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“The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem”- Monday & Tuesday

“GREAT MORNING BELOVED!”

The Last Week – Monday

We started our Lenten Series last week discussing what we now call Palm Sunday. We are using Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossen’s book, “The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem” as well as a few other Unity references for this Lenten Series.

We learned that there was and had been political and religious turmoil for much of the history of Israel and the Jewish people, not only from the many conquers of Israel but from the Jewish hierarchy themselves.

So, each day throughout this last week of Jesus’ physical life, that tension grew. Jesus knew and understood what his expectations were. His followers didn’t understand the type of ‘king’ Jesus was to be. And the people of Jerusalem were fickle to say the least…easily led to change from adoring him to asking for his death.

You have any time in your life when you were easily swayed? When you went with the crowd?

This week we will look at Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week, both days busy with interactions with followers and the Jewish leaders.

Monday has been called Great Monday or Holy Monday. What happened on Monday? As Jesus and his followers walked the four miles back to Jerusalem, on the way, they encounter the fig tree.

It was the custom with the Near Eastern people to not eat what we call breakfast. So, as Jesus and his followers approached the city, a fig tree was by the road. In those times and even today, fruit trees along the roads were there for travelers to enjoy on their journey.

But remember, as people traveled in Jesus’ time, there was no way to ensure food would be able to be carried with the travelers.

So, fruit trees were planted along the way for them to enjoy. And this also refers to the hospitality laws of the time. If a traveler asked for sustenance, the people were expected to provide bread and water at the very least.
So, Jesus came upon the fig tree expecting to still his hunger only to find it bare. Probably other travelers had taken their share leaving the branches bare. Or maybe it was out of season, as some scripture insinuates. Jesus cursed the fig tree, in essence saying, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

Some scholars believe this cursing of the fig tree represented God’s judgment on the spiritually dead religious leaders of Israel. Others believe the symbolism extended to all believers, demonstrating that genuine faith is more than just outward religiosity; true, living faith must bear spiritual fruit in a person’s life.

This reminded me of the principle, “once you know these truths, you can’t go back.” We keep feeling the nudge, that inner push that makes us keep going on, even if it’s 1 step up 2 back for a while. Eventually, it’s 2 & 3 steps up and now and again, 1 back. That is the spiritual fruits in our lives coming forth.

Keep at it and be patient with yourself.

What else happened on Monday of significance?

When Jesus arrived at the Temple, he found the courts full of corrupt money changers. He began overturning their tables and clearing the Temple, saying, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves” (Luke 19:46).

This ‘temper tantrum’ at the temple was not necessarily about the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals. It was maybe more so, about the high priestly families, who worked all too well with the governing Romans. One could say they were under the thumb of whoever was the Roman governor. And it was that governor who could fire the high priest if they didn’t agree with what the Romans wanted. So, they more often than not, did what the Romans wanted and certainly tried to keep the peace.

Of course, this action by Jesus angered the chief priests & scribes. It brought attention to them that they certainly didn’t want & they looked more for a way to kill him. However, the crowds in the temple were supportive of Jesus, which angered the priests even further.

On Monday evening Jesus stayed in Bethany again, probably in the home of his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

On Tuesday morning, Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. They passed the withered fig tree on their way, and Jesus spoke to his companions about the importance of faith. “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

This is part of Unity’s Prayer practice; we believe it is so and have gratitude for it. We see it as we believe…not believe it when we see it.

Can you say you believe it to be so and then see it?

Back at the Temple, religious leaders were upset at Jesus for establishing himself as a spiritual authority. They organized an ambush with questions, trying to trap him with the intent to place him under arrest. Here is where Jesus is asked about giving to Caesar. His response was ‘to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’

What does this mean? How do you give to Caesar and give to God?

And one of my favorites stories is about the widows’ mite. A mite was a very small coin, worth about a penny. And it was all she had to give at the temple, two mites. Jesus reminded everyone how she was giving more than those who gave a small portion of their treasure saying the amount she gave was a larger amount than their portion from their wealth.

What are your thoughts on the widow’s mite?

Jesus evaded all the traps the Priests had laid out for him, in an effort to arrest him. Jesus pronounced harsh judgment on them, saying:

“Blind guides! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness…Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?” (Matthew 23:24-33)

This is about the fact that the high priests put on a front, making a big deal about praying in public and giving donations to the temple, acting as if they are following the Torah. They are saying the words but not living them. The words are not coming from their hearts.

Is this how you are living your life?

We can help our spiritual journey as we attempt to follow our Way-Showers path by asking; ‘what would Jesus do?’ when confronted with a growth opportunity. Can you think of anything confronting you now that those words would help you with?

Later that afternoon, Jesus left the city and went with his disciples to the Mount of Olives, which sits due east of the Temple and overlooks Jerusalem. Here Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse, an elaborate prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. He speaks, as usual, in parables, using symbolic language about the end times events, including His Second Coming and the final judgment.

He used The Parable of the Two Sons, The Parable of the Tenants, and The Parable of the Wedding Banquet to talk about his coming death and how we should be preparing for it. It is here, during this discourse that he tells of God’s greatest commandment, ‘to love one another’.

Scripture indicates that this Tuesday was also the day Judas Iscariot negotiated with the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court of ancient Israel, to betray Jesus. According to Matthew 26:14-16, ‘Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So, they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.’

What is your 30 pieces of silver?

After a tiring day of confrontation and warnings about the future, once again, Jesus and the disciples returned to Bethany to stay the night.

Many people have had a hard time with Judas and his actions. And others understand that he did a duty, a job that was necessary to fulfill the prophecy that Jesus was to die so he could resurrect.

What are your thoughts on this?

Who did you relate to today?

Many questions today for your meditation and thoughts throughout the week.

You have any time in your life when you were easily swayed? You went with the crowd?

Can you say you believe it to be so and then see it?

What are your thoughts on the widow’s mite?
They are saying the words but not living them – Is this how you are living your life?

Can you think of anything confronting you now that those words, WWJD, would help you with?

What is your 30 pieces of silver?


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