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BI 1073 Story of Jesus / Lipscomb University

Unit 5A

Jesus in Jerusalem

The Triumphal Entry

 Read Luke 19:28-44

  • After feeding the 5000, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is the second event recorded in all four gospels.
  • Matthew and John cite Zech 9:9, “See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey.” Jesus chose this symbolic action from the OT to identify himself with Solomon who began his reign in a similar fashion (1 Kings 1:33). The crowd obviously recognizes the symbolism as they welcome him as a king.
  • Luke omits some details given in the other gospels of the people throwing palm branches into the street before Jesus, which was a symbol of Jewish nationalism in defiance of Roman rule (Mark 11:8, John 12:13), and the Jewish cries of “Hosanna,” perhaps leaving these details out because his Gentile readers wouldn’t understand.
  • Note the unresolved tension between Jesus’ careful distinction throughout his ministry of his messianic role as non-political, and his symbolic act of kingship here, accepting the people’s praise. Previously he discouraged the idea that he was a king, because most people understood this in an earthly sense only. Jesus was a different kind of king than they were expecting.
  • Only Luke records the criticism of the Pharisees, Jesus’ comments about Jerusalem not knowing peace, and his prophesying the fall of the city to the Romans, which occurred in 70 AD.
  • Notice the wordplay on Jerusalem, sometimes called Salem (Ps 76:3) which means peace; ironically, the city of peace doesn’t recognize the true Prince of Peace.
  • Only here and at Lazarus’ death (John 11:35) is Jesus described as weeping.

 

Jesus at the Temple

 Read Luke 19:45-48

  • Money changers were needed because the annual temple tax had to be paid in Jewish coinage rather than Roman. The house of Annas, the former high priest, ran the business and made a tidy profit. Also animals sold inside the temple grounds, guaranteed to pass inspection, went for many times their real value outside. [Barclay]
  • In contrast to the first three gospels, John places the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (John 2). It is unlikely that Jesus did it twice, or else why does no one say, “Look, he’s done it again!” Surely such a notorious act on the temple grounds would have been remembered, especially by his enemies. The Synoptic gospels and John place this as the first event during Jesus’ first visit to Jerusalem, but only John records more than one visit to the holy city. This is a good example of the gospel writers being more concerned with developing themes than preserving a strict chronology of events.
  • In the first three gospels, this event serves as the breaking point for the Pharisees, leading to their plotting Jesus’ death. In John, the raising of Lazarus stirs them to want him dead.
  • In John 2:18-22 when the Jewish leaders ask for a sign, Jesus responds, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” His opponents scoff at him, taking his words literally, but Jesus refers symbolically to his body, John explains. Only after his death and resurrection do the disciples understand this saying.
  • The Jews say that the temple has been under construction for 46 years (John 2:20). According to Josephus, Herod began rebuilding temple in his 18th year, 20/19 BC, which would be 27/28 AD, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in John (which coincides with the date indicated in Luke 3:1). Jesus then had about two years of ministry before his death in 30 AD.
  • Nothing of the Jewish Temple remains today. Instead the Islamic Dome of the Rock from 691 AD sits on the site of the temple. Muslims controlled Jerusalem in the 7th century and believe that Mohammad was taken up to heaven from this rock.
  • Below is a model of how Jerusalem and the temple might have looked in Jesus’ time.

 

temple.gif

 

 Read Luke 20:1-18

  • This parable of the wicked tenants is a christological parable about Jesus himself. He is the son whom the tenants kill.
  • In Matthew and Mark Jesus mentions extra details of building a watchtower and a winepress, which allude to Isa 5:2, identifying Israel as the vineyard.
  • (16) The crowds’ response indicates that they understood the implications of the parable, that the Jews would lose their privileged status and the vineyard (kingdom) would be given to the Gentiles.
  • Jesus quotes Ps. 118:22 concerning the stone which was rejected, perhaps deemed unsuitable for the builder’s purpose, but God has chosen that stone to secure the entire building, his church.
  • (18) This verse is similar to the rabbinic saying, “If a stone falls on a pot or a pot falls on a stone, either way — woe to the pot.”

 Read Luke 20:19-47

  • The kingdom of God has begun in the work of Christ, but it doesn’t supplant the political kingdoms of this age. Both Jesus and Paul (Rom 13:6-7) support paying one’s taxes willingly for the good of society. Too often we hear Christians complaining about taxes as if they were evil, but Jesus did not think so.
  • The name “Sadducees” derives from the priest Zadok, whose descendants were authorized as high priests in the  period after the Jews returned from Babylonian exile (Ezek 40:46). They held strictly to the OT (not the oral tradition of the rabbis) and did not believe in later doctrinal developments such as resurrection or angels (Acts 23:8), ideas which became popular during the Maccabean period (2nd century BC). This is the first time they are mentioned in Mark or Luke.
  • The historian Josephus describes the Sadducees as wealthy aristocrats who had a stake in maintaining the status quo. They didn’t avoid association with Gentiles and collaborated with the Romans to stay in power. They were the rational pragmatists of the day.
  • Jesus’ comment about no marriage in heaven raises more questions than he answers. Will couples not be together? Will sexual differences disappear? It is difficult to imagine existence without family life. We must simply accept that we will not have all the answers until we come into the next age.
  • Jesus doesn’t deny that the Messiah would be a “son of David,” which would be foolish given the weight of evidence in the OT. Luke 3 has already gone to great lengths to affirm this (see notes there), as well as the blind man’s confession (18:38). Jesus raises the question as to whether the Messiah is merely of human descent from David or much more.
  • In his genealogy Luke made clear that Jesus was the son of God, not Joseph, so strict biological descent is not important; in other words, Jesus didn’t need to have David’s DNA in order to be called a son of David. (Some claim Mary was from David’s line, but the Bible does not say this.) The Messiah will be one like David but also greater than David. Luke develops this theme in Acts 2:30-6, quoting again Ps 110.
  • Finally Jesus warns of the temptation to “be religious” for the purpose of gaining attention and praise. Are we sometimes guilty of doing good because of the recognition it may bring? How often do politicians emphasize their “faith” in order to win votes and approval?

 

Mount of Olives

 

Discourse on the Mount of Olives about the future of Jerusalem

 Read Luke 21:1-7

  • Mark 13:3 says this discourse took place on the Mount of Olives, a hillside which overlooks the city of Jerusalem and the temple (see photo above). The Garden of Gethsemane is located on this hillside.
  • Jesus foretells about the coming destruction of the temple which would occur in 70 AD at the hands of the Romans. This comment led his disciples to ask about the future. To interpret this section correctly, it helps to compare all three Synoptic gospel accounts. In Matthew 24 the disciples ask two questions: “When will this happen, and when will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” indicating that the temple’s destruction and the Judgment Day were connected in the disciples’ minds. They could not imagine a world without the temple. In Mark 13 their question is ambiguous: “When will all these things happen?” Luke’s account narrows the focus to the fate of the temple only.
  • For background on marveling over the temple and Jesus’ response, see Jeremiah 7 where the people placed too much faith in the temple’s existence as a sign of God’s favor. Jeremiah warned the Jews in his day that they would see the temple’s destruction at the hands of the Babylonians (586 BC). Note Jesus’ prior reference to Jer. 7:11 upon cleansing the temple.
  • When the Jews returned from exile in Babylon, they rebuilt the temple in 516 BC, but not to its former glory under Solomon. In the first century BC, Herod the Great spent years restoring and expanding the temple. The Jewish historian Josephus gives descriptions of the beauty of Herod’s temple (Ant. 15.11.391, Wars 5.184-226). Even in Jesus’ time the restoration was not complete.
  • Mark records Jesus’ response as a private talk with Peter, James, and John.

 Read Luke 21:8-19

  • Jesus warns his disciples about being deceived by false signs: war, famine, earthquakes, persecution, apostasy, false prophets, false messiahs. He tells them, “Do not be alarmed, the end is not yet.” These are not signs of his return but common events that will happen throughout human history.
  • Christians today need to listen to Jesus and not get excited every time a war starts in the middle east, claiming the end of the world is at hand. Think about it: when has there not been trouble somewhere in the middle east? They have been fighting there for over 2000 years. How could the latest conflict be any kind of unique sign? Likewise, there have always been earthquakes and famines. Due to today’s mass media, we simply hear about more of them around the world, but that doesn’t mean they are increasing. Jesus says do not be fooled by talk of signs.
  • Mentioning persecution of Christians by Jews (synagogues) implies one reason for the temple’s destruction, as punishment on those who rejected God’s Anointed One (22).
  • Most American Christians cannot truly relate to this talk of persecution. We complain that our culture “persecutes” us when people want to take Christ out of Christmas or say sarcastic things on Facebook about our faith. This isn’t persecution. But there are Christians in other parts of the world today who are threatened with violence. Jesus promises that even in death they will be victorious.
  • Luke describes Jesus himself as the source for aid to the witnesses (Mark and Matthew say the Spirit will aid them), but there would be no distinction between Jesus’ spiritual presence and the Spirit. This promise of protection must be spiritual, or else it conflicts with the prediction of death for some in v. 16. The life they gain will be eternal (18-19).

 Read Luke 21:20-24

  • In Luke, Jesus says, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,” a clear reference to the Roman armies’ destruction of the city in 70 AD. The parallel passages in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 say “the abomination that causes desolation.” Matthew explains that this refers back to the book  of Daniel.
  • In Matthew and Mark, Jesus refers to Daniel’s prophecy of events about two centuries earlier. At that time, the evil king Antiochus IV tried to wipe out Judaism as a religion. He outlawed circumcision and desecrated the temple in 167 BC by sacrificing a pig (an unclear animal) on the altar. Daniel called this “the abomination that causes desolation” (Dan 11:31).
  • The Jewish people rose up in civil war and defeated Antiochus in 165 BC, events recorded in the extra-biblical historical book of 1 Maccabees which also mentions this abomination. The cleansing of the temple afterward by the Maccabees is still celebrated by Jews today at Hanukkah.
  • In Matthew 24 and Mark 13, Jesus compares this terrible event in Jewish history to the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans (AD 70). Once again God’s temple would be made desolate. In Luke’s version Jesus clearly refers to the Roman armies.
  • Jesus is not talking here about the eventual end of the world. If he were, why does he advise the people to flee to the mountains? What good would that do if it were truly the end of the world? Where would anyone hide on the Judgment Day?
  • Some Christians today believe that the Bible was written directly to us and our time, so they try to find “clues” in the scriptures to current events. However, to interpret these passages correctly, we must recognize that Jesus is speaking to his listeners about events in their time, that some of them would live to witness (see Luke 21:32).
  • By a stretch of imagination, some people identify the abomination mentioned in the other gospels and Daniel as the “antichrist.” However, the term antichrist is never mentioned in the gospels, and only appears three times elsewhere in the NT but not in the context of the End of the World. In the letters of John (1 John 2:18, 22, 2 John 7), antichrist refers to heretics who denied that Jesus had truly come in the flesh. They were people living in John’s day, not in the distant future, and there were several of them, not just one.
  • Despite the popularity of this idea today, the Bible does not foretell of an antichrist who will rise up before the End to provoke a great tribulation. Christians need not worry about an antichrist, nor should we listen to those who think they’ve discovered the secret to his identity in some current political figure. (For additional information on the book of Revelation which does not mention antichrist either, see my notes hereLinks to an external site..)
  • Jesus says that some people will interpret the destruction of Jerusalem as the end of the world, but he warns, “Do not believe them” (Luke 21:8). Jesus speaks of earthly judgment coming upon Jerusalem in their lifetimes, about 40 years later. Unfortunately, his words, misinterpreted, have inspired too much Christian fiction and Hollywood fantasy about the end of the world.

 Read Luke 21:25-28

  • The coming of the Son of Man in this section should be read as a symbol of divine judgment falling on Jerusalem, similar to the Day of the Lord imagery in the OT. The prophets often used apocalyptic symbols to describe judgment falling on empires; for instance, Isa 13 speaks of the sun, moon, and stars going dark at the fall of Babylon. The terrifying words sound like the end of the world, but since the End didn’t occur when Babylon fell, the imagery is clearly symbolic.
  • Understood in this context, this text in Luke does not describe Jesus’ second coming, but the events of 70 AD, when Rome destroyed Jerusalem, which Jesus sees as God’s judgment on the city.
  • For other examples of this type of imagery, see OT judgment texts which refer to God “coming in clouds” (Dan 7, Isa 19:1); also see Christ’s “coming” in judgment on the seven churches (Rev 2:5, 16, 3:3). All these are judgments falling within human history, not at the end with the Final Judgment. Again it’s important to read these passages in their original context as the first readers would have understood them.
  • Whereas Luke restricts Jesus’ discussion to the coming judgment on Jerusalem, Mark and Matthew record Jesus’ continued discussion about the second part of the disciples’ question, “When will you return?” He specifically tells them there will be no signs, no warning of his coming again. In the first part of his discourse, Jesus speaks of “those days” referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, but then he mentions “that day” speaking of his return. Notice the transitional verse: “But of that day or hour no one knows” (Matt 24:36 = Mark 13:32). Jesus says he will come as a thief in the night. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus admits that even he does not know the day of his return, which only the Father knows. And if Jesus didn’t know, how could he have given his disciples any signs to look for?
  • If more Christians today took Jesus at his word, there would be less hysteria about the signs of the times. We should live each day ready for his return and not worry about the predictions of preachers and would-be prophets today.

 Read Luke 21:29-38

  • Note that these events would be witnessed by Jesus’ contemporaries in “this generation.”  Jesus is not describing events that would occur 2000 years later but something that happened within the lifetime of many of his followers, about 40 years from the time he was speaking.
  • (34) Judgment will come some day for all, as it would on Jerusalem, but not on the same literal day. In the Bible the Day of the Lord is not one historical date but any time of judgment falling on various people and nations.

 

 

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