Jesus’ teaching in the final week

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Matthew 21-25

Jesus drove out those using the temple complex to make a profit from exchanging coins or selling sacrificial animals. He then took over the temple complex for his own use – dispensing mercy, receiving praise and teaching.

Jesus cursed a fig tree that had green leaves promising fruit but in fact its inner life produced nothing. The fig tree’s failure pointed to the failure of the temple establishment of the Pharisees and Sadducees to bear the fruit of repentance called for by John the Baptist and faith in the kingdom of heaven in Jesus. Presumably as the fig tree was cursed so too would be the temple establishment.

Matthew 23 was seven woes upon the religious leaders who tie heavy loads and burdens on people through their teaching. The outwardly tithe their garden herbs but neglect inner qualities like mercy and righteousness. Outwardly they look good but on the inside they are unclean cups and unclean tombs. The woes in chapter 23 bookend with the beatitudes in the sermon on the Mount. In fact, there are many common themes.

Jesus then predicts the temple’s destruction. Before he returns their will natural disasters, false prophets and persecution c.f. Sermon on the Mount but through it all Jesus’ disciples are not to be anxious.

Jesus comes after a period of trouble, then there are strange things in the skies, then Jesus returns on the clouds of heaven, the angels are sent out to gather God’s elect.

Jesus then tells a number of parables about the unexpectedness of his coming and the need for faithfulness. Each parable has three things in common: (1) each involves a long delay and an unexpected arrival (2) each parable refers to two types of people – wise and foolish (3) each group of people face very different destinies.

The passage ends with Jesus telling a final parable about the sheep and the goats – on judgement day people will be judged according to how they received and accepted (or not) the redefined brothers of Jesus (those who hear and obey Jesus’ words and are sent by him to proclaim the kingdom of heaven c.f. Matthew 10). In other words how one receives the gospel messengers is a reflection of whether a person has accepted the gospel or remained a goat with outward religious appearance like the Pharisees.