Final Week Of Jesus 2020: Day 2
If you knew you only had a few days left to live, what would you do?
Jesus knew His time on the earth was coming to an end. He knew that in just a few short days, He would be arrested, hanged on a cross, and die. I believe Jesus was 100% God, but He was also 100% man. The God-Jesus understood the plan of redemption and was willing to be the perfect sacrifice for all of humanity. However, I am sure the Man-Jesus was struggling, even afraid. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. Quite the opposite. Jesus was a man who experienced the same emotions we do. We know this because of his anguish in the garden before He was arrested. Through Jesus, God is personal and accessible.
Since Jesus was human like us, He approached His last days on earth like any of us would–He focused on what really mattered to Him. As we read the events that took place in the final week of Jesus, we find amazing stories from that fateful week: Jesus throws over the money changer’s tables in the Temple, He confronts the Pharisees, and gives us the Great Commandment. But if we take the time to look a little deeper, certain themes and patterns begin to emerge. These stories are all connected, taking place in just a few days. When we view these events through that lens and look for the connections, it becomes very clear that two things mattered deeply to Jesus: 1) Caring for his followers, and 2) Creating deep community. Tomorrow, we will look at Jesus’s passion for community. Today, we will see how much He cares for His followers.
As I study the events that take place during the final week of Jesus, I see example after example of how much He loves, protects, and cares for His followers. Two stories that demonstrate this best are throwing over the tables in the Temple and the parable of the two sons. Each one of these events highlights a loving and protective Savior.
The other day, I lost my temper with my children. I was tired and frustrated, and lashed out in anger, raising my voice way beyond what was needed. Everyone froze. I felt horrible, but the damage was done. The rest of the night, I felt like everyone was avoiding me. They wanted to stay away from crazy dad.
When we read the story of Jesus throwing over the tables in the Temple, I think we get that same picture in our head. Jesus got that crazy look in His eye and just snapped. When this passage comes up in church, we are quick to point out it was a righteous anger and He did no wrong. However, we all have this feeling that Jesus went a little overboard, like the crazy dad we’re going to avoid for a few hours. But that’s not the case.
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” -Matthew 21:12-13
Jesus was not only protecting “His house”, but He was protecting His people. These money changers were taking advantage of the people. As a part of their faith, they had to offer sacrifice. People traveled to Jerusalem from miles around and carrying livestock on the journey wasn’t practical. Instead, they simply purchased their sacrifice at the Temple. Nothing wrong there. But these money changers were being dishonest and gouging the people. Jesus would not stand for this to take place, but He wasn’t out of control or acting crazy. Look at the very next verse:
The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. -Matthew 21:14
At the temple. If Jesus was acting mad and a little crazy, you would avoid Him, like my children did with me. But they didn’t. Even though Jesus acted out in righteous anger, the people could tell He still cared for them. He wasn’t out-of-control. He was a protective Father. The blind and the lame felt comfortable enough to come to Him and seek healing immediately after Jesus had thrown over the tables.
Jesus cares for His followers.
Tax Collectors and Prostitutes
The next day, Jesus was back in the Temple, teaching the people. The religious leaders were getting more and more frustrated with this prophet who claimed to be God. They began to confront Him. On this occasion, the religious elders asked Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things?” (Matthew 21:23) After some discussion, Jesus told them a story (parable) to drive home the point He was making. In the story, there were two sons. The father asked each of them to go to work in his vineyard. The first son refused and said he wouldn’t do the work. But later, he changed his mind and decided to go to work. The second son immediately told his father he would go to work, but he never did. Then Jesus dropped a truth bomb as He explained what the story meant:
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.” -Matthew 21:31-32
Jesus just looked directly in the eye of the chief priests and told them that prostitutes would be in heaven before them. What?! The religious leaders were the second son from the story. They quickly said they would follow God, but they missed out on what He was actually doing. The broken, messed up people of the world (like us) were like the first son. At first, they did their own thing and lived for themselves. But later, they followed the Way of the Father.
And Jesus cares for His followers.
In this story, we can clearly see how God feels about us. Many people think God is angry at them or wonder where they stand with God. This story makes it clear:
God cares more about your future than your past.
But Matt, you don’t know what I did. You’re a pastor and wouldn’t understand.
You’re right. I don’t know your story. But I’ll share a little piece of mine. When I was in high school, I was a leader in my church and youth group. I felt called into ministry as a senior and went to Bible college after I graduated. Four years later, I was entering my first job in ministry.
See, I said you wouldn’t understand.
You’re right. Up until that point, I was on the same path as any other pastor. But just a few short years into ministry and marriage, it all blew up. By the time I was 25-years-old, I had been married, in ministry, divorced, out of ministry, and had a child I have never lived in the same house with because we were already separated when we found out my ex-wife was pregnant. My marriage ended because I had a very messy physical and emotional affair. So it didn’t just blow up. I was the one who blew it up.
Now, I’m not trying to compare ugly pasts with yours. My point is simply that when Jesus says that sinners and prostitutes will be in heaven, that gives me a lot of hope. It means that Jesus isn’t as concerned with our past if we are following Him now.
Jesus cares for His followers.
Do you struggle with past sins and mistakes? Have you lived in guilt or shame over your choices? I have. But we serve a God who loves us. He is protective of us. When we focus on our past mistakes, Jesus tells us to focus on the future we have in Him. Are you following Jesus? If so, that’s good. Because… say it with me…
Jesus cares for His followers.