A Bible study course on the last things
Matthew of all the New Testament writers has the most extensive and detailed description of what the second coming of Jesus will look like, as described by Jesus Himself. This description is found as a continuous discourse from Matthew 24:3 to Matthew 25:46, in response to a question from His disciples. It comprises of a chronological description of events, with explanations and three succinct parables, and so makes an easy to study foundation of understanding of the events. To set the context for Jesus’ remarks, we will start unit 2 at chapter 21.
Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem – miracles, conflict with the Pharisees
Matthew’s gospel verses 21:1 through 24:2 describe Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem, around 31 AD. He arrives on a donkey, fulfilling Zechariah 14, amidst rapturous greetings from the crowd. He makes His way to the temple, clears out the money-changers in a glorious torrent of righteous indignation, and miraculously heals the blind and lame in the temple. He passes a withered fig tree with His disciples, opening the way for a teaching on faith. Then some very pointed parables make His opinion of the scribes and Pharisees, the religious professionals of that time, clear. Ominously, He tells them:
43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
A number of groups approach Him with questions designed to trip him up, but His opponents are completely unable to match the irresistible wisdom of His replies.
Fair on the outside, but foul on the inside – Jesus and the Pharisees
He then has a prolonged discourse containing the strongest language He has yet used against the scribes and Pharisees:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness………….Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” Matthew 23:27-28, 33
While they should have been rejoicing at the miraculous healings in the temple, and appreciating the boldness of Jesus in clearing the temple of the corrupt money changers, they were full of jealousy and hate. They were plotting to have Him killed. It was the ultimate rejection of an incredible blessing from God. Rejection of something which is truly from God is a perilous thing. Jesus knew what was happening. He prophesied the complete destruction of the temple: “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be thrown down.”(Mat 24:2)
- Why do you think Jesus arrived riding a donkey?
- What did Jesus do at the temple when He arrived for the last time? (Two things)
- Name three penalties the Pharisees would suffer after Jesus’ visit.
- How did Jesus show wisdom?
- How did the Pharisees (Jewish priests) feel about Jesus’ arrival?
- How did Jesus feel about the money changers?
- How do you think God felt about the events described here?
- Are there any people around today who are like the Pharisees or the money changers?
- How do you feel about them?
- How do you feel about this story? Sad? Scared? Joy? Angry? Got questions?
- How will you put this story into action? What will you do differently having read this account?