Rabbi Yeshua told John’s disciples, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” Mt 11:4–5. The Sanhedrin saw the same evidence as everyone else; they knew no ordinary man could heal by command, or resuscitate a man from death. The evidence warranted belief.
“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him; but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, ‘What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation’” Jn 11:45–48. The chief priests said it. The evidence warranted belief.
He is God’s Messiah
The Sanhedrin were present at the Cross, at least some of them, to be sure Rabbi Yeshua was dead. Most Jews of that day, deeply immersed in the Tanakh and the Oral Torah, owned no books, but knew it all by heart. If someone even today says, “Our Father who art in heaven…” most Catholics can recite the rest of the prayer. The Psalms were not numbered as they are today; Jews referred to psalms and other passages by reciting their first few words.
Rabbi Yeshua had cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mt 27:46. A Jew hearing eli, “My God,” would obviously have been able to distinguish it from eliyahu, “Elijah.” Yet, “Some of the bystanders hearing it said, ‘This man is calling Elijah’” Mt 27:47. They were mocking him as not having been heralded by Elijah according to the prophecy Mal 4:5; Mt 17:10; Mk 9:11, etc. The Sanhedrin rabbis who mocked him intended that his followers would lose their belief when Elijah did not come to rescue him, but Rabbi Yeshua used the mockery to assure that only the most faithful followed him. He had earlier told his believers that John the Baptizer “is Elijah who is to come” Mt 11:14.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Ps 22:1 also pre-figured Isaiah’s prophecy of God’s Messiah: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” Is 53:5–6. St. Paul told the Corinthians, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Cor 5:21. When Rabbi Yeshua cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mt 27:46, he was allowed to sense for a moment the separation from God we all experience by our sins. The evidence warranted belief.
All who were under the Cross heard Rabbi Yeshua, in excruciating pain, quote these opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Ps 22:1; Mt 27:46. They saw his pierced hands and feet and remembered King David’s prophecy a thousand years earlier, “They have pierced my hands and feet” Ps 22:16. They remembered Zechariah’s prophecy, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child” Zech 12:10. With their own eyes they saw him nailed to the Cross. They saw with their own eyes, “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be” Jn 19:23–24. And they remembered King David’s words across a thousand years of time, “They divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots” Ps 22:18. He had proven to everyone standing beneath the Cross that he was the Mashiakh that God promised through David. Even the pagans knew. “When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” Mt 27:54. The evidence warranted belief.
They remembered Zechariah’s words, “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” Zech 13:1 as they saw, “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” Jn 19:34. They remembered Zechariah again, “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter” Zech 14:8. The Holy Land had been the crossroads of the world, but while its winters are rainy its summers are bone dry; the living waters would be miraculous. They remembered Rabbi Yeshua‘s, “He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water’” Jn 7:38.
God even promised that it would end in glory. “Men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn” Ps 22:30-31. The remnant of Israel standing beneath the Cross saw it all.
His Bet Din Confirmed It
In Hebrew a bet din is a “house of law” or “house of judgment,” a Jewish religious court or trial. In Rabbi Yeshua’s time the highest court was the Sanhedrin, which originated during the Second Temple era. However, the Jewish tradition of religious courts goes back to Moses, who sat as a magistrate among the people and later appointed others as judges, reserving for himself only the most difficult cases.
Rabbi Yeshua’s bet din by the Sanhedrin was based on this passage from the Torah: “If there is found among you, within any of your towns which the Lord your God gives you, a man or woman who does what is evil … then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true … you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones” Deut 17:2–5. The bet din was to be a real trial. “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses” Deut 17:6.
Rabbi Yeshua‘s bet din had to be in Jerusalem, as he told us: “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” Lk 13:33. The Oral Torah taught, “They judge a tribe, a false prophet, and a high priest, only on the instructions of a court of seventy-one members.”1 The Great Sanhedrin was composed of seventy-one members, the high priest and seventy elders. Small Sanhedrins of twenty-three members could judge even cases of murder locally, but a false prophet had to be judged in Jerusalem, the crossroads of the ancient world. Rabbi Yeshua had been charged with false prophecy by blasphemy. Even some Pharisees warned him , “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you” Lk 13:31, the only place in all four Gospels where Pharisees tried to help him, but he had “set his face to go to Jerusalem” Lk 9:51.
The law of the bet din was, “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow” Deut 16:20, but the bet din by which Caiaphas judged Rabbi Yeshua was illegal on procedure. The law of the bet din was specific: “A person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness” Deut 17:6. God put great emphasis on the need for at least two witnesses. “A single witness shall not prevail against a man for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed; only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained” Deut 19:15. But in Rabbi Yeshua‘s bet din there were not two witnesses agreeing on any specific event.
“The high priest tore his robes, and said, ‘He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses?’” Mt 26:65. Tearing one’s garments is an ancient Jewish gesture of extreme distress. However, the Mosaic Law prohibited the high priest from tearing his sacred robes. “The priest who is chief among his brethren … shall not … rend his clothes” Lev 21:10.
The Torah prescribes, “He who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him” Lev 24:16. In some cases, stoning meant pushing the person from a high place onto a stone surface such as a large rock. The Mishna records, “The place of stoning was twice the height of a man. One of the witnesses pushes him over from the hips, so [hard] that he turned upward [in his fall].”2 In others, stoning was done by throwing heavy stones at the person. But the Sanhedrin did not stone Rabbi Yeshua; they brought him to Pilate.
The death penalty by stoning was applied only rarely. The Jewish courts made every effort to avoid it. That may have been why mobs sometimes tried to take “justice” into their own hands, as the synagogue crowd did with Rabbi Yeshua and the scribes and Pharisees did with Mary Magdalene.
Rabbi Yeshua‘s bet din was illegal on substance as well as procedure. Caiaphas charged Rabbi Yeshua with blasphemy, contempt for God, for his prophecy, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands” Mk 14:58. When Caiaphas asked Rabbi Yeshua, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed” Mk 14:61 he boldly declared, “I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” Mk 14:62. This was the most grave omission of the Sanhedrin’s illegal bet din. These proclamations would have been blasphemy only if Rabbi Yeshua were not the Son of God, but the Sanhedrin made no attempt to prove that he was not.
This is an awesome omission! The Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was the supreme religious body in Israel at the time. Its members were Judaism’s highest authorities on the Torah. They knew every word, every letter of the Torah. And more than every letter! They knew the cantillation, the decorations on each Hebrew letter, and they even knew the tagin, the crowns on the letters of the Torah. Rabbi Akiva from a century later is well remembered for discovering many new halakhot by studying these tagin. Yet these men did not observe the most basic requirement of the bet din, documenting that Rabbi Yeshua were not the Son of God!
Caiaphas evidently knew that he had no evidence against Rabbi Yeshua. During his mortal life, Rabbi Yeshua summarized, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” Lk 7:22. Let’s look more closely.
Elijah had raised the son of the Zarephath widow 1 Kings 17:17–22, and Elisha had raised the son of the Shunammite woman 2 Kings 4:32–35. Both had been taught for centuries as miracles. Rabbi Yeshua raised the widow’s son in Nain Lk 7:11–15, Jairus’ daughter Lk 8:51–55, and Lazarus Jn 11:1–44. Caiaphas’ Sanhedrin would have had to deny Elijah and Elisha, obviously impossible, or confirm Rabbi Yeshua as a miracle worker. God would never give such power to a blasphemer.
After Rabbi Yeshua ascended to the Father Acts 1:9, Rabbi Kefa healed a man lame from birth Acts 3:2 by Rabbi Yeshua‘s power Acts 3:6. The Jewish authorities arrested the shlikhim and convened something like a bet din but, “Seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition” Acts 4:14. Then they asked the shlikhim to leave the room and said to one another, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is manifest to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it” Acts 4:16.
Rabbi Yeshua‘s corrupt bet din was the beginning of the crossroads for Israel. If the trial had proceeded according to the Torah, evidence available to the Sanhedrin would have shown that Rabbi Yeshua was the Son of God. The charge against him would have been dropped, the whole Jewish nation would have worshiped him and, just possibly, the Glory to Come might already have occurred!
His Death on the Cross Redeemed Us
Rabbi Yeshua’s last words on the Cross were, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Lk 23:46. The remnant of Israel standing beneath the Cross recognized Rabbi Yeshua‘s quotation “Into your hand I commit my spirit” Ps 31:5, at the moment of his death silently completed King David’s very next words as they echoed across a thousand years: “You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God” Ps 31:5. They knew the law of the goel. He had told them what He was doing! His Final Sacrifice redeemed us from the original sin. The evidence warranted belief.
He Tore the Temple Curtain
The tearing of Israel pre-figured the miraculous tearing of the Temple curtain Mt 27:51. God’s instructions for making the original Tabernacle had been highly specific Ex 26:1–13. The curtain was to be very thick Ex 26:3, indicating that entry into the Holy of Holies was like passing from earth to heaven. We may speculate that the curtains for the Holy of Holies in the First 1 Kings 6:14–7:51 and Second Ezra 6:3; 14 Temples were made to the same specification. No man could have torn them. During all of the Temple’s existence as a channel of grace only the High Priest ever entered the Holy of Holies. But on that awesome Friday afternoon at three o’clock, when our Father tore the curtain and we could see inside. At that moment it became an ordinary empty room. Rabbi Yeshua himself became the new Holy of Holies, with the Shkhina made Flesh present and celebrating the todah sacrifice in the Upper Room. “They beheld God, and ate and drank” Ex 24:11.
God closed paradise to our first parents by “the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword” Gen 3:24. The miraculous tearing of the Temple curtain Mt 27:51 that opened the Holy of Holies matched Rabbi Yeshua opening God’s paradise to man, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” Lk 23:43. The Book of Hebrews observes, “We have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” Heb 10:19–20. The evidence warranted belief.
He Restored Ancient Israel as the New Israel
The Jews standing below the Cross during Rabbi Yeshua‘s Final Sacrifice knew God’s promise given through Ezekiel six hundred years earlier, “Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people” Ezek 37:12–13. The Tanakh translates veyadatem Ezek 37:13 emphatically as “And you shall know.” Rabbi Yeshua fulfilled it. “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” Mt 27:51–53.
The Jews had seen Rabbi Yeshua lifted up as the Cross was placed into position. The Septuagint translates Ezekiel’s veyadatem, “and you shall know” Ezek 37:13, to the Greek gnosesthe. They remembered that Rabbi Yeshua had told them, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know [gnosesthe] that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me” Jn 8:28.
Caiaphas and his Sanhedrin recognized in the opening of the tombs and the raised bodies of the saints a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy. They also knew that Korah and his company had risen up against Moses Num 16:2, and that God punished them by opening the earth so that they descended alive into Sheol Num 16:31–33; Jude 11. When Caiaphas and his Sanhedrin saw the bodies of the saints rise from their tombs and felt the earth quake under their feet, Rabbi Yeshua‘s Final Sacrifice was complete. The evidence warranted belief.
Why then did the Jewish authorities and their followers continue to fight against Rabbi Yeshua? The key is Isaiah’s Prophecy. God’s people Israel by their constant resistance eventually become so insensitive to his grace even in the small amounts they had allowed to come through to their hearts that they would not recognize even their own Messiah.
“Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’ So they went and made the sepulchre secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard” Mt 27:65–66. The soldiers had secured Rabbi Yeshua‘s tomb with the Seal of the Roman Empire, an imprinted cord they had stretched across the stone and sealed with clay so any tampering would be detected. “And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men” Mt 28:2–4. The guards knew. The evidence warranted belief.
On Easter Sunday morning, “Some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place” Mt 28:11 “He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time” 1 Cor 15:5–6. Caiaphas and the chief priests knew Rabbi Yeshua had risen from the dead. They had gone to great trouble to have Rabbi Yeshua crucified to be rid of him once and for all, and saw that even death could not hold him. They surely remembered King David’s prophecy, “For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your godly one see the Pit” Ps 16:10. The evidence warranted belief.
The Holy Spirit had descended on the shlikhim and performed a miracle seen by all. “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?’” Acts 2:5–8. The evidence warranted belief.
The Sanhedrin asked, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is manifest to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it” Acts 4:16. The evidence warranted belief.
His Atonement for Our Sins
And it shall be a statute to you for ever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves, and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you; for on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord. It is a sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute for ever Lev 16:29–31.
A statute forever! Our Father repeated his command for emphasis:
On the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present an offering by fire to the Lord” Lev 23:26–27. An Aaronic priest would make the atonement. And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments Lev 16:32.
Our Father commanded,
Then he shall take the two goats, and set them before the Lord at the door of the tent of meeting; and Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord, and offer it as a sin offering; but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel Lev 16:7–10.
And so each year, on Yom Kippur, the high priest would have two similar goats. Rashi, in his Commentary on Talmud Yoma 39a, tells us that one of these was on his right and one on his left. The high priest would then randomly pick two stones from a box. The white one was inscribed ’YHWH, “for the Lord,” and the black one l’azazel, “for the goat of removal,” or scapegoat.” (The JPS Torah Commentary on Leviticus 16:8, tells us that there is no clear English translation for azazel. This translation, “goat of removal,” is informal.)
The goat chosen “for the Lord” was taken and slaughtered with the greatest holiness and purity as a sacrifice to God. Its blood was then taken to the Holy of Holies and sprinkled directly into the Shkhina, the shining glory of God, between the two cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. But the goat “for azazel” was kept alive. The high priest would tie a piece of scarlet cloth to the azazel’s horn. Then a priest would lead the goat out into the wilderness, remove the scarlet cloth, tear it in half, put one half back on the goat’s horn, push the goat over a high precipice as a sacrifice, and bring the other half back to the Temple. If the cloth turned white our Father had accepted the sacrifice. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” Is 1:18. If it remained red, our Father had not accepted the sacrifice. The Yom Kippur service ends with a very long blast of the shofar, reminding Jews of God’s presence on Mt. Sinai in the giving of the Torah. At this time the Book of Life is sealed.
The Babylonian Talmud, in tractate Yoma, 39a and 39b, tells us that for forty years before the Temple destruction in AD 70, the crimson colored cloth, tied to the Temple door, remained red. It did not miraculously turn white, indicating that our Father had notaccepted the sacrifice. Rabbi Yeshua’s public ministry began in AD 30, exactly 40 years before the Temple destruction, and ended in AD 33.
The azazel was also said to have completely removed the sins of the whole people Israel. But, although the sins were removed, that is, moved to another place, they were not annihilated until Rabbi Yeshua’s Final Sacrifice. “For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” Heb 10:4. Josephus, in Wars of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter 9, § 424, tells us that during the Passover in AD 70 the Temple priests sacrificed more than a quarter million lambs. Yet the Temple itself was destroyed later that same year. The evidence warranted belief.
The rabbis read in the Book of Daniel that the Son of Man would receive a “kingdom that shall not be destroyed” Dan 7:13–14 and that the Mashiakh would appear in AD 30 Dan 9:20–27. They recognized that it was an inspired book, and that these prophecies were inspired and therefore had to be included. Details in Peter in Rome. However, these teachings were inconsistent with what they were teaching about the Mashiakh. Rather than re-consider their teachings, such as the Shma, they tried to hide them in plain sight. Although the Book of Daniel is obviously a prophetic book, the rabbis of the Tanakh did not place it among the Nevi’im, the prophetic books, but among the Ketuvim, the “writings!” And there it remains today.
In another example, Maimonides wrote in Igeret Teiman, 3, 24, that the Book of Daniel seems to have predicted that the Mashiakh would appear before AD 70. But the only one who fit that description was Rabbi Yeshua! It would also be awkward to say that the Mashiakh never appeared after an inspired book of Jewish Sacred Scripture said he would appear. So Maimonides wrote, “We cannot assert that Daniel was wrong in his reckoning” and declared that it is a sin to try to calculate Daniel’s prophecy,” even though the Archangel Gabriel gave us the calculations.
The placement of the Book of Daniel among the Ketuvim shows that this is a serious matter. The rabbis would never “accidentally” misplace a book of Sacred Scripture, and if that ever occurred it would instantly be corrected by the sages. Nor would the sages and scholars fail to notice that Daniel is a prophetic book, certainly more concentrated on prophesy than the largely historical books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings that are placed among the Nevi’im. Visibly it is a prophetic book inspired by God intentionally not placed among the Tanakh’s prophetic books because it points straight to Rabbi Yeshua as God’s Mashiakh. The evidence warranted belief.
Two Thousand Years Later
Rabbi Yeshua asks us: “My people, What have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me! I led you out of Egypt; but you led your Savior to the Cross. For forty years I led you safely through the desert, I fed you with manna from heaven, and brought you to the land of plenty; But you led your Savior to the Cross. O, my people! What have I done to you that you should testify against me?” It comes from the prophet Micah: “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me!” Mic 6:3.
During the past two thousand years, despite constant Jewish prayer (the Amidah, final three prayers, which are said three times each day, every day of the week), the Templehas never again risen because the Son of God did rise Mt 28:6. The evidence still warrants belief.
God is eternal. In our own time, the evidence of astrophysics still warrants belief. The evidence of Lourdes still warrants belief. The evidence of Loretto still warrants belief. The evidence Our Lady of Fátima – Ven Bishop Fulton J. Sheen 22:23 still warrants belief.
The evidence will always warrant belief.