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The Great Discovery
It may be said that there are two great beginnings in the life of every man who has left his mark upon history. There is the day when he is born into the world; and there is the day when he discovers why he was born into the world. There was a day in the life of Jesus when he made that great discovery.
The greatest festival of the Jews was the festival of the Passover. On that day the Jews have always remembered, and still remember, how the hand of God delivered them from their bondage in the land of Egypt. It fell on 15th Nisan, in the middle of April, and it was kept in Jerusalem. It was one of the three obligatory festivals --the others were Pentecost and Tabernacles -- to which every adult male Jew who lived within fifteen miles of Jerusalem was bound by the law to come. But such was the sanctity of this festival that Jews from all over the world gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate it, and a Jew of the Dispersion would save for a lifetime to keep one Passover in the Holy City.
The most careful preparations were made for the Passover. The roads were levelled and the bridges were repaired; the wayside tombs were whitewashed, lest any traveller should accidentally touch one of them, and, because of his contact with a dead body, become unclean (Num, 19.11). For six weeks before the festival it was the story and the meaning of the Passover which formed the subject of teaching in every school and of preaching in every synagogue. No one in Palestine could be unaware that the Passover was near. To any seriously-minded boy, to any boy with a sense of history andof country and an awareness of God, the day when he attended his first Passover in Jerusalem was bound to be a day of days.
So the day came when the boy Jesus was to attend his first Passover festival in Jerusalem (Luke 2.41-32). Everything on the roads, in the school, in the synagogue had for weeks been saying: 'The Passover is at hand!' And now the time had come.
It is the better part of a hundred miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem. It would take a week for the slow caravan to make its long journey. All the time of the journey Jesus was thinking of the Passover, and of how God had once delivered his people, and with every step of the way his expectation was kindled to a brighter flame.
A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid, and the astonishing sight of Jerusalem appeared to Jesus' eyes. Josephus describes the wonder of the Temple. 'The outward face of the Temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men's minds or their eyes; for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendour, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn away their eyes, just as they would have done at the sun's own rays. The Temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow, for those parts of it that were not gilt were exceeding white." There was a thrill in the mind of the boy Jesus as he saw the gleaming Temple ahead, and as he climbed Mount Sion with the Passover pilgrims, singing,as generations of pilgrims had sung: 'I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord' (Ps. 122.1). He was sure that the Passover was going to give him the greatest experience in his life -- and it did, although not in the way that he had expected it. So Jesus came to Jerusalem with expectation in his heart, and something happened.
On the afternoon of the day in the evening of which the Passover was observed the Passover lambs were killed. The lamb was not simply the main dish at the Passover meal; the lamb was a sacrifice; and, therefore, the lamb had to be slain in the Temple courts. There was one part of every slain beast which belonged to God, the blood. The Jews identified the blood of a living creature with the life of the creature. It was a natural identification, for as the blood flows away the life flows away. To God alone life belongs, and, therefore, to God alone the blood of every slain creature belongs, and it must be offered to him. So Joseph with Jesus took the lamb to the Temple to be slain so that the blood might be offered to God.
The Mishnah, the codified law of the Jews, describes the regulations for the killing of the lamb and the offering of the blood. 'The Priests stood in rows, and in their hands were basons of silver and gold. In one row all the basons were of silver and in another row all the basons were of gold. They were not mixed up together. Nor had the basons bases, lest the Priests should set them down and the blood congeal. An Israelite slaughtered his own offering, and the priest caught the blood. The priest passed the bason to his fellow, and he to his fellow, each receiving a full bason and giving back an empty one. The priest nearest to the Altar tossed the blood in one action against the base of the Altar."
Let us think what this means. On one occasion in the reign of Nero the governor Cestius took a census of the number of lambs slain, in order to show Nero how many Jews attended the Passover festival. The number slain256,5oo. Even if the figure is an exaggeration, as so many ancient figures are, the number must certainly have been immense.The Mind of Jesus. Copyright © by William Barclay. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.