Lord Jesus was fully God and also fully human during His life here on earth. But before His descent from heaven, He emptied Himself of His Godly glory to be fully human to be able to experience the attacks of Satan and his forces of evil. It is not that He as god was not aware of the sufferings of mankind, but God does not have a body and He needed to experience the trials and temptations that we face. Thus whether it was in the wilderness or in the crowds, there was a continuous attack on Him from the devil and man alike and the journey to the cross was part of that whole.
Why did the Son of God suffer so much? God is a Spirit and does not have a body and though He knows what and how we suffer, His Son became man to show His love for us and experience all that we undergo in the body of a human being. But we must realize that Lord Jesus chose to be born a Jew, to be brought up with Jewish values and customs; to teach and preach to the Jews and spoke their language of that time – Aramaic. It is believed that the New Testament was preached and written in Aramaic first and then converted into Greek for both languages were prevalent in the region. Greek was used widely by all while the other and its sister Hebrew only by the Jews. Thus Jewish perspective is essential for fully understanding the Scripture and its deeper mysteries. The twelve disciples were Jews and so were the first converts who were devout Jews from 17 countries present in Jerusalem for festival of Shavout or Weeks. After Pentecost 3000 of them joined the faith and then went all over the world with the Gospel message while relating it to Old Testament for there was no New Testament (Acts 2:5 & 41-42). In 300 AD Constantine captured Europe and tried to consolidate Christianity with other pagan religions to which the Jewish Christians objected and were thrown out of the church by him along with their interpretation and integration of the Old Testament with the New.
Temptation of Lord Jesus – After His baptism by John the Baptist “was Jesus led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1). But this fact is contradicted by Lord’s brother that “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me”. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone” (James 1:13) where Holy Spirit and Lord Jesus are both God. In Aramaic Bible lies the answer for in Aramaic the word used for temptation is ‘nesa’ identical to Hebrew word ‘nasah’ which means to test or to determine if someone can qualify or reach a certain standard. It is also used to determine the limits of something or someone’s capabilities. Hebrew and Aramaic have two words, nasah and bacan and both means to test, but bacan is used for a test for qualification while nasah is about testing one’s limits or abilities. Thus the Holy Spirit led Lord Jesus to be tested not tempted to give Him the same chance as He gives to all of us – free will to choose the flesh or the Spirit.
How was this testing done? – God used Satan for this test where the first part was to try out control over physical desires to teach Him what is it to go without food and water? The period of 40 days was fixed for Moses did that twice before God passed on His Law to him and the Messiah chose to feast on the Words of God to feed His soul and spirit. But He understood the difficulty of the battle. Second, was a test of the free will of the soul for people would not easily believe that He was the Son of God. Satan offered an easy choice to prove thus by jumping off that tower and when angels came for the rescue nobody would doubt His word. It would appeal to the soul that desires acceptance and recognition but He decided to not nesa the limits of God for He has no limits. Third test would appeal to both body and soul of the Lord for the choice was to bypass crucifixion, rejection, torture and all else for our salvation. Satan showed his willingness to let all of humanity go if He would fall down and worship the devil. For worship Aramaic word ‘seged’ is used here which means ‘recognition, honor and pay attention’. May be His soul and body cried out “do it” but the Spirit overcame the desires of the body.
Through this testing He understood the battle between flesh and spirit and how hard it is to always choose the way of the spirit. His body and soul was nesa – tested to the limits. The Holy Spirit has no objection to eating but to gluttony, not to an occasional movie but to those things that arouse evil desires. Every day of our lives is nesa for us to choose the way of the flesh or the spirit.
Nesa through mankind – And then Lord Jesus faced testing by the Pharisees, who were joined by their opponents the Sadducees and Herodians. The Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery, saying, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned. But what do You say? This they said, tempting him that they might have something of which to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He did not hear” (John 8:4-6). Usual explanations leave many questions – what did He write on the ground? How were they testing the Lord by quoting the Torah and asking that the woman be stoned? Why did they walk away when Lord said “He who is without sin cast the first stone”? How could the woman claim that no one was accusing her after being caught red handed? Why would others not accuse her as per the law?
The command about judging an offense like murder, adultery and blasphemy were to be judged by the congregation and oral tradition put the required number of judges to be twenty three. There was the need of credible witnesses who could substantiate the charge. This virtually had made trial of an offense almost impossible as per the Jewish system. The Pharisees wanted to test Lord Jesus about giving equality to their oral traditional laws with the Law of God as laid down in the Scripture (Torah). But the Lord preached against such traditions and His clarification regarding divorce is one such example (Matthew 10:3-12). As per the Jewish Christians interpretation Lord Jesus wrote on the ground with His finger Hebrew letter Yod, the first letter of God’s name YHWH. This represents the merciful and loving side of God as compared to Aleph of Elohim, which is the disciplinary side of God. Thus His message to the Pharisees was that all deserve to die for their sins and whosoever does not require the mercy of God should throw the first stone. It was clear that anyone casting a stone on the woman must also be prepared to face the judgement of God. The woman, like all others, did equally deserve of God’s mercy, hence no condemnation.
Lord Jesus was taken by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to test Him for His battle of the next three and a half years leading to His final trial on the cross.
Why the Triumphal Entry? – Lord Jesus had traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem for the Passover and all along He had been triumphant over Satan and his forces, nature and every other thing on the earth. All those who joined the procession were on their way to Jerusalem and had either personally witnessed the miracles performed by Him or had heard about it firsthand. They recognized Him at the least a learned Rabbi and most took His as the promised Messiah, the Son of David and genuinely honored and loved Him.
Lord Jesus rode a donkey for three reasons – first, it was in fulfillment of the prophecy, ‘Rejoice, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey’ (Zechariah 9:9). He is the ‘Prince of peace’ who brought true ‘shalom’ or peace through spiritual harmony and restoration of man’s relationship with God (Isaiah 9:6). Secondly, horse is a symbol of might and war whereas a donkey relates to peace and reconciliation and is gifted with cautiousness. Lord Jesus achieved restoration and establishment of God’s kingdom on earth in people’s hearts without any bloodshed by them. Thirdly, the use of donkey was a way of connecting with the common people who were suffering greatly under the Roman Empire. Donkey was a means of travel of poor peasantry and the Messiah came as a Servant King to save and serve the poor and the oppressed (Matthew 20:28).
Cheering and singing – The multitudes that formed the procession “cried out, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). The Aramaic word ‘Hosanna’ means ‘to save, rescue or help’ and the singing was ‘Salvation has come through the Son of David’. It isunderstood that people were looking for a King to overthrow the Roman Empire and this was an effort to hail Him as such. But these were Jews and they knew about the prophesy of the coming Messiah and had been waiting His coming for years (Deuteronomy 18:15; 17-19). A Prophet like Moses, who came to save them from their slavery to sins and bring them eternal salvation (Isaiah 53) and they were cheering their King for ‘Salvation has come’. Today also it is the same cry about salvation through Him and their jubilation was a sign of affection but it threatened the Jewish authorities
Why the palm branches? – The Son of God had triumphed over satanic powers and all miracles performed by Him were seen by them and they had received His abundant love. Lulav is the Hebrew word used here for palm branches and it represents the first letter of YHWH, Yod, representing love and mercy of God or His heart. Waiving of palm branches by the crowds meant that ‘we acknowledge Your love LORD and we surrender our hearts to You’. His entry into Jerusalem was about His becoming a conduit of peace and reconciliation where we joyfully receive Him as our Savior and are in turn received by Him.
Why did people turn against Him? – The three sects of Jews that were then dominant repeatedly tried to test and trap Lord Jesus, either through a wrong answer concerning the Torah or about the functioning of the Roman Empire. He answered their each and every question and “no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore” (Mathew 22:46). They feared His knowledge and easy to understand answers and its effect on the masses who accepted Him as a prophet and though the Jewish elders wanted to ‘lay hands on Him but they feared the masses’ (Matthew 21:46).
The Jews were required to visit Jerusalem three times a year for the three festivals and offer sacrificial offerings in the Temple. The sale of animals for these sacrifices, conversion of roman currency into coins acceptable in the Temple and sale of other religious items was a major business controlled by the Chief Priests. Most of the local Jews were involved in one or the other of these trades and were under obligation to the leaders. Lord Jesus’ act of cleansing of the Temple by throwing out “all those who bought and sold in the temple” and overturning the tables of the money changers and those who sold doves, made the leaders indignant (Matthew 21:12-14). Not only their business but He threatened their authority by exposing their hardness of heart and locals were used by them to shout for His crucifixion. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing and remain silent.
Did Lord Jesus show His weakness in Gethsemane Park? – No, for He stated clearly that ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ (Matthew 26:41). In another situation, standing near Lazarus’ tomb He wept despite the fact that He knew that He was going to raise him from the dead and it was all for the glory of God the Father (John 11:4 & 35). It was not His weakness but His love for others that made Him cry. Greek word used here is ‘edakrusen’ for weep and in Aramaic it is ‘demetha’ also meaning weeping. In verse 33 Mary and the others wept for her brother and the Greek word used is ‘klaiontas’ and in Aramaic it is ‘beki’ meaning lamenting. In both cases they cried but the issue is where the tears are directed. Mary and Jews cried ‘klaiontas or beki’ for they were weeping for themselves and their broken heart over Lazarus’ death while Lord Jesus wept edakrusen or demetha for He cried not for His own but for the grief and broken heart of Mary. He knew about Lazarus and His plan for Him but their sadness grieved Him for He feels for us and feels our pain.
In Gethsemane Park He fell on His face and prayed, saying, “O MY Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Did He by any chance fear for His life and the pain of torture but surrendered to the Father’s will? So what did He say? We analyze each word of the prayer to get to the exact meaning of His prayer. Aramaic for cup is ‘kasa’ which is identical to Hebrew word ‘kavas’ meaning stork. Legend has it that a stork can resurrect its young, if it dies, with its own blood due to its deep love for its offspring. Thus kasa represents His tender and nurturing love for at last supper also He said this cup (not wine) is My blood or this nurturing love is My blood for His blood would resurrect us from deadness to sin and restore us to right position with God.
The next word ‘pass’ is ‘parelthato’ which means avert, avoid or pass over. In Aramaic the word is ‘avar and it implies a river overflowing its banks thus the correct meaning and interpretation should be not pass over but completely overwhelm. Before the prayer it says He became sorrowful and deeply distressed and the Aramaic word ‘Kamar’ used here means to burn or kindle. Again ‘’shekev’ translated as ‘if this is possible’ actually means ‘if this happens’. What He prayed would then be ‘If this is to happen, let this cup or nurturing, sacrificial love (for mankind) overwhelm My body’ so that all I would think of is this burning love and not of the coming pain. His love for us overcame all the pain of the torture before and on the cross. Like a mother feeling the pain of her sick child, Lord Jesus felt the agony of pain and suffering of mankind, causing Him to sweat blood drops while fully understanding the torment of guilt of our sinfulness.
Your will – TheAramaic word is ‘tsevyana’ from root word ‘tsava’ meaning ‘to be delighted, pleasure or to approve’ and the Greek word used is ‘thelema’ which actually means desire or choice. ‘Tsava’ was a war cry of the Canaanites of a warrior willing to lay down his life for the king to bring him pleasure and delight. Lord Jesus’ prayer is thus an expression of His love for the Father and for mankind and a war cry to inform Satan and his cohorts of His intent of complete obedience. His prayer in the garden is to make the disciples listen and prepare for ‘tsava’ – be willing to lay down their lives for God and His kingdom and learn to bring delight to God by submitting to God’s will, pleasure or desire.
Lord Jesus repeatedly declared that ‘I do nothing of My own but what My Father tells Me to do’. His prayer in Gethsemane park is also a war cry before entering the final battlefield that led Him to the cross and the tomb. His only recorded prayer in the Gospel of John affirms the same obedience, ‘I have glorified You on the earth’ (John 17:4). What He planned with God the Father, He executed the plan fully as a man to ensure full payment for our sins through His sacrifice. He desires that we emulate Him in our lives by loving others and overcome the fear of evil.