Passover & Crucifixion

LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION COLUMN FOR

March 23, 2013 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 

It must have been about 59 AD when Paul was examined by King Agrippa II at Caesarea before being shipped off to Rome to be tried by Nero.  Agrippa was the great grandson of Herod the Great.  His great grandmother was a Hasmonian princess who Herod had killed as a threat to his royal dynasty.  Paul’s words as he concluded his interview with Herod are memorable.  “For the king, before whom I speak freely, knows these things, for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner.” Paul had been speaking about the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth in Jerusalem.

Just who was present in this very public arena to be aware of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus?  The resident population of Jerusalem was about 600,000 people according to Tacitus.  At Passover the population likely doubled, so the city was crowded.  Not only was it filled with pilgrims who had come for Passover but the political notables were present.

Pilate had come in from Caesarea, not to celebrate Passover, but to keep order in a volatile revolutionary atmosphere.  He was resident at King Herod’s palace in the west of the walled city by the Jaffa Gate.  He tried Jesus.  He gave Joseph permission to bury him.  He also granted a Roman guard to secure the tomb.  He was very much involved.

Also present was Herod the Great’s son Antipas who ruled the Galilee from his father’s death until 39 AD.  He had interviewed Jesus at the behest of Pilot who wanted to avoid making the decision to crucify him.  That did not work out.

Both of these men would have stayed in Jerusalem until the Passover celebration was over.  The feast was a seven day affair.  Since Jesus was crucified on Passover, which was on Friday, the crowds would not have begun to return to their home until the Sunday after the Passover week, since they could not travel on Sabbath.  That means they had to know about the empty tomb.

The reason that six of the appearances of Jesus occur in Jerusalem, five on the first Sunday and one on the Sunday following, is because the Disciples would not have left the city until the celebration was over.

Jesus was crucified at a main intersection of the city outside the city gate just north of the Herodian palace.  He was buried in the tomb of a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin adjacent to the crucifixion location.  It was almost impossible for the city as a whole to be unaware of these events.

Late Sunday afternoon two disciples of Jesus were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  They had not yet heard of the resurrection.  Jesus joined them on the road and asked the subject of their conversation. They responded, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days.”  After Sunday that observation would have included the empty tomb.  Everyone knew about it.  No one refuted it.  Some believed.  But the words of Jesus from the parable seem appropriate for many.  “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”  Hopefully reader, you will join those who gather to celebrate the Savior’s victory over death.  “This thing was not done in a corner.”

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at ravscarle@verizon.net).  END-whs