The Week Before…..Tuesday April 4, 2023

One of the most special parts of weddings are the speeches. During both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception people close to the bride and groom typically honor them with words of love, affirmation and encouragement. In the recent wedding on my son, these moments were truly some of the sweetest. Words spoken by friends and family can be so life-giving to a young couple at the beginning of their journey as husband and wife, but just imagine the power of Jesus’ words during His last days leading up to the cross. While the disciples may not have fully realized it at the time, they will recall them in the days to come and will be strengthened and challenged to live them out as they begin their journey as disciple makers in the early church!

Read Matthew 21:23—23:39; Mark 11:27—12:44; Luke 20-21

Holy Tuesday is the third day of the Holy Week and while not all churches have services on this day, a study of the gospels shows that Jesus did a lot of teaching this day! There is no doubt that many important conversations happened and that Jesus wanted to solidify some important truths in the minds of His disciples because He knew they would need them once He was gone! A close look at these conversations can also give us direction as disciples living in the 21st century!

As Jesus enters Jerusalem this morning, He heads to the temple.* The temple is where Jesus set up His ministry while in Jerusalem, and this infuriated the religious leaders. The main reason for this is clearly, jealousy. You see, every time that Jesus was around, the people flocked to him. When He healed, they were in awe. When he spoke, they listened. Not only did they listen, but they were enthralled by His teaching. Words and phrases such as “astonished”, “marveled”, “hanging on his every word”….are used by the gospel writers. Over and over again, His actions and words proved His power and authority, yet the Pharisees could not stand it nor accept it. Why? Because He offended them. He was the “stumbling block” that the “builders rejected” (Acts 4:11). Ultimately, He threatened their power!

When He enters the temple this day, the religious leaders are still reeling from the previous days’ events. His clearing of the temple was followed by a time of healing and teaching (Matthew 21:14-17), where the people cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”. The Messianic titles poured out in praise to Jesus caused the religious leaders to become indignant, prompting them to begin questioning Him. Their goal was to trick Him and cause Him to say something that would incriminate Him, so that they can arrest Him, but alas they could not! In fact, Jesus showed His ability to use logic and reason to shut them down! They questioned him about His authority, His obedience to the laws of the land, the resurrection of the dead, and His answers not only silenced the Pharisees, but the Bible says they “marveled” at his words! 

The hypocrisy of these religious leaders who claimed to serve God was too much for the Son of God to just overlook. During these confrontations at the temple this day, He calls out their behavior through a series of parables that are clearly meant to reveal the coming judgement on the Pharisees and religious leaders. Matthew records the “seven woes” message that was directed toward them to serve as a warning of what was to come. Jesus’ ongoing chastisement of the Pharisees’ attitudes and hypocritical behavior should cause us as believers to reflect on our attitudes.  The sin of pride was rampant among the Pharisees, but sadly, many Christians suffer from this as well. Looking with judgmental eyes toward others, comparing our actions with theirs can lead us to a pharisaical type of attitude. We can begin to think we are better than others, trying to use our “good” works to prove our worth. Yet, just as the religious leaders failed to recognize their own depravity, we too can forget that “there is none who does good….not even one (Psalms 14:1-3).

Although Jesus had many confrontations this day, there are a couple of very important conversations to note. One is the conversation recorded in Matt. 22:34-40.

When one of the Pharisees, “a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.36 ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

In this one verse, He sums up our purpose! Love God and Love People. Although you have most likely read these verses on numerous occasions, you may not have ever realized that this conversation was toward the end of Jesus’ life. To know that after all of the teaching He had done, and Old testament verses He had quoted, He sums everything up in these two verses. He wants them to know this THESE are the ones which matter!

*An interesting note here is that during the 1st century AD, people did not “love” their neighbor. Serving others was not a Roman behavior nor an attitude of the religious leaders. The concept that Jesus was suggesting was radical in his day, but would be a crucial part of the church that is about to emerge in a few weeks! Not surprising, this is still a command we need to be reminded of in 2023! We live in a world where people often are “too busy” to notice those around them who need a helping hand. In order to follow Christ’s command, we need to be intentional, looking for those who have needs and scheduling time to roll up our sleeves and “love our neighbors!” . Giving and Serving is one of the most Christ honoring behaviors we can do!

One other important conversation happened when Jesus watched the people putting their money in the temple treasury and notices a poor widow who gives her two coins which is all she has. Her behavior becomes an object lesson for the disciples as He tells them that her offering was more than all of the others, although she gave the least. This is in stark contrast to the self-righteous Pharisees He has just addressed, whose large gifts were done for show. Many of the parables He has been teaching this day deal with the topic of who will be accepted into the kingdom. The religious leaders believe that their status as ancestors of Abraham and position as “keepers of the law” are their ticket to heaven. However, Jesus’ message is clear. The kingdom of heaven is not for those who think they deserve it, but it is for those who know they do not!

As you reflect on all of these conversations from the scripture today, consider an important truth. First, what is your own attitude toward your sins. The Pharisees were quick to point out the sins of others but did not seem to see their own sins. Their hypocrisy was an abomination to God and Jesus made sure they knew that. If you are honest, do you sometimes struggle with a Pharisaical attitude? Do you fall into trying to seek your own righteousness through your own “keeping of the law” – checking off boxes, comparing your “good” behavior to others, practicing obedience without a relationship? We have to remember, that No matter how hard we try or try to look like we have it together, we are NOT good in our own abilities.

Remember that THIS is why Jesus came! THIS is why He will go to the cross at the end of the week! We are all sinners and can never be “good” enough on our own; we need a Savior! Today is a good time to remember this! Today is a good time to ask Jesus to give you the right attitude! Today is a great time to put your faith in His goodness! 

**Let me share a little more information about chronology again as it relates to the different days and events during Jesus’ last week. When we read all of the different gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark and Luke), we may question the timing as we notice the different order of events. For instance, in Matthew it seems that some things happened on the same day, whereas in Mark, events seem to be occurring on the next day. Since there is rarely mention of specific days of the week until we get to Friday, we have to look at all of the gospels along with other historical records and background information to put together a timeline. With this in mind, it is helpful to understand that all of the gospels have different authors, therefore, different perspectives and priorities in the way they write. We are making inferences, in many cases, on which specific day an event or conversation happened. We also have church tradition which provides some framework for a timeline. Despite the apparent differences in some of the timing in the gospels, we discover that each account gives us different details that can help us understand the other account a little better and, in the end, we can make an educated guess on the chronology. For the most part, this devotional follows the traditional timeline.

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