Fifth narrative

Jesus traveled toward Jerusalem and taught in the Temple there, debating with the chief priests and religious leaders.  Then he spoke about the coming kingdom of heaven and the future end times.

Jesus finally went to Judea, where he cured large crowds of people.  The Pharisees questioned him about divorce.  Jesus reiterated the importance of marriage, as he spoke about Moses and divorce.  After hearing the response of Jesus about divorce, his disciples wondered why they should marry at all.  Jesus explained about different kind of eunuchs.

The children came forward to Jesus and he blessed them.  He warned against wealth.  To gain eternal life you had to keep the commandments.  They wanted to know which commandments?  The great commandment was not a problem.  However, Jesus asked them to give up their possessions, so that the rich young man walked away.  It was hard for rich people to enter the kingdom like a camel going through the eye of a needle.  Who could be saved?  The response was that all things are possible with God.  Peter wanted to know about the disciples and the eternal life reward, so that Jesus told them that the first shall be last and vice versa.

Then Jesus presented the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.  He hired the first laborers, and then late in the day a second group, a third group and finally a fourth group of laborers.  The last group hired got a full day’s pay.  The first group hired were upset when they got the same as the last group hired.  This brought up the problem of generosity versus fairness, as Jesus explained the parable.

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus predicted what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem.  The mother of the sons of Zebedee wanted to know if her two sons, James and John, could be the greatest, on either side of Jesus.  Jesus pointed out the difficulties and said that only the Father set up the seating arrangements.  This led to ten angry men as they resented the two trying to be first.  Jesus reminded them about servant leadership, as the Son of Man was going to give up his life.

There were great crowds at Jericho where Jesus found two blind men asking for mercy, so he healed them.  Then began the final ministry in Jerusalem with a triumphal entry.  Jesus sent two disciples from Bethpage to get a donkey and a colt because he needed them.  Thus, the prophecy of Zechariah might be fulfilled.  They brought the donkey and the colt to Jesus.  Then crowds welcomed the Son of David into Jerusalem as they began to wonder who this man was?

Jesus went into the Temple and chased out the money changers to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah.  When he cured people in the Temple, the chief priests were angry, but the little children praised him.

Then Jesus went to Bethany.  The next morning, he was hungry.  He saw a fig tree, but it had no figs, so he cursed the fig tree as it withered because of his faith.

People began to question where did Jesus get his authority?  Jesus responded with a question for a question.  He asked them about the value of the baptism of John.  They gave a timid response.  Then he told the parable about the two sons.  The first son said no at first, and then did the work, while the second son said yes and did not do the work.  Which son did the will of his father?  Thus, they did not believe John the Baptist.

Then Jesus told the parable about the wicked tenants.  This absentee land owner of the vineyard sent people to collect his rent.  Instead, the tenants beat and killed the landowner’s slaves.  He sent a second group that was also killed.  Then the tenants killed the landowner’s son.  Finally, the landowner came to take back his vineyard, citing Psalm 118 about the kingdom of God and the falling cornerstone.  The Pharisees understood this parable and tried to arrest Jesus.

Jesus continued to speak in parables.  This parable was about the king who gave a great wedding banquet.  However, the invited guests refused to come to the wedding banquet.  He sent out a second invitation to the wedding banquet, but they refused the second invitation also.  They treated his slaves badly.  The king was angry and sent out new invitations to the wedding feast.  Finally, a man without a wedding garment showed up, but he threw him out of the feast.  The explanation of this parable was that many are called, but few are chosen.

Next the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus by flattering him.  They asked him a question about taxes.  Jesus gave a harsh response as he had a dialogue about the Roman coin about whose image was on it.  Give Caesar his due.  The Pharisees and their disciples left.

However, the Sadducees asked a question about the resurrection.  There was a law about marrying the brother of a dead man.  There was a woman who married seven brothers, who was her husband in the resurrection?  Jesus responded that there was no marriage in the resurrection.  The living God of their ancestors would show them the way.  The crowd was astonished.

The Pharisees regrouped and wanted to know what is the greatest commandment?  Jesus responded about the two great commandments to love God and your neighbor.  Then Jesus asked the Pharisees a question.  Was the Christ the son of David?  Then who was the Lord for David?  After that there were no more questions for Jesus.

Jesus then cursed the Scribes and Pharisees.  He told his disciples to do what they say, but not what they do.  They tied up heavy burdens on the people.  They wore special clothing and sought the places of honor.  They want to be called Rabbis.  No one was your father or master.  Greatness comes with humility.  They tried to lock people out of heaven as they shut it off.  Even when they tried to make converts, they are like blind guides and fools.  They swore by the altar or the gift of the altar.  They swore by heaven, but they had forgotten the law.  They wanted the gnat out your eye but had a camel in their own eye.  They worried about the outside of the cup instead of the inside.  They were like whitewashed tombs.  They proclaimed reverence for the tombs of the prophets, but they were like their sinning ancestors. They were like serpents.  They would kill the prophets.  They spread innocent blood.  Soon the house of Jerusalem would be desolate.

Finally, there were the predictions about the end times.  Jesus left the Temple as he predicted its destruction.  What are the signs of the Parousia?  There would be the beginning of the great suffering so that they should not be lead astray.  There would be rumors of wars in those troubled times.  They would be persecuted for the sake of Jesus.  There would be betrayals and false prophets.  Love would grow cold.  Endurance would be necessary.  The importance of Daniel the prophet was emphasized.  In Judea, they would flee to the housetops.  It would be too late for the people in the fields.  This would be the wrong time to be pregnant or nursing.  There would be great tribulation, but the days would be short.

The end was coming because there would be false Christs and people looking for the Messiah.  The Son of Man would come on the clouds as the darkness in the skies appeared.  There would be a gathering of the chosen ones.  Using the parable of the fig tree, they could tell that the end was near.  This generation would pass away, but Jesus’ words would not pass away.  No one knew the day, since it would be like in the days of Noah.  Only one would be taken and the other left, so be ready.  Be a wise and faithful slave, not a wicked slave.

Jesus told the parable of the ten bridesmaids where half were wise and half foolish.  They all fell asleep.  When the bridegroom came, they all got up.  However, the foolish ones had no oil and wise ones said that there was not enough oil for both of them.  When the foolish left to get oil, they shut the door.  When they came back, the bridegroom said that he did not know them.  Thus, you do not know the day.

Next Jesus told the parable of the talents.  A man entrusted his assets to his slaves.  He gave them money.  One slave added five more talents, another added two more talents, but the third slave dug a hole and buried his money.  The master settled their accounts.  The slave with five talents got five more talents.  The slave with two talents got two more talents.  The slave with one talent was rebuked and punished.  Thus, there will be rewards and punishments at the end times.

In the last judgment, the Son of Man would appear in glory.  There would be sheep and goats, with the sheep on the right hand.  They had taken care of him.  They wondered when they had done this.  The Son of Man replied that they took care of him when they cared for the least of his brothers.  Then he told the goats on his left side to depart from him because they had not taken care of him when they did not care for the lowly people.  Thus, there would be eternal punishment or eternal reward.

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Why do they not wash their hands before eating? (Mt 15:2-15:2)

“They said.

‘Why do your disciples

Break the tradition

Of the elders?

They do not wash

Their hands

Before they eat.’”

 

Διὰ τί οἱ μαθηταί σου παραβαίνουσιν τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων; οὐ γὰρ νίπτονται τὰς χεῖρας ὅταν ἄρτον ἐσθίωσιν.

 

There is something similar to this in Mark, chapter 7:2-5 and Luke chapter 11:39.  These Pharisees wanted to know why the disciples of Jesus (Διὰ τί οἱ μαθηταί σου) did not wash their hands before they ate bread (οὐ γὰρ νίπτονται τὰς χεῖρας ὅταν ἄρτον ἐσθίωσιν).  They said that this action was a transgression or violation against the tradition of the elders (παραβαίνουσιν τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων).  Originally, this practice of washing hands before eating was what the Levites did in the Temple to practice ritual purity as indicated in Exodus, chapter 30:17-21.  Yahweh had told Moses that there should be a bronze basin with a bronze stand for washing.  Thus, Aaron and his sons should wash their hands and feet when they went into the meeting tent or the altar.  The penalty for not washing your hands and feet was death under this perpetual ordinance.  However, the Pharisaic oral tradition, or the tradition of the elders, had extended this practice to individual homes.

Offering your gifts at the Temple (Mt 5:23-5:24)

“When you are offering

Your gift

At the altar,

If you remember

That your brother

Has something

Against you,

Leave your gift there

Before the altar!

Go away!

First be reconciled

To your brother!

Then come!

Offer your gift!”

 

ἐὰν οὖν προσφέρῃς τὸ δῶρόν σου ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον κἀκεῖ μνησθῇς ὅτι ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἔχει τι κατὰ σοῦ

ἄφες ἐκεῖ τὸ δῶρόν σου ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ ὕπαγε πρῶτον διαλλάγηθι τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου, καὶ τότε ἐλθὼν πρόσφερε τὸ δῶρόν σου.

 

Matthew alone continued to point out to these Jewish listeners that they should reconcile with their brothers or sisters, before they presented their gift offerings at the Temple.  This would seem to indicate that the followers of Jesus were still offering sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple.  This also would assume that the Temple was still standing.  Very clearly, these followers of Jesus, or early Christians, were offering their gifts at the altar (ἐὰν οὖν προσφέρῃς τὸ δῶρόν σου ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον).  If they remembered that their brother had something against them (κἀκεῖ μνησθῇς ὅτι ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἔχει τι κατὰ σοῦ), they should leave their gift offerings there (ἄφες ἐκεῖ τὸ δῶρόν σου ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου).  Then they should go and be first reconciled with their brother (καὶ ὕπαγε πρῶτον διαλλάγηθι τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου), which was a common Jewish custom.  Then they could come back to the Temple and offer their gifts.  All’s well that ends well.  There was no reconciliation with God without being reconciled with your brother first.

No escape (Am 9:1-9:1)

“I saw Yahweh

Standing beside the altar.

He said.

‘Strike the capitals

Until the thresholds shake!

Shatter them

On the heads

Of all the people.

Those who are left,

I will kill

With the sword!

Not one of them

Shall flee away!

Not one of them

Shall escape.’”

The final vision of Amos was when he saw Yahweh standing beside the altar, presumably the altar at Bethel in Samaria.  Yahweh said to Amos that he was going to strike the capitals or the tops of the columns so that the thresholds or the rest of the support systems would shake.  In fact, they would all tumble and shatter on the heads of the people there.  Anyone left over, Yahweh was going to kill with the sword.  No one would get away or escape from this false temple at Bethel.

The flowing water (Ezek 47:1-47:2)

“Then he brought me back

To the entrance

Of the temple.

There,

Water was flowing

From below the threshold

Of the temple

Toward the east.

The temple faced east.

The water was flowing down

From below

The south end

Of the threshold

Of the temple,

South of the altar.

Then he brought me out

By way of the north gate.

He led me around

On the outside

To the outer gate

That faces toward the east.

The water was coming out

On the south side.”

The bronze man brought Ezekiel to the entrance of the Temple. This time, there was water flowing from below the threshold of the Temple toward the east, since the Temple faced east. This mysterious water movement was coming from the south end, south of the altar. Then the bronze man brought Ezekiel out the north gate and around to the east outer gate. There the mysterious water was coming out once again from the south side of the Temple.

The burnt sin offerings of various animals (Ezek 43:22-43:24)

“On the second day,

You shall offer

A male goat

Without blemish

For a sin offering.

The altar

Shall be purified,

As it was purified

With the bull.

When you have finished

Purifying it,

You shall offer

A bull

Without blemish.

You shall offer

A ram

From the flock

Without blemish.

You shall present them

Before Yahweh.

The priests

Shall sprinkle salt

On them.

They will offer them up

As a burnt offering

To Yahweh.”

After the first day of consecrating the altar, the following day they were to offer an unblemished male goat as a sin offering. However, the altar had to be purified as it had been the previous day. Then, they were to offer another unblemished bull, as well as an unblemished ram. These burnt offerings were to be offered to Yahweh. The priests should sprinkle salt on them, before they were offered up to Yahweh.

The altar base (Ezek 43:13-43:14)

“These are the dimensions

Of the altar

By cubits.

The cubit is a cubit

With a handbreadth.

Its base shall be

One cubit high,

One cubit broad,

With a rim

Of one span

Around its edge.

This shall be

The height of the altar.

From the base

On the ground

To the lower ledge,

Two cubits,

With a width

Of one cubit.

From the smaller ledge

To the larger ledge,

Four cubits,

With a width

Of one cubit.”

Ezekiel continued with his detailed explanation about the size of the altar. First, he started with the altar base that was relatively small. His measurement was the larger cubit that also included a hand size or another 5 inches to the already normal 18-inch cubit. Thus, the altar base was one cubit, only 23 inches high, or just less than 2 feet high and wide. However, it had a rim around its edge. Apparently, there were 2 ledges, a small ledge and a larger ledge. The smaller lower ledge was only 2 cubits high and 1 cubit wide. The larger ledge was 4 cubits high and 1 cubit wide.