The disciples sought a place inside Jerusalem to hold the Passover meal, as was tradition. They ended up in an upper room of a Jewish home. Interpreting the elements of the Passover feast (the bread, the bitter herbs, etc.) was a standard part of the Passover tradition. It was normal to explain each element and tell the story of the Passover (the celebration of how God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt) while sharing the meal.
Why did Judas betray Jesus? After all, he had been a disciple just like the others. He had dropped whatever he was doing to follow Jesus. Judas had spent 3 years of his life living with and learning from Jesus. He had been loved by Jesus. Surely all of that time was not a pretense.
It’s important to know the context of this writing in Matthew’s gospel. This extravagant anointing at Bethany is framed on both sides by a plot to arrest Jesus (verses 3-5 & 14-16). Matthew wants us to see this story in contrast with what is happening in and around Jesus at the same time.
The annual Passover celebration would have been a big deal in Jerusalem and a problem for the ruling Roman authorities. Thousands of Jews would have made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for this holy festival, creating a mass of people and potential for things to get out of hand.
Jesus crossed over the Jordan river and moved through Jericho. After explaining his impending death a third time and continuing to explain the kingdom of God as a place where “the first shall be last and the last shall be first,” Jesus encounters two blind men. They shouted over the crowd, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
Again in this parable, we see the upside-down economy of God at work. The landowner (God) does several things worth noting. First, he goes out and collects workers throughout the day, even in the last hour of the workday, he is gathering workers. He seeks them out, while they wait to be hired.
The rich man in this story has apparently done some soul-searching before he encounters Jesus. He has followed the law, been a “good” man, but still wants to know what will give him eternal life. The rich man obviously felt he was missing something. He recognized Jesus as the one who could tell him what that was.
When Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive a brother who sins repeatedly against him, Jesus exploded Peter’s seemingly generous offer. No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Forgiveness, the kind God gives to us and the kind we are to give, is not possible on limited terms.
Yesterday, in our reading from the Gospel of Luke, we saw where we are headed, Jerusalem. We caught a glimpse of the final destination, the Holy City. But today let’s take a few steps back, to when Jesus made the decision to head purposefully toward the place where Jesus will fulfill his mission as the Messiah.
This weekend we finally arrive in Jerusalem and our first glance at the Holy city will be from one of the most stunning sites we visit on the trip we have been sharing together. Standing at the top of the Mount of Olives, the incredible scale and grandeur of the Temple is what immediately grabs your attention.
This section opens with the note in verse 51 that Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” He began the long trek back to Jerusalem, and ultimately to his death. The time had come. Jesus set out with resolve, determined to accomplish God's will, no matter the cost.
In the upside-down economy of Jesus, we are called away from pursuing status and power. While the culture admires and reveres power and status, Jesus calls us to humility and a lack of concern for where we fit in the hierarchy of culture. This is a fundamental attitude for the disciple.
In today’s verses, we return to the upside-down sort of kingdom that Jesus leads us into. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” This may make some sense to us, with 200 years of understanding about Jesus Christ, but for first-century followers, this teaching would have only made sense in light of the literal “cross” in the sentence before.
On Monday, Pastor David reminded us that understanding where something happened is often as important as knowing what happened in a particular setting in the Bible. Caesarea Philippi is one of those settings. It was near the Banias spring, which gushed from a massive rock face and flowed into one of the streams that form the Jordan River.
As we read yesterday, Jesus moved from predominantly Jewish territory, northward, to Caesarea Philippi. He and the disciples had traveled over 20 miles and 1700 feet uphill. Here, near the source of the Jordan River, was the ancient city of Dan, the northern boundary of Israel. It had been renamed after Herod the Great’s son, Phillip.