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PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD'S PASSION (Cycle B)

Readings:
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 14:1-15:57

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of the Readings: God's Servant is Christ the King who raises us from Death to Life
On this day we commemorate Jesus' triumphal entry into the holy city of Jerusalem to complete His work as mankind's Redeemer-Messiah in the spring of 30 AD.  He was God and yet He humbled Himself by coming in the flesh to live among us.  The celebration of the event of Jesus' triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, the remembrance of His unjust execution, and His victory in rising from the dead at this, the beginning of Holy Week, emphasizes that the three elements of His suffering, death, and resurrection belong together in God's plan for mankind's redemption and that Jesus' death was not a defeat but a victory over the powers of sin and death.  But that is not the end of the story.  Despite our human frailties and our repeated failures, Jesus continues to humble Himself as God's Servant, coming to His Church and offering us His Body and Blood in the miracle of the Eucharist so that one day we too will be able to rise up in triumph and join Him in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Commemoration of the Lord's Entrance into Jerusalem: The Order of the Procession

The priest sprinkles the branches with holy water in silence.  Then the account of the Lord's entrance into Jerusalem is proclaimed.

During the procession, the choir and the people sing the following or other appropriate songs:

See commentary on all Scripture from the procession below.  A hymn in honor of Christ the King is sung during the procession.  As the procession enters the church, a responsory or another song which refers to the Lord's entrance is sung.

Antiphon Matthew 21:9 ~ Our Procession Rite imitates the procession of Jesus and His disciples on Palm Sunday in the spring of 30 AD.  Coming from the village of Bethphage, Jesus and His disciples crossed the Kidron Valley and entered the walled city of Jerusalem through the arched gate that faced the Mount of Olives.  It was the gate that was closest to the Temple Mount and was located on the east side of Jerusalem.  In the Antiphon we imitate the crowd that shouted acclamations from the Messianic Psalms 118:25-26  ~ We beg you LORD, save us [hosanna], we beg you LORD, give us victory!  Blessed in the name of the LORD is he who is coming!  "Hosanna" is a word of Hebrew origin (hosi-a-na) that is composed of two words literally meaning "save now" or "save (we) pray" (cf., 2 Sam 14:4; Ps 106:47; Is 25:9; 37:20; Jer 2:27; etc.).  At this time in salvation history God's divine name was only pronounced in the Temple liturgy.

The Reading from the Gospel Mark 11:1-10 ~ The Messiah's Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem
1 When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethpage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately on entering it, you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat.  Untie it and bring it here.  3 If anyone should say to you, 'Why are you doing this?' reply, 'The Master [ho Kyrios = the Lord] has need of it and will send it back here at once [immediately].'"  4 So they went off and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street, and they untied it.  5 Some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?"  6 They answered them just as Jesus had told them to, and they permitted them to do it.  7 So they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it.  And he sat on it.  8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.  9 Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: "Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!  Hosanna in the highest!"

In Mark 11:1-10, Jesus prepares to enter the holy city.  Jesus sent two disciples to bring Him an ass and her colt from the village of Bethpage on the Mount of Olives.  This was to fulfill the prophecies of the restoration of Israel by the Messiah spoken by the prophets:

The words "daughter Zion" refers to the holy city of Jerusalem and the covenant people as a whole.  According to the prophecies, the Messiah will come not like a conquering king or military leader.  He will come humbly as a Savior to His people. 

The Gospel of St. John identifies this event as occurring on the day after Jesus' dinner with Lazarus' family (Jn 12:1-2, 12-19).  According to tradition, and in agreement with the Gospels, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem is celebrated as Palm (Passion) Sunday.  According to John 12:1 the dinner was six days (as the ancients counted with no zero place value) until the Passover sacrifice on the 14th of Nisan.  Therefore, Jesus had a Sabbath Saturday dinner with friends in Bethany.  Six days from Saturday, with Saturday counting as day #1, makes the day of the Passover sacrifice Thursday of Jesus' last week, Nisan the 14th and the day He rode into Jerusalem the first day of the week that we call Sunday.  That the Passover sacrifice took place on Thursday and the sacred meal that night after sundown agrees with over 2,000 years of Christian tradition.  Jesus was crucified on Friday that was "preparation day" for the Saturday Sabbath (Jn 19:31).

The disciples followed Jesus' instructions and brought a young donkey that had never been ridden.  They laid garments on the animal and Jesus sat on the garments on the colt.  Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on the colt of an ass was a planned and highly symbolic act.  Jesus' symbolic act fulfilled the prophecy of the Davidic covenant that David's throne would endure forever with a Davidic heir upon his throne (2 Sam 7:12-16; 23:5).  The people were reminded of the ride of King David's son Solomon into Jerusalem on his coronation day (1 Kng 1:38-40) and recognized Jesus' symbolic act: Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: "Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!  Hosanna in the highest!" (Mk 11:9-10), and "Hosanna!  Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel" (Jn 12:13).

That Sunday was Nisan the 10th.  The 10th was the day the Passover victims were chosen in the first Passover and it was the day Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan River in the conquest of the Promised Land (Ex 12:3; Josh 4:19).  Jesus is the true Passover victim that all other Passover lambs and kids only prefigured, and in His entry into Jerusalem He is beginning His conquest that will result in opening the true Promised Land of heaven to the faithful through His death and Resurrection.

Seeing Jesus, the crowd shouted acclamations from the Messianic Psalms 118:25-26 (NJB) ~ We beg you Yahweh, save us [hosanna], we beg you Yahweh, give us victory!  Blessed in the name of Yahweh is he who is coming!  "Hosanna" is a word of Hebrew origin (hosi-a-na) that is composed of two words literally meaning "save now" or "save (we) pray" (i.e., 2 Sam 14:4; Ps 106:47; Is 25:9; 37:20; Jer 2:27; etc.).  "Hosanna" had come to be used in the same way the English might shout out "God save the king," and this was the way the crowd shouted "Hosanna" as an acclamation of praise to the one greeted as the Messiah.  Psalms 113-118 is known as the great Hallel (praise God) psalms.  It was also called the Egyptian Psalms since 113-117 and retells the story of the Exodus while 118 promises another liberator: an anointed one" or "messiah" who is coming to save the people.

The four Gospels describe Jesus' entry into Jerusalem as the triumphal arrival of a king or military ruler.  Such a visit to the people by a ruler was a parousia, a Greek word meaning "coming," "arrival," or "being present among the people."  In the New Testament, the word gives expression to the Christian belief and expectation that Jesus will return to His people in the future (Second Advent of Christ).  It is the same term Christians used for the "presence" of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet.   In the Old Testament the parousia of a king is described in the Greek O.T. translation in:

As already mentioned, the connection between Jesus' symbolic entrance and the entrance of King David's son Solomon into Jerusalem on the day of his coronation in the 10th century BC was certainly not missed on the crowds.  Jesus received the same acclamation, with the people even referring to Him as "the son of David," quoting from Psalm 118 the passages referring to the promised Messianic king (Mk 11:10).  St. John records that the crowd quoted from the Messianic Psalms 118:26 ~ Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord ... (Jn 12:13; also see 1 Kng 2:38-40; Ps 118:25-27, Jn 12:13).  Jesus told His disciples that the day would come when they would not see Him again until they said this verse (Mt 23:39).  These are the same words we repeat in the celebration of the Mass just prior to the Eucharistic procession.

The question of some in the crowd as to Jesus' identity on the day of His triumphal entry is the question facing each of us on this day of commemoration.  True disciples recognize Jesus as God's prophet, priest, and king come to redeem His people and to raise them from death to life (CCC 788).  Can you profess with conviction that Jesus not only came on that day in history to begin the completion of His earthly mission but that He has personally come for you and has raised you from death to life so that you might listen to His voice and obey Mother Church on your journey to eternal salvation?

Psalm 24:1-10 ~ For a Solemn Entry into the Sanctuary (a psalm of David)
Antiphon I: During the procession, the choir and people sing the following that is repeated between verses of Psalm 24: "The children of Jerusalem welcomed Christ the King.  They carried olive branches and loudly praised the Lord: Hosanna in the highest."
1 The LORD'S are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it.  2 For he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
Repeat Antiphon I
3 Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD or who may stand in his holy place?  4 He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain, nor swears deceitfully to his neighbor.
Repeat Antiphon I
5 He shall receive a blessing from the LORD, a reward from God his savior.  6 Such is the race that seeks for him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
Repeat Antiphon I
7 Lift up, O gates, your lintels; reach up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may come in!  8 Who is this king of glory?  The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle.
Repeat Antiphon I
9 Lift up, O gates, your lintels; reach up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may come in!  10 Who is this king of glory?  The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.
Repeat Antiphon I

This Psalm was sung on every first day of the week (our Sunday) in the Jerusalem Temple's twice daily liturgical worship services.  It is an encounter between the Lord, the King of Glory, and the righteous believer who has come to worship God in His holy Temple.  The poem, attributed to David of Bethlehem, the ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 1:1), begins by proclaiming who the Lord is: He is the creator of the earth (verses 1-2).  The psalm then enumerates the conditions in which people are allowed to approach the Lord in His Temple:

These can enter into God's presence and receive His blessing (verses 3-6).  The psalm ends with a profession of faith.  The psalmist calls upon the Temple to "lift up" its gates and lintels so the King of Glory may enter (verses 7-8) and asks "Who is this king of glory" in two rhetorical questions before answering: "The LORD of Hosts [literally Yahweh Sabaoth]; He is the King of Glory!"  It is because His sovereignty extends over the nations of the entire earth and every human being that He is worshipped as the King of Glory (verse 10)! 

The Fathers of the Church saw this psalm being applied to the Christian's soul as God's Temple of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus (St. Ambrose, Expositio psalmi, 118.14; also see 1 Cor 3:10-17).  God is ready to enter the Temple of the Christian's soul in the Sacrament of Baptism.  It is the Christian's prayer that he/she will be ready to open up the gates of his/her soul in faith so Christ, the King of Glory, will enter in, carrying with Him the triumph of His Passion.

Psalm 47:1-2, 4-9 ~ Yahweh the King of Israel is King of the World
Antiphon II is repeated between the verses of Psalm 47: "The children of Jerusalem welcome Christ the King.  They spread their cloaks before him and loudly praised the Lord: Hosanna to the son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
1 All you peoples, clap your hands, shout to God with cries of gladness.  2 For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome, is the great king over all the earth.
Repeat Antiphon II
4 He chooses for us our inheritance, the glory of Jacob, whom he loves.
Repeat Antiphon II
5 God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy; the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.  6 Sing praise to God, sing praise; sing praise to our king, sing praise.
Repeat Antiphon II
7 For king of all the earth is God; sing hymns of praise.  8 God reigns over the nations, God sits upon his holy throne.
Repeat Antiphon II
9 The princes of the peoples are gathered together with the people of the God of Abraham.  For God's are the guardians of the earth; he is supreme.
Repeat Antiphon II

God is the king over all the earth and all its nations.  The psalm offers two invitations to sing God's praises (verses 1 and 6), followed by the reasons for why the people are to be involved in proclaiming praise to God (verses 2-5 and 7-9).  The first reason is because God is king over the earth and the second is to offer liturgical praise because, being king of all nations, God unites us as one people (verses 7-9).  Jewish liturgy recites this psalm on the Feast of the New Year (Rosh Hashanah).  Christians identify with this psalm by reflecting on the kingship of Jesus Christ and the universal Church's authority over the people of every language, race and nation (prophesied by the prophet Daniel in the Book of Daniel 7:13-14 and 27). 

In the Apostolic Age, the Church saw verses 5-6: God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy; the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.  6 Sing praise to God, sing praise; sing praise to our king, sing praise...  as being fulfilled in the Ascension of Jesus into heaven (Acts 1:1-11; Heb 9:24-28).  That is why this psalm is also recited on the Feast of the Ascension, proclaiming Christ's universal kingship that transcends the kingdoms of the world. The Church's character of universality is a gift from Christ whereby the Church seeks to fulfill her mission in reconciling all mankind to Christ and in helping all nations attain their eternal destiny (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 13).  Reciting this psalm in our solemn procession on Palm Sunday, we offer our acclaim for Christ's divine kingship which is linked to contemplation of our promised inheritance in the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem where Jesus is enthroned.  We acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the King over all the earth and over all the nations and peoples who dwell on the earth. 

The Mass: The Readings for the Liturgy of the Word:
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 14:1-15:57

The First Reading Isaiah 50:4-7 ~ The Third Servant's Song (God's Suffering Servant)
4 The Lord GOD [Yahweh] has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.  5 [The Lord Yahweh] Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.  6 I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.  7 The Lord GOD [Yahweh] is my help; therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.  [..] = Literal translation.

In the four "Servant Songs" from the book of the prophet Isaiah, God who has revealed His power by creating the earth (Is 40:12-31) and who showed His determination to save humanity by His interventions in human history (Is 41:1-29), then announces a new stage in His divine plan (Is 41:19).  That new stage in bringing about His divine plan is to give a special mission to a mysterious figure referred to as the "Servant" of the Lord (Is 42:1).  The Servant will make known and put into effect God's plan for the salvation of mankind.

The passage from our reading begins Isaiah's third "Servant's Song" and focuses on the Servant himself.  The poem/song is constructed in three parts with each part beginning with the words "The Lord Yahweh" (verses 4, 5 and 7).  The Servant speaks directly to us in verses 4-9.  The first part emphasizes the servant's submission to the word of God.  He is not a self-taught leader with his own ideas; he is instead obedient to the word of the Lord Yahweh.  He tells us that he is God's faithful disciple, teaching the divine word and God's promise of redemption to a sinful and downtrodden humanity (verse 4).  The second part (verses 5-6) concerns the suffering he has endured as a faithful disciple of the Lord.   The third part that begins in verse 7 shows the servant's determination.  He suffers in silence not because he is a coward, but because God is with him to help him and to make him strong in the face of persecution.  He says that thanks to God's divine guidance, he teaches as God directs him despite suffering persecution (verses 7-9), and because of his faith and obedience he will endure all persecution since he knows his suffering is part of God's divine plan. 

Since the early age of the Church Fathers, Christians have seen the image of the "Suffering Servant" fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  During His three year ministry, He faithfully taught about the coming of God's Kingdom (Mt 4:17; Mk 1:14-15; Lk 4:14-15).  He did not resist His persecutors' insults nor did He turn away from those who beat Him, slapped His face, or spit upon Him (cf. Mt 26:67-68; 27:26-31; Mk 14:65, 15:15; Jn 18:22; 19:1).  Finally, they attempted to disgrace Him by crucifying Him like a common criminal (Mt 27:35-38; Mk 15:21-27; Lk 23:26-34, 38; Jn 19:17-24).  But He was not put to shame; instead He arose victorious on the third day, having defeated both sin and death (Mt 28:5-6; Mk 16:6; Lk 24:5-8; Jn 20:1-10).

Responsorial Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24 ~ Christ's Abandonment
The response is: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Ps 22:1)
7 All who see me scoff at me; they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads; 8 "He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, if he loves him."
Response:
16 Indeed, many dogs surround me, a pack of evil doers closes in upon me; 17 they have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.
Response:
18 They divide my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.  19 But you, O LORD, be not far from me; O my help, hasten to aid me.
Response:
22 I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you: 23 "You who fear the LORD, praise him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him; revere him, all you descendants of Israel."
Response:

This moving Psalms of David not only contains Jesus' first statement from the altar of the Cross from Psalm 22:1 in the response (see Mt 27:46 and Mk 15:34), but it is a vivid description of what took place during Jesus' crucifixion, a form of capital punishment that was unknown in David's day.  The psalm prefigures the Passion of the Christ:

The psalm ends with the psalmist declaring that He will proclaim God's name in the liturgical assembly, and then he calls upon God's covenant people: "You who fear the LORD, praise him; all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him; revere him, all you descendants of Israel."  This is the praise and glory we proclaim to Jesus Christ in our liturgical assembly as we remember His Passion and death that God the Father transformed into victory and glory.  We who are the universal Christian assembly of Jesus Christ are now the true descendants of Jacob and the new Israel (CCC 877).

The Second Reading Philippians 2:6-11 ~ Meditating on the Lord's Humility in His Suffering and Death
6 Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  7 Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, 8 he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  9 Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Most Bible scholars believe that verses 6-11 are from an early Christian hymn that is quoted by St. Paul in his letter to the Christian community at Philippi in Macedonia.  The hymn speaks of Jesus' humility in emptying Himself of His divine glory (kenosis in the Greek) in order to live a human life and to undergo suffering (verses 6-7).  Paul is probably contrasting Jesus with Adam.  It was Adam who, being created in the likeness and image of God, attempted to grasp equality with God through his sin of rebellion and pride in eating from the forbidden tree in which humanity became condemned to live in sin.  Jesus however, through His humility, was obedient to the Father in offering His life as a sacrifice for mankind's sins.  His reward was that He was raised up by God to divine glory (8-11), making a way for mankind to be raised up through Him out of sin to receive the promise of eternal salvation in Heaven that had been closed to man since Adam's fall (CCC 536).

The Gospel of Mark 14:1-15:47 ~ The Passion of Jesus Christ
Mark 14:1-2 ~ The Conspiracy Against Jesus
1 The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to take place in two days' time.  So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death.  2 They said, "Not during the festival, for fear that there may be a riot among the people."

Jesus has been teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem every day since His entry into the city.  The religious leadership decided that Jesus must die (Jn 11:47-50), but they know they cannot arrest him when the crowds of pilgrims who believe in Him are present without causing a riot.  Mark sets the countdown to the day of the Passover sacrifice.  It is two days away (also see agreement in Mt 226:1-5).  As the ancients counted without the concept of a zero place value, counting the first day as day #1, it is Wednesday.  The next day will be the Passover sacrifice, which St. John identified as the sixth day from the day Jesus had dinner with His friends in Bethany, the day before He rode in triumph into the holy city on Sunday.  The Gospels all agree that the Passover sacrifice was on Thursday of that week.

Mark 14:3-9 ~ Dinner at Bethany and Jesus' Third Anointing
3 When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard.  She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.  4 There were some who were indignant.  "Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?  5 It could have been sold for more than three hundred days' wager and the money given to the poor."  They were infuriated with her.  6 Jesus said, "Let her alone.  Why do you make trouble for her?  She has done a good thing for me.  7 The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.  8 She has done what she could.  She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.  9 Amen, I say to you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."

The dinner on Saturday was at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  The dinner on Wednesday, Jesus last day teaching in Jerusalem, is at the home of a man named Simon, a former leper.  Simon was probably a man Jesus had healed of leprosy.  Lepers could not keep company with healthy people and had to remain isolated from the population (Lev 13:45-46).  The guests "reclined" at table, indicating that this was a formal banquet.  Reclining at a banquet table was a sign of the privilege of free men.  Slaves stood to eat.  At this banquet honoring Jesus, He is anointed for a third time by an unnamed woman.

Since Jesus and His Apostles spent every night either in Bethany or on the Mount of Olives (Mt 21:17; Mk 11:11), Jesus' good friends in Bethany probably took turns hosting dinners for Him and the Apostles.  When Jesus ate dinner at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus on Saturday, it was Mary who anointed Jesus' feet (Jn 12:3).  That was Jesus' second anointing.  His first anointing was early in His ministry in Luke 7:36-38 by a sinful woman in the home of a Pharisee.  There is controversy among Bible scholars over how many times Jesus was anointed and the apparent discrepancy over what day St. John recorded Jesus' dinner in Bethany as opposed to the Synoptic Gospels. The accounts agree if there were two different dinners at Bethany the last week of Jesus' life and two different anointings that week, for a total of three different anointings during the course of Jesus' ministry by three or possibly two different women (Mary of Bethany may have anointed Christ twice: once on Saturday and a second time on Wednesday of His last week in Jerusalem).  Each anointing of Christ symbolized the three holy offices He fulfilled as God's supreme Prophet, High Priest, and Davidic King (CCC 436):

At the time of Jesus' anointing by Mary of Bethany on Saturday, Judas Iscariot complained about the waste of the ointment that could have been sold and the wages given to the poor (Jn 12:3-5).  St. John records that Judas complained not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions (Jn 12:6).  This time others repeat Judas' complaint (verse 4).  In the anointing on Saturday, Mary anointed Jesus' feet, but on Wednesday the woman anointed His head (see Jn 12:3, Mt 26:7 and Mk 14:4.

There are many similarities between the two accounts of Jesus being anointed His last week in Jerusalem in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark during the Wednesday dinner at Bethany two days before the Passover sacrifice, indicating that Matthew and Mark are recording the same event.  However, there are many differences when comparing the events in Matthew and Mark with the Gospel of John's account of the dinner at Bethany six days before the Passover in John 12:1-13 (see handout 3 from the study on the Gospel of Mark Lesson #9).

The same word in Greek, muron, is used in all the anointing accounts to describe the ointment, and the accounts in the Gospels of John and Mark identify the cost of the bottle as 300 denarii.  This information seems to suggest that the jar of ointment used on Saturday was the same jar used on Wednesday.  Also note the difference between Jesus' command to the woman "to keep it for the day of my burial" when Mary of Bethany anointed His feet in the Gospel of John on Saturday and His statement "she did it to prepare for the day of my burial" on Wednesday in St. Matthew's Gospel.  Jesus told the disciples that she "has anointed my body beforehand for its burial" in St. Mark's Gospel on Wednesday when the unnamed woman anointed His head in both accounts in Matthew and Mark's Gospels as opposed to His feet at the Saturday dinner.

St. Mark includes a significant detail in Jesus' third anointing on Wednesday: She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head (Mk 14:3b).  It is reasonable to assume that in obedience to Jesus' command on Saturday (Jn 12:7) that Mary of Bethany kept the half-used jar of ointment and on Wednesday, knowing that Jesus has prophesied His death, she has broken open the bottle to get the last of the ointment to anoint His head (Mk 14:3).  Both Matthew and Mark record that the Wednesday dinner was after Jesus rode into Jerusalem and "Jesus' hour had come", but John's account of the dinner in 12:1-11 occurs prior to Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and there is no mention of His "hour" or Judas' betrayal until 12:23, 27.  What is ironic about the woman disciple's action at the Wednesday dinner as opposed to the attitude of the men is that she believes the prophecy of His coming death and takes action, but the men do not seem to understand and even protest her loving act.

The last significant detail that indicates there are two dinners at Bethany, one on Saturday (Jn 12:1-11) before Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the other on Wednesday that is Jesus' last teaching day in Jerusalem, is Judas' betrayal of Jesus in his first meeting with the chief priests (Mt 26:14-16 and Mk 14:3-9).  No betrayal to the chief priests is recorded in John's Gospel after the Saturday dinner.  However, both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record Judas' visit to the chief priests to betray Jesus after the Wednesday dinner (Mk 14:10-11) and before the Last Supper on Thursday.  Luke also records Judas' betrayal just prior to the Last Supper (Lk 22:1-6).  It is Jesus' betrayal that signals Jesus "hour has come."

It is obvious that these are two different anointings during Jesus' last week in Jerusalem but they may have been carried out by the same woman, Jesus' faithful disciple, Mary of Bethany.  In the earlier anointing on Saturday Jesus defended Mary and said "Let her keep this for the day of my burial..." (Jn 12:7).  That day has come and it is probably Mary who has broken open the jar to get the last of the nard to anoint Jesus' feet in preparation for His Passion. 

Mark 14:10-11 ~ Jesus is Betrayed
10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.  11 When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money.  Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

Judas has walked away from the "Light" that is Christ into the darkness of sin.  He loved money more than he loved Jesus.  He followed Jesus but he did not believe in Him.  There is no way to defend his actions.  He stands in contrast to the faith and purity of soul of the other Apostles and serves as a warning that in the Church there will be wolves among the sheep.  We know from John 8:44 and 12:6 that Judas is described as a thief and a murderer; we are told that he was the treasurer of the group but that he stole from the money collected for the poor.  When people complain about abuses committed by priests and sinners within the Church, we need to remember Judas.  Would you have left Jesus because of Judas?  Nor should one entertain thoughts of leaving the Church when a modern day Judas is unveiled. 

Mark 14:12-16 ~ The Preparations for the Sacred Meal of the Passover Sacrifice
12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb*, his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?"  He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water.  Follow him.  Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"'  Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.  Make the preparations for us there."  The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. *the word "lamb" is not in the Greek text of Mark but was added by the modern translators.  The Passover victim could be a lamb or a goat kid (Ex 12:5b).

St. Mark identifies the day: On the first day of the Unleavened Bread, when they kill the Passover, his disciples said to him, "Where do you desire that going we may prepare that you may eat the Passover?" (Mk 14:12; literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 140).  The Passover and the week-long celebration of Unleavened Bread are listed as two separate feasts in the Old Testament (i.e. Ex 12-13; Lev 23:4-8; Num 28:16-25) and Unleavened Bread is listed as a pilgrim feast (Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:5-17; 2 Chr 8:13).  However, in Jesus time (30 AD) the names of the two feasts were used interchangeably to refer to the entire 8 holy days.  The Jewish priest-historian FlaviusJosephus (37-100 AD) records that in his time the term "Passover" came to mean the celebration of both feasts as one festival event: "As this happened at the time when the feast of Unleavened Bread was celebrated, which we call the Passover ..."   (Antiquities of the Jews 14.2.1; also see 17.9.3; Jewish Wars, 5.3.1).  Like Josephus, St. John refers to the two feasts as "Passover" as Jews still do today.  Actually, modern Jews do not keep the Passover at all.  They keep the feast of Unleavened Bread from the 15th-21st because there is no Temple or sacrificial altar where the Passover victims can be offered.

Note that in the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Old and New Testament the victim is never referred to as the Passover "lamb" as it is in many English translations.  The animal could be a lamb or a goat-kid.  The instructions for the selection of the victim in the first Passover in Egypt required the people to select,  A flock-animal, a perfect one, a male, a yearling shall be to you.  You shall take from the sheep or from the goats.  And it shall be for you to keep until the fourteenth day of this month.  And all the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it between the evenings [twilights] (literal translation, Ex 12:5-6, IBHE, vol. I, page 170).  Between the "twilights" can be interpreted as between dawn and dusk = high noon. 

St. Luke tells us the two disciples who were sent to prepare the room were Peter and John Zebedee (Lk 22:8).  It was the practice of the residents of Jerusalem to generously open their homes to Jewish pilgrims during the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread and to provide rooms for the sacred meal of the Passover victim, a meal that had to be eaten within the walls of the holy city on the first night after the Passover sacrifice.  Sundown the day of the sacrifice was the beginning of the next day, Nisan the 15th, the beginning of the seven-day pilgrim Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The owner of the banquet chamber must have already secured the Passover goat-kid or lamb for Jesus, perhaps on the 10th of Nisan when the Passover lambs and kids were chosen for sacrifice in the first Passover (Ex 12:3). 

When Peter and John arrived at the house, they discovered that an upper room had already been arranged with the banquet tables and the couches for reclining at the meal (Mk 14:15a). However, as Jesus told them, Peter and John still needed to make certain necessary preparations (Mt 26:19).  They needed to be certain that there was an adequate supply of red wine for the banquet's four ritual communal cups and the additional wine that the guests were to consume during the meal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1C).  They needed to insure that there were stone vessels filled with enough water for the three ritual hand washings during the meal.  They needed to provide the other necessary foods for the women to prepare for the meal, and if it was not already prepared, they needed to set up a roasting pit and spit of pomegranate wood to roast the Passover sacrifice (Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:1B). 

In addition to all those arrangements, Peter and John also had to personally inspect the premises to be certain that all leaven, a sign of sin, had been removed (Ex 13:7).   According to the Law, prior to noontime on the day before the beginning of Unleavened Bread (the day of the Passover sacrifice) it was necessary for the covenant people to do a thorough search of the rooms of their houses in Jerusalem to be certain that all leaven had been removed for the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 13:6-7; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:3-1:4).  They were also required to begin their fast at noon: "On the eve of Passover [meal] from just before the afternoon's daily whole offering, a person should not eat, until it gets dark" (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1A).  The "afternoon's daily whole offering" is the afternoon liturgical worship service and sacrifice of the Tamid, an unblemished male lamb, and the "eve of Passover" refers to the Passover meal eaten on the first night of Unleavened Bread (the Mishnah and the writings of the Rabbis only refer to the entire eight days as "Passover," as does the Gospel of John).  The preparations are ready, and Apostles are about to begin a journey that will reveal the fulfillment of the three times Jesus gave them the prophecy concerning His Passion and Resurrection in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (e.g., Mk 8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-34).

Mark 14:17-21 ~ The Feast of Unleavened Bread and Jesus Announces His Betrayer
17 When it was evening, he came with the Twelve.  18 And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me."  19 They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one, "Surely it is not I?"  20 He said to them, "One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish.  21 For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.  It would be better for that man if he had never been born."
The date of the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the 15th of Nisan was always set by the Temple hierarchy according to the lunar calendar on the night of the first full moon of the spring equinox (Ex 12:8; Lev 23:5; Num 28:16; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:1; Philo, Special Laws, II, 151, 155 ).

And as they reclined at table and were eating...
What were they eating?  They were eating the traditional meal of the feast of Unleavened Bread: unleavened bread, bitter herbs, the roasted meat of the Passover victim and the meat of the voluntary festival offering if there was one (see Ex 12:8).  It was also permissible to have a mixture of fruit and wine that represented the red clay of Egypt and the sweetness of redemption called charoset.

To share a meal was the greatest sign of communion among friends and also communion with the Lord God (Gen 26:30; 31:54; 1 Sam 9:24 and Ex 24:9-11; Lev 7:11-21; Dt 12:4-7, 11, 26-27).  At the sacred meal on the first night of Unleavened Bread, Jesus makes an announcement.  The joyous gathering becomes solemn as Jesus announces His betrayal by one of the Twelve.  His prediction is a fulfillment of a psalm that is attributed to David in Psalm 41:10 ~ Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned [lifted his heel against me] me.  The words in the brackets are the literal translation; it is a Semitic expression for "to do violence" (also see the same words used by Jesus in John 13:18 where Jesus, speaking of His betrayal said: "I am not speaking of all of you.  I know those whom I have chosen.  But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, 'The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.'"  Also see comments on such a betrayal in Sirach 37:1-2.

The words from Psalm 41:10 recall God's judgment against the Serpent in Genesis 3:15 concerning his relationship with the "seed of the woman" that is the future Redeemer-Messiah:  I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; He will crush your head while you strike at His heel (literal translation in Gen 3:15; the pronoun "He will crush" can be read in the Hebrew as either masculine or feminine and therefore can refer to both Christ and His mother).  The Serpent's identity is given in Rev 12:9; he is Satan.  God told the Serpent (who is Satan) that the "seed of the woman," who is Jesus Christ, will "crush" his head, or destroy him while the Serpent is only able to do violence to Jesus.  In the film "The Passion of the Christ," the opening scene dramatizes this prophecy very effectively and recalls what St. John wrote in 1 John 3:8b ~ The son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil.

There are the two reasons Jesus makes this announcement without revealing the name of His betrayer.  One reason lies in the response of the disciples.  First, it causes His disciples to search their hearts in an examination of conscience as they recall Jesus' prophecy of His Passion, death, and resurrection.  They must ask themselves will they remain loyal or will they betray their Lord.  Second, it gives Judas the opportunity to confess, to repent his evil intentions, and seek forgiveness.

20 He said to them, "One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish.  21 For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.  It would be better for that man if he had never been born."
They were eating from a communal dish into which they had all dipped their hands, so they did not know which one was the betrayer.  The Scripture Jesus refers to that foretells His death is probably Isaiah 52:13-53:12.  In betraying the Son of God, Judas will condemn himself to eternal damnation.  But, just as Jesus opened the opportunity for Judas to confess and be forgiven by His warning, Judas rejects the offer.  That Judas' actions fulfilled prophetic Scripture does not mean that he did not have free will in his decision.  Judas took full responsibility for the wicked path he took.  God's divine plan anticipates human actions but does not cause them.

Jesus came to the feast dressed in the linen seamless tunic of a priest (Jn 19:23).  The manner of His dress identifies the Last Supper as a liturgical service.  The sacred meal opened with a traditional blessing of the food by the father or host of the feast.  All the food they ate that night was symbolic of the first Passover liberation from death.  It was a story that Jesus, as the host of the meal, retold for the assembled guests according to the traditions of the meal.  In addition to the roasted lamb or goat-kid that represented the first Passover victims, they ate unleavened bread, a mixture of chopped fruit with a little red wine and cinnamon that represented the red clay of Egypt, two kinds of bitter herbs that represented both the bitterness of the Israelites' slavery in Egypt and the bitterness and suffering that is the result of sin, and they were drinking red wine from individual cups and from four communal cups mixed with a little water that represented the blood of the sacrificed animal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 9:3F; 10:1-10:5).  They were also three ritual hand washings during the meal.  At one of those ritual hand washings (probably at the beginning) Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles to teach them the importance of humility in service to the Kingdom of the Christ (Jn 13:4-17). They also sang the Hallel Psalms (Ps 113-118) during the meal.

Some scholars have suggested that Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Last Supper a day or two earlier than the designated feast day, using a solar calendar instead of the liturgically required lunar calendar and thereby rejecting the date set by the Temple hierarchy.  Other scholars have suggested that no sacrificed lamb or kid was present at the meal and that the Last Supper only consisted of the bread and wine transformed into Jesus' Body and Blood. 

It is unthinkable that Jesus did not celebrate this feast at its liturgically designated time and according to the obligations of the covenant.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus supported every aspect of the Old Covenant Law saying: Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:17-19).  Jesus' work to fulfill the Old Covenant was not accomplished until He pronounced the words It is finished (it is fulfilled/accomplished) from the Cross (Jn 19:30).  Until that pivotal moment in salvation history, obedience to the Law as it was intended to be fulfilled in the true meaning and expression of the commands, prohibitions and rituals God established for His people at Mount Sinai was supported by Jesus as the "way of life" (Dt 30:15-20).

Jesus fully supported the authority of the priesthood in fulfilling the rites and rituals of the Sinai Covenant, which certainly included appointing the dates of the designated feast days.  On His last day of teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus addressed the issue of the authority of the Temple hierarchy: Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you..." (Mt 23:1-3; emphasis added).  Jesus would not have told the people to obey the hierarchy of the Church one day and then do the exact opposite by celebrating the Passover on a day other than what was designated according to the liturgical calendar on the next day. 

The theory that Jesus and His disciples used another calendar and celebrated their meal earlier on Thursday instead of Friday comes from a misunderstanding of John 19:28 in which, after Jesus was taken to the Roman governor, the chief priests refused to enter the Roman Praetorium but insisted on remaining in the courtyard of Pilot's residence: And they themselves did not enter to Praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover.  In St. John's Gospel the entire 8-day feast is called "Passover" and "eat the Passover" that is referred to in this verse must refer to the Sacred Assembly at the Temple that was required that morning at 9 AM where the people brought their festival communion sacrifices (hagigah) that were to be eaten each day in a festive meal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:4A).  They had to remain ritually pure in order to attend the Sacred Assembly and take part in the communion meal (Lev 7:19b-21).  This verse could not be referring to the Passover sacrifice and meal for three reasons:

  1. It was not required that everyone attend the Passover sacrifices.
  2. If one became ritually unclean, one only had to ritually bathe in a mikveh (ritual purity pool) or be sprinkled with purification water and ritual purity would be restored at sundown (Lev 15:10-11; 22:5-7; Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:2).  The sacred meal of the Passover victim took place after sundown so there would be more than enough time for them to become cleansed and returned to ritual purity to attend the sacred meal of the Passover victim on the first night of Unleavened Bread.
  3. Jesus would not have used another calendar for the feast.  The religious leadership set all the days of the annual feasts including the sacred meal of the Passover victim according to the lunar calendar, and Jesus declared their authority in religious matters His last teaching day at the Temple when He said:  "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example" (Mt 23:2-3).  He also said that all the Old Law would remain in place until "all things" had been accomplished (Mt 5:18).  He would have been as much a hypocrite as the Pharisees and scribes He condemned if He said this and then celebrated the feast on a day that was not authorized by the religious hierarchy.

The motivation of some to say the Passover sacrifice took place on Friday instead of Thursday is to reconcile their misunderstanding of John 19:28 and to make Jesus' death take place at the very hour the Passover lambs and kids were being sacrificed.  They apparently do not realize if Passover fell on a Friday the sacrifices began earlier at one-thirty (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:1B-D).  They also do not realize that there was a sacrifice that perfectly coincides with Jesus' Passion.  It was not the many thousands of Passover lambs and goat kids but the single sacrifice of an unblemished male Lamb known as the Tamid sacrifice that was ritually sacrificed and its blood poured out against the altar in a morning liturgy at 9 AM (the third hour) and again in the afternoon at 3 PM (the ninth hour) for the atonement and sanctification of the covenant people and the hoped for salvation of the entire human race (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:3-8; the entire section of the Mishnah:Tamid; Philo, Special Laws, I.35 [169]).

It is also ludicrous to suggest that only bread and wine were served at the meal Jesus hosted.  This theory completely contradicts all the Gospel accounts that clearly refutes the theory that Jesus and His disciples did not eat the required Passover meal under the Law of the Sinai Covenant prior to the gift of the Eucharist. In addition to Mark 14:17, 20 see:

The eating of this sacrificial meal in the middle of the lunar month of Nisan at the time of the full moon was the last legitimate sacrificial meal of the Old Covenant.  It was a sacred meal that was transformed and fulfilled in Jesus' Last Supper that became the first Eucharistic ("thanksgiving") banquet of the New Covenant people of God.  It was absolutely necessary for the faithful remnant of Jews who became the restored Israel of the New Covenant to participate in this last Old Covenant ritual.  It was necessary for them to be able to comprehend its transformation and fulfillment as a true sacrificial meal in the offering of Christ the Lamb of God in the Eucharistic banquet a New Covenant liturgy.  If the Last Supper did not take place during the legitimately designated meal of the Passover victim on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then the Jews present at the meal could not have understood Jesus' offering of the unleavened bread and red wine as His Body and Blood to be a continuing sacrificial meal and not only a symbolic gesture.  The suggestion that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper on a night other than the prescribed Passover feast erodes the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is indeed a true sacrificial meal.

Mark 14:22-26 ~ The Last Supper and the Institution of the Eucharist
22 While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body."  23 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  24 He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.  25 Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."  26Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Notice that Jesus did not offer His disciples the sacred meal of the New Covenant until after they had already been eating (verse 22; also see Mt 26:26; Lk 22:14-20).  He offered the gift of the first Eucharist after the ceremonial passing of the first two communal cups of wine, after the unleavened bread that was dipped into the fruit mixture and bitter herb in the communal dish (Jn 13:26), after the boiled meat of the hagigah festival offering was eaten, and finally after the roasted flesh of the Passover sacrifice.  After consuming the Passover sacrifice, no other food was to be consumed and only the last two of the communal cups of wine were to be offered to the guests: the third cup, called the Cup of Blessing or Redemption and the fourth cup that concluded the meal called the Cup of Consecration that concluded the meal.  But for the second time Jesus broke with the ritual tradition of the meal; the first time was the washing of the Apostles' feet at the beginning of the meal (Jn 13:4-10).

he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body."  The Greek verb translated "gave thanks" is euchristeo.  It is the origin of the Church's name for the Sacrament of the Eucharist which commemorates the Last Supper.

24 He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.
The phrase "blood of the covenant" is the same phrase used in the ratification of the Sinai Covenant (Ex 24:8).  The Last Supper is not only the New Covenant sacred meal, but it is a covenant ratification ceremony in the presence of God the Son in the same way the representatives of the covenant people ate in the presence of God at Mount Sinai (Ex 24:9-11).

But take a moment to reflect that His statement is absolutely shocking.  Not only does it suggest His violent death in the shedding of His blood but He asks them to violate a prohibition of the Sinai Covenant.  It is as shocking as His statement in the Bread of Life Discourse that caused many of Jesus' disciples to walk away from Him (Jn 6:60, 66) when we said: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day (Jn 6:54).

This statement made remaining in the Old Sinai Covenant impossible (see Gen 9:4; Lev 3:17; 7:26; 17:10-12, 14; 19:26; Dt 12:16, 23-28; 15:23). The blood of a living creature was the means God provided for the atonement of mankind's sins; therefore consuming blood was a prohibition for the people of God and the punishment for the violation of this prohibition was excommunication.  How then could Jesus ask His disciples to do what was forbidden by the Law of the covenant?  See 2 Pt 1:4.  To drink the blood of animals would be base and demeaning, but to drink the blood of the Son of God is to be elevated to a share in His own divine life.

Notice the oath did Jesus swore in verse 25.  He swore that He would not drink wine again until the day when He would drink it new in the kingdom of God.  Drinking wine is a symbol of joy, festivity, abundance, and covenant union (Ps 4:8; 23:5b; Is 62:9; Mt 27:27-28; Lk 22:20).  The oath Jesus swore means He could not have passed the fourth communal cup that official concluded the sacred meal.  It was called the Cup of Consecration and it symbolically sealed and confirmed God's covenant with Israel for yet another year.  In offering those gathered what He literally identifies as His Body and His Blood, Jesus is fulfilling what He promised in the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6:35-56.  He gave them the living bread that came down from heaven with the promise that whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world (Jn 6:51). Jesus' gift of Himself carries the promise: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (Jn 6:54-56; see CCC 610-11).

Mark 14:27-31 ~ Peter's Denial Foretold
27 Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed.'  28 But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee."  29 Peter said to him, "Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be."  30 Then Jesus said to him, "Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times."  31 But he vehemently replied, "Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you."  And they all spoke similarly.

Jesus quotes from the prophecy of Zechariah 13:7 ~ Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is my associate [chosen], says the LORD of hosts.  Strike the shepherd that the sheep may be dispersed [scattered]...   How bitterly Peter and the others must have remembered their boasts as the tragic events of Jesus' Passion and death began to unfold.  Jesus predicted that before the double trumpet signal of the "cockcrow" at 3 AM that Peter would betray Him three times.  There were indeed two trumpet signals at 3 AM: one from the Levitical guards of the Night Watch at the Temple and the other from the Roman Night Watch at the Antonia Fortress.

Mark 14:32-42 ~ Jesus' Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
32 Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray."  33 He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed.   34 Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death.  Remain here and keep watch."  35 He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; 36 he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.  Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will."  37 When he returned he found them asleep.  He said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep?  Could you not keep watch for one hour?  38 Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."  39 Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing.  40 Then he returned once more and found asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him.  41 He returned a third time and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?  It is enough.  The hour has come.  Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.  42 Get up, let us go.  See, my betrayer is at hand."

It is probably about midnight when Jesus and His disciples departed from the house of the Last Supper, exiting the city of Jerusalem and crossing the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives.  They go to a place called Gethsemane (oil press) that St. John describes as a garden; it was a place where Jesus often met with His disciples (Jn 18:1-2).  It is in this garden that Jesus will face His covenant ordeal.  A covenant ordeal is a test of obedience to God that often involves personal sacrifice.  Abraham's covenant ordeal was his test concerning God's command that he offer his only "beloved son," Isaac, in sacrifice (Gen 22:1-2).  In this covenant ordeal, God the Father is asking His "beloved Son" (Mk 1:11) to offer Himself in sacrifice, but Jesus in His humanity must submit of His own free will.  Remember that the first man faced a covenant ordeal in a decision to either remain obedient to the will of God for his life or to make his own destiny, and Adam's test was similar to Jesus' test  (Gen 2:8, 16-17; 3:6-7) since both Adam and Jesus faced a covenant ordeal of obedience in a garden. 

33 He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed.   34 Then he said to them, "My soul is sorrowful even to death.  Remain here and keep watch."
Jesus takes the same three Apostles aside that He took with Him in the healing of the Synagogue official's daughter (Mk 5:37) and in the Transfiguration experience (Mk 9:2). 

35 He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; 36 he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.  Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will." 37 When he returned he found them asleep.  He said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep?  Could you not keep watch for one hour? 
What is the "hour" (see Jn 12:27).   And what is the "cup"?  For the significance of the "cup" see the chart on the symbolic significance of the reoccurring images of the Old Testament Prophets.  Remember, Jesus has already judged the Temple, the religious hierarchy and the people of Jerusalem and found all guilty of covenant failure. In the images of the prophets, the "cup of God's wrath" symbolized divine judgment for rebellion against God in the failure to be obedient to His covenant commands.  The "hour" refers to the coming Passion of the Christ.  This passage reminds us that Jesus is fully human and His humanity shudders at what He must face in offering Himself up in atonement for the sins of mankind.  St. Luke tells us that He was in such agony that His sweat became like drops of blood (Lk 22:44).  But, of His own free will, Jesus submits Himself to God's divine plan for Him and for the salvation of the world.  This is the cup of His Passion that He told James and John Zebedee that they would surely drink in Mark 10:39.  It is the "cup" of the full force of God's judgment on sin, which he now willingly accepts (Mk 14:36) and fulfills the prophecy in Isaiah 51:17 and Jeremiah 25:16-18,

The key word is Jesus' command to "keep watch" (verses 33 and 37)  It is a command He first gave in His discourse on the coming tribulation in Mark 13:9 and repeats now.  It is a warning for disciples in all generations in every age of man.

Mark 14:43-52 ~ The Arrest
43 Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.  44 His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, "The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely."  45 He came and immediately went over to him and said, "Rabbi," And he kissed him.  46 At this they laid hands on him and arrested him.  47 One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his ear.  48 Jesus said to them in reply, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me?  49 Day after day I was with you teaching in the Temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled."  50 And they all left him and fled.  51 Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.  They seized him, 52 but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.

Again Mark announces that Jesus' betrayal is by one of His own, one of the Twelve.  The chief priests, scribes and elders are the three groups that make up Judea's governing civil body, the Sanhedrin, for whom the reigning High Priest serves as the president.  Judas' prearranged signal, of a greeting and kiss that are normally acts of respect and affection have become acts of betrayal that illustrate the depth of Judas' contempt for Jesus.  When Judas, of his own free will, refused Jesus' invitation to repent but still received Jesus' offer of the sop at the meal of the Last Supper, he closed his heart to Jesus and gave over his soul to Satan (Jn 13:26-27).

St. John's Gospel relays the information that it was Peter who attempted to protect Jesus by attacking the high priest's servant and cutting off his ear (Jn 18:10).  Jesus offers one last sign of His divine authority by healing the servant's ear (Lk 22:51).  Jesus protests that they are treating Him like a robber, but acknowledges this is so "the Scriptures may be fulfilled,"  probably a reference to the "Suffering Servant" passages in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and to the suffering of all God's holy prophets for carrying out God's commission (see Jer 37:13-16).

All the Apostles ran away, including a young man clothed only in a linen cloth; not a tunic but a toga type Greek garment.  The incident with the young man is only included in Mark's Gospel and many of the Church Fathers believed the youth was Mark himself.  Linen was the cloth of the wealthy and the young man is not wearing the tasseled cloak of an adult member of the covenant.  His escape in his naked condition recalls the prophet of Amos: the most stouthearted of warriors shall flee naked on that day, says the LORD" (Amos 2:16).

Mark 14:53-59 ~ Jesus is tried by the Sanhedrin
53 They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.  54 Peter followed him at a distance into the high priest's courtyard and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire.  55 The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none.  56 Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.  57 Some took the stand and testified falsely against him, alleging, 58 "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this Temple made with hands and within three days I will built another not made with hands.'"  59 Even so their testimony did not agree. 

Mark places the narrative of Peter's covenant ordeal at either end of Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin.  Peter's cowardliness is contrasted with Jesus' acceptance of the cup of suffering and His courage and resolve.The way the trial is conducted shows their hypocrisy and the contempt the religious leaders have for the law.  The entire trial was a travesty of justice:

  1. The council met in the darkness and in secret at the High Priest's palace instead of in the daylight at the normal meeting room within the Temple precincts.
  2. The council members knew the witnesses were lying because their testimony did not agree, and they ignored the law concerning the agreement of at least two witnesses.
  3. No witnesses were called to defend Jesus.
  4. They had already decided that Jesus must die (Mk 3:6; 11:18; 14:1).
  5. The false witnesses who testify against Jesus recall Psalm 35:11-12 and 72:12.

The council clearly disregarded the Law concerning giving false statements.  Bearing false witness was forbidden in the Ten Commandments and the penalty according to the Law was death (see Ex 20:16; Dt 5:20; 19:16-18).  For this outrage against justice, the unjust sentence with which they condemned Jesus became a judgment on their own dark souls.

When it was morning [dawn] all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.  They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.
Matthew 27:1-2

Jewish theologian Philo of Alexandria (c. 25 BC – AD 50) on the Tamid sacrifice: Accordingly, it is commanded that every day the priests should offer up two lambs, one at the dawn of the day, and the other in the evening; each of them being a sacrifice of thanksgiving; the one for the kindnesses which have been bestowed during the day, and the other for the mercies which have been vouchsafed in the night, which God is incessantly and uninterruptedly pouring upon the race of men.
The Works of Philo, Special Laws, I.35 [169]
Note that the Jewish "evening" is our afternoon.  Their "evening" began after high noon.

At dawn in the Temple, the morning Tamid lamb was led out from the Lamb Office to be inspected by the High Priest or his representative.  If it was judged "without fault," it was tied near the altar where it remained until the hour of sacrifice.  The same procedure was followed for the afternoon Tamid that was brought out at noon (Mishnah: Tamid). The single sacrifice of the Tamid Lamb in two worship services is intimately tied to the Passion of the Christ (see handout 1 and the chart: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/jewishtimedivision.htm ).

Mark 15:1-15 ~ Jesus' Trial by the Roman Governor
1 As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council.  They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.  2 Pilate questioned him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"  He said to him in reply, "You say so."  3 The chief priests accused him of many things.  4 Again Pilate questioned him, "Have you no answer?  See how many things they accuse you of."  5 Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.  6 Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested.  7 A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.  8 The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.  9 Pilate answered, "Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?"  10 For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.  11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.  12 Pilate again said to them in reply, "Then what do you want me to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?"  13 They shouted again, "Crucify him."  14 Pilate said to them, "Why?  What evil has he done?"  They only shouted the louder, "Crucify him."  15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scoured, handed him over to be crucified.

Jesus was condemned die by the Sanhedrin at dawn.  In the Temple the first Tamid lamb was led out to the altar at dawn where it was inspected by the High Priest or his representative, declared "without fault" and condemned to die in the morning worship service that was also a Sacred Assembly for the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Num 28:17-18).  Both the Tamid lamb and Jesus were selected by the religious hierarchy to die for the sake of the people (Jn 11:49-50). 

The Sanhedrin did not have the power to condemn Jesus to death.  In the Roman provinces, only the Roman government had the power over life and death (Jn 18:31). Therefore, they took Jesus to Pontius Pilate who had come to Jerusalem from the governor's residence in Caesarea Maritima on the coast.  The Gospel of John records that it was "about the 6th hour" Roman time, which according to our time would be between dawn and 7 AM when Pilate sat in judgment over Jesus (Jn 19:14).  All the Gospels record that Jesus was not intimidated by the High Priest, nor was He intimidated by the Roman governor.  Jesus was in charge of His destiny.

Jewish nationalism was always a problem during the annual feasts, and therefore there was usually an additional Roman presence during the festivals to ensure the peace.   Pilate had served as the governor of Judea since 26 AD.  All the Gospels record that Pilate was reluctant to condemn Jesus.  In the Gospel of John, Pilate declares Jesus "without fault" three times (Jn 18:38; 19:4, 6). Pilate realized the Jewish leaders condemned him because of their jealousy (Mt 27:18; Mk 15:10), and he continued to bait them by referring to Jesus as "king of the Jews;" Pilate knew it was the title by which the crowds acclaimed Jesus on His ride into Jerusalem. 

8 The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.
One wonders where this crowd came from in the early morning hours when most righteous Jews who had attended the sacred meal were either just getting up or preparing for the required liturgical Sacred Assembly at the Temple that began at 9 AM with the offering of the first Tamid lamb (Lev 23:7; Num 28:18).  Were these people cut from the same cloth as the false witnesses who were recruited by the religious leaders?

11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
Question: What was ironic about the demand for Pilate to release Barabbas instead of Jesus?  The name bar Abbas in Aramaic means "son of the father."
Answer: They preferred to have a robber/revolutionary and a murderer released to them instead of the peaceful and innocent Jesus.  Jesus was the true "Son of the Father" who was the Son of God while Barabbas was the son of a human father.

13 They shouted again, "Crucify him." 
Crucifixion is the most horrific form of capital punishment.  The Romans only used this form of execution for non-Roman citizens who were accused of heinous crimes including treason against Rome (St. Peter was crucified but St. Paul, a Roman citizen, was beheaded).  Jesus' crime was treason: fostering insurrection against Rome by claiming to the king of the Jews and the son of God, both titles of the Roman emperor.  The religious authorities wanted to have Jesus dcrucified by the Romans (see Dt 21:22-23).  They wanted Jesus discredited as a common criminal and as one who was cursed by God by being "hung on a tree" who therefore could not possible be the Messiah.  Having the Romans execute Jesus also protected them from the crowds of Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah.

They did not understand that Jesus was taking upon Himself the curses they deserved for disobedience to God and His covenant.  St. Paul wrote, Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who hands on a tree," that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Gal 3:13-14 quoting from Dt 21:22-23).

Mark 15:16-20 ~ Christ the King is Crowned with Thorns
16 The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.  17 They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, place it on him.  18 They began to salute him with, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 19 and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.  They knelt before him in homage.  20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.
Wherever the Roman governor had his residence was considered the seat of the Roman government.  Pilate was either staying in the Antonia Fortress adjacent to the northeast corner of the Temple area or in the palace of Herod near the Jaffa Gate.  Most Biblical scholars favor the palace of Herod since Jesus was passed back and forth between Pilate and Herod Antipas in Luke 23:6-11

Jesus' silence before Pilate and Herod (Lk 23:9) and the ridicule Jesus endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers fulfills Isaiah's prophecies of Yahweh's Suffering Servant:

Mark 15:21-32 ~ The Way of the Cross and the Crucifixion
21 They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.  22 They brought him to the place of Golgotha which is translated Place of the Skull.  23 They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.  24 Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.  25 It was nine o'clock in the morning [the third hour] when they crucified him.  26 The inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews."  27 With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left.  28 And Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'And he was counted among the wicked.'*  29 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself by coming down from the cross."  31 Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, 'He saved others; he cannot save himself.  32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe."  Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.
*not in the earliest manuscripts; it is a quote from Is 53:2.  [..] = literal transltion

A pilgrim to the feast, Simon of Cyrene, is forces to carry Jesus' cross when Jesus becomes too weak (Mt 27:32-33; Lk 23:26; Jn 19:17).  That Mark names the sons of Simon suggests that they were known within the Christian community.  The place of execution was called "Place of the Skull," Golgotha in Hebrew/Aramaic, not because the hill looked like a skull but because it was a burial site; it was located outside the city walls according to the Law since nothing "unclean" like a dead body could remain with the holy city of Jerusalem (Lev 24:14; Num 15:35; Jn 19:20).

As the Tamid lamb awaited its sacrifice, it was given a last drink from a golden cup.  Jesus was also offered a drink.  It was wine mixed with a narcotic to dull the pain, but He refused it.  It was probably a custom based on Proverbs 31:6-7 in which a condemned criminal was offered a drug.  Jesus refused to drink the wine because He vowed He would not drink wine again until He came into His kingdom (see Mk 14:25).

24 Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.  What we know of the horrors of crucifixion and that the soldiers cast lots for Jesus' clothing evokes Davidic Psalm 22.  The entire psalm is a description of a crucifixion victim centuries before the Persians invented this form of torture and death: As dry as a potsherd is my throat; my tongue sticks to my palate; you lay me in the dust of death.  Many dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me.  So wasted are my hands and feet that I can count all my bones.  They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots Ps 22:16-18

25 It was nine o'clock in the morning [the third hour] when they crucified him. 
Mark is the only Gospel writer to record the exact time of Jesus' crucifixion.  The Gospels of Matthew and Luke only mention the darkness of a total eclipse that began at noon after Jesus had been on the cross for some time, as does Mark in 15:33.  The darkness, a symbol for evil and sin in the Bible, engulfed the world.  The eclipse occurred:

The darkness lasted from noon until the ninth hour which is three in the afternoon (Lk 23:44).  It is contrary to the laws of nature for a total eclipse of the sun to occur during the full moon cycle of the spring equinox and even secular writers recorded the strange event.  Julius Africanus quoted a Roman scholar named Phlegon who wrote a history in which he commented on the rare phenomenon of a solar eclipse during a full moon cycle at the time of Christ's crucifixion: "During the time of Tiberius Caesar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon" (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1 quoting from Phlegon's Chronicles). 

The chief priests perfectly planned their attack against Jesus.  That morning all Jews who faithfully observed the covenant, including Jesus' followers, were going to the Temple for the required Sacred Assembly.  By the time the liturgical service was over, with its many communal sacrifices and personal communion offerings, Jesus will be dead (Num 28:18-23).

At the Temple, the first Tamid lamb was sacrificed as the Temple gates opened for the liturgical worship service of the Sacred Assembly at the third hour Jewish time (9 AM).  At noon, the 6th hour Jewish time, the second Tamid lamb was brought out to the altar.  At the ninth hour Jewish time (3 PM) the second Tamid lamb was sacrificed for the atonement and sanctification of the covenant people.  Note in St. John's Gospel he uses Roman time in which the 6th hour is 6 AM (we keep Roman time)

In the first Passover, the blood of the sacrificial victim that was smeared with a hyssop branch from the threshold to the doorposts and lintels of the houses represented the safe entry and protection of those under the "sign" of the blood (Ex 12:22-24).  It was also a "sign" that visually illustrated the price of redemption and salvation and symbolically pointed forward in salvation history to the sacrificial death of Jesus, the Lamb of God (see 1 Pt 1:2; Rom 5:8-9; Heb 9:13-14; 13:12).  Jesus' precious blood was smeared on the cross beams and upright support of the Cross, becoming a "sign" of salvation and redemption, just as the blood of the first Passover victims was smeared on the doorposts and lintels of the Israelite houses as a "sign" of salvation and redemption from the tenth plague.  The entire event of the first Passover and the salvation of the Israelites prefigured the Passover of our Lord and the salvation of humanity.

26 The inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews." 
Despite the protests of the chief priests that the plaque should read "He said he was King of the Jews," Pilate ordered that the plaque that listed the crime for which Jesus was being executed was to read "The King of the Jews" in three languages: Aramaic, Greek, and Latin (Jn 19:19-22).  The irony is that it was the truth.

Mark 15:33-41 ~ The Death of Jesus
33 At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon [the ninth hour].  34 And at three o'clock [the ninth hour] Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  35 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, "Look, he is calling Elijah."  36 One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down."  37 Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.  38 The veil of the Sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.  39 When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"  40 There were also women looking on from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.  41 These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him.  There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem. 

According to Flavius Josephus, who was himself a chief priest, the afternoon Tamid was sacrificed at the ninth hour, which is three in the afternoon (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.3 [65]).  Despite the darkness, the afternoon Tamid was continuing at the Temple by the light of the altar fire. But what is the connection between Jesus and the Tamid sacrifice, a single sacrifice of two lambs that was to be offered to God perpetually (Ex 29:38-42): one in the morning at 9 AM and the second in the afternoon at 3 PM with each sacrifice accompanied by a red wine libation and unleavened bread?  Note that the Hebrew word "Tamid" means "standing" as in continual or perpetual.  See how Jesus is described by St. John in his vision in Revelation 5:6.  Jesus is the true Lamb of God which every Tamid lamb down through the centuries only prefigured.  St. John saw Jesus as the "Lamb Standing" before the throne of God continually offering up His perfect, unblemished sacrifice.  Jesus' sacrifice, like the Tamid, was a single sacrifice of His humanity (morning Tamid) and His divinity (afternoon Tamid).  His sacrifice is continually (the meaning of tamid) made present on the altar of the New Covenant people of God with unleavened bread that becomes His glorified Body and a red wine libation that becomes His precious Blood.

All the different classes of the blood sacrifices of the Old Covenant were fulfilled in the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God.  However, the Passover blood sacrifice of the thousands of unblemished male lambs and goat-kids, the Tamid sacrifice of the unblemished male lamb offered for the expiation and sanctification of the covenant people in a liturgical worship service every morning and afternoon, and the sacrifice of an unblemished male lamb on the day of the Feast of Firstfruits were sacrifices that were uniquely fulfilled in Christ's Passion and Resurrection:

  1. The sacrifice of the Passover was fulfilled in the Last Supper when Jesus began His walk to the altar of the Cross.
  2. The sacrifice of the unblemished Tamid lamb, a single sacrifice offered in a morning and afternoon liturgical service, was fulfilled in Jesus' Passion and sacrificial death on the altar of the Cross in offering up both His humanity and divinity.
  3. The Feast of Firstfruits was celebrated on the day after the Sabbath during the Holy Week of Unleavened Bread and the required sacrifice was a single, unblemished, male lamb (Lev 23:10-12).  Resurrection Sunday was the Feast of Firstfruits in which Jesus is the "firstfruits" of the resurrected dead (1 Cor 15:20-23).

34 And at three o'clock [the ninth hour] Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus makes seven statements from the altar of the Cross:

Jesus' Last Seven Statements from the Cross Scripture
1. "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Lk 23:34
2. "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Lk 23:42
3. "Woman, behold, your son"... "Behold, your mother." Jn 19:26-27
4. "Eli, Eli lema sabachthani," "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" ~ Hebrew
"Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani," "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" ~ Aramaic*
Mt 27:46 (*Ps 22:1a quoted in Hebrew)

Mk 15:34 (Jesus quoted from Ps 22:1/2a in Aramaic)
5. "I thirst." Jn 19:28
6. "It is fulfilled."+ Jn 19:30
7. "Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit."+ Lk 23:46 (Ps 31:5/6 quoted)
Michal E. Hunt © copyright 2012

*Jesus has alluded to Psalms 22 in Mt 27:35, 39 and 43.
+It is hard to know which of these two statements are His last words from the Cross.  Also see the document on the Crucifixion.

35 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, "Look, he is calling Elijah."  36 One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down."  37 Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
Some in the crowd are confused and think Jesus is calling on the prophet Elijah.  St. John records that the "reed" upon which the drink of wine was offered was a hyssop branch and Jesus drank the wine, cried out "It is finished" and then took His last breath and gave up His spirit (Jn 19:29).
It is significant that the reed was a hyssop branch and that Jesus drank this wine while He had refused the wine earlier because of His vow not to drink wine until He came into His Kingdom (see Ex 12:22).  A hyssop branch was used to smear the atoning blood of the first Passover victim around the doors of the children of Israel as a sign of redemption and salvation.  It is fitting that now a hyssop is used to give Jesus the wine that symbolized the "wine of God's wrath" in divine judgment that Jesus takes upon Himself as His sacrifice is accepted by God and He enters into His Kingdom.

As Jesus prepares to enter into His divine Kingdom, the wine He drinks is also symbolic of the 4th Cup of the sacred Passover meal that He could not offer at the meal.  When the last cup is offered, the host of the meal says "It is finished" (can also be translated "It is fulfilled"), announcing that the obligation is finished for another year and the people are again consecrated to the covenant with Yahweh.  What is "finished/fulfilled" that Jesus announces is the Old Covenant (see Mt 5:18; Heb 8:6, 13).  There is now a new Passover sacrifice whose blood has been offered for the purification of sins (Heb 9:22, 27-28) and a new sacred meal that will mark the continuation of a New Covenant in the blood of Christ.

38 The veil of the Sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. 
The curtain that was torn from top to bottom covered the entrance to the Temple's most sacred space where God's Presence dwelled in the midst of His people, the Holy of Holies.  Jewish priest-historian, Flavius Josephus, writes that the thickness of the curtain was the width of a man's hand.  It was not a natural event.  The ripping open of the curtain signifies that the way into God's Divine Presence in the heavenly Sanctuary that had been closed since the Fall of our original parents is now opened and ready to receive the souls of the just.  God the Father has accepted His Son's atoning sacrifice (see CCC 536 and 1026).

39 When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" 
The Roman officer is the first to proclaim Jesus the Son of God after the Crucifixion.  It is a foreshadowing of the coming of the Gentiles into the New Covenant Kingdom.

Mark 15:42-47 ~ The Burial of Jesus
42 When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath,  43 Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  44 Pilate was amazed that he was already dead.  He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died.  45 And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.  46 Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock.  Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.  47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.

The Jewish "evening" is our afternoon since the next day began at sundown.  Mark 15:42 establishes that Jesus was crucified on Friday, which is called "preparation day" for the Saturday Sabbath.  Pilate was surprised that Jesus had died because it was not uncommon for a crucifixion victim to last for three days.  It was necessary for Jesus' friends to get custody of His body as soon as possible on Friday afternoon.  At sundown the Sabbath will begin and if they want to bury Him according to the traditions of the Jews, He must be in the tomb before sundown.  If they hadn't acted as soon as possible, the Romans would have cremated the body according to Roman customs.  The tomb was a new tomb (not previously used) that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea who was one of Jesus' disciples (Mt 27:57-60).  The Gospel accounts do not mention Jesus' body being washed in the usually way of a person who died naturally because the blood of a person who died a violent death had to remain with the body.   That the shroud was made of linen means it was very expensive.  The women disciples watched to mark the place so they will be able to return and continue the customary mourning after the Sabbath on the first day of the week. 

Catechism References:
Isaiah 50:4-7 (CCC 713); 50:4 (CCC 141)
Psalm 22 (CCC 304)
Philippians 2:6-11 (CCC 2641, 2667); 2:6-9 (CCC 1850); 2:6 (CCC 449); 2:7 (CCC 472, 602, 705, 713, 876, 1224); 2:8-9 (CCC 908); 2:8 (CCC 411, 612, 623); 2:9-11 (CCC 449, 2812); 2:9-10 (CCC 434); 2:10-11 (CCC 201); 2:10 (CCC 633, 635)
Mark 14:12-25 (CCC 1339); 14:18-20 (CCC 474); 14:22 (CCC 1328); 14:25 (CCC 1335, 1403); 14:26-30 (CCC 474); 14:33-34 (CCC 1009); 14:36 (CCC 473, 2701); 14:38 (CCC 2849); 14:57-58 (CCC 585); 14:61 (CCC 443); 15:11 (CCC 597); 15:34 (CCC 603, 2605); 15:37 (CCC 2605); 15:39 (CCC 444)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015