70 – Religious Leaders Confront Jesus
Where: Temple, Jerusalem, Judea
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After leaving Bethphage, Jesus again led the disciples to the Temple in Jerusalem, through the eastern gate, and into the Temple complex. There he sat down under the Portico of Solomon [model] to teach the good news of the coming Kingdom, just as he had done on Monday, and intended to do on Wednesday.
Jesus knew that the leaders had not voluntarily acknowledged God’s call and they would now have to publicly respond to his direct challenge to them yesterday, when he attacked the Temple system. Today they were likely to have overcome their surprise and would likely confront him.
And they came! First came the Chief Priests and the teachers, who had not authorized Jesus to teach. They asked him to publicly tell them on whose authority he had attacked the temple, and was teaching his message. They wanted proof, but Jesus was going to call them to have faith. Jesus responded to the their request for proof by giving them the chance to take a stand. This was the moment of choice. Salvation or destruction! Choose NOW to repent and be God’s light to the world, or choose to oppose God. Make God’s vineyard productive or be removed. No longer would they be allowed to “sit on the fence”.
‘Was John sent by God?’ Jesus asked them. If he was, then so was Jesus, and they needed to become followers of Jesus and DO God’s will. But they choose to keep things the same. They did not believe that John was sent by God and did not dare admit that they did not believe that he was. They had made their intellectual choice, now all that was left was for them to ACT against God.
So Jesus pushed them with a parable about God’s “vineyard“, to help them understand that God no longer wanted words, but expected action. And then he told them the consequences of their action and inaction. In the past the religious leaders had rejected God’s prophets “time and again”, but the prophets were the rocks upon which God built.
Now they were about to reject and kill The Messiah of God. If they reject Jesus, God would destroy the Temple and the Temple cult, and replace Israel with someone who WOULD be God’s light to the world. Someone who would bring justice to the world! Someone who would live by faith! Again they rejected his offer, and instead decided to “up the stakes” and arrest him so that they could confront him privately.
So Jesus told the crowds a parable that pointed out the fact that the Jewish leaders would reject God, as foretold by Jeremiah. Then God would open the Kingdom to all who would, in faith, accept God’s gift of forgiveness and enter into God’s Kingdom.
Later in the day, the Pharisees, who hated foreign rule, and the Herodians, who supported the return of the “local” rulers of the line of Herod, joined forces to try to bring Jesus down. ‘Should Jews pay taxes or not?’ they asked. If he answered their question that the Roman tax, which paid for the occupying troops, should be paid, then his popularity would drop and the Zealots would oppose him. On the other hand, if he said that the tax should not be paid, then the Romans could charge him with sedition.
Jesus asked to see the silver denarius, which must be used to pay the yearly tax, and on which was the image of Tiberius Caesar, who claimed to be “the high priest of the god Augustus”. Jesus agreed that since Caesar owned the coin it should be given to him. But we, who are created in God’s image, should give ourselves to God. ‘This Jesus is as wise as Solomon’ (who was known for proclaiming the wisdom of God) the people thought, as Jesus stood under the Portico of Solomon.
Later on, the Sadducees, who believed that the Torah, the five books of Moses, were the only “law”, and did not believe that there was a resurrection because Moses had not said that there was one, asked Jesus a ridiculous question about “marriage” in heaven. Jesus told them that they were uneducated. The next life is NOT just a continuation of this one. One gets a “glorified” body that is as eternal as the angel’s bodies. And then Jesus showed them that God had told Moses that there WAS a resurrection. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still alive since God is NOW (still) their God. But the Sadducees also refused to accept Jesus.
Later, a lawyer asked Jesus an honest question. ‘Which is the most important commandment?’ David had said that there were eleven. Isaiah had said that there were six. Micah had said that there were three. Amos and Habakkuk each said that there was one. ‘What do you say?’ he asked.
Jesus responded that everything came down to one, but there were two aspects. There is only one God and everyone should love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that love of God is expressed in your attitude and actions directed to your neighbor. ‘Love of God would produce the fruits of witness’. And when the lawyer agreed, adding that this love was more important then the Temple cult, Jesus acknowledged that he was very close to entering the Kingdom.
As the day drew to a close, Jesus asked a question of the leaders which left NO doubt, that while The Messiah would be a physical descendant of David it also showed that even David recognized The Messiah as the Son of God. Here Jesus further implied that he was the Son of David, AND The Messiah. The Kingdom of God will not be the earthly rule by the Jews. It would be a spiritual Kingdom.
This whole day was spent verbally trying to convince the leaders that they were not doing God’s will, and that they needed to repent and change. But they chose to ignore his arguments. Jesus recognized that attitude, and knew that tomorrow he would have to push them even harder to take action ‘for or against’ God.
Jesus and the disciples went to the garden [today] on the Mount of Olives, as he did every evening, and taught in a quieter and more private setting. Then, at some time, late in the evening, Jesus and the disciples went over the hill to Bethany to eat and to spend the night.
No questions have been asked yet.