We were describing events that took place between the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th Passover in Jesus' public ministry. During this final phase Jesus was spending more time in and around Jerusalem, going into the city to teach and then returning north when the situation became too dangerous.
We pick up the story as the Lord is teaching in the northern part of the country. Important feasts are fast approaching and He will leave the relative safety of His home area and venture into Jerusalem once more in order to teach and declare His true nature and mission to the people in the holy city.
Event number 82 describes one such dynamic appearance in Jerusalem during the feast of Tabernacles (Booths).
82. Jesus at Jerusalem during Feast of Tabernacles
The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration that commemorated several things: the blessings of harvest as well as the time spent in the desert during the Exodus. Features of this feast:
- The name booths/tabernacles comes from the booths made of tree boughs and branches they all had to live in during the 7 days of the feast.
- It was one of the 3 annual feasts that every male had to attend.
- It came at the end of fall and was a time of celebrating.
- Jews today still celebrate this feast by building "booths" in yards and porches.
During this time Jesus is in Galilee and his brothers taunt Him to come to the feast to prove Himself, if He really is the Messiah. He refuses to be provoked by them but does secretly go to the feast.
While there He observes that the people have a divided opinion about Him (He's evil and an imposter / He's a good man). To clarify their opinion, He stands up publically and begins to teach the crowds on several occasions. This is the time where He:
- Accuses them of trying to kill Him, the one who has brought the teaching of God.
- He says that He is sent directly from God.
- "Where I am you cannot come."
- "Let Him come to Me and drink."
All of His references are to declare that He is from God and equal to God, and for this reason the religious leaders send soldiers to arrest Him but they don't carry out their mission because of His teaching. When the soldiers come back empty handed there is a dispute among the leaders at which time Nicodemus tries to defend Jesus but is put down by the other leaders.
83. Jesus and the adulteress
The Lord leaves the temple area and goes to the Mount of Olives. There is a park there (Gethsemane) where He will later pray before His arrest. He spends the night here and returns to the temple the next day.
The Pharisees try a new line of attack, this time trying to turn the people against Him. They do this by bringing a woman caught in an adulteress affair and asking Him what to do with her. If, according to Mosaic law, He tells them that she should be stoned, they will accuse Him of being unmerciful and even breaking Roman law because Jews weren't allowed to execute without Roman permission. If He tells them to let her go, they will accuse Him of being too liberal and turn the people against Him.
Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees by challenging them to consider who among them was truly worthy of being this woman's judge: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
When they realize that according to Law and conscience, none of them are worthy to judge her, they leave. Then Jesus, who is worthy to judge her, does so by forgiving her and encouraging her to not sin in this way any longer.
To the crowd He proves His unassailable wisdom. To the woman He demonstrates the mercy of God.
84. Jesus teaches again in the temple
Once the meeting with the woman is over, Jesus again begins to teach the crowds concerning His identity and responds to their questions and attacks.
- I am the light of the world
- Where I am going you cannot come
- When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that I am He
- If you abide in my word, you are truly disciples of mine
- You are of your father the devil
- Before Abraham was, I am
These and other teachings concerning His true identity as the divine Son of God and Messiah provoked them to such frenzy that they took up stones and tried to kill Him on the spot, but He escaped.
85. Jesus heals the blind beggar
Jesus has left the temple area for safety's sake, but continues to minister in the area. The Lord heals a man blind from birth and when this fact is presented to the Jewish leaders they accept that the miracle is genuine, but continue to reject Jesus. This was significant for two reasons:
- The healing of a blind person was never done before and was a definitive sign that Jesus was the Messiah and they rejected this clear demonstration.
- The healing was a living parable that pointed to their own blindness in the spiritual world and how God was opening the eyes of the simple and shutting the eyes of the proud.
This sign was a judgment directly on Jewish leaders and teachers who should have seen, but didn't.
86. Jesus' discourse on the good shepherd
Jesus' final teaching in the temple area before returning north after the feast was about the Good Shepherd. He has plainly declared who He was and that His time was at hand. He is forcing the people to choose who they will follow. He declares that He is the Good Shepherd and those who follow Him are following the right leader. This was a rebuke to the Jewish leaders that were leading at that time.
It is interesting to note that after this final speech and invitation to follow Him, there was still a division over Him: some believed He was possessed, others who knew about the healing of the blind man were impressed. Yet with all of His teaching and the great miracle, there was still doubt and division among the people.
87. Final departure from Galilee to Jerusalem
There is no transitional explanation of Jesus' leaving Jerusalem and going back up north. The next scene finds Him back in Galilee between the fall feast of Booths and the winter feast of Dedication.
At this point we see Him preparing for yet another trip to Jerusalem to teach at the temple. Things have cooled down and He is planning to return. During this trip there are some who want to go with Him and it is here that He warns them about the cost of discipleship after one follower wants to go to his father's funeral before going with Jesus.
Discipleship is serious business and Jesus warns that those who, "…put their hand to the plow and look back are not fit for the kingdom of God."
88. Jesus sends the seventy
After the warning to those who would be disciples, Jesus chooses seventy of His present followers and empowers them to preach and minister to the people. They return reporting that their special gifts were effective in healing and casting out demons. Jesus reminds them that their true joy and security lie in the fact that they themselves are in the book of life (saved). We now have the Apostles and 70 special disciples who are preaching and ministering in the area causing quite a stir and preparing for Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem.
89. The parable of the Good Samaritan
During this time Jesus presents a parable in response to a question from a scribe who wanted to justify himself in regards to keeping the Law. The scribe thought that the important provisions in the Law concerning love and obedience pertained only to the Jews.
Jesus teaches them the parable of the Good Samaritan in order to show that God's Law is universal and applies to all. Everyone will be judged by God based on their obedience to Him and their treatment of others. He reminds them that before God, all are neighbors and worthy of love.
90. Jesus visits Mary and Martha in Bethany
This was Jesus' place to stay when going to teach in Jerusalem since it was only a few miles from the city. During this occasion Martha asks Jesus to get Mary to help with the serving. Jesus shows that being with Him is the best choice and He won't push people away who prefer this. At the same time the disciples ask Him to help them pray and Jesus teaches them using another version of the Lord's Prayer also recorded in Matthew 6:9.
91. Jesus cures another demoniac
In this passage the cure is hardly mentioned at all. Luke describes in detail the reaction of the people and the Pharisees who witnessed this miracle. Some accused Jesus of using Satan's power to do miracles and healings, others wanted more signs. The Pharisees continued to attack Him on points of ceremony and tradition (for example, washing of hands).
As Jesus' ministry neared its end, His miracles provoked confusion among the doubters and anger among His enemies. Jesus responded by rebuking them and warning them that they risked condemnation and punishment because of their disbelief.
92. Exhortation to His disciples
Jesus is being attacked and opposed by the leaders. The people are unsure of Him. He encourages and comforts His disciples during this difficult period:
- Be careful of the Pharisees.
- The truth will come out one day (no confusion).
- Fear God, not man.
- God loves you and will care for you (sparrow).
- God will provide what to say and how to respond during persecution.
Jesus is beginning to prepare His disciples for His death and resurrection and the difficult times ahead. He tells them the parable of the Rich Fool (bigger barns) in order to warn them not to get too tied up in this world. Much of His exhortation is similar to early teachings given to them in the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus also adds new parables during this time as well: slaves who are faithful when their master comes and do not let their house be broken into; slaves that act faithfully and honorably while their master is away.
He finishes His teachings to His disciples and to the people who had gathered to hear Him. He knows that His cross and resurrection are near and wants to warn them that an important time of decision is near.
93. Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
Jesus provides one more parable that warns disciples of the consequences of not producing fruit. The fig tree in the parable was given extra time to produce but would be cut down if it did not eventually produce figs. In all of the teachings and parables at this point, Jesus is issuing a warning to those who have thus far rejected Him.
94. Healing of a woman with a spirit of infirmity
Jesus is still in the general area of Jerusalem teaching in a local synagogue. Once again He is faced with the challenge of healing on the Sabbath, but does so and rebukes those who would accuse Him of sin for helping a poor woman out of her misery. Luke says that the leaders were humiliated by His rebuke but the people rejoiced at His answer.
In the next chapter we'll continue this section as Jesus will once again go to the Temple to confront the leaders during the Feast of Dedication.
1. Time does run out
The Jews had 1500 years to prepare. It seemed that their time would never end, but one day their time did run out. God sent prophets and eventually sent Jesus to prepare them and warn them, but they didn't listen and were destroyed as a nation in 70 AD when the Roman army destroyed the city and killed most of its inhabitants.
Jesus sent His Apostles and in every generation sends His preachers to tell people to be ready. It seems like the Lord will never come, but one day time will run out.
2. The time to do good is now
Whenever the opportunity and the will of God were present, Jesus did good and healed the people. He did this even when it was inconvenient, dangerous or unpopular. The opportunity to do good, to serve or to do right is not always convenient or easy but we must seize it when we can.
Don't talk yourself out of doing good or doing the right thing – you'll lose a blessing if you do.