04 April 2012

Diary of a Disciple: Day 1003 (Morning)

by Dr Mark Keown

We rose again in the morning, this time with muted expectation. A few bits and pieces to eat and then we again headed into Jerusalem. The fire had gone from us all, replaced with concern. No-one dared to ask Yeshua what was going on, we were all worried. We had talked into the night while Yeshua wandered the hills as is his custom. No-one could figure it out. Some believed today would be the day and were hopeful. Most were not so sure.

We walked past the fig-tree; the one Yeshua had cursed the previous day. As usual, Peter could not hold back, and blurted something about it. Yeshua took the opportunity to remind us of the power of prayer – if we believe, we will see glorious happen, like moving mountains. I prayed for the end of Roman rule. I have faith! Actually I feel more like the man who a while ago cried out to Jesus, “I believe, take away my unbelief!” But I would never admit it. We shouldn’t be surprised that the tree withered; after all, this is the guy who calmed the storm, walked on water and more. When he commands, nature responds; another indication of his immense power. Why doesn’t he use it on the Romans? Or am I missing something?

We arrived at the temple and Yeshua walked the courts. The sellers and money-changers were back in business, but Jesus didn’t seem interested in a repeat of yesterday’s reaction. He was watched closely by the temple soldiers and leaders.

As he walked a group of priests, scribes and others came to Yeshua. He stopped. They challenged him, “by what authority are you doing these things?” My heart rose, perhaps now he would demonstrate his power. My hopes were dashed as Yeshua gave them a riddle about John the Baptist’s authority. The leaders refused to answer, no doubt not wanting to commit either way, or earn the ire of the crowd or betray themselves. Because they refused, Yeshua stated he would not answer their question. Furious, they left. My confusion deepened. When will he make his move? I looked around at the other disciples. I expected Peter to rebuke Yeshua again, but there would be no repeat of Caesarea Philippi.

Then, as the Jewish leaders withdrew, Yeshua sat and began to teach. The leaders paused at a distance to listen. He told a story of a vineyard. We all knew immediately that the vineyard is Israel, Isaiah liked that metaphor too. Perhaps this was the story that would set ablaze the revolution. It turned out to be nothing of the sort. Rather, it was more provocation of the leaders. He likened them to tenants of the vineyard who had failed in their task. Tenants! They see the promised-land as theirs by right – that will hurt! The tenants had refused to listen to servants sent from the owner to gather fruit – I assume it meant prophets and is basically insulting them as failed fruitless leaders, like the shepherds of Ezekiel. Nice! Even worse, Yeshua was likening them to the leaders of Israel who caused the exile! What is he doing? Then in the end these tenants kill the son! What is he saying? Another parable of his death perhaps? Then the owner came to kill the tenants – wow, that sounds like a direct threat of the Holy One’s judgment! Then a quote from Ps 118, the psalm sung as he entered Jerusalem – of the builders rejecting the cornerstone. What is he saying? I watched the leaders’ faces closely, their patience was wearing thin – if he wasn’t imbued with the power of Adonai, he would be in serious trouble!

Then more leaders came to Yeshua. This time I could see their ruse. They challenged him on paying taxes to Caesar. Clever! The Sanhedrin cannot kill Yeshua, they have no authority. Yet, if they can demonstrate he is a threat to Rome, they can work with the Romans to deal with him as they do all insurrectionists. Would that be a bad thing though? Yeshua would then show his hand, and begin the destruction that is sure to come – that might be the plan? But, Yeshua was too clever for them, and avoided their snare with another ambiguous parable – “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” I am still not sure if he was saying we should or should not pay taxes, after all “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” – I think the former, he always pays his taxes. In fact, he shows no inclination to speak against Rome – that’s strange now that I think of it?

Then some Sadducees came to Yeshua. Up until now they have hardly shown any interest in him – after all they are in bed with the Romans and don’t even believe in a Messiah or the resurrection. They have terrible theology! This time they made up a convoluted story about marriage and resurrection – trying to expose that resurrection is not in the Torah. Yeshua dealt to them, but again he was so provocative. He said “you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Far out! That is red rag to a Sadducee-bull; they pride themselves on their knowledge of the Scriptures! Still, his answer that God is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob was inspired – resurrection is in the Torah.

The theological attacks went on unabated all day. Another scribe who liked Yeshua’s answer to the Sadducees asked him which commandments are the most important. He seemed a bit more genuine than the others. I knew what Yeshua would say, he has hammered it into us – love God, love others – including enemies! Well, except the Romans I assume, they need to be sorted out first. The scribe liked the answer – he is quite onto it for a non-disciple.

I am not sure whether to be impressed at his brilliance – he can argue like one of the Greek philosophers; or better, Solomon himself! Or is he simply mad and wants to die?

Then Yeshua went on the offensive again, as he had with the story of the tenants. He quoted Ps 110:1 to make the point that the Messiah is not merely the son of David, but is the “Lord” who will reign until all his enemies are subdued. My ears pricked up at this. Was all this debating a prelude to the moment when he would call the leaders to him and smite the enemies of God? Is this the moment or…?

My hopes were immediately dashed as Yeshua launched a blistering attack on the scribes telling the people to watch out for them because of their love of nice clothing, honour, long prayers, and unbelievably that they devour widow’s houses! I saw their faces. Oh my goodness! Is he serious?

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