The Week That Changed the World
“Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name!”—MATTHEW 21:9.
1. What two contrasting groups were affected by events last August?
“THREE HARROWING DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD.” In August 1991, media headlines such as this emphasized the fact that the world can be turned upside down in a matter of days. Indeed, the closing days of August were most eventful not only for the world but also for a group of which Jesus said: “They are no part of the world.” This group is known today as Jehovah’s Witnesses.—John 17:14.
2, 3. (a) How was freedom highlighted in Zagreb despite war clouds? (b) How was strong faith rewarded in Odessa?
2 The first international convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses ever planned for Yugoslavia had been scheduled for August 16 to 18. As it turned out, it would also be the first large convention of Jehovah’s people within a nation on the verge of civil war. Local Witnesses, together with volunteers from neighboring lands, had labored for two months in giving the HAŠK Građanski soccer stadium in Zagreb a complete facelift. It was spick-and-span, an ideal location for the “Lovers of Godly Freedom” Convention. Thousands of international delegates planned to attend, including 600 from the United States. As the clouds of civil war threatened, the word went around: “The Americans will never come.” But come they did, along with delegates from many other lands. An attendance of 10,000 had been anticipated, but 14,684 were in the stadium on the final day! All were richly blessed because they did not ‘forsake the gathering of themselves together.’—Hebrews 10:25.
3 During the three days following the Zagreb convention, an abortive coup was staged in the Soviet Union. At the time, lovers of godly freedom were making final preparations for their convention in Odessa in Ukraine. Could the convention be held? With strong faith the brothers put the finishing touches on a complete renovation of the stadium, and the delegates kept on coming. As if by a miracle, the coup ended. A delightful convention was held on August 24, 25, with 12,115 attending and 1,943—16 percent of the peak attendance—being baptized! These new Witnesses, together with longtime integrity keepers, rejoiced that they had come to that convention with full trust in Jehovah.—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
4. The Witnesses in Eastern Europe have been following what pattern set by Jesus?
4 These faithful Witnesses were following the pattern set by our Exemplar, Jesus Christ. Never did he neglect attending the festivals commanded by Jehovah, even when the Jews were seeking to kill him. As he came up to Jerusalem for his last Passover, these were standing around in the temple, asking: “What is your opinion? That he will not come to the festival at all?” (John 11:56) But come he did! This set the stage for a week that climaxed in a reversal of the course of human history. Shall we now review some of the highlights of that week—Nisan 8 to 14 on the Jewish calendar?
5. Of what was Jesus aware as he traveled to Bethany on Nisan 8, 33 C.E.?
5 On this day Jesus and his disciples arrive in Bethany. Here, Jesus will spend six nights at the home of his beloved friend Lazarus, whom he has recently raised from the dead. Bethany is close to Jerusalem. Privately, Jesus has already advised his disciples: “Look! We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and will deliver him up to men of the nations to make fun of and to scourge and to impale, and the third day he will be raised up.” (Matthew 20:18, 19) Jesus is fully aware that he must now face agonizing trials. However, as that time of supreme testing approaches, he spares no effort in lovingly serving his brothers. May we always be of “this mental attitude . . . that was also in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 2:1-5; 1 John 3:16.
6. In the evening of Nisan 9, what did Mary do, and what did Jesus say to Judas?
6 Following sundown, as Nisan 9 begins, Jesus enjoys a meal at the home of the former leper Simon. It is here that Lazarus’ sister Mary pours costly perfumed oil on Jesus’ head and feet and humbly wipes his feet dry with her hair. When Judas objects, Jesus says: “Let her alone, that she may keep this observance in view of the day of my burial.” Hearing that many of the Jews are going to Bethany and putting faith in Jesus, the chief priests plot to kill him and Lazarus.—John 12:1-7.
7. On the morning of Nisan 9, how was Jehovah’s name honored, and what did Jesus foretell?
7 Early in the morning, Jesus sets out for Jerusalem. Crowds go out to meet him, waving palm branches and shouting: “Save, we pray you! Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name, even the king of Israel!” Jesus then fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 by riding up to the city on an ass. As he nears Jerusalem, he weeps over it, foretelling that the Romans will surround it with pointed stakes and utterly destroy it—a prophecy that would have striking fulfillment 37 years later. (This also bodes ill for Christendom, which has apostatized after the pattern of ancient Jerusalem.) The Jewish rulers do not want Jesus as their king. In anger they exclaim: “See! The world has gone after him.”—John 12:13, 19.
8. On Nisan 10, how did Jesus show deep respect for Jehovah’s house of prayer, and what followed?
8 Jesus again visits the temple. For a second time, he throws out greedy merchants and money changers. Commercialism—“the love of money”—should not take over in Jehovah’s house of prayer! (1 Timothy 6:9, 10) Jesus is soon to die. He speaks of the planting of a seed to illustrate this. The original seed dies, but it germinates to produce a stalk that bears an abundance of grain. Similarly, Jesus’ death will result in everlasting life for the multitudes who exercise faith in him. Troubled at the thought of his approaching death, Jesus prays that his Father’s name will thereby be glorified. In response, God’s voice thunders from heaven for all present to hear: “I both glorified it and will glorify it again.”—John 12:27, 28.
Nisan 11—A Day of Activity
9. (a) Early in the day on Nisan 11, how did Jesus use illustrations in condemning the apostate Jews? (b) In line with Jesus’ parable, who have missed out on a grand opportunity?
9 Jesus and his disciples again leave Bethany for a full day of activity. Jesus uses three illustrations to show why apostate Jewry is condemned. He had cursed an unfruitful fig tree, and its now withered condition depicts his condemnation of the faithless, unfruitful Jewish nation. Entering the temple, he describes how unworthy cultivators of a master’s vineyard finally slay even the master’s son and heir—picturing the Jews’ betrayal of their trust from Jehovah, which is to be climaxed by their killing of Jesus. He describes a marriage feast arranged by a king—Jehovah—whose invited guests (the Jews) selfishly excuse themselves from attending. Hence, the invitation goes to outsiders—the Gentiles—some of whom respond. But a man found to be without a wedding garment is thrown out. He represents the counterfeit Christians of Christendom. Many Jews of Jesus’ day were invited “but few chosen” to be among the 144,000 sealed ones who inherit the heavenly Kingdom.—Matthew 22:14; Revelation 7:4.
10-12. (a) Why did Jesus castigate the Jewish clergy, and what scathing denunciation did he heap upon those hypocrites? (b) How was judgment finally executed on apostate Jewry?
10 The hypocritical Jewish clergy seek an occasion to seize Jesus, but he answers a number of their catch questions and confounds them before the people. Oh, those renegade religious Jews! How roundly Jesus castigates them! They crave prominence, distinctive garb, and high-sounding titles, such as “Rabbi” and “Father,” similar to many clergymen in our day. Jesus states the rule: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”—Matthew 23:12.
11 Jesus scathingly denounces those religious leaders. Seven times he exclaims: “Woe to you!” calling them blind guides and hypocrites. And each time he gives clear reason for the condemnation. They are blocking entry into the Kingdom of the heavens. When they snare a proselyte, he becomes doubly a subject for Gehenna, likely already being in line for destruction due to previous gross sin or fanaticism. “Fools and blind ones!” declares Jesus, for the Pharisees focus on the gold of the temple rather than on maintaining pure worship there. They ignore justice, mercy, and faithfulness as they pay a tenth of the coveted mint, dill, and cumin, but ignore the weighty matters of the Law. Ritual washings will never remove their inner defilement—only a heart cleansed through faith in Jesus’ approaching sacrifice can accomplish that. Their inner hypocrisy and lawlessness belie any “whitewashed” exterior.—Matthew 23:13-29.
12 Yes, it is woe indeed to the Pharisees, truly “sons of those who murdered the prophets” of old! Serpents, offspring of vipers they are, doomed to Gehenna, for they will kill not only Jesus but also those whom he sends forth. This is a judgment to be executed “upon this generation.” In fulfillment, Jerusalem was utterly destroyed 37 years later.—Matthew 23:30-36.
13. Jesus’ remarks on temple contributions are reflected in what situations today?
13 Before leaving the temple, Jesus speaks commendingly of a needy widow who drops into the treasury two small coins—“all the means of living she had.” A contrast indeed to the greedy rich, who are dropping in only token contributions! Like that needy widow, Jehovah’s Witnesses today willingly sacrifice time, energy, and finances in order to support and expand the worldwide Kingdom work. How different from those immoral TV evangelists who fleece their flocks and build empires of personal wealth!—Luke 20:45–21:4.
As Nisan 11 Draws to a Close
14. What sorrow did Jesus express, and how did he answer the further inquiry of his disciples?
14 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and its people and declares: “You will by no means see me from henceforth until you say, ‘Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name!’” (Matthew 23:37-39) Later, when they are seated on the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ intimate disciples ask about this, and in answer Jesus describes the sign that will mark his presence in Kingdom power and the conclusion of Satan’s evil system of things.—Matthew 24:1–25:46; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36.
15. What sign did Jesus give concerning his presence for judgment, and since when is it being fulfilled?
15 Referring to Jehovah’s judgment soon to be executed on the temple, Jesus indicates that this typifies future catastrophic events at the conclusion of the entire system of things. That time of his presence will be marked by the outbreak of warfare on an unprecedented scale, as well as by famines, earthquakes, and pestilences, together with lovelessness and lawlessness. How true this has been of our 20th-century world since 1914!
16, 17. What world developments did Jesus describe, and how should Christians react to the prophecy?
16 A climax will be reached in a “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” Since this will be as devastating as the Flood of Noah’s day, Jesus warns against getting absorbed in worldly pursuits. “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” How happy we can be that the Master has appointed an anointed “faithful and discreet slave” to sound forth the warning and to provide abundant spiritual food for this day of his presence!—Matthew 24:21, 42, 45-47.
17 In our 20th century, we have seen “on the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out . . . while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” But Jesus tells us: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” And he cautions us: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare.” Only by keeping awake can we stand approved before Jesus, “the Son of man,” at his presence.—Luke 21:25-28, 34-36.
18. What encouragement may we draw from Jesus’ illustrations of the ten virgins and of the talents?
18 In concluding his masterful preview of modern-day events, Jesus gives three illustrations. First, in the parable of the ten virgins, he again emphasizes the need to “keep on the watch.” Then, in the illustration of the slaves and talents, he shows how industriousness is rewarded by an invitation to ‘enter into the joy of the Master.’ Anointed Christians, who are foreshadowed in these parables, as well as the other sheep can draw much encouragement from these word pictures.—Matthew 25:1-30.
19, 20. What delightful modern-day relationship is featured in Jesus’ illustration of the sheep and the goats?
19 The third illustration refers to Jesus’ presence in Kingdom power after he arrives to sit down on his glorious heavenly throne. It is a time for judging the nations and for separating the peoples of earth into two groups, one consisting of meek sheeplike persons and the other, of stubborn goatlike ones. The sheep go out of their way to show themselves supportive of the King’s brothers—the remaining anointed ones on earth at this time of the world’s end. These sheep are rewarded with life, whereas the unappreciative goats go away into everlasting destruction.—Matthew 25:31-46.
20 What a grand relationship we see between the other sheep and the King’s brothers at this conclusion of the system of things! Though the anointed remnant bore the brunt of the work at the beginning of the King’s presence, the millions of zealous other sheep now make up 99.8 percent of God’s servants on earth. (John 10:16) And they too have shown themselves willing to endure ‘hunger, thirst, nakedness, sickness, and prison’ as companions of the integrity-keeping anointed ones.*
21. What gained momentum on Nisan 12, and how?
21 The plot to kill Jesus gains momentum. Judas visits the chief priests at the temple, agreeing to betray Jesus for 30 silver pieces. Even this had been prophesied.—Zechariah 11:12.
22. What preparation was made on Nisan 13?
22 Jesus, who stays on in Bethany, likely for prayer and meditation, sends his disciples into Jerusalem to locate a certain “So-and-so.” In this man’s home, in a large upper room, they make ready the Passover. (Matthew 26:17-19) As the sun sets on Nisan 13, Jesus joins them there for the most eventful celebration in all history. What now awaits on Nisan 14? Our next article will tell.
The following article should help us to appreciate all the more the intimate relationship between the anointed little flock and the other sheep.
How Would You Summarize?
□ What hospitality and welcome did some give Jesus during Nisan 8 through 10?
□ How did Jesus expose the hypocritical clergy on Nisan 11?
□ What great prophecy did Jesus give, and how is it being fulfilled today?
□ How did events move toward a climax on Nisan 12 and 13?
[Picture on page 12]
Jesus commends the poor widow who contributed two small coins—all she had