As the joker often asked Batman, Riddle me this?
The year is 1932. Two men are walking down the street very late one night, and a policeman stops and questions them. Since they are acting suspicious he searches them and finds a pint of whisky on the one and only a few gold coins on the other. The man with the whiskey is quickly arrested and tossed in jail for 18 months.
The year is now 1934. The first man gets out of prison and meets his old friend and once again they go out and are stopped by the same policeman while out very late at night. The first man again has a pint of whisky in his possession and the second man only a few gold coins in his pocket. This time the police arrest the man with the gold coins and the man with the whisky is let go.
What's happening here?
Just reading the account I gave gives little clue as to what happened or was happening. Scripture is often like this. We read something and it seems not to make much sense until we go to extra-biblical history to fill in some blanks. Take the account of the Pilate telling the Jews he had found no guilt in Jesus, but upon hearing "you are not a friend of Caesar", Pilate immediately folds, washes his hands and does as the Jews wanted. Unless we read what Pilate’s standing was at the time with Augustus and Rome we would not know why this was such a powerful statement. Pilate had fallen out of favor due to many bad reports of abuse and killing of Jews and another report would be disastrous to him.
Another example would be why the Pharisees would not go into Pilate’s residence for fear of defiling themselves and not being able to eat the Passover that evening. But hadn’t Jesus eaten the Passover Seder the night before? Could Jesus have been mistaken or was it merely a meal of convenience? But since Gods command was to eat it on Nisan 14 according to the ordinance wouldn’t this have been disobedience and eliminated Jesus as a sinless lamb to go to the cross? Well since the Jews followed a Lunar year and we a Solar we can see some interesting developments. We know we have to add one day every four years (leap year) to make up the accuracy of our calendar. The Lunar year was far more fragile and sometimes up to 5 days had to be added periodically to keep it accurate. There was also a division between the cities in the northern regions and southern regions as to what day Nisan 14 fell during certain years. Jesus being from the North and most Pharisees adhering to the Southern reckoning (Judea) we then see this discrepancy.
Now back to the riddle above. In 1932 prohibition was still in effect and so having a pint of whisky in ones possession was against the law. However in 1934, prohibition was repealed but Franklin D Roosevelt had signed a law making it illegal for United States citizens to possess gold. Knowing the history, culture and traditions of a given time and people makes our understanding all that much clearer.