The Appearance of the Redeemer
from Redemption Realized Through Christ, Chapter 3
By Leland M. Haines
Under construction-- Italics have not been added.
For Footnotes hit the number in the brackets. Use "back" to go back.
The Birth of the Redeemer
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
John Baptizes Jesus
The Kingdom of God
The Only Way
His Mighty Works
The Twelve Disciples
John the Baptist
Jesus' View of Scripture
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
The Last Passover
Events in Jerusalem
The Lord's Supper
The Burial of Jesus
The Birth of the Redeemer
"When the fulness of the time was come," God prepared to send His Son into the world to redeem fallen man (Galatians 4:4). The first step occurred "in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea" (Luke 1:5), and involved a priest named Zacharias and his wife, Elisabeth. "They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (v. 6). They had no children and little hope of ever having any, since they were old.
It was customary to cast lots to determine which priest would "burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord" (Luke 1:9). While Zacharias was ministrering in the temple, he was chosen by lot to carry out this duty. A priest was granted this privilege but once. During this service the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias and told him that even though he and his wife were old, they would have a son. Furthermore, Zacharias was to call this son John. "He shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. . . . And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah], to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (vv. 15-17). John's ministry was foretold in Isaiah: "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Mark 1:2, 3, from Isaiah 40:3; cf. Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:27).
Six months after Elisabeth's conception, the same angel Gabriel appeared
to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:27-35
The angel appeared to Joseph also and explained what was to happen: "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20, 21).
These events were foretold "by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matthew 1:22, 23; from Isaiah 7:14). Jesus was the Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) and not the man. Jesus' supernatural birth was the way God chose to bring His Son, the Holy One who would save His people from sin, into the world. The conception of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit combined in One Person the divine nature of God and sinless human nature (John 1:1, 14). God sent "his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3), becoming "of no reputation . . . made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7). "As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same" (Hebrews 2:14). When Jesus took on Himself a human body and human nature, He did not partake of sin. He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 2:22; II Corinthians 5:21). Notice, too, that Mary and Joseph were of the lineage of David (Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23, 31), from which the prophets foretold the Messiah would come.
"Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the King" (Matthew 2:1). Micah foretold that Jesus' birth would be in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, decreed that every one should return to his own city to be enrolled (or registered) for taxation. Mary and Joseph, Jesus' parents, lived in Nazareth and went to "the city of David, which is called Bethlehem" (Luke 2:1-7), since they were of the house and lineage of David.
Although He was the Son of God and had dwelt in the courts of heaven, Jesus had a humble birth. Not one room was available at the inns of Bethlehem for His mother when the time came for His birth. Only a stable was available, and His bed was a manger (Luke 2:7). Nevertheless, His birth was notable. Angels announced His birth to "shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (v. 8). They brought "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (vv. 10, 11).
In the humble birth of Jesus, the Creator of the universe laid aside the use of some of His divine attributes to become a true man. This Child, born in Bethlehem, was the Word who had made all things. He came to this world, yet "the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own [the Jews] received him not. . . . The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth" (John 1:10, 14; see 8:58; 17:5; and Philippians 2:6-8 for evidence of His preexistence).
The term incarnation is used to describe the Son of God becoming flesh, that is, man. It is one of the most incomprehensible facts of history. How the divine and human attributes existed together in the incarnate Son of God is difficult to understand. The Bible teaches that the Son had a divine nature (Isaiah 9:6; Jeremiah 33:14-16; Malachi 3:1, 2; John 1:1-3, 14; 5:17, 18; Romans 8:3, 4; Colossians 1:19; Hebrews 1:2, 3). The Bible teaches too that He had a human nature (Matthew 26:26, 28, 36; Luke 23:46; 24:39; John 1:14; 8:40; 11:33; Acts 2:22; Romans 5:15; I Corinthians 15:21; I Timothy 2:5; 3:16; I John 4:2).
How and why the Son of God surrendered His divine rights can be understood only by seeing the holiness and love of God in response to the sinfulness of man. Only then can we begin to appreciate Jesus' redemptive suffering for man.
The incarnation was essential to God's plan to redeem man from sin. The law was never meant to save men. Its purpose was to show them that they were sinners. Only an incarnated God-Man by His self-sacrifice could redeem man. "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Romans 8:3, 4). God's Son came "to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
Eight days after His birth, Jesus, the Redeemer, was circumcised in accordance with the Mosaic law and as a consequence of His humanity. The Son of God took on human flesh when He was born of woman. Since He lived under the law and came to fulfill all righteousness, His circumcision was the first step in His lifelong obedience to the law. This also served to identify Him with the promise made to Abraham that "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Genesis 22:18).
The law required every firstborn to be consecrated to the Lord. If the firstborn was a male child, he was to be presented to the Lord. "As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord. And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law." Therefore, Jesus' parents took Him to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord (Luke 2:23, 24; cf. Exodus 13:2, 13; Numbers 18:15, 16).
Simeon, a righteous and devout man, had been waiting day and night for the consolation of Israel. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Christ. When the Christ Child was brought to the temple, Simeon quickly recognized Him: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32).
Anna, a prophetess and an elderly widow who stayed at the temple day and night fasting and praying, also recognized Jesus as being the Christ. "She coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:36-38).
Joseph, being warned by the angel of the Lord of Herod's hostility toward the Child, fled to Egypt with his family. This fulfilled what "was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son" (Matthew 2:13-15; from Hosea 11:1). When Joseph, Mary, and the Child returned to Israel after the death of Herod, they found that Herod's son Archelaus reigned. Being afraid of Archelaus and being warned by God, the young family withdrew to Galilee, where they took up residence in Nazareth. As the prophets had said, "He shall be called a Nazarene" (v. 23).
Little is known of Jesus' early life. Luke tells us that Jesus "grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40). Being from a poor family, Jesus probably received no formal education, only training from His parents as required by the law and instruction at the synagogue. He studied the Scriptures Himself, and His training and development were extensive. By the age of twelve, when He was taken to Jerusalem and was unintentionally left there by His parents (they thought He was with relatives), Jesus already possessed great wisdom. When His parents found Him, He was "in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers" (Luke 2:46, 47). When asked about His remaining behind, He said, "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (v. 49). At this early age, He was already conscious of His divine mission.
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
As Jesus grew in mind, body, and wisdom, John the Baptist, whose birth was also foretold by the angel Gabriel, prepared for his ministry. John "grew, and waxed strong in the spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel" (Luke 1:80). John not only grew physically, but he grew spiritually. He lived in the wilderness, apparently away from the distractions found among men, and there received the word of God. John did not receive the priest's normal education. At the end of this preparation, probably by age thirty, "the word of God came unto John . . . . And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Luke 3:2-4). Jesus said that for those who would receive it, John the Baptist was Elijah whom the prophet Malachi had spoken of (Malachi 3:1; 4:5, 6; cf. Matthew 11:13-15; Luke 1:17). John spoke as the prophet Isaiah had prophesied: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Matthew 3:3). Many people responded to John's message, confessed their sins, and were baptized (v. 6).
Many leaders of the Jewish religious sects, the Pharisees and Sadducees, came for baptism too. This surprised John since he knew their high opinions of themselves and their arrogant view that everything was all right with them since they could say, "We have Abraham [as] our father" (Matthew 3:9). John confronted them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (v. 7). He warned them not just to come for baptism but to repent as others had. This repentance was to be more than words: they had to bear "fruits meet for repentance. . . . every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Matthew 3:8, 10; cf. Isaiah 40:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23).
John's ministry was not an end in itself. He knew he was preparing the way for One to follow: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Matthew 3:11).
John Baptizes Jesus
While John was baptizing and preaching his message, Jesus left Galilee and went to him to be baptized. "John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" (Matthew 3:14). John felt unworthy; he needed Jesus. Jesus answered him, "Suffer [let] it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (v. 15). John wanted to fulfill all the God-given instructions for the Jewish people, thus Jesus was baptized. Immediately "the heavens were opened unto him, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him [Jesus]: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (v. 16; cf. John 1:29-34). Jesus' receiving the Holy Spirit and the Voice from heaven in the presence of the multitudes were a testimony that Jesus' ministry was beginning. Soon after this "John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). John clearly saw Christ's work as the Savior, the One who would take away the sins of the world. John recognized that his "forerunner" commission would soon be fulfilled and that he would fade away as Jesus' ministry increased. John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (3:30). John recognized that Jesus "cometh from above [and] is above all. . . . he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God. . . . The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (vv. 31, 34-36).
After Jesus' baptism, the full extent of His ministry became evident. He was soon confronted with important decisions about His life. "Immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness" (Mark 1:12), where He spent forty days alone in prayer, meditation, and fasting. During this time He faced temptations from the devil (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1-13).
After fasting forty days, Jesus became hungry. The tempter came to Him and started with the same approach used against Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1), questioning the Word of God. Satan said, "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread" (Matthew 4:3). Jesus knew He was the Son of God and did not distrust His Father; therefore He refused to obey Satan's demand for proof of His Sonship. Jesus trusted in and appealed to His Father's Word to defend Himself from Satan's first temptation, saying, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (v. 4).
The words Jesus spoke are part of Moses' address to Israel concerning the importance of keeping God commandments. Moses said, "All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live" (Deuteronomy 8:1). He told them they should remember their forty years in the wilderness and how it "humbled thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no" (v. 2). God had taught them that man cannot live "by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live" (v. 3). Thus Satan's challenge to Jesus was on the wrong issue. Jesus could have turned the stones into bread, but it was more important to follow the word of His Father. Jesus would not distrust or tempt God by ignoring any part of it. Jesus rejected Satan's appeal in this first temptation and passed His first challenge to solve man's most important spiritual need (cf. Luke 4:1-4; Deuteronomy 8:3).
The devil, knowing that Jesus accepted the Word as truth, next used the Word incorrectly to tempt Him. He took Jesus to "the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone" (Matthew 4:5-6; cf. Psalm 91:11-12). Once more the devil demanded proof that Jesus was the Son of God, and Jesus again did not yield to Satan's request. Satan knew Jesus was the Son of God. For Jesus to follow any of Satan's requests would have been wrong, including his request for additional proof of Jesus' deity. To defeat Satan's demand, Jesus appealed to Scripture again: "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Satan misused the Scripture he quoted because he sought to stress one Scripture and disregard others that would clarify its meaning (Matthew 4:7; cf. Luke 4:5-12).
Next the devil showed Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me" (Matthew 4:8). The devil challenged Jesus to seek an earthly kingdom by worshiping him rather than God. But Jesus replied from Scripture, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (v. 10; cf. Deuteronomy 6:13; I Chronicles 21:1). After Jesus withstood these temptations, the devil left Him, but only until a better opportunity came to further tempt Him (Luke 4:13; cf. Matthew 4:11).
The temptations of Jesus serve to let man know that temptation in itself is not sin, and that man has a Savior who was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). He was like "his brethren [man], that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour [help] them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:17, 18). By withstanding temptations, Jesus ultimately would began a series of events that defeat the power of sin and bring redemption to man.
Jesus is described as "the Lamb of God" (John 1:29), "a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1:19; cf. Hebrews 9:14), and one who "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (I Peter 2:22). The word lamb connotes sacrifice to the Hebrew mind. This "lamb without blemish" was the Sacrifice to be offered for man's sin.
Throughout His life Jesus faced temptations from the devil, who wanted to prevent the Lamb from becoming the sacrifice for the world's sins. Jesus, however, did not yield to Satan but remained absolutely sinless by completely obeying God's will. Later He challenged His enemies, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" (John 8:46). They could not point to any sin in His life. God had Jesus come into the world as a perfect man, "who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II Corinthians 5:21). Since He was sinless, Jesus was qualified to be the Mediator between God and man (I Timothy 2:5).
After the temptations Jesus continued to live in full obedience to God's will, testifying that "I do always those things that please him" (John 8:29). He was the perfect man, the last Adam, the life-giving spirit (I Corinthians 15:45; cf. John 5:21; Romans 8:2; Hebrews 9:14). His perfection totally controlled His character and conduct.
Sometime later, Jesus approached John and two of his disciples, and John again bore witness to Him: "Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus" (John 1:36, 37). One of these disciples, Andrew, went and found "his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias [the Christ]" (v. 41). Jesus was the Anointed One the Jews were looking for (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18). Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, who told Simon that he would soon be called Cephas. "Cephas" is Aramaic, which by interpretation is "Peter," and this latter name means stone (John 1:40-42). Later we will see the significance of this change of name.
Then Jesus met Philip on His way to Galilee and "saith unto him, Follow me" (John 1:43). Philip followed. Philip soon found Nathanael and told him, "We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write" (v. 45). Nathanael must have been a student of the Word, since he understood Philip's remarks. After his meeting with Jesus, Nathanael recognized that Jesus was "the Son of God . . . the King of Israel" (v. 49).
Jesus, with His mother and disciples, went to a marriage at Cana in Galilee. During the marriage feast the supply of wine failed. Because she knew that her Son was able to perform miracles, Jesus' mother spoke to Him about the situation. He responded to her request by saying, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come" (John 2:4). To us Jesus' response might seem somewhat disrespectful. In the Jewish culture the response was entirely appropriate. In a sense Jesus was saying, "What have I to do with the shortage of wine?" Jesus may have been mildly displeased with the situation, but He still responded, asking that six stone jars of about twenty or thirty gallons each be filled with water. Then He told the servants to draw some of the liquid and take it to the overseer of the feast. The governor found the sample was good wine. This miracle "manifested forth his glory" (v. 11), and caused His disciples to believe on Him. This was the first of Jesus' miracles, the first of His signs that attested to His deity (cf. 20:30, 31).
Soon after this Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover. There He was shocked to see that the temple, dedicated to God, had become a place where money changers were selling oxen, sheep, and pigeons. Jesus' holy wrath and indignation moved Him to drive the animals out of the temple courts. "Take these things hence," Jesus commanded, and "make not my Father's house an house of merchandise" (John 2:16).
The Jews inquired by what authority Jesus cleansed the temple and asked for a sign from Him. He answered by referring to a coming event: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). Although this would be a most convincing sign, the Jews did not understand the meaning of His words. They thought only of the forty-six years needed to build the temple. They did not realize that Jesus was referring to His body, which He would raise in three days after He gave His life to reconcile man to God.
Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, was probably one of those who believed in Jesus because of the signs He did (John 2:23). Nicodemus' faith was weak, so he "came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (John 3:2). Bypassing the normal greeting, Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about salvation. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (v. 5). No one can see (or comprehend) the kingdom of God unless he has a change of heart. This was hard for Nicodemus to understand. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (v. 6). This rebirth, the regeneration of sinful man, was not a natural but a spiritual matter. Jesus reminded Nicodemus that he does not marvel about natural things he does not understand (for instance, where the wind comes from or goes to). So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. The rebirth would be as real as the wind's effects on a person's life, even though he might not understand how it occurs.
Nicodemus inquired further with this question: "How can these things be?" (John 3:9). Jesus replied,
Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:10-15
Next follows a summary of the central truth of the Gospel:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. John 3:16-21
After His meeting with Nicodemus, Jesus went into Judea where He continued teaching about the kingdom of God. Then Jesus went to Galilee by way of Samaria. During this journey He rested at a well dug years before by Jacob. While Jesus was there, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink. This surprised some of His followers since Jews held Samaritans in contempt. They were of mixed blood because of a forced mingling during the eighth century B.C. Assyrian occupation of Israel, and they had developed a monotheistic religion similar to the Jews.
During her conversation with Jesus, the Samaritan woman raised a point that caused heated arguments between the Jews and the Samaritans. Was Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem the place where men were to worship? The Samaritans had built a temple at Mount Gerizim when the Jews had refused their help to rebuild the temple after the Jews return from the Babylonian captivity. Jesus replied, "The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. . . . the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:21-24). Jesus stressed that attitude and spirit were more important than the place of worship.
Passing through Samaria, "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:14, 15; see also Matthew 4:23-25). Jesus immediately drew popular support. The people "were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes" (v. 22). He did not follow the Jewish scribes' customary practice of citing various authorities for His statements. Instead, He spoke truth that stood on its own strength; it needed no authorities to support it.
Early in His ministry in Galilee, Jesus returned to the town of "Nazareth, where he had been brought up" (Luke 4:16). During His stay there He attended the Sabbath worship service at the synagogue and addressed the congregation. He
stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias [Isaiah]. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. vv. 16-20; cf. Isaiah 61:1
He then declared, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21). The Jews first spoke well of him "and wondered at the gracious words," but remembering that He was Joseph's son, they rejected Him. He told them, "Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country" (v. 24). They were "filled with wrath" toward him and "thrust him out of the city" (vv. 28, 29). They took Him to the brow of a hill and would have killed Him, but He miraculously left, and "passing through the midst of them went his way" (Luke 4:30). After the Nazareth Jews rejected Him, Jesus left their town and went to Capernaum, which He made His headquarters for approximately the next eighteen months.
The Kingdom of God
The Gospels emphasize Jesus' role as a master or teacher (Matthew 4:23; 7:29; 9:35; 11:1; 12:38; Mark 5:35; Luke 18:18; John 1:38; 3:2; 13:13), and as a preacher (Matthew 4:17, 23; 9:35; 11:1; Mark 1:14, 38, 39; Luke 4:44; 8:1), and record many of His teachings. Several of these shed light on the plan of redemption. A central statement in Jesus' ministry was that "the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark l:15). (Mark and Luke use the term "kingdom of God" while Matthew uses the term "kingdom of heaven," possibly because he wrote to Jewish readers who were reluctant to speak the name of God.)
The concept of the kingdom was not new to Jesus' hearers. The Jews had long referred to God as One having sovereign rule over man and His creatures. During the past this included God's rule over Israel, but the political sovereignty ceased with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Nevertheless the idea of the kingdom remained with the Jews. For centuries they looked forward to once again being a kingdom through which God would reign over His people. This anticipation caused many Jews to think only in political terms. Too many Jews could not forget that Israel was once a theocracy that God ruled through their kings. Centuries had passed since the Jews had been carried into captivity by the Babylonians; yet some Jews believed the Roman rule would be broken and Israel would again be restored as a sovereign, political kingdom.
There are two aspects to the kingdom: a present spiritual kingdom and a future literal kingdom. The future literal kingdom, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, will be ruled by Christ the King. The political kingdom the Jews were looking for would "be trodden down [by] the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24; cf. Romans 11:25). This is the subject of the last chapter of this book.
Until then there will be a spiritual kingdom where God rules in the hearts of those who follow the redemptive plan brought by Jesus Christ. Jesus used the term kingdom as an analogy of the spiritual rule of God over men in this age. He never gave a definition of the kingdom but taught what it was like through parables. He taught that the kingdom of God is like sown seed that can be snatched away, choked out by weeds, or grow to maturity and produce a crop (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-30, 36-43; cf. Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15). The kingdom of God would coexist with evil and face opposition from the evil one, the devil. The kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed (Matthew 13:31, 32; cf. Mark 4:30-32) and like leaven that grows to something great from something small and works throughout the world (Matthew 13:33; cf. Luke 13:20, 21). These parables show the kingdom will grow and spread through the world.
The kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44) and like a fine pearl (v. 45), which when found is worth an all-out effort to obtain. The kingdom of God is worth an all-out effort to enter it. This does not mean that entrance can be earned by works of the law, but that the seeker should repent, believe, and follow Jesus unreservedly. The kingdom is like a fishing net in which both bad fish and good fish are caught, but in the end they are separated, and the bad are thrown out (vv. 47-50). Only at the end will the godly followers of Christ and the ungodly be separated. In summary, these parables show the kingdom of God and the evil kingdom will exist side-by-side. At the end of this age, there will be a separation of good and evil, and the children of the King will live in a glorious kingdom.
The spiritual kingdom would be established by God's grace and the work of the Holy Spirit, making it possible for men individually to submit themselves to God. Men would have to forget about being great and become as little children to enter this kingdom. Jesus stated, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3). This implies men must be reborn (see John 3:3-7), giving them a new relationship with God. The kingdom of God referred simply to this reestablished rule of God in the hearts of men. Men would return to a relationship to God approximating the one they had before the Fall. They would have to repent, or turn from their rebellion against God and trust and obey Him. Each one must "humble himself as . . . [a] little child" (v. 4). Little children show humility by trusting and depending on others. In this case the wayward in humility must rely solely on Jesus to bring forth the necessary conversion. This is "good news" for those who repent and believe. The term good news translates the Greek term euaggelion, which is usually translated gospel.
The kingdom of God is separate from and opposed to the kingdom of this world, which is composed of children of Satan (Matthew 13:38; John 8:44) and is ruled by Satan (Ephesians 2:2). The object of the kingdom of God is to overthrow the kingdom of darkness by defeating Satan's power over man (Matthew 12:22-30; Romans 13:12) and by giving him a new nature through the rebirth (John 3:3; Ephesians 4:22, 23; Colossians 3:9, 10; I Peter:1:23; 2:2). This new man is "not of the world but . . . chosen . . . out of the world" (John 15:19; 17:14). The Father gives them to Jesus "out of the world" (17:6). Jesus further explained that "they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (v. 16).
The phrase "kingdom of God" bears witness also to the spiritual nature of the kingdom, which has its origin and source in God. To the Pharisees who asked Christ about His coming kingdom, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20, 21). It was not a kingdom patterned after Israel with "signs to be observed" (v. 20 RSV), that is, with rituals, regulations to be observed, a political state, etc. The Greek term entos translated "within you" means "within you, in your heart," and is sometimes translated "among you, in your midst." Thus the RSV translates this verse: "The kingdom of God is in the midst of you," or as the footnote states, "within you" (17:21 RSV). Entrance into this spiritual kingdom requires conversion or the new birth. Without it the unregenerate and spiritually unenlightened man can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5).
The concept of the kingdom of God, where man again comes under God's rule, implies that those who belong to it possess a new set of values. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is a clear example of these new standards. They deal with man's relation with his brothers (5:21-26), with adultery (v. 28), with divorce (vv. 31, 32), with swearing oaths (vv. 33-37), with resisting evil (vv. 38-42), with one's enemies (vv. 43-48), with giving alms (6:1-4), with prayer (vv. 5-13), with forgiveness (vv. 14, 15), with fasting (vv. 16-18), with accumulating earthly wealth (vv. 19-21), with loyalty (v. 24), with anxiety (vv. 25-34), with judging (7:1-5), and with asking your heavenly Father to fulfill your needs (vv. 7-12).
The sermon concludes with an admonition to "enter in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13, 14). Jesus' followers are to beware of false prophets who are "ravening wolves" (vv. 7:15ff.) and to be aware that
not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell: and great was the fall of it. 7:21-27
From the above it is clear that the Sermon on the Mount presents a new set of standards that differ sharply from the law and the scribes' teachings. This sermon shows Jesus is deeply concerned about moral issues. His teachings are much deeper than Jewish legalism. "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom" (Matthew 5:20). The wise man will "heareth these sayings . . . and doeth them," but he does them not only in an outwardly way, as the Pharisee might, but sees and follows their inner meaning too. He will take heed to Jesus' warnings about the consequences of not following them. The result of not following these teachings is serious. It would be like building a house on sand that would not withstand a storm.
Throughout His ministry Jesus called men to follow Him and become His disciples. Those who accepted this call were to count the cost involved. When "a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest" (Luke 9:57), Jesus reminded him that "foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (v. 58). To follow Jesus is costly, and men had better consider it before starting out.
At this time another man accepted Jesus' call to follow Him, but he had a supposedly reasonable thing to do first: "Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father" (Luke 9:59). When a would-be disciple hears the "Follow me," nothing should prevent his following-even if it means letting the dead bury their own dead. "Another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house" (v. 61). But Jesus had to remind this person that no man who puts "his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (v. 62). Again the would-be disciple is told that nothing may come between him and his following the Lord.
Matthew exemplifies the type of response for which Jesus was looking. This tax collector was sitting at his tax table when Jesus said to him, "Follow me. And he arose, and followed him" (Matthew 9:9). The Pharisees criticized Jesus for calling a tax collector to be His disciple. "Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" (v. 11). To the Pharisees, Matthew was a traitor because he had sold out to the Roman government and was working for them. Jesus had to remind these religious leaders that "they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (vv. 12, 13). Matthew repented, changed his life, and became a worthy disciple.
At the birth of Jesus, the angels praised, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14). The presence of peace depends on man's response to the good news. The call to discipleship may cause friction between those who follow Jesus and their family members and friends who do not. Jesus reminded His disciples that He did not necessarily
come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 10:34-39
After telling His disciples that He must suffer and be killed in Jerusalem, Jesus told them, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:24, 25; cf. Mark 8:34-9:1; Luke 9:23-27; 14:27; 17:33). Deny himself means to disown one's personality and desires and to yield oneself completely to the Lord. Paul wrote to the Philippians that they should have the mind that was in Christ when He emptied and humbled Himself, becoming "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:5-8). The cross symbolizes the suffering¾and if necessary even death¾that the disciple accepts when he follows his Lord. The Lord would not be the only one to suffer; His disciples would suffer too. The cross also symbolizes crucifixion, a term Paul used to describe the Christian: "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24). Those who lose their carnal life will be rewarded with everlasting life.
Luke wrote of an instance where Jesus spoke to a multitude who were interested in becoming disciples. In commenting on discipleship, Jesus first spoke about the need to "hate" family members and one's own life: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26; cf. 12:51-53). These are hard words. The point is disciples must lay aside all interests that prevent full surrender and total loyalty to Christ. This hate can be understood by comparing it to the love Jesus demanded. He told His disciples, "A man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:36, 37). Disciples must love Jesus above all others. This will result in faithfulness and loyalty to Jesus Christ that transcends all family relationships and one's own desires. Nothing is to stand in the way of following Christ. Jesus said, "And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27). He then mentioned that a person intending to build a tower will first estimate its cost to be sure he can finish it, and that no king would go to war without first considering if he could win. "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (v. 33). Discipleship and salvation are serious matters and require a full commitment at the start and putting everything else in second place throughout life. Jesus Christ must be first place in the disciple's life.
Lest some think discipleship is a burden, Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). How can discipleship be easy? The answer lies in the rebirth experience. The disciple's inner nature is changed so that he desires to do God's will and thereby finds righteousness, peace, and joy (John 14:27; 16:33; Romans 14:17; 15:13; Galatians 5:22, et al.). The inner change removes the burden, even though the disciple may suffer for the cause of Christ (Matthew 10:16-25; Luke 10:3; 21:5-19; Romans 8:17; Philippians 1:29, 30; 3:10; II Timothy 2:12; I Peter 4:12-14; 5:10).
The Only Way
Jesus' call to discipleship was a call to follow the only way of redemption. Jesus said,
I am the bread of life. . . . this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. . . . Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. . . . He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. John 6:35, 40, 45-51
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12; cf. 9:5; 12:35, 36). Jesus is the One who frees man from his sin so he no longer walks in the darkness but in the light.
Jesus spoke to the Jews who had believed in Him: "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31, 32). He explained that "whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (v. 34). The person who is a "servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (vv. 35, 36). To be free means freedom from the power and the eternal consequences of sin. "If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death" (v. 51).
Those who seek eternal life must enter by the Door. Jesus used this metaphor to describe the purpose of His being. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that enterth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep" (John 10:1, 2). The sheepfold was a fenced enclosure with a door to enter; Jesus entered so others might have life. He then became the Door for others to enter. He said, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved. . . . I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. . . . Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again" (vv. 9-11, 17; cf. 15). In the kingdom Jesus is the only door since He is the One who gave His life so repentant men can be saved.
When one of His close friends died, Jesus restored him to life. During this event Jesus explained, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:25, 26). Jesus is the source of life and of resurrection from the dead. Neither life nor resurrection exist apart from Him. Victory over death is possible only for those who believe in Him.
Jesus said clearly that the results of hearing Him have eternal consequences:
If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. John 12:47-50
Jesus' purpose was to save the sinner, but if the sinner rejected Him, there was no other way. The sinner will be judged by what he rejected¾the word Jesus bore. Judgment will occur on the basis of God's authority. He empowered Jesus to forgive sins, as He bore witness early in His ministry (Mark 2:10; Luke 7:48).
Those who believe in Jesus and understand the love He has for them will love Him. Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). He promised He would send them a Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to guide and teach them. Jesus explained,
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . . If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. vv. 21-24
Jesus expects those who love Him to keep His Word. Those who believe in Him and keep His word will bear fruit. "I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman. . . . These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:1, 11). The fruit of obedience springs from the believer's life in Christ and brings glory to God and joy to Christ and to the believer.
His Mighty Works
The Gospels record many instances of Jesus performing mighty works. For example, Matthew mentioned ten specfic healings and one instance of power over natural forces in chapters 8 and 9 of his gospel. Jesus healed the leper (Matthew 8:2-4), healed the centurion's paralyzed servant (vv. 5-13), healed Peter's mother-in-law of a fever (vv. 14, 15), healed many with demons (v. 16), calmed the storm (vv. 23-27), healed two demoniacs (vv. 28-34), healed a paralytic (9:1-8), healed the woman with a hemorrhage (v. 20), raised the ruler's daughter from the dead (vv. 18-26), healed the two blind men (vv. 27-30), and healed the dumb demoniac (vv. 32-34).
These are a few of the miracles recorded in the Gospels. Matthew wrote that in different places, as Jesus went teaching and preaching the gospel, He healed "every sickness and every disease" (Matthew 9:35). John wrote that Jesus also did many other signs not recorded because it would take too much space to write them down (John 20:30; 21:25). These works bore witness to Him, gave Him great fame (Matthew 9:8, 26, 31, 33), and resulted in many believing in Him (John 2:11, 23; 3:2; 6:2, 14; 7:31; 9:16, 31-33; 12:18; et al.).
Although Jesus performed many miraculous works, these were not the heart of His ministry. In fact, He often tried to keep men from giving too much attention to them by asking those healed to refrain from telling others (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:22-26, 30; 9:9). Often He included a spiritual lesson with the works so men would see beyond the miraculous. Jesus' main ministry was spiritual. He performed miracles to support this ministry, not to hinder it. Finding solutions to physical problems must not interfere with solving man's root problems, the spiritual ones.
The Twelve Disciples
Jesus' ministry was not confined to His own labors. He appointed twelve disciples or apostles to represent Him in His ministry. They had "power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease" (Matthew 10:1). They were sent to preach that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (v. 7)
Jesus warned His disciples, "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles" (Matthew 10:16-18; cf. Mark 13:9; Luke 21:12). When they were brought before the authorities, Jesus promised them guidance through the Holy Spirit. They were to "take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you" (vv. 19, 20; cf. Mark 13:11; Luke 21:14, 15). Throughout their ministry the disciples could expect to be hated and persecuted (cf. Luke 10:3; 21:12-19).
This promised Holy Spirit "shall teach you [the apostles] all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26). He "will guide [the apostles] into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come" (John 16:13; cf. vv. 14, 15; 14:16, 17; 15:26, 27; 17:7, 8, 17, 20; Acts 1:8). The reality of this promise enabled the disciples to recall and teach all the things Jesus had taught them, making it possible for them to record His word and for us to know His teachings and plan of salvation.
The persecution the disciples received was a reflection of the growing rejection Jesus was facing. "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" (Matthew 10:24, 25). The disciples could expect the same treatment as their Master received and be called the same. But this was not to deter them. They were to teach what they learned from their Master and "preach [it] upon the housetops" (v. 27) and not fear those who could kill "but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (v. 28).
John the Baptist
After fulfilling its purpose, John the Baptist's ministry ended in a tragic way. Herod the tetrarch seized John and put him in prison because he had denounced Herod's living with his brother's wife, Herodias. Herod wanted to put John to death but "feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet" (Matthew 14:5). At a birthday party Herodias's daughter danced and pleased Herod, "whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask" (v. 7). Prompted by her mother, the girl asked for John the Baptist's head. "The king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake" (v. 9), Herod fulfilled the daughter's request (Matthew 14:1-12; cf. Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9).
Upon hearing of John's death, Jesus withdrew to a lonely place to rest. John's death impressed on Jesus the opposition He would face, which in just a year would cause Him to give His life to redeem man. Jesus and His disciples needed rest before they resumed their strenuous ministry (Mark 6:31). The disciples had just returned from an exhausting teaching and preaching journey that drew large crowds, and they needed time to eat and rest.
Despite Jesus' desire for rest, the people continued to follow Him (Matthew 14:13; Mark 6:32, 33). His compassion moved Him to heal the sick and feed the hungry (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:35-44). After Jesus sent His disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee by boat, He sent the people away. Jesus then went on a mountain to pray, knowing that after John's death He would soon express His love for all in the ultimate act¾crucifixion. When evening had come, He went to join His disciples in the boat, walking on the sea (Matthew 14:22-36), again miraculously showing His divinity.
The Pharisees and scribes increasingly opposed Jesus. They looked for every opportunity to find fault with Him. Once they accused His disciples of violating the traditions of the elders because the disciples did not wash their hands before they ate. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for making the Word void by their own law, saying, "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3). They had devised a method for avoiding the commandment to honor father and mother. Jesus told them, "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (vv. 7-9; cf. Mark 7:1-13).
Jesus explained to the people that it is not what one eats with unwashed hands that defiles a person "but that which cometh out of the mouth" (Matthew 15:11; Mark 7:15). What proceeds out of the mouth comes from the heart, Jesus said, and this defiles the man. "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:19; cf. Mark 7:14-23). The disciples noted that this statement offended the Pharisees. Jesus told them, "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matthew 15:13, 14).
The Pharisees did not forget Jesus, for they soon returned to ask for a sign. He again rebuked them by telling them they knew how to tell whether the weather would be fair or stormy by looking at the sky. He told them, "O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" (Matthew 16:3). He said, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas" (v. 4; cf. Mark 8:10-12).
These are just two instances of the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. Earlier they created conflicts over fasting (Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-28; Luke 5:33-38), plucking heads of grain and healing on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-3:5; Luke 6:1-11), an immoral woman's anointing Jesus' feet with ointment while at a Pharisee's house (Luke 7:36-50), healing a lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-18), and what to do with a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).
Jesus' View of Scripture
Since a conflict arose between Jesus and the Jewish leaders over the Scriptures, it is well for us to understand Jesus' attitude toward Scripture. He treated Scripture as the Word of God, the revelation of God to Israel. Jesus once stated that "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35), and that He did not come to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). He warned that
whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19-20
When Jesus reproved the scribes and Pharisees, He did so because their legalistic approach to the Scriptures often voided the Word of God. They had built up a system of traditions not based on the Scriptures. Jesus did not oppose these people because they wanted to follow God's will but because they misunderstood His will and refused to be corrected. Desiring that all men do God's will, Jesus took every opportunity to explain more clearly the Sabbath commandment, fasting, alms giving, praying, and other laws of God.
In many cases Jesus reestablished the original purpose of the law. He reestablished, for example, the permanence of the marriage bond. The Mosaic law permitted divorce because of the hardness of man's heart. Jesus did not allow any reasons for divorce. The exception found in Matthew appears to be for the breaking of an engagement because of fornication. Matthew's Gospel was written to Jewish readers who held a high view of the betrothal period, requiring a formal divorce to break it (Matthew 1:18-22; 19:1-12).
During one of His confrontations with the Jews, Jesus told them their "father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56). The Old Testament saints looked forward in faith to Him, but they "all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off" (Hebrews 11:13; see also 11:39, 40). Jesus told His disciples, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them: and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them" (Matthew 13:16, 17; cf. Luke 10:23, 24). Peter later wrote, "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (I Peter 1:10, 11). Jesus clearly spoke to His disciples about His being the One to whom the Scriptures pointed (see Luke 24:27, 44ff.).
At first the apostles did not fully understand Jesus' mission. Its significance developed slowly throughout His ministry. An example of this can be seen in Peter. He was introduced to Jesus by Andrew, his brother, and was told at the time that they had "found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ" (John 1:41). The full impact of these words did not come to Peter until three years later.
As Jesus and His disciples came to Caesarea Philippi, He asked them, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" (Matthew 16:13). After the disciples mentioned some of the common opinions as to Jesus' identity, He asked, "But whom say ye that I am?" (v. 15). Peter spoke first, as he often did, making a confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v. 16). Peter received Jesus' commendation for his answer. The meaning of Jesus' ministry was just beginning to become plain to His disciples. Jesus told Peter that his understanding was not the result of human intelligence; rather, the Father had revealed it to him. Jesus told Peter, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (vv. 18-20; cf. Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21).
There is much confusion about "binding and loosing." Jesus twice referred to this concept, once in a teaching sense and once in a disciplinary sense.
The "binding and loosing" Jesus spoke to Peter of is used in a teaching sense. Binding and loosing thus becomes a method of teaching about the kingdom whereby the meaning of God's Word would be unlocked so that men can understand and be saved. These disciples quickly grasped this as a teaching concept since "keys" were the symbol of the scribes, the teachers of the law. Thus the "keys" were keys to understanding. The basis for saving and condemning was already decided in the "courts" of heaven. Those who believed that Jesus was the Christ and followed Him would find heaven's door opened to them. Those who rejected and refused Christ would find heaven's door shut tightly against them. Thus as a teaching method, making the gospel message clear would have either a binding or loosing affect on those who heard.
These keys were initially given to Peter (Acts 2), but Acts 15 shows the keys were given also to the apostles in general. They were called together to a conference in Jerusalem to consider the question how the Mosaic law related to the Gentiles. Peter did not decide this question on his own, as if he alone had the keys to the kingdom.
Jesus promised a "Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26). This promise is most significant; it ties the apostles' remembrance of Jesus' words to Jesus Christ Himself. He promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles in their teaching and writing, enabling them to recall and teach all things He had taught them. This promise was made again before His ascension (Acts 1:8).
In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul alluded to Jesus' teaching when he wrote about "the household of God . . . built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Ephesians 2:19, 20). The church was built by the apostles, as a group, who possessed the keys. These keys enabled them to build Jesus' church and to put the word of God into a written form after Jesus' resurrection. This enabled the Christians to know about the redemptive events and God's will for their lives.
Soon after Peter's confession, the Transfiguration confirmed that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the top of a high mountain, and there He "was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his garments was white as light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him" (Matthew 17:2, 3). This was a new experience for these disciples. They reacted by wanting to build booths for the three men. At this point "a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (v. 5). The disciples were filled with awe.
The Transfiguration then came to a sudden end. Returning from the mountain, Jesus told His disciples, "Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead" (Matthew 17:9). The disciples then asked Him about Elijah returning before the Messiah was to come. Jesus explained that Elijah had come, but "they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed [pleased]. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them" (v. 12). The disciples understood that He was speaking of John the Baptist (v. 13; cf. Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36).
Peter recalled the Transfiguration in his second epistle: "For we have not followed cunningly [cleverly] devised fables [myths] . . . [we] were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount" (II Peter 1:16-18). The Transfiguration was one of three events that included a verbal witness from God (cf. Matthew 3:17; John 12:28).
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
After Jesus announced to Peter that He would build His church, and before the Transfiguration, Jesus began "to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day" (Matthew 16:21). Peter did not believe this should happen and rebuked Jesus for making such a statement. Jesus told Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men" (v. 23; see also 17:22, 23; cf. Mark 9:31, 32; Luke 9:44, 45).
Jesus planned to go to Jerusalem for the Passover, but some Pharisees warned Him that Herod planned to kill Him. He told them,
Nevertheless I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Luke 13:33-35; cf. Matthew 23:37-39
On His way to the city, Jesus explained more of His plans: "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again" (Matthew 20:18, 19; cf. Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33). He explained this further when He answered the question of the wife of Zebedee about allowing her two sons to sit on His right and left in His kingdom:
Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:25-28; cf. Mark 10:42-45
The purpose of Jesus' coming to the earth was to save the world (John 12:47; cf. 3:17). He was the Good Shepherd, who came "that [men] might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. . . . The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. . . . I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. . . . This commandment have I received from my Father" (John 10:10-18). Jesus would give His life voluntarily to ransom man from the eternal consequences and power of sin.
The Last Passover
When Jesus approached Jerusalem, He sent two of His disciples to obtain a donkey and her colt. This fulfilled the prophecy concerning His entry: "Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass" (Matthew 21:5; cf. Zechariah 9:9). They
brought the ass, and the colt, . . . and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. Matthew 21:7-11; cf. Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19
The King, in weakness and poverty, entered Jerusalem. A triumphant entry it was, with a king riding on a beast of burden that no "political" king would ever ride, dressed in a homemade, seamless, woven garment, riding on streets covered with palm limbs-a person from Nazareth who Pilate and the Romans ignored. Only the common people were stirred up, and of course some Jewish leaders were miffed because they were not the center of attention. What a triumphant entry for the KING of KINGS!
Even as the triumphant entry was in progress, some people opposed what was happening. "Some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out" (Luke 19:39, 40; cf. Matthew 21:15, 16). Some Pharisees opposed Jesus' triumphant entry-they wanted Jesus the Messiah ignored. Jesus did not rebuke His disciples, for something of great importance was happening, and if they did not cry out the stones would.
As Jesus approached the city, He could see its magnificent temple. The great temple, covered with brilliant plates of gold, stood in an immense square, along with many structures of white marble. The city, an emblem of stability and prosperity, was surrounded with great walls. Yet Jesus saw more, and He wept over the city, saying,
If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. Luke 19:41-44; cf. Matthew 24:2; Mark 13:2
Even as He listened to the hosannas, Jesus realized what the results of the Jews' rejection of Him would mean for the city's future.
Jerusalem normally had many visitors during the Passover, but this season held exceptional excitement. Because Jesus' ministry had caught the attention of so many, the whole city was aroused by His entry. But the crowds who spread the palm branches and shouted the hosannas no doubt failed to realize that they too were fulfilling Zechariah's prophecy and thus identifying Jesus as the Messiah.
Just before going to Jerusalem, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. "For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle" (John 12:18). The Jewish leaders resented Jesus' popularity and the converts that resulted from the raising of Lazarus; therefore the Sanhedrin council had raised the question,
What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. John 11:47-52
From that day forward the problem of Jesus was decided for the Jewish leaders; they would seek a way to put him to death (John 11:53). They seemed more concerned about preserving their institutions than understanding what Jesus' signs meant. Thus as Jesus' entry to Jerusalem drew such excitement, the leaders became fearful that everyone would believe in Him. They felt helpless and said one to another, "Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him" (12:19).
Events in Jerusalem
The next day Jesus went to the temple, and for the second time He drove out all who sold and bought in the temple. He "overthrew the tables of the moneychangers . . . and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves" (Matthew 21:12, 13; cf. Mark11:15-17; Luke 19:45, 46). Three years earlier, at the beginning of His ministry, He had cleansed the temple. The changing of money and the selling of sacrifices were so profitable that the evildoers had returned. This second cleansing further identified Jesus as the Messiah, for it showed that He had authority from God to take charge of the temple. The second cleansing also brought strong response from the chief priests and scribes when they heard what happened. They "sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine" (Mark 11:18).
The next day the chief priests and elders came to challenge Jesus' authority in the hope of blocking His progress. Jesus had clearly told of His mission before He came to Jerusalem. Now, with His triumphal entry and with the cleansing of the temple, it was clear to all what was happening; but the leaders and many of the people were stubborn and refused to believe. When Jesus returned to the temple the next day, they "came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" (Matthew 21:23). This was a good question; yet it was not asked in hope of finding an answer. The Jewish leaders knew what He was teaching and who He claimed to be, but they were not interested in an answer. They wanted only to challenge Him. Jesus replied, "I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?" (vv. 24, 25). They did not answer because they realized if they said John's baptism was from heaven, He would then ask, "Why did ye not then believe him?" (v. 25). If they said, "Of men," they knew the people would react, for all men held John as a prophet. So they did not answer, and neither did Jesus (cf. Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8).
In response to the Jews' challenge, Jesus spoke three parables to warn the people of the stubbornness and blindness of the Jewish leaders. The first, a parable about two sons, showed that the Jewish leaders were unprepared to receive Him. A "lower people," not the chosen ones, were ready. The second, a parable about the vineyard, showed that the Jews had repeatedly killed God's prophets and were about to kill His Son. Had they not read in the Scriptures, "The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?" (Matthew 21:42). This time their rejection would mean that "the kingdom of God shall be taken from [them], and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (v. 43). The third parable, about a marriage feast, showed how an invitation that was refused was given to others. Similarly, Jesus had invited the Jews to follow, but since they refused, He would now invite others (Matthew 21:28-22:14; cf. Mark 12:1-11; Luke 20:9-18).
The point of these parables is, "For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). Hearing this, the Jewish leaders surely recalled Jesus' earlier comments that "the kingdom of God shall be taken from you [Jews], and given to a nation bringing forth fruit" (Matthew 21:43). The chief priests and the Pharisees understood that Jesus was speaking of them. From then on they attempted to arrest Him but feared the multitudes who saw Him as a prophet. The leaders would have to turn the masses against Him before He could be arrested (Matthew 21:45, 46; Mark 12:12; Luke 20:19, 20).
"Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk" (Matthew 22:15). They decided upon three questions. The first concerned taxes. "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" (v. 17). Jesus, aware of their evil intention, told them bluntly, "Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?" (v. 18). Taking a coin with Caesar's image on it, He gave them a simple answer: "Render . . . unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (v. 21; cf. Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:21-26).
The Sadducees' second question concerned resurrection and marriage in heaven. The affect of this question (and Jesus' answer) on the people was just the opposite from what the Sadducees had wanted. "When the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine" (Matthew 22:33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40).
The third question came from the Pharisees: "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" (Matthew 22:36). This query had become a favorite of this group who frequently discussed the law. He quickly answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (vv. 37-40; cf. Mark 12:28-34).
After answering these three questions, while the Pharisees were still gathered together, Jesus asked them, "What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?" (Matthew 22:42). They quickly replied that He was the son of David. Then Jesus asked them, "How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?" None of them could answer; thus they dared not ask Him additional questions (vv. 43-45; cf. Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44).
Jesus then spoke to the crowds about the false leadership and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. They were the ones who "say, and do not" (Matthew 23:3), who put "heavy burdens" (v. 4) on men's shoulders, but would not assist others in moving them. They "shut up the kingdom of heaven against men" (v. 13) because they would neither enter nor allow others to enter. Jesus spoke woe unto them, pointing out they were "blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel . . . full of extortion and excess . . . full of dead men's bones" (vv. 24, 25, 27). They were the same as their fathers who shed the blood of the prophets. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (vv. 37-39; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:45-47).
Jesus' words were strong and frank. There was no further need to avoid offending the Jewish religious leaders. They had shown their true colors by their constant attempts to entangle Him by His words.
The Jews had rejected Jesus although "he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him" (John 12:37). Their rejection fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 53:3). The Jews' rejection was not complete, however, for some believed; "but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:42, 43).
Jesus came to the world as a light. Those who hear and obey His sayings, He will not judge. "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world" (John 12:47). But those who have rejected Him have a judge. "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (v. 48). The mission of Jesus, who was sent from God to bring eternal life to those who receive Him as Lord and Savior, was now close to being fulfilled.
After Jesus taught His disciples about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world (Matthew 24 and 25), He turned to His disciples and said, "Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified." The opposition to Jesus had reached the point where "assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him" (Matthew 26:1-5; cf. Mark 14:1, 2; Luke 22:1, 2). They covenanted with one of the disciples to deliver Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).
The Lord's Supper
Jesus told His disciples to prepare for the Passover, since His time was at hand. During this supper He instituted two ordinances to be observed by His followers: communion and foot washing. "Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:26-28; cf. Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20; I Corinthians 11:23-26). The bread is taken in memory of Christ's broken body. The cup recalls Christ's shed blood. Communion symbolizes the new covenant brought into effect by His blood.
After supper Jesus "poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel" (John 13:5). After having washed their feet, he explained what he had done. He told them, "Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. . . . If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:13-15, 17). Jesus used the occasion of the Lord's Supper to introduce a new ordinance that reminded disciples of brotherly service. This is an example all Christians should practice, and they will receive a blessing from obedience.
After the Lord's Supper, Jesus and His disciples went to the Mount of Olives. There Jesus warned the disciples that "it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered" (Matthew 26:31). They would all desert Him, and He would have to face His crucifixion alone (cf. Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:31-38).
Jesus then went to a place called Gethsemane. He told the three disciples with Him that His soul was very sorrowful, even to death, and that they should stay near as He went to pray.
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. 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. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me. Matthew 26:39-46; cf. Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46
At that moment, Judas, one of the twelve, brought soldiers and a crowd to seize Jesus. To identify Jesus, Judas greeted Him with a kiss. The soldiers who were sent from the chief priests and elders took Jesus. He could have called many legions of angels to protect Himself; however, He knew the time of His suffering had come. Instead of avoiding His enemies as He had done earlier, He submitted to them, thus fulfilling Scriptures (see Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-50; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:3-11).
The events that followed brought Jesus before the high priest (Caiaphas), the scribes, and the elders for trial. These leaders "sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none" (Matthew 26:59, 60). In the Jewish law a minimum of two witnesses was required to support a charge. Apparently these witnesses reported isolated instances with no two agreeing (Deuteronomy 19:15). More and more witnesses were called until finally two came forth with the same charge: that Jesus had said, "I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days" (Matthew 26:61). Since any threat against the temple could result in the death sentence, this charge was quickly pursued.
The high priest asked Jesus for an answer to the charge, but He remained silent since no evidence had been produced. Then the high priest put forth another question: "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God" (Matthew 26:63). Since this question was prefaced with the oath of the covenant, Jesus had to answer. To remain silent would have been criminal. To answer falsely was impossible for Him. This was the time for Jesus to speak the truth; therefore, He affirmed that He was the Christ. "Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (v. 64).
The time had come for Jesus' mission to be fulfilled; His crucifixion would result from His own testimony. The high priest quickly cried, "He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy" (Matthew 26:65). Instead of acknowledging Jesus' claim, the Jews used it to condemn Him to death. There was no longer a need for witnesses since all had heard Him. "What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death" (v. 66). The religious leaders quickly treated Him as a condemned criminal by spitting at Him and striking Him (vv. 67, 68; cf. Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:66-71; John 18:12-24).
"When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor" (Matthew 27:1, 2; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1; John 18:28). Jesus was taken to Pilate because the Romans had taken the power of imposing the death penalty away from the Jews (John 18:31). These events fulfilled the prophecies Jesus had spoken of earlier (Matthew 20:18ff.).
After interviewing the Jews concerning the charges against Jesus and talking to Him personally, Pilate said, "I find no fault in this man. . . . And [the chief priests and multitudes] were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place" (Luke 23:4, 5).
Hearing that Jesus was a Galilean and thus belonged under Herod's jurisdiction, Pilate sent Him to Herod. Herod, glad to have this noted Jesus sent to Him, questioned Jesus, but "he answered him nothing" (Luke 23:9). Herod and his soldiers then "mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate" (v. 11).
Pilate told the chief priests, rulers, and people: "I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him" (Luke 23:14-16).
Pilate may have wanted to release Jesus because Pilate realized it was out of "envy they had delivered him" (Matthew 27:18). Pilate sought to free Jesus according to the custom of releasing a notorious prisoner at the time of the Passover feast. He offered to release to the Jews either a murderer and robber named Barabbas or Jesus. Pilate did not offer to release Jesus directly because, if he did, the Jews would cried out that he was not Caesar's friend (John 19:12).
In an attempt to get the people to ask for Barabbas's death, Pilate pointed out that neither he nor Herod had found any crime against Jesus, but that he would submit Jesus to scourging as punishment. By choosing Jesus the Jews could prevent the notorious Barabbas from being released. At the same time their thirst for vengeance against Jesus could be satisfied. The Jewish leaders persuaded the people to forget any good feelings they had for Jesus and to ask freedom for the murderer Barabbas. Apparently none of Jesus' followers were present, or if they were, they did not attempt to change the crowd's views. Pilate released Barabbas and Jesus faced death.
Then Pilate asked, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" (Matthew 27:22). Quickly the people put forth their leaders' views and shouted, "Let him be crucified" (v. 22). Pilate responded, "Why, what evil hath he done?" (v. 23). No longer rational, the people could only shout all the more, "Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult [riot] was made" (vv. 23, 24), he used the Jewish symbol of washing his hands to show he was free of any guilt in the decision. He then told the crowd, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children" (vv. 24, 25). Jesus was then delivered to be crucified (cf. Mark 15:7-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:38-19:16).
Jesus was quickly prepared for crucifixion. The soldiers showed their contempt and mockery by putting a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns on Him and by shouting, "Hail, King of the Jews!" (Matthew 27:29). These acts ridiculed both Jesus and the Jews by making light of their national expectation of a Messiah. The soldiers responded by spitting on Jesus, striking Him, and finally stripping Him of the robe and redressing Him in His own clothes. Led to a place called Golgotha, which means "the place of a skull," He was crucified (v. 33). They placed above His head the charges against Him written in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews" (John 19:19). Many of the Jews protested this wording. They wanted it to read, "He said, I am King of the Jews" (v. 21). Pilate would not allow the sign to be changed: "What I have written I have written." Unknowingly he left a sign that accurately described Jesus (v. 22; cf. Matthew 27:27-37; Mark:15:16-26; Luke 23:27-38).
As Jesus hung on the cross, He faced more jeers from the very people whose hope lay in Him. The passersby shouted, "Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matthew 27:40). The Jewish leaders also mocked Him: "He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now" (vv. 42, 43; cf. Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-37).
Crucifixion was one of the cruelest forms of death ever devised. Designed to make death as lingering and painful as the body could endure, crucifixion was also considered the most shameful punishment possible. Jesus¾the Innocent One, the Son of God, the Creator¾by enduring crucifixion died a death of untold physical and mental suffering. The physical pain seems enough, but the mental suffering must have been beyond words when one realizes who Jesus is and what He endured as men rejected Him, while He suffered for their sins. He refused the mixture of strong wine and myrrh, which would have deadened the pain. He came into the world to die for men's sins, and He bore the full extent of suffering. Since His death was a voluntary sacrifice, He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). He desired forgiveness for those who brought about His death.
Darkness gathered over the land for the last three hours Jesus hung on the cross (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44). We are not told the cause or the meaning of this darkness. We do know this event was a testimony that He was the Light of the world. As we will see later, it was one of the events that caused the centurion and other soldiers who crucified Christ to say, "Truly this was the Son of God" (v. 54).
The darkness brought a deep sense of loneliness to Christ. About the ninth hour (three o'clock in the afternoon), Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani," which means, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (v. 46; cf. Mark 15:33-35). This has also been translated, "My God, My God, to what sort of persons hast thou left me?" This gives the thought that God, by withdrawing His protective hand that was over His Son, left Him to suffer at the hands of His enemies without any hope of physical deliverance.
Jesus knew when He was near the point of death. John wrote, "Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith I thirst" (John 19:28). Suffering thirst, He needed a drink to moisten His throat for His last cry. At the time when the Passover lamb was slaughtered, Jesus cried with a loud voice, "It is finished," and yielded His spirit (John 19:30; Luke 23:46). Jesus' death finished His redemptive work. By giving His blood, the life of the body, He died once for all men's sins (Hebrews 9:12, 14, 26; cf. Romans 6:10).
At the moment of Jesus' death, the temple veil, which separated the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, ripped from top to bottom into two pieces. The torn veil symbolized the end to the old covenant's system of sacrifice and worship. The temple was no longer needed after He accomplished His work on the cross. The torn veil had served its purpose in preparing man for the Christ. The torn veil further-and more significantly-signifies that access to God is now available to all who enter through the Door and the Bread of Life. There is no further need for additional sacrifices or for a high priest since Christ "offered one sacrifice for sins for ever" (Hebrews 10:12; cf. 7:26-28). Later this will be discussed in detail.
Other events, such as earthquakes and the opening of graves, also occurred at Jesus' death. Some dead persons rose after Jesus' resurrection and appeared in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:51-54; Mark 15:38). A centurion, seeing these things, "feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:54; cf. Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47). The multitudes assembled "to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned" (Luke 23:48).
Since He had hung on the cross for a relatively short time, Jesus did not die because of the physical punishment His body received. He voluntarily gave up His spirit before His body would have normally died (cf. John 10:17, 18). Thus He gave His life as a ransom for man, as a sacrifice that would finally restore man to His original position before God. His death at the ninth hour occurred at the time of the evening sacrifice; thus He became "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (1:29).
As the Sabbath approached, the Jews went to Pilate to ask that the legs of Jesus and the other two men crucified with Him be broken, so the victims would die. Then their bodies could be removed before the Sabbath. The law required that a body should not be left hanging overnight (Deuteronomy 21:23). Since the forthcoming Sabbath was a "high day" (it was both a Sabbath and the second Paschal day), the Jews felt even stronger about this matter; so Pilate granted their wish. When the soldiers came to Jesus, they found Him already dead; therefore, they did not break His legs. When one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, blood and water came forth, evidence that He was dead. "These things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced" (John 19:36, 37). Thus the Scriptures concerning the Paschal Lamb (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12) and the righteous, suffering Servant (Psalm 34:19-22) were fulfilled.
The Burial of Jesus
With the Sabbath rapidly approaching, one of Jesus' disciples, a rich man named Joseph, asked Pilate for Jesus' body. After Joseph received permission to bury it, he and Nicodemus wrapped the body with linen cloth and spices according to Jewish burial custom and placed it in a new tomb near the place of crucifixion. The tomb was closed by rolling a huge stone across the opening (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:31-42).
The next day the Jews, remembering that Jesus had said He would rise again after three days, asked Pilate to have the tomb sealed and guarded by soldiers. The Jews feared that Jesus' disciples would "steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first" (Matthew 27:64). Pilate instructed the soldiers to "make it as sure as ye can" (v. 65). There would be no way for the disciples to take the body from the tomb.
In the disciples' minds the last week of Jesus' life began on a triumphant note with His entry into Jerusalem but ended in despair with His death on the cross. Everything that had recently looked so promising now seemed hopeless. The crucifixion was so real the disciples forgot about their Master's statement that He would rise after three days. Obviously they did not catch the full meaning of His teaching, for "as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead" (John 20:9).
Since Jesus died just before the Sabbath, there had not been sufficient time for His burial. Therefore, the disciples decided to return after the Sabbath to complete the burial. At the dawn of
the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Matthew 28:1-6; cf. Mark 16:1-6; Luke 24:1-7
Because death had been unable to keep its power over Him, the prophecy was fulfilled concerning Christ that God would "not leave my soul in hell [Sheol]" (Psalm 16:10; cf. Acts 2:27, 31). The Old Testament term Sheol refers to the place of the dead, not the place of eternal punishment: "neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Psalm 16:10). As He repeatedly foretold, Jesus arose from the dead. This gave unquestionable evidence that He was the Christ (Romans 1:4) and made possible the completion of the work of man's redemption. He was "raised again for our justification" (4:25), which was completed by His appearing "in the presence of God for us. . . . to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:24, 26).
The women and disciples did not comprehend what had happened at the empty tomb. The women went to tell the disciples about the empty tomb. Nevertheless, the report "seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not" (Luke 24:11).
Later that day two disciples traveling to the village of Emmaus "talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden [restrained NKJV] that they should not know him" (Luke 24:14-16). He inquired about their conversation. They sadly asked,
Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; and when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:18-27
Later, when Jesus was with the two disciples at supper, "their eyes were opened, and they knew him" (Luke 24:31), but then He vanished. Quickly, the two disciples returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven apostles. They excitedly said, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon" (v. 34). As the two travelers told what had happened, Jesus came and stood among them. Being frightened, they were asked by Jesus, "Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (vv. 38, 39; cf. Matthew 28:16, 17; Mark 16:14).
Jesus then explained to the band of disciples:
These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. Luke 24:44-49
As Jesus stated, "Christ [was] to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:46). On the cross Jesus cried out at the end of His suffering, "It is finished" (John 19:30). His death finished the work of redemption. He was the Lamb of God, "without spot" (Hebrews 9:14), who shed His own blood to redeem sinful man. As the author of Hebrews wrote, "By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Hebrews 9:12; cf. vv. 26, 28). There was another part to Jesus' death, His resurrection. As Paul wrote, Jesus our Lord "was delivered [put to death] for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25; cf. II Corinthians 5:21). His resurrection is important: "If Christ be not raised, our faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (I Corinthians 15:17; cf. 14).
Jesus made many other appearances to His followers during the forty days after His crucifixion (Acts 1:3). Finally, as He and the apostles were together at the Mount of Olives near Bethany, the time approached for His ascension. He explained that the Holy Spirit would come to give them power to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
When he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Acts 1:8-11
The above is chapter 3 of Redemption Realized Through Christ, by Leland M. Haines. Copyright 1996 by Leland M. Haines, Northville, MI 48167-2053
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February 16, 2001