Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Ministry at the Temple Completed
JESUS is making his last appearance at the temple. In fact, he is concluding his public ministry on earth except for the events of his trial and execution three days later. Now he continues his castigation of the scribes and the Pharisees.
Three more times he exclaims: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” First, he proclaims woe on them because they cleanse “the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of plunder and immoderateness.” So he admonishes: “Cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside of it also may become clean.”
Next he pronounces woe on the scribes and the Pharisees for the inner rottenness and putrefaction that they attempt to hide by outward piety. “You resemble whitewashed graves,” he says, “which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of every sort of uncleanness.”
Finally, their hypocrisy is manifest in their willingness to build tombs for the prophets and decorate them to draw attention to their own deeds of charity. Yet, as Jesus reveals, they “are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” Indeed, anyone who dares expose their hypocrisy is in danger!
Going on, Jesus utters his strongest words of denunciation. “Serpents, offspring of vipers,” he says, “how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?” Gehenna is the valley used as the garbage dump of Jerusalem. So Jesus is saying that for pursuing their wicked course, the scribes and the Pharisees will suffer everlasting destruction.
Regarding those whom he sends forth as his representatives, Jesus says: “Some of them you will kill and impale, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city; that there may come upon you all the righteous blood spilled on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah [called Jehoiada in 2 Chronicles], whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I say to you, All these things will come upon this generation.”
Because Zechariah courageously chastised Israel’s leaders, “they conspired against him and pelted him with stones at the king’s commandment in the courtyard of Jehovah’s house.” But, as Jesus foretells, Israel will pay for all such righteous blood spilled. They pay 37 years later, in 70 C.E., when the Roman armies destroy Jerusalem and over a million Jews perish.
As Jesus considers this frightful situation, he is distressed. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he proclaims once again, “how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.”
Jesus then adds: “You will by no means see me from henceforth until you say, ‘Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name!’” That day will be at Christ’s presence when he comes into his heavenly Kingdom and people see him with eyes of faith.
Jesus now moves to a place where he can watch the treasury chests in the temple and the crowds dropping money into them. The rich drop in many coins. But then a poor widow comes along and drops in two small coins of very little value.
Calling his disciples over, Jesus says: “Truly I say to you that this poor widow dropped in more than all those dropping money into the treasury chests.” They must wonder how this can be. So Jesus explains: “They all dropped in out of their surplus, but she, out of her want, dropped in all of what she had, her whole living.” After saying these things, Jesus departs from the temple for the last time.
Marveling at the size and the beauty of the temple, his disciples exclaim: “Teacher, see! what sort of stones and what sort of buildings!” Indeed, the stones are reportedly over 35 feet [11 m] long, more than 15 feet [5 m] wide, and over 10 feet [3 m] high!
“Do you behold these great buildings?” Jesus replies. “By no means will a stone be left here upon a stone and not be thrown down.”
After saying these things, Jesus and his apostles cross the Kidron Valley and climb the Mount of Olives. From there they can look down on the magnificent temple. Matthew 23:25–24:3; Mark 12:41–13:3; Luke 21:1-6; 2 Chronicles 24:20-22.
◆ What does Jesus do during his final visit to the temple?
◆ How is the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees manifested?
◆ What is meant by “the judgment of Gehenna”?
◆ Why does Jesus say that the widow contributed more than the rich?