Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, April 23, 2023
Shavuah Tov,

Yeshua Lives, Even Though Crucified! – Part 3
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: In this RR, I continue a brief diversion series to discuss a few features of Yeshua’s death, burial, and resurrection.

JEWISH SPRING FEASTS: The Jews observed feasts set millennia ago by Adonai. Three of these feasts, occurring in rapid succession in the Spring (the Israelite’s “beginning of months” on 1 Nisan– Exodus 12:2), foretold important events in Messiah’s life. The feast of Passover foretold Messiah’s death; Unleavened Bread, Messiah’s burial; and First Fruits, Messiah’s resurrection.

DISAPPEARANCE OF YESHUA’S BODY; THE FOLDED GRAVE CLOTHS: Matthew 28:1ff, Mark 16:1ff, Luke 24:1ff, and John 20:1ff inform that Yeshua was buried in a tomb borrowed from a rich man. Pilate, knowing rumors that Yeshua would rise from death, wished to ensure that Yeshua’s body not be stolen so that His followers could claim His resurrection. A large stone was rolled across the tomb’s entrance. Roman guards were stationed at the tomb to prevent theft of the body.

Yeshua was buried in haste on Friday afternoon (just before the beginning of Shabbat). First century Jewish burial practices were laborious and time-consuming. The body was washed (especially important because of Yeshua’s brutal, bloody scourging and execution). Herbs and spices were packed around the body to keep the postmortem stench under control. (Recall an earlier RR in which I stated that two of the three magi’s gifts to Baby Yeshua were fragrant burial spices– myrrh and frankincense. Giving burial products to an infant seems strange, but was highly prophetic in Yeshua’s life.)

Two pieces of linen cloth were used in burial (John 20:6-7): Then Simon Peter comes following him, and he entered the tomb. He looks upon the linen strips lying there, and the face cloth that had been on His head. It was not lying with the linen strips, but was rolled up in a place by itself.

A small piece of linen (similar to our face washcloth) was placed over the face. A long piece of linen (more than double the length of the body) was laid on the ground. The body was laid out on this long piece, with the feet near the end of the cloth. The remaining length of cloth was folded over the front of the body. The body, then, was completely draped in and surrounded by linen.

The prepared body was carried into the tomb, which had been carved out of the face of a rock cliff, and was laid to rest on a rock bench. After decomposition of the body, the bones might be collected and placed in a stone box-like container, an ossuary, for long-term storage.

Two relics are said to represent Yeshua’s burial cloths (shrouds):

● The long strip of cloth is known as the Shroud of Turin [Turin, Italy]. On this Shroud are the residue marks of a Man, who appears to have died of trauma consistent with the Gospel accounts of Yeshua’s crucifixion. A couple of decades ago, I was most interested in the Shroud and read much about it. I thought I knew a little something about this fascinating piece of cloth. I have now moved on to other topics. The Shroud is a most interesting, extensively researched artifact, but I have not kept current and will not embarrass myself by discussing the nuances of recent research. If you want something interesting to read, findings of the Shroud’s research will not disappoint.

  • The face cloth is known as the Sudarium of Oviedo [Oviedo, Spain]. [Latin sudarium = English “handkerchief.”] This cloth relic is said to bear blood stains compatible with a crucified Man’s face. I find the Shroud of Turin more readily interpretable than the Sudarium of Oviedo (at least in photographs).  See photographs of these relics on the Internet:

● Shroud of Turin: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=illustrations+shroud+of+turin&iax=images&ia=images .

● Sudarium of Oviedo: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=face+cloth+jesus%27+burial&iax=images&ia=images .

Women preparing Yeshua’s body for burial would not have had sufficient time from late Friday afternoon to the beginning of Shabbat (sundown on Friday) to prepare the body properly. They needed to return after Shabbat was completed (after Sunday sunrise). Upon the women’s return early Sunday morning (which we celebrate as Resurrection Sunday), the women found that the guards had fled in terror, the large stone was rolled away, the burial cloths were neatly folded in the tomb, and Yeshua’s body was not there (see Matthew 28:6).

As the New Covenant’s First Fruit, Yeshua was resurrected! Tourists now view a site said to be Yeshua’s tomb, although no one knows whether this is Yeshua’s authentic burial place. The important aspect of an empty tomb– wherever it might be– is that Yeshua rose from the dead. All other religious leaders (Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, and so forth) are still in their tombs, but our Savior, Yeshua, is not in His tomb! He is alive now, and will live throughout eternity! And, He has promised that we Believers, too, can have immortality!

Scriptures summarize this miracle (Matthew 28:5-8): But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Yeshua who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly now and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead. And behold, He’s going before you to the Galilee. There you will see Him. See, I have told you!” They quickly left the tomb, with fear yet with great joy, and ran to bring news to His disciples.

If the women were still alive, they would run to tell us: “I witnessed Yeshua’s resurrection, just as He said.” They would run to tell our family and neighbors  the Good News– news that we may have neglected to share.

Yeshua left His grave shrouds behind because He had no longer had use for them. John records what seems to be a minor point, but a point significant for a first century audience (John 20:6-7): Then Simon Peter comes following him, and he entered the tomb. He looks upon the linen strips lying there, and the face cloth that had been on His head. It was not lying with the linen strips, but was rolled up in a place by itself. After Yeshua’s resurrection, His grave cloths (shrouds) were neatly folded in the tomb.

Burial cloths neatly folded… so what? To understand the significance of this observation, understand first century dining customs. Formal meals lasted for hours, instead of our much briefer meals. If a diner needed to leave the table for some reason but planned to return, he/ she would casually drop his/ her napkin on the table. Servers recognized that the diner would return, and the meal setting was left in place. If a diner was through eating and did not plan to return, he/ she would neatly fold the napkin and place it on the table. Servers recognized that the diner would not return, and the meal setting was removed. By neatly folding His burial shrouds, Yeshua left a silent message that He had no further use for the funeral shrouds and the grave, and He would not return.

WHY CRUCIFIXION? Crucifixion was an especially barbaric form of execution. The victim was nailed through the forearms and feet to two crossed pieces of lumber. The victim died in constant agony. (The cruci- part of our English word “excruciating” comes from the Latin word for “cross.”) The subject tried to find relief from wrist pain by “standing” on his feet, and then tried to find relief from foot pain by pulling up on his wrists. It would take hours for the victim to die of exhaustion from this see-saw shifting of weight. The lungs and pleural spaces filled with fluid (acute heart failure), with inadequate oxygenation of the blood.

SIDELIGHT: The English word for Yeshua’s execution instrument varies by translation version. Most versions translate the Greek (stauros) as “cross,” but the Tree of Life Version (TLV) translates the word as “execution stake.” Either translation is acceptable. For a crucifixion, the Romans used any upright, stable object to which they could nail a body (tree, stake, cross, fence, etc.).

We can deduce from Matthew 27:32 that Yeshua’s cross was a two-piece structure. Simon from Cyrene was conscripted to carry the cross, which a weakened, stumbling Yeshua could not continue. This verse confirms that the Romans used crucifixion as a humiliating spectacle, forcing a “dead Man walking” to stumble on cobblestone streets, carrying the heavy cross-beam to Golgotha. This verse also confirms that Yeshua’s cross was a two-piece structure (cross), rather than a fixed one-piece structure (stake). A full cross would be too heavy to drag. The TLV does nicely embellish this verse, stating that Simon carried Yeshua’s “cross-beam.” This cross-beam was called the patibulum (Latin) in Roman military (execution) manuals. END sidelight.

The pre-crucifixion scourging with a whip fitted with sharp object tips was intended to weaken the victim and hasten death. If the victim lived too long on the cross for the soldiers’ convenience, his leg bones (tibiae, shins) would be broken so he could only slump on the cross and could not breathe deeply enough to sustain life. Yeshua’s legs were not broken, fulfilling a Psalm 34:20 prophecy (alluded to in John 19:33, 36): Now when they [the soldiers] came to Yeshua and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. |…| These things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, “Not a bone of His shall be broken.”

Yeshua died a bloody death to fulfill God’s requirement for sin forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22): And nearly everything is purified in blood according to the Torah, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

There were several types of crosses used in the first century. Artists usually depict Yeshua’s cross in the familiar Latin cross shape (†). Probably more commonly used was a simpler cross (T), shaped like our letter “T” or the Greek letter Tau. The tau cross (T) is much easier to construct and is stronger than the Latin cross (†). A struggling, fully grown man would put great stress on a Latin cross, and it might come apart. A tau cross would be much more stable, stronger, and easily constructed because it would be built around a simple mortise and tenon joint. A tenon (wooden projection) would be cut in the permanently embedded, vertical stipes. A mortise (channel) would be chiseled in the horizontal patibulum. Soldiers could lift up the patibulum, to which the victim was nailed, and slip its mortise over the tenon. Perhaps this is what Yeshua saw in His future, when He spoke about being lifted up (John 3:14-15): [Yeshua said] “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life!”

The Romans knew of several methods to kill victims other than crucifixion (and shed blood in the process). Yeshua was crucified as much to humiliate Him, as to kill Him. He was severely scourged (beaten). He carried His cross along crowded Jerusalem streets before the eyes of many witnesses to the place of execution. He did not drag an entire cross, as shown by artists, which would have been too heavy. The upright or vertical member (stipes) was solidly anchored in the ground, much like a short telephone pole. The horizontal member (patibulum) would be tied to Yeshua’s back. Yeshua, greatly weakened from the scourging, would be forced “to take up His cross” and stumble to the place of execution. He would be stripped naked as further humiliation.

With the patibulum (cross-beam) on the ground and Yeshua placed on top of it, long nails were driven through the forearms into the wooden beam. A few soldiers could lift the patibulum, to which Yeshua was nailed, to the top of the stipes and anchor it in the mortise and tenon joint. Then, Yeshua’s freely swinging feet would be gathered together, and a single nail driven through them into the upright beam. With three nails, Yeshua was completely immobilized on the cross.

SIDELIGHT: Poets write of “the nailed-scarred hands” of Yeshua. Yeshua was likely nailed through the forearms– not the palms of the hands, as shown by artists. Hand nailing (nailing between the metacarpal bones of the hands– the palms) would not hold the body. A strong, struggling man would rip the soft tissues of the palms of the hands, freeing his hands. Nailing through the forearms (between the two forearm bones, the radius and the ulna, and the arch of the carpal bones) would securely immobilize a man. Confusion stems from somewhat ambiguous Greek terminology. Greek χείρ (transliterated, cheir || pronounced, khire) is translated “hand,” but Greeks considered the wrist (the far end of the forearm) as part of the hand. END sidelight.

The all-important YHVH title board was nailed to the cross. The cross, likely placed on the side of a roadway leading into Jerusalem, was probably short (so that the victim’s eyes would be at eye level of passersby and because hoisting a wooden beam and a body on top of a tall cross would be laborious for the soldiers). Artists depict Yeshua on a tall cross on top of a hill. The purpose of crucifixion was to humiliate and torture the victim, while sending a message to others not to run afoul of Roman law. As villagers went to market, they probably stared directly into the anguished faces of crucified victims. They likely knew some victims as neighbors, relatives, friends, or merchants. It would be chilling to see a neighbor or friend, nailed to a cross while dying an agonizing death.

SIDELIGHT: Yeshua was crucified at Golgotha (Aramaic) or Kranion (Greek). Both names may be translated as the “Place of the Skull.” The Greek Kranion was latinized and then anglicized to become our English “Calvary.”

Helena, Roman Emperor Constantine’s mother, traveled to the Holy Land to find landmarks and artifacts of Yeshua’s life. I suspect crafty Arab traders observed Helena’s gold stash, and were only too happy to find for her anything she wanted to see. Helena “found” Yeshua’s crucifixion site, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was later built on this site. Helena also “found” what she believed to be Yeshua’s cross (this rough piece of lumber was somehow  safeguarded a couple of centuries or so), and took part of it back to Rome, where it is a sacred relic in the Basilica of the Holy Cross.

Helena, although well-meaning, undoubtedly was in error (probably even victimized by “helpful” local con artists). The Gospels indicate Yeshua was crucified outside of Jerusalem, not inside as Helena “found.” There is a rock cliff face, with “rounded top and eye sockets,” outside the city walls of Jerusalem along an ancient path across from today’s bus station. This cliff face resembles a skull. Many theorize that this spot is Golgotha. Others believe the “eye sockets” are due to more recent excavations (after Yeshua’s time). In short, no one knows where Yeshua was crucified. Helena would have better spent her gold by helping the poor, instead of being swindled by “helpful” Arab locals.

Speculation: Why do we know so little about the personal aspect of Yeshua? We wish the disciples had been more curious “journalists” and recorded details about Yeshua. Did He laugh a lot, or tell jokes? What was His favorite food? What was His stamina like, as He climbed rocky roads in the heat? And so forth. We know virtually nothing personal about Yeshua. This probably is appropriate, though. Yeshua came to teach and die. Do personal details matter? Do we wish we had a Facebook or Twitter site written by Yeshua’s disciples? Yeshua came in ordinary appearance (read Isaiah, chapter 53). His words matter and His death matters, but His personality is irrelevant. END sidelight.

Consider the position of the cross and Yeshua’s body:

● The vertical member (stipes) extended from sky to earth. God on high came down to us on Earth through Yeshua, who was crucified there that day.

● Two criminals were crucified with Yeshua. Yeshua’s arms extended toward the criminals, as though offering salvation to both. One criminal accepted salvation, and Yeshua told him that he would be with Him that day in Paradise (not Purgatory). The other criminal mocked Yeshua, refusing salvation. All persons are equally offered salvation. Some accept– others reject– the offer of salvation.

● Yeshua’s arms and hands are still open and outstretched, as an invitation for all. If you have not accepted His invitation, that invitation is still offered to you.

● As Yeshua bled profusely on the cross, His blood covered much of the wooden beam. If you have accepted Yeshua’s offer of salvation, your sins have been nailed to His cross (Colossians 2:13-14): When you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with Him when He pardoned us all our transgressions. He wiped out the handwritten record of debts with the decrees against us, which was hostile to us. He took it away by nailing it to the cross.

Yeshua’s blood has covered your sins, and they are no longer visible to Adonai, even if He wants to look for them. He will not look for this sin, because forgiven sin is forgotten sin (Psalm 103:12): As far as the east is from the west, so far has [Adonai] removed our transgressions from us. On Passover nearly two-thousand years ago, Yeshua paid the price for our sins. Any person may choose to live as a newly born, forgiven, completely redeemed person.

CONCLUSION: I will continue a discussion of this holiest day for Believers next Sunday. Until then, Shalom and Maranatha.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Day 15 of the Omer
Sun 23 Apr-2023 2nd of Iyar, 5783 Day 15 of the Omer
Le 16:1-24 Isa 50 Job 8 1 Pet 5 (Mt 10)