Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, April 2, 2023

Shavuah Tov,

Yeshua’s Preparation to Die for Our Sins
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: I take a brief hiatus in the series on death and dying, which I will resume shortly. Many Christian churches celebrate today as Palm Sunday. Nearly two-thousand years ago, this Sunday marked the beginning of the last week before Yeshua’s crucifixion-burial-resurrection. You may not observe Palm Sunday, but this day should remind us of the accuracy of Bible prophecy and Yeshua’s love. In today’s RR, I will discuss a few things about Yeshua’s last week before His crucifixion to learn more about Him.

TWO PROPHECIES OF THE FIRST PALM SUNDAY: Let’s begin by studying two Tanakh prophecies related to Palm Sunday:

● Firstly, God’s prophet Daniel was taken captive and enslaved by Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel knew from the prophet Jeremiah that the Israelites would be enslaved for seventy years (see Jeremiah 25:8-12, 29:10).

As the seventy years of captivity were nearing completion, Daniel was an old man. He prayed to God, asking what would become of his people, after their release from captivity. God sent His angel Gabriel to tell Daniel of the Israelites’ future, as well as the coming of the Messiah and the end of the Age of Grace (see Daniel 9:20-27).

Part of this prophecy includes: Daniel was told that Israel’s future would be divided into seventy shavuot.

SIDELIGHT– UNDERSTANDING A REMARKABLE PROPHECY: A reminder of the Hebrew calendar is needed to understand this prophecy. From the Hebrew, the singular shabua is a seven-year period, and the plural shavuot is two or more seven-year periods. The Jews’ year was based on a lunar calendar– 360 days– instead of our year based on a solar calendar– 365.25 days. Some Bible versions poorly translate shavuot as “weeks” or “sevens.”

In Daniel 9:24-27, Gabriel told Daniel that his people had seventy shavuot (7 x 70 = 490 Jewish years) of unique importance in God’s eyes. During the first seven shavuot (7 x 7 = 49 Jewish years), the Jews would return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls and streets and to build the Second Temple. Then, for sixty-two shavuot (62 x 7 = 434 Jewish years), they would live in Jerusalem and Israel. At the end of the sixty-ninth shavuot, Messiah “will be cut off and have nothing” (Daniel 9:26).

This countdown commenced at the “command to restore and build Jerusalem.” This command was given to Nehemiah by King Artaxerxes (see Nehemiah 2:1). Nehemiah recorded enough information to determine that the command was given on March 5, 444 BC. Taking 69 shavuot (69 x 7 Jewish years), converting the ancient calendar year of 360 days to our modern calendar year of 365.25 days, and remembering there is no year zero (1 BC passes directly into AD 1), we find that “Messiah was cut off” on the Sunday before His crucifixion– the day Palm Sunday is observed.

Marvel at this: Centuries before the event, God foretold to the very day when the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem to be “cut off” (to have His ministry end)!

The seventieth shabua (final seven years) has not yet occurred, and will occur in the future as the seven-year Tribulation. END sidelight.

● Secondly, God’s prophet Zechariah prophesied that Israel’s King would come to Jerusalem as a humble Servant, riding on a lowly donkey (Zechariah 9:9):  [Adonai said] “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you, a righteous one bringing salvation. He is lowly, riding on a donkey– on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

When Yeshua’s mission from God the Father was drawing to an end, it was time for Him to surrender to Roman authorities in order that He could become the perfect blood sacrifice (our Passover Lamb) for the sins of all mankind. As He approached the outskirts of Jerusalem, He sent two disciples ahead to find a donkey colt for Him to ride (see Matthew 21:1-7). Conquering kings in the time of Yeshua rode into a city on a white stallion. Yeshua, as our Suffering Servant, rode on the lowliest beast of burden– a donkey. When Yeshua next returns, He will ride on a white stallion, which befits His return as King of kings and Lord of lords (see Revelation 19:11-21).

I tell these prophecies in this RR to marvel that God has known our future– including the end of time– from the beginning of time. For example:

● (Isaiah 46:9-10): [Adonai said] “Remember the former things of old: For I am God–  there is no other. I am God, and there is none like Me– declaring the end from the beginning, from ancient time, what is yet to come, saying, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will accomplish all that I please.’”  – AND –

● (Isaiah 42:9): [Adonai said] “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things. Before they spring forth I announce them to you.” 

God has been aware of everything still in our future, even from the moment of creation!

WHY IS THIS SUNDAY CALLED “PALM SUNDAY?” Yeshua entered Jerusalem to surrender to Roman authorities and accept His death sentence of crucifixion. As He rode into the city on the back of a donkey, He was met by adoring Jews (Matthew 21:6-11): The disciples went and did as Yeshua had directed them. They brought the donkey and colt and put their clothing on them, and He sat on the clothing. Most of the crowd spread their clothing on the road, and others began cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. The crowds going before Him and those following kept shouting, saying, “Hoshia-na to Ben-David! Baruch ha-ba b’shem Adonai! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hoshia-na in the highest!” When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds kept saying, “This is the prophet Yeshua, from Natzeret in the Galilee.”

Jews had longed for the Messiah promised to them by God. Some Jews felt that Yeshua was the promised Messiah. As He approached God’s Holy City, Jerusalem, Jews lined the streets to greet their Messiah. They shouted “Hoshia-na” (“Save us!”) to Ben-David (“Son of David”). Jews expected their Messiah to be like their ideal king, David. They wanted to be saved from the Roman occupation of their land.

Yeshua’s true mission was to save them from their sins. He needed to enter Jerusalem to die. His death would provide the blood sacrifice to save all mankind from sin.

Waving of palm branches began approximately two centuries earlier, when the Jewish nation was occupied by the evil Greek-Syrian king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Judas (Judah) Maccabeus raised an army, the Maccabeans, to drive Antiochus from the Jews’ land and cleanse the defiled Temple. From that time, palm branches symbolized expulsion of evil and restoration of God in the holy places. Continue reading this chapter (Matthew 21:12-13), and you will see that Yeshua immediately went to the Temple and drove out dishonest money-changers, cleansing it as did Judas Maccabeus cleanse the Temple nearly two centuries earlier. Since Yeshua’s entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His crucifixion, the palm branch has symbolized a Messiah who has come to remove sin from the world. Palm Sunday celebrates this day.

THE “LAST SUPPER:” Yeshua was crucified during the week of Passover. Passover has been observed every year by Israelites and Jews since the time God passed over Egypt to kill the firstborn of Egypt’s families and flocks, while sparing faithful Israelites. Read more about the first Passover, beginning with Exodus, chapter 11. Israel’s three spring feasts prophesied the coming Messiah and His mission– Passover (Messiah’s death), Unleavened Bread (Messiah’s burial), and First Fruits (Messiah’s resurrection).

Jews have observed Passover, including a special Seder, for approximately 3,500 years. [Seder = translated “set order” = a family meal set by tradition and Biblical commandments.] Yeshua ate His last meal– a Passover Seder– before crucifixion with His disciples (see Matthew 26:17-30). Two food items were present on any Seder table– unleavened bread and wine. Yeshua took the bread and broke it, as a symbol that His body would be broken for the sins of mankind. He took the red wine, the color of blood, and drank it, as a symbol that His blood would be shed for the sins of mankind. The ceremonial eating of bread and drinking of wine make up the ordinance of Communion.

YESHUA’S PRAYERS IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE: After the Seder spent with His disciples, Yeshua left to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:36-46). To better understand the significance of Yeshua’s prayers in Gethsemane, consider:

● Yeshua, knowing He would soon face one of the most horrible forms of execution ever devised (crucifixion), was understandably “deeply grieved” (Matthew 26:38).

● Even the name “Gethsemane” is significant. From Aramaic, Gethsemane, located at the foot of the Mount of Olives, means “oil press.” Oil is a symbol of God’s Spirit. Yeshua, Son of God, was being pressed, as though God’s Spirit was seeming to leave Him. Even during His crucifixion, Yeshua questioned God the Father (Matthew 27:46): About the ninth hour Yeshua cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?”

● Jesus prayed that “this cup” be removed from Him (Matthew 26:39). “This cup” refers to one of the cups He used during the Seder of which He had partaken  just a few hours earlier. Four wine cups were present at the typical Seder. He used the red wine to teach two things: (1) The blood-red wine symbolized His cleansing blood that He would soon shed and which should be commemorated at every Communion (Matthew 26:27-29); and (2) He refused to drink from one of the cups, reserving its wine to be drunk as a symbol of eternal joy with His bride (Believers) at the Marriage of the Lamb. At a Jewish marriage, the bride and bridegroom typically drank wine from the same cup.

Much has been made of the Passover cup used by Yeshua, calling it the “Holy Grail.” The Gospels merely record that Yeshua drank from a cup (ποτήριον – transliterated, potērion || pronounced, pot-AY-ree-on || translated, “cup”). The Greek text does not imply anything special or unique about the cup. “Holy” is not added as an adjective to “cup.” This cup was apparently a cup. Period. Yeshua was an itinerant and had no home (no means to prepare a Seder meal). This Passover Seder was catered by a merchant, presumably housed in Jerusalem. The caterer likely used his usual stock of dining utensils for Yeshua’s Seder and re-used the utensils for the next catered affair. The important aspect of this Seder teaching is the symbol of Yeshua’s shed blood, not the cup He drank from. People can easily go astray, seeking out and revering relics.

● Why did Yeshua pray three times (see Matthew 26:36-46), rather than just once? A hint may be found in the Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah, chapter 53. Please read this chapter carefully during this holy season. Isaiah was told about HaMashiach (the Messiah) who would come to save His people.

There would appear to be “two Messiahs” in this chapter– a Suffering Servant and a Conquering King. This passage has long confused Jewish rabbis. We Believers know that there will not be two different Messiahs, but one Messiah who came/ will come on two separate occasions.

At the first coming (in the past), the Messiah was lowly, gentle, and died to save His people from their sins. At the second coming (in the future), the Messiah will be King of kings and Lord of lords and will defeat Satan and sin forevermore.

As you read Isaiah, chapter 53, note that the Messiah came in three roles: (1)  to heal humankind from their physical problems, (2) to heal humankind from their emotional (mental) problems, and (3) to heal humankind from their spiritual problems. Some scholars believe Yeshua prayed three times in Gethsemane to be delivered from death, but each time God showed His Son that He must die for mankind’s physical ailments, for mankind’s emotional ailments, and for mankind’s spiritual ailments (salvation) – three basic human problems, three healing deaths.

Yeshua was greatly distressed, as He entered the Garden of Gethsemane. After His three prayers, though, He knew why He must die. He arose and faced His death calmly and resolutely. He perfectly understood the mission God had assigned to Him. He offered no protest, when He appeared before Pilate, because it was prophesied the Messiah would be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7): [The Messiah] was oppressed and He was afflicted yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, like a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. 

On the cross (next week’s RR), Yeshua made a statement to show that He understood His mission and had completed it.

YESHUA’S TRIAL, SCOURGING, CRUCIFIXION, BURIAL: During the remainder of Yeshua’s final week, He was arrested, subjected to a trial, scourged (beaten), crucified, and buried in a borrowed tomb. In next week’s RR, I will discuss some interesting events that happened in these final days. Consider this important event: On a Spring day nearly two millennia ago in Jerusalem, Yeshua completed the sixty-ninth shavuot of Daniel’s ancient prophecy. We are fast approaching the seventieth shavuot of that prophecy (the Tribulation) in our future.

YESHUA DIED FOR YOU! Believers are in the holiest season of the year. Although many have sentimental attachments to Christmas (although Yeshua was not born on December 25) and the Messiah’s birth is certainly important, Yeshua was born for one reason: He was born to die, and to die a bloody death.

I am the father of four children. I remember the pride and love I had for each of my children, when they were born. I never looked at any one of them, thinking, “You are born to die.” I lived my life trying to protect them from danger, trying to ensure that they would live. How much more must Father God have looked in love at His Son, Yeshua. He knew Yeshua’s future on Earth, and His heart must have been broken to think of the cruel fate that awaited His Son is a few years.

Since Cain and Abel (see Genesis 4:1-15), God found a blood offering (an offering of life– a forfeiture of life) more acceptable than other offerings. For centuries, Israelites/ Jews offered living things on God’s altar, but such sacrifices made little difference in their lives. God, who has always existed in three persons– Father, Son, Holy Spirit– came to Earth in bodily form as Yeshua HaMashiach (Yeshua the Messiah to teach by words and examples and to be the one-time perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind).

As our Passover Lamb, He permitted Himself to be slaughtered on a Roman cross. The blood shed on that cross is the only sacrifice acceptable for remission (forgiveness) of a person’s sins. This blood sacrifice is the basis of God’s final covenant with mankind– the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:8-12). You can accept Yeshua’s sacrifice for your sins only through faith. Have your sins been cleansed in the blood of Yeshua? If not or if you are uncertain, someone at this synagogue would like to speak to and pray with you. All you need is a willing heart to ask Yeshua into your life and to follow Him as your Master.

CONCLUSION: Today, I have discussed some facets of Yeshua’s last week before He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the remission (forgiveness) of sins. Next Sunday will be celebrated as Resurrection Day (unfortunately called by the pagan name “Easter”) in parts of Christendom. I will discuss Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection next Sunday. Until then, Shalom and Maranatha.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 2 April 2023 11th of Nisan, 5783
Ex 33:12-16 Isa 36 Pr 26 Ac 25 (Rev 19)