For Part 2 go HERE
If there’s something I know about on a personal level, it’s busy Tuesdays. There was a time when the whole of my week was skewed, so everything tried to shoe-horn itself into the same 24h period. It’s easier now, but it used to be my most detested day of the week because it left me completely worn out. For Jesus too, this Tuesday is no exception. There’s a lot to cram in, so let’s get started.
Jesus isn’t staying at the Travelodge in Jerusalem this week, he’s staying in Bethany, just a couple of miles from the city. It’s thought he was staying with his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus (him of the ‘back from the dead’ fame).
Tuesday doesn’t start too promisingly. After yesterday’s Temple incident Jesus is back there and the chief priests are also there, demanding to know who gave him the authority to trash the place. But Jesus is ready for them, he answers their questions with a question of his own. They refuse to answer his question and so he refuses to answer theirs. It’s not tit-for-tat on his part, Jesus was exposing their real motives. They didn’t really want to know on whose authority he acted, all they wanted was for Jesus to walk into their trap. If he said ‘I did it on God’s authority’ they’d have arrested him there and then for blasphemy and Jesus hadn’t quite finished what he came to do. Not all the cogs in the machinery were turning yet.
Off the priests go and Jesus continues to teach in the Temple. I know how special it is for me when another piece of Scripture unlocks and I see the relevance of it in my life; but to have been there as he taught, hearing words I read in my Bible from Jesus’ own mouth, what an honour! Did those people have any clue who they were listening to? A prophet? Yes they could have understood that, but the Son of God? Did they see that at this point? Someone important comes to speak to us and we joke and say ‘God showed up’; well in this case… He did!
Jesus does a lot of teaching in the Temple this Tuesday and he isn’t done with the high priests either, he has quite a lot to say about them overburdening people with legalism (Matthew 23). There’s a great deal more of Jesus not mincing his words: He calls them hypocrites, a brood of vipers and blind fools. Jesus holds the priests to greater account than the rest because they are the ones who are the teachers, they are the ones who should know better; but they say one thing and do another.
And then, just when you think he can’t have any more to say, off Jesus goes again. This time he’s over at the Mount of Olives and he’s not teaching the crowds and admonishing the priests now, he’s talking to his disciples. It all gets very serious and, to be honest, when I read what he says, a shudder goes through me. Jesus talks about the ‘end times’ and at this point I want to stop and say this: Lots of people try and guess when the end will come, but the fact is that anyone who does that, saying they can work it out from the Bible is on a hiding to nothing. Only God knows that and Jesus clearly said it.
“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” Mark 13: 32 (NLT).
Only God knows, not some Pastor in America making a guess or having a ‘special revelation’. God is hardly going to tell Bill Smith (or whoever) when he’s going to wind things up, before he’s even told Jesus. That’s like posting it on Facebook before you’ve told your family (not that that ever happens… 😉 ).
These verses about the future (you can read them in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21: 5-38) are sobering. Let no one be in any doubt, we may think things are bad now, but it’s going to get worse. “For those will be days of greater horror than at any time since God created the world.” (Mark 13:19). Cheery stuff…
But Jesus doesn’t say panic and flap about – there shall be absolutely no panic buying of petrol, stamps and pasties* he just urges us all to be alert, be watchful and be prepared. See, there was a point to you being in the Boy Scouts / Girl Guides after all!
As if that’s not enough, as the day draws to a close, someone goes to see the priests. Enter stage left Judas Iscariot. We don’t know for sure what made Judas betray Jesus, but the notes I’ve read suggest that Judas thought that Jesus might be after political rebellion and was assuming that he’d get a high place in the new government. Perhaps it had finally become clear to Judas that this wasn’t Jesus’ agenda after all and that Jesus’ new kingdom wasn’t something tangible, but something spiritual. Judas it seemed was more in love with his wallet than he was with Jesus. The lure of money and favour from the religious leaders led him to agree to betray his friend.
All in all it’s been a busy day and Jesus heads back to Bethany. Does he know what Judas has done? Absolutely and one more cog in the machinery has started to turn.
* with apologies to readers from outside the UK, tragic in-joke there about the recent state of things…