A Brief Bible History/Section 2/Lesson 11

LESSON XI

Teaching in the Temple

Despite the enthusiasm which the multitudes had shown at the time when Jesus entered into Jerusalem, despite the shouts of those who cried, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord," Jesus knew that he was going to his death, and that Jerusalem would soon turn against her King. "When he drew nigh," we are told in the Gospel According to Luke, "he saw the city and wept over it, saying. If thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the things which belong unto peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes." Luke 19:41, 42.

On the Sunday of the triumphal entry it was already late when Jesus entered into the Temple area. He did nothing, therefore, that day, except look about him; and then he returned to Bethany with the twelve apostles. Mark 11:11.

Matthew 21:12-19, and Parallels

On Monday, however, the final conflict began. Entering into the city, our Lord cast out of the Temple those who bought and sold, just as he had done at the beginning of his public ministry. The rebuke which he had administered several years before had had no permanent effect. But Jesus did not hesitate to rebuke again those who made God's house a place of business. The rulers, of course, were incensed. But popular favor for a time put a check upon their hate. On the way into the city, Jesus said to a fig tree, which was bearing leaves only, "No man eat fruit from thee henceforward for ever." The motives of our Lord's act are not fully known to us; but at least he was able afterwards to point out through the case of the fig tree the limitless power of faith. The disciples were exhorted to pray in faith. But their prayers, Jesus said, must be in love; no unforgiving spirit should be left in their souls when they prayed to their heavenly Father for their own forgiveness.

The next day, Tuesday, was a day of teaching. Our Lord spent the day in the Temple, meeting the attacks of his enemies. And he had an answer to every inquiry; the trick questions of his enemies always redounded to their own rebuke.

Matthew 21:23-32, and Parallels

First our Lord was questioned as to the authority by which he had cleansed the Temple the day before. Matt. 21:23–32, and parallels. He answered that question by another question: "The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men?" The chief priests and elders could not say. They were not really sincere seekers for divine authority. But Jesus was not content with having silenced them. He also pointed out, positively, their sin in not receiving the word of God which had come through John.

Matthew 21:33-46, and Parallels

Still more scathing was the rebuke which Jesus uttered through the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen. Matt. 21:33–46, and parallels. The wicked husbandmen had been put in charge of a vineyard. But when the time came to render the fruit of the vineyard to the owner, they killed the servants who were sent to them and finally the owner's son. The chief priests and Pharisees needed no elaborate explanation; they would probably in any case have applied the parable to themselves. But as a matter of fact Jesus made the application abundantly plain. "The kingdom of God," he said, "shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."

Matthew 22:1-14

Just as plainly directed against the wicked leaders of the people, and against the rebellious nation itself, was the parable of the Marriage of the King's Son. Matt. 22:1–14. Those who were bidden to the feast refused to come in; but from the highways and hedges the king's house was filled. So the covenant people, the Jews, had rejected the divine invitation; but the despised Gentiles would be received.

Matthew 22:15-40, and Parallels

The rulers would have liked to put Jesus to death at once; but they still feared the people. So they adopted the underhand method of trying to catch him in his speech. First came the Pharisees and the Herodians, the latter being the partisans of the Herodian dynasty, with their adroit question about giving tribute to Cæsar, Matt. 22:15–22, and parallels; then the Sadducees, the worldly aristocracy, who did not believe in the resurrection, with their attempt to make the doctrine of the resurrection ridiculous, vs. 23–33, and parallels; then an individual Pharisee with his question about the greatest commandment in the law. Vs. 24–40, and parallels. Jesus had a wonderful, profound answer for them all. But only the last inquirer seems to have been at all willing to learn. "Thou art not far," Jesus said to him, "from the kingdom of God." Mark 12:34.

Matthew 22:41-46, and Parallels

Then, after all the questions which had been put to him, our Lord put one question in turn. "David himself," he said in effect, "calls the Messiah Lord; how is the Messiah, then, David's son?" In this way Jesus was presenting to the people a higher conception of Messiahship than that which they had been accustomed to hold. The Messiah was indeed David's Son, but he was not only David's Son. Matt. 22:41–46, and parallels.

Apparently on the same day, our Lord called attention to the poor widow who was casting her mite into the collection box. A gift, he said, is measured in the estimation of God not by its amount, but by the sacrifice which it means to the giver. Mark 12:41–44, and parallel.

Matthew, Chapter 23

Finally, on the same memorable Tuesday, our Lord denounced openly the formalism and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. Matt., ch. 23. It was also perhaps on the same day that certain Greeks desired to see Jesus, John 12:20, 21—a foretaste of that entrance of Gentiles into the Church which was to come after the resurrection. We are not told exactly how Jesus received the Greeks, but the importance of the moment was marked by a voice from heaven which came as a divine confirmation of Jesus' message.

Matthew, Chapters 24, 25

When Jesus, on the same day, had gone out of the Temple and had ascended to the Mount of Olives, a hill which lay on the way to Bethany, he taught his disciples about the coming destruction of the Temple and also about the end of the world. Matt., ch. 24, and parallels. The time of the end of the world, he said, is unknown to all except God, and in expectation of it men should always be watchful. This duty of watchfulness he illustrated by the parables of the Ten Virgins, Matt. 25:1–13, and of the Talents. Vs. 14–30. Then our Lord drew a great picture of the last awful judgment of God, when the wicked shall be separated from the good. Vs. 31–46.

QUESTIONS ON LESSON XI

  1. Where was the Mount of Olives? Describe the route between Bethany and the Temple in Jerusalem.
  2. Compare the two occasions when Jesus cleansed the Temple.
  3. On what occasions during his ministry did Jesus speak about John the Baptist?
  4. Give a full account of the questions which were put to Jesus on the Tuesday of the last week, and of the answers of Jesus.
  5. What were the "woes" which Jesus pronounced against the scribes and Pharisees?
  6. What did Jesus say after the Gentiles came to seek him?