How much did our Bridegroom pay? We all realize that our Lord went to the cross for us and that this was painful, humiliating and so insulting to the Son of God. But do we fully appreciate how much it cost Him?
After all, it could be argued that Jesus was a strong young man, able to walk 75 miles from Galilee to Jerusalem. No one would want to be crucified, but He suffered only six hours. People with cancer die slow, lingering deaths; some of us are born with handicaps we must bear a lifetime. Did Jesus really pay that much?
To find the real value of something, we must ask the purchaser. To people who are very rich, a Cadillac or a fur coat is a small expenditure. To the poor, those things are extremely expensive. Jesus Himself commented on how much He was paying in the following verses:
"And He came out, and went, as He was wont, to the Mount of Olives; and His disciples also followed Him. And when He was at the place, He said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed. Saying, Father, if Thou are willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done." (Luke 22:39-42).
This prayer took place right after the Passover supper, when the Lord retired to the Mount of Olives near the Temple site. He told His disciples, "Pray that ye enter not into temptation", which any bridegroom might well have said to his bride. "Be sure you wait for me, darling, I'll be back before you know it. Don't get tempted!" many young bridegrooms must have told their betrothed as they departed.
Then Jesus held a private conversation with His Father, saying, "If Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me." This must also have happened from time to time in the old Jewish wedding custom. Many a bridegroom probably returned to his father after learning the price for a particular bride and asked his advice on whether he should pay it. "Do you realize how much they want for her?" must have been a question repeated often in the old tradition. The Jewish bridegroom was wise enough to know that his father's judgments in these matters were trustworthy, and he would consult his father about the amount to be paid.
And here we see Jesus clearly expressing that if His Father were willing; the cup should be removed from Him. Of course, like the respectful Jewish bridegroom of old, He trusts His Father's judgment and said, "Nevertheless, not My will but Thine, be done."
We get some inkling of how high a price the purchaser was paying in this case from this passage - but we're to learn more further on.
In this case, the Bridegroom's Father's will is very clear: And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him (v.43).
And now we see the verse that expresses most plainly of all what the purchaser thought of the price: And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it was great drops of blood falling down to the ground (v. 44).
Now when Jesus actually went to the cross, we might think His Father had special mercy on Him. It normally took three days for a person to die by crucifixion. The condemned one would hang there morning and night as people passed by, dying by inches. He would be naked, suffering from a flogging and in total agony until his life seeped away. How was it that this Carpenter, in fine physical condition, was dead in just six hours?
That question has been asked from time immemorial, but a simple consultation of the order of the Jewish feasts answers it perfectly. In Leviticus 23: 5-6, we have God's placement of the first two feasts of the Jewish year, Passover and Unleavened Bread:
In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's Passover.
And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.
The symbol of Passover is the sacrifice of the lamb, and Jesus fulfilled it on the cross. The symbol of Unleavened Bread is the body of the Lord buried in the earth ("if a kernel of wheat fall into the ground.", "This bread is My body"). Thus, to fulfill the second feast, the Lord had to be buried at the beginning of Unleavened Bread, or at sundown on the day of Passover. He was placed on the cross at 9:00 in the morning and taken down at 3:00. Sundown in April in Israel is about 4:30 or 5:00, and thus the Lord was buried exactly in time to commemorate the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
And so the fulfillments progress through the rest of the feasts. First Fruits, which we now call "Easter", came on the following Sunday (Lev. 23: 10-12), and indeed the Lord rose as the first fruits of those to be resurrected (I Cor. 15:22-23). The fourth feast is Pentecost, 50 days later (Lev. 23:15-16), and the Lord sent the Holy Spirit in a great harvest. Three thousand people were saved that day, just as 3,000 people were killed on the day the Law came. They had made a golden calf and the Lord was infuriated:
And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men (Exodus 32:28). But when the Lord sent the Holy Spirit, He returned to Israel exactly 3,000 souls. The Lord is a good bookkeeper, and indeed, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (II Cor. 3:6).
Thus the Lord performed exactly in accordance with the first four feasts of Israel. He will do the same in the future, it is clear. We expect the Rapture of the Church on the fifth feast, the Feast of Trumpets (I Thess. 4: 16-17). We expect the return of the Lord to the earth for the start of the Kingdom on the Day of Atonement, when "all Israel will be saved" (Zech. 12:10, 13:1; Romans 11:26). And finally, the Lord will setup His Tabernacle in Jerusalem appropriately enough on the final feast, the Feast of Tabernacles. The tabernacles hark back to the shelters the Lord gave the children of Israel in the wilderness, and indeed the Lord's Tabernacle will shelter us on this earth for the duration of the Kingdom. These final three feasts are explained in Leviticus 23:24, 27 and 34, respectively.
We say all of that above to show that the Lord, Who never omitted a Jewish feast, fulfilled each one even in His crucifixion and burial, as well as in His resurrection, His sending of the Holy Spirit, His return at the sound of the trumpet, His second coming on the day when Israel atones, and His establishment of His Kingdom on Tabernacles. Thus, it is valid that the Lord had to come off the cross in six hours for the simple reason that He was a law-abiding Jew and He had a feast to keep.
What is significant is that Jesus paid the full price. He could have called a legion of angels to avoid the cross, or He could have been brought down from the cross in even a shorter time than six hours. His Father might have arranged for Him to have a more merciful death than a flogging and a public crucifixion. But the fact is, He accepted His Father's will, was crucified and remained on the cross as long as was lawful for Him to do so.
A full knowledge of the price paid for us must inspire us to live up to the expectations of our Bridegroom. Any time the Jewish bride felt tempted to break her contract, it is certain that a mere reading through of the terms would remind her that her bridegroom had paid a great deal and was trusting her to keep her side of the bargain. If we read our contract often and understand it completely, we can more likely glorify our Bridegroom as we wait for Him.