The Wednesday of Passion Week was a preaching day for Jesus. And the tone of his sermons were sobering. Earlier in that day, He was led to confront the hypocrisy of the religious leaders (Matt 21:23-23:39; Mark 11:27-12:44; Luke 20:1-21:4). And then later, He preached the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-36), which is a series of discourses of prophetic material. The tone of the sermons certainly fits the theme of this week of being a sobering one.
Preaching to the Religious Leaders (Matt 21:23-23:29)
The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were always challenging the authority of Jesus. Not wanting to deal with their questions directly, Jesus decided to expose their hearts by telling a series of three parables: the parable of two sons, the parable of the tenants, and the parable of the wedding feast. Each of these parables illustrated a lack of real repentance in these religious leaders, and even though they were greater teachers of Israel that had accumulated may good works, their hearts were far from Him.
Frustrated with the rebuke from Jesus, the Pharisees devised a plan to trap Jesus with a question on paying taxes. Hoping they could either get Jesus to say, “Support Rome” or “Rebel against Rome”, they asked whether or not taxes should be paid to Caesar. He dodged their trap with a brilliant response to pay their due taxes, but reminded them that paying taxes does not make Caesar have any divine authority over God. God will still be God.
The Sadducees thought they could improve upon what the Pharisees attempted and they devised their own question of entrapment – “Who will a man’s wife be if he had seven wives on earth?” What a weird and silly question to ask, and yet, Jesus in His wisdom quickly dismissed all marriage in heaven and then reminded them of His deity.
What followed in Ch. 23 was a blasting of their hypocrisy. He pronounced a series of woes (or curses) upon their leadership, their morality, etc. It was most certainly a “turn or burn” sermon, but one in which ended with an emotional outcry from Jesus about their lack of repentance. We would all do well to pray for the same level of empathy that Jesus had when he saw hypocrisy.
Preaching the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24-25)
What Jesus preached in these chapters must have been hard to hear. He warned of impending judgment, and no doubt a few decades later when Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, there would have been some who thought back to this sermon and wondered if that was what Jesus was speaking of. Whether Jesus meant to prophesy of those events or not – we will reserve for another blog post at another time.
He gave this sermon on the Mount of Olives. Themes of God’s judgment, the Tribulation of seven years, signs at the end of days, the Antichrist, the 2nd Coming of Christ, and the immanency of these events were the content of this sermon.
The point: be ready, because you don’t know when God will begin to usher in these events. And once they are set into motion, he might be too late for you to respond in salvation.