Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem – Palm Sunday

An unusual encounter happened one day while Jesus was working his way through villages and towns heading toward Jerusalem for the final time. Some Pharisees forewarned him that Tetrarch Herod was looking to have him killed.[1]

No fan of the Pharisees nor Herod Antipas who beheaded John the Baptist, the response was blunt: “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’” [2]Jesus finished by quoting from Psalms 118:26.[3]

LK 13:35 “…I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”

PS .118:26 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” (NKJV)

Lazarus had been raised from the dead in Bethany by Jesus who had then slipped away to Ephraim to escape the constant turmoil. After a short period of time, he returned to Bethany for a Saturday night dinner at the home of Simon the leper, presumably one of the many lepers previously healed by Jesus.

Martha was serving the meal, her sister Mary and brother Lazarus were also in attendance along with all 12 Disciples.[4] Outside, a crowd of onlookers gathered to see Jesus and Lazarus, the novelty man who had been raised from the dead.[5]

Sunday the next morning, Jesus sent Disciples, Peter and John into Jerusalem a couple of miles away to fetch a donkey and find a place to observe the Passover.[6] The entire episode was a mysterious mission – a gift of a donkey with its young colt by an unidentified person who would also provide a place to observe the Passover meal.[7]

Not knowing any specific details, only clues, the sign for the Disciples would be to find a man carrying a jar of water, a tied-up mother donkey and its colt.[8] They were to untie the donkey and if he asked about it, they were to say, “The Lord needs it.”[9] From there, they were to follow the man to a house, then say to house owner, “The Teacher says, ‘My time is near. I will observe the Passover with my disciples at your house.’”[10] It was not a request.

Exactly as Jesus had said, it happened. Peter and John found the donkey with a colt, the person with the donkey asked what they were doing and after responding as instructed, the man then led them to a house. The owner showed them an upstairs room, fully furnished and prepared for the Passover. [11] The two Disciples then took the donkeys to Jesus.[12]

Matthew and John Gospels point out that this upcoming event was a fulfillment of the Zachariah messiah prophecy that foretold the King of Israel would arrive riding on a donkey. Specifically, the foal colt of a donkey – at that age, it had never been ridden.[13]

Zech 9:9:  “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (NRSV)

All four Gospel authors write about that day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem seated on a donkey colt when people, many of whom had seen Lazarus raised from the dead, began chanting, laying down their outer garments and placing palm branches in his path. Seeing and hearing all the commotion, others asked, “Who is this?” Christianity refers to this triumphal entry as “Palm Sunday.”[14]

JN 12:12-13  “The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:  “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!”” (NKJV)

“Hosanna” is a shortened version of the Hebrew saying “Anna Adonai hoshi-‘ah-nna” from Psalms 118:25.[15] A customary cry of joyful celebration, “hosanna” traces to ancient Jewish times when a marching procession would wave branches of palm, myrtle and willow each day of the Sukkot festival (aka the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles). [16]

Jewish Encyclopedia:  “According to John xii. 13…which has the story preserved in its original form, the same cry was raised by the multitude on the occasion of Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem. They “took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”—that is, the verse following “Anna Adonai hoshi’ah-nna” in the Hallel psalm — and then called him “the King of Israel.” … The Psalm verses recited have been interpreted by the Rabbis also as referring to the advent of the Messiah…”[17]

Sukkot begins five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement which is one of the three annual pilgrim festivals required by the Law given to Moses, usually falling in the month of September.[18] Often referred to as the “season of our Rejoicing,” the holiday serves a dual purpose to both celebrate the harvest as well as the Hebrews emerging from the 40 years of wondering in the Sinai desert wilderness where they lived in temporary shelters called “tabernacles.”

Seventh and final day of the Sukkot festival is called “Hoshanna Rabbah” meaning “Great Salvation.” It is the day when the Jewish nation is judged by God whether or not to be worthy of the seasonal rains.[19]

Psalms 118 is regarded in Judaism as the concept of salvation pointing to the arrival of the Messiah.[20] In Rabbi Rashi’s commentary of the Micah 5:2(1) Bethlehem prophecy, he quoted from Psalms 118:22 saying “the stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone” saying it refers to “the Messiah, son of David.”[21] Interestingly in reverse, the Rabbi sage did not provide this same commentary for the actual verse of Psalms 118:22.[22]

A two-fold prophetic scenario may have unfolded. Days earlier, Jesus predicted the Pharisees would not see him until people shouted out the Psalm 118 Messiah praise. Zechariah foretold very specifically that the Messiah would come riding on a foal colt donkey. Both scenarios occurred a short time later when the throng in Jerusalem actually shouted the exact hosanna praise during the triumphal entry of Jesus to Jerusalem riding on a colt donkey.

Was Messiah prophecy fulfilled that Palm Sunday?

 

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REFERENCES:

[1] Luke 13:31.
[2] Luke 13:32. NJKV.
[3] Luke 13:35.
[4] Matthew 26:6; John 11:43-44, 54; 12:1-2.
[5] John 12:9.
[6] Luke 22:8.
[7] Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 19:28-36. John 11:18; 12:12.
[8] Mark 14:13. Luke 19:30-34.
[9] Matthew 21:3; Luke 19:31-35.
[10] Mark 14:14.
[11] Mark 14:15.
[12] Matthew 21:7; Luke 19:35; John 12:14.
[13] Matthew 21:5; John 12:15.
[14] Matthew 21:2-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-16.
[15] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7893-hosanna> Psalms 118:25. BibleHub. Lexicon. 2021.<https://biblehub.com/lexicon/psalms/118-25.htm> “3467. yasha.” BibleHub. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3467.htm>
[16] “What is Sukkot.” Chabad.org. 2014. <http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/4784/jewish/What-is-Sukkot.htm>  Rich, Tracey R.  “Sukkot.” JewFAQ.org. n.d.  <http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm>
[17] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia.
[18] Deuteronomy 16:9-17.
[19] Lawrence, Natan. HoshanaRabbah.org. “Origin of “Hoshana Rabbash.”” 11/15/2019. <https://hoshanarabbah.org/blog/2019/11/15/origination-of-hoshana-rabbah> Rich. “Sukkot.”
[20] “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13051-salvation> “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. Psalms 118:15. BibleHub. Lexicon. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/lexicon/psalms/118-15.htm>  “3444. yeshuah.” BibleHub. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3444.htm>  Psalms 118:15. Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. 2021. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16339/showrashi/true>  Psalms 118:25. BibleHub. Interlinear. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/interlinear/psalms/118-25.htm>  “3467. yasha.” BibleHub. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3467.htm>
[21] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary.
[22] Micah 5. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16191/showrashi/true> Psalms 118. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary.

Was Jesus Born as the Messiah, the Son of God?

Two big questions often come to mind about the birth of Jesus, especially during the Christmas season … was Jesus really born and is Jesus the Son of God, the Messiah?

Simple logic, beyond what the Gospels say, can answer the first question. A personage named Jesus divided world history into two eras – before his life and after his life. That alone makes Jesus the most impactful figure in history. No one else has been so influential as to change calendars. Consider the likelihood this monumental change to historical dating was based on a fictitious figure. Logic dictates Jesus had to be a real historical person in order to change history.

Secular dating revisions have introduced “BCE” (Before the Common Era) to replace “BC” (Before Christ) or “CE” (Common Era) instead of “AD” (Anno Domini – year of our Lord). It is viewed by many as intended to exclude any reference to Christ or Lord.[1] Nevertheless, the “BCE” and “CE” designations are still based on the fact that the calendar change occurred at the same point in time as the life of Jesus.

Religion archenemies of Christianity commonly agree on the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Jewish ancestral birth records and lineage of Jesus are undisputed by Judaism.[2] The miraculous conception of Mary and the birth of Jesus are recognized by the Quran.[3]

An entirely new religion was spawned by the teachings and events surrounding Jesus of Nazareth – Christianity. Something profound changed the official views of the Roman empire and became the largest religion in the world, today over 2 billion people.[4]

Providing more specifics, Matthew and Luke raise the bar of answerability and credibility to the highest degree. Both Gospels reference the names of verifiable secular historical names which in turn establishes historical dating markers.

Caesar Augustus was the ruling Roman Emperor. King Herod was the head of the Judean government. Quirinius , Procurator Pilate and Archelaus, son of King Herod, are all well-documented historical ruler figures who are referenced in the two Gospels when Jesus was born.[5]

Nazareth was the expected birth place of Jesus, not 90 miles away in Bethlehem.[6] The angel who appeared separately to Joseph and Mary announcing Mary’s miraculous pregnancy didn’t tell either of them to go to Bethlehem, as such they should not be expected to think otherwise.[7]

Only a decree by a Roman Caesar forced the location change of the birthplace of Jesus. Months in the making in Rome, timing of Augustus’ official decree compelled Joseph and Mary in her late-stage of pregnancy to abruptly make the days-long trek to Bethlehem where she went into labor. If the choice had been optional, Joseph and Mary would almost certainly have stayed in Nazareth to give birth at home surrounded by family and friends.

Announcement by the Town Crier of Caesar’s decree a week later or more than a week earlier and Jesus would have been born in Nazareth. Had Jesus been born in Nazareth, it would have completely eliminated the potential fulfillment of Micah’s Bethlehem prophecy.[8]

Months earlier, hundreds of miles away from Nazareth and Rome, the Magi began making preparations to travel around the edges of the vast Arabian Desert on a month’s long journey to Judea to find the newborn King of Israel. These astronomy experts began their quest based on seeing “His Star,” not because of any Jewish Messiah prophecy.

Multiple rare planet and star conjunctions occurred in an unusually brief period of time beginning just months before the birth of Jesus. Typically these close conjunctions occur centuries or millennia apart; however, at this point in time, all seven conjunctions occurred over the course of only 18 months.[9]

Last of these conjunctions partially overlapped on June 17, 2 BC, causing the appearance of an extremely rare, unusually brilliant, elongated star. NASA astronomy science and technology confirms all these rare conjunctions both in timing and close proximity.[10]

When the Magi began their month’s long journey to Judea, their final destination was unclear. They sought out King Herod in Jerusalem for assistance in finding the newborn King signaled by “His star.”[11]

In turn, Herod consulted his Jewish religious council who told the King about the [12] King Herod indicated that he believed the prophecy had been fulfilled when he pointed the Magi to Bethlehem to search for the babe in exchange for telling him the location of the newborn.[13]

Looking beyond the birth circumstances for more indications that Jesus might be the Messiah involves other prophecies that matched later events during his lifetime. Further consideration has to be given to the chances the circumstances of the Messiah prophecies could be fulfilled today if not by Jesus 2000 years ago.

Messiah prophecies are the primary starting point originating in the Scriptures of Judaism, the Tenakh or, for Christianity, the Old Testament. Not all Messiah prophesies are unanimously recognized by Jewish religious authorities. Many Christianity viewpoints on Messiah prophecies are likewise disputed by Judaism.

One Messiah prophecy; however, is virtually undisputed – the Messiah would be born in the lineage of King David.[14] Other potential Messiah prophecies involve the Branch, crucifixion and Resurrection.

Branch prophecies issued by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah are not universally considered by Judaism to be Messiah prophecies. Two of the most renowned Jewish sages are Rabbi Rashi and Rabbi Maimonides, each having differing views on some Messiah prophecies.

Maimonides viewed the Isaiah 53:5 and Zechariah 6:12 Branch prophecies as foretelling the Messiah.[15] Rashi, on the other hand, viewed the same Isaiah and Zechariah Branch prophecies to be about Zerubbabel.[16]

Crucifixion was a most horrible method of execution – a slow death designed to inflict prolonged maximum pain and humiliation. In Isaiah 52-53, the prophet not only described the circumstances of the torture and death of “My Servant,” Isaiah also described the Servant’s burial among the rich and a life after death. All closely mirror the Gospel’s description of the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.[17]

Psalms contains Messiah prophecies recognized by Judaism, but not Psalms 22 which reflects very similar circumstances to a Roman crucifixion 1000 years later. Psalms 22 also includes both a quote and a specific gambling activity by those present at the scene – each precisely occurred during the crucifixion of Jesus according to the Gospels.[18]

Zechariah 12:10 foretells that “Me” of the House of David will be thrust through or pierced, killing him. His death would cause morning as deep as for an only son. While Rashi believed this was a prophecy about Israel, he acknowledged it could be about the Messiah referencing the faction of Rabbis in the Talmud’s Succah 52a who believed it to be Messianic.[19]

Assessing the validity of the Messiah prophecies and the possibility they were fulfillment by the life of Jesus obviously has a direct impact in determining the answer to the second question, was Jesus born as the Messiah?  One option is to consider the manner of execution death of Jesus of Nazareth as merely a happenstance 3-fold coincidence with the centuries-old writings of Isaiah, Psalms and Zechariah. The other option is to accept that the three scenarios are indeed Messiah prophecies fulfilled by Jesus as part of a divine plan.

Confluence of the seemingly unconnected chain of events converging in Bethlehem when Jesus was born are, frankly, most remarkable. Contemplate the likelihood that independent events in Rome, the East, the phenomena in the sky and Nazareth all converged unexpectedly at a single point in time when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The U.S. legal Doctrine of Chances suggests it was not an accident.

What are the odds that Jesus was born as the Son of God, the Messiah?

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REFERENCES:

[1] Hocken, Vigdis. “Common Era (CE) and Before Common Era (BCE).” TimeandDate.com. 2020. <https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/ce-bce-what-do-they-mean.html> Mark, Joshua J. “The Origin and History of the BCE/CE Dating System.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2020. <https://www.ancient.eu/article/1041/the-origin-and-history-of-the-bcece-dating-system>
[2] “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8616-jesus-of-nazareth>  Maimon, Moshe ben (Maimonides). “Melachim uMilchamot.” Chabad.org. Chapter 11, #4. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1188356/jewish/Melachim-uMilchamot-Chapter-11.htm>  CR I Chronicles 9:1; Matthew 1:5; Luke 3:32. Josephus, Flavius. Against Apion. Trans. and commentary William Whitson. Book 1, #7. The Complete Works of Josephus.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Hall, David Markel.  “The Temple of G-d.”  1997.  Zion Messianic Congregation of Austin, Texas. <http://tzion.org/articles/temple.html>  “Jewish Genealogy & Surnames.” Archives. Archives.com. n.d. <http://www.archives.com/genealogy/family-heritage-jewish.html>  “Jesus.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. pp 246-251. Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 11. 2nd edition. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/infomark.do?action=interpret&eisbn=9780028660974&prodId=GVRL&userGroupName=imcpl1111&type=aboutBook&version=1.0&authCount=1&u=imcpl1111>
[3] Quran. Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. n.d. Search “Jesus.” <http://search-the-quran.com>  “The Descriptive Titles of Jesus in the Quran (part 1 of 2): “The Messiah” and “a Miracle.”’ IslamReligion.com. 2020. <http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/230>  The Quran. JM Rodwell Translation With text notes. “Preface.” <http://www.truthnet.org/islam/Quran/Rodwell/Introduction.html>
[4] “What is the #1 religion in the world?” Search. Google. 2020. <https://www.google.com/search?q=what+is+the+%231+religion+in+the+world&oq=what+is+the+%231+rel&aqs=chrome.0.0i457j0j69i57j0j0i22i30l4.10361j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8>
[5] Matthew 2:1, 22; 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 2:1-2; John 19:1.
[6] Luke 1:39, 2:1-5. Map of Israel (active, untitled).  Bing.com/maps. Mileage calculation from Bethlehem to Nazareth.  n.d. <https://binged.it/2mNpBy8>  Oshri, Aviram.  “Where was Jesus Born?” Archaeology. Volume 58 Number 6. November/December 2005. <http://www.archaeology.org/0511/abstracts/jesus.html> Arbez, Edward. “Bethlehem.” Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 2. 1907. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02533a.htm>
[7] Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-37.
[8] Micah 5:2 (verse 1 in Jewish Bibles).
[9] Ventrudo, Brian. “Measuring The Sky.”  “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.” Universe Today. 2004. <http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt>  Dickinson, David. “Is This Month’s Jupiter-Venus Pair Really a Star of Bethlehem Stand In?” Universe Today. 2015. <https://www.universetoday.com/122738/is-this-months-jupiter-venus-pair-really-a-star-of-bethlehem-stand-in/> Beatty, Kelly. “Venus and Jupiter: Together at Last.” Sky & Telescope. 2015. <http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/venus-and-jupiter-a-dazzling-duo-062520154 >  Cain, Fraser. “Venus and Jupiter’s Upcoming Conjunction.” Universe Today. 2004. http://www.universetoday.com/10006/venus-and-jupiters-upcoming-conjunction/#ixzz2B6cvKJEt> Carroll, Susan S. “The Star of Bethlehem:  An Astronomical and Historical Perspective.” Pulcherrima Productions.  1997. Twin Cities Creation Science Association. n.d. <http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_susan_carroll.pdf>
[10] Phillips, Tony. “A Christmas Star for SOHO.” NASA Science | Science New. 2018. <http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast16may_1>  Haley, A. S. “The Star of Bethlehem and the Nativity.” Anglican Curmudgeon. Video. 2009. <http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2009/10/star-of-bethlehem-and-nativity.html>  CR “Birth of Jesus.” Navsoft.com. 2012. http://navsoft.com/html/birth_of_jesus.html>  Clevenger, John. “Astronomy, Astrology, and the Star of Bethlehem.”  Lake County (Illinois) Astronomical   Society. 2012. <http://www.lcas-astronomy.org/articles/display.php?filename=the_christmas_star&category=miscellaneous>
[11] Matthew 2:1-3.
[12] Matthew 2:4-6.
[13] Matthew 2:7-8.
[14] Maimon, Moshe ben (Maimonides). “Melachim uMilchamot.” Chabad.org. Chapter 11, #4.  Numbers 17-19. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9952/showrashi/true>
[15] Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13. Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p374. The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters. <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>
[16] Isaiah 53:2. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15984/showrashi/true>  Zechariah 6:12. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16210/showrashi/true>
[17] Isaiah 52-53.
[18] Matthew 27:35, 42; Mark 15:24, 31; Luke 23:34-35; John 19:23-24.
[19] Zechariah 12:20. The Complete Jewish Bible. Rashi commentary. n.d. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16216/showrashi/true>  Sukkah 52a, p 75. <http://www.halakhah.com/rst/moed/16b%20-%20Succah%20-%2029b-56b.pdf>

Clashes:  Jewish Leadership vs. Jesus

Pharisees and the Jewish leadership were the dogged antagonists of Jesus of Nazareth – what did their provocations elicit from Jesus about being the Son of God, the prophesied Messiah?

Key to understanding the dynamics is knowing the profile of the Pharisees and the Jewish leadership. Two prominent Jewish historical figures were Pharisees who provided insights to the Jewish authority apparatus.

Flavius Josephus was a Sanhedrin-appointed Pharisee General before he was captured by the Romans and became an official Jewish historian for Rome.[1] Saul, before his conversion to the Apostle Paul, was also a Pharisee who proactively worked for the Sanhedrin.[2]

Three main religious factions played an influencing  role in Jerusalem – the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes – all with common ground on the written Law of Moses.[3]A very closed sect, Essenes, kept to themselves and are not mentioned in the Gospels whereas the lesser mentioned Sadducees strongly disagreed with the Pharisees:[4]

“…[Pharisees] have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them”[5]Antiquities of the Jews

Jewish leadership was comprised of the high priests, Pharisees and Sadducees who often had membership in the Sanhedrin (Sanhedrim), a supreme court of 71 judges established under Moses.[6] The Sanhedrin progressively gained  political power during its final years under the Roman Empire.

For the Pharisees, their power and influence increased significantly under Jewish Queen Alexandra a generation before King Herod.[7] On his death bed, King Alexander advised his daughter, Queen Alexandra, to grant some of her powers to the Pharisees to gain their favor in the kingdom.[8]

Queen Alexandra granted the Pharisees “all things into their power, both to the dead body, and as to the affairs of the kingdom…”[9] In return, the Pharisees threw their support behind Alexandra as ruler…but it came with a price:

“Now Alexandra hearkened to them to an extraordinary degree….while she governed other people, and the Pharisees governed her.” – Wars of the Jews [10]

Pharisees had their own contingent of officers with full arrest powers such as Saul.[11] Once they were sent to arrest Jesus simply because the crowd was murmuring about things he was teaching.[12] Part of the posse that arrested Jesus on Mt. Gethsemane were officers of the Pharisees.[13] Saul admitted zealously arresting Christians before his own conversion.[14]

Josephus described the Pharisees as legal experts “esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their law.”[15] And so it was that the Pharisees “valued themselves highly upon the exact skill they had in the law of their fathers, and made men believe they were highly favored by God.”[16]

Gospel accounts of the Pharisees indicate Jesus of Nazareth had a very similar view as Josephus – Jesus acknowledged the religious authority of the Pharisees yet despised their hypocritical behavior.[17] References to the Pharisees in the Gospels are 10-fold greater than the Sadducees.[18]

Confronting Jesus numerous times, the Jewish leadership  wanted to know by what authority he was forgiving sins and performing miracles. Responses from Jesus came in the form of parables, riddles or not answered at all. On a few dramatic occasions shortly before he was captured and crucified did Jesus answer them directly…

October, the Feast of the Tabernacles celebration, now known as Sukkot, is observed in Jerusalem.[19] Six months before Jesus would be crucified, the Disciples of Jesus attended the week-long festival without him.[20] Midweek Jesus secretly slipped into the city and taught at the Temple.

Officers reported Jesus to the Pharisees and Jewish leadership prompting them to find him.[21] When they heard Jesus say “I am the light of the world,” the Pharisees objected pressing him further when Jesus said:[22]

JN 8:24 “…for unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins.” (ISV)

Turning to his Judean believers, Jesus explained further and the dialog turned to Abraham. When Jesus spoke as though he knew Abraham, it led to this exchange:

JN 8:57-58 “‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’” (NKJV)

Blasphemy, according to the Law of Moses, was to be punished by stoning.[23] “They picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out from the temple area.”[24]

December before Jesus would be crucified, he attended the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, today known as Hanukkah.[25] Under Solomon’s Portico at the Temple, the Jewish leaders confronted Jesus asking, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”[26] They got a succinct answer:

JN 10:30 “The Father and I are one.” (NET)

Again, the reaction was severe – Jewish authorities picked up stones to kill Jesus and he asked them why – “I have shown you many good deeds from the Father. For which one of them are you going to stone me?”[27] Their response, “We are not going to stone you for a good deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.”[28]

Even if they did not believe his words, Jesus suggested they should instead consider the “good deeds” he had performed; miracles that could only be accomplished with the power of his Father – God:[29]

JN 10:36-38 “…do you say about the one whom the Father set apart and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not perform the deeds of my Father, do not believe me. But if I do them, even if you do not believe me, believe the deeds, so that you may come to know and understand that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (NET)

An attempt was then made to seize Jesus rather than to stone him. The reason for their change in reaction may have been more for political self-interests and less for religious reasons. The Pharisees were afraid of the people because they viewed him as a prophet and yet he threatened their controlling influence over the people. Raising Lazarus from the dead caused his popularity to reach a point it became the catalyst for wanting Jesus killed.[30]

Just hours before he was to be crucified came the most dramatic moment involving the high priest himself. During his nighttime Sanhedrin trial at the Temple, undoubtedly knowing it would cost him his life, Jesus testified under oath that he is ego eimi, Greek for “I AM”.[31]

MK 14:62 Jesus said, “I AM, and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.'” (ISV)

Jewish leadership and Pharisees of the Sanhedrin bore witness to the fact that Jesus testified he is “I AM.” Caiaphas immediately exclaimed, “‘He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Listen! You yourselves have just heard the blasphemy! What is your verdict?’ They replied, ‘He deserves to die!’”[32]

On three occasions, Jesus specifically identified himself as equal to God, the Son of God, and each time the Pharisees and Jewish leadership who heard it wanted to kill him. There can be no question Jesus said it; the question is, was he right? Is Jesus truly the Son of God, the Messiah?

 

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REFERENCES:

[1] Josephus, Flavius. The Life of Josephus. 12. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[2] Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-23. “Paul the Apostle.” Denova, Rebecca. Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2013. <https://www.ancient.eu/Paul_the_Apostle/#:~:text=Paul%20was%20a%20Pharisee%2C%20and,was%20the%20Law%20of%20Moses> “St. Paul the Apostle.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Paul-the-Apostle>
[3] Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter V.9.  The Life of Flavius Josephus. I.2. “Scrolls from the Dead Sea.” Library of Congress. n.d. <https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/late.html>
[4] Whitson, William. The Complete Works of Josephus. Antiquity of the Jews, Book XIII, Chapter X.4 foot note *. Josephus. Wars. Book II, Chapter VIII.7-11.
[5] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquity of the Jews. Book XIII, Chapter XI.6. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[6] “Sanhedrin.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13178-sanhedrin>  “Sanhedrin.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/sanhedrin> “Sanhedrin.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2020. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-sanhedrin>
[7] Whitson, William. The Complete Works of Josephus. Antiquity of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter IV.3 foot note †;   Book XIV, Chapter IX.4, footnote †; Dissertation I.V; Book XIII, Chapter XVI foot note †. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Josephus. Antiquity. Book IV, Chapter VII.14; Book XIV, Chapter IX.4. Josephus. The Life of Josephus. 12.  Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book II, Chapter XV.6. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false> “Salome Alexandra.” New World Encyclopedia. 2019. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Salome_Alexandra
[8] Josephus. Antiquity. Book XIII, Chapter XV.5, XVI.1.
[9] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter XVI.1.
[10] Josephus. Wars. Book I, Chapter V.2.
[11] John 1:24; 7:32, 45; 11:57; 18:3, 12.
[12] John 7:32.
[13] John 18:1-12.
[14] Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-23.
[15] Josephus. Wars. Book II, Chapter VIII.14.  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter XI.6.
[16] Josephus. Antiquities. Book XVII, Chapter II.4.
[17] Matthew 3:7, 16:6, 12, 23:1-13, 15, 25, 27, 29, 33; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 11:43, 12:1, 18:11, 20:45-47.
[18] 93 Gospel mentions of Pharisees, 9 Gospel mentions of Sadducees or which 6 also included the Pharisees.
[19] “Sukkoth.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sukkoth-Judaism>  “The Meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles.” One For Israel. 2020. <https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/the-meaning-of-the-feast-of-tabernacles>
[20] John 7:2.
[21] John 7:1-9, 14, 32, 45; 8:12.  CR John 1:24; 11:57; 18:3, 12.
[22] John 8:12.
[23] Leviticus 24:16.
[24] John 8:59.
[25] John 10:22. “Hanukkah.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2020. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hanukkah> “Hanukkah.” History.com. 2020. <https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/hanukkah>
[26] John 10:24. NET.
[27] John 10:31-32. NET. John 10:24. Netbible.org. Footnote 1. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Joh&chapter=10&verse=24>  CR John 10:31. International Standard Version, New Heart English Bible. <https://biblehub.com/john/10-31.htm>
[28] John 10:33. NET.
[29] John 9:16. CR John 10:40-41
[30] Matthew 19:2, 21:46, 26:4-5; Mark 11:18, 14:1-2; Luke 12:1, 21:38; John 11:47-48; 12:18-19.  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XIII, Chapter XI.5, Chapter XI.5-6, Book XVII, Chapter II.4.
[31] Matthew 26:63-64.
[32] Matthew 26:65-66. ISV. CR Mark 14:63-64.