21. Journey to the cross: The heart of tradition

A Bible Study by Paula Yingst …

During my teen years, as the traditional remembrances surrounding Easter
rolled around – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Resurrection on
Sunday morning – it began to bother me that all of that simply didn’t jive
with what I was reading in my Bible. Truthfully, it really bothered me. And
as usual, I wasn’t able to find anyone, including pastors, who could give me
a satisfactory answer.

My problem was this: If Jesus said he would be in the grave for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40), why do we jump from the crucifixion on Friday to the resurrection on Sunday. No matter how I tried to rationalize that, it simply didn’t work. So for years I wondered: Why did Jesus say that?

I finally found the answer,  after my fibromyalgia diagnosis, during the time when I had no choice but to be still and let God teach me some things that I’d been too busy to pick up on earlier. Lo and behold, into my hands came a book titled, A Scientific Approach To Biblical Mysteries by Robert W. Faid (1993; Guideposts and New Leaf Press). And in Chapter 6 – under the presumptuous title,When Was the Crucifixion? It Wasn’t on a Friday! I found the answers I had been seeking for decades.

Once again we need to refer back to the fourth century and the Emperor
Constantine, who apparently forgot that Jesus himself was a Jew, because in
the year 325, he ordered all Jews to leave Rome. At that time, the Nicaean
Council ruled that Christians could have nothing to do with Jews, including
the celebration of Passover. Instead they instituted the pagan holiday known
as “Easter” to commemorate Christ’s death and resurrection in a non-Jewish
sort of way.

According to Jewish custom and the Gospel writers, here’s how it all went
down:

ON SATURDAY, (the Jewish Sabbath) Jesus entered Jerusalem on the colt of
a donkey in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy (Zechariah 9:9). Christians
call this Palm Sunday.

ON SUNDAY, Jesus entered the temple and rebuked the money changers.

ON MONDAY, Jesus returned to Jerusalem and taught in the temple courts.
And Judas Iscariot promised to betray his Teacher for 30 pieces of silver,
fulfilling the Zechariah 11:12 prophecy.

ON TUESDAY, preparations were made for Wednesday’s evening meal,
called the Passover. So, Jesus sent two of his disciples to prepare a place for the
Seder, Tuesday’s ritual evening meal. (Christians call this the Last Supper.)

ON TUESDAY NIGHT after the Seder, Jesus and his disciples – minus Judas
Iscariot – went to pray at Gethsemene. Then they walked across the Kidron
Valley to an olive grove. Judas knew where they would be, and he led the
chief priests straight to Jesus. In the middle of the night, Jesus was arrested
for blasphemy, because he claimed to be the Son of God.

ON WEDNESDAY MORNING, Jesus was brutalized and sentenced to
death. He was nailed to the cross around 9 a.m.

ON WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, Jesus died at 3 P.M. (Mark 15:33). His
body was placed in a tomb before sundown in accordance with Jewish law.

JESUS’ BODY REMAINED IN THE TOMB FOR THREE DAYS:
Thursday was Passover and people were not allowed to travel. Roman guards
stood in front of the tomb. Friday was an additional Sabbath, always observed
on the day after Passover, according to Jewish tradition. Saturday was a regular
Sabbath with travel restrictions.

ON SUNDAY travel restrictions were lifted. Visitors were allowed at Jesus’
tomb and they saw that it was empty, except for the linen shroud and the cloth
that had wrapped Jesus’ head.

 I’ve come to terms with Christian tradition regarding the remembrance of Jesus’ last days and the celebration of his glorious resurrection. After all, Jesus is much more concerned about the sincere hearts of his fully devoted followers.

*   *   *

 “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles,

my immediate response was not to consult any human being” 

— Paul (Galatians 1:14-16)