From Gethsemane to the Crucifixion

In reading the Bible, don’t we grapple more with the words, and largely ignore the numbers?  However, the numbers in the Bible were put in to tell us something useful, interesting, or even fascinating.

Imagine that you are making a movie about the arrest, “trial” and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and you want to make the movie as authentic as possible.  How many actors and movie extras must you hire to make such a movie?  Let’s see.  

Gethsemane

 Jesus and eleven of the Disciples were there, with at least one other follower of Jesus, the one who fled naked [Mk 14:51, 52].  Judas Iscariot came later, with “a large crowd” [Mt 26:47], comprising “soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees” [Jn 18:3].  How many people made up the “large crowd” sent to arrest Jesus and his followers?  Would you call anything less than 100 “a large crowd”?   

Total cast: Jesus + 11 Disciples + 1 follower + 100 = at least 113 persons.

 High Priest’s Palace

In addition to the large crowd that had arrested Jesus, “the whole Sanhedrin” [Mt 26:59] was there.  How many persons were in the Sanhedrin, the highest religious council in Israel?  According to the Moody Bible Encyclopedia and the NIV Study Bible, the Sanhedrin comprised about 70 men.

How many servants would the high priest have?  Would any self-respecting palace not have at least ten servants, cooks, cleaners, and doorkeepers, plus a small detachment of, say, 2 guards?  And family members? Say, six?  Weren’t Peter and John there too? 

Total cast: Jesus + 70 Sanhedrin members +100 in the arresting party + 12 household staff + 6 family members + Peter + John=191.

“Trial” by Pontius Pilate and Herod

 Early the next morning a large crowd comprising the Sanhedrin and rabble-rousers [say, 200 to be conservative?] escorted Jesus to Pilate’s palace.  Also present were Pilate, his aides, scribe and palace guards.  

Mt 27:27 tells us that the whole speiran [or cohort] of Roman soldiers later gathered around Jesus in the Praetorium or palace.  How many men make up a Roman army cohort?  The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible says that a cohort was: “Normally the tenth part of a Roman legion, or 600 men”. 

Pilate sent Jesus to Herod for trial [Lk 23:6-12].  Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked Jesus.  Shall we say Herod and his soldiers totaled 100 men?   

Total cast for the palace scene: Jesus + Pilate + at least 3 staff + 70 Sanhedrin members + 200 [crowd] + 600 Roman soldiers + 100 in Herod’s scene= 975.

The Crucifixion

Jesus had to carry a cross through Jerusalem to Golgotha.  Many residents would have come to their windows or into the streets to watch what was happening.  In Middle East countries like Saudi Arabia, when criminals are publicly executed thousands come to witness the event.  Was it any different in Jesus’ time?

By the way, where was Jesus crucified, if not beside a public highway?  Doesn’t the Bible say, “Those who passed by hurled insults at him [Jesus]” [Mk 15:29]?  The Romans liked to make a gory public spectacle of people they crucified, as a warning to others. 

Final Total

After the Last Supper 20 persons [Jesus + 11 Disciples + followers]
Gethsemane    113 persons
High Priest’s home    191
“Trials”                            975
Crucifixion scene    Thousands.  

Don’t you get the sense of things growing bigger and bigger and bigger?  Isn’t it exciting to see it continuing to grow bigger every day, with many more people coming into the continuing story of Jesus and his redemption of mankind?

So the arrest, trial and crucifixion were not little events witnessed by just a few people.  We, the millions of Christians today, are not witnesses of the death of Jesus, but we are witnesses to his resurrection and life.  For he has in wonderful ways worked in each of our lives and answered our prayers.  As witnesses, do we not have much to tell our neighbours, relatives, friends and colleagues, as well as the rest of the world who do not yet know that Jesus died, but rose again and still lives?

CHAPEL

Chapel on August 20 was taken by Dr John Lim, who spoke on the topic of Faith Boosters.  He began with the observation that many go through times when they lose sight of God. They come face to face with the "monsters" of discouragement, disappointment and disillusionment. These aggressively erode their faith in God. 

It is during such times that we need faith boosters. In his letters to the young Timothy who faced "monsters" in his ministry, the Apostle Paul gave much-needed commands and advice to help Timothy grow in his trust of God. He shared at least three faith boosters. Like Timothy we are advised to:

  1. Seek faith-inspiring models and Paul pointed specifically to Timothy's "sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice" (2 Tim. 1:5). 

  2. Immerse himself in the Holy Scriptures. Paul drew attention to another faith builder in 2 Tim. 3:15, "From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures." Those Scriptures teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness (v. 16). In the process of this teaching and training, one learns to trust God more deeply and see Him more clearly.  It was good for Timothy to draw his knowledge and wisdom from God's Word. Similarly, we should not neglect the reading, teaching and memorisation of God's Word. We are faced with myriads of voices clamoring for our attention. We have a choice to listen to them or to the voice of God through His Word. One erodes faith, while the other builds it.

  3. Remember God's past faithfulness. In 2 Tim. 2:8 we read, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David." Notice the context from which Paul wrote. He is in chains for preaching the Gospel. If ever anyone had reason to feel discouraged, if ever anyone had an excuse to lose faith, it was Paul. Yet, because of his focus on Christ, he could write, "If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him" (vs. 11-12). When he thought of giving up, Paul remembered Jesus, who endured the cross. He remembered Jesus who promised we would one day reign with Him. He remembered---and his trust grew stronger. We benefit from keeping "our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:2).  The call to remember runs throughout Scripture: Deut. 5: 15; Ps. 77:10-11; Eccles. 12:1 and Lk. 22: 14-20. Let us remember the faithfulness of Almighty God.

      Chapel next week on September 3 will be taken by Dr Quek Swee Hwa.

NEWS BITS

  1. Courses commencing next week:

  • Tent module: Theology of Work (starting Sep 2, Tue), by Rev John Ting.

  • Learning the Craft of Teaching (starting Sep 2, Tue), by Dr Ng Peh Cheng.

  • Speech Techniques & Speech Clinic (starting Sep 3, Wed), by Rev Ng Seng Chuan.

  1. We welcomed the visit by Rev J. Uday-Kumar, Principal of Calcutta Bible College. Rev Kumar was our chapel speaker on 27.8.03.   After Chapel we had a farewell lunch  for Edwin, Angela and Phoebe Tay. They will be going on Sept 11 to London where Edwin will commence studies towards the MA at Kings College, University of London. We wish  them God’s richest blessings.


Registration for External Examinations in Speech
[Diploma (ALCM) in “Spoken English in Religion”]

Registration is now open for the London College of Music examinations in speech.  Those who have completed the four foundational modules of the BGST speech programme should consider doing the examination as a means of bench-marking their skills or standard.  The four requisite modules are:

  • AT 231 Better Speech for Leadership and Ministry

  • AT 232 Communication Skills for Speakers and Church Leaders

  • AT 233 Principles and Practices in Speech and Worship

  • AT 234 Speech Techniques and Speech Clinic

The examination is entitled “Spoken English in Religion”, and students may opt to attempt it at any level, e.g., from Grade 5 to 8 or at diploma level.  We envisage our students generally attempting the diploma examination.  The fee for the diploma level examination is $720.  For more details pertaining to registration, please contact Rev Ng Seng Chuan (rhetoric@singnet.com.sg)

Important Note: Students who have done only the first 3 modules should register for AT 234 this term to prepare for the examination.  Students who have completed all four modules may opt to repeat this module (at a nominal charge) as a refresher course in preparation for the diploma examination.

A BLESSED BIRTHDAY TO ... 

Mr Roland Ho  25/8

Ms Tan Yeow Khuan  25/8

Dr Peggy Yeo  25/8

Mr Sim Cher Khee  25/8

Mr Chan Swee Wing  26/8

flower pot

Ms Christina Swee  26/8

Mr James Chua  28/8

Mrs Tan-Heng Siang Hoon  29/8

Ms Ruth Hing  29/8

Ms Rosalind Teo  30/8

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This page is updated on 23 Aug 2003 by Leong Kok Weng
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