31. Jesus Silences His Enemies and the "Olivet Discourse"
Dr. Doug Bookman
A. Returns to Jerusalem, Passing by the Withered Fig Tree
Notes: This occurred early on Tuesday morning, as Jesus and His disciples return to the city of Jerusalem. Mark presents the event chronologically, but Matthew grouped them together, as he tends to present events thematically.
B. Jesus Possesses the Temple Precincts and Defeats His Enemies in Open Debate
Notes: Notice Luke's survey of these two days: Jesus's dramatic teaching and the consequent frustration of His enemies (Luke 19:47-48). Mark says that during this time, Jesus so thoroughly controlled the temple precincts that He would not allow a person to carry a vessel through the area (Mark 11:16). Notice that Jesus is teaching great multitudes (Luke 19:47-48), putting to silence His enemies in open debate (Matthew 21:23-27; Matthew 22:15-22, Matthew 22:23-33; cf. Luke 20:40 - all this in a culture which honored above almost all things the prowess of a man who could thus silence His enemies in this fashion), speaking scathing parables of denunciation against unbelieving Israel (Matthew 21:28-45), proving His claims from the Old Testament (Matthew 22:41-46), and finally pronouncing blistering woes specifically upon the Pharisees/Scribes, the spiritual heroes of the people and the purveyors of works righteousness by means of the Mosaic law (Matthew 23:1-36). Two notes are intriguing concerning the close of this day: Jesus's comment concerning the widow who gave her last two mites, in such stark contrast to the spirit of the leadership (Luke 21:1-4; Mark 12:41-44), and Jesus's weeping over the city as He departs for the final time (Matthew 23:37-39; cf. Luke 13:34-35).
Only John records the remarkable and poignant interview of Jesus with some Greek proselytes who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover and of His consequent contemplation of His own soon-coming death. It is difficult to know precisely when this event occurred, but the best guess is that it was sometime on Tuesday, during the season of teaching and confrontation in the Temple precincts. Contemplate this narrative carefully; it is very important in anticipation of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane.
- How might the events of Monday and Tuesday help explain why the city that welcomed Jesus as King on Sunday will cry for His death on Friday?
- Again, given the drama of these two days, what must the disciples have felt concerning the issue of the soon-coming of the Kingdom?
C. Jesus Leaves for Bethany and Preaches the "Olivet Discourse"
Notes: Notice that the question asked by the disciples (Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:4; Luke 21:7) indicates that the idea - the bare concept - that perhaps the kingdom will not come immediately is beginning to sink into the heads of the disciples. Note further that this "Olivet Discourse" (so-called because it was spoken on the Mount of Olives, the hill that dominates Jerusalem on the eastern side) was spoken privately to the disciples and that Jesus concludes the sermon with the command to "Watch" (Mark 13:37) because the drama Jesus describes here could commence at any moment. After this discourse, Jesus and the disciples return to Bethany once again for the night; they will remain there through Wednesday and until Thursday afternoon, when they will return to the city for the Passover Feast in a borrowed room of a large home on the Western Hill. However, late on Tuesday night, one of the twelve will steal away to perform an unspeakably dastardly act of betrayal.
D. Judas, Stung by Jesus's Rebuke (over the Expensive Anointing), Sneaks Off
Notes: Notice several elements of this very important scene. 1) The Jewish leadership in all of its parts - Pharisees/Scribes and Sadducees/Priests - are galvanized in their hatred of and anger toward Jesus and are taking counsel together to put Him to death. (This is because of the events of the last three days.) 2) The reason they are convinced they cannot kill Him until after the Feast is the wild-eyed fascination of the people with Jesus - they (i.e., Jesus's enemies) "feared the people." (Jesus knew how superficial and self-serving that fascination was, but the Jewish leadership did not - and neither did Jesus's disciples.) 3) Because of Jesus's popularity, the Jewish leadership knew that they would have to get the Romans (Pilate) to execute Jesus. That is, they were persuaded that had they spirited Him off and stoned Him, as they would later do to Stephen, there would be riots, and the Romans would exact retribution of those who sparked those riots. It is for this set of reasons that Jesus would die by crucifixion (Roman method) rather than by stoning (standard Jewish method). 4) The elaborate preparations necessary to the drama which would culminate with the crucifixion on Friday morning could not commence until Tuesday night, when Judas showed up to help the Sanhedrinists get it done.
- Notice carefully what Judas agreed to do to assist the Sanhedrinists in the execution of Jesus (Luke 22:6).
- As you read concerning the events of subsequent days, remember that Judas is convulsed by a desire to fulfill this commitment; he is looking for an opportunity to "betray Jesus to them in the absence of the multitude."
Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).
Next: "Silent" Wednesday
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