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