Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
Matthew 23: 1-3
“And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.”
Mark 4:33, 34
Last night, in our “Jesus meeting,” the religious leaders determined that the only way to rid the city of Jesus was to hire false witnesses. As I reported to them, we are unable to catch Him in his words, so they have resorted to developing a plan to lie and make up false reports about what He has said, so as to present Him as a threat to the nation and the people in Jerusalem. They can see how the people love Him, so it is going to be tricky arresting Him and eliminating His influence from the minds of the people.
My constituents do not know that I am becoming a secret follower and I desire save Jesus from His fate. My inside position as a trusted Sadducee is valuable to Jesus and His disciples. I want to warn Him and I will as I have the opportunity to talk with Him alone.
Last evening before I retired, I read the following from Micah in the book of prophets,
Many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
I am watching the fulfillment of this before my very eyes! Jesus speaks with authority, but it is mixed with pitiful emotion for everyone, even the Scribes and Pharisees.
Today we are just a few days before the Passover and it seems Jesus’ intensity in teaching has accelerated….as if He knows His time is short.
He started the day talking directly to the people and His disciples about the Hypocrisy of the religious leaders and ended by instructing His own disciples in a private meeting…of sorts . Of course, there were some of religious leaders on the fringes of the crowd looking for an opportunity to catch Him in His words.
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”
“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
He is being exact. It is as if He has observed them from their youth. They are like this! Sadly, so am I. I feel conviction moving inside me as I listen to his words. They show my true heart and hurt it. But, somehow, I feel hope also. He just wants me to hear and respond to Him as an acknowledged sinner.
He advises us to call no man teacher or instructor. He is the only instructor. Then He talked of being humble and putting others ahead of yourself. A hard thing for me to understand or to do for I have been taught differently.
The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
He then began to use the phrase:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
I counted 7 times he used it! Those teachers of the law and Pharisees who were there heard it, well most of them. Their faces turned red as if Jesus was revealing their minds to the crowd. It embarrassed them and several left, but some stayed to hear more. I watched the faces of the religious leaders as they heard these 7 warnings. Many were angry, but some seemed to be melting under the truth of His words and judgment.
As he continued, He spoke directly at the haters….those who were determined to do away with Him. He read their mind and left the most intense words for the last:
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”
With this judgment came some light of mercy, for He said,
Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages (wise men) and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town…Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.
Jesus is now prophesying, but despite the fact He knows their future actions, He sends more prophets, teachers, and wise men to appeal to them, knowing they will treat them badly
In the most pitiful way and with tears in his eyes, Jesus ends His talk with them. Jesus reveals his love for them, despite their terrible sins. In his voice I hear disappointment and a mixture of mercy and judgment….He knows He is going away and they won’t see him again.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, 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.”
Jesus leaves the temple with His disciples. I follow from a distance. Suddenly, Jesus looks back directly at me. Those eyes penetrate my soul and I am compelled forward to follow. I want to hear more and to be with Him.
We seem to be headed towards the Mount of Olives. The disciples seemed to be stunned by Jesus’ remark,
“your house is left to you desolate”
In response, they bring to His attention the grandeur and beauty of the temple and all the buildings. The sun is setting and the temple is glowing. What He says next stops me and the disciples in our tracks. Our mouths open to speak, but we can’t say anything,
“Do you see all these things?” Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
The image in my mind of a flattened Jerusalem seems impossible! What strange even would cause this? Who or what could do this?
After our short walk from the city to the Mount of Olives, the disciples finally speak and ask Jesus,
“Tell us, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Since I am a new follower of Jesus, there is much I don’t know. What do they mean by His “coming?” He is already here! What is the “end of age?” Despite my limited understanding, Jesus begins to teach me things I had never heard in all my years as a “religious teacher.” I draw close, forgetting my position in the community as a religious leader. At this point, I feel like a little child who is learning how to speak.
“Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
This seems easy to understand. He is going away and while He is away, many people are going to be deceived by false Messiahs! Then there will be plenty of wars! Not very good news, but it is followed by comforting words. We are not to be troubled as we see these wars happening.
There will be plenty of unrest among the nations as they take up arms against each other. Perhaps because of these wars, people will be starving and conditions will lead to diseases and plagues! But even then, there will be more sorrow to come.
Then He turns to tell the disciples of their fate after Jesus leaves to wherever He is going.
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Things do not look good for His followers. They will be killed and hated by everyone! I can understand about “many will be offended” because it seems people are so sensitive about their traditions and their personal lives. It is all about themselves and not the people around them. So if Jesus comes with words that warn of judgment, they will not hear His words of mercy and redemption. Indeed, it seems that people can not think any higher than themselves.
Despite all this trouble, they will be successful in giving the “gospel of the kingdom” to the entire world. That is a lot of people to cover. The end He spoke of earlier will come after everyone has opportunity to hear and respond!
Next He talked of a warning especially for them and those who are living in Jerusalem
““But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.“
(See Author’s note on the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD at the end of this writing.)
As I hear the urgency in His voice and His desire for me to understand, I believe Him and desire to warn others.
I learn more as Jesus continues to speak. I feel fortunate to be hearing His words.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
This is what I understand…Right after the tribulation He speaks of, He will return. Since He is returning on the clouds from heaven, that is where He is going for a time…heaven!
And when He comes, it is going to be magnificent and glorious! Even the sun, moon, and stars will be affected! There will be the loud sound of a trumpet and the work of the angels will be seen as they gather His people from everywhere under the son! But for some, they will mourn as they see Jesus coming in the clouds!
He really makes it clear! He goes on to use another parable of the fig tree. When the leaves begin to come forth, we know that summer is near….Same way when Jesus comes…There are signs we know that His coming is near.
“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!
As I hear more, His coming is made more clear. He uses more comparisons from the Tanakh to explain His coming. He compares what happened to those who did not go into the ark with His second coming. Those that did not go in the boat drowned or were “destroyed.”
“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
In Noah’s day, the people are going about their normal routines. Then it begins to rain lightly at first, then a down pour! Soon the water begins to rise and the water under the earth breaks to the surface. But, it continued to rain for 40 days! Those who were left alive were only 8 souls. A small number in comparison!
Then He uses another story from the Tanakh. The story of Lot!
“Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.”
Both stories are similar: There are people caught up with the normal routines of life, but lose it when they are caught unaware. Their opportunity to get in the boat or out of the city came and went. Then, sadly, they were destroyed. One group by water, the other by fire.Those who were left were only a few people in comparison.
These two stories tie in with Jesus’ second coming and His warning to get out of Jerusalem when the armies surround the city and finally destroy it. It seems there will be many so caught up in their earthly life, that the warning and signs are ignored. The end result is eternal destruction.
But, Jesus takes the warnings one step further. He provides warning to His servants that forget who they are and the times they are living.
““Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.”
Good for them but, not good for those who do the opposite!
But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Even though this group were God’s servants at one time, they move to the same class of those in Noah’s day and Lot’s day who ignored the Lord and were destroyed. They did not endure to the end and were put in the category of hypocrites.
This is where we started. Hypocrisy is a dangerous place to be according to Jesus. This time with Jesus has been good. I’ve had learned and unlearned many things.
As I stand to leave, he begins with more parables, but then He stops and looks at me. He calls for me by name. I didn’t know He knew my name! This will be my opportunity to warn Him! As I walk over to Him, He walks towards me and a new chapter opens up in my life.
Extra Material to read:
The Destruction of Jerusalem
In 70 AD, the Roman armies guided by Titus surrounded Jerusalem. The lives of those who remembered and obeyed the words of Jesus were spared. The followers of Christ who would later be called Christians left the city and soon it was attacked and leveled.
Below is a small portion of Chapter 1 from a book called “The Great Controversy” which describes the circumstances of the city’s demise. The scope of the horror and ruin are hard to imagine. This event forever changed the culture of the Jewish people. If you want to read the entire Chapter, click here.
Chapter 1-The Destruction of Jerusalem
“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:42-44.
“The hour of hope and pardon was fast passing; the cup of God’s long-deferred wrath was almost full. The cloud that had been gathering through ages of apostasy and rebellion, now black with woe, was about to burst upon a guilty people;and He who alone could save them from their impending fate had been slighted, abused, rejected, and was soon to be crucified. When Christ should hang upon the cross of Calvary, Israel’s day as a nation favored and blessed of God would be ended. The loss of even one soul is a calamity infinitely outweighing the gains and treasures of a world; but as Christ looked upon Jerusalem, the doom of a whole city, a whole nation, was before Him–that city, that nation, which had once been the chosen of God, His peculiar treasure.”
“Prophets had wept over the apostasy of Israel and the terrible desolations by which their sins were visited. Jeremiah wished that his eyes were a fountain of tears, that he might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of his people, for the Lord’s flock that was carried away captive. Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17. What, then, was the grief of Him whose prophetic glance took in, not years, but ages! He beheld the destroying angel with sword uplifted against the city which had so long been Jehovah’s dwelling place. From the ridge of Olivet, the very spot afterward occupied by Titus and his army, He looked across the valley upon the sacred courts and porticoes, and with tear-dimmed eyes He saw, in awful perspective, the walls surrounded by alien hosts. He heard the tread of armies marshaling for war. He heard the voice of mothers and children crying for bread in the besieged city. He saw her holy and beautiful house, her palaces and towers, given to the flames, and where once they stood, only a heap of smoldering ruins.”