Good morning. We are in the midst of a 6-week study leading up to Easter Sunday. This series is titled “Passion Week” and it focuses on the events that took place during the final 7 days of Jesus’ earthly ministry (not counting the post resurrection appearances).
Though Jesus actually arrived in Bethany a few days earlier, Passion Week officially began on Palm Sunday when He made “The Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s foal and was greeted by crowds of people with shouts of worship and praise.
On Monday morning, Jesus cursed a barren fig tree while on His way to Jerusalem. After arriving, He entered the temple courts and drove out the moneychangers and merchants. He then spent the remainder of the day teaching and healing the people who gathered there.
At the conclusion of our last sermon, Jesus and the disciples were once again their way to the temple in Jerusalem. It was Tuesday morning. As they went, the disciples noticed and were amazed by a withered fig tree that Jesus had cursed the day before.
Today’s message focuses on the rest of the day Tuesday and all day Wednesday. There are several chapters in the Bible devoted to these 2 days, particularly Tuesday. For the purposes of this series, I am going to provide a brief overview of these chapters by combining all of the relevant events into a single, comprehensive narrative.
I. TEACHING IN THE TEMPLE
After arriving at the temple, while He was walking in the outer courts, Jesus was approached by the elders, teachers, and chief priests. They asked, “By what or on whose authority are you doing these things?” Jesus responded to their challenge with a question of His own, “On whose authority did John baptize people in the Jordan?” They were trapped by Jesus’ question and unwilling to answer it. Therefore, Jesus didn’t answer their question either.
Throughout the day, Jesus taught the people using several different parables. The Parable of the Two Sons pictured a father asking his sons to do chores, and stressed that actual obedience is better than empty words. The Parable of the Marriage Feast described a royal banquet in which the king’s original guests chose not to come, so the commoners were invited instead. The Parable of the Vine-Growers pictured a master taking his vineyard away from the care of his servants because they had rejected his messengers and ultimately killed his son. Each of these stories pertained to the Jewish people, particularly the religious elites.
The Pharisees and Sadducees hoped to trap Jesus in a misstatement so they presented Him with a series of leading questions. First they asked if it was lawful to pay Caesar. Next they gave a long hypothetical story about a man, his wife, and his 7 brothers, then asked about marriage in the resurrection. Finally, they asked which was the greatest commandment. In each instance, Jesus answered wisely and eluded their snare. Then Jesus identified Himself as the Son of David, pointing out that even King David had called Jesus Lord centuries earlier. He then told the people to beware of the scribes, stating that they’d receive greater condemnation.
At some point, Jesus sat down near the temple treasury and watched as people passed through giving money. Several rich people came by putting in large amounts. Then a widow stepped forward and gave 2 small copper coins, valuing less than a penny. Jesus called His disciples together and explained that the widow’s gift was greater than all the others, because they had given out of their surplus but she gave all that she had to live on.
Jesus began speaking out directly against the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. He pointed out their prideful arrogance and taught that only the humble will be exalted. Jesus pronounced a series of devastating woes against them, publicly calling out their many sins. This enraged the scribes and Pharisees even more. Finally, Jesus lovingly lamented over Jerusalem because He already knew the things that were about to take place.
II. THE OLIVET DISCOURSE
That evening, as Jesus and the disciples were leaving Jerusalem, one of them asked about the future of the temple. Jesus replied that someday it would be completely destroyed. As they walked up the gentle slope of the Mount of Olives on the roadway to Bethany, a few of the disciples closer to Christ probed a bit further. They wanted to know exactly when the temple would be destroyed and what signs would take place at the end of the age.
Jesus sat down and began to list several such signs. He talked about spiritual deception and delusion, involving many false messiahs and false prophets. He spoke of wars, rumors of wars, and great political upheaval. He described natural disasters such as earthquakes, families, and pestilence. He warned of extreme persecution against the church, family betrayal, violence, immorality, and lawlessness. He warned those in Judea to flee to the mountains whenever they saw the “abomination of desolation” being set up in the temple.
After giving these dire warnings, Jesus then spoke of His glorious return. He told the disciples a parable about a fig tree putting on leaves as an indication that summer was near. In like manner, though no one knows the exact time of Christ’s return, they can look at the signs of the times to determine if the end is near. Jesus stressed the importance of always being alert and ready for His imminent return. By the time they reached Bethany that night, He’d told them the Parable of the 10 Virgins, the Parable of the Talents, and taught them about the future Sheep and Goats Judgment. They spent another evening with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
III. STAYING IN BETHANY
Most experts believe that Jesus stayed in Bethany on Wednesday. Meanwhile in Jerusalem, the scribes and Pharisees were conspiring to kill Him. They wanted to take Him when no one was around, so as not to create a riot during the Passover festivities, but they didn’t know when such an opportunity might arise.
Sometime that day, probably at lunchtime, Jesus was invited to eat at the home of Simon the leper. During the meal, a woman approached Jesus and anointed His head with costly perfume. The disciples were upset at the woman because the perfume had been wasted, but Jesus defended her and explained that it was done in preparation of His burial. This event was very similar to another anointing that had taken place just a few days before, during dinner at Mary and Martha’s house (John 12:1-8).
After the meal, Judas Iscariot went away and found the chief priests. He may have gone into Jerusalem on his own. Nevertheless, he met with them secretly and agreed to betray Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. Judas would report Jesus’ whereabouts to these officials and inform them of any times when He was alone or withdrawn from the crowds. This would give them a chance to arrest Him privately and without incident. After returning to the house in Bethany, the rest of the day transpired as normal.
When Jesus laid down in bed Wednesday night, He already knew what the next few days would hold. There was still time at this point to abandon His mission, flee to Galilee or another even more distant location, save His own life, and spare the coming persecution of His friends and followers. But Jesus was resolute and determined to do the Father’s will, regardless of the costs. He had come for this very hour, and was not about to shrink from it now.
This would be the Lord’s last full-night of sleep. Though scripture doesn’t explicitly say it, I suspect that He slept soundly, just as He had done in the hull of the boat during a violent thunderstorm on the Sea of Galilee a few years earlier (Mark 4:38). Unlike those of us who are consumed with doubts and worry, Jesus displayed the peace which passes all understanding.
At this moment, much of our nation and world is in turmoil regarding the dreaded corona-virus. People everywhere are afraid of the unprecedented uncertainty before us. How long will this go on? Will we or anyone we know get sick, or possibly even die? How will people survive if their businesses and livelihoods are shut down The questions are endless, and many of the answers remain unknown.
Beloved, remember this… Jesus knew exactly what was coming and He faced it in faith - not in fear. He remained fiercely obedient and uncompromisingly faithful to His calling. May we as His people courageously and compassionately do likewise.