by miriam berg
Chapter XXVI

Pesach, or Passover, is the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar, because it commemorates the Exodus, which was the event of the escape of the ancient Hebrews from Egypt where the Torah says that they had been enslaved by the pharaoh, or ruler of Egypt. Pesach is thought to mean "festive", or perhaps "leaping over"; "passover" refers to the passing over of the Hebrew houses during the last plague on the Egyptians told of in the book of Exodus. No certain evidence has ever been found for the events there described, although it seems from historical research that Rameses II was the "pharaoh of the oppression" as he is called, and that the Exodus took place under his successor, Merneptah, who was not as strong a ruler as Rameses II had been. It is easy to believe that the Egyptians would not have recorded such a defeat for their rulers, or that one of them had been drowned in the waters of the sea of reeds, which has mistakenly come to be known as the Red Sea, and that that is why we have no record of the Exodus in Egyptian annals. An interesting speculation is that the plague of darkness and the plague of hail and fire was a memory of the explosion of Santorini, a volcano near the island of Crete, which blew up in about 1500 B.C.E., which was not in the time of Moshe, however. Be that as it may, Moshe had instituted the holiday and the traditional explanation was embedded in the Hebrew scriptures by the time of Josiah, the king in the sixteenth generation of David's dynasty, who held one of the most festive Passovers in the history of the southern kingdom to celebrate the return of the nation to Yahwism.

Mark tells us that two days later there was the feast of the passover, although it is not certain two days after what. According to our reckoning it was now the fifth day of the week after Yeshua entered Jerusalem: the first was when he entered and looked around; the second was when he kicked out the moneychangers from the temple; the third was the day of his confrontations with the chief priests, scribes, and Sadducees; and the fourth was the day of his discourse against the scribes and Pharisees and the discourse on the events of the future.

The feast of Passover was also called the feast of unleavened bread because part of the ritual was that only bread not raised with yeast could be eaten. By now the chief priests and the scribes had reached their limit, probably because of the denunciatory things Yeshua had said about them; and they planned how they could arrest him secretly, and kill him. But they didn't dare to during the feast, because they were afraid of an uprising of the people if they arrested such a popular preacher.

Up to now we have heard nothing about the disciple named Judas Iscariot, except for his being mentioned in the lists of disciples by all the gospels. Nor does the gospel of John tell us anything either about Judas prior to this point; he is simply not mentioned. So it is difficult to know why it was that he went to the chief priests and made a deal to turn Yeshua over to them in an unguarded moment, when the people would not be around to protect him. Had he decided that Yeshua was a danger to the Jews in Palestine? had he become disillusioned because Yeshua had worked no sign and organized no army to throw out the Romans? was he hoping that in such a moment of danger Yeshua would finally demonstrate his military intentions and power? The surname "Iscariot" is thought to come from the Roman term sicarii, meaning "dagger-man" or assassin, which is what they called the Zealots, so that Judas may have been a Zealot himself, although he is not called one by any of the gospels. Whatever the reason, he apparently made this agreement with the chief priests, and they agreed to pay him for helping them to arrest Yeshua.

On the day of the feast, the legend is that Yeshua sent two of his disciples into the city, to find and follow a man bearing a pitcher of water, and that the man would have a room in his house where they could have the Seder, or passover celebration, together. They did so, and found the man, who remains unnamed in the gospels, and came that evening for the meal, which was hedged about with great ritual: the meal consisted of a lamb roasted whole, matzos or large crackers of unleavened bread, and red wine symbolizing the blood of the lamb; with many prayers before partaking of anything. The head of the household blessed the meat, and the wine, and the bread; and the ritual prescribed that everything must be consumed at that meal; nothing was to be left over. The head of the household poured a large cup of wine, and after blessing it, he drank from it, and then each member of the household also drank. Then he broke the unleavened bread, and served a portion to each person, and passed around a bowl of bitter herbs and another of a sauce made of dates, figs, and almonds, called haroseth, which was symbolic of the mortar which they had to make for the bricks during their slavery in Egypt. Then everyone took another cup of wine and they all chanted several of the Psalms. It was a ritual of thanksgiving.

At this last meal which the disciples had with Yeshua, he acted as the head of household, but apparently without following the Seder ceremony exactly. However, it is likely that the actual writers of the gospel narratives were not familiar with the proceedings, since none of them was living in Palestine when they wrote. Mark reports that while they were eating, Yeshua announced that he knew that one of them was going to betray him to the authorities, quoting from the 41st Psalm, verse 8:
One of you shall betray me, even he that eats with me.
They were shocked and sorrowful, but could not tell whom he meant. Luke tells us that he began the service by saying:
With great desire I have wanted to share this passover with you before I suffer; but now I say to you, I will not eat anything, unless and until the kingdom of God comes upon the earth.
Then he took the first cup of wine, and after reciting the prescribed prayer, instead of drinking it he passed it around, saying:
Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I also say to you, I will not henceforth drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God comes.
So it would appear that, according to Luke, he neither ate nor drank anything at his last meal.

Mark, Matthew, and Luke all report at this point that he broke the unleavened bread and passed it around, and told them that they should consider it to be his body. They also report that as he passed around the cup of wine, he told them that it was his blood. Did he really mean to tell them that they were to eat his body, and drink his blood, as the gospel of John was to say, many years later? Or did he merely mean that they were to take their bread and wine together in remembrance of him, as indeed Luke tells us he said as he passed them around:
This do in remembrance of me.
Did he mean that after priests had said some prayers over the bread and wine they would become transformed into his real flesh and blood? This seems to be a form of ritual cannibalism, practiced by many primitive peoples, in which the eating of a god, or of an enemy, or of a warrior who died valiantly enabled one to take on the virtues of that person. Nothing in any of Yeshua's teachings hitherto, nor in any of his parables, nor in any of the Judaic teachings in the Hebrew scriptures, serves to corroborate this paganistic practice in any way. In fact it would seem to be contradicted by his teaching that it is what comes out of your mouth that matters, not what goes into it, as he told the Pharisees regarding handwashing. The Yeshua who quoted Hosea twice, that God wanted lovingkindness and not sacrifice, and twice told his adversaries to go and learn what that meant, could not have in any way said that he himself was to be a sacrifice to win God's forgiveness, especially not the God who watched over every sparrow and counted every hair on their heads and fed the birds of the air and watered the anemones of the hillsides! Whoever it was who first made this monstrous suggestion about how to worship Yeshua, it could not have been Yeshua, it could not have been the man who said, as Matthew quotes him as saying:
Not everyone who says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall find the reign of God; but he who does the will of our father God. (Matt. 7:21)

Thus all the succeeding centuries of Yeshua-worship appear to have been based upon a misinterpretation of something he said at his last meal with his disciples. The man who said, Call no man master upon this earth; and, Why do you call me good? only one is good, even God; and Blessed rather than I is the one who hears the word of God and does it, could never have commanded his disciples to perform any kind of cannibalistic ritual even in his memory. This dreadful practice must have grown out of their memories of that last meal where we are told that he ate nothing, he drank nothing, but he shared his cup of wine with all of them and he broke the bread and passed it around in accordance with the ancient Passover ceremony.

After the passover meal, they went out of the city and across the brook Kidron to Mount Olivet. And while they were resting on the mountainside, Yeshua said to all of them, quoting from the book of Zechariah:
All you shall leave me; just as it is written,
      I will strike down the shepherd,
      and the sheep shall be scattered abroad.
Simon shook his head vigorously, and told him, "Even if all of the rest of them desert you, I will never." Yeshus looked at him sadly, and said,
I tell you truly, Simon, that before the cock crows two times tonight, you shall deny knowing me three times.
Again Simon protested, saying, "I will die rather than deny you." Then all of the others shook their heads and insisted that they would never leave him either.

Luke records an enigmatic conversation between Yeshua and the disciples after the meal, following the prediction that Simon would deny him three times. He asks them all:
When I sent you out without wallet or sandals, did you lack anything?
They answer, "Nothing." So far, so good. But then Yeshua tells them, according to Luke:
But now, if you have a purse, better bring it, and also bring a wallet; and if you don't have one, then you should sell your coat, and buy a sword.
      For they are coming to arrest me, even as it says about Jeremiah in the book of Isaiah, And he was reckoned with transgressors.
Here is the Achilles' heel of the Synoptic gospels: did Yeshua tell his followers to get swords, and does that mean that he was planning to resist arrest? or to do battle with the police? What else could he have meant? Did he say, Sell all that you have and give to the poor, when he was teaching freely, but change his tune to, Sell your coat, and buy weapons, when his life was threatened? Then Luke tells us that the disciples answered, "Look, here are two swords." To this Yeshua responded:
It is enough.
The Greek words ikanon estin do mean, That's enough, but did he mean, Two swords are enough; or, No more of this! as some translators think? Neither makes much sense; he can hardly have expected to resist arrest with only two swords, nor does the pungent response "No more of this" seem appropriate if he told them to buy swords. It is a most difficult passage to explain; one possibility which is consistent with his earlier teachings is that Luke misreported Yeshua's urging his followers to remain non-violent even if he was arrested, something like this(my emendation):
      Look, even if you were to take a purse of gold, and also a wallet; and even if you were to sell your cloak, and buy a sword; I tell you all for the last time, what is to be must be, that I am about to be arrested, and executed as if I were a criminal.
Then when they told him that they already had swords, he gave up, and told them that he had had enough. It was his later followers who found the quotation in Isaiah II which they applied to Yeshua, "For he was reckoned with transgressors"; but it is clear that Isaiah was referring to Jeremiah when he wrote.

A   little way further up the canyon of the Kidron river was a glade called Gethsemane. It enclosed a natural cave in which Yeshua told the disciples to wait while he went apart to pray taking only Simon and Yakub and Yohan with him. Here the story rises to a peak of intense emotion: he tells the three closest disciples to wait and watch, and he goes forward and prostrates himself on the ground, praying that the hour might pass from him:
Abba, Father, all things are possible for you; remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not what is my will, but what is your will.
Abba is an affectionate Hebrew word for "father." He knows that Judas has gone away to lead the soldiers there to arrest him; and he foresees that they will convict him upon little or no evidence, and that he will be executed soon. This knowledge tears at him: he has striven for months to bring his people to a fresh and vital understanding of the teachings of the prophets in order to stave off inevitable disaster; but he will be dead soon, pain- fully executed, without any sure knowledge that his teachings will be promulgated any further. So he expresses a fervent wish that he could escape this fate, in a Psalmic image of a cup of suffering; but finally gives his tortured assent to this fate. Luke makes the scene more fantastic by saying that there was sweat in the form of great drops of blood falling upon the ground. This phenomenon was known to ancient medicine: blood vessels dilated by great emotional pressure, in some cases causing drops to exude through the pores.

Mark and Matthew report that he returned to the other three and found them fallen asleep. He woke them up and begged them to keep awake and watch, and then went away again to repeat the same prayer. A second time he returned and found them again asleep, rubbing their eyes groggily when he woke them the second time. He went away one more time, and this time when he returned he was composed, and said to them:
Arise, let us be going; for the one who is to betray me is now catching up with us.
And indeed, at that moment Judas arrived at the head of a band of men bearing swords and staves. How brazen Judas must have been! the man whom he had followed for a year, facing him quietly there on the side of Mount Olivet! How could he have done it? what had turned him against the preacher who had moved crowds throughout Palestine, from Dan to Beer-Sheba? Anyway, Judas went up to Yeshua, and kissed him, which was a signal he and the chief priests had agreed on to enable them to identify Yeshua and arrest him. As the men laid hands upon Yeshua, he chided them:
Have you come out to get me as if I were a bandit, armed with all these swords and staves? I was with you every day in the temple teaching, and you did not try to seize me.
      But this is your hour now, the hour of darkness; even so, I tell you that you cannot hide from God.
How these words must have shamed them! or perhaps they were too dull to catch them, too slavish to the religious leaders. But then his prediction came true, and all the disciples forsook him, their teacher whom only short moments before they had pledged never to desert, and they all fled away from there.

There are a couple of verses in Mark here, which suggest to us that Mark may have been actually a witness of these events, and not just a ready scribe tagging along with Simon as he travelled around the Great Sea in later years reminiscing about Yeshua. It says in the gospel of Mark, following the arrest of Yeshua:
A certain young man followed with him, having a linen cloth wound around him, covering his nakedness; and they seized him also, but he wriggled out of the cloth, and fled naked.
Tradition says that this young man was Mark himself. There is no certainty, and it may well be doubted; but why else would the author of Mark have reported this apparently insignificant and irrelevant detail? In one of Paul's epistles, too, the name of Mark appears; so he may indeed have been one of the earliest followers of Yeshua. Or perhaps this detail was made up later to lend authenticity to the gospel; but it is tempting to believe it, and difficult otherwise to explain it.

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