Challenging Unbelief – 12th Nissan

Please read Matthew 21:19-23:36, Mark 11:19-12:44,
Luke 20:1-21:4, 37-38 & John 12:44-50

When evening came, they left the city. Mark 11:19 ESV

And every day He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet.  And early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him. Luke 21:37-38 ESV

And at once the fig tree withered. Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” 
And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it all.”
Matthew 21:19b – 22 NASB

As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree shriveled from the roots.  Peter remembered and said to Yeshua, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree You cursed has shriveled up!”
And Yeshua answered, saying to them, “Have faith in God!  Amen, I tell you, if someone says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but trusts that what he says is happening, so shall it be for him.  For this reason I say to you, whatever you pray and ask, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your transgressions. But if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions.
”  Mark 11:20-26 TLV

The withering of the fig tree seems to have begun as soon as the Lord had spoken the curse against it. Matthew says, “at once the fig tree withered“. Mark says, the fig tree shriveled from the roots.” In twenty-four hours it was completely dead.

By cleansing the Temple and cursing the barren fig tree, causing it to wither and die, Yeshua was pronouncing His coming judgment of Israel and demonstrating His power to carry it out. It also teaches the principle that religious profession and observance are not enough to guarantee salvation, unless there is the fruit of genuine salvation evidenced in the life of the person. James would later echo this truth when he wrote that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). The lesson of the fig tree is that we should bear spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), not just give an appearance of religiosity. God judges fruitlessness, and expects that those who have a relationship with Him will “bear much fruit” (John 15:5-8).

Yeshua then applied the lesson to His disciples, not as fig trees but as those endowered with His power over the fig tree, who were to judge the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). Then He declared their authority even over the mountain on which Jerusalem was situated, the mountain on which the temple stood, and the Sanhedrin deliberated. “truly I say unto you” With great solemnity He seeks to impress upon them a truth which would be of the greatest import to them, when they went forth, as His apostles, to establish and spread His kingdom—that an unfaltering faith in God would overcome all difficulties. “shall say unto this mountain” they have authority to speak even to the whole Jewish religious system as represented by this mountain they were focused on as they walked back to Jerusalem. The idiom of uprooting a mountain was familiar in the schools of the Jews. In Rabbinic usage the “uprooter of mountains” (ʿōqēr hārîm) is the sage who overcomes the obstacles and objections of those he is contending with. Those teachers among the Jews that were more eminent for the profoundness of their learning, or the splendour of their virtues, were described as, “He is a rooter up or remover of mountains.” They called Rabbah Bar Nachmani, A rooter up of mountains, because he had a piercing judgment (Lightfoot, Hor. Heb). In b. Sanhedrin 24a it states: One who saw Resh Lakish in the Beth-Hamidrash [engaged in debate in the Temple] would think that he was uprooting mountains and grinding them against each other!
And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it all.” – their victory over the religious authorities in establishing the kingdom of God in Israel, and the nations, would be both through miraculous signs in answer to their prayers and in the Holy Spirit inspired wisdom of their speech (for example see Acts 4).

Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him” Many would come against the apostles when they proclaimed the kingdom of God in word and deed, but they were not to harbor bitter feelings against them but rather forgive them, bless those who cursed them and pray for their persecutors. The power in answering their prayers was to be used in loving people, not seeking revenge for wrongs done.

Now when He entered the Temple, the ruling kohanim (priests) and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, saying, “By what authority are You doing these things? Who gave You this authority?”
Yeshua replied to them, “I also will ask you one question. If you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things.  John’s immersion, where was it from? From heaven or from men?”
They began to dialogue among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the crowd, for all hold up John as a prophet.” So answering Yeshua, they said, “We don’t know.”
Then He said to them, “Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things.”
Matthew 23:23-27 TLV

Then they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?”
And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.”
And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for everyone was regarding John to have been a real prophet. And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Mark 11:27-33 LSB

One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to Him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” 
He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” 
And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 
So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 
And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Luke 20:1-8 ESV

By what authority are You doing these things?” They evidently wished to bring Him to account for His act of the day before, and for His assumption to teach as a Rabbi, without any license from the Schools of Hillel (Beit Hillel) or Shammai (Beit Shammai), which was contrary to the established rule. The same question had been put to Him three years before and by the same persons (John 2:18). Both John and Jesus were loved by the Jewish people but treated with suspicion by the Jewish authorities.

“Now what do you think? A man had two sons, and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go work in the vineyard today.’ 
 The son answered, ‘I won’t,’ but afterward he had a change of heart and went. 
The man went to the second son and said the same thing. But he answered, ‘I will, sir,’ and didn’t go.  Which of the two did the will of the father?”
“The first,” they said.
Yeshua said to them, “Amen, I tell you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are going ahead of you into the kingdom of God.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and even after you saw this, you had no change of heart to believe him.”
Matthew 21:28-32 TLV

In His rabbinic style, Yeshua starts this parable with a question, drawing His audience in to give their opinion.  The religious leaders are quick to show they know the correct answer to this question – it is the man who obeys God, not just the one who promises to, that does His will. They knew what was required. They thought they were doing what was required with their careful attention to their purification rites and all the Jewish customs. Yeshua, however, had a different standard by which they were measured – believing John and repenting at his call. Even the worst of sinners had responded to John’s message of repentance and directing people to the Lamb of God, but they had not as was evidenced by their continued rejection of His kingdom authority.

 “Listen to another parable. There was a master of a household who planted a vineyard. He put a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. Then He leased it to some tenant farmers and went on a journey.   Matthew 21:33 TLV

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country.” Mark 12:1 ESV

And He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time. Luke 20:9 LSB

This landowner did not just buy an existing vineyardHe planted and cultivated one himself, personally investing his time, thoughtful attention, finances, and energy. He devoted himself to his vineyard and spared no detail, providing everything it needed to be productive.  He put a wall around it to protect it from wild animals. He dug a wine press in it, and he built a tower to defend it from thieves. Once these things were completed, it was time to wait for its vines to produce its harvest of grapes and wine. It is typical for newly planted grapevines to take three years to begin to produce.

Using the symbolism of a vineyard would have immediately brough to mind Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 80:7-15 for His Jewish audience here in the temple, both of which depict God as the planter and the vineyard as unfaithful Israel.

Isaiah 5:1-7
Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
2 He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watch-tower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.
3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,
judge between me
and my vineyard.
4 What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?
5 And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
6 I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;
but heard a cry!

Psalm 80:7-15
 Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
8 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches;
11 it sent out its branches to the sea,
and its shoots to the River.
12 Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13 The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.
14 Turn again, O God of hosts;
look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
15   the stock that your right hand planted.

Yeshua added another component to the imagery – tenant farmers who were to tend and protect the vineyard until it was ready to produce and then render to God what was His from that produce. These were representative of the Jewish leadership who were even now confronting Him and denying His authority in His Father’s house.

“Now when fruit season drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.” Matthew 21:35 TLV

“When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.” Mark 12:2 ESV

“And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard.” Luke 20:10 LSB

Thus far, everything Yeshua has shared in His parable has matched expectations. It was not unusual for landowners to be away tending other matters as their workers tended their farms or vineyards under the terms of a lease agreement. And if they were away during harvest-time it would be typical for them to send someone to receive his produce. But what follows in the parable is unexpected and most unusual. It is a severe and deliberate breach of contract. These very ones who were proclaiming most loudly the need to obey every aspect of Torah were at the same time committing the most heinous breach of God’s covenant with them.

 “But grabbing his servants, the tenants beat up one, killed another, and stoned still another.  Again the master sent other servants, even more than the first, and they did the same thing to them.  Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
“But when the tenants saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir! Come on, let’s kill him and get his inheritance!’  So grabbing him, they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.   Therefore when the master of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
“He will bring those miserable men to a miserable end,” they said to Him, “and will lease the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the fruits in their seasons.”  
Yeshua said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures?
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
     this has become the chief cornerstone.
This came from Adonai,
     and it is marvelous in our eyes.’
Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to people producing its fruits. Whoever falls on this stone will be shattered; but the one upon whom it falls, it will crush him.”
Matthew 21:35-44 TLV

“And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully.  And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed.  He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’  
But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’  And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.  
What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.  Have you not read this Scripture:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
     has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
     and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

Mark 12:3-11 ESV

“But the vine-growers sent him away empty-handed having beaten him. And he proceeded to send another slave; and when they beat him also and treated him shamefully, they sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out.
Now the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’
But when the vine-growers saw him, they were reasoning with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.”

When they heard this, they said, “May it never be!”
But when Jesus looked at them, He said, “What then is this that is written:
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone’?
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
Luke 20:11-18 LSB

This was a harsh judgment Yeshua was pronouncing on His accusers. And yet, He also included great hope for them, and for all who would acknowledge what God was doing as He quoted from Psalm 118, which was used as an entrance liturgy to the Temple during the festival of Passover and so was on everyone’s mind at this time of year. This Psalm proclaims God’s deliverance from Egypt and, later on, from the Exile, then prophesies that God’s ultimate deliverance and foundation of the kingdom of heaven (the chief cornerstone) would be rejected by those who considered themselves to be builders of Judaism.

Psalm 118 was a liturgical script, complete with speaking parts for leaders and congregation. One can hear the jubilant call and response in 118:2-4: “Let Israel say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’ Let the house of Aaron say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’ Let those who fear the LORD say, ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’” With this Psalm on their lips, the priests and people processed into the Temple. The approach to the Temple culminates in verse 19, “Open to me the gates of righteousness” and the condition for entrance is given in verse 20, “The righteous shall enter through it.”  The people express their faith that since God has saved them in the past, He can be trusted in the future (verse 25). Then the festival procession proceeds up to the altar, to adorn it with signs of victory (verse 27).

Psalm 118
1 Praise (Heb. hodu, Or Give thanks toAdonai, for He is good.
For His lovingkindness endures forever.
O let Israel say:
For His lovingkindness endures forever.
O let the house of Aaron say:

For His lovingkindness endures forever.
O let those who fear Adonai say:
For His lovingkindness endures forever.

5 Out of a tight place I called on Adonai—
Adonai answered me with a spacious place.
Adonai is for me—I will not fear!
What can man do to me?
Adonai is for me, as my helper.
I will see the downfall of those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in Adonai
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in Adonai
than to trust in princes.

10 All nations surrounded me—
in the Name of Adonai I cut them off.
11 They surrounded me, yes, all around me—
in the Name of Adonai I cut them off.
12 They swarmed around me like bees—
they were extinguished like burning thorns—
in the Name of Adonai I cut them off.
13 You pushed me hard to make me fall,
but Adonai helped me.

14 Adonai is my strength and song,
and He has become my salvation.
15 Shouts of joy and victory
are in the tents of the righteous:
    “Adonai’s right hand is mighty!
16 Adonai’s right hand is lifted high!
    Adonai’s right hand is mighty!”

17 I will not die, but live,
and proclaim what Adonai has done!
18 Adonai has chastened me hard,
but has not given me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them and praise Adonai.
20 This is the gate of Adonai—
the righteous will enter through it.
21 I give You thanks, because You have answered me
and have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone.

23 It is from Adonai:
it is marvelous in our eyes!

24 This is the day that Adonai has made!
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

25 Hoshia-na! Please, Adonai, save now!
We beseech You, Adonai, prosper us!
26 Baruch haba b’Shem Adonai—

Blessed is He who comes in the Name of Adonai.
We bless you from the House of Adonai.
27 Adonai is God, and He has given us light.

Join the festival with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I praise You.
You are my God—I exalt You!
29 Praise Adonai, for He is good,
for His lovingkindness endures forever.

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.  And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. Matthew 21:45-46 ESV

 They were trying to seize Yeshua, because they realized that He spoke the parable against them. But they feared the crowd, so they left Him and went away. Mark 12:12 TLV

And the scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, but they feared the people. For they understood that He spoke this parable against them. Luke 20:19 LSB

Yeshua again used parables in speaking to them: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son, but when he sent his slaves to summon the invited guests to the wedding, they refused to come. So he sent some more slaves, instructing them to tell the guests, ‘Look, I’ve prepared my banquet, I’ve slaughtered my bulls and my fattened cattle, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding!’  
But they weren’t interested and went off, one to his farm, another to his business; and the rest grabbed his slaves, mistreated them and killed them. 
The king was furious and sent his soldiers, who killed those murderers and burned down their city.
 “Then he said to his slaves, ‘Well, the wedding feast is ready; but the ones who were invited didn’t deserve it.  So go out to the street-corners and invite to the banquet as many as you find.’  
The slaves went out into the streets, gathered all the people they could find, the bad along with the good; and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“Now when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who wasn’t dressed for a wedding; so he asked him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’
The man was speechless.  
Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him outside in the dark!’ In that place people will wail and grind their teeth, for many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22:1-14 CJB

In the culture of that day a wedding feast was inseparable from the wedding itself, which involved a week-long series of meals and festivities and was the highlight of all social life. Guests were invited to stay at the house of the groom’s parents for the entire occasion, and the father would make as elaborate provisions as he could afford. A royal wedding, such as the one featured in this parable, would be held in the palace and the celebration often lasted for several weeks with all the abundance of the kingdom.

The king sent his “servants” or “slaves” (plural) to invite the guests, implying that a great number had been invited. καλέσαι τοὺς κεκλημένους, to invite the already invited. This second invitation seems to accord with Eastern custom (Esther 6:14). In the culture of the day it was customary first to invite the guests, and then at the time of the event give a final invitation to those who had accepted the first invitation indicating that they would attend. The first invitation was given to the people of Israel by all the prophets, from Moses through to Yohanan the Immerser. The Jews had accepted this invitation by entering into covenant through circumcision, so it was to them that Yeshua had now come and sent out first the twelve, and then the seventy, to invite them to the prepared banquet. Yeshua was the feast.

Instead of rejoicing that the time of the long-awaited banquet had arrived and leaving everything to partake in it they would continue on with daily life or actually attack those bringing the good news. Even though they knew that a royal invitation was equivalent to a royal command, they refused to acknowledge the king’s announcement, thus rejecting his authority – they had no fear of their king! This was utter rebellion, murderous rebellion as they attacked those sent to them from the king. There’s a warning that if the Jews reject Him Jerusalem will be burned down – even as the Romans were later to do in AD70 when Titus surrounded Jerusalem, broke through, plundered the temple and burned the city to the ground. And the invitation was extended to all those who were previously excluded, the Gentiles both good and bad. It was, however, not an unconditional invitation – for any who attended without first putting on their wedding garment of His righteousness would be bound and thrown out to the dark place of weeping and grinding teeth.

Then the P’rushim went away and put together a plan to trap Yeshua with his own words. Matthew 22:15 CJB

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.  So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. Luke 20:19-20 ESV

They sent him some of their talmidim and some members of Herod’s party. They said, “Rabbi, we know that you tell the truth and really teach what God’s way is. You aren’t concerned with what other people think about you, since you pay no attention to a person’s status.  So tell us your opinion: does Torah permit paying taxes to the Roman Emperor or not?”  
Yeshua, however, knowing their malicious intent, said, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me?  Show me the coin used to pay the tax!”
They brought him a denarius;  and he asked them, “Whose name and picture are these?” 
“The Emperor’s,” they replied.
Yeshua said to them, “Nu, give the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor. And give to God what belongs to God!” 
On hearing this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Matthew 22:16-22 CJB

Then they send some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Yeshua in order to trap Him with a word. 
They come and say to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are honest, and what others think doesn’t concern You. You don’t look at men’s appearance, but teach the way of God according to the truth. Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?  Should we pay, or shouldn’t we?”
But Yeshua saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius so I may see it.”
They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they said to Him.
Then Yeshua said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were completely amazed at Him.

Mark 12:13-17 TLV

So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God.  Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”  
But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them,  “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” 
They said, “Caesar’s.” 
He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  
And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.
Luke 20:21-26 ESV

The P’rushim (Pharisees) sent some of their young talmidim (disciples) with supporters of the Herodian dynasty’s reign over Israel to try to trap Yeshua with a question that had no safe answer.

Herodians: Herod’s Idumaean grandfather had been forcibly converted to Judaism after the Hasmonean King, John Hyrcanus, conquered Idumea in 107 B.C. The Maccabean Revolt & Hasmonean Period (166 – 40 BC) – Renewal Blog His father, Antipater, was administratively gifted and politically astute such that the high priest Hyrcanus II depended on his advise during Roman political instability and after Julius Ceasar appointed Hyrcanus II as ethnarch (Greek for “ruler of the nation”) Antipater took control of virtually all matters of state . Antipater installed his sons as governors, Herod over Galilee and Phasael over Jerusalem. Herod’s brutal massacrer, without trial, of those engaged in resistance led to confrontation with the Sanhedrin. After Antipater was poisoned in 43 B.C. Herod and Phasael were each given the title of tetrarch by the Romans. In 40 B.C. the Parthians allied themselves with Antigonus II (Mattathias) the Hasmonean, who as the last of the Hasmonean princes had long been seeking to reassert Hasmonean rule over Judea. Once again Judea had a Hasmonean king, but Herod had escaped and set sail for Rome, where he persuaded the Senate to declare him king of Judea and provide him with an army to expel the Parthians from the province. In 37 B.C. Herod and the Roman army recaptured Jerusalem and beheaded Antigonus. Early in his reign, Herod also murdered all but two of the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin and replaced them with religious leaders who would do his bidding, recalling from the Hellenistic diaspora several distinguished priestly families such as the Phabi, Kathros, and Boethus who were nurtured in Greco‑Roman culture as the new king of Judea sort to replace the Hasmonean aristocracy with one of his own. Second Temple Period under Roman Rule until Messiah (63 BC – 1BC) – Renewal Blog. Herod was determined to build a Herodian dynasty to rival the Hasmonean dynasty that he had replaced. Supporting Herod, and his dynasty, had been the way to advance, both politically and economically, in Jewish society.

Herod had died shortly after his killing of the innocents in Bethlehem and left the lion’s share of the kingdom; Idumaea, Judea and Samaria, and the title of Ethnarch (ruler of the people) to his son Herod Archelaus; Tetrarch (ruler over a fourth) of Galilee and Perea to his son Herod Antipas; and Tetrarch of the small regions of Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Batanaea, and Panias in the northeast to his son Herod Philip. In 6 CE, Emperor Augustus had deposed Herod Archelaus, whose reign had been brutal and poorly administered, and converted his territory into the Roman province of Judaea – exerting direct Roman rule over the heart of Israel, including Jerusalem. It was now about 30 years since Herod had died and his dynasty lost control over Judea. The Sanhedrin, however, still contained members who had been appointed for their loyalty to Herod and members of the Herodian party, satellites of the tetrarch Antipas, royalists who hoped for a restoration of the Herodian monarchy over all Judea instead of direct Roman rule. Herodians were not a religious party but rather a political group concerned with the interests of the Herodian dynasty. They probably favoured the policies of Herod Antipas, who was tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea (4 BC–AD 39), a strong promoter of Hellenistic (Greco-Roman) culture and had beheaded Yohanan the Immerser (John the Baptist).  Theologically, they would have included both Pharisees and Sadducees who preferred Herodian rule to direct Roman rule.  A significant number of the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin were from Beit Shammai. The Shammaites would not bow to Roman rule nor countenance any social intercourse with either the Romans or those who in any way worked with them (Second Temple Period under Roman Rule until Messiah (63 BC – 1BC) – Renewal Blog).

After the banishment of Herod Archelaus, the Roman procurator, Coponius, had decided to directly tax the Jews and this had been strongly protested by the P’rushim (Pharisees) ever since on the basis that it was against the Torah to have a foreigner rule over them.  Deuteronomy 17 provides God’s instructions for any king over Israel and begins with an injunction that the people were not to place a foreigner over themselves. P’rushim, particularly those of Beit Shammai, interpreted this as it being against Torah to pay taxes to any foreign power.

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite.  The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.”  He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. Deuteronomy 17:14-20 NIV

Thus, the vexed question of whether Torah permitted paying taxes to the Roman Emperor or not was both religious and political.  Surely the real Messiah would uphold the P’rushim‘s doctrine that it was contrary to Torah and lead a victorious revolt against the Romans, and if he were not the real Messiah would be crushed by the Romans and thereby no longer a threat to the status quo. Yeshua never let them set the agenda, but only did that which He saw His Father doing. He answered by re-shaping the whole debate: “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  

 That same day, some Tz’dukim came to him. They are the ones who say there is no such thing as resurrection, so they put to him a sh’eilah: “Rabbi, Moshe said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother must marry his widow and have children to preserve the man’s family line.’ There were seven brothers. The first one married and then died; and since he had no children, he left his widow to his brother.  The same thing happened to the second brother, and the third, and finally to all seven.  After them all, the woman died.  Now in the Resurrection — of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all married her.”
Yeshua answered them, “The reason you go astray is that you are ignorant both of the Tanakh and of the power of God.  For in the Resurrection, neither men nor women will marry; rather, they will be like angels in heaven.  And as for whether the dead are resurrected, haven’t you read what God said to you,  I am the God of Avraham, the God of Yitz’chak and the God of Ya‘akov’ ? He is God not of the dead but of the living!”

When the crowds heard how he taught, they were astounded; Matthew 22:23-33 CJB

 Then Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came and began questioning Yeshua, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, then his brother should take the widow and father children for his brother.’  There were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and, when he died, left no offspring.  And the second took her and died, leaving no offspring, and the third likewise.  Now the seven left no offspring. Last of all, the woman died, too.  In the resurrection, when they rise up, whose wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”
Yeshua said to them, “Isn’t this the reason you’ve gone astray, because you don’t understand the Scriptures or the power of God?  For when they rise up from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.  But concerning the dead being raised, haven’t you read in the book of Moses about the burning bush? How God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He’s not the God of the dead, but of the living. You have gone far astray!”
Mark 12:18-27 TLV

Now some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection) came to Him, and they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should marry the wife and raise up seed for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; and the first married a wife and died childless, and the second31 and the third married her; and in the same way, all seven died, leaving no children. Finally the woman died also. Therefore, this woman—in the resurrection—whose wife will she be? For all seven had her as a wife.”
And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage. For they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.”
And some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.”
Luke 20:27-39 LSB

Tz’dukim / Sadducees came mostly from the priestly aristocracy and upper classes.  They were open to Hellenism and closed to the Oral Torah which the P’rushim considered essential rules for everyday Jewish life.  They generally did not accept the doctrine of the resurrection or the immortality of the soul, and rejected the divine inspiration of the Nev’im (Prophets) and K’tuvim (Writings) in the TaNaKh (our Old Testament).  Sadducees generally centered their interests in political life, of which they were the chief rulers before the destruction of the Second Temple, where their power had resided. Most of the High Priests were Sadducees and they also had a strong role in the Sanhedrin.  Instead of sharing the P’rushim‘s (Pharisees’) messianic  hopes they took the people’s destiny onto their own hands, fighting or negotiating with the Roman authorities as they thought best, while seeking their own temporal welfare and worldly success. 

These Tz’dukim (Sadducies) were trying to establish their argument for a general principal on a very rare, extreme and unlikely case. Yeshua answers that, in founding upon Deuteronomy 25:5 the denial of the resurrection, which their question implies, they are mistaken, and that in a twofold respect:
(1) they do not understand the Scriptures, i.e. they fail to see how the reality of eternal life actually underlies many a scriptural utterance; and
(2) they do not sufficiently realize the extent of the power of God, that He is the resurrection and life.
Although there are many verses from different parts of the TaNaKh that Yeshua could have used to prove resurrection, He chose one from the Torah (which the Sadducees believed possessed supreme authority) and quoted Exodus 3:6. His opponents had cited a passage from Torah; with a passage from Torah Yeshua answers them, showing that if they just believed the scriptures they said they believed they would have no argument with Him.

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:34-40 ESV

One of the Torah scholars came and heard them debating. Seeing that Yeshua had answered them well, he asked Him, “Which commandment is first of all?”
Yeshua answered, “The first is, ‘Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.  And you shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’   The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, Teacher,” the Torah scholar said to Him. “You have spoken the truth, that He is echad, and besides Him there is no other!   And ‘to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love the neighbor as oneself,’ is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Yeshua saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
  Mark 12:28-34a TLV

Yeshua took these from the following Torah scriptures:

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” 
They said to him, “The son of David.” 
He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
     until I put your enemies under your feet”’?
If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 
And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask Him any more questions.
Matthew 22:41-46 ESV

And no one dared any longer to question Him.
While Yeshua was teaching in the Temple, He said, “How is it that the Torah scholars say that the Messiah is Ben-David? David himself, through the Ruach ha-Kodesh, said,
‘Adonai said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
until I put Your enemies under Your feet.”’
If David himself calls Him ‘Lord,’ in what way is He his son?”
And the large crowd was listening to Him with delight.
Mark 12:34b-37 TLV

For they no longer dared to ask him any question.
But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? For David himself says in the Book of Psalms,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
  until I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’
David thus calls him Lord, so how is He his son?”
Luke 20: 40-44 ESV

Yeshua challenged them with one of David’s prophetic psalms, Psalm 110:

 The Lord says to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

The Lord sends forth from Zion
    your mighty scepter.
    Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Your people will offer themselves freely
    on the day of your power,
    in holy garments;

from the womb of the morning,
    the dew of your youth will be yours.
The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
    after the order of Melchizedek.”
The Lord is at your right hand;
    he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
He will execute judgment among the nations,
    filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
    over the wide earth.
 He will drink from the brook by the way;
    therefore he will lift up his head.

In this Psalm Yeshua is described as king descended from David, and Lord over David, and priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (a theme the writer of Hebrews would later pick up on – Heb. 5:6106:207:1721.) He is so much more than the pharisees comprehended when they thought of Messiah.

In His teaching He said, “Watch out for the Torah scholars, who like to walk around in long robes. They like greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at feasts. They devour widows’ houses and make long prayers as a show. These men will receive greater condemnation!”
Mark 12: 38-40 TLV

And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Luke 20:45-47

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,  “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.  They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.  
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.  Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.  The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Seven Woes

You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.  Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?  
Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. Matthew 23:1-36 ESV

His detractors had disengaged, frustrated by the way He “moved mountains(ʿōqēr hārîm) as an eminent sage whose profoundness of learning and splendour of virtue overcome all the obstacles and objections of those who tried to contend with Him. None of them had been able to trap Him in His words. Now He turned to His disciples and addressed the crowd for the last time, giving a farewell address that returned to the theme of the Parable of the Vineyard He had shared with them that morning. 

He sat down opposite the treasury and began watching how the people were putting money into the offering box. Many rich people were putting in a lot. Then a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny.  Calling His disciples over, He said to them, “Amen, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those contributing to the box!  For they all put in from their surplus; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had, her whole living.”
Mark 12:41-44 TLV

Then Yeshua looked up and saw the rich dropping their gifts into the treasury box. He also saw a poor widow dropping in two small copper coins.  And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all the rest. For all these put in their gifts from their surplus. But she, out of her poverty, put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4 TLV

Yeshua was now in the treasury, that part of the women’s court where the trumpet-shaped brazen chests (שׁוֹפָרוֹת) were placed for receiving the offerings of those who came to worship. Each of these thirteen chests were fixed to the pillars of the portico which surrounded the court and had an inscription on them signifying for what use the offerings put into them were destined. Here Yeshua drew attention away from those who considered themselves important as His final discourse in the temple focused instead on someone considered of little consequence – a poor widow. What is important to man is of little regard to God, and what God sees as noteworthy was despised by man because we cannot see it – the attitudes of the heart.

Reference List

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In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

* How do you understand Jesus’ words “if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it all.“?
* How did Jesus respond to the accusations that He lacked the authority to do what He was doing?
* What was the sign of the Jew’s covenant with God and how were their leaders planning a most heinous breach of God’s covenant with them?
* What do we learn from the parable of the wedding feast?
* Explain the significance of the Psalms that Jesus’ quoted from when answering His accusers.