Tuesday of that last week began as Monday had with Jesus and his followers passing by the fig tree. Peter, seeing the withered tree, said to Jesus, “Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.”
And Jesus responded, “Have faith in God.” And went on to explain that with faith whatsoever they prayed for would be given, but that when they prayed they should forgive others.
Upon reaching the temple, Jesus’ authority was challenged by the chief priests and elders, but Jesus sidestepped went on teaching the people in parables. As he told them of the wicked husbandmen who killed the master’s son in order to take over the vineyard, you would think the priests would have recognized themselves, but they are too busy plotting and thinking up questions that they think will make Him look bad. One of them asks, if they should pay tribute to Caesar. In response he asks them to show him a coin. They produce a penny and he says, “Whose image is this?”
“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s” (Luke 20:25).
The Sadducees and Pharisees continue to ply him with questions, each hoping that Jesus will say something to incite the Romans, or to give them cause to arrest Him. The Sadducees, who don’t believe in an afterlife, ask about marriage in the next life. And a lawyer asks the famous question, “Which is the great commandment in the law?” Undaunted, Jesus turns this into a teaching moment instructing them to love God and to love one another.
In this way He continues teaching with parables but then laments over the fate of Jesusalem. Drawing on the familiar words of the Hallel once more, Jesus finally testifies of his own death but instead of repenting they argue with Him even about that. His response is simply, “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:47).
Sorrow can’t help but fill one’s heart as we read these accounts knowing that Jesus Christ is offering them the greatest gift ever offered to mankind and yet their pride and selfishness blind them so that they reject Eternal Life in exchange for satisfying their vanity.
At this point Jesus leaves, but his disciples follow him and ask several questions concerning the temple. This speech is found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, and is called the Olivet Discourse or by some the Little Apocalypse. He explains that there will be false Messiahs and that destruction awaits Jerusalem and warns them to beware and to watch themselves at all times. He then goes on to teach them the parables of the ten virgins and the talents and finishes by telling them that He will judge the world. And what will be the criteria? As always His instruction is simple and easy to understand: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
This brief retelling doesn’t begin to capture the depth and breadth of Jesus’ final teachings to the people on that Tuesday before His death. He knows what is coming and in love makes His last pleas for the people to repent and follow Him. But blinded by their sin the majority of the people refuse. Thus the irony begins to unfold; He will suffer and die to redeem the very sin they are at that moment committing and all other sin.