ACCORDING TO MATTHEW
With people, places, definitions ...
Part 3 of 3, chapters 21-28
TOWARDS THE END Spring c AD30
THE FINAL ENTRY OF JESUS INTO JERUSALEM
(also Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19)
Matthew 21:1-11 - As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and the Mount of Olives (or Olivet), Jesus sent two disciples ahead telling them, "Go into the village in front of you and you will at once find there an ass tethered, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. Should anyone say anything to you, you are to say, 'The Lord needs them', and he will send them immediately."
All this happened to fulfil the prophet's saying -
'Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold your king is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey' (Zechariah 9:9).
Zion - Hebrew name for one of the hills of Jerusalem on which King David built his city. Also a collective name for the Jewish people or religion, and for the Christian Church. The city or Kingdom of God in Heaven -
So the disciples went off and followed Jesus' instructions. They brought the ass and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and Jesus took his seat. Then most of the crowd spread their own cloaks on the road, while others cut down branches from the trees and spread them in his path. The crowds who went in front of him and the crowds who followed him all shouted, "God save the Son of David!
'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' (Psalm 118:26)
God save him from on high!"
And as he entered Jerusalem a shock ran through the whole city. "Who is this?" men cried. "This is Jesus the prophet," replied the crowd, "the man from Nazareth in Galilee!"
JESUS DRIVES THE BUYERS AND SELLERS FROM THE TEMPLE
(also Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48)
- This is the second recorded incident of this nature. The first came in John 2:12-25 at the start of Jesus' three year ministry:
Matthew 21:12-17 - Then (after his final entry into Jerusalem) Jesus went into the Temple and drove out all the buyers and sellers there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those who sold doves, crying - "It is written,
'My house shall be called a house of prayer' (Isaiah 56:7).
But you have turned it into a
'den of thieves!' (Jeremiah 7:11)"
And there in the Temple the blind and the lame came to him and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things he had done, and that children were shouting in the Temple the words, "God save the Son of David", they were highly indignant. "Can't you hear what these children are saying?" they asked Jesus.
"Yes," he replied, "and haven't you ever read the words,
'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you have perfected praise'? (Psalm 8:2)"
And he turned on his heel and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
THE CURSED FIG-TREE THAT WITHERS AWAY
(also Mark 11:12-14,20-26)
- Another strange story at odds with Jesus' usual character, especially as he knew it was not the season for figs. It is partly parable on the power of faith and prayer, but also a prophecy appropriate to the time and situation. If the fig-tree represents the Jewish nation, then in rejecting Jesus as the Christ, it will be barren of fruit. And in its withering away, Jesus was prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem three or four decades hence:
Matthew 21:18-22 - In the morning (after throwing over the money-changers' tables in the Temple, and staying overnight in nearby Bethany) he came back early to the city and felt hungry. He saw a fig-tree growing by the side of the road, but when he got to it he discovered there was nothing on it but leaves.
"No more fruit shall ever grow on you!" he said to it, and all at once the fig-tree withered away. When the disciples saw this happen they were simply amazed. "How on earth did the fig-tree wither away quite suddenly like that?" they asked.
"Believe me," replied Jesus, "if you have faith and have no doubts in you heart, you will not only do this to a fig-tree but even if you should say to this hill, 'Get up and throw yourself into the sea', it will happen! Everything you ask for in prayer, if you have faith, you will receive."
THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS IS QUESTIONED
(also Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8)
Matthew 21:23-27 - Then when he had entered the Temple (after cursing the fig-tree) and was in the act of teaching, the chief priests and Jewish elders came up to him and said, "What authority have you for what you're doing, and who gave you that authority?"
"I am also going to ask you one question," Jesus replied to them, "and if you answer it I will tell you what authority I have for what I do. John (the Baptist)'s baptism, now, did it come from Heaven or was it purely human?"
At this they began arguing among themselves, "If we say, 'it came from Heaven', he will say to us, 'Then why didn't you believe in him?' If on the other hand we should say, 'It was purely human' - well, frankly, we are afraid of the people - for all of them consider John was a prophet."
So they answered Jesus, "We do not know."
"Then I will not tell you by what authority I do these things!" returned Jesus.
THOSE WHO WON'T ACCEPT GOD: "THE TWO SONS CALLED TO WORK"
Matthew 21:28-32 - (Jesus is in the Temple and the chief priests and elders question his authority. He responds .....) "But what is your opinion about this? There was a man with two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Go and work in my vineyard today, my son,' he said, 'All right, sir' - but he never went near it. Then his father approached the second son with the same request. He said, 'I won't.' But afterwards he changed his mind and went. Which of these two did what their father wanted?"
"The second one," they replied.
"Yes, and I tell you that tax-collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God in front of you!" retorted Jesus. "For John (the Baptist) came to you as a saint, and you did not believe him - yet the tax-collectors and the prostitutes did! And, even after seeing that, you would not change your minds and believe him."
THOSE WHO WON'T ACCEPT GOD: "THE WICKED TENANTS OF THE VINEYARD". Also "THE REJECTED STONE"
(also Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19)
Matthew 21:33-46 - "Now listen to another story (after the one about the two sons called to work). There was once a man, a land-owner, who planted a vineyard, fenced it round, dug out a hole for the wine-press and built a watch-tower. Then he let it out to farm-workers and went abroad. When the vintage-time approached he sent his servants to the farm-workers to receive his share of the proceeds. But they took the servants. beat up one, killed another, and drove off a third with stones. Then he sent some more servants, a larger party than the first, but they treated them in just the same way. Finally he sent his own son, thinking, 'They will respect my son.' Yet when the farm-workers saw the son they said to each other, 'This fellow is the future owner. Come on, let's kill him and we shall get everything that he would have had!' So they took him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard returns, what will he do to those farm-workers?"
"He will kill those scoundrels without mercy," they replied, "and will let the vineyard out to other tenants, who will give him the produce at the right season."
"And have you never read these words of scripture," said Jesus to them:
'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?' (Psalm 118:22,23)
"Here, I tell you, lies the reason why the kingdom of God is going to be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its proper fruit."
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables they realised that he was speaking about them. They longed to get their hands on him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who regarded him as a prophet.
"INVITATIONS TO THE BANQUET FOR THE KING'S SON"
- This parable is similar to Luke's invitation to the great banquet (15.21):
Matthew 22:1-14 - Then (after the story of the wicked tenants of the vineyard) Jesus began to talk to them again in parables.
"The kingdom of Heaven," he said, "is like a king who arranged a wedding for his son. He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the festivities, but they refused to come. Then he tried again; he sent some more servants, saying to them, 'Tell those who have been invited, "Here is my wedding-breakfast all ready, my bullocks and fat cattle have been slaughtered and everything is prepared. Come along to the festivities."' But they took no notice of this and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business. As for the rest, they got hold of the servants, treated them disgracefully, and finally killed them. At this the king was very angry and sent his troops and killed those murderers and burned down their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is quite ready, but those who were invited were not good enough for it. So go off now to all the street corners and invite everyone you find there to the feast.' So the servants went out on to the streets and collected together all those whom they found, bad and good alike. And the hall became filled with guests. But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he noticed among them a man not dressed for a wedding. 'How did you come in here, my friend,' he said to him, 'without being properly dressed for the wedding?'
And the man had nothing to say. Then the king said to the ushers, 'Tie him up and throw him into the darkness outside. There he can weep and regret his folly!' For many are invited but few are chosen."
THE PHARISEES AND HERODIANS QUESTION HIM - PAYING TAXES
(also Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26)
Matthew 22:15-22 - Then (after Jesus had told the parable of the banquet for the king's son) the Pharisees went off and discussed how they could trap him in argument. Eventually they sent their disciples with some of the Herod-party (or Herodians, supporters of the Herod dynasty) to say this, "Master, we know that you are an honest man who teaches the way of God faithfully and that you don't care for human approval. Now tell us - 'is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not'?"
But Jesus knowing their evil intention said, "Why try this trick on me, you frauds? Show me the money you pay the tax with." They handed him a coin, and he said to them, "Whose face is this and whose name is in the inscription?"
"Caesar's," they said.
"Then give to Caesar," he replied, "what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God!"
This reply staggered them and they went away and let him alone.
THE SADDUCEES QUESTION HIM - RISING FROM DEATH
(also Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40)
Matthew 22:23-33 - On the same day (the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with a question about paying taxes) some Sadducees (who deny that there is any resurrection) approached Jesus with this question: "Master, Moses said if a man should die without any children, his brother should marry his widow and raise up a family for him. Now, we have a case of seven brothers. The first one married and died, and since he had no family he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened with the second and the third, right up to the seventh. Last of all the woman herself died. Now in this 'resurrection', whose wife will she be of these seven men - for she belonged to all of them?"
"You are very wide of the mark," replied Jesus to them, "for you are ignorant of both the scriptures and the power of God. For in the resurrection there is no such thing as marrying or being given in marriage - men live like the angels in Heaven. And as for the matter of the resurrection of the dead, haven't you ever read what was once said to you by God himself,
'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob'? (Exodus 3:6,15)
God is not God of the dead but of living men!" When the crowds heard this they were astounded at his teaching.
A TEACHER OF THE LAW (OR SCRIBE) QUESTIONS HIM - THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
(also Mark 12:28-34)
Matthew 22:34-40 - When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees (who had questioned Jesus about resurrection) they came up to him in a body, and one of them, an expert in the Law, put this test-question: "Master, what are we to consider the Law's greatest commandment?"
Jesus answered him, "
'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind' (Deuteronomy 6:5).
This is the first and great commandment. And there is a second like it:
'You shall love your neighbour as yourself' (Leviticus 19:18).
The whole of the Law and the Prophets depends on these two commandments."
JESUS IN RETURN, ASKS A QUESTION - ABOUT THE EXPECTED MESSIAH
(also Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44)
Matthew 22:41-46 - Then (having answered their questions) Jesus asked the assembled Pharisees this question: "What is your opinion about Christ? Whose son is he?
"The Son of David," they answered.
"How then," returned Jesus, "does David when inspired by the (Holy) Spirit call him Lord? He says -
'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool?' (Psalm 110:1)
If David then calls him Lord, how can he be his son?"
Nobody was able to answer this and from that day on no one dared to ask him any further questions.
JESUS CRITICISES THE TEACHERS OF THE LAW (OR SCRIBES) AND THE PHARISEES
(also Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:45-47)
Matthew 23:1-39 - Then (after his debates with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes) Jesus addressed the crowds and his disciples. "The scribes and the Pharisees speak with the authority of Moses," he told them, "so you must do what they tell you and follow their instructions. But you must not imitate their lives! For they preach but do not practise. They pile up back-breaking burdens and lay them on other men's shoulders - yet they themselves will not raise a finger to move them. Their whole lives are planned with an eye to effect. They increase the size of their phylacteries (small boxes containing short passages from the Law that were tied on the forehead and upper arm during prayer) and lengthen the tassels of their robes; they love seats of honour at dinner parties and front places in the synagogues. They love to be greeted with respect in public places and to have men call them 'rabbi!' Don't you ever be called 'rabbi' - you have only one teacher, and all of you are brothers. And don't call any human being 'father' - for you have one Father and he is in Heaven. And you must not let people call you 'leaders' - you have only one leader, Christ! The only 'superior' among you is the one who serves the others. For every man who promotes himself will be humbled, and every man who learns to be humble will find promotion. (Here follow seven "woes":)
(1) "But alas for you, you scribes and Pharisees, play-actors that you are! You lock the door of the kingdom of Heaven in men's faces; you will not go in yourselves neither will you allow those at the door to go inside.
(2) "Alas for you, you scribes and Pharisees, play-actors! You scour sea and land to make a single convert, and then you make him twice as ripe for destruction as you are yourselves.
(3) "Alas for you, you blind leaders! You say, 'if anyone swears by the Temple it amounts to nothing, but if he swears by the gold of the Temple he is bound by his oath.' You blind fools, which is the more important, the gold or the Temple which sanctifies the gold? And you say, 'If anyone swears by the altar it doesn't matter, but if he swears by the gift placed on the altar he is bound by his oath.' Have you no eyes - which is more important, the gift, or the altar which sanctifies the gift? Any man who swears by the altar is swearing by the altar and whatever is offered upon it; and anyone who swears by the Temple is swearing by the Temple and by him who dwells in it; and anyone who swears by Heaven is swearing by the throne of God and by the one who sits upon that throne.
(4) "Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you utter frauds! For you pay your tithe on mint and aniseed and cummin, and neglect the things which carry far more weight in the Law (of Moses) - justice, mercy and good faith. These are the things you should have observed - without neglecting the others. You call yourselves leaders, and yet you can't see an inch before your noses, for you filter out the mosquito and swallow the camel.
(5) "What miserable frauds you are, you scribes and Pharisees! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, while the inside is full of greed and self-indulgence. Can't you see, Pharisee? First wash the inside of a cup, and then you can clean the outside.
(6) "Alas for you, you hypocritical scribes and Pharisees! You are like white-washed tombs, which look fine on the outside but inside are full of dead men's bones and all kinds of rottenness. For you appear like good men on the outside - but inside you are a mass of pretence and wickedness.
(7) "What miserable frauds you are, you scribes and Pharisees! You build tombs for the prophets, and decorate monuments for good men of the past, and then say, 'If we had lived in the times of our ancestors we should never have joined in the killing of the prophets.' Yes, 'your ancestors' - that shows you to be sons indeed of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead then, and finish off what your ancestors tried to do! You serpents, you viper's brood, how do you think you are going to avoid being condemned to the rubbish-heap? Listen to this: I am sending you prophets and wise and learned men; and some of these you will kill and crucify, others you will flog in your synagogues and hunt from town to town. So that on your hands is all the innocent blood spilt on this earth, from the blood of Abel the good (the son of Adam and Eve killed by his brother Cain) to the blood of Zachariah (or Zechariah, prophet and author of the Old Testament book of that name), Barachiah's son, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Yes, I tell you that all this will be laid at the doors of this generation.
Jesus mourns over Jerusalem, and foretells its destruction
"Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You murder the prophets and stone the messengers that are sent to you. How often have I longed to gather your children round me like a bird gathering her brood together under her wing - and you would never have it. Now all you have left is your house. I tell you that you will never see me again till the day when you cry,
'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' (Psalm 118:26)"
JESUS DESCRIBES THE END-TIMES AND HIS RETURN
(also Mark 13:1-37; Luke 17:20-37; Luke 21:5-38)
Matthew 24:1-41 - The start of Matthew's Fifth and final Discourse, "The End-times and the Second Coming" concluding at verse 26:1 with "When Jesus had finished ...":
Then (after warning the people about the scribes and Pharisees) Jesus went out of the Temple, and was walking away when his disciples came up and drew his attention to its buildings. "You see all these?" replied Jesus. "I tell you every stone will be thrown down till there is not a single one left standing upon another."
And as he was sitting on the slope of the Mount of Olives his disciples came to him privately and said, "Tell us, when will this happen? What will be the signal for your coming and the end of this world?"
"Be careful that no one misleads you," returned Jesus, "for many men will come in my name saying 'I am christ', and they will mislead many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars - but don't be alarmed. Such things must indeed happen, but that is not the end. For one nation will rise in arms against another, and one kingdom against another, and there will be famines and earthquakes in different parts of the world. But all that is only the beginning of the birth-pangs. For then comes the time when men will hand you over to persecution, and kill you. And all nations will hate you because you bear my name. Then comes the time when many will lose their faith, and will betray and hate each other. Yes, and many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many people. Because of the spread of wickedness the love of most men will grow cold, though the man who holds out to the end will be saved. This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed to men all over the world as a witness to all the nations, and the end will come.
Jesus prophesies a future of suffering
"When the time comes, then, that you see the
'abomination of desolation' (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11)
prophesied by Daniel 'standing in the sacred place' - the reader should note this - then is the time for those in Judea to escape to the hills. A man on his house-top must not waste time going into his house to collect anything; a man at work in the fields must not go back home to fetch his clothes. Alas for the pregnant, alas for those with tiny babies at that time! Pray God that you may not have to make your escape in the winter or on the Sabbath day, for then there will be great misery, such as has never happened from the beginning of the world until now, and will never happen again! Yes, if those days had not been cut short no human being would survive. But for the sake of God's people those days are to be shortened.
"If anyone says to you then, 'Look, here is Christ!' or 'There he is!' don't believe it. False christs and false prophets are going to appear and will produce great signs and wonders to mislead, if it were possible, even God's own people. Listen, I am warning you. So that if people say to you, 'There he is, in the desert!' you are not to go out there. If they say, 'Here he is, in this inner room!' don't believe it. For as lightning flashes across from east to west so will the Son of Man's coming be. 'Wherever there is a dead body, there the vultures will flock.'
At the end of time the Son of Man will return
"Immediately after the misery of those days
'the sun will be darkened, the moon will fail to give her light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of heaven will be shaken' (Isaiah 13:10; 34:4).
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will wring their hands as they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky in power and great splendour. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet-call and they will gather his chosen from the four winds - from one end of the heavens to the other.
"Learn what the fig-tree can teach you. As soon as its branches grow full of sap and produce leaves you know that summer is near. So when you see all these things happening you may know that he is near, at your very door! Believe me, this generation will not disappear till all this has taken place. Earth and sky will pass away, but my words will never pass away! But about that actual day and time no one knows - not even the angels of Heaven, nor the Son, only the Father. For just as life went on in the days of Noah so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood people were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage until the very day that Noah went into the ark, and knew nothing about the flood until it came and destroyed them all. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left behind. Two women will be grinding at the hand-mill; one is taken and one is left behind.
BEING PREPARED FOR THE END-TIMES AND THE RETURN OF JESUS: "THE THIEF AND THE HOUSEHOLDER"
Matthew 24:42-44 - (Teaching about the end-times, Jesus gives his listeners a second short parable .....) "You must be on the alert then, for you do not know when your master is coming. You can be sure of this, however, that if the householder had known what time of night the burglar would arrive, he would have been ready for him and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. That is why you must always be ready, for you do not know what time the Son of Man will arrive."
BEING PREPARED FOR THE END-TIMES AND THE RETURN OF JESUS: "THE FAITHFUL SERVANTS AND THE RETURNING MASTER"
(also Mark 13:34-37)
- Similar to the parable in Luke on the servants and the returning master (15.18):
Matthew 24:45-51 - (Jesus concludes his main teaching about the end-times with a third short parable ....) "Who then is the faithful and sensible servant whom his master put in charge of his household to give others their food at the proper time? Well, he is fortunate if his master finds him doing that duty on his return! Believe me, he will promote him to look after all his property. But if he should be a bad servant who says to himself, 'My master takes his time about returning', and should begin to beat his fellow-servants and eat and drink with drunkards, that servant's master will return suddenly and unexpectedly, and will punish him severely and send him off to share the penalty of the unfaithful - to his bitter sorrow and regret!
BEING PREPARED FOR THE END-TIMES AND THE RETURN OF JESUS: "THE TEN BRIDESMAIDS"
- Matthew follows Jesus' main teaching about the end-times in chapter 24 with three final parables in chapter 25:
Matthew 25:1-13 - "In those days (when the Temple is destroyed as prophesied by Jesus) the kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were sensible and five were foolish. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. But the sensible ones brought their lamps and oil in their flasks as well. Then, as the bridegroom was a very long time, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But in the middle of the night there came a shout, 'Wake up, here comes the bridegroom! Out you go to meet him!" Then up got the bridesmaids and attended to their lamps. The foolish ones said to the sensible ones, 'Please give us some of your oil - our lamps are going out!' 'Oh no,' returned the sensible ones, 'there might not be enough for all of us. Better go to the oil-shop and buy some for yourselves.' But while they had gone off to buy the oil the bridegroom arrived, and those bridesmaids who were ready went in with him for the festivities and the door was shut behind them. Later on the rest of the bridesmaids came and said, 'Oh, please, sir, open the door for us!' But he replied, 'I tell you I don't know you!' So be on the alert - for you do not know the day or the time.
BEING PREPARED FOR THE END-TIMES AND THE RETURN OF JESUS: "THE TALENTS OF MONEY "
- Similar to Luke's earlier parable on "the ten pounds or minas" (15.31).
Talents - In money value: 1 talent = 60 minas, 1 mina = 100 drachmas, and 1 drachma, the standard Greek silver coin = one Roman denarius, a day's pay.
One talent was thus a considerable sum of money - 6,000 drachmas or 16 years pay!
Matthew 25:14-30 - "It is just like a man going abroad who called his household servants together before he went and handed his property to them to manage. He gave one five thousand pounds, another two thousand and another one thousand - according to their respective abilities. Then he went away.
"The man who had received five thousand pounds went out at once and by doing business with this sum he made another five thousand. Similarly the man with two thousand pounds made another two thousand. But the man who had received one thousand pounds went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
"Some years later the master of these servants arrived and went into the accounts with them. The one who had the five thousand pounds came in and brought him an additional five thousand with the words, 'You gave me five thousand pounds, sir; look, I've increased it by another five thousand.' 'Well done!' said his master, 'you're a sound, reliable servant. You've been trustworthy over a few things, now I'm going to put you in charge of much more. Come in and share your master's rejoicing.' Then the servant who had received two thousand pounds came in and said, 'You gave me two thousand pounds, sir; look, here's two thousand more that I've managed to make by it.' 'Well done!' said his master, 'you're a sound, reliable servant. You've been trustworthy over a few things, now I'm going to put you in charge of many. Come in and share your master's pleasure.'
"Then the man who had received the one thousand pounds came in and said, 'Sir, I always knew you were a hard man, reaping where you never sowed and collecting where you never laid out - so I was scared and I went off and hid your thousand pounds in the ground. Here is your money, intact.'
"'You're a wicked, lazy servant!' his master told him. 'You say you knew that I reap where I never sowed and collect where I never laid out? Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and when I came out I should at any rate have received what belongs to me with interest. Take his thousand pounds away from him and give it to the man who now has the ten thousand!' (For the man who has something will have more given to him and will have plenty. But as for the man who has nothing, even his 'nothing' will be taken away.) 'And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where he can weep and wail over his stupidity.'
BEING PREPARED FOR THE END-TIMES AND THE RETURN OF JESUS: "THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS"
Matthew 25:31-46 - "But when the Son of Man comes in his splendour with all his angels with him, then he will take his seat on his glorious throne. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men from each other like a shepherd separating sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.
"Then the king will say to those on his right 'Come, you who have won my Father's blessing! Take your inheritance - the kingdom reserved for you since the foundation of the world! For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was lonely and you made me welcome. I was naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you came and looked after me. I was in prison and you came to see me there."
"Then the true men will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you lonely and make you welcome, or see you naked and clothe you, or see you ill or in prison and go to see you?'
"And the king will reply, 'I assure you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Out of my presence, cursed as you are, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was lonely and you never made me welcome. When I was naked you did nothing to clothe me; when I was sick and in prison you never cared about me.'
"Then they too will answer him, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry, or thirsty, or lonely, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and fail to look after you?'
"Then the king will answer them with these words, 'I assure you that whatever you failed to do to the humblest of my brothers you failed to do to me.'
"And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the true men to eternal life."
JESUS TEACHES ABOUT HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION BEFORE HIS ANOINTING AT BETHANY
Matthew 26:1-2 - When Jesus had finished all this teaching (at the close of Matthew's Fifth and final Discourse, "The End-times and the Second Coming") he spoke to his disciples, "Do you realise that the Passover will begin in two days' time; and the Son of Man is going to be betrayed and crucified?"
THE PLOT TO KILL JESUS
(also Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2; John 11:45-57)
Matthew 26:3-5 - At that very time (as Jesus was describing the end-times and again predicting his death) the chief priests and elders of the people had assembled in the court of Caiaphas, the High Priest, and were discussing together how they might get hold of Jesus by some trick and kill him. But they kept saying, "It must not be during the (Passover) festival or there might be a riot."
THE ANOINTING OF JESUS AT BETHANY
(also Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-8)
- In this account, Mary the sister of Martha anoints Jesus. An earlier story in Luke 7:36-50 (included in the parable of "The Two Debtors") is generally considered a different incident perhaps involving Mary of Magdala, otherwise known as Mary Magdalene:
Matthew 26:6-13 - Back in Bethany (after Jesus had finished teaching about the end-times and as the chief priests and elders plot to kill him ....), while Jesus was in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster flask of most expensive perfume, and poured it on his head as he was at table. The disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, "What is the point of such wicked waste? Couldn't this perfume have been sold for a lot of money which could be given to the poor?" Jesus knew what they were saying and spoke to them, "Why must you make this woman feel uncomfortable? She has done a beautiful thing for me. You have the poor with you always, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she was preparing it for burial. I assure you that wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the whole world, this deed of hers will also be recounted, as her memorial to me."
JUDAS ISCARIOT DECIDES TO BETRAY HIM
(also Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6)
Matthew 26:14-16 - After this (the anointing of Jesus at Bethany), one of the twelve (apostles), Judas Iscariot by name, approached the chief priests. "What will you give me," he said to them, "if I hand him over to you?" They settled with him for thirty silver coins (traditionally the price of a slave), and from then on he looked for a convenient opportunity to betray Jesus.
THE LAST SUPPER
(also Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-30; John 13:1-30; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
Matthew 26:17-29 - (Judas has now agreed to betray Jesus.....) On the first day of unleavened bread (a reminder during Passover of the Jew's hasty departure from Egypt during the Exodus) the disciples came to Jesus with the question, "Where do you want us to make our preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
"Go into the city," Jesus replied, "to a certain man there and say to him, 'The Master says, "My time is near. I am going to keep the Passover with my disciples at your house (traditionally the Upper Room of the house of Mary, mother of John Mark who later wrote Mark's Gospel)."" The disciples did as Jesus had instructed them and prepared the Passover. Then late in the evening he took his place at table with the twelve and during the meal he said, "I tell you plainly that one of you is going to betray me." They were deeply distressed at this and each began to say to him in turn, "Surely, Lord, I am not the one?" And his answer was, "The man who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the man who will betray me. It is true that the Son of Man will follow the road foretold by the scriptures, but alas for the man through whom he is betrayed! It would be better for that man if had never been born." And Judas, who actually betrayed him, said, "Master, am I the one?"
"As you say!" replied Jesus.
The Body and Blood of Christ - Jesus now institutes the most important, mysterious and holy act of worship of the Christian church - Communion, the Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, Mass, taking Bread and Wine, the Lord's Supper .... in which the believer in Christ receives his body and blood -
In the middle of the meal Jesus took a loaf and after blessing it he broke it into pieces and gave it to the disciples. "Take and eat this," he said, "it is my body." Then he took a cup and after thanking God, he gave it to them with the words, "Drink this, all of you, for it is my blood, the blood of the new agreement shed to set many free from their sins. I tell you I will drink no more wine until I drink it fresh with you in my Father's kingdom."
THE LAST NIGHT CONTINUED AND THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE
(also Mark 14:26-42; Luke 22:31-46; John 13:31-38; 18:1-2)
Matthew 26:30-46 - Then (after the Last Supper) they sang a hymn (probably a Passover psalm) together and went out to the Mount of Olives (or Olivet). There Jesus said to them, "Tonight every one of you will lose his faith in me. For the scripture says,
'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered' (Zechariah 13:7).
But after I have risen I shall go before you into Galilee!"
At this Peter exclaimed, "Even if everyone should lose his faith in you, I never will!"
"I tell you, Peter," replied Jesus, "that tonight, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times."
"Even if it means dying with you I will never disown you," said Peter. And all the disciples made the same protest.
The prayer in Gethsemane
Then Jesus came with the disciples to a place called Gethsemane and said to them, "Sit down here while I go over there and pray." Then he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (James and John) and began to be in terrible distress and misery. "My heart is nearly breaking," he told them, "stay here and keep watch with me." Then he walked on a little way and fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me - yet it must not be what I want, but what you want."
Then he came back to the disciples and found them fast asleep. He spoke to Peter, "Couldn't you three keep awake with me for a single hour? Watch and pray, all of you, that you may not have to face temptation. Your spirit is willing, but human nature is weak." Then he went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to pass from me without my drinking it, then your will must be done." And he came and found them asleep again, for they could not keep their eyes open. So he left them and went away again and prayed for the third time using the same words as before. Then he came back to his disciples and spoke to them, "Are you still going to sleep and take your ease? In a moment you will see the Son of Man betrayed into the hands of evil men. Wake up, let us be going! Look, here comes my betrayer (Judas Iscariot)!"
JESUS IS BETRAYED AND ARRESTED
(also Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-54a; John 18:3-12)
Matthew 26:47-56 - And while the words were still on his lips ("Look, here comes my betrayer!"), Judas, one of the twelve appeared (in the Garden of Gethsemane) with a great crowd armed with swords and staves, sent by the chief priests and Jewish elders. (The traitor himself had given them a sign, "The one I kiss will be the man. Get him!")
Without any hesitation he walked up to Jesus. "Greetings, Master!" he cried and kissed him affectionately. "Judas, my friend," replied Jesus, "why are you here?"
Then the others came up, seized hold of Jesus and held him. Suddenly one of Jesus' disciples drew his sword, slashed at the High Priest's servant (whose name was Malchus) and cut off his ear. At this Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its proper place. All those who take the sword die by the sword. Do you imagine that I could not appeal to my Father, and he would at once send more than twelve legions of angels to defend me? But then, how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that all this must take place?" And then Jesus spoke to the crowds around him: "So you've come out with your swords and staves to capture me like a bandit, have you? Day after day I sat teaching in the Temple and you never laid a finger on me. But all this is happening as the prophets said it would." And at this point all the disciples deserted him and made their escape.
After his arrest Jesus appears before three separate authorities:
(1) Annas still a "chief priest", and the Sanhedrin of which Caiaphas is the High Priest;
(2) Pontius Pilate, Roman procurator of Judea and Samaria; and
(3) Herod Antipas, Jewish tetrarch of Galilee and Perea visiting Jerusalem at that time.
Pontius Pilate actually sentences Jesus to death by crucifixion
JESUS IS TRIED BEFORE THE JEWISH AUTHORITIES; PETER BETRAYS HIM
(also Mark 14:53-15:1; Luke 22:54b-23:1; John 18:13-28)
Matthew 26:57-27:2 - The men (servants of the High Priest, and members of the armed crowd ....) who had seized Jesus took him off to Caiaphas the High Priest in whose house the scribes and elders were assembled. Peter followed him at a safe distance right up to the High Priest's courtyard. Then he went inside and sat down with the servants and waited to see the end.
Meanwhile the chief priests and the whole council (the Sanhedrin) ....
Sanhedrin - From the Greek "to sit together", "a seat". The highest Jewish court of justice, and supreme religious and civil council in Jerusalem with 71 members. With the High Priest as president, it was composed of chief priests, scribes or lawyers, and elders. These in turn were affiliated to the Sadducees, Pharisees, and other religious or political groups -
.... did all they could to find false evidence against Jesus to get him condemned to death. They failed completely. Even after a number of perjurers came forward they still failed. In the end two of these stood up and said, "This man said, 'I can pull down the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'"
Then the High Priest rose to his feet and addressed Jesus, "Have you no answer? What about the evidence of these men against you?" But Jesus was silent. Then the High Priest said to him, "I command you by the living God, to tell us on your oath if you are Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "I am. Yes, and I tell you that in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of Heaven."
At this the High Priest tore his robes and cried, "That was blasphemy! Where is the need for further witnesses? Look, you've heard the blasphemy - what's your verdict now?" And they replied, "he deserves to die."
Then they spat in his face and knocked him about, and some slapped him, crying, "Prophesy, you Christ, who was that who hit you?"
Peter disowns his master
All this time Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a maidservant came up to him and said, "Weren't you with Jesus, the man from Galilee?" But he denied it before them all, saying "I don't know what you're talking about." Then when he had gone out into the porch, another maid caught sight of him and said to those who were there, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." And again he denied it with an oath - "I don't know the man"! A few minutes later those who were standing about came up to Peter and said to him, "You certainly are one of them, you know; it's obvious from your (Galilean) accent." At that he began to curse and swear - "I tell you I don't know the man!" Immediately the cock crew, and the words of Jesus came back into Peter's mind - "Before the cock crows you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.
(Chapter 27 ....) When the morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people met in council (the Sanhedrin) to decide how they could get Jesus executed. Then they marched him off with his hands tied, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
JUDAS ISCARIOT COMMITS SUICIDE
(also Acts 1:18-19)
Matthew 27:3-10 - Then (as Jesus was being handed over to Pilate) Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that he was condemned and in his remorse returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and elders, with the words, "I was wrong - I have betrayed an innocent man to death."
"And what has that got to do with us?" they replied. "That's your affair."
And Judas flung down the silver in the Temple and went outside and hanged himself. But the chief priests picked up the money and said, "It is not legal to put this into the Temple treasury. It is, after all, blood-money." So, after a further consultation, they purchased with it the Potter's Field to be a burial-ground for foreigners, which is why it is called "the Field of Blood" to this day. And so the words of Jeremiah the prophet came true:
'And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed them' (Zechariah 11:12,13; Jeremiah 32:6-9).
JESUS BEFORE THE ROMAN PONTIUS PILATE; THE SENTENCE
(also Mark 15:2-15; Luke 23:2-25; John 18:29-19:16a)
- In Luke's account Jesus is also taken before Herod Antipas, Jewish tetrarch of Galilee and Perea:
Matthew 27:11-26 - Meanwhile (as Judas Iscariot was committing suicide) Jesus stood in front of the governor (Pilate), who asked him, "Well, you - are you the King of the Jews?"
"Yes, I am," replied Jesus.
But while the chief priests and elders (of the Sanhedrin) were making their accusations, he made no reply at all. So Pilate said to him, "Can you not hear the evidence they're bringing against you?" And to the governor's amazement, Jesus did not answer a single one of their accusations.
Now it was the custom at festival-time for the governor to release any prisoner whom the people chose. And it happened that at this time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas (possibly a Zealot, one of the groups dedicated to the violent overthrow of Roman rule. He was a "Sicarii" or dagger-man arrested for insurrection and murder). So when they assembled to make the usual request, Pilate said to them, "Which one do you want me to set free, Barabbas or Jesus called Christ?" For he knew very well that the latter had been handed over to him through sheer malice. And indeed while he was actually sitting on the Bench his wife sent a message to him - "Don't have anything to do with that man! I went through agonies dreaming about him last night!" But the chief priests and elders persuaded the mob to ask for Barabbas and demand Jesus' execution. Then the governor spoke to them, "Which of these two are you asking me to release?"
"Barabbas!" they cried. "Then what am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ?" asked Pilate.
"Have him crucified!" they all cried. At this Pilate said, "Why, what is his crime?" But their voices rose to a roar, "Have him crucified!" When Pilate realised that nothing more could be done but that there would soon be a riot, he took a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I take no responsibility for the death of this man. You must see to that yourselves."
To this the whole crowd replied, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" Whereupon Pilate released Barabbas for them, but he had Jesus flogged and handed over for crucifixion.
Crucifixion - A particularly cruel and shameful form of capital punishment reserved mainly for rebellion and for slaves guilty of robbery. Victims could suffer in agony for days before death released them. This could be hastened by deliberately breaking their legs so they could not support their bodies. Suffocation soon followed.
JESUS IS ILL-TREATED AND TORTURED
(also Mark 15:15b-20; Luke 22:63-65; John 19:1-3)
Matthew 27:27-31 - Then the (Roman) governor's soldiers took Jesus into the governor's palace and collected the whole guard around him. There they stripped him and put a scarlet cloak upon him. They twisted some thorn-twigs into a crown and put it on his head and put a stick into his right hand. They bowed low before him and jeered at him with the words, "Hail, your majesty, king of the Jews!" Then they spat on him, took the stick and hit him on the head with it. And when they had finished their fun, they stripped the cloak off again, put his own clothes upon him and led him off for crucifixion.
HIS CRUCIFIXION AND DEATH
(also Mark 15:21-37; Luke 23:26-46; John 19:16b-30)
Matthew 27:32-50 - On their way out of the city they (the Roman soldiers) met a man called Simon, a native of Cyrene (modern day Libya) in Africa, and they compelled him to carry Jesus' cross.
Then when they came to a place called Golgotha (Aramaic and Hebrew for "skull"; in Latin, "calvaria" or "Calvary" - which means Skull Hill) they offered him a drink of wine mixed with some bitter drug (or vinegar mixed with gall or myrrh in other versions of the New Testament), but when he had tasted it he refused to drink. And when they had nailed him to the cross they shared out his clothes by drawing lots.
Then they sat down to keep guard over him. And over his head they put a placard with the charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Now two bandits (robbers or thieves, and possibly Zealots) were crucified with Jesus at the same time, one on either side of him. The passers-by nodded knowingly and called out to him, in mockery, "Hi, you who could pull down the Temple and build it up again in three days - why don't you save yourself? If you are the Son of God, step down from the cross!" The chief priests also joined the scribes and elders in jeering at him, saying, "He saved others, but he can't save himself! If this is the king of Israel, why doesn't he come down from the cross now, and we'll believe him! He trusted in God ... let God rescue him if He will have anything to do with him! For he said, 'I am God's son'." Even the bandits who were crucified with him hurled abuse at him.
Then from midday until three o'clock darkness spread over the whole countryside, and then Jesus cried with a loud voice,
'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Psalm 22:1)
Some of those who were standing there heard these words which Jesus spoke in Aramaic - Eli (or Eloi), Eli lama sabachthani?, and said, "This man is calling for Elijah!" And one of them ran off and fetched a sponge, soaked it in vinegar and put it on a long stick and held it up for him to drink. But the others said, "Let him alone! Let's see if Elijah will come and save him." But Jesus gave one more great cry, and died.
SUPERNATURAL EVENTS AS JESUS DIES
(also Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45)
Matthew 27:51-53 - And the sanctuary curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The ground shook, rocks split and graves were opened. (A number of bodies of holy men who were asleep in death rose again. They left their graves after Jesus' resurrection and entered the holy city and appeared to many people.)
SOME OF THE PEOPLE PRESENT
(also Mark 15:39-41; Luke 23:47-49; John 19:25-26a)
- The identity of all the women has not been completely solved:
Matthew 27:54-56 - When the (Roman) centurion and his company who were keeping guard over Jesus saw the earthquake and all that was happening they were terrified. "Indeed he was the son of God!" they said.
There were many women at the scene watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to minister to his needs. Among them was:
(1) Mary of Magdala (or Mary Magdalene),
(2) Mary the mother of James (possibly the apostle James the Younger, son of Alphaeus) and Joseph (or Joses), and
(3) The mother (probably Salome) of Zebedee's sons (the apostles James and John).
(also Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:31-42)
Matthew 27:57-66 - That evening, Joseph (a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin), a wealthy man from Arimathaea (traditionally on the coastal plain not far from Jerusalem), who was himself a disciple of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave orders for the body to be handed over to him. So Joseph took it, wrapped it in clean linen and placed it in his own new tomb which had been hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a large stone across the doorway of the tomb and went away. But Mary from Magdala and the other Mary (the mother of the apostle James the Younger) remained there, sitting in front of the tomb.
Next day (the Saturday), which was the day after the Preparation (for the Passover festival), the chief priests and the Pharisees went in a body to (the Roman) Pilate and said, "Sir, we have remembered that while this impostor was alive, he said, 'After three days I shall rise again.' Will you give the order then to have the grave closely guarded until the third day, so that there can be no chance of his disciples' coming and stealing the body and telling people that he has risen from the dead? We should then be faced with a worse fraud than the first one."
"You have a guard," Pilate told them. "Go and make it as safe as you think necessary." And they went and made the grave secure, putting a seal on the stone and leaving the soldiers on guard.
THE NEW BEGINNING Spring cAD30
THE EMPTY TOMB
(also Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-13)
Matthew 28:1-8 - When the Sabbath (Saturday) was over, just as the first day of the week (Sunday) was dawning ...
- The Sunday morning after the Good Friday of the Crucifixion. In Jewish reckoning, Friday is day one, Saturday day two, and Sunday day three - hence the three days between crucifixion and resurrection -
... Mary from Magdala and the other Mary (mother of James the Younger and Joseph) went to look at the tomb. At that moment there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven, went forward and rolled back the stone and took his seat upon it. His appearance was dazzling like lightning and his clothes were white as snow. The guards shook with terror at the sight of him and collapsed like dead men. But the angel spoke to the women, "Do not be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here - he is risen, just as he said he would. Come and look at the place where he was lying. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead. And, listen, he goes before you into Galilee! You will see him there! Now I have told you my message."
Then the women went away quickly from the tomb, their hearts filled with awe and great joy, and ran to give the news to his disciples. ...
- In verses 9 and 10 following Jesus stands before them in his first appearance, and tells the women he will see his disciples in Galilee:
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS AND HIS APPEARANCES TO HIS DISCIPLES
(also Mark 16:9-14; Luke 24:13-44; John 20:14-21:14; Acts 1:1-5; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
Matthew 28:9-10 - But quite suddenly (as Mary from Magdala and the other Mary ran from the empty tomb), Jesus stood before them in their path, and said, "Peace be with you!" And they went forward to meet him and, clasping his feet, worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go now and tell my brothers to go into Galilee and they shall see me there"
THE EMPTY TOMB - Concluded
Matthew 28:11-15 - And while they were on their way, some of the sentries went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. They got together with the elders, and after consultation gave the soldiers a considerable sum of money and told them, "Your story must be that his disciples came after dark, and stole him away while you were asleep. If by any chance this reaches the (Roman) governor's ears, we will put it right with him and see that you do not suffer for it." So they took the money and obeyed their instructions. The story was spread and is current among the Jews to this day.
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS AND HIS APPEARANCES TO HIS DISCIPLES - Continued
Matthew 28:16-17 - But the eleven (remaining apostles) went to the hill-side in Galilee where Jesus had arranged to meet them, and when they had seen him they worshipped him, though some of them were doubtful.
HIS COMMISSION TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE WORLD
(also Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:45-50; John 21:15-23; Acts 1:6-8)
Matthew 28:18-20 - But Jesus (after he met the eleven in Galilee) came and spoke these words to them, "All power in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. You, then, are to go and make disciples of all the nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you and, remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the world."
In a short time, the disciples, totally demoralised by the death of Jesus are transformed. They are soon taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ fearlessly to much of the known world and often in the face of every form of opposition, persecution, and soon, brutality, torture and death.
The Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of the New Testament reveal part of this early story that continues to the present day.
The Acts of the Apostles carries on after the four Gospels.
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