Passion Week

[Mat 21-28]

The triumphal entry and events that follow

[Mat 21:1-26:58] When they approach Jerusalem and are at Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sends two disciples to a nearby village to fetch a colt for him. He uses this colt to ride into Jerusalem where many recognise him for who he is, crying out Hosanna to the Son of David . As many more gather to hear what the commotion is about, they enquire who he is and are told he is the prophet spoken of by Moses. Jesus then goes to the temple Court of the Gentiles where he creates havoc with those selling animals for sacrifice, and overturns the moneychangers’ tables telling them It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. The blind and lame are then brought to the temple and are all healed by Jesus. All the while, children repeat the cry of their parents, Hosanna to the Son of David . This is all to the considerable displeasure of the chief priests and scribes. Jesus then leaves and goes to Bethany where he stays the night. The next morning, as they return to the city, Jesus is feeling hungry. He sees a fig tree that has leaves but no fruit, and says to it Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. The tree withers and the disciples, seeing it the next morning, marvel at how it had withered so quickly. Jesus tells them that they will be able to do much more than this if they ask in prayer and believe. Jesus goes to the temple to teach, and while he is teaching he is approached by the chief priests and elders questioning his authority. He replies with a question concerning the authority of John the Baptist, which they are unable to answer without entrapping themselves. Jesus then relates the parables of the two sons and of the tenants. They realise he is speaking about them, and at that point want to deal with him, but are afraid of the reaction of the crowds who would all be for Jesus. Jesus relates another parable, the parable of the wedding feast. Their reaction to hearing yet another parable that offends them is to leave and plan how they might entrap him with his own words. They send their own disciples, along with the Herodians, to question Jesus whether it is lawful to give tribute to Caesar. This attempt fails and is later followed by the Sadducees attempting to ridicule any idea of a resurrection, since they don’t believe in it. They asked whose wife a woman would be in the resurrection if seven brothers had married her, one after the other following each one’s death. Jesus tells them that they don’t understand the scriptures, pointing out that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of the living. The Sadducees and Pharisees then jointly send a lawyer to ask Jesus which is the greatest commandment of the law, since between them they see conflicts within the law as to which part might be considered to be of greater priority. Jesus responds with the laws of love for God and their neighbours, telling them that the whole of the law and the prophets hangs on these two commandments. He then turns to the Pharisees and asks them who they thought Christ might be the son of, to which they naturally replied the Son of David . Jesus then asks them how it was that David, in the Spirit, referred to Christ as his Lord (as no man would refer to a son as his lord). This confounds them and they dare not challenge Jesus again after this exchange. Jesus then addresses his disciples and the crowds and berates the scribes and Pharisees, giving numerous examples of their hypocrisy as religious leaders. He concludes this attack on them by prophesying the destruction of the temple and that they, the Jews, would not see him again until the time they acknowledge him as the Messiah. Leaving the temple, his disciples remark on its magnificence and Jesus again prophesies its destruction. When Jesus and his disciples are alone on the Mount of Olives, his disciples ask him what the signs of his second coming will be. Recorded in what we know as the Olivet Discourse [chapters 24-25] , Jesus warns of persecution, predicts the fall of Jerusalem, and teaches about his second coming, referring to the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet. At this time, Jesus says, all in Judea must flee to the mountains. He then uses the parable of the fig tree to show that signs will be recognised, but tells that the hour will not not be known. We must be prepared, as demonstrated by the parable of the ten virgins. Meanwhile, we are required to bear fruit as told by the parable of the talents, for when he returns, there will be a judgement and a separation of those worthy of eternal life and those who are not. Jesus then tells his disciples he will be betrayed in two days time, at Passover, and will be crucified. Meanwhile, the chief priests, scribes and elders have assembled before the high priest, Caiaphas, to discuss how they might kill Jesus, but avoiding doing so on the feast day. Now Jesus is in Bethany at Simon the leper’s house with his disciples when Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (who Jesus had earlier raised from death), anoints his feet with nard, a very expensive perfume, and wipes his feet with her hair. Judas Iscariot objects saying that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor, but Jesus tells them she did it for his burial. Judas then leaves the house and makes an arrangement with the chief priests to deliver Jesus to them for thirty pieces of silver. Jesus sends his disciples to prepare a room where they will meet to share the Passover meal. In the evening, while they are eating, he tells them one of them will betray him. He takes some bread, blesses it and breaks it, offering it to his disciples telling them it represents his body. He then passes around a cup of wine, saying it represents his blood of the new covenant, shed for many for the remission of sins , and tells them that they are to do all this in remembrance of him. They then sing a hymn and leave for the Mount of Olives. It is while they are on the mount that Peter is told he will deny Jesus three times before the cock crows. When they get to Gethsemane, Jesus takes Peter, James and John aside and asks them to keep watch while he prays. Jesus returns to them three times after praying, each time finding them asleep. In these prayer sessions he asks his Father if there is another way remission of sins can be accomplished, but there is not. Then Judas arrives with armed men from the chief priests and identifies Jesus with a kiss. The disciples scatter and Jesus is taken to Caiaphas where the scribes and elders are assembled waiting for him. Peter follows and goes to sit amongst the servants to see what is happening.

Jesus’ trial, death and resurrection

[Mat 26:59-28:20] Witnesses are called to testify against Jesus, but no testimony is given sufficient to condemn him. Jesus doesn’t answer any accusations, so the high priest asks him under oath, which he is bound by law to respond to, whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. His admission in front of all those assembled enables them to claim he has blasphemed before witnesses and can be condemned to death. They then spit on him, buffet him and strike him. It is at this time that Peter is challenged three times as being one of Jesus’ disciples, each time denying he is, then the cock crows. Peter, remembering that Jesus had predicted his denials, leaves and weeps bitterly. Now the Jews’ authority to execute anyone had been taken away by the Romans some years earlier, so they now need to take Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea, to be tried. Seeing that Jesus had been condemned, Judas goes and tells the chief priests and elders he betrayed innocent blood, but they are not interested. He throws the thirty pieces of silver before them and leaves and hangs himself. Unable to put blood money in the temple treasury, the priests use it to buy a potter’s field for the burial of strangers. Jesus is taken before Pilate, who is unable to find any reason to condemn him under Roman law, but learning he is a Galilean, sends him to Herod who happens to be in Jerusalem at the time. Herod questions Jesus while the chief priests and scribes vehemently accuse him, but Jesus remains silent. Because he says nothing, Herod’s soldiers take him to be a fool, mock him, put a robe on him and he is returned to Pilate. Although Pilate is unable to find anything against Jesus according to Roman law, he fears the mood of the people and, as is the custom, offers them a choice of whom he should release, Jesus or a notable prisoner called Barabbas. Prompted by the chief priests and elders, the crowd called for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified. Pilate publicly washes his hands, declaring his innocence concerning the blood of Jesus, before handing him over to his soldiers who take him away to be scourged. They then mock Jesus, put a scarlet robe around him and place a plaited crown of thorns on his head. When they have finished mocking him, they replace the scarlet robe with his own, then lead him away to be crucified. On the way, a man of Cyrene, called Simon, is made to carry Jesus’ cross. They reach Golgotha where Jesus is crucified between two thieves. When Jesus gives up his spirit, the temple veil is torn from top to bottom and the earth quakes. In the evening, Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich man who is also one of Jesus’ disciples, begs Pilate for Jesus’ body, to which he agrees. Joseph wraps Jesus in a clean linen cloth, lays him in his own sepulchre and rolls a great stone in front of it. On the Sunday morning at dawn, Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James) and Salome go to the sepulchre taking spices to anoint Jesus’ body. An angel had rolled away the stone so they are able to go in, but Jesus is not there. The angel tells them that Jesus has risen and they are to tell his disciples and Peter that he will see them in Galilee. They run and tell the disciples what they have seen, then Peter and John run to the sepulchre to see for themselves. Now those who had been guarding the tomb went and told the chief priests what had happened. The chief priests gave them money to say that the disciples had come and stolen the body while they slept, and gave them assurances they would persuade their superiors not to punish them for falling asleep whilst on guard. That same day, two disciples are making their way to Emmaus when Jesus comes alongside them and asks them why they are troubled. Not recognising him, they relate all that had happened. Then Jesus explains how the scriptures had foretold all these events. It wasn’t until they arrive at the village and are all eating together, that they realise it is Jesus who has been talking to them, but he then vanishes from their sight. They quickly return to Jerusalem and report their experience to the eleven disciples, confirming Jesus has indeed risen. As they are speaking, Jesus appears to them, eats with them, and then imparts on them an understanding of the scriptures. In the evening, while the disciples are behind locked doors in fear of the Jews, Jesus again appears to them, but Thomas is not there and consequently refuses to believe he has risen. Eight days later, Jesus appears to his disciples while they are again behind locked doors. This time, Thomas is with them and is invited by Jesus to touch his wounds. Thomas then acknowledges Jesus as his Lord and God. Later, the eleven disciples go to Galilee where Jesus meets them for the last time. Here he commissions them to go and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit before ascending to heaven.

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