Returning into the city in the morning with His dis- Mark xi. 20-26.
ciples, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots, and Matt. xxi.20-22. this leads Jesus to speak to them respecting faith. As
He entered the temple, the Pharisees ask Him by what Matt, xxi, 23-46.
authority He acts. He replies by a question respecting Mark xi. 2*7-33.
the baptism of John, and adds the parables of the two Luke Xx. 1-18.
sons and of the wicked husbandmen. The Pharisees Mark xii. 1-13.
wish to arrest Him, but are afraid of the people. He Matt. xxii. 1-14.
speaks of the parable of the king's son. The Pharisees MATT.xxii. 15-46.
and Herodians propose to Him the question concern- Mark xii. 13-40.
ing the lawfulness of tribute to Caesar. The Sadducees question Him respecting the resurrection of the dead; and a lawyer, Which is the chief comrnandrnent in the law ? He asks the Pharisees a question respecting the Messiah, and puts them to silence, and addressing the disciples and people denounces their hypocrisy.
After this He watches the people casting in their gifts, and praises the poor widow who casts in two mites. Some Greeks desiring to see Him, He prophesies of His death. A voice is heard from heaven. He speaks a few words to the people and leaves the temple. As He goes out, the disciples point out to Him the size and splendor of the buildings, to whom He replies that all shall be thrown down. Ascending the Mount of Olives He seats Himself, and explains to Peter, James, John, and Andrew, the course of events till His return. He adds, that after two days was the Passover, when He should be betrayed. He goes to Bethany, and the same evening, His enemies hold a council and agree with Judas respecting His betrayal.
Luke Xx. 19-47.
Mark xii. 41-44. Luke xxi. 1-4. John xii. 20-36.
Mark xiii. 1-37.
Luke xxi. 5-36.
Matt. xxiv. xxv.
Matt. xxvi. 1-5.
Mark xiv, 1,2.
Mark xiv. 10, 11.
The withering of the fig tree seems to have begun as soon as the Lord had spoken the curse against it. Matthew says, " presently the fig tree withered away." Mark says, u it was dried up from the roots." In twenty-four hours it was completely dead. That the disciples did not at evening, upon their return to Bethany, see that it had withered, may be owing to the late hour of their return, or that, they did not pass by it.
The people assembling at an early hour in the temple, Jesus goes thither immediately upon His arrival in the city, and begins to teach. Yery soon the chief priests and elders of the people, and scribes, came to Him, demanding by what authority He acted. It seems a question formally put to Him, and probably by a deputation from the Sanhedrim.1 It differs essentially from the question put to Him after the first purification, (John ii. 18,) " What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing thou doest these things ? "
1 So Alexander, Meyer. Now it is, " By what authority doest thou these things ? And who gave thee this authority ? " Then, they desired that He should work miracles as signs or proofs of His divine mission. But His miracles had not been sufficient to convince them. Now, he must give other vouchers. He must show himself to be authorized by those who, sitting in Moses' seat, were alone able to confer authority. But they had not authorized Him, and He was therefore acting in an arbitrary and illegal manner. To this question He replies by another respecting the baptism of John. The Baptist had borne his testimony to Him when, three years before, they had sent a deputation to him, (John i. 26.) If John was a prophet, and divinely commissioned, why had they not received his testimony ? This was a dilemma they could not escape. They could not condemn themselves; they dare not offend the people; they must remain silent.
1 So Alexander, Meyer.
Now it is, " By what authority doest thou these things ? And who gave thee this authority ? " Then, they desired that He should work miracles as signs or proofs of His divine mission. But His miracles had not been sufficient to convince them. Now, he must give other vouchers. He must show himself to be authorized by those who, sitting in Moses' seat, were alone able to confer authority. But they had not authorized Him, and He was therefore acting in an arbitrary and illegal manner. To this question He replies by another respecting the baptism of John. The Baptist had borne his testimony to Him when, three years before, they had sent a deputation to him, (John i. 26.) If John was a prophet, and divinely commissioned, why had they not received his testimony ? This was a dilemma they could not escape. They could not condemn themselves; they dare not offend the people; they must remain silent.
Although thus repulsed, yet, His enemies continuing in the temple, He begins to speak to them in parables, (Mark xii. 1 ;) " the second beginning," says Stier, " as before in Galilee, so now in Jerusalem." It is to be noted that now, for the first time, the Lord utters plainly the truth in the hearing of the Pharisees, that they shall kill Him, and that in consequence the kingdom shall be taken from them.1 The point of these parables was not missed by the Pharisees, but they dare not arrest Him.
The parable of the marriage of the king's son is related by Matthew only, for that in Luke (xiv. 16-24) was spoken much earlier.2 It set forth more distinctly than the parables preceding, the rejection of the Jews, those bidden of old ;v the bidding of others in their place ; and the destruction of their city.
1 See Matt. viii. 11,12. These words seem to have been spoken to the disciples.
2 Meyer, Alford, Robinson, Teschendorf, Lichtenstein, Trench.
Stung by these parables, so full of sharp rebuke, the Pharisees now consult together how " they may entangle Him in His talk." Never were their craft and inveterate hostility more strikingly shown, than in these attempts to draw something from His own mouth which might serve as the basis of accusation against Him. The first question would have been full of peril to one less wise than Himself, for it appealed to the most lively political susceptibilities of the people. ISTo zealous Jew could admit that tribute was rightly due to Caesar, and much less could one who claimed to be the Messiah admit this; for it was to confess that He was the vassal of the Romans, a confession utterly incompatible with Messianic claims. Yet if He denied this, the Herodians were at hand to accuse him of treason, an accusation which the Romans were always quick to hear. But He avoided the artfully contrived snare by referring the question to their own discernment. God had chosen them for His people, and He alone should be their king, and therefore it was not right for them to be under heathen domination. Yet, because of their sins, God had given them into the hands of their enemies, and they were now under Roman rule. This fact they must recognize, and in view of this they must fulfil all duties, those to Caesar as well as those to God.
The question of the Sadducees was in keeping with the sceptical, scoffing character of that sect. Apparently, it was not so much designed to awake popular hatred against Him as to cast ridicule upon Him, and also upon their rivals, the Pharisees, by showing.the absurd consequences of one of their most cherished dogmas, the resurrection of the dead. Perhaps, also, they were curious to see how He would meet an argument to which their rivals had been able to give no satisfactory answer.1
* See Meyer in loco.
The question of the lawyer seems to have been without any malicious motive on his part.1 It referred to a disputed point among the schools of the Rabbis, and which he, admiring the wisdom of Jesus, wished to hear solved. Some, however, suppose (see Matt. xxii. 34) that the lawyer was sent by the Pharisees, who had gathered together to devise a new attack.2 But these two views are not really inconsistent. The lawyer, a man of ability and reputation, and on these grounds chosen to be their representative and spokesman, may have had a sincere respect for that wisdom that had marked Christ's previous answers. He proposes this question respecting the comparative value of the commandments, rather to test His knowledge in the law than to array the people against him. Had the answer been erroneous, doubtless advantage would have been taken of it to His injury, although it is not obvious to us in what way; but it so commended itself to the intelligence of the lawyer, that he honestly and frankly expresses his approbation. (See Mark xii. 32-34.)
All his adversaries being silenced, the Lord proceeds in His turn to ask a question that should test their own knowledge, and inquires how the Messiah could be the Son of David, and yet David call Him Lord ? Their inability to answer Him shows us how little the truth that the Messiah should be a divine being, the Son of God, as well as Son of man, was yet apprehended by them ; and. how all Christ's efforts to reveal His true nature had failed, through their wickedness and unbelief.
It is questioned whether the Lord's words to the scribes (Mark xii. 38-40 ; Luke xx. 45-47) are to be distinguished from those recorded by Matthew, xxiii. Greswell (iii. 121) gives ten reasons for distinguishing between them, which, however, have no great weight. Most regard them as identical.3 Wieseler (395) supposes Matthew included the address to the Pharisees, recorded by Luke xi. 39-52.
i Greswell, Alford. 2 Meyer, Ebrard.
8 Ebrard, Meyer, Alford, Robiason, Krafft,
The attempts of the Pharisees to entrap Him, their malice and wickedness veiled under the show of righteousness, awaken the Lord's deepest indignation, and explain the terrible severity of His language. They had proved that " they were the children of them which killed the prophets;" and as the old messengers of God had been rejected and slain, so should they reject and slay those whom He was about to send. Thus should all the righteous blood shed upon the earth come upon them.
It is not certain who was the " Zacharias son of Barachias," to whom the Lord refers as slain between the temple and the altar. Many identify him with the Zechariah son of Jehoiada, who was " stoned with stones, at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord," (2 Chron. xxiv. 20, 21.) In this case, Barachias may have been another name of Jehoiada, as the Jews had often two names; or Barachias may have been the father, and Jehoiada the grandfather; or, as it is omitted by Luke xi. 51, some, as Meyer, infer that it wTas not mentioned by Christ, but was added from tradition, and erroneously given, perhaps confounding him with the Zechariah son of Berechiah, (Zech. i. 1.) But if this Zacharias was meant, why is he called the last of the martyrs, since there were others later? The explanation given by Lightfoot is at least probable, that it was the last example in the Old Testament as the canon was then arranged, and therefore the Lord cites the first, that of Abel, and this as the last. Both have also another circumstance in common; a call of the murdered for vengeance. "The requiring of vengeance is mentioned only concerning Abel and Zacharias. ' Behold the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me,' (Gen. iv. 10.) 'Let the Xord look upon it and require it,'" 18*
(2 Chron. xxiv. 22.1) Others make this Zechariah to be prophetically spoken of, and identify him with the Zecharias son of Baruch mentioned by Josephus,2 who was slain by the Zealots in the midst of the temple, and the body cast into the valley of the Kidron. But the Lord does not speak of blood to be yet shed, but of that which had been shed ; and as the death of Abel was a well-known historical event, so also was that of Zacharias. Others refer to a tradition that Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, was murdered by the Jews.3
Many make this discourse to the Pharisees to have been spoken just before He left the temple, and His last words there. "It is morally certain," says Greswell, "that our Lord immediately left the temple, and never returned to it again." But most follow the order of Mark, (xii. 41-44,) who places the visit of Jesus to the treasury after this discourse.4 Seating Himself by the treasury, or treasure chests in the court of the women, in which offerings were placed, He watches those who come to bring their gifts.
The visit of the Greeks to Him is mentioned only by John, (xii. 20-36.) Some place it upon the evening of the triumphal entry.5 But the Lord's language fits better to the final departure from the temple than to the time of the entry. Beside, if He was now in the court of the women, it explains the request of the Greeks to see Him; for if He had been in the outer court, all could have seen Him; but into the inner court they could not come. Upon these, and other grounds, it is placed here by many.6
1 So Meyer, Alford, Lange; see Winer, il. 711. 2 War, 4. 5. 4.
3 Thilo, Codex Apoc. i. 267; Hofmann, Leben Jesu, 134; Jones on the Canon of the N. Test., ii. 134. According to the latter, this tradition was very generally credited in early times, as by Tertullian, Origen, Epiphanius. See also Baronius, who defends it.
* Krafft, Friedlieb, Robinson, Wieseler, Ellicott, Teschendorf.
6 Greswell, Krafft, Ebrard, Townsend, Stier.
« Robinson, Lichtensteiu, Tischendorf, Wieseler, Ellicott.
It is not certain whether these Greeks did actually meet the Lord. His words (vs. 23-27) were not addressed directly to them, but they may have been within hearing. Their coming is a sign that His end is nigh, and that the great work for which He came into the world, is about to be fulfilled. Stier sets this visit of the Greeks from the west, in contrast to the visit of the Magi from the east; the one at the end, the other at the beginning of His life.
In reply to the Lord's prayer—" Glorify Thy name," (v. 28)—there "came a voice from heaven, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." These words, according to most interpreters, were spoken in an audible voice. It is said by Alford, " This voice can no otherwise be understood than as a plain articulate sound, miraculously spoken, heard by all, and variously interpreted." This would imply that all present heard the words plainly articulated. But this is not said. They heard a voice ; yet some said, " It thundered;" and others, " An angel spake to Him ;" which could not have been the case if the words had been distinctly spoken.
Probably, the capacity to understand the voice was dependent upon each man's spiritual condition and receptivity. To Jesus, and, perhaps, to the apostles and disciples, it was an articulate voice; to others it was indistinct, yet they recognized it as a voice, perhaps of an angel; to others still, it was mere sound, as if it thundered.1 Townsend would make it an answer to the Greeks who desired to see Jesus, or, at least, spoken in their hearing. "We find, however, its true significance if we compare it with those other testimonies of the Father to Him at His baptism and at His transfiguration. (Matt. iii. 17 ; xvii. 5.)
After Jesus had finished His words in the temple, He " departed, and did hide Himself from them," (v. 36.) His departing and hiding are not to be understood of a night's sojourn in Bethany, but of His final departure from the temple, and His sojourn in retirement till His arrest. His public work was over.
1 See Luthardt in loco.
He appears no more in His Father's house as a preacher of righteousness. Henceforth.all His words of wisdom are addressed to His own disciples. The statements (vs. 37-43) are those of the Evangelist. But when were the Lord's words (vs. 44-50) spoken? Most regard them as a citation by the Evangelist from earlier discourses, and introduced here as confirming his own remarks.1
The allusion of the disciples to the size and splendor of the temple buildings, seems to have been occasioned by His words to the Pharisees foretelling its desolation, (Matt, xxiii. 38.) That so substantial and massive a structure could become desolate, was incredible to them, for they had as yet no distinct conception that God was about to cast off His own covenant people, and bring the worship He had appointed to an end. This manifestation of incredulity led Him to say, with great emphasis, that the buildings should be utterly destroyed, not one stone being left upon another. This was literally fulfilled in the destruction of the temple, though some of the walls enclosing it were not wholly cast down. It was a prediction that, made public, would have greatly angered the Jews, and hence the apostles came to Him " privately " to learn its meaning.
It was probably at the close of the day, perhaps in the twilight, that He sat down on the Mount of Olives over against the temple. The city lay in full view before Him. Mark (xiii. 3) speaks of only four of the apostles, Peter and JameSj and John and Andrew, who asked Him privately when these things should be. Matthew (xxiv. 3) states that " the disciples came unto Him privately;" Luke (xxi. 7) that " they asked Him."
1 Lichtenstein, Meyer, Alford, Tholuck, Teschendorf. Luthardt and "Wieseler make them to hare been spoken to the disciples.
There can be little doubt that Mark gives the more accurate account, and that these four only were present.1 The remainder of the Twelve may have preceded Him on the way to Bethany. Alexander supposes that all were present, and that " the four are only mentioned as particularly earnest in making this inquiry, although speaking wTith and for the rest."
If His words were spoken to these four only, it implies that the predictions He uttered could not at that time be fittingly spoken to the body of the apostles.
The announcement to the disciples (Matt. xxvi. 1, 2) that " after two days was the Passover, when the Son of man should be betrayed to be crucified," was probably made soon after His discourse upon the Mount of Olives, and so upon the evening of Tuesday. Perhaps, He wished distinctly to remind them that His coming in glory must be preceded by His death and resurrection. "Whether it was made to all the disciples or to the four, is not certain, but probably to all. Alford thinks that " it gives no certainty as to the time when the words were said: we do not know whether the current day was included or otherwise." If, however, Thursday was the 14th Nisan, or the Passover, according to the rule already adopted, excluding one of the extremes and including the other, the announcement was made on Tuesday.3 The meeting of the chief priests and the scribes and elders at the palace of Caiaphas for consultation, was upon the same evening. This may be inferred, at least, from Matthew's words, (xxvi. 3,) "Then assembled together," &c, the assembly being on the same day when the words were spoken, (v. 2.)3
* Lichtenstein, Alford, Lange, Greswell.
« Meyer, Lichtenstein, De Wette.
3 Meyer; EUicott places it on Wednesday.
From the fact that the council met at the palace of Caiaphas, and also that its session was in the evening, we may infer that it was an extraordinary meeting, held for secret consultation.1 It may readily be supposed that the severe language of the Lord had greatly enraged His enemies, and that they felt the necessity of taking immediate steps against Him. But they dared not arrest him during the feast, because of the people, and determined to postpone it till the feast was past. Thus, it may be, at the same hour when Jesus was foretelling that He shall suffer at the Passover, His enemies were resolving that they would not arrest Him during the feast.* But the divine prediction was accomplished in a way they had not anticipated. Judas, one of the Twelve, coming to them, offers, for money, to betray Him into their hands. They at once make a covenant with him, and he watches for an opportunity. Still it does not appear that he designed to betray Him during the feast; and his action on the evening following the Paschal supper was, as we shall see, forced upon him by the Lord. Whether Judas presented himself to the council at their session, is not said; but it is not improbable that, hearing the Lord's rebukes of their hypocrisy, and seeing how great was their exasperation against Him, he had watched their movements, and learned of their assembly at the high priest's palace. This gave him the wished-for opportunity to enter into an agreement with them. Some, as Ellieott, put this visit of Judas to the priests and elders on Wednesday.
1 Tradition makes the bargain with Judas to have been entered into at the country house of Caiaphas, the ruins of which are still shown upon the summit of the Hill of Evil Counsel. The tradition is not ancient; but it is mentioned, as a singular fact, that the monument of Annas, who may have had a country-seat near his son-in-law, is found in this neighborhood. Williams, H. C. ii. 496.
2 Some understand that they proposed to arrest Him before the feast. So Neander, Ewald; see, contra, Meyer in loco.