The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
Silence settled down on the sanctuary of the Most High, when this band, led by Judas, left the Temple. No one slept in the city that first night of the Passover all the ages down from Moses in memory of their father leaving Egypt in the night; for it was to foretell the terrible scenes that night when the Son of God began his Passion.
At the twenty-four " Stations " the night guards are keeping watch. People are walking or talking in the Hall of the Lischat-ha-Gazith, where the Sanhedrin had met. (Talmud, Jerus. Malmonides, xxii. 68-69.) The first guards of 240 Levites had been changed at ten p.m. and the second band had taken their places, to stand guard till two am., when the third watch would come on. The gates are all open this night. The priests are in the large hall of the Beth-ha-Moked warming themselves, or eating parts of the sacrificed animals and the unleavened cakes, which had been removed the Saturday before from the Holies. Priests, Levites and people fill the courts. To the north of the Temple area, adjoining Pilate's palace, in the Antonia tower, the Roman soldiers with their terrible short swords, spears, helmets, in armor and shields, are keeping watch over the turbulent Jews thronging Temple, streets and city. For they had often broken out in rebellion during the Passover, when so many strangers thronged Judea.
The fierce fires of hell had broken loose. Satan, who could not tempt the Saviour when he kept his fast on the lonely Mount, nor enter into his sacred humanity, nor gain a single victory over him, now enters the mind of Judas, fills him with the love of money, and he comes to the priests for the price of betrayal they promised him. Now from the sacred Corban, the temple Treasury where the money was kept with which to buy the offerings for the sacrifices, they took thirty pieces of silver, about $10.80 of our money, and they gave it to him, to show them the place where they could find Jesus. This was foretold.
"And they weighed for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, Cast it to the statuary, a handsome price that I was priced at by them, and I cast it into the house of the Lord." (Zach, xi. 13, 13,) We will see later how Judas brought back the money to the chief priests, and cast down the money as was foretold, and went and hanged himself.
The first act of the terrible deed was done. The ruin of the Temple, the end of the sacrifices were drawing near. The prophecies were about to be accomplished; the vast ceremonial typifying the death of Christ would be fulfilled the next day, when God would no more receive sacrifice from the hands of that deicide priesthood. But on Sion had been established another sacrifice, the Mass, which they symbolized, which would be offered to the ends of earth, and down all the generations of men as the prophets had foretold.
"I have no pleasure in you, said the Lord of hosts, and I will not receive a gift of your hand. For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation, for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts. And you have profaned it, in that you say, The table of the Lord is defiled, and that which is laid thereupon is contemptible with the fire that devoureth it," (Malach. I, 10-12)
The officers of the Temple, led by Judas, went out the Sheep Gate, through which they always went to buy the victims for the sacrifices and the Omer, and they wended their way down into the Cedron valley, towards Gethsemane garden, over against the Temple's eastern walls, to get the Victim of man's redemption.
Can we give the names of these leaders of the band ? The Talmud (Talmud, Babyl., Vol. IV.) tells us the names of the officers of the Temple at that time, and no doubt these were the men Judas led that night.
There was Johanan son of Pinchas, keeper of these Four Seals of the Sanctuary : 1, the Egel for calves; 2, Sachar for rams; 3, Gdi for kids: 4, Houte for sinners,—seals given worshipers when their victims were examined and the money paid. Johanan received the money, gave the seal. When the sacrifice was offered, the seal was given to A'hia when settling up the Temple accounts in the evening. If too much money was found, it belonged to the Temple. If too little was turned in, Johanan had to make it up out of his own pocket.
There was Mathia, son of Samuel, superintendent of the Lots, who presided when the " courses" of the priests were selected each Sabbath to carry on the services of the coming week.
Ministering in their bare feet they were troubled with colds and bowel complaints, and Ben A'hia was the official superintendent of the physicians, who looked after their health and attended them when sick.
Petha'hia looked after all who cared for bird-offerings, saw that they carefully examined them for blemishes, and that the birds were rightly sacrificed or let go.
Ne'huniah supervised the waterworks, the flushing of the great drains, the brazen sea, the washing of the pavements, etc.
Ben Gabhar, the turnkey, cared for the great Temple gates, took care they were opened and closed at proper times, kept the keys, and saw them deposited each evening under the stone in the Beth-ha-Moked.
Hegros, son of Levi, leader of the choirs of Priests and Levites, took care of the organ, musical instruments, and saw the singing and music properly carried out.
Eleazar, overseer, saw to making and hanging the thirteen veils used in the Temple, and watched the young virgins and other workers while they wove the magnificently embroidered curtains to be hung in the sacred edifice.
Pinchas had charge of the vestments, was master in the vestry, superintended the manufacture of priestly and Levitical robes, went to the Roman guard in the Antonia a month before the great feasts, brought the high priest's vestments into the Temple, and saw all neatly and properly kept cleaned or repaired if required.
These officers were elected. But other duties belonged for many generations to families. Thus the Garmos family always had one of its sons as superintendent of making the proposition bread, called by Jewish writers the " showbread." Preparing and making incense was in the hands of the Abtenas family. Besides there were three treasurers, who looked after the money in the treasury and kept account of the finances. There were seven chamberlains, called Catholicos, who kept all the rooms and courts swept and cleaned.
With the money rolled in the folds of his girdle, Judas passes again over the bridge thrown across the Tyropceon Valley to Sion, up the main street to the Cenacle. But the Lord and his band had departed. Back he came again to the Temple, and he told them that Christ was not at the Cenacle, but he knew the place where Jesus and his disciples were accustomed to pray. Now a band of the Temple guards, with Roman soldiers from the Antonia tower, carrying lanterns, cords, and staves surround Judas, who agrees to show them the place.
It was a covenant with hell, as a prophet foretells: " And your league with death shall be abolished, and your covenant with heli shall not stand, when the overflowing scourge shall pass, you shall be trodden down with it." (Isaias xxviii. 18.) As these noisy crowds with Judas at their head, at about twelve o'clock that night, pass out the Sheep Gate down into the Cedron Valley, let us go back to Jesus Christ in Gethsemane.
Gethsemane, "the wine-press," is about a quarter of a mile from the eastern Avails of Jerusalem. It is a garden in which flourished the vine, olive, fig, pomegranate—an inclosed place where often Jesus retired to pray. The garden was much larger then than now. When the Romans under Titus cut down the trees, some sprouts of the olives sprung up, which they say became the trees now living in the garden of our day.' They certainly seem to be very old. About 300 or 400 feet to the north is the Virgin's tomb, and near by is the Grotto of the Agony. Here the Twenty-second Legion of the Roman army under Titus camped when they came up from Jericho and invested the doomed city. Land on hills tends to descend, storms continually wash down the soil, filling valleys, and now the Virgin's tomb, as well as the Grotto of the Agony are some twelve to twenty feet under the soil which has slid down from Olivet's steep side. But these places are guarded with great care, and altars mark the site of the historic events. Who owned the garden ? History is silent.
Some writers think Gethsemane belonged to Lazarus, (Farrar, Life of Christ; Creswell, Harmonia Evangelica, etc.) or Mark's mother, or one of the Apostles. But the more probable opinion is that it belonged to some member of the collateral line of David's family, as to Mary second daughter of Joakim, wife of Cleophas, or to the mother of James, Jude, Joseph and Simon. (Matt, xxvii. 56 ; Mark xv. 40.) Just to the north of the present Gethsemane are the tombs where were buried Christ's grandparents, Joakim and Anna. There they buried his Mother Mary, showing that the garden belonged to Christ's family.
Beside these tombs was a grotto in the rock or an abandoned tomb eighteen by twenty feet. (M. de Vogue.) It was a lonely place where the Saviour used to retire for prayer. In it were some seats and there men watching the garden used to retire on stormy nights. That was the Grotto of the Agony. If he touched the tombs he contracted a legal defilement. ( Numb. xix. 16.) There St. Helena built a chapel when she visited Palestine, and its ruins could be still seen in the eleventh century.