Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Holy Week - Day 4

It's Wednesday and we are in the middle of the countdown. The text today will come from the three Synoptic Gospels. The word 'synoptic' means 'Taking the same point of view. Relating to or being the first three gospels of the New Testament, which share content, style, and order of events and which differ largely from John.' (from Matthew, Mark, and Luke tend to carry much similar information - if there seem to be differences in them, it can generally be attributed to an extension of the story - or the fact that the story is told from a different perspective.

Matthew 24:1-26:16, Mark 13:1-14:11, Luke 21:5-22:6. John 13 opens with the Passover Feast - and we just aren't there yet. We'll get there tomorrow.

Have you ever pointed out the beauty of a scene, only to have your compatriots tell you all of the details of its structure and the negative things about it - the contractor overbilled, there was all kinds of corruption, they tore down a beautiful park to build the high rise, erosion is destroying the natural beauty. All of that. Well, Jesus was kind of a party pooper as we begin this lesson today. The disciples were all talking about the beauty of the temple. They pointed out the stones and the magnificence of it all. What was Jesus' response? "Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be thrown down." My first thought would have been, "Ok ... He's not terribly interested in the scenery ... I'm going to shut up now."

Fortunately for us, the disciples pushed further. They finally got to the Mount of Olives (scholars call this the 'Olivet Discourse') and his disciples got him aside privately. "Lord when will this happen - and what will be the signs of the end of the age." Now, I'm never sure whether or not those 12 disciples really knew that they were talking to God's son all of the time. For heaven's sake, they lived with the man. Did He snore? Who knows ... but, they did! Today though, they got it. If anyone could tell them how the world was going to end - Jesus could.

What He did tell them was to always beware. Watch out that they aren't deceived by false Christ's. Wars and rumours of wars shouldn't alarm us. Famines and earthquakes in various places. These are the beginnings of the birthpangs. (These things are so familiar to us - and people are always trying to prophecy the end of time with every new natural disaster or war - but, these things have been part of the world since the time of Jesus - it's not that much different now). This is just the beginning.

The gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world ... and then the end will come. We still have some time. As small as the world is getting - the gospel hasn't gotten everywhere.

The abomination that causes desolation. Daniel speaks of this - and when He does, He is prophecying about Antiochus Epiphanes - a Greek ruler who would come in the future and destroy Jerusalem and slaughter many Jews. Jesus is talking about a future character as well. We meet this character in Revelation 13:14-17. The false prophet set up an image of the antichrist, breathed life into it so that it could speak and ordered all to worship the image.

When that happens, Jesus says, it is time to run to the mountains. Don't stop to take anything - just get out of Dodge.

Jesus is very specific in telling us that the day and hour is unknown. No one knows when this will happen - only God. But, we will recognize the day when it does come. The Son of Man will appear in the sky - He will appear in the coulds with power and great glory. We won't be surprised by His arrival.

What Jesus wants us to fully understand from this passage is that we need to be ready. Always! Matthew goes on to relate parables that Jesus used to explain this. The parable of the Ten Virgins and the parable of the Talents are told to teach us to be prepared.

The ten virgins went out to meet the bridegroom. Five were foolish and didn't take enough oil for their lamps. The five wise virgins took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom took his sweet time in arriving (duh ... he's a man ... he takes his time!) When he finally came near, the foolish virgins didn't have enough oil - they tried to get the five wise virgins to share, but no such luck. So ... of the foolish ones went to buy some oil - and during that time, the bridegroom arrived, the wedding banquet began and the door was shut. In other words - be prepared.

The man going on a journey gave his servants some cash - one got $5, another got $2 and another got $1 (talents). The first two put their money to work and doubled it, but the guy with the least amount of money buried it. The master was so pleased with the first two - he gave them a lot of responsibility. The last one? Lost the single dollar he had and was tossed out. In other words - if you live the life WELL that you have been given - much more will be given to you. Don't squander what God puts into your life.

Matthew then goes on with one last parable. I want to be a sheep. Because when the Son of Man comes on the cloud (Matthew 25:31), He starts separating the sheep from the goats. The sheep took care of the King's people who were hungry and thirsty and needed a place to stay or clothing, or care when they were sick, or a visit when they were in jail. Because, Jesus says, whatever you do for the least of them, you do for Him. Those goats on His left? Ummmm ... He says "get away from me - you are cursed. You did nothing for anyone except yourselves. And that means you did nothing for me."

If you are reading these passages, you will notice that Jesus is anointed in Bethany and we are told that the Passover is two days away. That means that all of these things have been happening - and it's probably still Tuesday. Jesus kept heading out to the Mount of Olives in the evenings to get away from the crowds. They were waiting for Him every morning at the temple.

The Chief Priests and the elders of the people began meeting in the palace of Caiaphas (kye-uh-phus), the High Priest (you know ... the guy who is supposed to go into the Holy of Holies?). They were plotting to arrest Jesus (Matthew says "in some sly way") and kill him. They were pretty clever though. They didn't want to do it during the Feast - because the people might riot. Ahhh ... politics ... they never change.

Jesus went to Bethany again - to another friend's house - Simon the Leper. While he was there, the woman dumped her alabaster jar of perfume on his head. What extravagant thing have you ever offered in sacrifice? Wow ... she really did it. The disciples got a little annoyed - they, of course, thought the money could have been used in a better way. Hmmm ... I recognize some people in that group! But, Jesus blessed her for her actions, and rebuked the disciples.

We're almost done today. But, one last thing has to happen. Judas left that little group of friends and went to the chief priests. Mark says that 'they were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.' Matthew, tells us that it was 30 silver coins (remember, Matthew was a tax collector - he would have watched the money), while Luke is the one that tells us that Satan entered Judas.

Each of the gospel writers tells us things from their own perspective. The entire story is what makes our scriptures so profound.

Come back tomorrow - it will be a long post, so be prepared! A lot of things happen, beginning with the Last Supper.

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