In the four Gospels, the names of the Passover (Nissan 14) and the Yeast of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15-21) were interchangeably used. The things happened during the eight days between the 14th and 21st were recorded in Mark 14:1 and Luke 22:1. We can find the events of the 13th in Matthew 26:9-19. In order of time, the following took place: 1 At dinner, a woman anointed the head of the Lord with perfume as preparation of the Lord’s burial. 2 In the early morning, Judas secretly went to the chief priests in the Temple and betrayed Jesus for thirty silver coins. 3 In the afternoon, after Jesus had finished his public teaching, he withdrew from the people gathered in the Temple and hid himself from the crowd. 4 Once more, he sent Peter and John to make preparation for the Passover Supper.
In those days, the bodies of the crucified were entirely at the disposal of the Romans. Some corpses were left to rot for a long time on the crosses. The bodies of those who were crucified in Jerusalem were invariably discarded in the valley of Ben Hinnom. After Judas hanged himself, his body was thrown into this same valley. There would be no burial or memorial services for those who were crucified. The relatives of the deceased were helpless and anxious about possibly retrieving the dead bodies of their loved ones.
Public hangings on beams during King David’s reign were also mentioned in chapter 21 of the Second Book of Samuel in the Old Testament. The five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab and two sons of Saul’s concubine, Rizpath, were hanged by the Gibeonites. Their bodies remained nailed on the beams for six months from the beginning of the harvest till King David had them buried at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles. But on this particular day, this woman was worried about who was going to take care of Jesus’s burial. Reading Charles Spurgeon’s essay “Love for Her Sons” (2 Samuel 21:10) will help us to understand the feeling of this woman:
“And Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.”
IF the love of a woman to her slain sons could make her prolong her mournful vigil for so long a period, shall we weary of considering the sufferings of our blessed Lord? She drove away the birds of prey, and shall not we chase from our meditations those worldly and sinful thoughts which defile both our minds and the sacred themes upon which we are occupied? Away, ye birds of evil wing! Leave ye the sacrifice alone! She bore the heats of summer, the night dews and the rains, unsheltered and alone. Sleep was chased from her weeping eyes: her heart was too full for slumber. Behold how she loved her children! Shall Rizpah thus endure, and shall we start at the first little inconvenience or trial? Are we such cowards that we cannot bear to suffer with our Lord? She chased away even the wild beasts, with courage unusual in her sex, and will not we be ready to encounter every foe for Jesus’ sake? These her children were slain by other hands than hers, and yet she wept and watched: what ought we to do who have by our sins crucified our Lord? Our obligations are boundless, our love should be fervent and our repentance thorough. To watch with Jesus should be our business, to protect His honor our occupation, to abide by His cross our solace. Those ghastly corpses might well have affrighted Rizpah, especially by night; but in our Lord, at whose cross-foot we are sitting, there is nothing revolting, but everything attractive. Never was living beauty so enchanting as a dying Savior. Jesus, we will watch with Thee yet a while, and do Thou graciously unveil Thyself to us; then shall we not sit beneath sackcloth, but in a royal pavilion.
Having suffered greatly till He took His last breath, Jesus’ side was then pierced by a Roman soldier with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. Jesus’s heart was literally broken by the cruel punishment of crucifixion, and so were those of the women who loved and remained close to Jesus. And Mary, Jesus’s mother endured even far greater agony than anyone . . .
Remember the Lord’s suffering! You and me!
Nisan 13 - Hymn for Meditation: