THE PREPARATION FOR THE PASSION.
FIRST A FEW WORDS.
How the Divine Son, co equal and eternal God with the Father, begins His work of atoning for the sins of the members of that human nature He united with when He became man; how He leaves Bethany and comes to take possession of Jehovah's Temple, with its magnificent services; how the priests and judges rejected and condemned Him to death ; the Passover or Last Supper: these now will be our story.
MORNING AT BETHANY, THE PALM SUNDAY PROCESSION.
At first sight of the rising sun over the mountains of Moab, beyond the Dead Sea, at 5.49 A. M., as astronomy tells, priests stationed on Olivet's summit, blew three blasts from great silver trumpets to warn priests on the Temple tower to open the great gates and prepare for the morning sacrifices.
At that time Jesus Christ rose from the raised divan, or platform running round three sides of the inner room of Lazarus' house in Bethany. Trumpets' tones always woke the people for morning prayers and labors.
In the same room slept Lazarus, Mary and Martha, his sisters. The beds were only blankets laid on the raised seat, no sheets were used, a bundle of clothes made a pillow, and blankets or comfortables were drawn over the sleepers. Palestine and Bethany have hardly changed, and poor people there still lay on the floor with their clothes on, wrapped in blankets, or sleep outside with a stone for a pillow, like Jacob. (Gen. xxviii. 18.)
The Jews were very particular in washing after sleep. " He who washes not his hands before eating is guilty of as great a crime as to eat pork." " He who neglects hand-washing deserves to be punished here and hereafter," says the Book of Sohar 1. " He is to be destroyed out of the world, for in hand-washing is contained the secret of the Ten Commandments. He is guilty of death." "Three sins bring poverty after them, and to slight hand-washing is one of them," says the Mishna. 2 "He who eats bread without hand-washing is as if he went in to a harlot," says Rabbi Jose. The Talmud says : " It is better to go four miles to water than to incur guilt by neglecting hand-washing," 3 "He who does not wash his hands after eating is as bad as a murderer." 4 " The devil Schibta sits on unwashed hands and on the bread." 5
The special mark of the Pharisees was that " they ate their daily bread with due purification," and any one who would not do the same was despised as being unclean; The Shulchan Aruch gives twenty six rules for the rite of washing hands in the morning. It is astonishing to what a slavery of external forms and details the Jews of the time of our Lord were addicted. The Talmud says : " Any one living in the land of Israel, eating his daily food in purification, speaking the Hebrew of the day, and saying morning and evening prayers duly with the phylacteries, is certain that he will eat bread in the kingdom of God." 6
Having risen from the bed, if he followed these rules, Christ was not allowed to move four steps before washing his hands and face. For the Rabbis taught that this was necessary to cleanse him from the defilement of sleep, the image of death, 7 He could not touch his face, or any part of the body till this was done. After dressing, he lifted the ewer with his right hand, and passing it to his left, three times he poured clear, cold Rabbinically clean water over the right hand, the fingers of which were opened and pointed to the ground. He washes the left hand three times in the same way. Putting together the tips of his ten fingers, he lifted them up, so the water ran down to the elbows, and then he turned them down so the water dripped off his fingers, fresh water being poured on them as they were lifted up, and twice again as they hung down. He rubbed the closed fist in the hollow of one hand.
When the hands were washed before eating, they were held upwards, when washed after eating they were held downwards, but so the water would not run beyond the knuckles. 8 Each time he poured the water the Jew said: " Blessed art Thou, who hast given us the command to wash the hands." It was disputed among them whether the cup of blessing or the hand-washing should come first, whether the towel ought to be laid on the table or on the couch, or whether the table was to be cleared before or after the final washing, etc. 9 We have given these details from Jewish writers to show to what a slavery religion had been reduced at the time of Christ. Every act of life, every detail, each move, from the cradle to the grave, had been surrounded by the most senseless rules and regulations.
But back of all these human rules and forms, was the religious life of Israel coming from God through Moses and the prophets directed by the Shekina, the Holy Spirit. From the moment he woke up, the Jew was to turn his thoughts to God. " Every Israelite," says Maimonides, "should be penetrated at all times by reverence for his Almighty Creator. The central thought of the godly and devout man is: I have set the Lord continually before me." " As if he stood before a king of flesh and blood, he should never forget the requirements of right conduct and ceremonial purity," 10 Sleep is a kind of death, in which the soul leaves the body, Pharisees taught, and returns again when awakened, and the Jew was thankful for this return of life each morning, and he turned his thoughts towards God, saying over and over again:
"My God, the soul which Thou hast given me is clean, thou hast created it, formed it, and breathed it into me, and thou wilt take it from me and restore it to me again. While this soul lives in me, I thank thee, O, Eternal One, my God, and the God of my fathers, Lord of all works, King of all souls, Praised be thou, O, Eternal who puttest the souls again into dead bodies." 11
Then standing with their faces turned toward the Holy City, they put their Phylacteries on their foreheads and on their left arms, and standing with bowed heads they all recited the Sh'ma and other morning prayers.
The morning ablutions and prayers over, the breakfast, called in Greek ariston, began. A little stool about eighteen inches high is brought in and placed in the middle of the room, and Christ, with Lazarus, Mary and Martha sit on the floor, their feet in Oriental fashion curled under them. Before eating they all wash their hands again. Because they did not use knives, forks and spoons, these having come into fashion many centuries later, they dipped their right hands into the dishes, and it was necessary to have the hands very clean, and that was why they washed so often.
But this washing of the hands had become a religious custom. Under the direction of the Pharisees, they had built up a peculiar code of laws and regulations regarding the rite of the prayers before and after meals. If a Pharisee, was about to eat common food, it was enough to pour water on his hands. But in the Temple, before eating the Proposition Bread, called the Terumah, the hands must be dipped completely in the water, and before the priest could even taste the holy bread, he must take a bath. The hands must be washed in the morning before touching food, for evil spirits might have defiled the hands during the night.
1 Gen. f, 60. 2.
2 Shabbath. 62. 1.
3 Calla, f. 58. 3.
4 Tanchuma, f, 73. 2
5 Jona, f, 77. 2. gloss.
6 Shabbath, f. 3, 4.
7 Millip. 57.
8 Sepp. V. iv. p. 97.
9 Herzog Reim., V. xii., p. 418.
10 Cohen, Hist. Krit. Dars, p. 199.
11 Cohen, p. 199.