(Our newest mid-week video is posted) Today marks a convergence that is not easy to process. On one hand we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the numbers are continuing to rise. Experts are predicting the numbers to rise into the weekend. Our prayer is that we see the downturn soon. For God to be merciful and to spare lives. Let this plague pass.
On the one hand is COVID-19. On the other hand it’s holy week. We’re at Wednesday of the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. We’re looking ahead to Good Friday and then Resurrection Sunday.
There are no days more glorious or more important than the Friday Jesus was crucified and the Sunday he rose again.
Today we want to go back to that Wednesday between the original Palm Sunday and resurrection Sunday and think about what had happened and what was about to happen.
Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor have reasoned that Jesus died in AD 33. If that’s true, then the Wednesday before Jesus died would have been April 1, AD 33.
First, let’s go back to Palm Sunday, Sunday, March 29th, AD 33.
Sunday, March 29, AD 33 – The Triumphal Entry
On this Sunday morning Jesus is in the village of Bethany, the place where he raized Lazarus from the dead (John 12:1). He will walk the two miles or so into Jerusalem and enter the city from the east, coming down the Mount of Olives (Mark 11:1). From there he will make arrangements so that he can ride into Jerusalem on “a donkey” (Matt 21:2, 5).
There is massive expectation and rising excitement surrounding Jesus.
- In coming into Jerusalem on a donkey he fulfills a prophecy from Zechariah 9 about a son of David who will do the same.
- The crowd is yelling out to him as “the Son of David.”
- And the sound system is blaring with Ps 118:26, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
This is a glorious moment for us who see Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords. But at the time it was what Köstenberger and Taylor call “the point of no return”:
Up to this point in Jesus’ ministry, he could still have managed to live a long, happy, peaceful life, but his actions on Sunday set in motion a series of events that could result only in either his overthrow of the Romans and the current religious establishment—or his brutal death. He has crossed the point of no return; there would be no turning back.
Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor, The Final Days of Jesus
Jesus didn’t back away from the moment. The next day he’ll do something every bit as dramatic as the Triumphal Entry.
Monday, March 30, AD 33 – Cleansing the Temple
On Monday Jesus intensified things with the Jewish leaders by the cleansing of the temple. He went in to one of the outer courts (the Court of the Gentiles) where a whole marketplace had been set up for worshippers at the temple. Jesus was provoked. He drove out the whole lot of them. Overturning tables. Rebuking them for misusing God’s temple in this way.
So often in the OT it was the king who led the revivals—King Josiah restoring the Law of Moses to its rightful place in the kingdom and hosting a Passover unlike any other in Israel’s history, king Hezekiah leading Israel in another season of revival.
It’s fitting that the Davidic King above all kings would cleanse the temple, the centerpiece of Israel’s worship.
The Jewish leaders couldn’t have this. That’s why their question to Jesus,
“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matt 21:23).
Tuesday, March 31, AD 33 – The Return of the Son of Man
Well, we continue to that Tuesday, March 31st. At this point he’s still staying in Bethany at night, walking the 2-3 miles into Jerusalem to teach in the temple (John 12:1; Matt 21:7; 26:6).
On this Tuesday the temple again is a focus. As they leave Jerusalem for the night, his disciples are affected by seeing Herod’s temple and comment. But Jesus prophesies, “Truly I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matt 24:2).
They want to know more and on the Mount of Olives ask him “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age,” he gives a lengthy reply.
Jesus’ reply is complex. It involves prophecies that relate to AD 70 when Herod’s Temple is destroyed and other prophecies that relate to the final return of Christ.
That final return is captured in dramatic language:
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt 24:30–31)
“Power and great glory,” yes! This is no remote, local affair. It’s an international incident of cosmic proportions. Jesus here is pulling from the prophet Daniel and speaking of his return in language that would have been familiar to his Jewish disciples:
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Dan 7:13–14)
There’s no King like our king! No other king is served by “all peoples, nations, and languages.” No other king has “an everlasting dominion.”
It’s hard to know what the disciples would have heard when Jesus said these things. Their imaginations would have been bursting.
That brings us to Wednesday, April 1st, AD 33.
Wednesday, April 1, AD 33 – Plotting Against Jesus
In terms of the gospel records, Wednesday is the quietest day of this week. A good guess is that it was at this time that the Jewish leaders were plotting together how they might arrest and kill him.
The triumphal entry, cleansing of the temple, teaching against their authority—all this was too much for the Jewish leaders. The time had come to arrest and kill Jesus.
Köstenberger and Taylor:
The stage is set for the final act. The characters are in place. Their goals, motives, and intentions are clear. The king has come for his kingdom and has issued a clear and direct challenge to the reigning structures of political, economic, and religious power. The drama can end in only one of two ways. Either Jesus will topple the reigning powers and establish his kingdom—or he will be killed. No one at that time could possibly comprehend that in God’s mysterious plan, there was a third option.
Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor, The Final Days of Jesus
This brings us right up to the edge of the Last Supper and the crucifixion itself. Friday night we’ll look at his crucifixion in our Good Friday service. Then we’ll get to celebrate the glory of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.
There’s simply no king like our King. He is truly the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” May that truth land on you in a glorious way this year.
Even as we pray for the plague of COVID-19 to pass, may Christ the King reign in all of our hearts.
See you next time.