Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Reliving Jesus' Last Days on Earth - Nisan 11

Nisan 11

It is early in the morning, and Jesus and his disciples are already on their way over the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem. As they arrive at the temple, the chief priests and the older men are quick to confront Jesus. Fresh on their minds is his action against the money changers and the traders in the temple. His enemies venomously demand: "By what authority do you do these things? And who gave you this authority?" "I, also, will ask you one thing," Jesus counters. "If you tell it to me, I also will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism by John, from what source was it? From heaven or from men?" Huddling together, the opponents reason: "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why, then, did you not believe him?' If, though, we say, 'From men,' we have the crowd to fear, for they all hold John as a prophet." Stumped, they weakly answer: "We do not know." Jesus calmly responds: "Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things."—Matthew 21:23-27.

Jesus' enemies now try to trap him into saying something for which they can have him arrested. "Is it lawful," they ask, "to pay head tax to Caesar or not?" "Show me the head tax coin," Jesus retorts. He asks: "Whose image and inscription is this?" "Caesar's," they say. Confounding them, Jesus states clearly for all to hear: "Pay back, therefore, Caesar's things to Caesar, but God's things to God."—Matthew 22:15-22.

Having silenced his enemies with irrefutable argumentation, Jesus now goes on the offensive before the crowds and his disciples. Listen as he fearlessly denounces the scribes and the Pharisees. "Do not do according to their deeds," he says, "for they say but do not perform." Boldly, he pronounces a series of woes on them, identifying them as blind guides and hypocrites. "Serpents, offspring of vipers," Jesus says, "how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?"—Matthew 23:1-33.

These scathing denunciations do not mean that Jesus is blind to the good points of others. Later, he sees people drop money into the temple treasury chests. How touching to observe a needy widow drop in her entire means of living—two small coins worth very little! With warm appreciation, Jesus points out that, in effect, she has dropped in far more than all who made lavish contributions "out of their surplus." In his tender compassion, Jesus deeply appreciates whatever a person is able to do.—Luke 21:1-4.

Jesus is now leaving the temple for the last time. Some of his disciples remark on its magnificence, that it is "adorned with fine stones and dedicated things." To their surprise, Jesus replies: "The days will come in which not a stone upon a stone will be left here and not be thrown down." (Luke 21:5, 6) As the apostles follow Jesus out of the congested city, they wonder what he could possibly mean.

Well, a little later Jesus and his apostles sit and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Mount of Olives. As they take in the splendid view of Jerusalem and the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew seek clarification of Jesus' startling prediction. "Tell us," they say, "When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?"—Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:3, 4.

In reply the Master Teacher gives a truly remarkable prophecy. He predicts severe wars, earthquakes, food shortages, and pestilences. Jesus also foretells that the good news of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the earth. "Then," he warns, "there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world's beginning until now, no, nor will occur again."—Matthew 24:7, 14, 21; Luke 21:10, 11.

The four apostles listen attentively as Jesus discusses other aspects of 'the sign of his presence.' He emphasizes the need to "keep on the watch." Why? "Because," says he, "you do not know on what day your Lord is coming."—Matthew 24:42; Mark 13:33, 35, 37.

This has been an unforgettable day for Jesus and his apostles. It is, in fact, the last day of Jesus' public ministry before his arrest, trial, and execution. Since it is getting late, they start walking back the short distance over the hill to Bethany.

Bible reading of Luke Chapter 20 below:

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