What Happened on Holy Week (Part 2)
The Cleansing of the Temple: Matt 21:12-13
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
Isaiah 42:1-4 (CEV)
Here is my servant! I have made him strong. He is my chosen one; I am pleased with him. I have given him my Spirit, and he will bring justice to the nations. He won’t shout or yell or call out in the streets. He won’t break off a bent reed or put out a dying flame, but he will make sure that justice is done. He won’t quit or give up until he brings justice everywhere on earth, and people in foreign nations long for his teaching.
The Fig Tree: Matt 21:19-22
Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.
Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
NOTE: The cursing of the fig tree happened on the road between Bethany and Jerusalem, with Bethany at a significantly lower elevation than Jerusalem. The only mountain visible from this road is the temple mount. When Jesus said, “this mountain” he likely meant the temple. The implication is, faith in Jesus will supplant the religion of works practiced at the temple. The gospel writer is making it clear that the cursing of the tree was symbolic of what God was about to do to the corrupt religious institution that the Temple had become. Furthermore, the temple had become a symbol of the works-based religion of the leaders that walked within its courts.
The Temple Debates: Matthew 21:23-23:39, (excerpt from 21:23-27):
Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
The Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24-25, (excerpt from 25:1-13):
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Consider Isaiah’s picture of Jesus’ relationship to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s empowerment resting on the Messiah. Let the description of Isaiah color the story, to see beyond the material and recognize Christ was given all he needed to accomplish his task. Behind all the activity of Holy Week, Christ spoke by the Spirit, prayed by the Spirit and confronted injustice by the power of the Spirit.
Isaiah 11:1-5 (NIV)
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him
The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and of might,
The Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD
— and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
NOTE: The major event of Holy Wednesday is Judas’ decision to betray Jesus. Although the betrayal doesn’t take place for another day, our knowledge of the impending act colors our reading of the Last Supper story, which we’ll encounter tomorrow. On this day, the die was cast and the pieces set in motion to bring about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. We all know the hurt of betrayal, so does our Savior. Here is a short but critical moment from Wednesday of Holy Week:
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus: Matthew 26:14-16 (GNT)
Then one of the twelve disciples—the one named Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What will you give me if I betray Jesus to you?” They counted out thirty silver coins and gave them to him. From then on Judas was looking for a good chance to hand Jesus over to them.
John 13:12-16 (ESV)
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
NOTE: Thursday of Holy Week is also known as Maundy Thursday. This day witnessed several key events in the Easter story. The events of this day, particularly the Last Supper, continue to be remembered. Let’s take a look at these events as the Bible describes.
Preparing the Upper Room: Matthew 26:17-19 (NIV)
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
The Last Supper: Matthew 26:20-35. (excerpt from Matthew 26:26-29 (NRSV):
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Jesus Prays: Matthew 26:36-46 (ESV)
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples,
“Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them,
“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
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