In my last post, I said that I would be writing about realizing that what I know might not be so. This isn’t that post, but I wanted to get this one up in time for Good Friday; it’s just an interim post, but given that this is Holy Week, it is timely. And it is an example of possibly knowing something that might not be so.
Hosanna! / Crucify Him!
Have you ever wondered what could have happened in just five days that would turn a crowd of worshipping pilgrims into a mob calling for Jesus to be executed as a criminal? Yes, I do get that humans are fickle and can be easily swayed, but “Crucify Him!”? Really?
And I know that we have all heard or read sermons where this fickleness is the subject. Just this past Palm Sunday, our pastor likened all of us (not just my church, humanity) to the people of Jerusalem on both occasions, able to praise or condemn at a moment’s notice, but….
Maybe What I Know Ain’t So
Let’s fill in some background for the Last Supper/Passover and the Good Friday events.
First off, Passover occurs on the 15th day of Nisan, in late March or April. Recall that the vernal equinox, the first day of Spring, occurs near the end of March, or very near the time of Passover. The important detail to remember, here, is that the days and nights at this time are very much equal, 12/12. In our lingo, sundown would be 6:00 pm and dawn 6:00 am, approximately.
Next fact, Jewish days are not midnight to midnight, but from sundown to sundown. Hence, the day of Passover (and the Passover meal) would not begin until after sundown of that evening (traditionally Thursday, since we say that Christ was crucified on Good Friday.) So, the Pesach meal would not have begun until some time after 6:00 pm.
Fact three: the Passover (Last Supper) is a long, big meal, involving readings, prayers, hymns, rituals, and a feast that includes four (count ‘em, 4!) cups of wine. And in keeping with the Law, everyone in Jerusalem would be in their homes keeping this feast. The Passover meal, with the events that are recorded in the Gospels, more than likely lasted 3.5-4 hours. In other words, a late-night event.
Gethsemane and Arrest Facts:
Sometime late in the night, after the meal, Jesus and the disciples sing a final hymn (Mt. 26:30), leave Jerusalem, and walk in the night to the olive garden of Gethsemane that overlooks Jerusalem, on the east. Here, Jesus spends a long time in prayer and the disciples fall asleep.
(Question for you guys—any given Fall Sunday, after you come home, have Sunday dinner and turn on football, do you go to sleep? Well, 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, after a large meal and four cups of wine, so did the disciples.)
Tradition says that Jesus was arrested around 3:00 am. If Judas left the Passover to sell out Jesus in the middle of the Passover meal, why didn’t he lead the guard back to that upper room? And why at 3:00 in the morning? Could it be that the chief priests, etc., wanted Jesus’ arrest to be as secret as possible? Like in the middle of the night, outside the city, with no one around?
We know that Jesus was taken to the residence of the chief priest, Caiaphas, and held/examined for several hours.
Final Countdown: Jesus Sentenced and Crucified, 6:00 – 9:00 am
These two o’clock times are hard, specific facts, the outside time limits of the next section:
And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. (Mk. 15:1, ESV)
And it was the third hour when they crucified him. (Mark 15:25, ESV)
“As soon as it was morning” – given that the days and nights were 12/12, this means that the decision to take Jesus to Pilate to ask for crucifixion occurred about 6:00 in the morning.
“The third hour” – since time wasn’t told by the clock, the Jews divided the day into twelve approximate periods, with the third hour being the equivalent of our 9:00 am, the sixth hour being our 12:00 noon, and so on, until the 12th hour equivalent to the end of the day, 6:00 pm. With 9:00 am as our end point, let’s work backward through the events using the gospel of Mark 15 as our catalog, and see just how much happened within that three-hour period:
- Jesus crucified by 9:00 am. v.24-25
- Simon forced to help carry the cross. v. 21
- Jesus marched to Golgotha, approx. a half-mile. v.20
- Jesus mocked, beaten, and scourged by a large number of soldiers (battalion?). v.17-19
- Jesus was taken into palace prison by soldiers. v.16
- Pilate delivers him to soldiers. v. 15
- Pilate asks crowd about Jesus vs. Barabas, debating with them. v. 6-14
- Pilate questions Jesus. v. 2-5
- Jesus taken to Pilate, about 6:00 am. v. 1
Looking at the events that are recorded in Mark 15 for this time period, I think it quite logical to believe that Jesus was condemned by Pilate before 8:00 in the morning, less than 2 hours after sunup. “Why,” you ask?
a) Jesus was in a Roman prison chamber for a good while being beaten and tortured. I don’t believe that this was just a light, five-minute punch-up, but a tie-’em-down-and-flay-’em whipping. That takes a bit of time and effort.
b) It’s about a half-mile walk from the Fortress Antonia to the accepted site of Golgotha. Yes, not a long walk for a healthy man, but Jesus had sweat blood during the night, been beaten by Temple guards and beaten by Roman soldiers. He was so weak by this time that Simon of Cyrene was forced to help him carry his cross. In other words, something less than a brisk morning stroll.
Now, The Nub…
Given that the priests and temple officials arrested Jesus in secret in the middle of the night;
And given that they hustled Jesus to Pilate at dawn;
And given the likelihood that Jesus was condemned to crucifixion by Pilate before 8:00 am,
And given that most of Jerusalem was waking up from a late dinner that morning,…
What are the odds that the Passover pilgrims who greeted Jesus with cries of “Hosanna” all got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, regretting their excess of the previous Sunday, and decided to go down to Pilate’s judgment hall first thing in the morning to express their repentance with a cry of “Crucify him”?
Instead, consider this: from the gospel accounts, who were the people up and awake throughout the night, who knew of Jesus’ arrest (participating in them, as well)? Temple and Sanhedrin personnel, those Temple guards and officials who carried out the orders of the priests, and the Sanhedrin, and their followers who had condemned Jesus to death in their assembly.
Isn’t it more likely that these were the people who were shouting “Crucify him!”, the officials and hangers-on who had been involved in conducting this charade of a trial, and who were part of the assemblage that marched Jesus to Pilate, rather than people who woke up and decided to go to Pilate’s Fortress Antonia before 8:00 am in the morning?
Maybe it’s just me, but,… yeah, I think it more likely.