Chapter Thirteen

                 HOLY THURSDAY (EREV PESACH)

       Mark and Matthew both report that two days before the Passover, the
Sadducean leaders ("chief priests"), collaborators with the Roman
occupiers, made a decision to seek Jesus out and to have him arrested.
Matthew relates that they met in the home of Caiphas, the High Priest, to
discuss ways and means of locating and capturing him. There seems to have
been some sort of agreement among them that the arrest should not take place
on the holiday itself because that would risk provoking a riot by the
people. One insurrection had just been put down the day before, and the
popular mood was no doubt still seething. This is one reason that some New
Testament scholars are of the opinion that the Last Supper was NOT a seder
meal, but was rather a dinner which took place on the eve of the day
preceeding Passover, yet most believe that Passover fell on a Friday that
year, if for no other reason than that the tradition definitely states that
the Resurrection occurred on a Sunday, "after three days", that is to say,
a STRONG tradition insisted upon by the Church that Jesus was killed on the
Passover holiday itself which was a Friday, and this DESPITE the recorded
datum that the Sadducees wished to avoid an arrest on the holiday. That
Talmudic Judaism insists that neither a trial nor an execution may occur on
a holiday is beside the point. This is a PHARISAIC assertion which may not
have affected the thinking of the Sadducees. Additionally, although no
historical record yet exists regarding the EXACT year in which Jesus was
executed, C.E. 30 seems to be the year ascribed by Christian tradition.
During that year, Thursday evening, April 7, fell on the night of the full
moon. This date would correspond to the evening of the 15th day of Nisan
which is the date for Passover according to the Jewish calendar. Since we
are not sure of the true historical chronology of the events of Passion
Week, we tentatively accept the traditional Christian chronology which
says that Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover Seder as the Last
Supper on Thursday night, that Jesus was arrested that same night, that he
was tried in the early hours of the following Friday morning, and that he
was executed by Pontius Pilate on that very Friday which was Passover.

     "After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened
      bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they
      might take him by craft, and put him to death. But they said, Not
      on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people."
                         Mark 14:1-2

     "And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings,
      he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the
      feast of the passover ... ".
                         Matthew 26:1-2

       The "Cleansing of the Temple" began on Monday and ended on the
evening of that day or on the evening of the following day. Jesus and his
disciples were once again in hiding as they had been previously in Galilee.
This time, at the home of one Simon, nick-named, "the Leper", in the suburb
of Bethany. "Leper" does not indicate that he currently suffered from the
disease since then no Jew would have been able to approach him (Leviticus
13:45-46), but rather that he had once had the sickness and had been cured,
possibly by Jesus himself.

       If the feast of Passover were two days away, then the day that the
Sadducees convened to plan Jesus' arrest would have been Tuesday. This
would have given Jesus sufficient time to leave Judea and return to
Galilee, lost in the throng of incoming pilgrims. On the other hand, a
small band of Jews travelling AWAY from Jerusalem, as the holiday ap-
proached, might be MORE suspicious, and arouse the attention of the
authorities. Therefore, it would have behooved Jesus to remain hidden
somewhere in the vicinity of Jerusalem until AFTER the holiday when he
could leave camaflaged amid the departing throng of pilgrims. That would
however give the Sadducees a full week to locate him, try him, and hand him
over to the Romans for punishment. It is not that they sought Jesus alone,
but probably were seeking out ALL whom they considered ring-leaders of
the insurrection. The gospel authors are concerned solely with Jesus as
they make the cabal appear to be interested solely in Jesus since his
arrest, trial, and death are germane to the Christian scheme of
salvation. However it is apparent that other revolutionaries were also
rounded up from the incident of Barrabas.

       However, fear of detection brought about by flight from the Holy
City during the holiday may NOT have been the factor motivating Jesus to
remain in Judea. Jesus had reached the conclusion that he was the
long-awaited messiah, - king of the Jews. The failure of the insurrection
was insufficient ground to shake him of that conviction. There is every
reason to believe that Jesus' ego was very strong and that one setback
could not undermine him in his convictions, no matter what the setback
might be. He may very well have thought that, since the Kingdom of G-d was
at hand, the Temple ought be purified or rebuilt BEFORE the coming holiday.
The resulting failure to achieve this may merely have made him feel that
the action had been slightly premature, an attempt to force G-d's hand
before the proper time. Passover was still at hand and somehow soon G-d
would act and he, Jesus, would be revealed in his royal aspect.

       During the time that Jesus lived, Jews referred to the initial days
of the holiday differently than they do today. The day that is today
referred to as PESACH, Passover Holiday, was at that time called CHAG
HAMATSOT, Holiday of Unleavened Bread, and it was upon the eve of CHAG
HAMATSOT that the Seder, the Passover ritual meal, was held. The day that
is nowadays called EREV PESACH, Eve of Passover, was formerly known as CHAG
HAPESACH, Holiday of the Pascal Sacrifice. This may appear confusing to
those not familiar with the festal decription given in the Pentateuch, so a
brief explanation may be in order.

       On the 14th day of the month of Nisan, the family or co-op group of
Jews was to take the Pascal lamb that had been purchased earlier, and bring
it to the Temple to be sacrificed, and eaten by the group on the afternoon
of the 14th into the evening begining the 15th of Nisan. The eve of the
15th began the holiday of MATSOT on which the Seder took place, - that is,
the eating of unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and the telling of the
story of the Exodus, at the end of which, the eating of the Pascal
sacrifice was completed; all of this was to be done before sunrise of
the 15th. The holiday of MATSOT lasted for 7 days during which time no
unleavened product was to be eaten or benefitted from. Therefore the gospel
writer correctly states:

     "Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples
      came to Jesus, saying unto him, where wilt thou that that we pre-
      pare for thee to eat the passover? And he said, Go into the city
      to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at
      hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my diciples. And
      the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them ; and they made
      ready the passover."
                          Matthew 26:17-19

       (Luke 22 adds that the disciples sent were specifically Peter
and John who later became leaders of the Nazarene movement.)

       That is, on Wednesday, the FIRST day of the feast which was CHAG
HAPESACH, Jesus and the disciples were prepared to return to Jerusalem to
sacrifice the Pascal lamb and to eat it there, in spite of the fact that
they were wanted men! This can only mean that they STILL believed that G-d
would establish His Kingdom at the time of the holiday, and that they would
be safe in Jerusalem.

       The next element of the gospel story is rather difficult to piece
together accurately. It concerns the betrayal of Jesus by his disciple
Judas Iscariot. As has been stated in chapter 8, no clear picture of his
personna emerges from the narrative. The gospels merely emphasize the fact
that he revealed Jesus' whereabouts on the night of the Last Supper, and
because of that, paint him as entirely evil, with no redeeming qualities

       John (12:6) informs us that Judas was the one who was entrusted with
the communal purse, and that he was a thief, KLEPTIS, although how he
thieved is not related.

       The story of the offer to betray Jesus is brief in each of the
gospels. Mark (14:10-11) tells us, suddenly without any prior indication,
that he went to the Sadducees and asked them how much they would pay him
for disclosing Jesus' whereabouts. Matthew (26:14-16) repeats this story
and adds the detail that they agreed to pay him 30 pieces of silver. Luke
(22:3-6) attributes his act of betrayal as a result of Satanic possession
but gives no reason as to why HE in particular was chosen as Satan's agent.
Luke also adds the detail that Judas looked for an opportunity when there
would be no crowds around who would pro- tect Jesus and prevent his arrest.
John (13:2) also attributes the instigatin of the deed to Satan but says
that the impulse to betray his master came upon Judas at the end of the
Last Supper whereas the synoptics all say that the decision to betray
Jesus happened before the holiday had begun.

       There has been a tendency in recent years to theorize that Judas
acted out of positive motives, that is, because of his alleged Zealot
leanings, he wanted to bring about a confrontation between Jesus and the
ruling powers. This, supposedly, would FORCE Jesus to reveal himself as
the messiah and immediately overthrow the existing order of Roman
occupation, and Sadducean and Herodian collaboration. In effect, Judas was
tired of waiting for the Kingdom to appear, according to this theory, and
tried to bring it about by placing his master in a situation whereby he
would have no other choice but to act immediately and decisively. This
story is designed to exonerate Judas by showing that he has more faith in
Jesus' messianic abilities than the other disciples. Some have even gone
so far as to add to this theory that the betrayal itself was in reality a
scheme worked out secretly between Jesus and Judas. Those who advance this
theory are inclined to identify Judas as a Zealot, equating his surname
Iscariot with the Latin word SICARIUS, "dagger man", which we have already
seen, in chapter 8, the Romans sometimes applied to certain groups of
Zealots who committed political assassinations. But it is no where
ascertained that Judas WAS a Zealot,and the identification of Iscariot with
SICARIUS is at best a doubtfull etomology. If the gospel writers had at all
thought of him as having sympathies with the Zealot party, it would have
been more to the point for John, in referring to Judas as a thief (12:6),
to have used, not the ordinary word for thief, KLEPTIS, but rather the word
LESTAS, "mugger", which is the word that the Romans used to derrogate the
Zealots. Again, those who hold to the exoneration theory fail to
understand that the incident in the Temple a few days prior had been been
an attempt on Jesus' part to hurry the arrival of the Kingdom of heaven and
to prompt G-d to allow him to reveal himself as the messiah. An attempt
which had proven embarrassingly unsuccessful. Therefore why would Judas,
who himself had taken part in the abortive siezure of the Temple wish to
hurry Jesus into another possible failure so soon?

       The truth is that we can never know for sure just why Judas acted
as a traitor. We know so little about him. He remains as much of an enigma
as the other disciples about whom virtually nothing is known, with the
exception of Simon Peter and of the sons of Zebedee.

       One disturbing thing about Judas is that his name, in both Hebrew
and Greek, is synonymous with the Jewish people, and the pecunary motive
ascribed to him by the evangelists, make him more of a SYMBOL of supposed
Jewish enmity to Jesus than a real flesh and blood person, leading some to
conjecture that there never existed a real disciple named Judas Iscariot,
but that he was a fabrication in the minds of the gospel authors. This
however is not historically likely.

       Jesus and his disciples arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the
passover. Gathered together at a "safe house", they sat down to begin the

       One can picture them all, beginning the joyous meal, in a state of
high expectation of the immanent arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven. One can
see Jesus lifting the first of the four cups of wine and reciting the
sanctification blessing:

     "Blessed are You, Oh L--d G-d, King of the universe, Who has
      chosen us out of all peoples, and has exalted us above all
      nationalities, and made us holy by Your commandments, and in
      love has given us ... this festival of matsot, a time for our
      freedom ... in memory of the Exodus from Egypt ... Blessed are
      You, Oh L--d, Who sanctifies Israel and the festivals."

       One can see Jesus then drink from the cup and then pass it to each
of his disciples, asking them each to drink of it, and to remember him
sharing the cup with them, and telling them that just as now they were
commemorating the Egyptian redemption, soon they would be celebrating the
final complete redemption, as he encouraged them, saying,

     "Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the
      vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of G-d."
                        Mark 14:25

       One can see Jesus lifting the matsah, reciting:

     "This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in Egypt.
      Let anyone who is hungry come and and eat with us. Let anyone
      who is in need come and celebrate the passover with us."

       Poignantly, with a special knowing feeling, he must have said
the words:

     "Now we are slaves, next year at this time may we be free people."

       And again encouraging them:

     "With desire I have desired to eat this passover (meal) with you
      ... For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it
      be fulfilled in the kingdom of G-d."
                     Luke 22:15-16

       Then after they had all recounted, among themselves, the story
of the Exodus from Egypt, Jesus added:

     "And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed
unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit
on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
                    Luke 22:29-30

       Clearly the original tradition shines through, that of an expected
EARTHLY kingdom; one of THIS world, where people EAT and DRINK at the
messianic feast (Isaiah 25:6). And the apostles shall have their reward
for devoting their lives to Jesus, and to the Kingdom of G-d, in that they
shall constitute the MESSIANIC SANHEDRIN (Psalms 122:4-5); THEY shall be
the new Men of the Great Assembly just as Jesus is to be the new Ezra,
ensuring the propagation of the Torah, its teaching and its practice.

       Then after having recited the Grace After the Meal, and having
concluded the eating of the Pascal sacrifice, they recited the Hallel (Mark
14:26;Matthew 26:30) which are Psalms (Ps 113-118) that are recited on
those occasions when Jews remember G-d's salvations.

       The Seder then having been concluded, Jesus now asked the dis-
ciples to accompany him to the Mount of Olives on the east end of the City,
there to await the the final revelation of G-d and the onset of the Kingdom
of Heaven which, he was sure, must surely occur before the rising of the
sun on this day of Redemption. It was at this point that Judas Iscariot
slipped out, unnoticed by the other disciples who were now beginning to be
overcome by fatigue, the hour being late and they having consumed the four
cups of Seder wine.

       Before leaving the house however, Jesus asked the disciples to arm
themselves with swords (Luke 22:36), a most unusual request since generally
the use of weapons is forbidden on a holiday unless there is an absolute
emergency need to do so although a sword may be worn as an ornament on such
a day. The disciples replied to him that they possessed at least two
swords (Luke 22:38) to which Jesus replied that they would be sufficient,
probably as a symbolic display of readiness to fight G-d's fight against
the enemy.

       This incident of the swords reinforces the idea that there was
nothing essentially incompatible between the philosophy of the Zealots and
that of the Nazarenes, namely, that one must be prepared to do battle for
the Kingdom of G-d. We have alluded to the fact that several of Jesus'
disciples were indeed Zealots, if not by actual party affiliation then at
least by sympathy, and that their being Galileans predisposed them to
Zealotism. Although Christianity has turned Jesus into the Pacific Christ,
he himself had said that his mission in life was to kindle a fire on the
earth and he wished the conflagration had already begun (Luke 12:49). And
was this not the reason that he had come to Jer usalem? Had not the Temple
takeover been the intended spark of a messianic flame to burn the world
in a messainic purification, a baptism of fire to prepare in for the coming
of the L--d?

       Jesus and the disciples headed east and when they had passed over a
brook called Kidron, they arrived at the foot of the Mount of Olives. There
they entered a public park called Gethsemane (Heb. Gat-shemanim, "garden
of olive oil"), a place which they had frequented in times past (John
18:2), and consequently the place to which Judas would suspect them to have

       The Mount of Olives, on the eastern end of Jerusalem, has long
messianic associations. It is the place which David frequented as a place
of prayer (2nd Samuel 15:30-32), and there, the prophets said, would be the
place of the messianic revelation.

     "And the glory of the L--d went up from the midst of the city,
      and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the
                       Ezekiel 11:23

     "Then shall the L--d go forth, and fight against those nations,
      as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand
      in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem
      on the east ... "
                       Zechariah 14:3-4

       On this mountain the Red Heifer was burnt whose ashes remove the
defilement of Israel. It was called the Place of the Footstool of G-d. It
was also known as HAR HAMESHICHAH, the Mountain of Annointing. It could
also easily have been called HAR HAMESHIACH, the Mountain of the Annointed
One. Here other would-be-messiahs had gathered their followers to await
G-d's miraculous redemtion, such as the false Egyptian prophet. (Acts
21:38, also Josephus, Antiquities 20:169; Wars 2:262;).

       A midrash states that the messiah will ascend the Mount of
Olives, and there the great SHOFAR shall be blown for the resurrection
of the dead.

       Jesus bade the disciples to wait while he took Peter and the sons of
Zebedee with him a little distance, and asked them to pray with him and to
watch for G-d's deliverance with him. The gospels relate that three times
Peter, James, and John fell asleep and were awakened by Jesus who expressed
his disappointment that they could not muster up the stamina to remain
awake to pray and watch with him on this Passover night which is also known
as "The Night of Watching" for G-d's salvation. If this vignette has no
basis in historical fact, then it may have been influenced by the midrash
of the first SHAVUOT, holiday of Pentecost. It is related that on the night
that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, he had asked the
Children of Israel to re- main awake and watch the divine revelation. The
story continues that the weary Israelites were unable to keep their eyes
open and fell asleep. In the morning Moses expressed his disappointment
that they had not managed to stay awake. In response, the Jewish people
promised that for all future time they would not sleep on the night of
SHAVUOT but would remain awake all night to read and study the Torah.

       There in the Garden of Olive Oil, at the base of the Mountain of
Annointing, Jesus prayed for G-d to reveal him as the messiah of his
people, to deliver his people from the Kingdom of Arrogance. Then the
transquility of the night was broken. Judas Iscariot appeared, leading the
Sadducean police. Jesus alerted the disciples, told them to awaken. Judas
approached and revealed Jesus' identity to the Temple police by kissing
Jesus, a pre-arranged signal. As the police began to apprehend Jesus, those
disciples who were carrying swords now drew them and began to engage the
police. Peter cut off the ear ofone of the arresting of- ficers. Mark, the
earliest of the evangelists, has no tradition of Jesus attempting to stop
his disciples from defending him with arms. Ultimately by force of numbers,
the police overcame the disciples' re- sistence and subdued them. Jesus now
saw that further resistence to his arrest would be of no avail. It was up
to G-d now to act (Matthew 26:52 -53), and he still believed that his G-d
WOULD intervene to save him. It was at this point however that his
disciples abandoned him. We are told that the very men who had followed him
for so long, who had so strongly believed in him and the messianic promise
he had held out, who had devoted their whole lives to him, now fled,
leaving him alone, to be taken away as a common criminal. The arresting
officers apparently were only interested in Jesus and made no attempt to
prevent the escape of the disciples.

       As they led him away, Jesus turned to them and asked:

     "Are ye come out, as against a thief (LESTAS), with swords and
      with staves to take me?"
                           Mark 14:48

       Surely the double entendre could not have been missed by the police.
Jesus had employed the word LESTES, "briggand", the very word used by the
ruling authorities to denote Zealots and freedom-fighters, which isexactly
how they perceived him, - another Galilean trouble-maker who was
dangerous to the status quo of the ruling order of Romans and native

       The Sadducees had wanted to avoid arresting Jesus on the holiday
because of his popularity with the masses, they feared another riot would
erupt. But Judas had forced their hand and disrupted their time-table. He
had found the opportunity when Jesus and the disciples would be alone,
without the protection of the crowds. All the common people in Jerusalem
were in their homes, conducting the Seder. Some were already asleep. Jesus
was unprotected and now he was ni their custody.

       The police led him away to the palace of Caiaphas, the High Priest.
John says it was to the home of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas (John

       The disciples had fled but Peter had stopped himself and turned
back. Jesus had designated him as the foundation stone of the group, and he
felt ashamed of his initial panic. From a distance, he followed Jesus and
the arresting police to the palace of Caiaphas.

Feel free to send King Solomon email; CLICK HERE

Click to return to the JN Menu

Click to return to the Literary Index

Click to return to the Website Index Page

Copyright 1997