The Parables & the Woes
Isaiah 53:1, 3; “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
The day after Jesus cursed the fig tree and equated its fruitless wonder to the nation of Israel, He once again readied Himself for the day ahead as He gathered the disciples and set out for the 30 minute walk to Jerusalem.
As Jesus’ entourage passed by the now totally defunct fig tree they made a delayed, albeit salient, discovery of its demise. Mark 11:20-21 & Matthew 21:20-22;
Mark 11:20-22; “And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. 22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.”
Matthew 21:20-22; “And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! 21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
My attitude about the disciples has changed quite a bit over the years. I used to have a judgmental holier-than-thou behavior that revealed its ugly self when I read passages like the one above. Now I have to wonder if I would’ve missed the significance of what Jesus did as well. We can be on our way to Jerusalem with the Lord and still not be an engaged participant.
Are we only engaged with what we deem important or can we look past ourselves long enough to share the gospel with others by giving our last dollar? Israel had no such desire and the time for judgment had arrived. And I’ve not found anything in His word revealing to me that it’s the amount of fruit we produce so filling our date books isn’t what impresses our God. It’s the attitude. Where is your heart?
When Jesus made it into Jerusalem He once again set about doing His Father’s work in His Father’s House. The councils were furious by this time because of His assertions made the previous two days. By cleansing the temple He proclaimed He had the right to do such a thing as Messiah and He hadn’t corrected people when they shouted Hosannas to Him. Only God could save and the absence of His correction to the people implied He was God.
Imagine! Imagine being one of those in attendance when God Himself was teaching….the mere thought of it is almost too much to absorb. The texts reveal to us they (meaning everyone) were amazed.
The scenario reminds me of my daughter Axi’s experiences each time she goes to the Philippines on missions. For the past fifteen or so years a group of Christians from here in the Puget Sound area meet to provide summer school and VBS activities to a small village in the jungle. The schools they use are run by a large organization during the regular school year, but for three months the Christian group has been invited to come in and provide lessons on God and scholastics during the summer. The children clamor around the teachers and absorb every word that comes from their mouths. You can feel their excitement in wanting to know more as their true love for the Lord is seen on their shirtsleeves. Yet lurking in the corners of the classrooms are the administrators; watching and waiting…
If/when a child requests more info about Jesus or raises their hand indicating they want Jesus as their Savior, that child won’t be in attendance for the next day’s events. On the island of Bohol in the Philippines resides the poorest of the poor. It reminds me of the yearly animated show that runs every Christmas on our television sets of the throw away toys. The toys go to some unnamed toy factory in the North Pole because they’re not good enough for the public. Bohol is much the same. The school for the deaf and destitute is located where people don’t see or know about them.
Axi’s come into contact with a handful of cleft children who were deemed throw-aways, unworthy of help because of a speech impediment that often comes along with clefts. No one pays attention to the cleft or the deaf kids until.
Until they start asking questions about Jesus. Many aren’t even spoken to audibly because of the assumption they can’t hear. Many teachers have been shocked when Axi shows them the child can in fact hear and speak as well.
I often wonder how many people were afraid to raise their hands or even nod in agreement at the temple on the day Jesus was teaching. Were they pressured like they are today in Bohol or even those in Utah? I don’t know how many times I sat in a class and was ridiculed for asking questions. Pray this week for those in Bohol and in Mormonism who want to ask questions.
Authorities wanted Jesus to state He had powers from above so they could charge Him with blasphemy and have Him arrested, so right out of the gate their inquisition began.
Jesus was willing to answer questions if they were willing to answer His. Mark 11:27-33;
“And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, 28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things? 29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me. 31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? 32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. 33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Politics make for strange bedfellows and Israel was willing to prostitute herself by siding with the Roman magistrates just to get rid of Jesus. Knowing their thoughts He began His teachings with the parable of rejecting the heir of the vineyard and the master giving the inheritance to someone else. Totally infuriated at this point they began a plot to trip Him up so it’d look like He was there to usurp the power of Caesar.
Sending in their own set of disciples, the Pharisaical council was certain Jesus would blaspheme God, giving them reason to arrest, try and convict Him straightaway.
They began by asking if Israelites should give tribute to Caesar. Knowing their hypocritical motives, Jesus asked to see a coin with the inscription of Caesar’s head. Matthew 22:16-22;
“And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”
Because He answered satisfactorily, their next try was with the liberal Sadducees who denied a resurrection and even angels or spirits. Alluding to the Kinsman Redeemer law they began asking Him about marriages here and in heaven. He replied by telling them they don’t understand scripture and pointed out their ignorance of God’s power to give life and overcome death. Mark 12:18-27;
“Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, 19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 20 Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. 21 And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. 22 And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. 23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. 24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? 25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. 26 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.”
The third in line to question Jesus was the scribe. Now a scribe’s duty in the New Testament era was to teach people about the Law. They had become so wrapped up in the arguments to defend the Law; they had killed the spirit of God and His true intent. They had imposed so many restrictions the truth became hidden.
Mark 12:28-34; “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: 33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.”
As they formed another committee to decide what they would do next, Jesus approached the Pharisees to ask them a question. Quoting Psalm 110:1 He asked why they thought the Messiah would come from the line of David. Matthew 22:41-46;
“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? 46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.”
Psalm 110:1; “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”
Once again they left because no one could answer His questions. After their departure, He positioned Himself to see over the treasury and noticed the widow putting in her last two coins when others had reluctantly given the minimum required.
Mark 12:41-44; “And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”
13 “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! 17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? 18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? 20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. 21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. 22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
Jesus’ final lament over Jerusalem must have caused Him great grief. The burden of knowing what awaited His own children had to weigh heavy on His mind as He and the disciples made their way to the Mount of Olives. Zechariah 12:10-11;
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. 11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.”
As they were leaving they asked Him two critical questions; when the destruction of the temple would happen and what will be the sign of His coming? Mark 13:4;
“Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?”
Here we see Jesus with all the time in the world lovingly sitting down to teach once again. Although He must’ve been exhausted from the day’s obvious tenacious atmosphere, He took the time to teach them what the scriptures meant.
Read Matthew chapters 24-25 & Mark 13:5-37 for Jesus’ answer and His practical reminders for them not to worry, but just to watch – this is known as the Olivet Discourse.
It’s been a long week and it’s only Tuesday…
Jesus was fully aware of what the rest of His week entailed and these were the things He thought were most important.
Beware of the false prophet
Remember His word lasts forever
No one knows the day or time of His return
Ask yourself why the Pharisees were so angry. If they truly loved God and knew He had promised a Messiah then why were they rejecting Him? What did they have to lose?
Is there anything you’d have to give up to acknowledge Him as God like those in Israel, Bohol or even Utah?
Let’s remember these things and apply them to our every day life. Ask Him to take an inventory of your heart and present you with His findings. Be ready and watch what He shows you – be blessed my friend!
With Love in Christ;