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The 'Feast of Unleavened Bread,' which commenced in the Passover night itself and lasted for seven days, derived its name from the Mazzoth, or unleavened cakes, which were the only bread allowed during that week. This is called in Scripture 'the bread of affliction' (Deut 16:3), as is commonly supposed, because its insipid and disagreeable taste symbolised the hardship and affliction of Egypt. But this explanation must be erroneous. It would convert one of the most joyous festivals into an annual season of mourning. The idea intended to be conveyed by the Scriptural term is quite different. For, just as we should ever remember the death of our Savior in connection with His resurrection, so were Israel always to remember their bondage in connection with their deliverance. Besides, the bread of the Passover night was not that of affliction because it was unleavened; it was unleavened because it had been that of affliction. For it had been Israel's 'affliction,' and a mark of their bondage and subjection to the Egyptians, to be driven forth in such 'haste' (Deut 16:3; Exo 12:33,39) as not even to have time for leavening their bread. Hence also the prophet, when predicting another and far more glorious deliverance, represents Israel, in contrast to the past, as too holy to seek enrichment by the possessions, and as too secure to be driven forth in haste by the fear of those who had held them captives:
'Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence,--touch no unclean thing; Go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of Jehovah. For ye shall not go out with hast,--nor go by flight: For Jehovah will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your reward' (Isa 52:11,12).
The Passover, therefore, was not so much the remembrance of Israel's bondage as of Israel's deliverance from that bondage, and the bread which had originally been that of affliction, because that of haste, now became, as it were, the bread of a new state of existence. None of Egypt's leaven was to pervade it; nay, all the old leaven, which served as the symbol of corruption and of death, was to be wholly banished from their homes. They were to be 'a new lump,' as they were 'unleavened' (1 Cor 5:7). Thus what had originally been the necessity of one day, became the ordinance of a feast, bearing the sacred number of seven days. As the cross has become to us the tree of life; as death hath been abolished by death, and captivity been led captive by the voluntary servitude (Psa 40:6,7) of the Lord of glory, so to Israel the badge of former affliction became the symbol of a new and joyous life, in which they were to devote themselves and all that they had unto the Lord.
The First Day of the Feast
The same truth is fully symbolised in the sacrifices of this feast, and especially in the presentation of the first ripe sheaf on the second day of the Passover. The first day of 'unleavened bread,' or the 15th of Nisan, was a 'holy convocation,' when neither servile nor needless work was to be done, that only being allowed which was necessary for the joyous observance of the festival. After the regular morning sacrifice the public offerings were brought. These consisted, on each of the seven days of the festive week, of two young bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs for a burnt-offering, with their appropriate meat-offerings; and of 'one goat for a sin- offering, to make an atonement for you' (Num 28:19-24). After these public sacrifices (for the whole congregation), the private offerings of each individual were brought, commonly on the first day of the feast (the 15th of Nisan), but if this had been neglected, on any of the other days. These sacrifices were a burnt-offering, of the value of at least one meah of silver * (= 1/3 denar, or about 2 1/2 d.); then, the 15th day Chagigah (literally, festivity), of the value of at least two meahs of silver (= 5d.); and lastly, the so- called 'sacrifices of joyousness' (Deut 27:7), in which every one was left at liberty to offer, according to 'the blessing which the Lord had given' to each (Deut 16:17).
* In this, as in many other particulars, the teaching of Shammai differed from that of Hillel. We have followed Hillel, whose authority is generally recognised.
Both the Chagigah and the 'offerings of joyousness' were 'peace- offerings.' They required imposition of hands, sprinkling of blood, burning of the inside fat and kidneys on the altar, and the proper setting aside of what went to the priest, viz. the breast as a wave- and the right shoulder as a heave-offering (Lev 3:1-5; 7:29-34); the difference, as we have seen, being, that the wave-offering belonged originally to Jehovah, who gave His portion to the priests, while the heave-offering came to them directly from the people. The rest was used by the offerers in their festive meals (but only during two days and one night from the time of sacrifice). Tradition allowed the poor, who might have many to share at their board, to spend even less than one meah on their burnt-offerings, if they added what had been saved to their peace- offerings. Things devoted to God, such as tithes, firstlings, etc., might be used for this purpose, and it was even lawful for priests to offer what had come to them as priestly dues (Mishnah, Chag. i. 3, 4). In short, it was not to be a heavy yoke of bondage, but a joyous festival. But on one point the law was quite explicit--the Chagigah might not be offered by any person who had contracted Levitical defilement (Pes. vi. 3). It was on this ground that, when the Jews led 'Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment,' they themselves went not into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might 'eat the Passover' (John 18:28). And this brings us once more to the history of the last real Passover.
The Day of Our Lord's Betrayal
'It was early' on the 15th day of Nisan when the Lord was delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. In the previous night He and His disciples had partaken of the Passover Supper. The betrayer alone was too busy with his plans to finish the meal. He had, so to speak, separated from the fellowship of Israel before he excommunicated himself from that of Christ. While the Passover services in the 'guest-chamber' were prolonged by the teaching and the intercession of the Master, and when the concluding rites of that night merged in the institution of the Lord's Supper, Judas was completing, with the chief priests and elders, the betrayal of Jesus, and received the 'reward of iniquity' (Acts 1:18). Either the impetuosity of the traitor, or, more probably, the thought that such an opportunity might never come to them again, decided the elders, who, till then, had intended to delay the capture of Jesus till after the Feast, for 'fear of the multitude.' It was necessary to put aside, not only considerations of truth and of conscience, but to violate almost every fundamental principle of their own judicial administration. In such a cause, however, the end would sanctify any means.
The Arrest of Our Lord
Some of their number hastily gathered the Temple guard under its captains. A detachment of Roman soldiers under an officer * would readily be granted from the neighboring fortress, Antonia, when the avowed object was to secure a dangerous leader of rebellion and to prevent the possibility of a popular tumult in his favor.
* We derive our account from all the four Gospels. The language of St. John (18:3,12) leaves no doubt that a detachment of Roman soldiers accompanied such of the elders and priests as went out with the Temple guard to take Jesus. Thee was no need to apply for Pilate's permission (as Lange supposes) before securing the aid of the soldiers.
A number of trusty fanatics from the populace accompanied 'the band.' They were all armed with clubs and swords, 'as against a murderer'; and though the dazzling light of a full moon shone on the scene, they carried torches and lamps, in case He or His followers should hide in the recesses of the garden or escape observation. But far other than they had expected awaited them in 'the garden.' He whom they had come to take prisoner by violent means first overcame, and then willingly surrendered to them, only stipulating for the freedom of His followers. They led Him back into the city, to the Palace of the High Priest, on the slope of Mount Zion, almost opposite to the Temple. What passed there need not be further described, except to say, that, in their treatment of Jesus, the Sanhedrim violated not only the law of God, but grossly outraged every ordinance of their own traditions. *
* We cannot here enter on the evidence; the fact is generally admitted even by Jewish writers.
Possibly the consciousness of this, almost as much as political motives, may have influenced them in handing over the matter to Pilate. The mere fact that they possessed not the power of capital punishment would scarcely have restrained them from killing Jesus, as they afterwards stoned Stephen, and would have murdered Paul but for the intervention of the Roman garrison from Fort Antonia. On the other hand, if it was, at the same time, their object to secure a public condemnation and execution, and to awaken the susceptibilities of the civil power against the movement which Christ had initiated, it was necessary to carry the case to Pilate. And so in that grey morning light of the first day of unleavened bread the saddest and strangest scene in Jewish history was enacted. The chief priests and elders, and the most fanatical of the people were gathered in Fort Antonia. From where they stood outside the Praetorium they would, in all probability, have a full view of the Temple buildings, just below the rocky fort; they could see the morning sacrifice offered, and the column of sacrificial smoke and of incense rise from the great altar towards heaven. At any rate, even if they had not seen the multitude that thronged the sacred buildings, they could hear the Levites' song and the blasts of the priests' trumpets. and now the ordinary morning service was over, and the festive sacrifices were offered. It only remained to bring the private burnt-offerings, and to sacrifice the Chagigah, * which they must offer undefiled, if they were to bring it at all, or to share in the festive meal that would afterwards pursue.