TEMPLE LEADERS ORGANIZED an ambush with the intent of placing Jesus under arrest, but it was not yet time. He evaded their trap, pronouncing harsh judgment on them. The “woes” He lists against the religious leaders contrast with the first seven blessings that introduce the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5:3-9). He accused the Pharisees of being “whitewashed tombs” which were beautiful on the outside, but filled with death and decay on the inside (Matt. 23:23, 25, 27, 33). He said the Pharisees strained for gnats but swallowed a camel. While seeming to be godly through outward legalism, they were neither sober nor righteous in their hearts. Their focus was on the Law, not on redemption through the Messiah.
Jesus expressed the misery Jerusalem was about to bring down upon itself. He called upon all sinners to seek refuge in Him, where they would find safety and protection, and the nourishment of eternal life. He said punishment would befall Jerusalem for killing prophets and stoning those who brought the gospel message to the Jews (Matt. 23:34-39). Utter ruin and destruction would come to the temple and to all of Jerusalem. The most beautiful temple, the body of Christ, would become food for worms so that we can feed on the “bread of life” His crucifixion would provide (Matt. 24:1-3).
Jesus and the disciples went to the Mount of Olives, which is due east of the temple. It’s most noted as a place of prayer. David ascended the Mount of Olives barefoot in prayer while attempting to escape the rage of his son Absalom. Those in his company also wept (1 Sam. 15:30). Zechariah and Ezekiel spoke from the Mount about future judgment on Israel and the gathering together of all Jews who were exiled during the diaspora. Zechariah described the Mount of Olives as the place where Jesus will return (Zech. 14:4).
While on the Mount, Jesus told the disciples about what would become of the Jews until the destruction of Jerusalem, and what will happen to mankind in general in the last days. (This is the doctrine of eschatology.) The disciples said, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? (Matt. 24:3). Jesus warned, “…many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ’ and many will be led astray” (24:5). Signs of the end of times have begun to present themselves: wars, rumors of wars, famine, earthquakes, apostasy in the church, betrayal, hatred, false prophets, sexual immorality, rampant lawlessness. Hollywood has unwittingly described such lawlessness with the “purge” movies where all crimes are legal for twenty-four hours, even murder.
Speaking to the disciples about the last days, Jesus said, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” Jesus continued: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Jesus warned, “…but concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only… therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:21-22, 29-30, 36, 44). It is remarkable that Jesus made these predictions while sitting atop the mountain of His triumphal return!
Tomorrow is Holy Thursday. We will pick up with the Last Supper and the betrayal of Judas. We will follow Christ as He is captured in the Garden of Gethsemane and brought before the Sanhedrin for trial, and, subsequently, before King Herod and Pilate, prefect of Judea. Let us prepare tonight by prayer and meditation to be witness to history as Jesus the Christ is turned over to Pilate for crucifixion.