Friday, April 10, 2009

"Certainly this was God’s Son"

Scripture for Friday April 10 2009:
"Certainly this was God’s Son."—Matt. 27:54.

What comes to your mind when you think of Jesus on the torture stake suffering a slow and agonizing death? Perhaps you remember the ransom sacrifice that Jesus unselfishly gave in behalf of sinful mankind. (Matt. 20:28; John 15:13) You may marvel at the great love that Jehovah showed in providing that sacrifice. (John 3:16) Perhaps you feel as did the Roman army officer who said the words of today’s text. However, recall that Jesus’ last words on the torture stake were: “It has been accomplished!” (John 19:30) What had been accomplished? Was it not primarily for settling the issue of Jehovah’s sovereignty that Jesus came to earth? And was it not foretold that as the “seed,” he would suffer the extreme test at Satan’s hands so as to clear Jehovah’s name of all reproach? (Gen. 3:15; Isa. 53:3-7) These were weighty responsibilities, yet Jesus fulfilled them in every respect. What an accomplishment! (w07 12/1 2:10)

Memorial Bible reading: (Events on Nisan 14) Luke 22:66-71

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Our "Christian Passover"

A sacred meal held by the Jews every year on Nisan 14, according to the Jewish Calendar. Is it a coincidence that our Messiah Jesus poured his blood on this very same day... Nisan 14? I don't think so. Nearly 2000 years ago today (according with Jewish Calendar), Christ Jesus celebrated this special occasion with his disciples, with a glowing full moon outside that evening. Tonight, that very same full moon will be glowing upon us

Passover (Heb., pe′sach; Gr., pa′skha) was instituted the evening preceding the Exodus from Egypt. The first Passover was observed about the time of full moon, on the 14th day of Abib (later called Nisan) in the year 1513 B.C.E. This was thereafter to be celebrated annually. (Ex 12:17-20, 24-27) Abib (Nisan) falls within the months March-April of the Gregorian calendar. Passover was followed by seven days of the Festival of Unfermented Cakes, Nisan 15-21. Passover commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and the ‘passing over’ of their firstborn when Jehovah destroyed the firstborn of Egypt. Seasonally, it fell at the beginning of the barley harvest.—Ex 12:14, 24-47; Le 23:10.

Passover was a memorial celebration; therefore the Scriptural command was: “And it must occur that when your sons say to you, ‘What does this service mean to you?’ then you must say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the passover to Jehovah, who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when he plagued the Egyptians, but he delivered our houses.’”—Ex 12:26, 27.

Since the Jews reckoned the day as starting after sundown and ending the next day at sundown, Nisan 14 would begin after sundown. It would be in the evening after Nisan 13 concluded that the Passover would be observed. Since the Bible definitely states that Christ is the Passover sacrifice (1Co 5:7) and that he observed the Passover meal the evening before he was put to death, the date of his death would be Nisan 14, not Nisan 15, in order to fulfill accurately the time feature of the type, or shadow, provided in the Law.—Heb 10:1.

Laws Governing Its Observance

Each household was to choose a male sheep or goat that was sound and a year old. It was taken into the house on the 10th day of the month Abib and kept until the 14th, and then it was slaughtered and its blood was splashed with a bunch of hyssop on the doorposts and the upper part of the doorway of the dwelling in which they were to eat it (not on the threshold where the blood would be trampled on).

The lamb (or goat) was slaughtered, skinned, its interior parts cleansed and replaced, and it was roasted whole, well-done, with no bones broken. (2Ch 35:11; Nu 9:12) If the household was too small to consume the whole animal, then it was to be shared with a neighbor household and eaten that same night. Anything left over was to be burned before morning. (Ex 12:10; 34:25) It was eaten with unfermented cakes, “the bread of affliction,” and with bitter greens, for their life had been bitter under slavery.—Ex 1:14; 12:1-11, 29, 34; De 16:3.

What is meant by the expression “between the two evenings”?

The Israelites measured their day from sundown to sundown. So Passover day would begin at sundown at the end of the 13th day of Abib (Nisan). The animal was to be slaughtered “between the two evenings.” (Ex 12:6) There are differences of opinion as to the exact time meant. According to some scholars, as well as the Karaite Jews and Samaritans, this is the time between sunset and deep twilight. On the other hand, the Pharisees and the Rabbinists considered the first evening to be when the sun began to descend and the second evening to be the real sunset. Due to this latter view the rabbis hold that the lamb was slaughtered in the latter part of the 14th, not at its start, and therefore that the Passover meal was actually eaten on Nisan 15.

On this point Professors Keil and Delitzsch say: “Different opinions have prevailed among the Jews from a very early date as to the precise time intended. Aben Ezra agrees with the Caraites and Samaritans in taking the first evening to be the time when the sun sinks below the horizon, and the second the time of total darkness; in which case, ‘between the two evenings’ would be from 6 o’clock to 7.20. . . . According to the rabbinical idea, the time when the sun began to descend, viz. from 3 to 5 o’clock, was the first evening, and sunset the second; so that ‘between the two evenings’ was from 3 to 6 o’clock. Modern expositors have very properly decided in favour of the view held by Aben Ezra and the custom adopted by the Caraites and Samaritans.”—Commentary on the Old Testament, 1973, Vol. I, The Second Book of Moses, p. 12; see DAY.

From the foregoing, and particularly in view of such texts as Exodus 12:17, 18, Leviticus 23:5-7, and Deuteronomy 16:6, 7, the weight of evidence points to the application of the expression “between the two evenings” to the time between sunset and dark. This would mean that the Passover meal was eaten well after sundown on Nisan 14, for it took considerable time to slaughter, skin, and roast the animal thoroughly. Deuteronomy 16:6 commands: “You should sacrifice the passover in the evening as soon as the sun sets.” Jesus and his apostles observed the Passover meal “after evening had fallen.” (Mr 14:17; Mt 26:20) Judas went out immediately after the Passover observance, “And it was night.” (Joh 13:30) When Jesus observed the Passover with his 12 apostles, there must have been no little conversation; then, too, some time would have been occupied by Jesus in washing the apostles’ feet. (Joh 13:2-5) Hence, the institution of the Lord’s Evening Meal certainly took place quite late in the evening.

At the Passover in Egypt, the head of the family was responsible for the slaying of the lamb (or goat) at each home, and all were to stay inside the house to avoid being slain by the angel. The partakers ate in a standing position, their hips girded, staff in hand, sandals on so as to be ready for a long journey over rough ground (whereas they often did their daily work barefoot). At midnight all the firstborn of the Egyptians were slain, but the angel passed over the houses on which the blood had been spattered. (Ex 12:11, 23) Every Egyptian household in which there was a firstborn male was affected, from the house of Pharaoh himself to the firstborn of the prisoner. It was not the head of the house, even though he may have been a firstborn, but was any male firstborn in the household under the head, as well as the male firstborn of animals, that was slain.—Ex 12:29, 30; see FIRSTBORN, FIRSTLING.

The Ten Plagues upon Egypt all proved to be a judgment against the gods of Egypt, especially the tenth, the death of the firstborn. (Ex 12:12) For the ram (male sheep) was sacred to the god Ra, so that splashing the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorways would be blasphemy in the eyes of the Egyptians. Also, the bull was sacred, and the destruction of the firstborn of the bulls would be a blow to the god Osiris. Pharaoh himself was venerated as a son of Ra. The death of Pharaoh’s own firstborn would thus show the impotence of both Ra and Pharaoh.

In the Wilderness and the Promised Land

Only one Passover celebration in the wilderness is mentioned. (Nu 9:1-14) The keeping of the Passover during the wilderness journey likely was limited, for two reasons: (1) Jehovah’s original instructions were that it must be kept when they reached the Promised Land. (Ex 12:25; 13:5) (2) Those born in the wilderness had not been circumcised (Jos 5:5), whereas all male partakers of Passover had to be circumcised.—Ex 12:45-49.

Record of Passovers Observed. The Hebrew Scriptures give direct accounts of the Passover (1) in Egypt (Ex 12); (2) in the wilderness at Sinai, Nisan 14, 1512 B.C.E. (Nu 9); (3) when they reached the Promised Land, at Gilgal and after the circumcision of the males, 1473 B.C.E. (Jos 5); (4) at the time that Hezekiah restored true worship (2Ch 30); (5) the Passover of Josiah (2Ch 35); and (6) the celebration by Israel after the return from Babylonian exile (Ezr 6). (Also, mention is made of Passovers held in Samuel’s day and during the days of the kings, at 2Ch 35:18.) After the Israelites were settled in the land, the Passover festival was observed “in the place that Jehovah will choose to have his name reside,” instead of in each home or in the various cities. In time, the chosen place came to be Jerusalem.—De 16:1-8.


After Israel had settled in the Promised Land, certain changes were made and various accretions came about in observing the Passover. They no longer partook of the feast in a standing position, or equipped for a journey, for they were then in the land that God had given them. The first-century celebrants customarily ate it while lying on their left side, with the head resting on the left hand. This explains how one of Jesus’ disciples could be “reclining in front of Jesus’ bosom.” (Joh 13:23) Wine was not used at the Passover in Egypt nor was there any command given by Jehovah for its use with the festival. This practice was introduced later on. Jesus did not condemn the use of wine with the meal, but he drank wine with his apostles and afterward offered a cup for them to drink as he introduced the Lord’s Evening Meal, the Memorial.—Lu 22:15-18, 20.

According to traditional Jewish sources, red wine was used and four cups were handed around, although the service was not restricted to four cups. Psalms 113 to 118 were sung during the meal, concluding with Psalm 118. It is likely that it was one of these psalms that Jesus and his apostles sang in concluding the Lord’s Evening Meal.—Mt 26:30.

Customs at Passover Time

Great preparations were made in Jerusalem when the festival was due, as it was a requirement of the Law that every male Israelite and every male of the circumcised alien residents observe the Passover. (Nu 9:9-14) This meant that vast numbers would be making the journey to the city for some days in advance. They would come before the Passover in order to cleanse themselves ceremonially. (Joh 11:55) It is said that men were sent out about a month early to prepare the bridges and put the roads in good order for the convenience of the pilgrims. Since contact with a dead body rendered a person unclean, special precautions were taken to protect the traveler. As it was a practice to bury persons in the open field, if they died there, the graves were made conspicuous by being whitened a month ahead. (The Temple, by A. Edersheim, 1874, pp. 184, 185) This supplies background for Jesus’ words to the scribes and Pharisees, that they resembled “whitewashed graves.”—Mt 23:27.

Accommodations were made available in the homes for those coming to Jerusalem for Passover observance. In an Oriental home all the rooms could be slept in, and several persons could be accommodated in one room. Also, the flat roof of the house could be used. Added to this is the fact that numbers of the celebrants obtained accommodations outside the city walls, especially at Bethphage and Bethany, two villages on the slopes of the Mount of Olives.—Mr 11:1; 14:3.

Questions as to Time Order

It was a question of defilement that gave rise to the words: “They themselves did not enter into the governor’s palace, that they might not get defiled but might eat the passover.” (Joh 18:28) These Jews considered it a defilement to enter into a Gentile dwelling. (Ac 10:28) This statement was made, however, “early in the day,” hence after the Passover meal had taken place. It is to be noted that at this time the entire period, including Passover day and the Festival of Unfermented Cakes that followed, was at times referred to as “Passover.” In the light of this fact, Alfred Edersheim offers the following explanation: A voluntary peace offering was made on Passover and another, a compulsory one, on the next day, Nisan 15, the first day of the Festival of Unfermented Cakes. It was this second offering that the Jews were afraid they might not be able to eat if they contracted defilement in the judgment hall of Pilate.—The Temple, 1874, pp. 186, 187.

“The first day of the unfermented cakes.” A question also arises in connection with the statement at Matthew 26:17: “On the first day of the unfermented cakes the disciples came up to Jesus, saying: ‘Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the passover?’”

The expression “the first day” here could be rendered “the day before.” Concerning the use of the Greek word here translated “first,” a footnote on Matthew 26:17 in the New World Translation says: “Or, ‘On the day before.’ This rendering of the Gr. word [pro′tos] followed by the genitive case of the next word agrees with the sense and rendering of a like construction in Joh 1:15, 30, namely, ‘he existed before [pro′tos] me.’” According to Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, “[pro′tos] is sts. [sometimes] used where we should expect [pro′te·ros (meaning ‘former, earlier’)].” (Revised by H. Jones, Oxford, 1968, p. 1535) At this time, Passover day had come to be generally considered as the first day of the Festival of Unfermented Cakes. So, then, the original Greek, harmonized with Jewish custom, allows for the question to have been asked of Jesus on the day before Passover.


At John 19:14, the apostle John, in the midst of his description of the final part of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, says: “Now it was preparation of the passover; it was about the sixth hour [of the daytime, between 11:00 a.m. and noon].” This, of course, was after the time of the Passover meal, which had been eaten the night before. Similar expressions are found at verses 31 and 42. Here the Greek word pa·ra·skeu·e′ is translated “preparation.” This word seems to mark, not the day preceding Nisan 14, but the day preceding the weekly Sabbath, which, in this instance, was “a great one,” namely, not only a Sabbath by virtue of being Nisan 15, the first day of the actual Festival of Unfermented Cakes, but also a weekly Sabbath. This is understandable, since, as already stated, “Passover” was sometimes used to refer to the entire festival.

Prophetic Significance

The apostle Paul, in urging Christians to live clean lives, attributes pictorial significance to the Passover. He says: “For, indeed, Christ our passover has been sacrificed.” (1Co 5:7) Here he likens Christ Jesus to the Passover lamb. John the Baptizer pointed to Jesus, saying: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” (Joh 1:29) John may have had in mind the Passover lamb, or he could have been thinking of the male sheep that Abraham offered up instead of his own son Isaac or of the male lamb that was offered up upon God’s altar at Jerusalem each morning and evening.—Ge 22:13; Ex 29:38-42.

Certain features of the Passover observance were fulfilled by Jesus. One fulfillment lies in the fact that the blood on the houses in Egypt delivered the firstborn from destruction at the hands of the destroying angel. Paul speaks of anointed Christians as the congregation of the firstborn (Heb 12:23), and of Christ as their deliverer through his blood. (1Th 1:10; Eph 1:7) No bones were to be broken in the Passover lamb. It had been prophesied that none of Jesus’ bones would be broken, and this was fulfilled at his death. (Ps 34:20; Joh 19:36) Thus the Passover kept by the Jews for centuries was one of those things in which the Law provided a shadow of the things to come and pointed to Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God.”—Heb 10:1; Joh 1:29.

"Keep doing this in remembrance of me" - Luke 22:19,20

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reliving Jesus' Last Days on Earth - Nisan 12 & 13

Nisan 12 and 13

Jesus spends Nisan 12 quietly with his disciples. He realizes that the religious leaders desperately want to kill him, and he does not want them to hinder his Passover celebration the following evening. (Mark 14:1, 2) The next day, Nisan 13, people are busy making final arrangements for the Passover. Early in the afternoon, Jesus sends Peter and John to prepare the Passover for them in an upper room in Jerusalem. (Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:8) A little before sundown, Jesus and the other ten apostles meet them there for their last Passover celebration.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Reliving Jesus' Last Days on Earth - Nisan 11

Nisan 11

It is early in the morning, and Jesus and his disciples are already on their way over the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. As they arrive at the temple, the chief priests and the older men are quick to confront Jesus. Fresh on their minds is his action against the money changers and the traders in the temple. His enemies venomously demand: "By what authority do you do these things? And who gave you this authority?" "I, also, will ask you one thing," Jesus counters. "If you tell it to me, I also will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism by John, from what source was it? From heaven or from men?" Huddling together, the opponents reason: "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why, then, did you not believe him?' If, though, we say, 'From men,' we have the crowd to fear, for they all hold John as a prophet." Stumped, they weakly answer: "We do not know." Jesus calmly responds: "Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things."—Matthew 21:23-27.

Jesus' enemies now try to trap him into saying something for which they can have him arrested. "Is it lawful," they ask, "to pay head tax to Caesar or not?" "Show me the head tax coin," Jesus retorts. He asks: "Whose image and inscription is this?" "Caesar's," they say. Confounding them, Jesus states clearly for all to hear: "Pay back, therefore, Caesar's things to Caesar, but God's things to God."—Matthew 22:15-22.

Having silenced his enemies with irrefutable argumentation, Jesus now goes on the offensive before the crowds and his disciples. Listen as he fearlessly denounces the scribes and the Pharisees. "Do not do according to their deeds," he says, "for they say but do not perform." Boldly, he pronounces a series of woes on them, identifying them as blind guides and hypocrites. "Serpents, offspring of vipers," Jesus says, "how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?"—Matthew 23:1-33.

These scathing denunciations do not mean that Jesus is blind to the good points of others. Later, he sees people drop money into the temple treasury chests. How touching to observe a needy widow drop in her entire means of living—two small coins worth very little! With warm appreciation, Jesus points out that, in effect, she has dropped in far more than all who made lavish contributions "out of their surplus." In his tender compassion, Jesus deeply appreciates whatever a person is able to do.—Luke 21:1-4.

Jesus is now leaving the temple for the last time. Some of his disciples remark on its magnificence, that it is "adorned with fine stones and dedicated things." To their surprise, Jesus replies: "The days will come in which not a stone upon a stone will be left here and not be thrown down." (Luke 21:5, 6) As the apostles follow Jesus out of the congested city, they wonder what he could possibly mean.

Well, a little later Jesus and his apostles sit and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Mount of Olives. As they take in the splendid view of Jerusalem and the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew seek clarification of Jesus' startling prediction. "Tell us," they say, "When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?"—Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:3, 4.

In reply the Master Teacher gives a truly remarkable prophecy. He predicts severe wars, earthquakes, food shortages, and pestilences. Jesus also foretells that the good news of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the earth. "Then," he warns, "there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world's beginning until now, no, nor will occur again."—Matthew 24:7, 14, 21; Luke 21:10, 11.

The four apostles listen attentively as Jesus discusses other aspects of 'the sign of his presence.' He emphasizes the need to "keep on the watch." Why? "Because," says he, "you do not know on what day your Lord is coming."—Matthew 24:42; Mark 13:33, 35, 37.

This has been an unforgettable day for Jesus and his apostles. It is, in fact, the last day of Jesus' public ministry before his arrest, trial, and execution. Since it is getting late, they start walking back the short distance over the hill to Bethany.

Bible reading of Luke Chapter 20 below:

Faith? Works? or Both?

"Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able."—Luke 13:23, 24.

Which is Right?

The Bible says: "A man is declared righteous by faith apart from works of law." It also says: "A man is to be declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone." Which is right? Are we declared righteous by faith or by works?—Romans 3:28; James 2:24.

The harmonious answer from the Bible is that both are correct.

For centuries the Law that God gave through Moses had required Jewish worshipers to make specific sacrifices and offerings, to observe festival days, and to conform to dietary and other requirements. Such "works of law," or simply "works," were no longer necessary after Jesus provided the ultimate sacrifice.—Romans 10:4.

But the fact that these works performed under the Mosaic Law were replaced by Jesus' superlative sacrifice did not mean that we can ignore the Bible's instructions. It says: "How much more will the blood of the Christ . . . cleanse our consciences from [the older] dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God?"—Hebrews 9:14.

How do we "render sacred service to the living God"? Among other things, the Bible tells us to combat the works of the flesh, to resist the world's immorality, and to avoid its snares. It says: "Fight the fine fight of the faith," put off "the sin that easily entangles us," and "run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus." And the Bible urges us not to 'get tired and give out in our souls.'—1 Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 12:1-3; Galatians 5:19-21.

We do not earn salvation by doing these things, for no human could ever do enough to merit such an astounding blessing. We are not worthy of this magnificent gift, though, if we fail to demonstrate our love and obedience by doing the things that the Bible says God and Christ want us to do. Without works to demonstrate our faith, our claim to follow Jesus would fall far short, for the Bible clearly states: "Faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself."—James 2:17.

Go here for a detailed article on this subject.

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