Episode 122 - Passion Week: Tuesday, part 4
Hi I’m Josh Hawkins, welcome to episode 122 of Opening Up the Gospels. For the past few episodes we’ve been looking at the events of Tuesday of Passion Week, the last day of Jesus’ public ministry before His crucifixion in Jerusalem at the Passover of 29AD. We’ve seen Him confront the Jewish authorities with His identity and His message so much already in His 2 years of public ministry, and this day in Passion Week brings all of that to a climax. We began with Jesus exhorting His disciples after seeing the withered fig tree back in Episode 119. Then we saw Him discussing with the Jews about His authority and speaking several parables that condemned them specifically. In the last episode, we looked at His words to the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians about paying taxes to Caesar as well as to the Sadducees about marriage and the resurrection. There was no one party that Jesus was going to side with as each of them sought to assert themselves and discredit the others. In today’s episode, we’re going to look at more of Tuesday’s events, beginning with Jesus’ words to some Pharisees in Matthew 22:
"But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”"
(Matthew 22:34–40 ESV)
Recall the verses just before this passage - Jesus had silenced the Sadducees by using the Law to show that there will be a resurrection of the dead. Clearly Jesus had shown His knowledge and understanding of the Law in confounding the Sadducees who believed that the 5 books of Moses were the only authoritative ones. So the Pharisees must have had a little smile on their face because the opposing party had been silenced. This time, the Pharisees themselves gather together and an expert in the Law addresses Jesus, unlike earlier in the day when the Pharisees sent their disciples to test Him. Now the question the lawyer asks, “which is the greatest commandment?” seems a little odd to us, almost as if this guy was just asking innocently. But at the time, there was debate in and out of the parties in Judaism about if it was even possible to rank or summarize God’s commandments to the nation. They must have thought: “surely this might be a way that Jesus could be trapped in His words.” However, Jesus answers beautifully, summing up the commandments in wholehearted devotion to God and love from the heart for the ones made in God’s image. Jesus is quoting both Deuteronomy 6:1-3 and Leviticus 19:18. These two commandments are the greatest because all of the others flow from them. The heart must first be right before God and before others. Then, obedience to the rest of the Law will follow. Mark’s Gospel adds the following details to this scene:
"And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions."
(Mark 12:32–34 ESV)
We can’t be sure exactly how this happened, but the man asking the question must have been impacted by Jesus’ response. By affirming Jesus’ words and saying that love for God and neighbor was more important that burnt offerings and sacrifices, Jesus is essentially saying “yes, you’re getting it - I care about what’s going on in the heart before I care about what’s happening on the outside, and you Pharisees have just been focused on the externals of obedience. But now that you see a little more, you’re not far from repenting and being guaranteed an inheritance in my coming kingdom.” It was from that point that no one else dared ask Him any other questions. We can’t be sure, but maybe they felt that they should stop before more people might consider heeding Jesus’ words and joining Him. Well let’s read what happens next from Matthew 22:
"Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet” ’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions."
(Matthew 22:41–46 ESV)
So Jesus goes on the offensive here with a question of His own. From what family line does the final king of Israel come from? They all answer correctly, because they know the Scripture in 2 Samuel 7 where God promised that the final king who would reign on a throne in Israel forever would be David’s son. But according to Psalm 110, David saw this final king from his line as someone more than his son. David calls him “Lord”. In the original Hebrew in Psalm 110, this is the word “adonai”, which is a word used of God in the Old Testament, and is now used by David to speak of his son. So how can David’s son be not only the Messiah who was promised to sit in Jerusalem and rule forever, but also one who sits at Yahweh’s right hand and rules over His enemies? Well the Pharisees have no answer and dared not ask any more questions from that point. David’s son was also the God of Israel Himself, because no one else sits at God’s right hand except for God - in other words, no one else has the same authority and power of God except God Himself. Does that make sense?
Psalm 110 verses 1-4 goes on to be quoted more often in the New Testament than any other Old Testament passage because of how it so clearly points to the truth about Jesus as both the Jewish Messiah who will one day sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem and as the God of Israel Himself, reigning from the heavenly throne over all of creation. By this point, all of Jesus’ opponents had been silenced. First, the chief priests and elders through the question of His authority, second, the Pharisees’ disciples and Herodians in the question of paying taxes to Caesar, third, the Sadducees in the question about marriage and the resurrection, and fourth, the Pharisees themselves in this instance.
Now I mentioned back in Episode 118 that Jesus unmistakably asserts and proclaims His divinity many times in the final six months of His ministry - first, at the feast of Tabernacles in October, then the feast of Dedication in December, and now again here at Passover. His quote of Psalm 110 on Tuesday of Passion Week is yet another explicit instance where He claims He is the God of Israel. We 21st century Gentiles often have a wrong paradigm of what “divinity” was for the Jews, which makes us sometimes wrongly think that Jesus was somehow fuzzy on His identity as the God of Israel and He was trying to come to terms with that. But as we’ve seen, that’s not true at all. In His last 3 visits to Jerusalem, He gave explicit statements of His divinity to the leadership. They knew what they were doing when they killed Him. Jesus had claimed to be one with Yahweh and that He was due the same honor that Yahweh was due. They weren’t just crucifying some messianic pretender - they were crucifying someone who had claimed and proven to be the God of Israel.
Now at this point each of the Gospels tell us about the woes, the verbal condemnations Jesus gives to the scribes and Pharisees in front of His disciples. Has been teaching in the Temple for much of the day, and after all of His critics were silenced, some severe words are spoken. Mark and Luke’s Gospels only give a few verses of Jesus’ words in Mark 12:37-40 and Luke 20:45-47, but Matthew gives us much more in Matthew 23:1-36. I’ll develop more of Matthew’s account in the next episode. But let’s read a bit from Luke’s Gospel here:
"And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”"
(Luke 20:45–21:4 ESV)
After just a couple of verses of woes recorded by Mark and Luke, Jesus looks up and sees the rich as well as a poor widow putting their offering into one of the 13 offering boxes in the Temple. Mark says that the rich had put in large amounts out of their abundance, but the widow put in two small copper coins, which was all that she had to live on. She was poor and did not have much, but she was clearly not anxious about her life and, as Jesus said back in Luke 12:21, was “rich toward God”. This widow, like the other examples we’ve seen throughout the Gospels, was willing to give and leave everything because of her love for God.
Well in the next episode I want to look at the final events of Tuesday - I’ll cover Matthew’s record of Jesus’ woes to the scribes and Pharisees, and I’ll also talk about the well-known passages in Matthew, Mark, and Luke about the destruction of the temple and the end of the age. I’d encourage you to go back and watch any of the episodes you’ve missed in this series, you can find them all on my website, www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, I hope you come back next time.