Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Day of Questions

   When Jesus got up on Tuesday morning, He went back to the temple. He had so much to teach the people and so little time to do it in. The temple chief priests and elders were there and had planned to badger Jesus with ridiculous religious questions in hope He would answer saying something they could have Him arrested for. They wanted Jesus arrested and killed. They began bombarding Him with trick questions that no matter how He answered He would have to say something that could get Him arrested. Since Jesus knew His Father and knew the writings we now call the Old Testament, they could not trick Him. Instead of answering their questions, He began telling parables. In His first parable Jesus uses the story of two sons and tells them the simple fact that the vilest of sinners will find their eternal home in Heaven because of their repentant heart and their repentance, there will be religious pretenders that will not go to Heaven, but to Hell because of their lack of repentance.

   The second parable is about wicked vinedressers and was much more severe in its message. There were people in Israel that had treated God’s prophets horribly, and now there were the same type of people plotting to kill Jesus. By rejecting Jesus these people were rejecting their place in the Kingdom of God.

   The third parable is set at a wedding feast. There are those that reject the invitation to the wedding feast, and those that accept. Those that reject His invitation will see the ruin of Jerusalem just as the people that declined the King’s invitation to his son’s wedding saw their town burned down. Those that accepted the invitation would be blessed. This lot is who God will use to finish His redemptive work. These were the Gentiles, those of us that believe Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior Messiah. People that truly choose to accept and follow Jesus would be given the authority and all of the promises from God.

   The Pharisees knew that Jesus was talking about them when He told these parables about people that do not love God and do not believe and accept, Jesus. They were livid. They were now ready to get the job at hand done, kill Jesus. The Pharisees and Herodians were enemies, but they got together and asked Jesus a very tricky question. They were sure He would answer wrongly because if He said yes to the question the people would be angry with Him. If He said no, they could arrest Him. Even if they did not get to arrest Jesus with His answer, they would have been happy with just turning the people against Him. Then, arresting Jesus later would be easier since the people would not be upset about it. The evil leaders said to Jesus, “Teacher, we know how honest You are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now, tell us what you think abut this; Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” The people did not like the way the Roman government did the taxes and so they would be upset if Jesus said, “Yes.” to pay Caesar. If He said “No.” the Pharisees would have Jesus reported to the Roman authorities and He would be arrested for being a traitor. Those evil men thought for sure they had Jesus. But, Jesus saw their wickedness and He knew what they were up to. Jesus said to them,  “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap Me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” They brought Jesus a Roman coin. Jesus looked at the coin and said, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s.” they replied. Jesus then answered their question. 
“Well, then, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” That settled it and, the people were not upset and the evil leaders had no just cause to arrest Jesus. The Pharisees and Herodians were amazed. They left Jesus.

   The Sadducees were another group of men that hated Jesus. These men did not believe Jesus would be raised from the dead even though the prophets had written about it in the Old Testament. And, when Jesus does come alive after He dies, they work very hard to keep the disciples from preaching about it. They did not believe in angels even though many men had written down true stories about how the angels did things in the Old Testament. The Pharisees thought and acted like the Romans, but the Sadducees thought and acted more like the Greeks. The Pharisees were very interested in the law of the Old Testament. So much so that they made things up to try to make people do the law their way. The Sadducees were suppose to be religious leaders, but they really did not believe God had anything to do with religion. They did not believe He was a living God. These men thought they were great thinkers and that their thoughts about the Old Testament were more important than what God had actually penned through chosen men. But, the one thing the Pharisees and Sadducees had in common was that they both wanted Jesus out of the picture. They came together to try to kill Him..... just like the Old Testament said they would.

   Since the Pharisees could not trick Jesus, the Sadducees thought they might have a go at Him. They tried to trick Him with a question about something written in the Old Testament. Once again, Jesus told these people trying to trick Him that their ideas about the Old Testament were wrong and that they did not understand the things of God. Jesus told them that they did not understand the power of God. He answered their question in a way that was the very truth of the matter and amazed everyone. The Sadducees could not trick Jesus, either.

   The Scribes were men that were the lawyers among the religious leaders. Not all of the Pharisees were Scribes, but the Scribes were Pharisees. They actually wrote the laws. These were the men that added to God’s Word to make up their own laws for the people to obey. The people had to obey these Scribes, they were very powerful. They were good at arguing the law and also very evil. When the Pharisees found out that the Sadducees had also failed to trick Jesus into saying something that would get Himself killed, they got together and sent a snakey Scribe to try to trick Him. Scribes were good at tricking people with words and so they were sure a Scribe could trick Jesus. The Scribes asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. A law question.... of course. These Scribes had written more laws than they could even remember. They were silly made up laws that no one could keep. They were just trying to be the big rulers and be bossy so they could be the well.... the bosses. Once again, Jesus saw right through them. He understood what they were trying to do. He quoted to them something they themselves repeated two times everyday. It was from the Old Testament. He said to them, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” WOW! Jesus summed all of their laws up in one commandment and He used a part of the Old Testament that they even used to do it. Jesus summed up all of the laws with the only reason for doing anything.... LOVE. The Scribes could not trick Jesus either.

   Now, Jesus turned this around. He asked the Pharisees a question about whose Son Jesus really was. Because of their unbelief, they could not answer Jesus’ question. From this time on none of the Pharisees and religious leaders even dared to ask Jesus a question.

   Jesus then turned to the crowds and began to talk to them about these religious leaders. He told the crowd and His disciples that these men were suppose to be the men that taught the religious law. He told them to listen to the laws they spoke about that God had given them. But, He warned everyone that these arrogant men did not understand God and so not to do what they did. Jesus pointed out a few things that were wrong to do that these men were doing. He talked about how these men thought more of themselves than they did God or other people. They taught their own thoughts and not what the Scriptures actually said. Even though they did speak the law the way it was given by God sometimes, they never did what it said. They paid attention to small things and did not do the big things God asked of them. They fussed over how they looked to other people. They wore flashy long robes with long tassels on them. Tassels were a sign of importance. They also wore leather boxes on their arms and even right up on their foreheads. These boxes had Scripture verses in them. They wanted everyone to think they were the pinnacle of religious example. Jesus warned the people that these men were like graves; they were kept really nice and pretty on the outside, but they were dead on the inside.

   Jesus knew there was no changing these religious leaders minds. They rejected Jesus and that was all there was to it. So, He left them to themselves. This desperately grieved Jesus. He loved these people and wanted them to accept Him, have really good happy lives; and be able to go to Heaven some day and live with Him there. He warned them that they would be left with nothing. Their religion was empty and they were about to lose their temple and everything else. He gives them a look at what was about to happen. He tells them that He would be leaving, but that He would return and they would then know He was the King, but it would be too late.

   Jesus left the temple. His disciples heard Him talking about the temple being destroyed. They asked Him if He saw all the buildings of the temple. He told them what He said would happen, would honestly happen. They went back to the Mount of Olives. The disciples asked Jesus about the temple, His return and the end of time. Jesus answered all of the disciples questions. The disciples loved Him and they believed Him. They accepted Him. Jesus was glad to get to teach these men. He talked about the Old Testament and showed them how it was true, that it was coming true right before their eyes. He told them that the Words of God would last forever and ever and would never change or end. The disciples could always count on the things God said to be true. Jesus warned them that there would always be religious pretenders. There would always be people that would try to make them believe their thoughts instead of trusting God’s Word. He warned them that there would always be wars, rumors of wars and earthquakes, and people that would hurt them. He told them that just as the Fig tree has buds that tell you summer is coming, there would be signs that Jesus was coming. He told them to never be afraid. God would always take care of them. He reminded the disciples of what happened in Noah’s day. Those people were partying, sinning big time and ignoring God. But, the faithful family of Noah just kept their eyes on God. They trusted Him and did exactly what He said, even though it seemed quite silly. When the flood came, they were the only family to safely make it through. Everyone else drowned because they would not follow God. Jesus said that if when things look bad and people try to take you away from Jesus you would just keep following Him, and keep watching for Him to come back, their reward would be great. If when He came back they were serving Him, they would rule over much. Jesus told the disciples that no one would know the day or time that He was coming back. Even Jesus did not know. It would be when His Father, God, said it was time. So, we must keep watching for Him and always be ready since we won’t know when it will happen, until it happens.

   Watching does not mean that we just stand and do nothing. There are so many things that God needs for us to do before He sends Jesus back. The more we serve Him, the more God will trust us to do for Him. And, if we are serving Him when He comes back, we get rewarded, big time! If we are lazy and disobedient and do not serve Him, we will lose our reward, not our salvation but our rewards in Heaven. You can rule it all or lose it all, it’s up to you.

   What we have to give and what we are able to do can be used to serve God. When we feed someone, or visit them when they are sick, or give someone clothes that needs clothing, or share a toy with someone, we are doing something for God. God says when we are helping other people we are as much as doing it for Him. When Jesus comes back everyone will be divided into two kinds of people. There will be those that loved and served Jesus, and those that did not. Jesus loved the disciples and He loves us, too. That is why He told us all about these things to come. He wants to be our friend, but we have to let Him.

   This was a very long day for Jesus. Jesus had to deal with so much. But, the evil men that tried and tried and tried to trick Him, could not. After being picked on by the religious leaders all day, He had to walk back to the Mount of Olives. Jesus needed to be alone with His disciples there because He had so many things to tell them. He knew His time was short. Jesus knew that tomorrow something was going to happen that would bring a tragic end to the week.

   Such love! In the midst of knowing these people were going to kill Him, Jesus tries to reach these religious leaders. Such love! He would have done it just for me, or you. Tomorrow the questioning pretty much comes to an end and a horrible turn occurs, one that will lead one man to take his own life out of the depths of the hell of his guilt, and put an innocent lamb to slaughter.

   Thank You Father, You did this out of such everlasting mercy and unconditional love.

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