Hi I’m Josh Hawkins, this is Episode 106 of Opening Up the Gospels. In Episode 105 we looked at John chapter 11. We were in Bethany, just two miles outside of Jerusalem, where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. News of his raising reached Jerusalem quickly, and the Jewish authorities from that day on made plans to put Jesus to death because their power and wealth would be completely undermined if the whole nation started following Him. Unlike the Jewish leadership, Mary and Martha were among those in Bethany who were completely convinced of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, the one God would anoint to rule from Jerusalem forever and bring to pass everything that He had promised through the Law and the Prophets. Again, I hope you see the contrast here. The decisive miracle of Lazarus being raised has once again caused a division in Israel. Those who loved their money, power, and position in this age sought to kill Jesus, while those who eagerly hoped for God to fulfill what He had promised bore the fruits of repentance.
Well, we are fast approaching the most narrated time period in the Gospels, which is the final week of Jesus’ life before He is crucified, called Holy Week or Passion Week. In today's episode I want to give a quick overview of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem for the Passover feast in 29AD when He ends up being crucified. There still is a fair amount of events that take place between the raising of Lazarus and Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for Passion Week, and many of those are narrated in Luke 17, 18, and 19 as well as Matthew 19 and 20 and Mark 10. But before I talk about those, let’s go back to John 11 for a minute and look at something we didn’t have enough time to read from the last episode. John says:
"So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples."
(John 11:47–54 ESV)
John says that Caiaphas, the high priest that year, prophesied that Jesus would die for the people instead of the whole nation perishing. What he spoke was a well-known Jewish adage at the time, and this is sacrificial language. Now Caiaphas didn’t mean it himself in the sense that a 21st century Gentile like us would commonly understand it - He would have thought of it in terms of the Old Testament and the idea of a substitution or a scapegoat, in order to spare the Jewish nation and the leaders. John explains how Caiaphas was prophesying, however, in saying that Jesus would die for Israel, and not only for the nation but for all of the Jewish pilgrims who had been scattered throughout the world. The prophets spoke of God’s promises to regather His covenant people to share in the inheritance of the land in the promised kingdom of God in passages like Isaiah 43:5, Ezekiel 34:12, and Ezekiel 36:24. Now later we would see Peter say in Acts chapter 2 that Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. The Messiah would first have to be crucified before entering His glory. This was not a surprise or an unexpected twist of events for God. For the Jews, however, it was a blow to their false hope that God's promises would be established by the strength of man or in partnership with man. And the mystery that would be made clear would be that the path of Jesus through suffering to glory would also be the path of the whole nation. As the Law and the Prophets speak about, a time of distress and trouble would precede the nation’s restoration, resurrection, and final regathering. There’s so much more to say, but the sort of “accidental" prophecy of Caiaphas was extremely significant.
Now because the Jews sought to put Jesus to death, John says that He no longer walked openly among them and withdrew to a region in the wilderness to a town called Ephraim. As you can see on the map, Ephraim is located in the wilderness in northern Judea just south of Samaria. We don’t really know what Jesus did during His visit there, but presumably only the Twelve were with Him and He just laid low, away from the surging crowds and the angry Jewish authorities. From this place, Jesus heads north perhaps back to Capernaum to spend some final moments with His mother and brothers and to travel to the upcoming Passover with them. I think Mark’s Gospel can give us confidence that Jesus went north because of what Mark 15 says:
"There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem."
(Mark 15:40–41 ESV)
Mark is telling us that there were certain women who were looking at Jesus on the cross from a distance, and he says that when Jesus was in Galilee, these women followed Him and ministered to Him. One of these women looking on was of course His mother Mary. And Mark also says that there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem. It doesn’t seem like these women would have been with Him for the last 4 or 6 months since the last time He came to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Dedication, and so this is why I think Jesus likely headed north for a short while after being in Ephraim with His disciples. Now in Luke 17 verse 11, Luke says:
"On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance"
(Luke 17:11–12 ESV)
So Luke says that Jesus is on the border between Galilee and Samaria, which is clearly north of Ephraim. Yet again we have another reason to assume that Jesus had gone north after Ephraim. Now we’re not sure of the timing of all of these events that follow, but from Luke 17 onward, we see Jesus journeying southward toward Jerusalem once again. This is the third and final journey to Jerusalem during this Late Perean and Judean period.
Well let’s take a look at our timeline so we can get an overview of the events we’re going to see in this time period right before Passion Week. We begin in Luke 17 where we see Jesus cleansing ten lepers. This is such a divisive scene because the only one who gives glory to God and returns to thank Jesus is a Samaritan, a non-Jew. After that, Jesus is approached by Pharisees and gives a discourse on how and when the kingdom of God will be established. Then, He tells the story about the persistent widow to encourage His disciples to continue in prayer and faith until the kingdom is established. Then, Jesus gives an important parable comparing the heart posture of a tax collector versus a Pharisee. Then we see Mark’s Gospel narrating a few events, first beginning with a discourse on marriage and divorce. Then we see Jesus blessing little children as they came to Him. Then we see the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10 and Luke 18, where the man refused to give up his wealth to follow Jesus. He goes on to teach His disciples how it is extremely difficult for those with much wealth in this age to be a part of the kingdom in the age to come. We then jump to Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus gives a parable about workers in a vineyard. That’s in Matthew 20. And then in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we see Jesus predicting His suffering a third time, and the disciples continue to seem pretty ignorant about what’s going to happen to Him. Then, Jesus is approached by James and John and asked if they can rule at Jesus’ right and left in His kingdom, and He exhorts them to become servants. And finally, Jesus is heading into Jericho after crossing the Jordan and meets Zacchaeus and stays with Him. Luke alone records that scene.
We can’t get exact precision on the timing but we do know that all of these events occurred between the time Jesus went north from Ephraim and then departed from Galilee in Luke 17 and then arrived in Jericho in Luke 19. Perhaps this journey took several days, or maybe even a week or two. As I’ve mentioned before, pilgrims would travel to the feasts in Jerusalem in large groups, so because there was no reason to hurry, it makes sense to see these events occurring as Jesus slowly moved southward. At this point, Jesus is only perhaps a couple of weeks away from being crucified. We get small glimpses of what was on His heart during these last couple of weeks, but what was going through His heart and mind as the days and nights passed? He was about to make final appeals to the crowds on the road to the Passover and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem during the feast. Sadly, most of them would not bear the fruits of repentance and would continue to refuse Jesus’ message.
Well in the next episode we will begin to look at the events of this final journey beginning in Luke 17 with the cleansing of the ten lepers. If you’ve missed any of the past episodes in this series, you can find them all on my website - www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, I hope you come back next time.