Jesus' public ministry comes to a close on Tuesday of Passion Week. This episode reviews the major themes developed by the Gospels in the two years of His ministry to Israel and examines the short record of events on Wednesday, including Judas' agreement with the Jewish authorities to betray Jesus.
Hey everyone, Josh Hawkins here, welcome to Episode 124 of Opening Up the Gospels. Since episode 119, I’ve been looking at the events of Tuesday of Passion Week. Tuesday was the final day of Jesus’ public ministry to Israel, and from this point on, we no longer see any public teaching recorded by the Gospels. Think about how serious and significant this is for the nation - they have ignored John the Baptist and Jesus, and had not responded to their message from the heart, and the final words recorded by the Gospels on this day have to do with the very center of Judaism and the nation of Israel. Jesus says that the Temple will be destroyed and the nation will be scattered, but God would still be faithful to everything He promised in the Law and the Prophets. Israel would one day be regathered after a time of great trial, also just as the Prophets spoke about. In today’s episode I want to do a couple of things - first, before we begin to look at the events of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, I’ll review some of the major themes of Jesus’ ministry to Israel. There’s so much we’ve talked about, and I think it would be helpful to tie everything together for you. And second, we’ll take a short look at what the Gospels record on Wednesday of Passion Week. Well let’s do a quick review of the themes we’ve seen in Jesus’ public ministry. The first one is the call to Israel to bear the fruits of repentance. The gospels begin by telling us about John the Baptist, a man who bursts on the national scene out of the silence of the prophets for the last 400 years. John began baptizing Israelites and telling them that the day of the Lord was at hand and that their ethnicity was not sufficient to qualify them to inherit what God had promised them through the covenants. He also said that he was the voice that Isaiah 40 had spoken about, and that there would be one coming after him who would separate and divide the nation, like the way wheat and chaff are separated. And who shows up on the scene next? His relative, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus came to reckon with Israel, and His direct appeals began with the leadership of the nation, the ones responsible for shepherding the people. This all began in the heart of Judaism, in the Temple, on “day 1” of His public ministry, and would continue for the next two years. That leads us to the next main theme I’ve talked so much about, and that is the division of the nation of Israel. We looked at John the Baptist’s message and saw that the division brought about by this coming one would not be evident until the end of the age, when some Israelites would get the promised Holy Spirit as the Prophets said, and others would be consigned to unquenchable fire. Jesus would indeed polarize the nation. Many were for Him, many were against Him. All of the miracles, signs, wonders, and teaching had a schismatic effect, and that was what He intended. He was not just haphazardly walking around Israel, being nice to a bunch of people and yelling at the Pharisees while buying time before going to the cross. Jesus was on a very focused mission, all because of the covenant made with the nation at Sinai, and the purpose for which He chose or elected them. Jesus was the very God of Israel made flesh, directly appealing to His covenant people Israel to repent and return so that they may be a light to the nations in order that they would know the one true God. His main controversy was with the leadership of Israel, the representatives of the nation. They hated Moses and the Law and God Himself, as evidenced by their hatred of Jesus. The third major theme I’ve discussed throughout Jesus’ public ministry is His identity as Messiah. From the moment they met Him, Jesus’ disciples believed Him to be the Messiah. The Messiah was not the forgiver of sins or even at all in their minds as the one who would die on the cross. Messiah was just the throne name of the kings of Israel, and according to God’s covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7, a son would come from his line who would be Israel’s king and reign on his throne in Jerusalem over a kingdom that would endure forever. The angel Gabriel said to Mary that her son would be that king. The Twelve continued to believe this truth about Him even through trying circumstances, when He was not doing the things they would have expected the Messiah to do. The fourth major theme would be that Jesus affirmed the message of the Old Testament and did not change or rework or reimagine what was spoken to Israel through Moses and the Prophets. The promises would not be established in partnership with man like any of the recent insurrection movements, but would be apocalyptic in nature - God Himself would bring to pass what He promised by His own strength at the end of the age. Remember that the expectation of so many in Israel at the time was that the promised Messiah would come and crush Rome in partnership with the faithful and strong ones of the people. Jesus constantly affirms the futurity of the kingdom of God as something God alone would establish apocalyptically. It would not be progressive but would be established suddenly by the strength of God alone. These things were all in line with what the Old Testament spoke, but many in Israel had given up hope for God to bring about a great deliverance as He did in the days of old and assumed it was now partly their responsibility or even privilege to assist God in the task. Ironically, that mindset still exists today, even among Gentiles. A fifth major theme would be the theme of Messiah’s suffering and the “messianic secret”. Before establishing His kingdom and restoring Jerusalem as God had promised, the final king would first have to suffer. This is something that Jesus revealed only to His closest disciples during His ministry. Many times, He told those He healed or set free to keep quiet about His identity, because He knew what the people might try to do to revolt and install Him as the king. Of course after His resurrection and ascension, the truth about Messiah’s suffering as an atonement for the sins of the nation became central to the proclamation of the Apostles. The final Davidic king, as representative of the nation, would embody and display the future path of the whole nation. A death would proceed the resurrection of national Israel, just as the Prophets make clear. And the sixth and final, but by no means least, theme I highlighted was the identity of Jesus as the God of Israel in the flesh. The miracles over creation, the forgiveness of sins, the assertion of Himself in the place of God in Old Testament passages during the Feast of Tabernacles, Dedication, and the final Passover, and the “I Am” statements throughout John’s Gospel all point to the staggering truth of who Jesus really is. God visited His people, and humbled Himself even to the point of death on a cross. Now of course there are many other themes that I could have highlighted in a review of Jesus’ public ministry - His compassion, His marveling at the faith of some Gentiles, the upholding of the Law, His controversies with the Pharisees about their traditions, and many others. I think it’s so important that we remember that the public ministry of Jesus and even the larger story of the Gospels themselves has complete continuity with the Old Testament and is continuing the story of Israel. So much of what we see taking place is exactly what Moses spoke about in Deuteronomy - that the people of Israel would turn away from God, that they would not hear the voice of the prophets, and that they would not repent, and thus the curses of the covenant would be upon them. As I mentioned in the last episode, this is why the Temple was going to be destroyed and the nation would be scattered. God was actually being faithful to what He had promised, because He has deep concern for His reputation among the nations. Israel had not “imaged” Him rightly, and thus would be subject to judgment. Yet a remnant would be preserved to carry on the promises, just as God had done throughout the nation’s history. Well with the time left in this episode, I want to talk about Wednesday of Passion Week. The Gospels do not record Jesus as having taught in the Temple. In fact, the Gospels record very little at all about this day. With the busyness of the last several days beginning with His entry into Jerusalem on Sunday, Wednesday must have provided rest for Jesus as He prepared for His crucifixion. He likely woke up in Bethany like the previous several days. But what was going through His mind and heart as He prepared to drink the cup of suffering on Thursday and Friday? What words came out of His mouth to the Twelve? There is so much to ponder and meditate on. Think about what the Twelve might have been feeling. On three occasions, the Gospels record Jesus predicting His coming suffering - we looked at each instance in Episode 83, 86, and 112 . Maybe the Twelve had not really thought much about it. After all, the common conception of Messiah did not include suffering at all - they expected Him to raise up an army and start a revolt against Rome. As was sometimes thought, the strength of the flesh in partnership with God would bring to pass God’s promises. But what might have been confusing to them in the past would not be today. In just two days time, what He had been saying about His death would be a reality. I imagine the Twelve could only sit around in mourning and silence as He spoke to them. But there was one man who didn’t have sorrow in his heart, and that was Judas. It was on this day that He went to the Jewish authorities and agreed to betray Jesus. Let’s read from Matthew 26: "When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people… Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him." (Matthew 26:1-5,14–16 ESV) So Judas agrees to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. That’s commonly known. But what’s not as commonly known is that this money would have been Temple money, money that was supposed to be used for the purchase of sacrifices. Of course this has massive symbolic significance. Also, thirty pieces of silver was the amount that the Law set forth as the purchase price of a slave. That’s in Exodus 21:32. The high and lofty One took on the form of a servant and was bought at the legal price for a slave. Oh, Judas had absolutely no idea what he was doing. Yet in doing so, the prophecies about Messiah’s suffering were being perfectly fulfilled. Well I’m out of time for this episode, but in the next one we will begin the journey through the Passover feast and Jesus’ crucifixion. If you’ve missed any of the episodes in this series, you can find them all on my website - www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, and come back next time.