On Sunday, the first day of Passover Week, Jesus publicly presented himself as the promised Jewish Messiah. The Jewish leaders tried to discredit Him. During the week hostilities between the Jewish leader and Jesus escalated to the point that they exploded in a Roman Court under Pontus Pilate. Jesus was found guilty of treason against the Roman Empire and was crucified on a Roman cross. In His death, He paid the price of redemption for all of our sins and the coming of the Holy Spirit to guild us through life. However, we must individually receive the free gift by repenting from our sins and making Jesus the Lord of our lives.
On Sunday, the first day of Passover Week, Jesus and His disciples made their way to nearby Bethphage, located on the east side of the Mount of Olives.
“Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once’” (Matt. 21:1a-3, ESV).
“This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, say to the daughter of Zion, behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” (Matt 21:4-5, ESV).
This was spoken by the prophet, Zechariah, in verse nine of chapter nine. It becomes the first prophecy fulfilled during the week of Passover.
“The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them” (Matt. 21:6-7 ESV).
Jesus prepared to enter the city of Jerusalem as the Messiah, the promised King of the Jews, riding on a colt. He is going public with his identity. He would force the people to reject Him as their Messiah – He was not riding a white horse and looking like a king – His appearance was that of a servant. That day was what we call Palm Sunday.
Jesus and His disciples made their way up the east side of the Mount of Olives to the top and stopped. He looks out over the city of Jerusalem. Across the Kidron Valley, on top of Mount Moriah, sat the temple mount – a bridge spanned the Kidron Valley below. In front of Him, on the temple wall, was the Eastern Gate (called the Golden Gate).
He had probably never entered the Eastern Gate as He, most likely, had always used the Sheep Gate, where the animals were brought to slaughter as sacrifices. But, today, He would probably enter the Eastern Gate where Ezekiel watched, in a vision, the departing of the Shekinah Glory of God, just before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Ezekiel Chapter ten). On this day, Jesus, in all likelihood, entered the temple by the Eastern Gate – the Glory of God had returned, but it was hidden.
The people crowded around Him as the group prepared to descend the western side of the Mount of Olives.
“Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, “This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee’” (Matt. 21:8-11, ESV).
The phrase “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” is quoted from Psalm 118:26. Some people were declaring Him to be the Messiah.
The gospel of Luke adds these words, “And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out’” (Luke 19:39-40, ESV).
“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation’” (Luke 19:41-44, ESV).
He crossed the bridge over the Kidron Valley and entered the temple area. Matthew says: “And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee’” (Matt. 21:10-11, ESV).
The Gospel of Mark adds these words: “And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve” (Mark 11:11, ESV).
“The next day, as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it” (Mark 11:12-14, ESV).
Why did Jesus curse the fig tree when He knew it was not the season for figs – it was Spring? We will answer that question when Jesus and His disciples come into the city on Tuesday.
Jesus entered the temple and overturned the money changers’ tables for probably the second time during His earthly ministry.
“And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, ‘Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers’” (Mark 12:15-17, ESV).
We would assume from Scripture that this is the second time that Jesus had cleansed the Temple of corruption. In the second chapter of John, we read these words: “The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen, making a whip of cords. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade’” (John 2:13-16, ESV).
Much debate has been made as to whether these were the same events or maybe the temple had been cleaned twice – once at the beginning of His ministry and once at the end of His ministry.
Interestingly, John places the event at the first Passover that Jesus attended after beginning His ministry. We should also note that John did not record the event at the current Passover. We can also note that the three Gospels recording the event at this Passover did not add that Jesus made a whip. Most Bible scholars agree that Jesus probably cleaned the temple twice.
To understand the problem, we need to review the temple’s commercialization for the second time. The family of Annas controlled all activities of the temple. Annas, the father-in-law of the current high priest, Caiaphas, had political ties with the Roman Emperor, Tiberius Caesar Augustus.
Every now and then, a different family member served as a high priest. The house of Annas controlled all the commercial activities associated with the temple and was the leader of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court. The entire family consisted of Sadducees, aristocrats, and political leaders.
The enterprise had become very profitable. Jews were allowed to bring their own sacrificial animals, but they had to be without blemish. Judges, who were under the control of Annas, made the judgment as to whether the animal had any defects. Since many were rejected by these so-called authorities, a different animal had to be purchased from the temple.
The temple also required a special currency for the payment of animals and the temple tax. Therefore, money changers were stationed throughout the temple to exchange currency. A profit was made on the exchange.
When you put these two enterprises together, Annas’ family had a very profitable business. So, we can now understand why the high priest, Caiaphas, wanted to kill Jesus.
At this time, no action was taken by the authorities because they were afraid of the people. However, significant discussions were being held behind the scenes about how to kill Him.
Jesus and His disciples returned to the Mount of Olives to spend the night.
Jesus and His disciples returned to Jerusalem the following day. “As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered’” Mark 11:20-21, ESV).
Biblical scholars’ opinions about the fig tree have made for much debate. Most prophecy teachers, including the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee, believe that the fig tree symbolizes Israel. The fig tree is either a sign of Israel, or it represents a time when God pours out His blessings on Israel (Hosea 9:10, Joel 1:6-7, and Jer. 8:13). Those blessings were about to end.
God was going to temporarily turn away from Israel and turn to a new group, The Church, which would become His witness to the world. The Church, a mystery that was hidden in the Old Testament, was to consist of both Jews and Gentiles. This was Jesus’ theme for this day’s teaching.
“When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, ‘How did the fig tree wither at once?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith’” Matt. 21:20-22, ESV).
The Bible says that: “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom.14:23, ESV) and “without faith, it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6, ESV).
As Jesus enters the city, He is challenged immediately about His authority to cleanse the temple.
“And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’” (Matt. 21:23, ESV).
“Jesus answered them, ‘I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. ‘The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?’ And they discussed it among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things’” (Matt. 21:24-27, ESV).
Then Jesus asked them a question. “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first’” (Matt. 21:28-31a, ESV).
The first son represented Israel, who entered into a covenant relationship with God many years ago. He asked them to keep His commandments; they said: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Ex. 19:8, ESV).
The second son represents the common man and woman. They were sinful creatures, but they repented of their sins.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him’” (Matt. 21:31-32, ESV).
Jesus then began to tell the Jewish leaders, through a parable, that God was about to take away their authority and that Israel would no longer be His chosen vessel. Soon He would turn to another group to become His chosen servants. Let us look at one of those parables and His harsh words of denouncement.
“A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servantto the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son’” (Mark 12:1-6, ESV).
“But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:7-9, ESV).
“Have you not read this Scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’ And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away” (Mark 12:10-12, ESV).
We continue to see Jesus condemn the Jewish leaders. They are about to be temporarily replaced as God’s favorite people. The quote Jesus made: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” is from Psalm 118:22, ESV.
Matthew tells us, “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them” (Matt. 21:45, ESV).
They were filled with hate and would have killed him on the spot, but they feared the multitudes. Therefore, they immediately began to try to entrap Him through a series of questions so that they might bring Him before the Sanhedrin court and try Him on a charge of blasphemy. But Jesus was wise to their trickery, and He very carefully answered their questions so that He would not incriminate Himself in their eyes.
The first question came from the Herodians. “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. ‘Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not’’” (Matt. 22:15-22, ESV)?
Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, served as king of Judea at the pleasure of Tiberius Caesar Augustus. The Herodians were a party of influential Jewish supporters of the Herodian dynasty. Jesus took a coin and asked: Who’s image is on the coin, and they responded, Caesar. Then Jesus said: render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.
“There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife’” Luke 20:27-33, ESV).
This question has received much debate over the years. Some believe that we will not even know our spouses in heaven. That is not what this verse is saying. It says we will not have the same relationship with our spouses in heaven as we had on earth. We can only speculate about what that relationship will be. Whatever it is, we will be happy, content, and fulfilled – we will not have any wants or desires.
We will not only have fellowship with our former spouses, but I believe that we will have fellowship with all of our family members who are in heaven – even ancestors and descendants whom we never knew on earth. I think that family is very important to God.
“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’” (Matt. 22:34-36, ESV)?
“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets’” (Matt. 22:37-40, ESV).
Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 in the first commandment that He gave. It is a summary of the first four of the ten commandments. He is quoting from Leviticus 19:17 in the second commandment that He gave. It is a summary of the last six verses of the ten commandments. The problem we have today is putting the second commandment before the first.
“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, ‘what do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘the Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet?’’ ‘If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?’ And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions” (Matt. 22:41-46, ESV).
Jesus was divine because He was the “Only Begotten Son” of God the Father, and His earthly mother was of the lineage of King David. Apparently, the Pharisees did not understand the virgin birth.
“And in his teaching he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation’” (Mark 12:38-40, ESV).
“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:41-44, ESV).
Jesus is drawing a contrast between believers and unbelievers. The Jewish leadership was self-righteous and pious. They looked to their works for salvation. Whereas the widow was humble and generous, she looked to God for her redemption through grace.
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘the scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues
and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbiby others’” (Matt. 23:1-7, ESV).
“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:8-12, ESV).
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matt. 23:13-15, ESV).
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it” (Matt. 23:16-22, ESV).
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” (Matt. 23:23-24, ESV)!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean” (Matt. 23:25-26, ESV).
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:27-28, ESV).
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell” (Matt. 23:29-33, ESV).
“Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matt. 23:34-36, ESV).
I have let the Scripture speak for itself. We are about to reach the climax of the hostility, and Jesus was soon to go to His death on the cross. God’s timeline is about to end as Jesus’ time was near. He then left the city and took His disciples to the Mount of Olives to announce the destruction soon to come upon the city.
Now let us look at His lament over Jerusalem as He and His disciples depart the city.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matt. 23;37-39, ESV).
Jesus is saying that after “The Tribulation” that the Jews will receive Him as their Lord and Savior.
The Jewish people were spiritually blind to many details of God’s redemption program. The Old and New Testaments address this blindness, and Jesus testified to this fact. It was as if they had a veil over their eyes, and their vision of understanding was dimmed. They could not comprehend the dual roles and the two advents of their promised Messiah. Therefore, they chose to see Him only as an everlasting reigning King sitting upon the throne of David.
Scripture seems to indicate that the veil was placed over the eyes of the Israelites as a chastisement for disobedience.
Their chastisement may have begun very early in the young nation’s life. In the book of Deuteronomy, we read about Moses’ instructions to the second generation on the plains of Moab. “Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day” (Deut. 29:4, NKJV).
Perhaps, their lack of understanding contributed to their sin of creating a golden calf, which was an object of idol worship, even after they entered into a marriage relationship (Mosaic Covenant) with their Creator.
John commented on the spiritual blindness of Israel in the twelfth chapter of his gospel. “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled…Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them’” (John 12:37-40, ESV).
Their city is destined to be destroyed thus scattering the Jews worldwide, but they did not know this. So, Jesus and His disciples made their way to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus would explain what would take place in the last days – a time when the Jewish nation will be resurrected and restored.
The prophet, Zechariah, prophesied: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10, ESV).
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible, copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked ESV are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.