Matthew 23; Luke 20; Luke 21

1 Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. 2 "The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God's Law. 3 You won't go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don't live it. They don't take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It's all spit-and-polish veneer. 4 "Instead of giving you God's Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn't think of lifting a finger to help 5 Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. 6 They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, 7 preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called 'Doctor' and 'Reverend.' 8 "Don't let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. 9 Don't set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of 'Father'; you have only one Father, and he's in heaven. 10 And don't let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them - Christ. 11 "Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. 12 If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. 13 "I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either. 15 "You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned. 16 "You're hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, 'If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that's nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that's serious.' 17 What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? 18 And what about this piece of trivia: 'If you shake hands on a promise, that's nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that's serious'? 19 What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands 20 A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless. 21 22 23 "You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment - the absolute basics! - you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. 24 Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons? 25 "You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. 26 Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something. 27 "You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You're like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it's all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. 28 People look at you and think you're saints, but beneath the skin you're total frauds. 29 "You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. 30 And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. 31 You protest too much! You're cut from the same cloth as those murderers, 32 and daily add to the death count. 33 "Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? 34 It's on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation - and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse. 35 "You can't squirm out of this: Every drop of righteous blood ever spilled on this earth, beginning with the blood of that good man Abel right down to the blood of Zechariah, Barachiah's son, whom you murdered at his prayers, is on your head. 36 All this, I'm telling you, is coming down on you, on your generation 37 "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God's news! How often I've ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn't let me. 38 And now you're so desolate, nothing but a ghost town 39 What is there left to say? Only this: I'm out of here soon. The next time you see me you'll say, 'Oh, God has blessed him! He's come, bringing God's rule!'"
1 One day he was teaching the people in the Temple, proclaiming the Message. The high priests, religion scholars, and leaders confronted 2 him and demanded, "Show us your credentials. Who authorized you to speak and act like this?" 3 Jesus answered, "First, let me ask you a question: 4 About the baptism of John - who authorized it, heaven or humans?" 5 They were on the spot, and knew it. They pulled back into a huddle and whispered, "If we say 'heaven,' he'll ask us why we didn't believe him; 6 if we say 'humans,' the people will tear us limb from limb, convinced as they are that John was God's prophet." 7 They agreed to concede that round to Jesus and said they didn't know. 8 Jesus said, "Then neither will I answer your question." 9 Jesus told another story to the people: "A man planted a vineyard. He handed it over to farmhands and went off on a trip. He was gone a long time. 10 In time he sent a servant back to the farmhands to collect the profits, but they beat him up and sent him off empty-handed. 11 He decided to try again and sent another servant. That one they beat black and blue, and sent him off empty-handed. 12 He tried a third time. They worked that servant over from head to foot and dumped him in the street. 13 "Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'I know what I'll do: I'll send my beloved son. They're bound to respect my son.' 14 "But when the farmhands saw him coming, they quickly put their heads together. 'This is our chance - this is the heir! Let's kill him and have it all to ourselves.' 15 They killed him and threw him over the fence. "What do you think the owner of the vineyard will do? 16 Right. He'll come and clean house. Then he'll assign the care of the vineyard to others." Those who were listening said, "Oh, no! He'd never do that!" 17 But Jesus didn't back down. "Why, then, do you think this was written: That stone the masons threw out - It's now the cornerstone!? 18 "Anyone falling over that stone will break every bone in his body; if the stone falls on anyone, it will be a total smashup." 19 The religion scholars and high priests wanted to lynch him on the spot, but they were intimidated by public opinion. They knew the story was about them. 20 Watching for a chance to get him, they sent spies who posed as honest inquirers, hoping to trick him into saying something that would get him in trouble with the law. 21 So they asked him, "Teacher, we know that you're honest and straightforward when you teach, that you don't pander to anyone but teach the way of God accurately. 22 Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" 23 He knew they were laying for him and said, 24 "Show me a coin. Now, this engraving, who does it look like and what does it say?" 25 "Caesar," they said. Jesus said, "Then give Caesar what is his and give God what is his." 26 Try as they might, they couldn't trap him into saying anything incriminating. His answer caught them off guard and left them speechless. 27 Some Sadducees came up. This is the Jewish party that denies any possibility of resurrection. They asked, 28 "Teacher, Moses wrote us that if a man dies and leaves a wife but no child, his brother is obligated to take the widow to wife and get her with child. 29 Well, there once were seven brothers. The first took a wife. He died childless. 30 The second married her and died, 31 then the third, and eventually all seven had their turn, but no child. 32 After all that, the wife died. 33 That wife, now - in the resurrection whose wife is she? All seven married her." 34 Jesus said, "Marriage is a major preoccupation here, 35 but not there. Those who are included in the resurrection of the dead will no longer be concerned with marriage 36 nor, of course, with death. They will have better things to think about, if you can believe it. All ecstasies and intimacies then will be with God. 37 Even Moses exclaimed about resurrection at the burning bush, saying, 'God: God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob!' 38 God isn't the God of dead men, but of the living. To him all are alive." 39 Some of the religion scholars said, "Teacher, that's a great answer!" 40 For a while, anyway, no one dared put questions to him. 41 Then he put a question to them: "How is it that they say that the Messiah is David's son? 42 In the Book of Psalms, David clearly says, God said to my Master, "Sit here at my right hand 43 until I put your enemies under your feet." 44 "David here designates the Messiah as 'my Master' - so how can the Messiah also be his 'son'?" 45 With everybody listening, Jesus spoke to his disciples. 46 "Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preen in the radiance of public flattery, bask in prominent positions, sit at the head table at every church function. 47 And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they'll pay for it in the end."
1 Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. 2 Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. 3 He said, "The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. 4 All these others made offerings that they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford - she gave her all!" 5 One day people were standing around talking about the Temple, remarking how beautiful it was, the splendor of its stonework and memorial gifts. Jesus said, 6 "All this you're admiring so much - the time is coming when every stone in that building will end up in a heap of rubble." 7 They asked him, "Teacher, when is this going to happen? What clue will we get that it's about to take place?" 8 He said, "Watch out for the doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, 'I'm the One,' or, 'The end is near.' Don't fall for any of that. 9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, keep your head and don't panic. This is routine history and no sign of the end." 10 He went on, "Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. 11 Huge earthquakes will occur in various places. There will be famines. You'll think at times that the very sky is falling. 12 "But before any of this happens, they'll arrest you, hunt you down, and drag you to court and jail. It will go from bad to worse, dog-eat-dog, everyone at your throat because you carry my name. 13 You'll end up on the witness stand, called to testify. 14 Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. 15 I'll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters. 16 "You'll even be turned in by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. Some of you will be killed. 17 There's no telling who will hate you because of me. 18 Even so, every detail of your body and soul - even the hairs of your head! - is in my care; nothing of you will be lost. 19 Staying with it - that's what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won't be sorry; you'll be saved. 20 "When you see soldiers camped all around Jerusalem, then you'll know that she is about to be devastated. 21 If you're living in Judea at the time, run for the hills. If you're in the city, get out quickly. If you're out in the fields, don't go home to get your coat. 22 This is Vengeance Day - everything written about it will come to a head. 23 Pregnant and nursing mothers will have it especially hard. Incredible misery! Torrential rage! 24 People dropping like flies; people dragged off to prisons; Jerusalem under the boot of barbarians until the nations finish what was given them to do. 25 "It will seem like all hell has broken loose - sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, 26 in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking. 27 "And then - then! - they'll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style - a glorious welcome! 28 When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!" 29 He told them a story. "Look at a fig tree. Any tree for that matter. 30 When the leaves begin to show, one look tells you that summer is right around the corner. 31 The same here - when you see these things happen, you know God's kingdom is about here. 32 Don't brush this off: I'm not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too - these things will happen. 33 Sky and earth will wear out; my words won't wear out. 34 "But be on your guard. Don't let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, 35 for it's going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. 36 So, whatever you do, don't go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that's coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man." 37 He spent his days in the Temple teaching, but his nights out on the mountain called Olives. 38 All the people were up at the crack of dawn to come to the Temple and listen to him.