Jerusalem at the Passover

John 2:22-23.

When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

¶Now when He was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in His Name, when they saw the miracles which He did.

Image result for Jerusalem at the Passover

Jesus’ words would come back to the disciples after He rose from death. Here, indeed, was another proof that this Man was actually divine; the only Son of God.

We transition now to the Passover in Jerusalem, the first one Jesus observed there in His public ministry. Throngs crowded the streets, and especially the area of the Temple.

We are not told of the miracles He did during this period. Apparently they were enough to be talked about among all the crowds, and John records that “many people believed in His Name when they saw the miracles He did.”

People are always drawn to a good show. There was already a level of excitement as family members from far places were reunited at the Passover season. Preparation had to be made for the feasts; animals had to be readied for the sacrifices; lodgings must be found, food purchased. It was probably chaotic, something like our Christmas shopping season.

I am also reminded of various “faith healers” who have come and gone in my lifetime. At the height of their fame, many people believed in them because of their deeds at healing services. It’s exciting and amazing to see people who had been sick or disabled for years suddenly freed from illness.

There’s a reason, though, why Jesus wasn’t impressed with the belief of so many in Jerusalem. We’ll discuss that tomorrow.

Testimony of the Disciples

Matthew 28:16-17. “The the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him: but some doubted.

The other gospels give us much more detail about the last few times Jesus was with the disciples, but that is not the point of Matthew’s account. Here, Jesus is seen giving His final commission to His followers.

I have tried to imagine what the disciples must have been thinking; what they were feeling.  We know that some doubted; especially Thomas, poor man, whose name has come down through the centuries as if he were the only one who ever doubted.

The events of the past week had surely shaken the faith and the understanding of these men.  They had witnessed terrible things, feared for their own lives, and then been shocked to see the Lord risen from the tomb. I think we are too hard on them for their doubts.  I really don’t think any of us would have been any different.

So they worshipped Him, and yet there was some doubt.  They loved Him, they had followed Him, and in accounts in the other gospels we learn how lovingly He spoke with them, with such compassion and understanding.

He is God, after all; He was Man, after all.  He knew them better than they knew themselves, and He loved them.

What a Savior we have!

Testimony of the Women

Matthew 28: 8-10.”And they (the women in 28:1) departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy: and did run to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail! And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid; go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me.”  (also Mark 16:8; Luke 24:8; John 20:11)

Our pastor reminded us yesterday that in Jesus’ time, according to the Torah, the testimony of a woman was not allowed in legal matters.  It was considered worthless.

How like our Lord, then, to appear first to the women who loved Him, and to send them to tell the disciples of His resurrection.  I am sure that their words were at first received with doubt, but something about them must have persuaded the disciples to go and see for themselves.

The idea that God considers women to be second-class to men is not founded in biblical truth. God loves women, and has honored them over and over throughout the scriptures. It is the traditions of mankind that belittle women; it is not any word of God that does so.  Think of the women who ministered to Jesus and His disciples during his earthly ministry. He honored them, and in fact protected  them from the anger of His disciples.

Jesus showed great tenderness to His mother when He was on the cross, giving her over into the care of John.  Women were of great importance later in Paul’s ministry; he honors them many times in his epistles, mentioning those by name who helped him and helped establish churches.

God loves women.  We are, after all, His crowning creation 🙂

Watch and Pray

Matthew 26:40-41. “And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with Me one hour?  Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,”

Did Jesus go back to where Peter, James and John were resting to look for some encouragement or support?  We don’t know. We only know that when He came upon them, they were rolled up in their cloaks, fast asleep.

Have you ever been astonished by this scene?  How could they sleep, after Jesus had made it so clear that terrible things were about to happen?  Why were they not in earnest prayer, as the Rabbi was?

Jesus woke them. He said, “Couldn’t you stay awake to watch with Me for even an hour?  Watch and pray, because if you don’t you will enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He was warning them yet again of trials to come, knowing that in their spirits they wanted to be loyal to Him, but that when the hammer fell, they would succumb to fear and doubt.

It is not the weakness of these men that surprises or amazes me.  It is the patience of Jesus.

Gethsemene

Matthew 26:36.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.”

Gethsemene was a garden just across the brook Kidron, about 200 yards from the city wall of Jerusalem. The word Gethsemene means the oil press, referring of course to the pressing of olive oil.  It was a favorite place of retreat when Jesus was at Jerusalem. It may have been owned by Joseph, or Nicodemus, or some other wealthy follower of Christ–but that is not made clear to us. The simple truth is that it was a beautiful, calm, and private place of retreat where Jesus chose, on this portentuous night, to gird HImself in prayer as He faced what came next.

I always feel a sense of awe, of holiness, when I think of Gethsemene.  Jesus faced His immediate future there, seeking a final time of fellowship with the Father before He began His journey through the horrors that awaited Him. I have friends who have seen Gethsemene, and they all came away from it with a stillness of spirit, knowing how Jesus struggled there in prayer.

It makes our own struggles seem a little small in comparison, doesn’t it?

Betrayal

Matthew 26:20-21. “Now when the even was come, He sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, He said, Verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me.”

I can imagine that in the first few seconds after Jesus made this startling statement, there was a thick and uneasy silence.

Betray Him?  What?  How could that be?  Who among these dedicated men who had followed Him for three  years would even think of such a thing? No, it wasn’t possible!

But they had learned that Jesus never spoke an unneccesary  or false word, and their astonishment turned to great sorrow. Who?  Who was the one who could not be trusted?  Who among them would do such an evil thing?

And I can imagine them lying their, reclining on the couches that were customary, looking a Jesus and trying not to look at each other.  Sideways glances, downcast eyes, perhaps angry eyes, perhaps fearful eyes.

One pair of eyes, though, must have glanced furtively at each of the other disciples, already knowing that the deed was in play, and wondering what his consequences would be.

The Disciples Did What He Said

Matthew 26:19. “And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.”

I love the simplicity of these verses.  Yesterday, in verse 18, we read that  the disciples followed Jesus’ instructions to approach a certain man.  How did they know which man it was?  In Luke 22:10, Jesus gave specific instructions. “And He said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house were he entereth in.”

And how did the man with the pitcher know John and Peter would be looking for him?  I don’t know.  Maybe it was a prompting in his heart from God.  Maybe he recognized them from some other place where he had seen them with Jesus.  Whatever the case was, this man was willingly used of God to offer an upper chamber to the disciples, where they then set about preparing for the passover feast. 

What strikes me about this whole passage is that no one questioned Jesus, or, as far as we know, tried to stop Him once again from entering Jerusalem.  They simply obeyed His orders, without any hesitation. He spoke, they listened and acted.

Why do we make things so hard?  When God speaks to us through His Word, through a sermon or a devotional, or through a friend or a spouse, why do we question every little part of what is said?  Why do we try to impose our own ideas on something that is clearly from the Lord?  Doubting Thomas was not the first to question, and he certainly wasn’t the last.

God is so very patient with us. He allows us to ask for signs, and He often chooses to grant those signs.

Wouldn’t it be a fine thing if we simply heard and obeyed?

The Poor are Always With You

Matthew 26: 10-11. “When Jesus understood it, He said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she tath wrought a good work upon Me. For ye have the poor always with you; but Me ye have not always.”

“Why trouble ye the woman?”  What a pointed question!  Here were the disciples, in all their manliness, led by Judas the thief, pointing their fingers at Mary for being wasteful and thoughtless.

Had they forgotten Who it was that they followed? Did they STILL not truly understand what was soon going to happen to Him?  It seems that only Mary, at that moment, was completely concentrated on Jesus, knowing what was facing Him very soon; knowing He would soon give His life as a sacrifice  for the sin of the whole world.

Can you imagine how Jesus must have looked at the men at that moment?  How eloquent His eyes must have been as they rested on Judas!  How confused and uncomfortable Judas and the others must have felt as He faced them, protecting Mary and honoring her for her devotion.

“You will have the rest of your lives to take care of the poor, especially if you do it in My Name.  There will always be people who are in need, who are poverty-stricken and will need your ministrations.  However, you will not much longer have Me.”

Here’s a song that I love, but had forgotten about. My son Mike reminded me of it.  I think it’s a beautiful picture of this event.

The Fig Tree

Matthew 21:17-20. :And He left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and He lodged there. Now in the morning as He returned into the city, He hungered. And when He saw a fig tree in the way, He came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!”

As always, there is far more to this incident than meets the eye. The first thing that occurs to me is that Jesus, Son of God, Son of man, God incarnate, had a very human need.  He was hungry. Such a seemingly small thing, but it reminds us again of Who He was, and what He came to do.  He was God. He was man. He was the only One Who could perform the act of salvation for mankind because He was sinless, divine, and human. No other faith offers a Savior. Only Jesus. 

The fig tree, in scripture, is a type or picture of the nation of Israel. As a nation, Israel had rejected Jesus as Messiah. When Jesus inspected the tree, looking for fruit, He found nothing but leaves. There was nothing to satisfy His hunger, to feed and sustain Him.  The cursing of the fig tree stands for the national rejection of the people. Israel yielded no fruit; therefore, the barren tree was cut off and cast into the fire, while the root remained (Luke 13). 

The disciples were amazed at how quickly the curse Jesus spoke  came to fruition. He used their amazement to teach a lesson on faith and prayer, which we will look at tomorrow. 

Obedience

Matthew 21:6-7. “And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set Him thereon.”

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.  I’ve always wondered how this event might have looked.  Here’s a really good explanation, it seems to me.

What strikes me about these verses today, though is the complete obedience of both the disciples and the owner of the animals.  There doesn’t seem to have been any hesitation in their cooperation.

When they had brought the donkey and the colt back to Jesus, they laid their clothing on the donkey’s back. Finally, they helped Jesus up onto the animal’s back. What happens next must have amazed the disciples. Did they understand yet what was to take place in Jerusalem?