Both of these episodes signal the imminent shift from the kingly to the priestly phase of the Savior's last week. Because the questioning of Jesus coincided with the priestly examination of the the paschal lambs that were to be sacrificed later in the week, it underscores that Jesus was the actual Lamb of God "who taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Likewise, his prophecy of his future return in glory makes clear that his actual reception as the True King of Israel lay in the future with his Second Coming, his first coming being focused instead on his great atoning work.
|Gary Smith, Christ Laments over Jerusalem|
- Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree (Mark 11:20–26)
- More Teachings in the Temple: Attempts to Trap Jesus in His Words (Mark 11:27–12:44; Matt 22:15–23:36; Luke 20:20–21:4)
- Jesus’ Lament over Jerusalem in Matthew (Matt 23:37–39)
- The Olivet Discourse or “Little Apocalypse” Concerning Jesus’ Prophecies Regarding the Last Days Before His Second Coming (Matthew 24:1–25:46; Mark 13:1–37; Luke 21:5–36. Because few events are recorded for Wednesday, parts of Tuesday’s Olivet Discourse can be read on Wednesday).
- Summary of Jesus’ Teaching (Luke 21:37–38; John 12:37–50)
- Using the final lesson from the fig tree, talk about how things are possible with faith and why we should always forgive others.
- Read Luke 20:45–47 and discuss why Jesus was unhappy with the scribes but pleased with the widow’s modest offering.
- Discuss how the questioning of Jesus paralleled the examination of the lambs that were being selected for the Passover that year. How is he the true Lamb of God?
- Listen to Handel's "Lamb of God"
- Read Mark 13, the shortest version of the Mount of Olivet discourse and discuss why it would have reassured Jesus’ disciples once the Lord had been taken from them? How could it have reassured them that Jesus would still be the rightful king even though he was rejected by his own people? How can we prepare for the Second Coming?
- Sing "Jehovah, Lord of Heaven and Earth" (hymn 269)
Anglican collect of the day:
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Brief Discussion of the Events of the Tuesday before Easter
See the longer discussion in God So Loved the World, 27–37
|This path along the Mount of Olives leads from Bethany to Jerusalem|
LESSON FROM THE WITHERED FIG TREE: EXHORTATIONS TO FAITH AND FORGIVENESS
Authority of Jesus Questioned (21:23–27)
Old Israel Rejected (21:28–22:14)
Attempts to Trap Jesus in His Words (22:15–46)
Six Interrogations in the Temple (11:27–12:37)
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto 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? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. (Matthew 22:41–46)
This verbal sparring about authority points back to the reality symbolized by Jesus’ earlier triumphal entry: he was the rightful king in Israel, while the chief priests and elders opposed to him were, in fact, usurpers who set themselves up in Jerusalem and in the temple as leaders of Israel. In the days between the selection of the Passover lambs five days before Passover and their sacrifice when the holiday began, the chosen animals were kept separate from the rest of the flocks (Exodus 12:3–6). Because the lambs were to be without blemish, in Jesus’ day the priests in the temple spent this time examining them carefully for fault. While this very examination of the paschal lambs was going on during Jesus’ last week, his opponents were, in fact, trying to find fault in him.
MESSIAH Chorus for the Day: "Behold the Lamb of God"
The examination of the paschal lambs in the temple early in the Savior's last week reminds us of the testimony of John the Baptist that Jesus was the Lamb of God and explains why Charles Jennens chose to begin Part II of Handel's Messiah, the Passion section, with a powerful quotation from John 1:29:
Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
|Francisco de Zurbarán. Agnus Dei.|
This text is the subject of the opening chorus of Part II, a chorus that is incredible powerful even as it is pervasively sad, moving performers and audiences alike from the joy of the Promise that was the subject of Part I to the heaviness of Jesus' weighty atoning work
Frequently this verse is misquoted, people often reading, and singing, the plural "sins" instead of the scripture's singular "sin." In accordance with the high christology of the Gospel according to John, Jesus' work is about far more than redeeming us from our individual sins and transgressions. Rather it is about totally undoing the effects of the Fall, overcoming not only our mortal state but also the state of spiritual death that holds us captive. As Jacob in the Book of Mormon wrote, “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit” (2 Nephi 9:10).
This, then, is the cosmic Sin that holds us prisoner. This idea of the Sin of the world as a cosmic force, which is also found in the early letters of Paul, is analogous to the "weakness" of all men and women described in the Book of Mormon (see Jacob 4:7; Ether 12:26-27, which are also frequently misquoted in the plural). This weakness is perhaps best understood as our inability in our mortal state to do anything good or lasting without the grace of Christ. And this is the captivity and death for which Jesus, our Passover, came as a sacrifice.
Leaving the temple, Jesus took his disciples to Mount of Olives, where he gave them a prophetic discourse that dealt with both the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and its temple and also focused on the destruction of "the world" at his second coming. The oldest and shortest version of this seems to be in Mark, where it is sometimes referred to as "The Little Apocalypse." Longer versions of this eschatological sermon are preserved by Matthew and Luke. The JST revision of Matthew 23:39–24:51 is an inspired expansion of part of the Olivet Discourse; it continues through 25:1–46 with parables about the last days.
Deceptive Signs of the End (21:7–11)
Persecution of the Disciples (21:12–19)
Destruction of Jerusalem (21:20–24)
The Coming of the Son of Man (21:25–36)
Preparing for the Second Coming
"Some of the parables that Matthew records and that Jesus delivered as part of his Olivet Discourse—such as the ten virgins and their lamps or the servants and the talents they were given—are some of the best known of Jesus’ teachings. Reading them in the context of his prophecies about the end of the world, however, makes them clearly parables of preparation. To be on his right hand with his “sheep” rather than at his left hand with the “goats” at his return, we must prepare ourselves now.
"Regarding this preparation, Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “While we are powerless to alter the fact of the Second Coming and unable to know its exact time, we can accelerate our own preparation and try to influence the preparation of those around us.” Regarding the parable of the ten bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1–13), Elder Oaks further observed that “the arithmetic of this parable is chilling.” Because they were invited to the wedding, the
ten virgins represent members of the Church, and only half of them were ready when the Bridegroom came.
As I read Jesus’ admonitions to us in the Olivet Discourse as part of my yearly Easter preparations, my joy at the prospect of the return of my King turns to a sober sense of responsibility. His appearance in glory will be “the great and the terrible day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31): welcome and great to his Saints who are ready to meet him, and fearful and terrible to those who are not. The signs of the times that the discourse includes certainly
lead us to make physical preparations, but we should not wait until we think the Second Coming is about to occur to prepare, because for each of us, tomorrow or even today could be our last day. Accordingly, Elder Oaks warned: “What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? . . . We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult—the spiritual.”
In the end, our judgment will be of our works and our hearts, and the best preparation that we can make for the Second Coming is to have faith in Jesus as the Christ—our anointed Prophet, Priest, and King—and then allow that faith to bear fruit in our lives as repentance, obedience to his gospel and its ordinances, and good works. The message of Easter week is that our King has made it possible for us to be found spotless and pure, with our lamps burning brightly at that last day." (God So Loved the World, 37)
|Rachel and I at the Pater Noster Church on the Mount of Olives, the traditional site of the Olivet Discourse|
The Lord’s private teaching to his closest disciples about his Second Coming was once again a natural result of the events of Palm Sunday. He had entered Jerusalem, seemingly as a recognized Messiah, and many of them may have expected him to take the throne as king. Peter and others of the Twelve had earlier obtained powerful witnesses that he was the Messiah, the true Son of God, but while they understood correctly who Jesus was, they still did not correctly understand what he had come to do. Three times on the road to Jerusalem he had prophesied in the so-called "Passion Predictions" that he would go to Jerusalem to suffer and die (see, for instance, Matthew 16:21–23, 17:22–23, and 20:17–19), and each time they had failed to understand.
|Harry Anderson, Second Coming|
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:30–31)
The occasion of their reassurance has, in turn, provided us with a helpful road map to prepare us in the Last Days, which also fills us with hope and anticipation as we look forward to his return. As we look for the return of our King and the establishment of his millennial reign, the words of hymn 269 reflect our united wish:
Jehovah, Lord of heav'n and earth, thy word of truth proclaim! Oh may it spread from pole to pole, till all shall know thy name . . . Roll on thy work in all its power, the distant nations bring! In thy new kingdom may they stand, and own thee God and King.
SUMMARY OF JESUS’ TEACHING
Luke summarizes Jesus’ teaching in the early part of the week by writing simply:
And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives. And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him. (Luke 21:37–38)
But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him . . . Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; 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 12:37–43)
Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And 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. (John 12:44–48)