Wednesday – Holy Week 2013

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In Matthew 26:14-16, presumably on Wednesday evening, (which may be Thursday, since the day begins at sundown, when three stars become visible) Judas Iscariot goes to the leading priests, and asks, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?”

Why did the leading priests need a betrayer? Seems like they could have arrested Jesus in the Temple, in the streets, in Bethany — why was it so difficult to nab him? Matthew 26:4-5, tells us the leading priests and elders are plotting to capture Jesus secretly, but not during Passover, “lest the people riot.” So, according to Matthew, they need an insider who knows Jesus movements, his resting places, his habitual patterns, so that they can catch him away from the crowds. They, mistakenly, believe Jesus’ power comes from His popularity. If they can catch him away from the crowd, they will strip Him of His power and do with Him as they please. Ironically, Jesus’ popularity is what they fear and what they crave.

But why would Judas initiate such an arrangement? There are all kinds of theories: Judas was disillusioned by Jesus’ care for the poor instead of political power; he was trying to force Jesus’ hand thinking Israel would rally to Him once arrested; or that he was a thief and not to be trusted in the first place. All of these have some merit and any one or combination might be true.

But Matthew does not give any of these as a reason. In the very next few verses, Matthew 26:17-25, Matthew gives a subtle, but significant clue to the motivation of Judas’ betrayal. At the last supper, Jesus announces that one of the disciples gathered with Him around the table would betray Him. Each of the disciples is distressed and asks, “Am I the one, Lord?” Each one, that is, but Judas. Judas asks, “Rabbi, am I the one?” (Matthew 26:25)

Did you catch it? To the eleven Jesus had become “Lord”. To Judas, Jesus remained “Rabbi”. There is a huge difference between Jesus being a Rabbi, a teacher, and Him being Lord. It makes all the difference. And to see Him as only a teacher, and not Lord, is to betray Him, deny Him, abuse Him, and ignore Him.

Who is He to you? Teacher? Or Lord?

Tuesday – Holy Week 2013

I’m a geek when it comes to the Bible, I look at things and want to talk about things,

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details, relationship of one passage to another; things, it feels, not everyone wants to discuss. So bear with me if it doesn’t interest you.

 

 

The last week of Jesus’ life in Matthew begins on Sunday in chapter 21. Now, from there figuring out what happens on each day isn’t quite clear, and it basically means you take your best logical guesses. But there are some clues. It is pretty clear the cursing of the fig tree, spoken of in the last post, happens on the next day after Palm Sunday, Monday. (Matthew 21:18). Matthew 22:23 puts everything between the

 

cursing of the fig tree and and the question of the woman who married 7 brothers all happened on the same day, Monday.

We don’t get a clear break between the events of Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesday, but Matthew 26:1 indicates that he is speaking to them on Wednesday, two days before the Passover. Days begin at sundown, when 3 stars are visible. So when Jesus says the Passover begins in two days, we know it is Wednesday. (Passover would begin on Friday at sundown, according to John 19:31.)

So, the events recorded in Matthew 21:18 through Matthew 26:5 happen over M

 

onday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. But Matthew doesn’t tell us when each day ends or begins. Most likely, the conversation which concludes in 26:5 happens at the end of the day, late afternoon, on Wednesday, as they are leaving Jerusalem for the day to return to Bethany. Perhaps the meal that begins in Matthew 26:6 is after sundown, which would make it Thursday.

In any event, the counting of days is confusing, with the start of a day at sundown, and Matthew isn’t concerned with what happens on each day, but the focus is on Jesus’ final sermons: the criticizing of the religious leaders in chapter 23, and signs of the end in chapters 24-25 (which probably occurs on Wednesday).

 

So, Tuesday…most likely…
Leonard Sweet tweeted recently, “Jesus was the only perfect man who ever lived (who never sinned), yet sinners flocked to him.” Isn’t it interesting that it isn’t sinners whom Jesus condemns, but the religious leaders of His day. He forgives a woman caught in adultery, a tax collector who has cheated thousands, a sinful woman on Wednesday/Thursday evening will touch him and wash his feet, sinners are all over him and he accepts them, loves them, forgives them. But the religious, the righteous-

 

in-their-own-sight, they draw his harshest criticism in chapter 23: they crush people (verse

 

4), everything they do is for show (verse 5), they crave honor and respect (6, 7), they shut the door of the Kingdom in people’s faces (verse 13), they corrupt their own converts (verse 15), they use sacred things to dishonor God because they miss the whole point of mercy, justice, and faith (verses 16-24). They look good on the outside, but on the inside they are full of rotten decay (verses 27-28). And this all leads Jesus to weep and mourn over Jerusalem longing to care for them and nurture them, but they won’t let him (verses 37-39).

I wonder if the church today would draw these criticisms from Jesus? Hav

 

e we become what Jesus hated? Do we crush the unchurched? Do we comfort ourselves with our own decency, excluding those whom Jesus loves? Does our political wrangling and cultural fighting reflect our craving for the honor and respect society once gave the church, but does so no longer? Do we shut the door of the Kingdom with self-righteousness and hypocrisy because we refuse to live authentically holy lives. Does the church today make disciples of Jesus or disciples of our own self-justifying, self-pleasing religion? Do we value church over faith, religion over relationships? Does Jesus weep over us because we could be something great? We could be a community of redeeming grace. But are we?

 

Now that is a little heavy handed, I know. I don’t know of any churches that make it their aim to be hypocritical and un-grace-filled. But unless we intentionally aim to be open, inviting, accepting, we are judgmental by default. I hate sin. I can pick out all kinds of sin and sinners to rail against. I don’t like a lot of the things I see in society. But we are called to introduce people to the grace of Jesus. Jesus died for all of us. We are all in the same boat.

 

Monday, Holy Week 2013

taqshWow! My first blog. A lot of things I love to talk about, I don’t know how many people want to listen. . .but I don’t guess that keeps many of us from talking.

But since it is Holy Week, the celebration of Christianity’s central proclamation, I thought I’d open the floodgates of my thoughts walking through Jesus’ last week. I’m using Matthew’s account.

Monday – the day after Palm Sunday, Matthew records Jesus returning from Bethany (on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives) back to Jerusalem for a day sparring with the leading priests and elders. (Matthew 21:17-18, 23) But on the way, Jesus stops to relieve his hunger at a fig tree. (Maybe he missed breakfast.) He went to find figs, but there were only leaves, so he curses it, “May you never bear fruit again!” and the fig tree withers. (Matthew 21:19) The season for figs begins in June. This is the Monday before Passover, March-April. So it isn’t time for figs. Why does Jesus curse a fig tree for not having figs when it isn’t time to have figs?

I have read that the fig tree begins to produce pre-figs, taqsh, which are edible, but fall off as the real figs begin to form. If the fig tree doesn’t have taqsh, then it won’t have figs, and is therefore barren and hopeless for the season. Could it be that Jesus sees in this fig tree a symbol of Judiasm and Israel, since he has already begun to share with his disciples since Matthew 16 that he will go to Jerusalem and be crucified?

There is an interesting verse among the prophets, Micah 7:1, where God says: “How miserable I am! I feel like the fruit picker after the harvest who can find nothing to eat. Not a cluster of grapes or a single early fig can be found to satisfy my hunger.” Micah is talking about God’s assessment of Israel’s spiritual state. The lack of honest and godly people is the source of God’s hunger. God’s misery is casused by Israel’s corruption (Micah 6:10-13) and a day of judgement is coming. Israel careless way of keeping (or not keeping) God’s commands had degenerated into corruption and idolatry. Once filled with the promises to Abraham and to David, Israel now is barren and hopeless.

The cursing of a fig tree by Jesus is fulfillment of God’s unsatisfied hunger in Micah 7:1. The cursing of the fig tree is a cursing of, not only the barreness of Israel/Judaism, but of all human attempts to manipulate the holy God to pardon their offenses without honest, fruitful repentance. Jesus finds no figs, and among us, he finds no one worthy. And since none of us are worthy, Friday is just 4 days away.

Is Jesus still hungry when He looks at our lives?   Has repentance replaced posturing? Am I barren and hopeless? There is no hope for us if we are fig trees with no figs. John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus ministry warned the people: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8) Repentance looks different that non-repentance. You can’t change and still do what you’ve always done. God isn’t fooled. I know because I’ve tried.

Hope isn’t in finding figs on a cursed tree trying to manufacture fruit that isn’t there. Hope is in finding a God on a tree, who allowed Himself to be cursed for my sake. (Galatians 3:13) I can imagine that Jesus as he looked at that barren fig tree thought of His own tree that would bear fruit for you and me.