Holy Week, Part 1

This particular Passover was a Jubilee of Jubilees.  It was Foreordained to the be the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.  Christ controlled the timing of it all, despite many previous attempts to hold him and kill him.  


This is a presentation that I share with my children annually at Passover.  The scripture verses below are in the KJV and LDS edition format to make it more palatable for them.  

Each year I’ve added some new visual aid, text or detail in understanding.  The presentation has grown to over 30 pages when printed and now cannot be shared in one sitting without cutting significant portions in order to keep the short attention spans of children.  

This year, I’ve decided to break the lesson up into smaller parts on days that coordinate with the last week of Christ so that the children have more time to enjoy and contemplate on all of the significance of the Lord’s final week in mortality.

Nisan 9

Six days before the Passover, Jesus returned to Bethany where he had raised Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus and his disciples likely would have arrived sometime on Nisan 9.  The setting of the sun marked the end of one day and the beginning of the next.  For example, sundown on a Friday is the beginning of the weekly Saturday Sabbath. 

Passover began on Nisan 15, clearly putting the date of their arrival into Bethany on Nisan 9.

Nisan 10 - Saturday after Sunset

They made supper for him and Martha served. Lazarus was among those who sat at the table with him. Many came to be there to see the man who was raised from the dead and to hear Jesus who had raised him.

Martha, Mary and Lazarus were siblings, but they were also Jesus’ family by marriage.  Mary, his wife would have spent some time traveling with Jesus during the course of his ministry, so when coming back into her hometown, Martha was the recognized Lady of the house and hostess.  

This was also the first time that Jesus was back in town since he had raised Lazarus from the dead some few weeks before.  

And among those who were present were his mother, and Mary, the Elect Lady who was companion with Jesus. She cut off the seven locks of his hair that had not been cut before because of the vow, which fell at her feet.


Hair Cutting in Context

In Numbers chapter 6 the conditions of the Nazarite vow are outlined.  

  • Follow God’s commands
  • No razor to cut your hair, including beards
  • Touch not the dead
  • Do not profane the Sabbath
  • Do not eat nor drink fruit of the vine

I’m not sure most people are aware but both Jesus and his cousin John observed the conditions of the Nazarite Vow.

Following God’s command is an obvious requirement.  However, long hair on a man was considered shameful, so it was a sign of humiliation and demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice one’s pride.

Touching not the dead included not going near a dead body or a grave.  This would include your brother, sister, mother, father or spouse.  The wages of sin are death and this requirement was a symbolic way of staying away from sin.  

Do not profane the Sabbath was reiterating the commandment that God had given on Mount Sinai.   However, so many arbitrary observances by the Sadducees and Pharisees were added to the commandment that even the steps were counted away from one’s door.  Placing an egg to close to a candle was considered breaking the Sabbath because the egg might cook.

Not eating or drinking the fruit of the vine included both fresh or dried grapes, wine and vinegar.  Wine represents human joy, abundance, prosperity and material blessings in the scriptures.  Abstaining in this way was a demonstration that one was willing to sacrifice worldly pleasures for God.

These were similar to the requirements expected of the High Priest who was officiating in the temple, where the long hair paralleled the priest’s crown. 

The Nazarite vow was voluntary and would end after a certain timeframe, usually 30 to 100 days.  At the completion of the Nazarite vow, the adherent would shave their head and burn it along with the fat of the Peace offering, one of four offerings.  The four offerings made at the conclusion of a Nazarite vow are:

  1. Peace offering – a ram without blemish
  2. Sin offering – an ewe of a year old
  3. Burnt offering – a sheep of a year old
  4. Meat/Drink Offerings – i.e. meal, oil, and wine

The animals weren’t burnt up to consume them entirely, but were rather cooked until the fat was burnt away on the altar and a portion was eaten by the priests.  The remainder was eaten in a sacrificial feast in which the Nazarite themselves joined in and likely all the family members and community who supported them during their vow. 

There were a few exceptions to this where adherents of the Nazarite Vow made the commitment a lifelong one.  

Sampson, John & Jesus

Sampson honored only part of the Nazarite vow, and for the portion that he kept, namely not cutting his hair, God gave him great strength.

John the Baptist observed the Nazarite Vow perfectly.  He did not eat bread, which seems to be an expansion of his commitment, nor did he drink wine.  Despite his strict observance John was put to death as a threat to peace.  

Jesus famously made wine at the wedding in Cana.  He not only approached the dead, but raised them to life with his touch.  He was accused of breaking the sabbath, but explained how he did not.  His resurrection instituted a new or rather restored the original Sabbath lost in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit on the day of rest.  During Jesus’ lifetime his hair was never cut, until the very last week. 

Isaiah, looking forward at Jesus’ life, commented on this 

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth.

Knowing what happened with Sampson when a woman cut his hair this troubled his disciples who feared his strength would depart from him but said nothing because Jesus permitted it to be done.

Jesus, seeing their concern, asked, Is not a lamb shorn before it is sacrificed? But they did not understand his meaning.

This was also later quoted in Acts 8:32. 

Anointing - 10 Nisan, Saturday Evening

And she took royal oil used to coronate a king, containing spikenard, frankincense and myrrh, and applied it to the head, arms and hands, legs and feet of Jesus. The house would have been filled with the smell of the royal anointing oil. 

There were specific requirements provided by God to Moses for observing Passover. One of those was the date on which an acceptable Passover lamb would be selected. 

This month shall be unto you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month, they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers — a lamb for a house. (Exod. 12:1-3). 

That lamb, selected on Nisan 10, was to become the Pascal lamb.

Many people believe that Nisan 10 was Palm Sunday, when Jesus made his Triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  However, it was not the prerogative of the people to choose the pascal lamb.  Mary, his mother, was the only one with both the right and the consecrated oils toward this end.  

His mother would have safeguarded this gift [frankincense & myrrh] from His birth until now to be used for that moment.  

The anointing served dual purposes.  

The first was to anoint him as the King of Israel, rightful heir to David’s throne.  Inferred in this, is that Jesus’ adoptive father Joseph had passed away by this point.  Jesus’ bloodline through his mother could be traced, and was fully documented, back to King David.  Joseph’s lineage also went back to David, but his line had the legal claim to the throne.  Since the Babylonian destruction and Roman occupation, the throne had been unrecognized and overlooked by the people in favor of the occupying overlords .  Being an adopted son, Jesus could legally inherit the throne.  Jesus’ claim on the throne of King David and over Israel was both legalistic through Joseph and rightful as a literal direct bloodline descendant through his mother Mary.   

There is a familiar children’s rhyme that echoes how it was his mother’s sacrificial roll to lead him to the cross.  He was born to this end.

Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb
Mary had a little lamb
Whose fleece was white as snow

Everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary Went
Everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go

The second purpose in anointing was to prepare for his resurrection.  His mother chose him as THE pascal lamb, and Mary his wife, acting in the roll of a priestess, anointed his body to prepare it for taking it up again after death. 

This anointing is required to be done to establish me before I lay down my life. The poor are always in need in this world, but I reign among you for only a short while and then am offered up as a sacrifice on your behalf.

Palm Sunday - 10 Nisan

Many of those who were there for the Passover heard that Jesus would be entering Jerusalem. They took palm tree branches and went out to greet him as he entered, and shouted, Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that comes in the name of the Lord.

Jesus had sent two followers beforehand to get a young colt, and he entered Jerusalem riding on it. This was exactly what the prophet Zechariah foretold. 

Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion. Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, your King comes unto you. He is just, and having salvation, lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey colt, one that had never ridden on before. At the time the disciples did not recognize that it was fulfilling prophecy.

The leaders were upset and started saying to each other, No one is following our direction. This whole population have become his followers! Luke 19:39 

And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke your disciples. And he answered and said unto them, If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.  John 12:10-11 

So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

The waving of tree branches is associated with the coronation of Israelite kings.  The triumphal entry into Jerusalem is remembered as Palm Sunday.  It represents one of the few times during His mortal ministry when Jesus was publicly acknowledged as the king of Israel. 

Cleanse the Temple, Sunday - 10 Nisan

After his celebrated entry into Jerusalem Jesus proceeded directly to the temple, as he had done at the beginning of his ministry.  

John Eldredge has a wonderful perspective on the personality and complexity of Jesus that defies the stereotypes and 1 dimensional caricatures most of Christendom have painted of him.  

Reading in Beautiful Outlaw pg 34 “Then comes the thunderstorm at the temple…” and ending with “This is our Jesus.”

John read his book and shared it on YouTube for free.  The clip of this passage is below.

Monday, 11 Nisan

Early on Monday the Savior returned again to Jerusalem from Bethany where he was staying with his sister-in-law Martha and brother-in-law Lazarus.  

On his way to the city he was hungry.  

And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward, for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

This cursing of the fig tree is so different from the other miracles of the Savior. Before, he had brought relief to the suffering and had largely used his powers for blessings. But here, he gave a final judgment and caused death. The disciples recognized now that the Savior had power to cause death as well as to give life.

Another possible lesson learned by the disciples from incident nobody should pretend to be something they really are not. The leafy fig tree pretended to have fruit, for the leaf and the fruit of the fig normally develop together. However, this leafy fig tree was deceptively barren.

The tree was blighted not because it was fruitless (so were the other fig trees at this time of the year, late March or early April), but because it was deceptively barren and represented “a type of human hypocrisy.”

Disciples saw the fig tree the next day (Tuesday) on the way into the city,  “And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!” (Matt. 21:18–20.)

Provocation of Sadducees, Tuesday 12 Nisan

This particular Passover was a Jubilee of Jubilees.  It was Foreordained to the be the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.  Christ controlled the timing of it all, despite many previous attempts to hold him and kill him.  

Similar to the cleansing of the temple, Jesus’ provocation was not just a short outburst.  It was sustained.  He went on and on, naming their sins and calling them out.  

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you shut up the kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer them that are entering to go in.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, for you are hypocrites. You devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore, you shall receive the greater punishment.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than he was before — like unto yourselves.

Woe unto you blind guides, who say, Whoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing, but whoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he has committed sin and is a debtor. You are fools, and blind. For which is the greatest — the gold, or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And you say, Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. O fools, and blind. For which is the greatest — the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Truly I say unto you, whoever therefore shall swear by it, swears by the altar and by all things thereon. And whoever shall swear by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells therein. And he that shall swear by Heaven, swears by the throne of God and by him who sits thereon.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cumin, and have omitted the weightier things of the law: judgment, mercy, and faith. These ought you to have done, and not to leave the others undone. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel, who make yourselves appear unto men that you would not commit the least sin, and yet you yourselves transgress the whole law.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. You blind Pharisees, cleanse first the cup and platter within, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you are like unto whitewashed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of the bones of the dead and of all uncleanness. Even so, you also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore, you are witnesses unto yourselves of your own wickedness. And you are the children of them who killed the prophets, and will fill up the measure then of your fathers, for you yourselves kill the prophets like unto your fathers. You serpents, a generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell?

After insulting them, embarrassing them, and disclosing their sins for a sustained and substantial amount of time, they would have already been livid, blind with rage and frothing.  But he next says something that would have finally sent them over the edge.   

Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes.

Clearly, He is saying he is the God of the Old Testament.  He is declaring himself to be YHWH.  “I send”, not God sent not any other third person sent… He took ownership of sending the prophets of Israel Himself.  

The next part I believe had a two fold purpose.  Two both lay the crimes at their feet, but also to insinuate what would happen to himself.

And of them you shall kill and crucify, and of them you shall scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth; from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zechariah, son of Barachias, whom you slew between the temple and the altar. Truly I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation. You bear testimony against your fathers, when you yourselves are partakers of the same wickedness. Behold, your fathers did it through ignorance, but you do not. Wherefore, their sin shall be upon your heads.

His words by this point have had the desired effect.  Their intention to silence him at all cost has blinded them to anything else.  Even to the fact that doing so would be fulfilling prophecy.  Beyond this point there is no need to incite their rage.  The wheels have been set in motion.  He continues to speak, but only to  mourn over Jerusalem.  

Sermon on the Mount, Tuesday Nisan 12

Jesus took His disciples to the Mount of Olives. There He taught the people through parables—such as the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the talents—what they and we must do to prepare for His return. He predicted that he would be crucified at the time of the Passover, but they didn’t understand Him.

Plot Against Jesus, Tuesday evening Nisan 13

And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, You know that after two days is the Passover, and then the Son of Man is betrayed to be crucified.

Two days until Nisan 15 places this statement being made on Nisan 13, likely after sunset on Tuesday’s Sermon on the Mount.

After hearing of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead Caiaphas who was the high priest at the time said, “It is better for one man to die to save our people than for our people to be lost.” These words were inspired by God. Because he was the high priest at the time, he unwittingly spoke a true prophecy that Jesus would die to save those people. He would not merely save the Jews but also God’s people throughout the world, whom he would gather as his family. From that moment the leaders determined on a plan to have Jesus killed.

Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver which was the price of a slave. Joseph of Egypt also sold for the price of a slave.  He was sold for 20 pieces of silver – because he was young.

Continued in Part 2, The Last Mortal Day - Nisan 14

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