In the first century AD as well as today, the term "Passover" referred to the entire 8 days of Passover and Unleavened Bread. The required festival Hagigah communion offerings were to be presented for sacrifice: On the first day there shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work, but offer an offering by fire (Num 28:18-19a).(2) The Nisan 14th Hagigah that could be offered in addition to the Passover sacrifice was entirely voluntary; however, on the 15th of Nisan, at the daytime Sacred Assembly during the Tamid liturgy, the Hagigah was a compulsory sacrifice. If this obligation was not met, the Hagigah became a compulsory peace offering for each of the succeeding days of the feast (1.6; 2 Chr 30:22; Mishnah: Hagigah, 1:6A). It is ironic that the religious leadership, who so outrageously violated every aspect of their own moral and civil law in their treatment of Jesus, was now concerned about the state of their religious purity.(3)

Accommodating the Jews' religious observances, Pilate came out into the courtyard. He immediately challenged the Jewish delegation on their reason for bringing Jesus to him for trial by asking why they didn't try Him themselves. Their answer was straightforward; they wanted Jesus to be executed (Jn 18:29-31). Governor Pilate then took Jesus into the Praetorium to question him privately. In the exchange that followed, Pilate became convinced of Jesus' innocence.

At the Temple the High Priest inspected the morning Tamid lamb one final time. Finding the victim to be ritually perfect, he announced "I find no fault," and the lamb was condemned to death. At the Praetorium, Pilate returned with Jesus to the courtyard to address Jesus' accusers. He pronounced that he found "no fault" in the man (Jn 18:38 IBGE). When the Jewish authorities again insisted on Jesus' execution, Pilate attempted to free himself from the obligation to condemn an innocent man, having perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over, and having been warned by his wife who had a dream about "the righteous man" (Mt 27:18, 19; Mk 15:10). Pilate brought up a jurisdictional technicality and insisted that, as a Galilean, Jesus should be sent to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of the Galilee who was in Jerusalem for the pilgrim feast. When Jesus refused to answer Herod's questions or to provide a miracle, Herod grew bored and returned Jesus to Pilate (Lk 23:6-11). If both Pilate and Herod were staying at the Herodian palace, which most scholars agree was the case, then, Jesus could have been passed back and forth between the courts of these men relatively quickly.

Pilate attempted to defuse the demand for Jesus' death by having Jesus beaten (Jn 19:1), and again Pilate announced that he did not find Jesus guilty of any crime (Jn 19:4). But when the chief priests and guards saw Jesus they cried out "Crucify him, crucify him"(Jn 19:6), to which Pilate taunted them by saying that they should take Jesus and crucify Him themselves, stating for a third time that he found "no fault" in Jesus (Jn 19:6). Nevertheless, the chief priests and elders continued to demand Jesus' death, telling Pilate that according to their law Jesus deserved to die for claiming to be the Son of God (Jn 19:7). Unnerved by their threat and their claim that Jesus was a rival to Caesar's sovereignty by claiming to be the Son of God, Pilate again talked to Jesus privately. Again Jesus took charge, telling Pilate: You have no power over me at all if it had not been given you from above; that is why the one who handed me over to you has the greater guilt (Jn 18:11b), referring to Caiaphas and the members of the Sanhedrin.

Then Jesus' adversaries leveraged their demand with a threat, telling Pilate: "If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend; everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar" (Jn 19:12). They were referring to the Jewish crowd hailing Jesus as "the King of Israel" when He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Mt 21:9; Mk 11:9-10; Lk 19:38; Jn 12:13). In this statement, the religious leaders accused Jesus of attempting to usurp the sovereignty of the Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar, a man who was the acknowledged "son of a god" as the adopted step-son of the deified former emperor, Augustus Caesar (A History of Rome, page 340-350).

With this claim, the men who opposed Jesus repeated the sin that resulted in Adam's fall from grace. Adam's disobedience in his covenant ordeal in the Garden of Eden wasn't simply an illegal fruit harvest from the Master Gardener's forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The greater sin of Adam and Eve resulted from the action of attempting to usurp the power and authority of God in the desire to decide for themselves what was good and what was evil, becoming, as Satan suggested, like gods themselves (Gen 3:5). Now, the descendants of the man Adam claimed that God the Son had no sovereign authority over them, and that all authority belonged to the man Tiberius Caesar, the son of a false god.

It is ironic that the High Priest, Joseph Caiaphas, as God's covenant representative to the people, had pronounced Jesus' death sentence. In essence, Caiaphas selected Jesus as a sacrifice for the sake of the people, a pronouncement recorded three times in John 11:50, 51, and 18:14. It is also ironic that a pagan Roman Gentile pronounced Jesus' fitness as the unblemished sacrifice in telling the Jewish crowd three times: I find no crime [fault] in him (Lk 23:4, 14, 22; and Jn 18:38; 19:4 and 6). The Greek word aitia can be translated "case, crime, cause, or fault (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, page 18). That "no fault" was found was the same pronouncement of perfection made over the Tamid lamb that morning in preparation for the Temple liturgy and the offering of the Tamid lamb in sacrifice.

When the crowd rejected Pilate's assessment of Jesus' innocence a third time, he taunted the crowd again. Pilate made a reference to the acclamations the Jewish crowd showered upon Jesus as He rode into the city of Jerusalem when the people hailed Him as the Messiah and the Davidic King (Mt 21:9; Mk 11:9-10; Lk 19:38). Pilate asked them: "Shall I crucify your king?" The response of the chief priests was: "We have no king but Caesar" (Jn 19:14-15). Speaking these words sealed the Old Covenant hierarchy's final rejection of their Messiah, shattering the bond of the covenant by rejecting Yahweh's kingship over His people and acknowledging the ultimate sovereignty of a pagan king (Dt 17:15).

The climax of the trial is recorded in St. Matthew's Gospel when Pilate, in an attempt to separate himself from the injustice of Jesus' execution, washed his hands in a symbolic act, signifying Jesus' blood was not on his conscience and saying, "I am innocent of this righteous man's blood; see to it yourselves" (Mt 27:24). In response, the Jews in the crowd took upon themselves the responsibility for Christ's death by calling out a self-curse, saying, "His blood be on us and on our children!" (Mt 27:25). But Jesus did not come to die as a curse upon His people. He came to turn the curses of covenant disobedience (Lev 26:14-45; Dt 28:15-68) into the promises of an eternal blessing. His righteous blood was indeed going to be shed for them, for their children, and for the forgiveness of all sinners. In His sacrificial death on the altar of the Cross, Jesus turned the self-curse of the crowd into a blessing of salvation. It was the world-wide blessing that was promised to Abraham and his descendants (Gen 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Gal 3:8, 29).

St. John's Gospel records that the drama of Jesus' trial before Pilate transpired on the day of Preparation of the Passover, it was about the sixth hour (19:14). The "sixth hour" has to be a reference to Roman time which would make the "hour" of the trial between 6-7 AM in agreement with the other Gospels and not Jewish time which would have been noon. It could not have been noon Jewish time because the Gospel of Mark records that Jesus was crucified at the third hour or 9 AM (Mk 15:25), and the Synoptic Gospels record that after Jesus was hung on the Cross it turned dark from "the sixth hour to the ninth hour" Jewish time, or from noon to 3 PM (Mt 27:43; Mk 15:33; Lk 23:44). "Preparation Day", according to St. Mark's Gospel is Friday, the day before the Sabbath: And when the evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath (Mk 15:42 also see Jn 19:31). It was on Friday that Jesus was crucified; it was the sixth day of the week, the day before the Jewish Sabbath that was a special Sabbath in the midst of the holy week of Passover/Unleavened Bread, which John's Gospel only refers to as "the Passover"... for that Sabbath was a high day (Jn 19:31).

We keep Roman time, beginning the day and counting hours from midnight (Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2.79.188). If Jesus was with Pilate at about the 6th hour Roman time, John's account is in agreement with the Synoptic Gospels. According to early Church Fathers, St. John wrote his Gospel years after the events of the Crucifixion from the city of Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia Minor where he was the bishop of a largely Roman congregation. The 1st century AD geographer Strabo identifies Ephesus as the second most important city in the Roman Empire after Rome (see Strabo, Geography, vol. 1-7, 14.1.24, Cambridge: Leob Classical Library, Harvard University Press). Writing for a mostly Gentile audience, why would John use Jewish time?

In his Gospel, St. John also uses Roman place names, identifying the Sea of Galilee by its Roman name, the Sea of Tiberias, three times (6:1, 23 and 21:1), a designation not found in any other Gospel. He explains Hebrew/Aramaic terms like "rabbi" and "Golgotha" to his Gentile Christian audience (e.g. Jn 1:38; 19:17). And in another time reference, John records that Andrew and another disciple "spent the day" with Jesus beginning at the 10th hour (Jn 1:39). If this was Jewish time, the 10th hour is 4 in the afternoon with the day ending at sundown which was 6 PM (the ancients observed 12 seasonal hours from dawn to dusk), and they simply could not have spent "the day" with Jesus. But if John was using Roman time, the 10th hour is 10 in the morning, and they would have spent the entire day with Jesus until sundown. St. Augustine (AD 354-430), Bishop of Hippo, stated, "If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, the author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood."

 

The Sacrifice of the Lamb of God

We have our own altar from which those who serve the Tent have no right to eat. The bodies of the animals whose blood is taken into the sanctuary by the high priest for the rite of expiation are burnt outside the camp, and so Jesus too suffered outside the gate to sanctify the people with his own blood.
Hebrews 13:10-11
(referring to those special sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, the only day of the year in which the High Priest entered into the Holy of Holies and when the Ark of the Covenant became an altar of atonement and mercy; see Lev 16:11-19, 27)

... in Jesus God participates in time. Through this participation He operates in time in the form of love. His love purifies men; through purification [and not otherwise] men are identified and united with Him.
Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Forced to carry the despised instrument of His crucifixion, Jesus made His way from the residence of Pilate. He staggered through a tangle of jeering and profane humanity, intermixed with a few of His tearful followers and His beloved and ever faithful mother, to the place outside the gates of Jerusalem called Golgotha, an old quarry and grave site on a lower slope of Mount Moriah. Jesus, the beloved Son of God, was to be offered up in sacrifice just as Isaac, the beloved son of Abraham, was offered up in sacrifice on the same mountain (Gen 22:2; Mt 3:17). In Abraham's test of covenant obedience, God provided a substitute sacrifice (Gen 22:11-13). But this time it was Jesus who was the substitute sacrifice that Yahweh yireh, "Yahweh will provide," the words Abraham used in naming the place where God spared his son by providing the sacrifice of a ram (Gen 22:2, 8, 13-14). Jesus was offered up as a subsidiary sacrifice outside the gates of Jerusalem like the communal sin sacrifice on the Feast of Atonement whose body was also destroyed outside the gates of Jerusalem (Lev 16:27; Heb 10:11-12).

Like the Tamid lamb that was given a drink before its sacrifice at the Temple altar that same morning, Jesus was offered a drink before being placed on the altar of the Cross (Mishnah: Tamid, 3:4B). A Roman soldier offered Jesus wine that was mixed with a narcotic to dull the pain of the crucifixion victim before the victim's limbs were nailed and tied to the beams of wood. Tasting the drink, Jesus refused the rest of it (Mt 27:34). At the Last Supper, Jesus vowed not to drink wine again until He came into His kingdom (Lk 22:18), but He tasted the wine in an action that mirrored the preparations for the sacrifice of the Tamid lamb in the Temple courtyard.

St. Mark's Gospel records that at the third hour (9 AM) Jesus was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem (Mk 15:25; Heb 13:11-12). At the same time that Jesus was being sacrificed on the altar of the Cross, the gates of the Temple were opening for the morning liturgical service just as the unblemished male Tamid lamb was sacrificed at the Temple altar. At the end of the worship service, the body of the Tamid lamb was going to be totally consumed on the altar fire. Later, its ashes were to be deposited outside the gates of Jerusalem (Lev 6:8b-11/6:1-4; Mishnah: Tamid, 1:2-2:5). The life of Jesus of Nazareth was to be totally consumed on the altar of the Cross, and like the whole burnt offering of the Tamid lamb, His remains were also deposited outside the gates of the holy city (Jn 20:41).

Those people who were faithful to the Sinai Covenant were attending the morning worship service of the Tamid. It was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread that began at sundown the night before, and it was the first of two required Sacred Assemblies of the covenant people on the first and last day of the feast: And on the fifteenth day of this month is a feast; seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation ... On the eighth day you shall have a solemn assembly: you shall do no laborious work ... You shall offer these besides the burnt offering of the morning [the morning Tamid lamb], which is for a continual burnt offering [ olat ha-Tamid] (Num 28:17-35).

It was perfect timing on the part of the elders and chief priests. They counted on Jesus' followers either being in hiding in fear for their lives or attending the lengthy Temple service that, in addition to the morning Tamid sacrifice, included the eleven separate communal animal sacrifices for the Feast of Unleavened Bread as well as the people's individual Hagigah communion offerings that were to be eaten by groups of the faithful in the holy city that day (Num 28:17-25). The religious Jews who were Jesus' followers and believed He was the Messiah were attending the Temple services and did not discover that their beloved Lord had been crucified until after the darkness that began at noon and lifted at 3 PM, or when the afternoon Temple services were concluded at 5 PM when it was too late to intervene.

The Roman governor, Pontus Pilate, took one last action that showed his contempt for the Temple hierarchy who forced him to condemn Jesus of Nazareth. Despite the protests of the chief priests, Pilate insisted that the traditional plaque naming the crime of the condemned criminal in Jesus' case should read in three languages, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew (or Aramaic): Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews (Jn 19:19-22). The Roman historian Suetonius mentions it was a common practice to publicly display the criminal's crime on a board called a titulus (Caligula, 32). Ironically, the plaque truthfully proclaimed not Jesus' crime but His true identity.

Suspended from the Cross, the first words Jesus spoke recalled Isaiah's prophecy of the suffering Messiah: ... because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Is 53:12b; underlining added). Jesus' words of intercession were: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Lk 23:34). The Son of God judged the sins of those responsible for His unjust condemnation and execution to be forgivable.

The Synoptic Gospels record that total darkness, like that of a solar eclipse, began at the sixth hour Jewish time (noon our time) and lasted until about the ninth hour Jewish time which is 3 PM (Mt 27:45; Mk 15:33; Lk 23:44). The day of Jesus' execution on the 15th of Nisan on the lunar calendar was the full moon cycle. A solar eclipse during a full moon cycle is impossible according to the laws of nature. During a full moon, the earth is between the moon and the sun. This event was a miracle that cannot be explained in association with any natural cause, and the event was recorded by Roman historians.<(4)

At the Temple, in preparation for the afternoon liturgical service, noon was the time for the second male Tamid lamb to be brought out to the altar and to be inspected a last time by the High Priest. Suddenly the entire Temple complex was engulfed in darkness. However, even this event could not stop the ritual of the olat ha-Tamid. By the light of the altar fire, Caiaphas judged the Tamid lamb worthy of sacrifice by declaring the victim "without fault" after which the afternoon Tamid lamb was given a last drink (Mishnah: Tamid, 4:1G). This may be the point at which Jesus, the Lamb of God, was offered a second drink (see Lk 23:36-38 where Jesus received the offer of a drink as He hung on the Cross).

The plunging of the world into darkness must have caused panic at the Temple just as it must have frightened those Jews and Gentiles who were attending the crucifixion of the three men on the hill outside the city gates (Mk 15:27). The Temple worship service continued with the congregation unaware of the events taking place on the hill of Golgotha. The afternoon service would not conclude until the final priestly benediction at about 5 PM, the eleventh hour Jewish time.

At about the ninth hour Jewish time (3 PM), Jesus said: "I thirst." St. John writes that Jesus' words were to fulfill Scripture (Jn 19:28). A Roman soldier dipped a hyssop branch in some sour red wine and extended it on a stick up to Jesus' mouth (Mt 27:48; Lk 23:36; Jn 19:29). It was a hyssop branch that was used to splash the blood of the Passover victims in a sign of a cross over the doors of the Israelites in the first Passover event in Egypt: from the threshold to the lintel to the two door posts (Ex 12:22). It was also hyssop that was used to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the people and the altar in the covenant ratification ceremony at Mount Sinai (Heb 9:19), and hyssop dipped in the holy water mixed with the ashes of the sin sacrifice of an unblemished red heifer purified the covenant people when they became ritually defiled by death (Num 19:19, 17-22).

This critical moment in salvation history approached its climax when Jesus said "I thirst" and the Roman soldier offered the Lamb of God His last drink before His sacrificial death. The wine offered to Jesus was the final symbolic moment in the ratification ceremony of the New Covenant people of God "a covenant which was prophesied to cleanse mankind from the contamination of sin that leads to eternal death (Jer 31:31, 34). Jesus' sworn oath at the Last Supper not to drink of the fruit of the vine until He came into His kingdom was completed in His acceptance of this last drink of wine from the Cross (Mt 26:29; Mk 14:25; Lk 22:17-18). This was the cup Jesus mentioned in His petition to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane. It was the cup of God's wrath that Jesus drank on behalf of the sinful people of the Old Covenant and the sinful people of all nations, and it was the Cup of Consecration, the fourth cup that marked the acceptance of God's covenant with His people; the cup He didn't take at the Last Supper, only this cup sealed a New and everlasting Covenant.

As Jesus drank the wine, He cried out the last two of His seven statements from the Cross: "It is finished/fulfilled!" (Jn 19:30) and "Father into Your hands I commit my Spirit!" (Mt 27:50; Mk 15:36; Lk 23:46).(5) As Jesus promised, the Old Covenant is fulfilled, the debt of sin paid, and the New Covenant ratified in His blood. Jesus Christ is the end and the fulfillment of the Old Covenant Law in two ways:

  1. Jesus fulfills the purpose and goal of the Old Covenant Law. As He stated in Matthew 5:17, "I have not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it." He does this by perfectly exemplifying God's desires for man created in His image; no other man except the Jesus Christ could perfectly keep the Law without sinning.
  2. Jesus is also the termination of the Old Covenant Law because without Him the Old Law was powerless to offer the gift of the Holy Spirit and eternal salvation (CCC 1963, 1966). In taking His last breath, He then breathed out His Spirit upon the world.

The Law, in essence, prefigured the Christ. The sacrificial system was a temporary measure of salvation meant to instruct and prepare humanity for the coming of the Messiah (see Heb 10:1-4). Christ was the reason for animal sacrifice and the ritual purity laws "the Law pointed to Christ in whom it was fulfilled. Only through Jesus Christ are the gifts of salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit given to mankind (CCC 601-04, 729, 1287).

According to the Gospel of Mark, and in agreement with the other Synoptic Gospels, Jesus suffered seven hours (as the ancients counted) on the Cross from the third to the ninth hours (9 AM to 3 PM). He suffered for seven hours. In Scripture seven is the number of fulfillment, and Jesus came to fulfill, just as He said in His last statement from the Cross in St. John's Gospel (Jn 19:30). At the beginning of His seventh hour on the Cross, Jesus willing gave up His life, breathing out His Spirit upon the earth and upon all mankind.

At the Temple, despite the darkness, the second Tamid lamb was slain (Mishnah: Tamid, 3:4B). It was the ninth hour (3 PM); it was the same time Jesus gave us His life as a sacrifice for all mankind. The lamb's atoning and sanctifying blood was splashed upon the altar. The priests had just entered the Holy Place in the Sanctuary to attend to the Menorah lampstand and cleanse the golden incense altar. At that moment the earth shook and groaned as it was torn from the power of Satan, and to the shock and horror of the priests ministering in the Holy Place, the curtain that was as thick as a man's hand that covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies was torn asunder from top to bottom (Mt 27:51; Mk 15:38; Lk 23:45b).

The curtain that covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies in the Temple was a continual reminder to the covenant people of the separation from God imposed by their covenant failure in the sin of the Golden Calf (Ex 33:3-4). As it was ripped apart from the top to the bottom, that barrier was removed by God's acceptance of the Son's sacrifice. Jesus took the burden of their covenant failure upon Himself, and the way into the presence of God was now opened for all men and women of all generations. The renting of the curtain symbolized the gates of Heaven standing open, ready to receive the first fruits of the harvest of souls into God's heavenly storehouse (1 Pt 3:18-22; Rev 4:1; CCC 536 and 1026).

At this climactic moment in salvation history, when Jesus, "the Lamb of God," poured out His life as He hung on the altar of the Cross, it is significant that the liturgical ritual and sacrificial deaths of the morning and afternoon Tamid lambs marked the beginning and end of Christ's Passion (see the chart on the Tamid and Christ's crucifixion). The coming together of the single sacrifice of the two unblemished Tamid lambs with the New Covenant sacrifice of the sinless Jesus, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (Jn 1:29), establishes the centuries of the "standing/continual" Tamid sacrifice as a foreshadowing of the Passion of the Redeemer-Messiah.

The Tamid was the single sacrifice of two perfect male lambs. It was the premier sacrifice of the Sinai Covenant that was offered perpetually in atonement for the sins and sanctification of the covenant people and for all mankind. Prefiguring the Passion of the Christ, the morning Tamid lamb symbolized the humanity of the Christ, and the afternoon Tamid lamb symbolized the divinity of the Christ. Each lamb was offered with unleavened bread and a red wine libation, prefiguring the Eucharistic banquet of the New Covenant in which the bread and wine becomes the sacrificed Lamb "the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Savior of mankind in a New Covenant sacred meal that, through the healing power of Christ's blood, forgives sins and sanctifies the people of the Triune God (Mt 26:28; CCC 1393-95).

Jesus suffered and died on a Friday, the sixth day of the week. It was the day when man was created in the first Creation event (Gen 1:26-31). On the Cross from 9 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon, Jesus suffered for seven hours (as the ancients counted); it was one hour for each day of the old creation that had become contaminated by sin and death through the fall of the first Adam, and one hour for each of the seven covenants of God previously made with man in anticipation of the final, eternal Covenant in Christ Jesus (see Appendix I). In the hour of fulfillment, in the seventh hour, Jesus the second Adam gave up His life for His Bride, the Church, and for the salvation of mankind.

After Jesus gave up His life and breathed out His Spirit, there were only a few hours left before the Jewish day came to an end at sundown. At sundown the Great Sabbath of the holy seven-day celebration of Unleavened Bread began.Today the Jews, with the exception of the Kararites and Samaritans, celebrate the "Great Sabbath" either before or after the Passover "holy week." However, prior to the Resurrection of the Christ, the "Great Sabbath" fell within the seven days of Unleavened Bread. It was a religious requirement that all activities must cease with the coming of the Sabbath (Ex 20:8-11). Therefore, the deaths of the crucifixion victims needed to be hastened so their bodies could be removed and buried before sundown: Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away (Jn 19:31). The Roman soldiers broke the legs of the two men crucified on either side of Jesus. When one of the soldiers approached Jesus, he did not break Jesus' legs; instead, he thrust a spear into His side, and at once there came out blood and water (19:34).

The inspired writer of the Gospel of John who, according to Christian tradition and the testimony of the early Church Fathers like Bishop St. Irenaeus (m. AD 200/202, Against Heresies, 3.1.1) was the Apostle John Zebedee, testified that he was an eyewitness to these events (Jn 20:35; 21:24-25). St. John recorded that everything took place so that the words of Sacred Scripture might be fulfilled, then he quoted two Scripture passages: "Not a bone of him shall be broken." And again another scripture says, "They shall look on him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19:36-37). The first Scripture reference fulfilled the command that none of the bones of the Passover victim were to be broken (Ex 12:46; Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:11C), identifying Jesus as the sacrificial victim of the last Passover, which the first Passover prefigured. The second reference was the fulfillment of the Prophet Zechariah's oracle: And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn (Zec 12:10).

On the altar of the Cross, Jesus' arms were extended to embrace the world. From His chest, pierced by the Roman lance, flowed out water and blood (Jn 19:34). As St. John wrote years later in his letter to the universal Church: There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water and the blood; and these three agree (1 Jn 5:8), meaning that the three testimonies converged with the blood and water from Jesus' side, joining the Spirit to the mission of the Son who gave His life for the salvation of the world. The water and the blood are the witness of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist (CCC 1225).

Baptism infuses new life in transforming the sons and daughters of Adam into the sons and daughters of God, re-born through the regenerative power of water and the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:3-6). In a spiritual re-birth, Christians are restored to the divine sonship lost in the Fall of Adam and Eve (Jn 3:3, 5; Rom 6:1-4; 8:14-17; Gal 3:27; 4:5-7; Col 2:11-13). The Eucharist is a sacred meal of covenant continuation that has the power to purify and nourish the re-born children of God on their journey through life to the promised land of Heaven (Jn 3:3, 5-8; 6:53-58). At that moment, as the blood and water flowed from Jesus' side, the eternal blessing for which man was created in the Garden of Eden was again available to man through Jesus' perfect sacrifice: He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (Jn 1:10-13).

Through His sacrificial death, Jesus, the author of the first creation (Jn 1:1-5; Col 1:-18), redeemed both creation and man, the masterpiece of the first creation. Jesus brought about a New Covenant for a new creation (Rev 21:5), and established as the new Eden the universal Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Church, where man and God commune as a united family: And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given to Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known (Jn 1:16-17).

The New Covenant, like the seven previous old covenants, was formed by oath swearing, a blood sacrifice, and a sacred meal. These are the three elements that also promised covenant continuation:

In the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the old Sinai Covenant and its premier atoning and sanctifying sacrifice, the olat ha-Tamid, was fulfilled. In its place is the New Covenant, with its worldwide blessing promised to the Patriarchs, its eternal kingdom promised to David and the prophets, and its perfect atoning and sanctifying sacrifice of "the Lamb of God" who takes away the sins of the world" foreshadowed in the Tamid, is established now and forever in the eternal Kingdom of God the Son.

Chapter summary points: The Altar of the Cross
1. Like the first Adam, Jesus the second Adam faced a covenant ordeal in a garden that changed the destiny of mankind.

2. Jesus agonized over His decision, but in the end, in obedience to the will of the Father, He accepted His cup of suffering and God's cup of wrath. The cup of God's wrath was a judgment Israel deserved for covenant disobedience and mankind deserved for sins against humanity.

3. Satan attempted again to usurp and destroy God's plan for man's salvation, but even during His arrest, trials, and crucifixion, Jesus was in charge of His own destiny.

4. Jesus submitted to His arrest and His trials. First, He was condemned by many of His own people for claiming to be the Son of God, and He was condemned by the anointed High Priest who chose Jesus to die for the sake of the people. Then, Jesus was condemned by the Gentile Roman governor who knew He was innocent and pronounced Him "without fault." Later, in the morning Temple liturgy, the Tamid lamb, chosen to die to atone for the people's sins, was pronounced "without fault". The Tamid was an unblemished victim like Jesus that the High Priest selected for sacrifice.

5. Jesus was abandoned by most of His Apostles who faced their own covenant ordeals in a crisis of failed expectations and imperfect faith in their inability to trust God's plan.

6. On Friday, the 15th of Nisan, AD 30, Jesus was nailed to the Cross at about 9 AM as the first Tamid lamb was sacrificed at the Temple. Most of His friends and followers were either in hiding or were attending the required Sacred Assembly at the Temple. Only His mother, the Apostle John Zebedee, and a faithful remnant of His woman disciples accompanied Him to the site of His crucifixion.

7. Jesus suffered on the Cross seven hours (as the ancients counted), one hour for each day of the old creation and one hour for each of the seven covenants God had previously made with individuals and the children of Israel as a nation. The second Tamid lamb was given a drink before it was sacrificed at about the ninth hour Jewish time (3 PM). Jesus, after accepting a drink of red wine which was the Cup of Consecration/Acceptance of the New Covenant, breathed His last and exhaled His Spirit out upon the earth at about the ninth hour Jewish time (3 PM). Jesus' one perfect sacrifice, offered as fully man and fully God on the altar of the Cross, fulfilled all the necessary blood sacrifices of the Old Covenant, and fulfilled in a unique way the Tamid sacrifice, opening the way into the presence of God for New Covenant believers.

8. Oath swearing, blood sacrifice and the sacred meal continue to be the principal elements of covenant formation and continuation in the New Covenant of the everlasting Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

 

Endnotes:
1The Divine Name is rendered "YHWH." Based on etymology and context most scholars have agreed that YHWH is an archaic form of the verb "to be" (hwh in Hebrew, pronounced "hawah") and should be translated "I AM who I AM" or "I will be who I will be," or for those scholars who believe the verb is in the causative imperfect masculine singular form: "He causes to be; brings into existence; He brings to pass, He creates" (Propp, Studies in Exodus, page 72-73). The use of the Greek Ego Ami by Jesus also supports the "I AM" translation.

2. See Mishnah: Hagigah, 1:3 and 1:5. The reference to the offering of the festival Hagigah on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the Hagigah tractate of the Mishnah only uses only the term "Passover" even though the passages concern the communion sacrifices during Sacred Assembly on the first day of the festival of Unleavened Bread (Mishnah: Hagigah, 3:1 III). Mishnah: Pesahim, 4:4 refers to the "nights of the Passover" plural, when the "meat of the Passover" is eaten, referring to the Hagigah communion offerings consumed during the entire week.

3. The only exception to becoming ritually cleansed by sundown was if one came into contact with a dead body, a defilement requiring a seven-day purification process (Num 19:11-22). The Jews would not have come into contact with a dead body in Pilate's residence. They could, however, come into contact with a lesser defilement through the ritually unclean practices of Gentiles of which they could be cleansed by sundown (Lev 22:6-7).

4. A full solar eclipse occurs when the new moon passes between the earth and the sun with the moon blocking the sun's light on that portion of the earth in the shadow of the moon as the moon's disk fully covers the sun for several minutes. During a full moon cycle, however, the full moon is on the opposite side of the earth with the earth between the sun and the moon and with the moon reflecting the sun's light (Goldsmith, The Astronomers, page 294). Therefore, according to the rules of nature, it is impossible for a solar eclipse during a full moon cycle, and there is no explanation for this phenomenon much less for an eclipse that lasted for hours instead of minutes, as it was on the 15th of Nisan in AD 30 from noon until 3 PM. Julius Africanus quoted a Roman scholar named Phlegon who wrote a history in which he commented on the rare phenomenon of a solar eclipse during a full moon cycle at the time of Christ's crucifixion: During the time of Tiberius Caesar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1 quoting from Phlegon's Chronicles). The third century AD, Christian scholar and apologist Origen also referenced Phlegon's comments on the event (Celsum, 2.14, 33, 59) as did the sixth century writer Philopon (De.opif.mund. II, 21).

5. Jesus' seven last statements from the Cross: 1. "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34); 2. "Truly [Amen] I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23:42); 3. "Woman, behold, your son"... "Behold, your mother" (Jn 19:26-27); 4. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34); 5. "I thirst" (Jn 19:28); 6. "It is fulfilled" (Jn 19:30); 7. "Father, into thy hands I commit my Spirit" (Lk 23:46).

CHAPTER IX
THE RESURRECTED MESSIAH

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.
Malachi 1:11

Now the point of what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.
Hebrews 8:1-3

 

Jesus Descends to the Realm of the Dead

Before sundown on Friday, the 15th of Nisan, Jesus' disciples laid His lifeless body in a newly hewn tomb outside the walls of Jerusalem (Mt 27:59-60; Mk 15:42-46; Lk 23:50-54). The disciples did not have enough time to prepare His body before the beginning of the Sabbath at sundown. They left Him wrapped in a burial shroud and with a rolled cloth tied around His head and chin in the usual custom of Jewish burial preparation (Jn 19:38-42; 20:6-7).(1_9)

Being fully human as well as fully divine, Jesus' spirit descended into Sheol/Hades, the destination after death of all men and women since the Fall of Adam.(2) In the depths of Sheol, the souls of the dead were awaiting their liberation by the promised Redeemer. Some souls were waiting in the torment of purifying judgment and others were waiting in the company of the righteous (Lk 16:19-31; CCC 633).(3) Jesus' atoning sacrifice purified the dead in Sheol, and after preaching the Gospel of salvation to the imprisoned spirits, Jesus led those redeemed souls out of Sheol and through the gates of Heaven (1 Pt 3:18, 4:6). For the first time in salvation history, redeemed mankind was received into the "promised land" of Heaven (CCC 1026).

Jesus liberated the dead on Friday, and He rested in the tomb on the Old Covenant Sabbath (Saturday). He rested from His work of salvation as God rested from His work on the seventh day of the first Creation (Gen 2:2-3). On the significant third day (as the ancients counted) since His death, on the first day of the week (our Sunday), Jesus arose from the dead, leaving behind His valuable grave cloths as proof of His Resurrection (Mt 28:1, 6; Mk 16:2, 5-6; Lk 24:1, 5-6; Jn 20:1, 6-9). Jesus' atoning sacrifice and defeat of death made possible His bodily Resurrection and brought about a new creation in the glorified Redeemer-Messiah. In His Resurrection on the first day of the week which was also the eighth consecutive day (the day after the seventh day Old Covenant Sabbath), Jesus healed both mankind and creation of the corrupting power of Satan. Rising on the eighth day, He established the New Covenant Lord's Day on the first day of the new creation, which had also been the first day of the first Creation event in Genesis 1:1. The Catechism acclaims the beginning of the Messianic Era on the eighth day: But for us a new day has dawned: the day of Christ's Resurrection. The seventh day completes the first creation. The eighth day begins the new creation. Thus, the work of creation culminates in the greater work of redemption. The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendor of which surpasses that of the first creation (CCC 349; prayer after the first reading of the Easter Vigil; also see 2174).

The Gospel of Matthew records that in Jerusalem some of the spirits of the righteous also rose up and came out of their tombs on Resurrection Sunday (Mt 27:52-53). The appearance of these saints was evidence that Jesus wasn't merely resuscitated. His rising from the dead was a supernatural event that was intended to impact all humanity, the living and the dead (see 1 Pt 3:18-20 and 4:6). In His resurrection victory, Jesus established a renewed creation in which mankind was no longer bound in slavery to sin and death. Through Jesus' new "exodus liberation" mankind received the promised gift of entering into God's eternal "rest" in the heavenly Kingdom. In the free-will acceptance of that gift, man also received the promise of rebirth through a baptism of water and the Spirit, no longer being identified as a child in the family of Adam but as a child in the family of God (Jn 3:3, 5; Rom 6:1-6; 8:14-17). As co-heirs with Christ, the New Covenant children of God inherited the promises made to the Patriarchs and prophets that included the world wide blessing of an eternal kingdom destined to have moral and spiritual authority over all earthly kingdoms. The promises of the old covenants were united to the eternal blessings of the New Covenant that promised forgiveness of sins, eternal life in the promised land of Heaven, and the promise of a resurrected body at the end of time (Jn 11:25-26; 1 Cor 15:20-25; 1 Thes 4:14-17).

According to the Sinai Covenant's liturgical calendar, the day of Jesus' Resurrection was the day on which the covenant community was commanded to celebrate the annual remembrance feast of Firstfruits. In God's instructions to Moses at Mount Sinai, concerning the liturgical calendar of the seven annual holy feasts, God gave the instructions for keeping the Passover sacrifice on the 14th of Abib/Nisan and the feast of Unleavened Bread beginning on the 15th and lasting for seven days (as the ancients counted) until the 21st (Lev 23:5-8) with the two feasts encompassing one entire week and a day or eight days. Then Yahweh commended Moses: "Speak to the Israelites and say: When you enter the country which I am giving you and reap the harvest there, you will bring the priest the first sheaf of your harvest, and he will present it to Yahweh with the gesture of offering, for you to be acceptable. The priest will make this offering on the day after the Sabbath, and on the same day as you make this offering, you will offer Yahweh an unblemished lamb one year old as a burnt offering'" (Lev 23:9-12 NJB; emphasis added). The grain offering and the lamb offering on the Feast of Firstfruits was on the first day of the week during the holy week of Unleavened Bread, on our Sunday.

 

Jesus is the First Fruits of the Resurrection of the Dead

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23

The Feast of Firstfruits was designated by God's command to fall on the day after the Sabbath (our Saturday), on the first day of the week that we call Sunday. At that time, the Feast of Firstfruits fell within the eight holy days of the celebrations of the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. The days of the week that the feasts of Passover on Nisan the 14th and Unleavened Bread on the 15th to the 21st were celebrated changed every year, but Firstfruits was to always be celebrated on the first day of the week within that eight day period. The required communal sacrifice for Firstfruits was the whole burnt offering of a single, unblemished male lamb, unleavened wheat flour mixed with oil and formed into a small cake as a grain offering, and a red wine libation. In addition to the lamb sacrifice, grain offering and wine libation, the covenant community was to offer Yahweh the first fruits of the spring barley harvest (Lev 23:11-14).

In the blessing of new life in the harvest after the death of winter, the covenant people commemorated the miracle of crossing over from death to renewed life. In the springtime of the first Passover event, the first generation of the children of Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea, leaving behind their old lives and emerging as a newly created free people. In crossing the miraculously parted waters in the Exodus out of Egypt, the Israelites escaped the bonds of slavery and rejoiced in their baptism of rebirth as the "first fruits" of a holy nation (Ex 14:15-31; Jer 2:2-3; 1 Cor 10:1-3). A symbol of their new life was the offering of the first cutting of the spring grain in the land God promised to the Patriarchs.

The first of the barley harvest was offered to Yahweh as part of the Temple worship service after the morning Tamid lamb was sacrificed and in conjunction with but separate from the continuing communal offerings of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The observance of this feast within a feast was designated a perpetual (tamid as an adverb) statute for all generations of the covenant people wherever they lived: And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute for ever [tamid] throughout your generations in all your dwellings (Lev 23:13-14). On the designated day of the Feast of Firstfruits, Jesus arose from His grave. The feast prefigured Jesus as the "first fruits" of the Resurrection of the dead when He became the first of the great harvest of souls escaping the bonds of death and given the power to enter into God's eternal storehouse in Heaven (1 Cor 15:20-23).

At Mount Sinai the covenant people were commanded not to begin the annual celebration of the Feast of Firstfruits until they took possession of the Promised Land (Lev 23:10). It is significant that the sacrifice for the Feast of Firstfruits was not part of the multiple sacrifices for the seven-day observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and was a separate observance with its own unique sacrificial offerings. It is also significant that the festival of Firstfruits determined the date of the next feast in the liturgical calendar: the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot in Hebrew, Lev 23:15-21; Num 28:26-31; Dt 16:10-12), also known as the Feast of Harvest (Ex 23:16), and which was later known among Greek speaking Jews in the first century AD as "Pentecost" (Tob 2:1; Acts 2:1).

The Greek word penetkoste means "fiftieth day" and refers to the timing of the festival fifty days after Firstfruits. From the Feast of Firstfruits seven weeks were counted (as the ancients counted), with the Feast of Pentecost celebrated at the end of seventh week on the fiftieth day (Lev 23:15-23). Pentecost celebrated the first fruits of the wheat harvest and commemorated Israel's rendezvous with Yahweh at Mount Sinai fifty days after leaving Egypt (Ex 19:6). The Jews viewed Pentecost as a covenant renewal ceremony (Jubilees 6:17-21), and the Babylonian Talmud (c. AD 250) also identifies the feast with the "day the Torah was given" to Israel (Babylonian Talmud: Pes., 68b). The feasts of Firstfruits and Pentecost were celebrated on the first day of the week within the Tamid liturgical service with specific communal sacrifices and the offering of the first fruits of the barley harvest and fifty days later the wheat harvest at God's altar. The offerings were accompanied by a formal profession of faith recounting the history God's redemption of Israel from slavery in Egypt and the giving of the Promised Land (Num 28:31; Dt 26:1-10; Antiquities of the Jews, 13.8.4 [252]).

Both the Feast of Firstfruits, which fell on the first day after the Sabbath of the holy week of Unleavened Bread, and the feast of Pentecost fifty days were fulfilled in two New Covenant miracles: the Resurrection of the divine Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 28:1-8), who was the "first fruits of the resurrected dead, and the birth of the New Covenant Church in the Upper Room on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the "first fruits" of the New Covenant people of God (Acts 2:1-4). Counting as the ancients counted, Pentecost also always fell on a Sunday, as it continues to fall on a Sunday fifty days after Resurrection Sunday according to two thousand years of Christian tradition. These were the only two feasts in the annual liturgical calendar that did not have a specific date assigned to them according to the commands God gave to Moses (Lev Chapter 23).(4)

On Resurrection Sunday, Jesus repeated His command giving the ministers of His Church the powers to bind and loose in matters of sin and forgiveness (Mt 16:16; 18:18 and repeated in Jn 20:22-23). Jesus taught the New Covenant community for forty days after His Resurrection: To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Jesus told them: ..."everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures (Lk 24:44-47). Jesus instructed His followers to teach future generations that He had fulfilled everything that was promised in the Old Testament Scriptures.

At the end of the forty days, Jesus had a meeting with His faithful disciples in Jerusalem. He told them to stay in Jerusalem, to remain in prayer, and to be prepared to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). Then, taking them to the Mount of Olives, located about a half a mile to the east of the city, He reminded them again of His promise and told them their destiny was to be His witnesses as they carried the Gospel message of salvation from Jerusalem, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:6-8).

As the Apostles and disciples watched Jesus, the vision of the prophet Daniel who saw one like a Son of man coming on the clouds of Heaven to the Ancient of Days and being presented before him (Dan 7:13) was fulfilled before their eyes as Jesus ascended in a white cloud up into the heavenly Sanctuary to be received by God the Father (Acts 1:9). Like the unblemished Tamid lamb burning on the Temple altar whose essence rose up to Heaven to be accepted by God in the smoky white cloud of the Olah, Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God that all other lambs of sacrifice prefigured, ascended in a white cloud to be accepted by God in His heavenly Temple. There Jesus took His place as both the Davidic King of the Kingdom of God and as the High Priest of the heavenly Sanctuary (Lk 1:32-33; Heb 8:1-2). And, as Daniel saw in his vision, ... to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him, his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:14; also see Ps 110:1-4; Mt 22:41-45; Heb 5:5-6; 8:1b-3).

Obeying Jesus' command to stay in Jerusalem and to continue in prayer until the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples returned to the Upper Room and prayed together for nine days in the presence of the Virgin Mary (Acts 1:4-5, 12-14).(5) On the fiftieth day since Jesus' Resurrection, it was the Jewish pilgrim feast of Pentecost (Dt 16:16; 2 Chr 8:13; Acts 2:1). Jews from across the Roman world came to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast that commemorated God's Theophany in fire on Mount Sinai, when He took the children of Israel as His holy priestly nation. They also came to attend the Sacred Assembly, to offer the required communal sacrifices within the liturgy of the morning Tamid, and to offer the first fruits of the holy land's wheat harvest at the Temple (Num 28:26-31).

On that Sunday, the promised Paraclete (Advocate), God the Holy Spirit, descended from Heaven to take possession of the faithful remnant of the old Israel who were now the community of one hundred and twenty New Covenant people of God, praying with the Virgin Mary in the Upper Room on Mount Zion in old part of Jerusalem that was also called "the city of David" (Jn 14:15-16, 26; 15:26; Acts 1:13-15; 2:1-3). It was fitting that the Virgin Mary, who experienced the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit at the Incarnation, should also be present to witness the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as He took possession of the Her Son's Kingdom of the Church (Lk 1:35). It was a baptism of holy fire that transformed Jesus' disciples into the priestly nation of the spiritually restored Israel promised by the prophets (Jer 31:31-34; Ez 36:24-27). They became the "first fruits" of the New Covenant people, receiving the first spiritual fruits of the Holy Spirit and becoming the first community of the universal Church of the everlasting Kingdom (Acts 2:1-4).

At 9 AM that morning, the people of Jerusalem and all visiting pilgrims were on their way to the Temple to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost within the liturgy of the morning Tamid worship service. Those passing by the house witnessed the spiritual ecstasy of Jesus' Apostles and disciples as they poured out of the Upper Room into the street, declaring Jesus' Gospel of salvation in all the languages and dialects of the Jewish pilgrims who had traveled to Jerusalem from across the Roman Empire (Acts 2:5-11). It was God's plan that the Resurrection of God the Son and the coming of the Paraclete were to be precisely at these two appointed times in salvation history: on the Old Covenant harvest feasts of Firstfruits and Pentecost. Not only were the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and Pentecost fulfilled in the first Advent of the Messiah, but all the sacred feasts and all the different classes of bloody and unbloody sacrifices were fulfilled in Jesus' one perfect sacrifice, as St. Paul wrote to the Jewish Christians at Colossus: Then never let anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink, or about observance of Annual Festivals, New Moons or Sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what was coming: the reality is the body of Christ (Col 2:16).(6)

It is significant that the Feast of Firstfruits was the only communal blood sacrifice of the Sinai Covenant, other than the morning and afternoon Tamid and the additional Sabbath holocaust, that required the sacrificial offering of a single, unblemished male lamb (Ex 29:38-39; Lev 22:27; 23:12; Num 28:3-4, 9-10). All the other sacrifices either required multiple male lambs (festival communal burnt offerings) or lambs and kids (Passover), or adult rams or ewes, or goats, or cattle. It is also significant that the daily Tamid sacrifice of the morning and afternoon and the sacrifice of the single male lamb on the Feast of Firstfruits were the only single lamb sacrifices designated as "tamid," meaning "standing" as in continual or perpetual sacrifices (the Sabbath lambs were not). Both the single sacrifice of the morning and afternoon Tamid and the annual Firstfruits lamb sacrifice were offered with an unleavened bread cake and red wine (Ex 29:38-42; Lev 23:12-14; Num 28:3).(7) The Firstfruits lamb sacrifice in addition to the twice daily Tamid uniquely prefigured the Passion of the Christ, His Resurrection and the Eucharistic offering of the unleavened bread cake and the red wine that becomes the resurrected Lamb on New Covenant altars. It is the Eucharist that becomes the "perpetual" (tamid) feast of the New Covenant Church that Jesus offered at the Last Supper, and which the covenant people must observe until Christ's Second Advent at the end of time as we know it.

The Feast of Firstfruits foreshadowed God's plan that the Christ should be resurrected on the Feast of Firstfruits, on a Sunday within the seven-day pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread. And the Feast of Pentecost foreshadowed that the birth of the New Covenant Church should fall on a Sunday on the Feast of Pentecost, which commemorated the fiery Theophany at Mount Sinai and Israel's election as God's holy covenant community and the Church of the Old Covenant. On the pilgrim feast of Pentecost in AD 30, faithful Jews and God-fearing Gentiles from across the Roman world were present in Jerusalem for the miracle of the birth of the New Covenant Church. The men and women who gathered in obedience to Yahweh's command to appear before His altar on the pilgrim Feast of Pentecost had the opportunity to hear of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ preached in their national dialects from the mouths of the Apostles.

Speaking in the universal language of the Gospel of salvation, the second great Pentecost's divine visitation was a reversal of the dismemberment of the universal family of God and the confusion of tongues in the event of the Tower of Babel (cf., Gen 11:1-9 and Acts 2:5-12). Men and women from across the Roman world heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached in their own languages, and they carried that message of salvation back to their homelands. It was also a reversal of the loss of the 3,000 souls in the Exodus rebellion of the Golden Calf as 3,000 of the Old Covenant people became converts to the New Covenant in Christ Jesus (Ex 32:28 and Acts 2:41).

The identification of these feasts and the events associated with them in the Resurrection of the Messiah and the coming of the Paraclete is what determined for Christians that the first day of the week, Sunday, became the day of worship for New Covenant people of the new creation which they called "the Lord's Day" (Jn 20:19; Acts 20:7; Rev 1:10).(8) That the observance of the Feast of Firstfruits was to be tamid, literally "standing" as in continual, meant it was to be a perpetual observance for all time (Lev 23:14). This divine command is fulfilled in the life of the Church as she relives the event of the Resurrection of the Messiah on every Easter Sunday. Today, in the New Covenant celebration of the first fruits of Christ's Resurrection, we count fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday, just as the ancients counted, with the first day counting as day #1 in the sequence.

Chapter summary points: The Resurrection of the Messiah
1. Immediately after His death, Jesus descended into Sheol to preach the Gospel to the dead. He redeemed all repentant and purified souls and led them into Heaven. Three days after his death (as the ancients counted), Jesus arose from the dead on the first day of the week (Sunday), the day after the Jewish Sabbath on the Feast of Firstfruits.

2. Jesus not only fulfilled all the blood sacrifices of the Old Covenant, but He also fulfilled the holy feast days, especially the first three annual feasts falling within an eight day period which included Passover, Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits:

Jesus Christ fulfilled and brought to completion salvation history's repeated theme of covenant and blood, judgment and redemption. He completed the two fold purpose that the blood of sacrifice had in God's plan for humanity: blood was the chief agent in covenant making, and blood was the chief agent in expiation/atonement for sins.

3. Christ has provided a path to Heaven, the entrance to which was closed since the Fall of Adam (CCC 536, 1026). Now the gates of Heaven are open to receive the great harvest of souls. The blessings and promises of the New Covenant both fulfill and surpass those of the Old. (Heb 8:6):

 

Endnotes:

1. The bodies of Jews who died a violent death were not washed. It was necessary that the blood be preserved with the body. It was customary for a cloth to be rolled and then tied under the chin and around the head to hold the dead person's jaw in place. Sts. John and Peter saw a head cloth rolled and set to one side in Jesus' empty tomb, apparently in the same loop shape (Jn 20:6). It was the same type of cloth used in Lazarus' burial (Jn 11:44). See The Blood and the Shroud, pages 54-55; The Anchor Study Bible: The Gospel According to John, pages 986-987.

2. The gates of Heaven were closed after the Fall of Adam and were not opened until the coming of the Messiah (CCC 536, 1026). After His death, Jesus descended into Sheol/Hades, the abode of the dead, and not into the hell of the damned (CCC 631-633). The hell of the damned, which Jesus called Gehenna (Mt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33; Mk 9:43, 45, 47; Lk 12:5; CCC 1034), was not the destination of the wicked until Heaven's gates were opened and both blessings and punishments became eternal (Wis 3:1-12; Lk 16:19-23; Mt 25:45-46). Jesus' references to Sheol in the New Testament use the Greek word for the netherworld, Hades (Mt 11:23; 16:18; Lk 10:15; 16:23). The same designation is found in Acts (2:27, 31) and in Revelation (1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14). Sheol/Hades will not be destroyed until the Last Judgment. At that time, death and Hades will be thrown into the eternal Hell/the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:14).

3. See the Apostles' Creed that states: "He descended into hell [Hades]." The Catholic Catechism defines the difference between the Hell of the damned and Hades that is the abode of the dead in CCC 633.

4. The Church still reckons the date for Pentecost by counting 50 days from Easter Sunday as the ancients counted with no zero place-value and by counting Easter Sunday as day #1 of the 50 days.

5. A novena is nine days of communal or private prayer for a special occasion or intention. The disciples prayed communally with Virgin Mary in the Upper Room for nine days before the coming of the Holy Spirit on the tenth day; this is the origin of the novena tradition (etymology = Latin novem, meaning "nine").

6. The Karaites and Samaritans are the only Jews who continue to observe Firstfruits as a feast within the seven day celebration of Unleavened Bread. They also observe the Feast of Pentecost fifty days later (as the ancients counted) with both festivals falling on the first day of the week: Sunday (A History of The Jewish People in the Time Jesus, page 37; The Second Jewish Book of Why, page 38). The dates were altered by the Temple hierarchy sometime after Jesus' Resurrection. Josephus, a former Temple priest, recorded his remembrance of the celebration of Pentecost on the first day of the week, which means Firstfruits also had to be on the first day of the week (a Sunday) fifty days earlier: And truly he did not speak falsely in saying so; for the festival, which we call Pentecost, did then fall out to be the next day to the Sabbath (Antiquities of the Jews 13.9.3 [252]; emphasis added).

7. The two lambs for the Sabbath day sacrifice, offered in addition to the Tamid (Num 28:9-10), are not designated as "tamid" = standing/perpetual sacrifices. The Passover victims could be lambs or goat kids: It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may choose it either from the sheep or from the goats (Ex 12:5 NJB).

8. Also see Mt 28:1-8; Mk 16:1-8; and Lk 24:1-10.