Friday, 15 April 2016
The tragedy of Calvary. Part 75.
Rabbi Jehudah, who wrote the Mishna of the Talmud says : "In Judea work was done the day before the Passover until noon, while in Galilee no laboring work at all was done that day." "On the eve of any Passover it is not lawful for a person to eat anything from the time of the Min'hah: the Afternoon Prayer, until after dark," says the Talmud, (Babyl. Talmud, Tract Pesachim, Cap. x.) which goes into minute details of the fast and work the eve of the Passover, which lasted till sunset that Thursday.
But the people of Jericho were wont to do six kinds of work that day, three of them against the wishes of the Sages. They grafted palm trees during the whole of the fourteenth moon of Nisan, read the Shema, the morning prayers, with the additional versicles, gathered the new grain into sheaves before reaping the Omer, the First Fruits, and these three things the Rabbis allowed.
In former times the skins of the lambs were left in the Temple, in the Parvah chamber, to be sold to buy gold plates, each square and the size of a dinar, and they had so many skins they bought enough gold to cover all the walls of the Holy of Holies within and without, including the roof. In later years, before Christ, the skins were given to the master of the house where the Passover was celebrated. If the blood of the lamb had not been sprinkled on the great altar, the Ariel, or sacrificed before night, the rite would be invalid, (Pesachim, C. V., p. 109) for it foretold the blood of Christ typified by the millions of victims offered on that altar.
At two P, M. that Thursday, the Temple priests sounded the trumpets from the Temple tower, to tell the great multitudes they were ready for the sacrifices of the paschal lambs. (Gelkie, Life of Christ, II., 436.) Then Jesus Christ and his Apostles came out of their hiding-place on Olivet and went down the hill. As leader of the band of Jews according to custom, the Lord carried the lamb on his shoulders as he is represented in ancient art and in the Catacombs. They sang the Pilgrim Psalms, Christ as leader intoning the first verse, and the others chanting the second.
"I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains," etc.
"Praise the Lord for he is good," etc. (Psalms 120, 135.)
As they went on down they sang the praises of his Eternal Father in the words his earthly father David who wrote 1,100 years before. They passed on the left the entrance to the tombs of the prophets of his race, who foretold his every act in the terrible tragedy about to be enacted the next day. On the right was Annas' summer residence, the Beth-Ini, shaded by two great cedars ; a little below Christ had wept over the deicide city, where now stands the church of the Dominus Flevit, " Lord wept." They passed lower down between Gethsemane and Grotto of the Agony, there were the tombs of his grandparents, the burial-place of his ancestors, and later of his Mother. They cross the road leading to Bethany and Jericho and ascending the hill, they enter through the Golden Gate, and mount the steps up into the Temple area.
Not less than ten nor more than twenty formed a band of Jews to eat the paschal lamb. Surrounded by his Apostles came the Prince of the House of David clothed in purple, as Prince of David's dynasty. For the last time came the Lord to his Father's Temple. In Christian art Christ is shown with the purple Imation, the garment worn by leaders in Israel. As the descendants of Mohammed to our day dress in green, so members of royal families were clothed in purple at the time of Christ, even if the family had lost the throne. Members of David's family were highly honored at that time, and the Talmud tells us that when they entered the Temple criers made way for them with the words: " Give honor to the family of David." In the Temple prayers the members of David's family were specially mentioned.
At three o'clock that Thursday afternoon, on the Nicanor steps, stood Temple priests who blew great blasts on their silver trumpets, to tell the waiting multitudes that they were ready for the sacrifice of the paschal lambs. Their leader lifted up his voice and cried : " People of the Lord, listen. The time for sacrificing the paschal iamb has arrived in the name of Him who rests in this holy house."
Great multitudes of the people dressed in holiday attire fill the Choi and the cloisters, divided up into bands, the leader of each carrying the little victim. Along the way leading up to the Nicanor Gate are twelve Levites, each with a silver staff in his right hand, and on the other side the same number of Levites with gold staves. They are to keep the people in order, and they strike the stone pavement as a sign of their authority. 1
Now three bands, Christ and his Apostles forming one of them, enter the Court of Israel, and advance into the Priest's Court. In imagination, we can see the lordly Pharisees with their large Phylacteries on brow and arm, white-robed Essenes in the Temple that day among the five hundred priests and the half a thousand Levites mingling with the vast crowds.
These thirty or more men forming three divisions were called, the first the Tekiah, " the Assembly "; the second, the Teruah, "the Congregation "; and the third, the Tekrab, "Israel." At three o'clock they began to slaughter the lambs, all down the ages, for at this hour Christ was to die on the cross.
The priests detailed now come forth and examine the lambs for blemishes. Finding none, the priests give each lamb a drink of water to foretell the vinegar and gall they offered Christ. Then another priest pours on him a chalice of wine.
They lead him to the north side of the great altar of sacrifice, the Ariel, and tie his right feet to his left feet, forming with the cord a cross. Now the Saviour with his twelve Apostles put their hands under the lamb, raise him up and and offer him to the Lord as a victim of sin, as Christ was offered on the cross. That is, they held the lamb as high as their heads, and moved him to the north, south, east and west, making with him a cross in the air, as Christ was raised up on his cross to fulfil what all the victims foretold. They lowered the lamb to the floor of the Temple, and all the members of the band placed their hands over the victim, palms down, thumbs forming a cross, and all together placed their sins 011 him, saying :
"I entreat thee, O Jehovah, I have sinned, I have done perversely, I have rebelled, I have committed (here each one confesses to God his particular sins). But I return in penance, and let this be for my atonement. 2 "
Along the Priests' Court, from the lamb to the great marble steps leading up to the top of the great altar on the south side, range two rows of priests vested in magnificent robes of white, scarlet, blue, and cloth of gold, with miters on their heads, all ministering bare-footed, while at their head stands Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest, in the eight vestments God prescribed for Aaron. One line of priests had each a gold chalice in his right-hand, the priests of the other row had each a silver chalice. These vessels, called cos, had no bases, so they could not be put down, lest the blood might be left to coagulate. (1 Pesachim, c. vi., etc.)
1 The Talmud gives a description of this scene in a letter from Jerusalem to the king of Spain. Staves are still used in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at Easter.
2 Levit iv, 15; ii. 1-8; xiv. 21. Edersheim, Temple, pp. 87, 88, 92, 230, etc.