Three Days Before the Passover.

We have noticed how such a large amount of each gospel record is devoted to this last week in Jesus' life. We have now arrived at the third day before the Passover. This is, in Scripture, the longest day in the life of Jesus. Of course all days were the same length. However the Spirit has chosen to record more about this day than any other day in Jesus' life. We see from Matthew that the events of this day cover almost five chapters. The day begins in Matthew 21:18 and ended with Matthew 25:46. Comparing Mark 13:37, which is the end of the Olivet prophecy in Mark and Mark 14:1, which is the beginning of the next day, confirms this view.

The record of this day present to us the most powerful onslaught of the Jewish authorities against Jesus and the end of his public ministry.

From late in the afternoon of this day Jesus is never seen teaching publicly again. His focus turns from the religious leaders and the common people to the twelve disciples. They become the prime focus of his words.

On the way into Jerusalem in the morning

Events as recorded in gospel Matthew Mark Luke John time of day
The disciples see the withered fig tree 21:18-22 11:20-26     morning
Priest's question Jesus' authority 21:23-27 11:27-33 20:1-8    
Which son did his father's will? 21:28-32        
Parable of the vineyard 21:33-46 12:1-12 20:9-19    
Parable of the wedding banquet 22:1-14        

The disciples saw the fig tree cursed yesterday and now they are surprised to see that it had withered up. They will be introduced to the concept of the 'fig tree' shooting forth [Luke 21:29] at the end of today as they make their way back to Bethany.

We should appreciate the fact that the cursing of the fig tree, the disciples noticing that it was withered up and the parable of the fig tree all took place on the mount of Olives during the space of no more than 36 hours.

The question of the priest 'by what authority doest thou these things' [Matthew 21:23] is a response to Jesus' actions yesterday. On entering the temple he 'cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,' [Matthew 21:12]. This action attacked the very lifestyle of the priests who gained a very lucrative income from the practice.

By asking them to reflect on the authority of John the Baptist Jesus is not trying to avoid the issue they raised. John had already testified 'behold the lamb of God ...' [John 1:29] and we know that many of the leaders went to John to listen because 'when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?' [Matthew 3:7] We also know that 'the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptised of him'. [Luke 7:30].

Because they were unwilling to accept the testimony of John about Jesus they would not accept anything Jesus said about himself. Therefore, Jesus is not avoiding the issue of authority, rather he is focusing the leaders' minds on an unresolved issue. When they were able to form a judgment about John's baptism then they would be in a position to evaluate Jesus' authority.

They were unwilling, because they 'feared the people' [Mark 11:32], to commit themselves on the matter so had to respond 'we cannot tell' [Mark 11:33].

There were a number of occasions when the leaders 'feared the people' during the last week of Jesus' life. This was the first occasion. The second was after he had told the parable of the wicked husbandmen [Matthew 21:33-45 Mark 12:1-12, Luke 20:9-19]. The third was the next day [Luke 22:2] when they were consulting how they might take Jesus.

The phrase 'feared the people' catches the mental state of Saul when he failed to kill the Amalakites. [1 Samuel 15:24]. His excuse was that he had not done the will of God because of his fear of the people. Now whilst the leaders were not doing God's will when they feared the people they showed the same attitude as Saul. They, like Saul, were more interested in the praise of men than the approval of God. This was their downfall.

Jesus could have left them at this point and continued with his tasks for the day. If we had been in Jesus' shoes we might well have left them with the smug self satisfaction of knowing that we had silenced our critics. However our Lord was not like that. He was concerned that these men might confront their hypocrisy therefore he tells them three parables,

  Matthew Mark Luke
1] Which son did his father's will? 21:28-32    
2] Parable of the vineyard 21:33-46 12:1-12 20:9-19
3] Parable of the wedding banquet 22:1-14    

The three parables are all directed at the attitude of the religious leaders.

Earlier today, in response to the question about the baptism of John, the leaders had to say 'we cannot tell'. They were unwilling to commit themselves on the matter so they, in effect, remained silent. The three parables which Jesus now tells are designed to force the leaders to speak.

Which Son Did His fathers Will?

The first parable, by considering the two sons and their response . The first son refused to go but afterwards repented and went whereas the second son said he would go but did not. [Matthew 21:29-30]. Jesus then asks the religious leaders 'Whether of them twain did the will of his father?' The leaders have to answer and so 'They say unto him, The first.' . [Matthew 21:31]. That this parable relates to the issue of his authority and John is clear from the way in which Jesus continued when he said ' Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.' [Matthew 21:31-32]

The Parable Of The Vineyard

This parable is to be found in the following accounts Matthew 21:33-46 Mark 12:1-12 and Luke 20:9-19. The parable of the vineyard by carefully using language from Isaiah 5 and Psalm 80, presents a picture of the householder's response to the various ways in which his servants have been treated. The final act of sending 'his son' [Matthew 21:37] answers to the sending of Jesus. The murder of the son because he is 'the heir' [Matthew 21:38] was to happen by the end of this week.

The Parable and Old Testament Echoes

The elements of the parable are; A planted vineyard, a hedge, a winepress and a tower. The vineyard was let out to husbandmen whilst the owner went into a far country. His servants were sent for the fruit but were beaten, killed and stoned. Further servants were sent, and similarly treated. Finally the son was sent, who was killed. The question what will the Lord of the vineyard do was asked to which the answer was given He will destroy ...

Many of the elements of the parable are drawn from the Old Testament.

  2 Chronicles 24 Psalm 80 Isaiah 5 Jeremiah 2
planted vineyard   80:8 5:1 2:21
The hedge   80:12    
Winepress     5:2  
Tower     5:2  
Let it to husbandmen        
The stoned servant 24:21      
He will destroy     5:6  

Bringing Forth Fruit

The Old Testament clearly indicates that the house of Israel were a vine which had been brought out of Egypt [Hosea 11:1] and planted [Isaiah 5:2] in the land which had been prepared for it. As such they were expected to bring forth fruit to God under the care of the priests and religious leaders.

Israels history demonstrated that they had rarely brought forth fruit despite the sending of the prophets rising early [Jeremiah 11:7]. Therefore in the days of Hezekiah the prophet Isaiah spoke the parable of the vineyard which is recorded in Isaiah 5. Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, taking up the message of Isaiah prophesied Jerusalem shall be plowed as a field [Micah 3:12] which was to be a judgement from God in Hezekiahs day. However Hezekiah repented and humbled himself before his God [2 Chronicles 32:26]. Therefore the vineyard was not destroyed at that time. Jeremiah, at a later date, was able to remind the people of this, saying, Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the LORD, and besought the LORD, and the LORD repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls. [Jeremiah 26:18-19]

The leaders to whom Jesus was speaking would be familiar with the Biblical background to the parable and the implications. Therefore the message could have been very powerful if only they had been willing to listen to the son.

What Will The Lord Of The Vineyard Do?

Jesus asked the question, 'When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?' [Matthew 21:40] to force the leaders to confront their mental state. However before the leaders were able to answer the question the answer is given by the common people. They said 'He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.' [Matthew 21:41]. Jesus endorsed this response as Mark 12:9 and Luke 20:16 indicate. The response of the leaders was God forbid [Luke 20:16]. The common people, listening carefully to Jesus words answer the question before the leaders can say a word. Jesus, in endorsing their answer, evokes the response God forbid from the leaders because they perceived that he spake of them [Matthew 21:45].

Sadly they did not heed the words of the parable nor reflect on Jesus and the common peoples answer, nor even their horror at the outcome. Jerusalem was overthrown by the Romans some forty years later.

At this point in the discussion Jesus draws the attention of the religious leaders to Psalm 118:22 saying 'Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?' [Matthew 21:42].

The figure of the vine passes into Jesus teaching during the remainder of the week before the crucifixion.

Isaiah 5 predicted the removal of the hedge and the treading down of the vineyard - the house of Israel. Later on during the same day Jesus spoke to the disciples on the Mount of Olives. in response to their question when shall these things [the destruction of Jerusalem] be ... [Luke 21:7] Jesus, says. Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the gentiles ... [Luke 21:24]. Jesus is quoting Isaiah 5 again. I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard ... It shall be trodden down ... [Isaiah 5:5]. The Olivet Prophecy is a private explanation of some of the details of the parable of the vineyard. The destruction of Jerusalem, which was accomplished by the Romans in AD 70 was a fulfilment of the parable which in turn was an exposition of Isaiah 5. The absence of a repentant heart made the destruction a certainty, unlike in the days of Hezekiah. Hezekiah, on being presented with the judgement repented. The leaders in Jesus day did not.

Not A New Message

Nor was Jesus parable of the vineyard in Matthew 21 the first time this warning had been given to these leaders. John the Baptist had already given a similar warning which had gone unheeded. Three and a half years earlier, when he was baptising at Aenon the Pharisees came to investigate. John warned them O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance & the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. [Matthew 3:7-10]

Speaking To The Heart

There is no doubt that the leaders realised that Jesus spoke the parable of the vineyard against them for When the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. [Matthew 21:45]. However, just as they had rejected the counsel of John the Baptist, they rejected Jesus. They sought to lay hands on him [Matthew 21:36] The only thing which prevented them from taking any action was they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet. [Matthew 21:46]

Answering The Lord

Is our motivation driven by a desire to please the Father or are we menpleasers who are compromised by what we think others will think of us? How would we answer the question what will the lord of the vineyard do &? Would we remain silent because we are convicted by the Lord, would we join with the common people and see the obvious outcome of such rebellion or would we join with the Pharisees saying God forbid because we desire to continue in our own ways with scant regard to the call of the master to bring forth fruit?

The Marriage Of The King's Son

The third parable in this section is about the marriage of the king's son. The wedding was furnished with guest who were 'both bad and good:' [Matthew 22:10] because those who were bidden declined the invitation. However there was one of the guests 'which had not on a wedding garment:' [Matthew 22:11]. Just like the religious leaders, when confronted about his cavalier attitude to the requirements of the king he was 'speechless' [Matthew 22:12] 'Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.' [Matthew 22:15]. thus demonstrating that the Word of God had no effect on their consciences.

What follows is amazing. There are three attacks on Jesus by the most unlikely alliances.

These attacks are triggered by the desire to take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. [Luke 20:20]. So we see that so near to the death of Jesus the religious leaders still had not formulated a plan to arrest Jesus. It is for this reason that on the day when Jesus said Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. [Matthew 26:2] they were willing to pay Judas when he asked What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? [Matthew 26:15].

The first attack on Jesus

Events as recorded in gospel Matthew Mark Luke John time of day
Paying taxes to Caesar 22:15-22 12:13-17 20:20-26    

Speaking of the Pharisees we are informed that 'they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians' [Matthew 22:16] An alliance between the Pharisees and the Herodians has only been seen once before in Mark 3:6, where again the object was to 'destroy [him]' [Mark 3:6]

The alliance between the Pharisees and the Herodians is most surprising when their conflicting philosophies are understood. The Herodians, as their name suggests, were supporters of the family of the Herods. Herod was the leader appointed by the Romans over Israel. He was not a Jew. The Pharisees had separated themselves from the secular state in Israel. They viewed the Roman rulership and the corruption of the priesthood in the way that it was involved with Herod as a way of life they should avoid. Indeed the name 'Pharisee' is based on the Hebrew pharez which means divide. Thus we see two groups from totally opposite ends of the political spectrum joining forces against Jesus.

That the question 'Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?' [Matthew 22:17] is evident from their opening comments. Jesus sees through their hypocrisy responding 'Why temp ye me ye hypocrites?' [Matthew 22:18]. His reply, which focuses on the dual responsibility towards the state and God silences them therefore 'they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.' [Matthew 22:22]

The second attack on Jesus

Events as recorded in gospel Matthew Mark Luke John time of day
Sadducees question about resurrection 22:23-33 12:18-27 20:27-40    

Reinforcing the point that these events all happened on the same day the record continues 'The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him ...,' [Matthew 22:23]. Their attempt to trap Jesus was based on their miss-understanding of Scripture. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Therefore their question centered around the absurd question of the woman who had seven husbands and her position in the resurrection.

The Sadducees were a group of Jews who based all their teaching on the first five books of the Bible. That is the books of Moses. Jesus answer, which highlighted that the doctrine of the resurrection was taught in the books of Moses, silenced the Sadducees.

Jesus had now dealt with the second onslaught on his authority. However the 'contradiction of sinners' [Hebrews 12:3] is not over yet. 'But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together'. [Matthew 22:34].

The third attack on Jesus

Events as recorded in gospel Matthew Mark Luke John time of day
Which is the great commandment? 22:35-40        
Which is the first commandment?   12:28-34      

Whilst it may appear the Matthew and Mark are speaking about the same event a careful consideration of the details contained in the two Gospel records will demonstrate that there were, in fact, two different individuals who asked very similar questions.

Whilst the question 'which is the great commandment in the law' [Matthew 22:36] seems innocuous enough the Spirit informs us that he asked it 'tempting him' [Matthew 22:35]. Therefore even this question must be seen against the background of their attempts to undermine Jesus' position with the people.

In stating that the first commandment related to the attitude that should be manifested towards God and the second, the attitude that should be manifested to other men Jesus skilfully encompassed all aspects of the Law of Moses. These two commandments encompassed all the teaching of Scripture. Not just the Law of Moses. This is why Jesus was able to continue 'On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.' [Matthew 22:40].

The account in Mark 12 provides us with the second question on the matter of the commandments. Notice that whilst in Matthew the lawyer asked the question 'tempting him' no such motive is imputed to the scribe. Rather the scribe had heard that Jesus had 'answered them well' [Mark 12:28]. His motivation was different from that of the lawyer. The scribe wished to know more about the commandments in the law. He therefore asks about 'the first commandment of all' [Mark 12:28].

This man understood the law and the obligations it placed on the faithful believer for his responded to Jesus' words 'And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.' [Mark 12:32-33] which brought the response from Jesus 'Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.' [Mark 12:34]

This conversation with the scribe must have been a great comfort to Jesus during this day of bitter opposition to his authority and teaching.

A comparison of the two records which speak of the tempting question of the lawyer and the seeking after enlightenment by the scribe will help us to see that we are looking at two different, but related, events.

Matthew 22:35-40 Mark 12:28-34
35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

28. And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?

29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:

33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

Whilst the three questions were all trick questions designed to trap Jesus in his words 'no man after that durst ask him any question.' [Mark 12:34] Surely the proverb is seen to be true 'The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.' [Proverbs 12:7].

If we have ever had to deal with opposition to our position or have been involved in debate we will recognise the desire to 'quit whilst we are on top'. If we had been in Jesus' shoes at this time we might well have taken the opportunity of leaving the scene now our critics had been silenced. Our Lord was not concerned for his own welfare. Rather he was concerned for the salvation of men. For this reason he moves forward to encourage his audience to consider the implications of Scripture.

Jesus now questions the leaders

Events as recorded in gospel Matthew Mark Luke John time of day
Whose son is Christ? 22:41-46 12:35-37 20:41-44    

Seizing the opportunity 'While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them ...' [Matthew 22:41]. However we should not think of this as Jesus just reproving the Pharisees for ' while he taught in the temple,' [Mark 12:35] he asked 'What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?' [Matthew 22:42]. The question about Christ, by contrast to the leaders' questions, was not a trick question. It was part of the continual instruction in the Law which Jesus engaged in.

Consistent with his three parables which he spoke earlier today Jesus is looking for a response from the leaders. 'They say unto him, The Son of David.' [Matthew 22:42] which produces the response from Jesus 'How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying ...' [Matthew 22:43]. Once again the Pharisees said nothing. The record tells us ' And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.' [Matthew 22:46].

This response contrasted starkly with the response of the common people who 'heard him gladly' [Mark 12:37].

This refusal to consider the implications of Scripture on the part of the Scribes and Pharisees provoked Jesus to say 'Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,' [Mark 12:38]

Jesus warns his disciples and the people to beware of the leaders.

Events as recorded in gospel Matthew Mark Luke John time of day
Woe unto you ... hypocrites 23:1-39 12:38-40 20:45-47    

Matthew 23 was spoken just prior to Jesus leaving Jerusalem to go to the mount of Olives three days before his death. However it was a distillation of what he had already said to the scribes and Pharisees on different occasions commencing from the time of his baptism.

  <----- parallel accounts - ---->      
Event Matthew 23 Mark 12 Luke 20 Matthew Mark Luke
Heavy burdens verse 4         11:46
to be seen of men verse 5     6:5    
Uppermost seats verse 6 verse 39       11:43
Greetings in the market verse 7   verse 46     11:43
Devour widows uses verse 14 verse 40 verse 47      
Make long prayers verse 14 verse 40 verse 47      
Blind Pharisees verse 19     15:4    
Tithe verse 23         11:42
Mercy verse 23     9:13 12:7    
Cups and platters verse 25       7:4  
Whited sepulchres verse 27,29         11:47
Generation of vipers verse 33     3:7 12:34   3:7
All be fulfilled verse 36     24:34 13:30 21:32
O Jerusalem verse 37         13:34

The major criticism of the scribes and Pharisees centered around their self centered life style. They were concerned that what they did would be 'seen of men' [Matthew 23:5] They loved the 'uppermost seats' [Matthew 23:6] and 'greetings in the market place' [Matthew 23:7]. Even their motivation in prayer was 'for a pretence ...' [Matthew 23:14]

Whilst there was this outward show of worship and Godliness they were busy laying 'heavy burdens' [Matthew 23:4] devouring 'widow's houses' [Matthew 23:14].

They made a show of their religion by tithing trivial items [Matthew 23:23] and making a great show of observing the laws of cleanness in the way that they washed 'cups and platters' [Matthew 24:26]. However they were, in fact unclean despite this outward show. They were 'whited sepulchres' [Matthew 23:27] They were meticulous in the way in which they observed the letter of the law, making a great show of the traditions that their 'fathers' had added to what had been revealed through Moses. Their religion was one of 'works'. They thought that by doing things they were pleasing their God.

A recurring theme in the Scriptures is the fact that Yahweh does not want animal sacrifices. This is not to be taken to indicate that he did not institut sacrifices. He did, but they were added to remind Israel of their sinfulness, and not primarily as a means of pleasing Yahweh. 'Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh. For I spake not unto your fathers, nor reommanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.' [Jeremiah 7:21 - 23]

However Israel saw the offering of sacrifices as a virtue in themselves and forgot that the offering of the sacrifice was an advertisement of their sinfulness. Samuel had to reprove Saul on this point. Saul spared the Amalakites, in direct contravention of the word of Yahweh on the flimsy pretext that the people saved the animals alive to offer to the Lord. Saul, because he did not appreciate the value of obedience was reproved by Samuel with the words 'hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.' [1 Samuel 15:22] This principle can be seen in other parts of Scripture:-

Psalm 51:16 17, Proverbs 21:3, Isaiah 1:11 - 17, Hosea 6:6, Amos 5:21 - 24.

Jesus reinforced this point by appealing to some of those Scriptures to show that the leaders of his day had also missed the point.

Notice that Jesus's words in Matt 23:37 are identical to those he used in Luke 13:34

Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them
Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them

which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together,
that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together

even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

This is a very powerful example of the way in which Jesus is drawing on the way he had spoken to the religious leaders in the past. He is making the same points again at this point in his ministry because his earlier words had not been heeded.

The use of Psalm 118 in the last week - a Passover Psalm

On the way in to Jerusalem Matthew 21:9-10 Psalm 118:25-26
Have ye never read? Matthew 21:42 Psalm 118:22
Ye will not see me until Matthew 23:39 Psalm 118:26

Of the first occasion when the Psalm is sung we read 'And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;' [Luke 19:37]. They 'cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:' [Mark 11:9] 'Hosanna' quotes 'save now' [Psalm 118:25] 'blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord' quotes Psalm 118:26. From Luke's account of the 'triumphal entry' we learn that it was not just the people but 'the whole multitude of his disciples.' [Luke 19:37] Maybe this incident gives us a little insight into the enthusiasm and expectation of the disciples at this time. The Psalm was sung by Jews at Passover time as they looked for redemption through Messiah. The religious leaders were incensed that the people and disciples were calling out the words of the Psalm and applying them to Jesus for this reason. For this reason 'some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.' [Luke 19:39]

Two days later Jesus [Matthew 21:33-44] tells the parable of the wicked husbandmen. In response to the parable the religious leaders condemn themselves saying 'He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons'. [Matthew 21: 41]. Against the background of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem the use of Psalm 118 again is most powerful, By observing 'Did ye never read in the scriptures, (quoting Psalm 118:22) The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.' [Matthew 21:42-43] Jesus re-focuses their minds on the same Psalm that the common people and the disciples used as Jesus entered the city two days earlier.

The leaders have their attention directed to the Psalm again when Jesus, after castigating them for their hypocrisy says 'Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.' [Matthew 23:39], quoting Psalm 118:26.

Thus it can be seen that rather than casual quotations from the Psalms we have a systematic use of Scripture to force the leaders to see that Jesus is, indeed, the Messiah spoken of in the Psalm. Furthermore, by appealing to 'the stone which the builders rejected' Jesus warns the leaders that they are about to reject the man of God's provision. The Messiah was here - but he did not fit in to their mould and so they did not recognise him.

The exhortation is clear. We are looking for Jesus to 'appear the second time [Hebrews 9:28]. However, through our own perceptions of what he should be like, we may not be ready for him. Whilst the establishment of the kingdom will be powerful and earth shattering it is clear from Jesus' teaching that there will be some of his disciples who will not be prepared for it. To those he will say 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels ...' [Matthew 25:41]. Just as the religious leaders thought they were serving God and yet did not recognise The Messiah. We might think we are doing His will and yet actually rejected by our Lord at his appearing.

Still Three Days Before The Passover

Jesus leaves the leaders with the words 'your house is left unto you desolate' [Matthew 23:38] ringing in their ears. This is the end of his public ministry.

Jesus now gives his undivided attention to his disciples. He is never seen publicly teaching again from now to the end of the week. His public ministry has ended.

This is one reason why the meal in Bethany was held two days before the Passover even though Jesus arrived there six days before the Passover. Jesus knew that he had much to do during the week but that after the third day before the Passover he would be able to celebrate the raising of Lazarus with the family in Bethany. However this will be considered in more detail at the appropriate place in the week.

Jesus is now in the treasury

Events as recorded in gospel Matthew Mark Luke John time of day
The poor widow's gift   12:41-44 21:1-4   late p.m.?

As Jesus leaves the temple he pauses by the treasury. He has spoken of the destruction of the temple and all that it stands for. As he sits he 'beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.' [Mark 12:41] Whilst he watched 'there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.' [Mark 12:42]. Jesus tells his disciples 'Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury': [Mark 12:43]. Her response contrasted starkly with those leaders who he warned the people about. She was oblivious of the eyes of Jesus who saw her generosity.

Jesus response appears to have triggered the disciples response when they 'spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts,' [Luke 21:5]. It seems that the disciples were awed by the sight of the temple . Jesus reminds them of what he has already told the religious leaders at least twice - 'As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.' [Luke 21:6]

Christ Our Passover

That Jesus was 'our Passover' [1 Corinthians 15:7] is not in doubt. He died at Passover time and was 'a lamb without blemish' [1 Peter 1:19].

However, in wonderful fulfillment of the details of the command in Exodus 12, even the events of the last week confirm the pattern of Jesus as the Passover lamb.

As the table below shows.

Events in Exodus 12 Date in Nisan Days Before Passover Events in Jesus' life
Lamb selected 12:3

10 Th.


Enters Jerusalem John 12:1-2

11 Th.


Casts out money changers Matthew 21:12

12 Th.


Leaders find no fault Matthew 22

13 Th.


Feast in Bethany Mark 14:3


Pilate finds no fault Luke 23:4
Lamb slain 12:6

14 Th.

  Jesus dies Mark 15:34

The lamb was to be selected on the tenth day of the month and kept by the family in the house until it was sacrificed on the fourteenth day of the month. The Jews, during this time, ensured that the lamb was 'without blemish' [Exodus 12:5]. They did this by examining it to see that it conformed to God's requirements.

Likewise Jesus, during the time that he was in Jerusalem, was examined. He was firstly 'examined' by the religious leaders who, after the onslaught of Matthew 22, 'no man was able to answer him a word' [Matthew 22:46]. Jesus had silenced his Jewish critics. They had not been able to find any fault in him. During his trial by Pilate his innocence and faultless nature were recognised and he said three times 'I find no fault in him' [John 18:38 19:4, 6]

Thus the gospel records present Jesus and the lamb which was kept by the family from the tenth day of the month Nisan which was faultless and therefore an acceptable sacrifice.

Jesus and The Disciples In The Temple and On The Mount Of Olives

Jesus and the disciples walk over the Kidron valley to the Mount of Olives where they sit down. Jesus then elaborates on his chilling words.

On the Mount of Olives - (on their way back to Bethany?)

Events as recorded in gospel Matthew Mark Luke John time of day
`The Olivet prophecy 24:1-36 13:1-32 21:5-36   evening
Watch, days of Noah 24:37-51        
Ten virgins 25:1-13        
The man travelling into a far country 25:14-31 13:33-37      
Sheep, goats and judgment 25:31-46        

Echoes Of The Olivet Prophecy During The Last Week of Jesus' Life

We have already alluded to the fact that Jesus had warned the religious leaders of the destruction of the temple. In fact he told them on two earlier occasions this week. The first was as he was entering in to Jerusalem on the ass. As he approached the city he lamented over the city [Luke 19:43-44]. The second time was when he spoke his final words to the religious leaders warning them that the desolation of their house was imminent [Matthew 23:38].

The Olivet Prophecy

Whereas the words to the religious leaders were words of judgment when Jesus speaks to the disciples about the destruction of the temple his concern is very different. When he spoke to the leaders he told them that the temple was to be destroyed. However when he spoke to his disciples he was concerned for their welfare during the turmoil that was to come.

Notice the emphasis in the 'Olivet Prophecy'

Matthew 24:4 take heed

Matthew 24:5 deceive

Matthew 24:11 deceive

Matthew 24:13 endure

Matthew 24:24 deceive

Matthew 24:25 told you before

Matthew 24:42 watch

Matthew 24:43 would have watched

Matthew 24:44 Be ye also ready

Matthew 25:13 watch therefore

The emphasis of the 'Olivet prophecy' is not that the disciples should be able to know exactly when the destruction of AD 70 was to come. Rather Jesus was concerned that they would be prepared for it when it did come. The warning for the disciples is that at the time of the end they would be in extreme danger from those who would overthrow their faith.

The lesson for ourselves is clear. Whilst we do not know the 'day nor the hour' - nor can we - we should take care to ensure that we are not deceived nor become complacent. Before AD 70 there were those in the community who questioned the destruction of Jerusalem 'Where is the promise of his coming' [2 Peter 3:4].

The immediate focus of Jesus words is the destruction of the temple by the Romans which took place in AD 70. Seen against the two earlier occasions when Jesus warns the leaders of the destruction of their house we cannot escape the conclusion that Jesus immediate focus is the events of AD 70. A consideration of two parallel passages will show that this is so.

Matthew 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place,

Luke 21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies,

Luke explains that in the context of the destruction of the temple the 'abomination of desolation' is actually 'Jerusalem compassed with armies'

The sudden destruction when the people were not aware is likened to the days of Noah. People were going about their routine daily life, oblivious of the impending flood. Likewise when the Romans were to come against Jerusalem the people would be busy with their own lives and unconcerned about the impending destruction.

This warning of impending judgment coupled with the apathy of the people was used by Jesus to warn his disciples 'Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.' [Matthew 24:42]

Not only were they to watch but each one of them was to be 'a faithful and wise servant ...' [Matthew 24:45]

The warning for us is clear. It is not good enough to be aware that Jesus is going to come again. The realisation that he is to appear should cause us to be 'faithful and wise servants' who will be 'found so doing' [Matthew 24:46] when he appears.

The Olivet Prophecy and Luke 17

There are striking similarities between Luke 17 and the Olivet Prophecy. However, interestingly, there are no links between Luke 17 and Luke 21. The links can be seen in the table below.


Luke 17 Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21
17:24 lightning 24:27    
17:26 days of Noe 24:37    
17:31 on the housetop 24:17 13:15  
17:34 one taken 24:40    
17:35 grinding together 24:41    
17:36 two in the field 24:40    
17:37 eagles gathered 24:28    

It is difficult to know for certain where Jesus was when he gave the warning about the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 17:20-37. However in Luke 17:11 'he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee' and that the event which immediately precedes this warning is the healing of the ten lepers in that region. Furthermore Jesus does not arrive in Jerusalem until Luke 19:29 when he arrives at 'Bethphage and Bethany'. Therefore we can be sure that Luke 17 and the Olivet prophecy paralleled in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 was spoken on a different occasion to Luke 17:20-37.

The prophecy continues on into Matthew 25 with a series of parables. The chapter division is in an unfortunate position. Chapter 25 is also spoken on the Mount of Olives and should be seen in that light. The 'Olivet Prophecy' is concerned with far more than answering the disciples' question 'when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?' [Matthew 24:3]

As has been listed above we see that the parables are:-

  Matthew Mark
Ten virgins 25:1-13  
The man travelling into a far country 25:14-31 13:33-37
Sheep, goats and judgment 25:31-46  

We remember that the disciples were concerned to know 'when shall these things be' and 'what shall be the sign' [Matthew 24:3]. The first of these three parables which we style 'The parable of the ten virgins' addresses these two elements of the disciples' question. The conclusion of the parable 'for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.' [Matthew 25:13] highlights that the parable relates to the disciples' question. However Jesus is careful, in the parable, to warn the disciples against expecting that they could predict when the events he had spoken of would take place.

Indeed, in the parable, even though some were prepared for the coming of the bridegroom because he 'tarried' they all slumbered and slept'. [Matthew 25:5]. The issue was whether or not the virgins had prepared for the coming of the bridegroom. Whilst all ten had lamps when they began their vigil only the wise 'took oil in their vessels with their lamps' [Matthew 25:4]. The implication is that the 'foolish' anticipated an early appearance of the bridegroom. The wise, on the other hand, were prepared for a long wait. In this parable Jesus was teaching his disciples that if they were to be 'wise' they should be prepared for the possibility of a prolonged wait for the fulfilment of the things he was speaking of.

The second parable - of the man travelling into a far country - is like the first. Jesus begins this parable with the warning 'Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.' [Mark 13:33]. Whilst we might think that these word relate to what has gone before they are linked with the parable which follows with the words 'For the son of man...' [Mark 13:34] where the warning is 'Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning:' [Mark 13:35]. However, by considering this parable as recorded in Matthew's record we gain additional information. Not only were the disciples to 'watch' and be prepared but they were also to work.

Whilst 'talents' were distributed 'to every man according to his several ability;' [Matthew 25: 15] each was expected to be industrious with those things committed to their charge. The two servants who were given the five and two talents are equally commended by their master at his return even though their eventual responsibilities were different. However the servant who had the one talent received a different response from his master at his return. The reason for the rejection was a consequence of the servant's assessment of his master. Because he feared his master's reaction if he were to fail he was inactive. Jesus is teaching his disciples that they should not, for fear of failure, hide away that which was committed to them. The disciple who feared his lord was the man who did not understand that God and Jesus anticipate failure but are looking for commitment.

The third parable that Jesus spoke on the mount of Olives at this time was to teach the disciples that they were unable to assess who was doing the Father's will and who was not by basing their judgment on what they saw. The dividing of 'sheep from the goats' [Matthew 25:32] demonstrates this. Whilst we might think that we would have no problem noticing the difference between sheep and goats this is not necessarily so in Israel. There are strains of sheep and goats which are very similar in appearance. In the parable the differences between the sheep and the goats was not to be found by looking on the outward appearance. In reality the difference was to be seen in the way that the people represented by the sheep and the goats responded to others. The sheep cared for others doing things 'as unto Christ' [Ephesians 6:5] The goat class were selfish and gave no thought to others.

The faithful disciples of Jesus manifests his love for his master by showing his love to others for 'If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?' [1 John 4:20]

Therefore, combining the three parables which Jesus told in response to the disciples' question 'when ... what' we notice that Jesus warns them against expecting his immediate return and counsels them to be sure that they work for him and manifest their love for him in the way that they respond to others.

Set against the warnings in Matthew 24 to 'watch' 'take heed' which we have already noticed we must appreciate that Jesus is doing far more than foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem and his eventual appearance.

The focus of Jesus' teaching has moved from speaking to the religious leaders to preparing his disciples for his death. Therefore we ought not to be surprised to see the 'Olivet Prophecy' directed at the disciples own problems.

The warnings of the message are just as relevant for us today. If we focus only on the way in which Jesus predicted the overthrow of Jerusalem and his appearance we will miss much of the concern which Jesus shows for his followers. We might even find ourselves amongst the 'foolish', be a 'goat' or be the 'wicked servant'.


Summary Of The Third Day Before The Passover

This is the longest day in the last week of Jesus' life. That is there is more recorded about this day than any other, with the possible exception of the day of the crucifixion.

The day commenced, according to the Gospel records, with the disciples seeing the withered fig tree that Jesus had cursed yesterday. This fig tree is highlighted again in the Olivet prophecy at the end of today.

On arriving in the temple Jesus was confronted about the cleansing of the temple yesterday. Focus is made on the baptism of John which silences Jesus' critics.

What followed is a threefold attack on Jesus position which he silences. The only comfort that Jesus received at this time was the thoughts and question of the scribe who heard that Jesus had answered the lawyer 'well'. Jesus then uses the opportunity to confront his critics with a question about Christ. This question confounded his critics. Jesus then speaks to the leaders in parable showing them that God was going to destroy the temple because of their wickedness. He then followed this up with a stinging criticism of the Scribes and Pharisees. This ended his public ministry, so to speak. From now on the Gospels focus on Jesus' care for his disciples.

The Olivet prophecy was given to warn the disciples about the events which were to come upon Jerusalem. Parables are built into the prophecy to reinforce the warnings.

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