The texts for Tuesday are Mark 11:20–13:37; Matt 21:23–25:46; Luke 20:1–21:38; John 12:37–50.
Mark begins by addressing the lessons learned from the withered fig tree, preparing readers to continue seeing the temple and Jerusalem authorities as unfruitful and ripe for destruction. But rather than obsessing about the failing of the biblical chief priests and Pharisees, it is probably best, as always, to see how they most frequently represent our own failings. As the prophet had declared, and as a chorus of Handel’s Messiah so vividly portrays, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord had laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Much of Tuesday was spent again in the temple, but on this day Jesus was largely on the defensive, responding ably to the questions repeatedly posed to him as his opponents sought to cross him in his words. As I note in my full blog post for the day, “This verbal sparring about authority points back to the reality symbolized by Jesus’ earlier triumphal entry: he was the rightful king in Israel, while the chief priests and elders opposed to him were, in fact, usurpers who set themselves up in Jerusalem and in the temple as leaders of Israel. In the days between the selection of the Passover lambs five days before Passover and their sacrifice when the holiday began, the chosen animals were kept separate from the rest of the flocks (Exodus 12:3–6). Because the lambs were to be without blemish, in Jesus’ day the priests in the temple spent this time examining them carefully for fault. While this very examination of the paschal lambs was going on during Jesus’ last week, his opponents were, in fact, trying to find fault in him.”
With Messiah so on my mind right now, this then leads me to reflect upon the significance of the great opening chorus of Part II of the oratorio, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
The final major episode of the day was the great Olivet Discourse, prophesying of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which further stands for the destruction of the world and all the wicked at Jesus’ great second coming, when his kingship will be fully revealed.
I see this as Jesus’ attempt to prepare and reassure his disciples, understanding how confused, terrified, and heart-broken they would be at the end of the week when their Master was taken, tortured, and cruelly slain, he sought to reassure them by pointing their minds forward to that future time when he would, in fact, come in glory as king of all the earth. The occasion of their reassurance has, in turn, provided us with a helpful road map to prepare us in the Last Days, which also fills us with hope and anticipation as we look forward to his return.
Please visit the full blog entry for more discussion, and, as usual art and Holy Land photos.