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. Additional insights have been included here in the blogpost, that aren’t shared with my family.
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.
Who arranged for the group's Passover Lamb?
This year I wondered for the first time who would be put in charge of making the arrangements for the pascal lamb. Judas was the one in charge of the money bag. Of all the disciples, I would not at all be surprised if he were the one to make arrangements for the lamb at the temple.
Everyone was in anticipating for Passover meal with Jesus in Jerusalem. The entourage traveling with Jesus and His disciples included their wives, and likely many of their children. The group most likely observed Passover in the years prior to this one. Since not mentioned explicitly in the gospels they likely observed Passover away from Jerusalem, meaning the meal would have not included the lamb as part of their meal. If anything, they would have only had a lamb bone on the table.
Pascal lambs must be killed at the temple if used for the Passover feast. If my hunch is true, that Judas was, with everyone’s knowledge, arranging for the symbolic lamb – it was something purchased. But secretly, and as a traitor, he was simultaneously selling the Lamb of God for 30 pieces of silver; the price of a slave. That year (33AD) was the fulfilment and culmination of millennia of promises. Judas provided access to Jesus to the Priests, likely expecting that Jesus would whisk away safely as he had done so many times before. (see Luke 4:30, John 7:30, John 8:59, John 10:31 & 39, John 12:36).
Because the only acceptable Passover lambs were those slain in the temple Jerusalem saw an influx of visitors during this week in the tens of thousands. For the temple priests, it was likely a logistical nightmare providing all the people with their lambs. Not just keeping track of each family’s lamb, but the amount of blood would have been horrific. The temple is known to have had access to natural flowing streams directed through floor channels to carry and wash the sacrificial blood away.
Last Supper, Wednesday after Sunset - Nisan 14
And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus is saying here that he would like to observe Passover with his disciples, but he would not actually be able to. And would not eat a Passover meal until everything is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. Does fulfillment include His second coming? Likely. Adrian Larson has a fascinating series on significant Passovers and also believes that a significant Passover is still in our future.
The disciples were making all of the arrangements in anticipation of a Passover dinner with their Lord, which would be the sunset beginning Nisan 15. However, I’m not sure they heard him despite his explicitness.
The Last Supper when he instituted the sacrament was the dinner the day before Passover. There would have still had unleavened bread at the meal, because it was a requirement to not have any leaven in the house during and in the days leading up to Passover. The biggest difference on Nisan 14 would be that the meal would not have included the Pascal lamb meat. The designated time for the lambs to be killed in the temple was Nisan 14 between 3pm to 5pm.
All accounts agree on the purpose of the sacrament which is to remember the body and blood of Christ that would sacrifice on our behalf. All the rites and sacrifices added through Moses pointed to His great sacrifice of His body and blood.
The specific prayers on the bread and wine were recorded in the Book of Mormon.
On the bread:
O God the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his spirit to be with them. Amen.
On the wine:
O God the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them, that they may witness unto thee, O God the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his spirit to be with them. Amen.
Catholic denominations observe the sacrament weekly, but only distribute the bread portion of the emblems to the congregation. Only the priest partakes of the wine. The thought is that the dry portion is more easily recovered if dropped. The holy symbol of Christ’s blood is too precious to be spilled. To avoid this, some denominations will dip the Eucharist into the wine prior to putting it into the congregant’s mouth.
Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the sacrament once a year on 14 Nisan. The emblems are both passed, but most don’t take unless they are certain they are among the chosen 144,000.
Despite having the specific wording of both prayers, the LDS church have officially altered the words of the sacramental prayer to change the word wine into water.
Ordinance of Washing Feet
At that last Passover, Christ knelt to wash the feet of His disciples. Peter objected most strongly, but the others were likewise hesitant to see the Lord kneel as if their servant. He told them that if He did not clean their feet they would have no part with Him. He said they would not understand what He was doing until later, and so they should indulge Him and allow Him to proceed.
He washed away the dust of this world. He removed the sins the disciples bore. He renewed the forgiveness once experienced through washing at baptism with another ceremony. This washing would remove any contamination these disciples had acquired between the time of their baptism and that Passover evening.
Judas was among the disciples who had their feet washed by the Savior. There is a similar ordinance still practiced in the LDS church today that is known as the Second Anointing where one of the apostles washes the feet a couple who have been carefully selected, proven, and deemed ready and worthy. It’s not unexpected that current apostles & their wives would have had this ordinance performed in our day. As recently as 8 years ago I learned that this exclusive invitation is extended to lay leadership as far down in the church hierarchy as Stake President. The main difference in the LDS practice is that there is a belief that the test of mortality is over and the promise of eternal life and exaltation is definitively secured.
Judas however, after having had this ordinance performed by the Savior Himself, yet fell.
If you want your feet clean, walk in the paths of righteousness, and stay in there.
Judas left during the evening. We learn later that it was to finalize his deal with the Pharisees. I wonder what went through the mind of Judas at this point when the Savior said, “That which you do, do quickly.” Did Judas twist the meaning in his own mind? “Jesus knows what I’m doing and he’s OK with my plan to make some extra money. I’m going to share most of it with the group. It’s so expensive to buy supplies for all these people as we go. He’s going to get out of it again, obviously. There’s no danger here, He knows!”
Judas knew where to meet them in Gethsemane’s garden. He was aware, at least in part, of the evening’s planned activities.
Gethsemane 8:00 pm, Wednesday Nisan 14
After dinner Jesus lead the remaining eleven disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane.
And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
Gethsemane means “oil press” in Hebrew, referring to the olive press that produced olive oil for the Jews, and this garden was located on the mount of Olives. It was a symbolic location as Jesus was pressed and crushed under the weight of human sin, sorrow, and suffering to produce at-one-ment with God for both sinner and victim.
The Garden of Gethsemane is where olives were pressed into oil. Olive oil, in my opinion, is the best material symbol to represent the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was pressed with the extreme pressure of His suffering for all of us that His olive oil, that is, His blood oozed from His pores. When pressed with extreme pressure, olive oil oozes out of the pores of olives in blood red droplets.
I first experienced this stunning fact when I was a student at the BYU Jerusalem Center some years ago. We had harvested olives from the Center’s olive trees and prepared to make oil that we could consecrate for priesthood purposes.
The day of pressing the olives to extract the oil, I walked to the pressing station. The olives were being put under tremendous pressure between a pressure screw and the beautiful white Jerusalem limestone. As I drew near, my breath was taken away. I thought I saw blood pouring over the white limestone rock, as if a sacrificial victim was giving its life away. I was so surprised. I had no idea that olive oil initially emerges from the olive blood red before it turns the beautiful golden green we are so familiar with.
One of the most impactful accounts of what happened in Gethsemane was shared by Denver Snuffer, who saw the events of that night in vision. He shared the account in his Christian Series, talk 3.
The Lamb of God has overcome and trodden the winepress alone, even the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.
I have my kids pour out some red grape juice onto a pad to symbolize in their minds His blood being spilt in Gethsemane.
Thursday, 2 am Arrest
If a man was accused of a capital crime, he could not be arrested at night. It had to be in broad daylight. Even though arresting someone at night was against the law Judas led the soldiers to Jesus and identified him in the darkness among the otherwise unfamiliar faces.
Jesus is taken first to Annas (ONE), former High Priest who didn’t even have technical jurisdiction. He was deposed by the Romans in 14AD (for being hard to push around), but was likely considered the real high priest by the people, since in Judaism being the High Priest was an appointment for life. Next, he was sent to Caiaphas (TWO), current/recognized High Priest, where he spent the night in a dungeon. Interesting to note that Annas was Caiaphas’ father-in-law. (John 18:13)
6:00 a.m. – Jesus is taken in front of the Sanhedrin (THREE) where Nicodemus (a believing man who once approached him at night) sat in council. That was the shortest of the six. To his credit, Nicodemus reminded the Sanhedrin that the law requires a person be heard before passing judgement.
The first three Jewish trials, none of which were conducted in the proper manner, were to establish blasphemy. Blasphemy was punishable by death under Jewish law. However because of the Roman occupation, ecclesiastic leaders could not execute Jesus as they wanted to. In order to see it through, they transformed the charge into one of treason, which was punishable by death and turned him over to Roman authorities.
When daylight came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes; and they led him away to their council … Then the whole company of them arose, and brought him before Pilate (FOUR). (Luke 22:66; 23:1)
7:00 a.m. – Jesus stood trial in front of Pilate, who at this point did not know what charges he was being accused of. When asked, they sarcastically answered in in effect, “If he wasn’t guilty, he wouldn’t be here.” Pilate asked whether the accused was a Galilean. So when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod (FIVE), who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. (Luke 23:6-7)
8:00 a.m. – Jesus stands before Herod Antipas. This Herod is the same man who had beheaded his cousin John. Herod had heard many things about Jesus and wanted to see some magic tricks, but when He didn’t perform Herod mocked him and sent him back to Pilate dressed in a “gorgeous robe”. (Luke 23:11)
8:30 a.m. – The Savior was brought to trial before Pontius Pilate a second time (SIX). Pilate came outside to hear their charges. The charge was now changed to that of high treason, the most serious offense in the Roman law.
Members of the Sanhedrin lied and said that Jesus had forbidden the people to give tribute to Caesar. What He really said was, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”—(Matt. 22:21). They also accused him of making himself a king. (Luke 23:2.) When Pilate asked the Savior directly, “Art thou the king of the Jews?” (Luke 23:3), the Savior answered, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
Pilate found no fault in Jesus and wanted to let the Savior go free. “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.” (Luke 23:14)
There’s an excellent essay that goes into greater detail on the violated legalities, if you’re interested.
Two Men - Two Goats
Pilate reminded the Jews that it was the custom during the Passover season to release one of the prisoners from prison. He was willing to use this custom for the release of Jesus. However, the Jewish people cried, “Release … Barabbas” (Luke 23:18); so a murderer and one guilty of rebellion was released.
The two goats are alike in the ritual. Just so, too, are the positions of Christ, the Son of God, and Barabbas, on the other hand. “Bar” meaning “the son of,” “Abba” meaning “the father.”
Was it his given name or the name he assumed as a zealot. Whichever, his name title co-identified “The Son of God” and “the son of God, Barabbas.” So we have the actual Son of God, on the one hand, and a man whose name refers to him also as “the son of God” standing co-equally before the congregations of Israel. “And whom shall I free?” And the lot falls upon the Savior.
The two goats are treated differently in the ritual—one is killed; the other, laden with sins, is set free. Barabbas is set free.
Two goats “And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.”
“I will therefore chastise him and release him” … But that wasn’t good enough.
When finally Pilate asked the people what they wanted him to do with Jesus, they all cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him.”
Pilate washed his hands before the people to demonstrate that his hands were clean of the blood of the innocent Christ. Then he was sent to be scourged.
Jesus was whipped 40 times, which was the maximum allowed under Roman law. The whip had pieces of bone and broke metal meant to dig into the flesh and rip it out.
They placed a crown of thorns on his head, meant to mock him. This was also illegal.
Gambled for His Clothes
Now the guards, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments and made four parts, to every guard a part; and also his coat. The coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They agreed among themselves, Let us not cut it up, but cast lots for it, and someone will take it whole. This fulfilled the prophecy in scripture that foretold, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. This prophecy foretold how the guards would divide his raiment as he was dying.
Mary, his mother grew up in the temple and was a master weaver. She not only likely contributed to making the veil of the temple, but she likely also wove the garment he wore and did it in such a masterful way that it had no seams. It was all one piece and that was considered very valuable and expensive. Also remember that He was additionally wearing the “gorgeous robe” that Herod had given him.
Vinegar to drink
…they gave him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall. And when he had tasted the vinegar, he would not drink. (Matt 27:33-34)
This was a fulfilment of another Psalm, in 69:21.
They gave me also gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Recall that one of the requirements of the Nazarite Vow was to not eat or drink anything that had come from the vine. At the Last Supper Jesus said that he would “not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
My God, My God....
Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani! — which is (being interpreted), My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
This is recorded in both Mark 15:34 and Mathew 27:46.
After all He had endured, it would have required a great effort for Him to cry out with a loud voice. His hoarse cry from the cross still rang out in the familiar words and tune from the great Messianic Psalm.
His cry called attention to the prophecy which was at that very moment being fulfilled. Christ was bearing testimony that He was the Messiah, and that this sacrifice and suffering was necessary. Those who heard the first words of the Psalm would have been able to complete it in their own minds. He did not need to go any further than the opening line. The Psalm He shouted out to the crowd says, among other things:
Christ’s shout: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” was His single greatest declaration of His true identity.
He was certain of His calling to pass through this ordeal. He knew exactly the prophecy which described best the manner of His suffering. He reminded all who were present of that prophetic Psalm that foretold this very hour of His suffering.
It foretold the details of:
• piercing His hands and feet,
• the taunting that He had saved others, let Him save Himself,
• parting His garments,
• and looking upon Him as accursed.
My God, why have you forsaken me? My God, hear the words of my roaring. You are far from helping me. O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you answer not, and in the night season, and am not silent. But you are holy that inhabit the Heavens. You are worthy of the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in you. They trusted and you did deliver them. They cried unto you and were delivered. They trusted in you and were not confounded.
But I am a worm, and loved of no man, a reproach of man and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn. They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord, that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
But you are he that took me out of the womb. You did make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon you from the womb. You were my God from my mother’s breasts.
Be not far from me — for trouble is near — for there is none to help. Many armies have encompassed me; strong armies of Bashan have beset me around. They gaped upon me with their mouths like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my inward parts. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws, and you have brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have encompassed me, the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me. They pierced my hands and my feet. I may tally all my bones. They look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not far from me, O Lord. O my strength, hasten to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword, my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth, for you have heard me speak from the secret places of the wilderness through the horns of the re’em.
I will declare your name unto my brethren. In the midst of the congregation will I praise you. You that fear the Lord, praise him; all you, the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all you, the seed of Israel. For he has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted. Neither has he hidden his face from him, but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of you in the great congregation. I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied. They shall praise the Lord that seek him. Your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before you. For the kingdom is the Lord’s and he is the governor among the nations. All they that are fat upon earth shall eat and worship. All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him, and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born — what he has done.
It is Finished! 3pm
Luke records shortly after this first shout, Christ cried out again in a loud voice, but he does not report what was said. (Luke 23: 46.)
John tells us He shouted: “It is finished!” (John 19: 30.) The Roman guards would have known what these words meant. It was the cry of triumph. It was the declaration of victory. When battles were won, “It is finished!” was the victor’s shout. It signaled the time for killing had ended and surrender was secured.
It was Christ’s declaration that the battle was over, and victory secured! These loud declarations by the crucified and suffering Lord tell us there was absolutely no confusion, no doubt, no uncertainty by Him as He completed the final agony of His assigned ministry.
He knew full well who He was, even if those present doubted. He proclaimed His status as Messiah, the necessity of His suffering, and His victory loudly, boldly, and without any hint of doubt or regret. Here was a God indeed. Here was victory by a noble, determined, suffering God.
Then, having won the greatest victory of the ages, sensing at last the end of His ordeal, He quietly spoke His final words to His Father: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23: 46.)
excerpts from “Come Let Us Adore Him”
It was on Nisan 14 between 3-5 pm that the Pascal lambs were slain in the temple. The Lamb of God was slain on the very day and hour that was required.
The location of this final moment was at a place called Golgotha.
The significance of Golgotha goes back to when David, youngest son of Jesse, killed the giant Goliath of Gath in one-on-one combat. After winning the battle with his slingshot, David took the giants head, removing it with Goliath’s own sword. David brought it back to Jerusalem and buried the head outside the city walls (1 Samuel 17:51-54). The people would have considered this location hallowed. A place where people could go to honor, recognize and commemorate God’s ability to fight Israel’s seemingly impossible battles.
Golgotha doesn’t mean anything close to “skull” in Hebrew, Aramaic, or any other language. The significance of Golgotha would have been well known prior to the Babylonian invasion. Afterward, the name has kept remnants of Goliath of Gath, and even today is known as the place of the skull.
It was likely in this location where, prior to 600 B.C., Lehi prayed for Israel and received his pillar of fire vision.
At the same time when the brass plates, Joseph of Egypt’s record, were safely spirited away to the New World with Lehi and his family, some other contemporary prophet(s) following God’s instruction removed the Ark of the Covenant from the treasury and hid it away; sealing it in a cave under the Goliath of Gath’s mound. We know now it was hope in a future battle that was yet to be won. The significance of the location was lost in time, but God kept the site to Himself.
As Israel was restored to Jerusalem again the temple was rebuilt, but without the Ark of the Covenant taking up residence in the Holy of Holies. Jerusalem’s residents did not know what had become of the sacred artifact.
Golgotha’s prominent view from the city made it a good location to send a message to potential Roman dissidents. During the Roman occupation Golgotha became instead the site for crucifixions. A vivid and public deterrent for anyone considering going against the rule of Cesar.
“And they came to the place that is called Golgotha, which is the place of skull.” (Matthew 27:33)
As it turned out the cross Jesus hung on was set immediately above the Ark of the Covenant.
Once a year, after the Passover sacrifice was killed, blood from the altar was taken into the Holy of Holies by the high priest and sprinkled on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. On this significant Passover, and with His great and last sacrifice, how should His blood be sprinkled on the mercy seat, unless God had made arrangements well in advance of this moment.
Upon his death, both the veil of the temple rent in twain and an earthquake split the ground (Matt 27:51-52).
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs, but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side and immediately came there out blood and water.
This is one of those details I consider to be a jot and tittle. Every i dotted, every t crossed. He blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat.
He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
Although the Jewish leaders were willing to have Him crucified, they did not want His body to remain on the cross overnight. It would be a religious offense, because as we saw in Deuteronomy at the beginning of this chapter, the body of one killed on a tree was required to be buried “that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled.”(Deu. 21: 22–23.)
As John explains:
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
And after this Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. (John 19: 31–38.) To avoid profaning the high holy day associated with Passover, the bodies of all three condemned men needed to come down from their crosses.
It was the Jewish leaders who asked for the legs of them all to be broken. But there is something more sinister here. Given John’s reference to the scripture that required not a bone of his body to be broken, the request from the leaders was likely made as a pretext to deny that Christ was the one foreshadowed by the ritual of the Pascal lamb.
Christ had just shouted out the beginning words of the 22nd Psalm. These leaders may not have believed on Him, but they certainly understood the scriptures and what they foretold about Him. Therefore the request to break the legs to avoid profaning the high holy day was a ruse to break the bones of the Son of God.
By doing so, they could distinguish Jesus in death from the requirements for a Pascal lamb. They needed His bones to be broken. When the order came to break the legs, Christ was already dead. The other two victims were not so fortunate. The Roman guards bludgeoned their shins to break the lower bones. Breathing was difficult for the crucified. It was necessary to push up with the legs to free the constriction of the chest in order to inhale. When the Roman guards broke the two thieves’ legs, it stopped them from straightening upward using the cross’ support, to gasp for more breath.
After the legs were broken, the thieves would have expired from suffocation in just a few minutes. Christ was already dead.
Throughout the ordeal He was proclaiming with confidence who He was.
A soldier under Pilate’s command used a spear to stab under the fifth rib, and blood and water exited the wound.
excerpts from “Come Let Us Adore Him”
Jesus’ body was then laid in a brand new tomb offered by one of his wealthy disciples, Joseph of Arimathea. An extremely large stone was rolled in front of the door and two soldiers were set to guard the tomb so that no one could steal the body and claim that Christ had been resurrected.