Holy Week: Tuesday
Yesterday, we saw that Jesus means business. Today, we see that He is busy. The days events take up five chapters in the Gospel of Matthew alone. He engages with the chief priests and elders who challenge Him repeatedly. Understandably, they were threatened and perturbed by Jesus — He was actively undercutting their authority as an uneducated outsider who had the potential to unseat them from the places of privilege and influence. So, they begin their resistance to Jesus on Tuesday with outright, public debate. Question after question they put to Jesus. He answers their seemingly unanswerable questions with profound parables — providing substantial and satisfying answers while at the same time exposing their pride and malice: “they perceived that he was speaking about them” (Matthew 21:45b).
In contrast to the Jewish leaders’ conception of the Kingdom of God and the fruitless fig tree that Israel had become, Jesus vindicates His God-given authority (Matthew 21:23-27), emphasizes the upside-down nature of grace in the true Kingdom (21:28-32), and speaks to the great resistance that this Kingdom will face and overcome (21:33-46). The true Kingdom is for those who will come to the open-invitation wedding feast — those dressed and prepared with humble faith (22:1-14). The true Kingdom has intersecting points with the kingdoms of the earth, but is ultimately greater than them all (22:15-22). The true Kingdom is one of resurrection life, where God abides with His regenerated children into eternity — resuming, restoring, and advancing humanity to new heights (22:23-33). The true Kingdom is founded on love and its citizens embody it holistically (22:34-40). And ultimately this true Kingdom takes the shape of its King: great David’s Greater Son and Lord, Jesus Himself (22:41-46).
The Kingdom of God is coming, but it meets great resistance. This is clear as Jesus spars with the Jewish leaders. Many stand to be lead astray by their false teaching. This grieves and enrages Jesus! And so, He pronounces woes upon these self-serving shepherds and laments their rejection of the true Kingdom and its King (23:1-39). His anger and sadness has undertones of parental love and longing for wayward Israel:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”Matthew 23:37
Jesus is busy! And yet, even after this flurry of teaching and interaction, Jesus continues to revel in the wonders of the true Kingdom while withdrawing with His disciples (24:1-2). He pivots in His perspective from the present to the future. His Kingdom has a scope even beyond His death, resurrection, and ascension. It comes to fruition in His eventual second coming when His Kingdom will be established in full. In dramatic words and apocalyptic images, Jesus paints a picture of not just what He is doing at that moment, but of the even greater things that follow His ascension and lead up to the final day of judgment (24:3-25:46). There is both warning and comfort in this teaching of the end times and judgment. It is certainly perplexing. But paradox ultimately finds harmony, because this Kingdom is like no other. This King is like no other.
My friends, Jesus remains busy! He remains the Coming One — the One who is, and was, and is to come (Revelation 1:8). His Kingdom is advancing even now, even in you, your life, and your community. In response, we can resist Him and oppose His Kingdom being manifest in our hearts and lives — all to our ruin. And yet, the better response is one of faithful repentance and embrace of our gracious inclusion in His Kingdom (at once and again-and-again) — a dynamic that reverberates outward in humility and deeds of love and mercy. We could resist and endure woe upon woe unto judgment. Or, we could lean in as Jesus’ gathers us under His healing wings. The Sun of Righteousness shines brightly. Will we stand in His light? Will we reflect His light so that other might bask in His warmth with us?
1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.”Malachi 4:1-3