"Not According to Plan?"

Seasonal Study

Jesus, not His enemies, set the time of His execution. This was a destiny established before the foundation of the world.

We know from the sacred Scriptures that the plot against Jesus was expressly designed to avoid the feast days (in order to minimize involvement of the Roman soldiers and their irresolute commitment to keeping order).

Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.[1]

And yet, their confrontation occurred on the most crowded feast day of the entire year!

Jesus, not His enemies, set the time of His execution. It was Jesus Himself who “let the cat out of the bag” by disclosing the plot against Him during the “last supper.” It forced Judas to either “fish or cut bait.” “What thou doest, do quickly,” was Jesus’ instruction to Judas.[2] Even later, in the garden during the arrest, it was Jesus who was giving the orders.[3]

Much has been written about the ensuing drama, the six trials—three Jewish and three Roman—and the torture and painful death that followed.[4] Jesus’ destiny as the Passover Lamb was the very label which John the Baptist declared in his initial public introduction of Him: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”[5] That was a very Jewish label. This was a destiny established before the foundation of the world.[6]

Even the personal representative of the Ruler of the World repeatedly pronounced Jesus innocent.[7] Nevertheless, He was crucified exactly as had been specified many centuries before, despite the fact that the Jewish official form of execution was by stoning.[8]

The Ultimate Miracle

But the most conspicuously supernatural milestone to be met was the subsequent resurrection from the dead, which occurred on the “third day.”

In Paul’s succinct definition of the “Gospel,” he is very specific:

Now I’m making known to you, brothers, the Gospel that I proclaimed to you, which you accepted, on which you have taken your stand, and by which you are also being saved if you hold firmly to the message I proclaimed to you—unless, of course, your faith was worthless. For I passed on to you the most important points of what I received: Christ died for our sins in keeping with the Scriptures, He was buried, He was raised on the third day in keeping with the Scriptures—and is still alive!

1 Corinthians 15:1–4 (ISV)

He died in the most documented execution in all history, fulfilling dozens of very precise specifications recorded centuries in advance.[9] He was buried, again fulfilling precise requirements.[10] And He then rose from the dead, again fulfilling numerous specifications that embroider the entire Old Testament. This third element is the very capstone of Paul’s definition.(Yet, just where do the Scriptures specifically predict the third day? There are ostensibly seven; six more supplementing the obvious allusion to Jonah’s “whale of a tale.”[11] Jesus Himself also made repeated predictions in the New Testament.[12])

What is also distinctive is what Paul does not include in “the Gospel.”[13] He makes no mention of the Lord’s teachings, or His miracles, or His example, etc. Our basic calling is to declare the Gospel, and this differentiates us from the pending social issues of the day. This will not be a popular stance. But it is His primary calling for us.

The Mistaken Identity

A mistaken identity haunts our humanist culture: an insufficient identity which misses the critical issue. Jesus is not simply a concept, nor principally a great teacher, a useful example, or a contrived (although constructive) tradition.

Jesus is a living person who is yearning to take His Throne[14] and has scheduled an audit of our accounting of His calling for each of us.[15] (Oops!) Aye, there’s the rub. Are you ready for 2 Corinthians 5:10?[16] Does your church even teach (and prepare you for) this bema seat event?

Do they even teach the imminence and realities of the coming Kingdom?[17] (I suspect that most Christians, who pray “Thy Kingdom come,” have no idea what they are actually praying for!)

The Personal Challenge

Are these things relevant to, and prioritizing, your life? Shouldn’t they be the primary focus of our every hour?

Make Him known. Have you?

Pray about it. Make this Passover season a time of fresh commitment. Let us help.


  1. Mt 26:3–5. 
  2. Mt 26:20–25; Jn 13:27. 
  3. Jn 18:7,8. 
  4. The term “excruciating” was coined from this event. 
  5. Jn 1:29, 35–36. 
  6. Eph 1:4. 
  7. “He is innocent,” Jn 18:38; Jews substitute Barabbas, Jn 18:39; Partial punishment, Jn 19:1; Play on pity, Jn 19:5; “Behold your King,” Jn 19:14, 19, 20; “You judge Him,” Jn 18:31. Pilate attempted to use every ploy he could to avoid the execution. 
  8. Crucifixion was invented by the Persians, and then widely employed by Rome; and is alluded to in Ps 22, Zech 12:10, et al. 
  9. Not a bone to be broken: Ex 12:46, Num 9:12, Ps 34:20. A Roman soldier violated his specific orders to maintain this requirement, Jn 19:33–35. 
  10. Andrew Bonar detailed the Levitical burial requirements 43 years before the discovery of the Garden Tomb by General Charles George Gordon in 1883. Andrew Bonar, Leviticus, 1840. 
  11. Jonah, Mt 12:40; The Akedah, Gen 22; Noah’s New Beginning, Gen 8:4; Rahab’s cords, Josh 2:15–18; The Tolah Worm, Ps 22:6; Isa 1:8; Cf. also Gen 40:20; Ex 19:11f; Lev 7:17–18; Hos 6:2. 
  12. Mt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Mk 9:31; 10:34; Lk 9:22; 13:11, 32; 18:33; 24:7, 21. 
  13. The popular label of “good news” is merely a glib cop-out. Paul is definitively specific. 
  14. Jn 17:24. 
  15. 2 Cor 5:10. 
  16. The procedure is detailed in 1 Cor 3:12–15. Don’t confuse our responsibilities for fruit-bearing with Jesus’ completed work at Golgatha. 
  17. Dan 2:44, 45. Cf. Acts 1:6, 7.