Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Walk Through Holy Week - Post #2

As Jesus and his disciples made their way back to the temple in Jerusalem on Holy Tuesday, they passed the fig tree he had cursed the day before. Peter noticed that this fig tree was withered and mentioned it to Jesus. Jesus took the opportunity to share a truth about faith, forgiveness, and prayer. Pressing on towards the temple, Jesus and his disciples were met by the chief priests, scribes, and elders and asked Jesus by what authority he was doing these things. Knowing the purpose of their questions Jesus said to them,

Mark 11:29-30
“I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. [30] Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.”
After careful deliberation, knowing that Jesus' question had placed them in a conundrum, the chief priests, scribes, and elders decided to avoid giving an answer to Jesus' question. Because of their avoidance of his question, Jesus refused to answer the question they had raised.

Mark 11:31-33
[31] And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ [32] But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. [33] So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Jesus then proceeded to teach through a very pointed parable (Mark 12:1-10) about a man who planted a vineyard, invested into it, and then leased it to tenants and left for another country. The vineyard flourished and when harvest time came the land owner sent a servant to the vineyard to gather some fruits. Instead of giving the servant fruit from the vineyard, the tenants beat him and sent him away empty handed. The land owner then sent another servant and he too was mistreated. This continued, with the landowner sending servants...and each time the tenants either beat or killed the servant. Finally, the land owner sent his son, saying to himself...‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So the tenants killed his son and threw him out of the vineyard.

Then Jesus asked and answered the following question (Mark 12:9-11) of those whom he was teaching (including the chief priests, scribes, and elders):
What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 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’?”
Jesus' question, from Psalm 118:22-23, was already known to be a messianic passage. Therefore those listening knew what Jesus was saying in his parable. The stone refers to the Messiah (i.e. Jesus) and the builders are the leaders of Israel. The word, rejected, echoes the theme of the persecution of the prophets of God (Neh. 9:9–35; Acts 7:1–53) by Israel and it's leaders. What Jesus is saying is that the "faithful" in Israel will accept the Son as the rightful messenger, heir, and cornerstone of the messianic kingdom (Jer. 31:26; Zech. 4:7) while the others will reject him. He is also saying that the vineyard, which is the inheritance of Christ, will now be given to others (i.e. Gentiles) because Israel (the tenants) has rejected their God (the land owner) seeking only his blessings (the vineyard) instead of a relationship with him.

Upon hearing these words, the anger and hatred of the chief priests, scribes, and elders towards Jesus grew. They wanted to arrest him (and more than likely kill him) but they were fearful because he was growing in popularity and influence among the faithful in Israel. So, instead of arresting him...they sent Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians to try and trap Jesus in an intellectual debate with questions about taxes, marriage, and the greatest commandment. But Jesus answered each question with wisdom, truth, and grace...gaining favor among the people and gaining hatred from those who sought to destroy him.

With another tension-filled day behind them, Jesus and the disciples begin to head back to Bethany. They stop on the Mount of Olives to rest, giving them a wonderful view of Jerusalem as the sun begins to set behind it in the west. The disciples marvel at the size and the grandeur of these impressive buildings, but Jesus tells them that a day is soon coming when not a single stone will be left upon another. He goes on to explain that his followers will experience increasing persecution and tribulation, leading up to the final Day of Judgment. But their task is to remain vigilant and persist in faith.

Tuesday is now done. But Friday is coming. This is not the flannel-board Jesus some of us learned as children. This is the real, historical Jesus: fully in control as he responds with grace and truth to traps on all sides. He knows what he is doing. And he knows what is coming. Every word and every step is for the fame of his Father’s name and the salvation of those willing to pick up their cross and die with him.

 [1] The Escalating Conflict - DesiringGod.org

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