They arrive at the Temple to find a group of Temple priests and officials waiting for Jesus. They march up to Him and ask in authoritative voices, “Who gave You permission to do all these things that You are doing? What right do You have?” Jesus smiles, as if they are just having a pleasant conversation, and says, “I’ll tell you what you want to know if you can answer My question. They huddle together for a moment to discuss this, then turn back to Jesus and nod. “Fine. We will answer Your question, then You must answer ours!” Jesus asks them, “Who gave John the authority to baptize? God or people?” The faces of the priests turn white. They realize they are stuck. Another huddle ensues as they try to figure a way out of this predicament. “If we say God gave John authority, He will ask us why we were against him. And if we say John got his authority from man, the people will come against us, because they all loved John and call him a prophet.” Finally, they turn back to Jesus and simply say, “We don’t know who gave John his authority.” Jesus tilts His head to the side and raises an eyebrow. “So I can’t tell you who gives Me permission to do what I do either.” With that, He walks past the group and into the Temple for a day of teaching.
Matthew 21:23-27, Mark 11:27-33, Luke 20:1-8
All eyes turn to Jesus. “How did the tree die so quickly?” Peter asks. Jesus tells them, “Anything is possible if you have faith. Forgive anyone you are angry with, anyone who has hurt you, and have faith in God. Do not doubt, for you know better than anyone else in this world what can be accomplished with true faith. If you do this, and pray from your heart, knowing that it is the will of God that you are seeking, you can ask for anything and it will be given to you.” Jesus turns and gestures toward the mountain in the distance. “You can say to this mountain, ‘Lift yourself up and throw yourself into the sea,’ and the mountain will move.” The apostles look on in awe, each of them considering this. “Can we try it?” Peter asks somewhat excitedly. “I want to see the mountain move!” Jesus gives him an amused smile and says, “Do you truly believe it is the will of God that you move the mountain into the sea? Don’t you think that might cause a lot of trouble for a lot of people? Including fishermen like you!” Peter’s face turns a little red as he realizes what he has asked. He feels a bit childish now. “Yes, Rabbi,” he answers, “Let’s keep going to Jerusalem.”
Matthew 21:20-22, Mark 11:20-25
The Temple authorities are frustrated. Here He is, in full view of everyone at the Temple, and they can do nothing about it. Even worse, they still know nothing about His whereabouts unless He chooses to appear to the people, nor have they made any progress in their plan to entice someone in His group to give Him up. They are, strangely enough, working in God’s plan, but it is not yet the right time. Instead, Jesus comes and goes where and when He pleases. He and His apostles are staying at the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha in Bethany every night and re-entering Jerusalem each morning. This morning, Jesus realized He had not had His fill at breakfast, and His stomach rumbles as they pass a fig tree bursting with bright green leaves. He eagerly goes up to it, searching for any ripe figs, though He knows that it is not yet the season for figs to be ripe. He glances back at His apostles, ready for another lesson, then speaks to the tree in an angry tone, saying, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!” The apostles are surprised at this outburst; it is so unlike Him. But when they look back at the tree, they are even more surprised. Before their astonished eyes, the tree turns gray from the roots all the way up to the tallest branches and loses all of its leaves.
Matthew 21:18-19, Mark 11:12-20
Even though many people are now turning away from Jesus, there are still more who believe He is the Messiah. Many of them are non-Jews – Greeks and Romans – but there are some even among the members of the Sanhedrin who secretly believe in Him. But they keep quiet about it for fear that they will be shunned, or worse, killed, by their fellow leaders. They fear men more than God and they would still prefer to be accepted and revered by their peers than by God. Even now, they still take part in the plot to find and capture Jesus. Guards are looking everywhere in Jerusalem, trying to track down where Jesus is staying and figure out a way to get close enough to arrest Him. But He has disappeared completely since His last message at the Temple. Suddenly, He is there, just outside the Temple, loudly addressing the people surrounding Him. “If anyone believes in Me, he believes in My Father, God, who sent Me. Whoever sees Me as I AM sees God. I AM here to illuminate the way to God. If you believe in Me, you will walk in this light and no longer have to stumble in the darkness. But I have not come to judge this world or its people, even those who hear My words and see My deeds and still do not believe in Me. I AM here to save the world. When the end time comes, those who do not believe in Me will be judged by those same words that they do not believe. For all that I say and do is not My own words or My own deeds, but those of My Father in Heaven. He sent Me; He commands Me what to say and I say it, what to do and I do it. I know that His Word is true forever, and brings Life to all those who heed it.”
These same people who eagerly awaited Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, who cheered Him and waved palm branches before Him, who believed He could really be the Messiah, now begin to turn their backs on Him. They forget all that they have heard about Him, and even the miracles that they have seen with their own eyes. The prophet Isaiah wrote about this very thing, speaking the words of God when he wrote, “Who has believed Our Words (the words of God and of Jesus), and who did We show Our power to?” Because the people turn away and choose not to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, their hearts become hard and they lose their ability to believe. This fulfills another of Isaiah’s prophecies which said, “Their eyes are blind and their hearts are hardened. For if they saw with their eyes and understood with their hearts, they would turn from doing wrong and come to Me, and I would heal them.” This is the prophecy Isaiah recorded just after he had a vision of God seated on His throne in Heaven in all His glory.
John 12:37-41, Isaiah 53:1, 6:1, 9-10
Jesus holds His arms up for silence. As the uproar dies down He declares, “The Voice you have just heard was not for My benefit, but for yours. Very soon, I, the Son of Man, will be lifted up on a cross. That will be the beginning of the end of Satan’s reign of power on this world. The judgment of the people of this world is soon to begin, and when I AM lifted up I will begin to draw all people to Me.” The people in the crowd are confused. Isn’t Jesus supposed to be their Messiah? The Messiah is supposed to live forever, be indestructible. He is supposed to lead a great army to liberate the Jews from their Roman oppressors and set up His utopian kingdom in Jerusalem. Someone calls out, “The Holy Scriptures tell us that the Messiah will never die. Yet You claim to be the Messiah and still say that You are about to die. And what does ‘Son of Man’ mean?” But Jesus, instead of answering their questions, replies, “You only have the Light a little while longer. Walk in the light while you can, because darkness is coming, and nobody can see in the dark. They stumble and fall because they don’t know where they are going. Walk in the Light, so that you may become children of the Light.” He rises from His perch on the Temple steps, turns abruptly, and walks away, leaving many people confused and frustrated. Some in the crowd try to find Him, to attempt to get more information from Him, but He has disappeared completely.
The crowd silently watches Jesus’ face. Just a moment ago it was bright and animated, but now Jesus looks thoughtful and a little sad. He looks up to the Heavens for a moment, then back to the people. “I have no peace in My soul right now. I know what is to come, what I must do, and why. I know the outcome. But I have no peace about it. And yet, can I say, ‘Father, take this trial away from Me, save Me from this time of heartache?’ No. This is why I AM here.” Once more, He looks up to the Heavens. He cries out, “Father, use Me to bring honor and glory to Your Name!” The crowd is startled by this change in Him. They’re not sure how to react to what they have just heard. Suddenly, a great rumbling noise comes from the sky. “I HAVE GLORIFIED MY NAME, AND WILL DO SO AGAIN THROUGH YOUR ACTIONS,” says a Voice from the Heavens. The crowd jumps back in fright. “Thunder!” some say, as though they have not heard the words but only a rumbling sound. But others say, “The voices of the angels!” and still others, “Could it be the voice of God Almighty?”
Jesus bends His head toward Philip to hear what he has to say. He looks up and sees the Greek men standing just outside the room where He is teaching. He looks into the eyes of the man who had spoken to Philip and smiles, then looks around at the crowded room. Looking back at the Greek men, He shakes His head almost imperceptibly. With all the people here, and the extra security in place for the Passover festival, it would not be wise for these men to try to enter now. But Jesus knows why they have come, and so He addresses their question without the men having to ask. “The time has come for the Son of Man to be seen in His Glory. You know well that a seed not planted will never bloom, but once planted in the soil, though the seed itself dies, it produces a crop and many more seeds. Anyone who tries to save his own life will end up losing it, for everyone dies at some point. But whoever is willing to give his own life for My sake will not only inherit eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, but will be the catalyst for other lives to inherit eternal life as well. If you are My follower, follow Me. For wherever I AM, you will be able to follow. When My Father looks at My followers, He will see Me, and will love them as He loves Me.”
Each day that Jesus teaches in the Temple, huge crowds of pilgrims, in Jerusalem for the Passover festival, come to hear Him and to try and get their own miracle. Many people have travelled great distances. A small group of Greek travelers from near the city of Bethsaida in Galilee now make their way cautiously toward the Temple. Though they are Greek in ethnicity, they have converted to Judaism. But they must still be very careful, because there is a strict law that only Jewish men are allowed to go past the Court of Gentiles and the Court of Women to enter the Temple. Anyone breaking that law is taking his life in his hands. These Greek Jews know the law very well, but they have heard many great things about this Jesus and do not want to miss this opportunity to see and hear Him for themselves. Cautiously, they make their way through the packed Temple courts and over to the area where Jesus is teaching. They see a man that they recognize and head toward him. “Philip!” one cries out, “I’m so glad to see you!” Philip turns, surprised to see a Greek Jew here in the Temple. “Can you take us to see Jesus, please? We have a question for Him that we’ve been waiting quite a long time to ask.” Philip looks dubious. “I’ll try, but I can’t promise anything. As you can see, it’s packed!” Philip turns to Andrew and tells him about the Greeks and their request, and together they make their way over to Jesus.
Jesus and His apostles return the following day, and the next several days after that. The apostles are afraid of the Sanhedrin, knowing that they are looking for a way to kill Jesus and anyone associated with Him. But Jesus, knowing that nothing can harm him before it is time, walks boldly into Jerusalem and up the Temple steps every day. He sits in the Temple and teaches the throngs of people who come to Him to hear the Word of God. His words are like medicine to many of these hurting people, and they hang on His every word. The members of the Sanhedrin, on the other hand, are furious, and redouble their efforts to capture Him. They don’t dare do it while He is surrounded by adoring followers, and they are beginning to wonder if they will have to wait until after everyone leaves Jerusalem at the end of the Passover festival. After all, they want to avoid at all costs having an angry mob looking to take revenge on them for killing their beloved leader. For now, they decide to just watch and wait for the right moment to act on their scheme.
Mark 18:18-19, Luke 19:47-48