The Beginning Of The End
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
As Jesus neared the end of His earthly ministry Luke's gospel notes, He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem (Lk.9:51). One might assume that this intentional sojourn would herald the beginning of the end for Jesus. cf. Lk.9:51 with Lk.13:22 & 33; 17:11; 18:31; 19:11 & 28. After all, it is there in Jerusalem that Jesus will be crucified. However, upon Jesus' arrival Luke records: When He approached, He saw the city and wept over it (Lk.19:41). Throughout His ministry the focus of Jesus' heartache was never on Himself. Jesus knew that His arrival in Jerusalem signaled THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR THE NATION OF ISRAEL.
The gospel according to Matthew bears this out in the form of two dramatic visual aids. First, for the second and final time, Jesus “cleansed the temple”. This had happened at the beginning of His ministry (Jn.2:13f) and now again at the conclusion of His ministry (Mt.21:12f; Mk.11:15f & Lk.19:45f). Matthew's account details: Jesus entered the temple and cast out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those selling doves. In the book, Killing Jesus, O'Reilly and Duggard note, “This Passover will not be like those that have come before. It will be remembered throughout history for words of anger (pg.121).” This cleansing of the temple was an undeniable expression of judgment against Israel. A second image, the cursing of the fig tree, occurs on the heels of the cleansing of the temple. Hungry, Jesus approached a fig tree for refreshment, but it was void of fruit even though its leaves advertised otherwise. The fig was a symbol of Israel (Lk.13:6-9) . In speaking to the tree Jesus said, No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you (Mt.21:19). The text adds, At once the fig tree withered. Both of these incidents serve as declarations of bad things to come for a grossly sinful people.
In the lead-up to the Lord's Olivet Discourse, Matthew records three timely parables: the two sons (Mt.21:28f); the landowner (Mt.21:33f); and the marriage feast (Mt.22:1f). Each of these parabolic omens make it clear that the nation of Israel is not faring well in the face of judgment. The third pictogram offers the hardest punch: the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire (Mt.22:7). Lest there be any misunderstandings, the seven woes enumerated in Matthew twenty-three make it crystal clear that Jesus' Olivet Discourse has as its focus God's judgment against a first-century apostate Israel (Mt.24:1-3). Before that generation would taste death, the judgment that began in the days leading up to the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus The Christ would be consummated by a Jerusalem surrounded by armies bringing days of vengeance and the utter destruction of the temple that would serve to fulfill all things written. cf. Mt.16:28 & 24:34 with Lk.21:20-22.
Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ