Yeshua had spent a busy and probably stressful time in the week leading up to the His final Passover observance. As He began the journey from Jericho up to Jerusalem, He knew what awaited Him there. He tried to prepare His disciples by taking them aside and telling them what was about to happen.
Now that His Passover celebration with His disciples has been concluded, Yeshua is confronted with the reality of His betrayal, torture and death. What exactly is He accepting as He submits Himself to the Father? What does it mean for Israel and for those of us who believe in Him as the Messiah sent by God?
Yeshua and His disciples gathered in a private room and celebrated the Passover together with a traditional Seder meal. As they proceeded through the Seder, Judas Iscariot made the fateful decision to betray Yeshua and arranged for Him to be handed over to the corrupt High Priest who was looking for an opportunity to arrest and kill Yeshua in secret.
It was just six months earlier that Yeshua made the unprecedented statement that He would soon be leaving them. While speaking to the gathered crowds in the outer courts of the Temple during the feast of Sukkot, the leaders and the Chief Priests attempted to take Yeshua away.
At the time, the disciples did not understand Yeshua’s statement about His going away. Now, here at their last night together, still not completely understanding, Yeshua gave them their final instructions. His mission was nearly complete, and His disciples were as ready as they would ever be to take up the gospel message of repentance and the kingdom of God!
As Peter and John prepared the Passover at which Yeshua would give His life so that others could have eternal life, Judas Iscariot was also making preparations. The scriptures describe the last Passover meal Yeshua shared with His disciples. In this description we see contrasting behaviors and motivations of Yeshua and Judas’ actions.
As the preparations of the Passover play out, Yeshua had one last opportunity to demonstrate the depth of His love for His disciples.
Yeshua had left the Temple and retired to the Mount of Olives where he spent the remainder of the day teaching his followers and disciples. It was two days before the Passover and the city was crowded with pilgrims from throughout the land coming for the festival. Jerusalem had a permanent population of around six hundred thousand at that time. Josephus records that nearly two and a half million people came to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Events were rapidly coming to a head. Yeshua knew that His time remaining with His disciples was short, however there was still some important work to accomplish. The Chief Priests and some of the corrupt Scribes and Pharisees were determined to arrest and kill Yeshua. They did not want to have Him killed on the Passover, and they didn’t want to arrest Him at the Temple or in the presence of large crowds which followed Yeshua constantly.
Yeshua leaves the temple for the last time and looks back seeing the magnificence of the temple building. Perhaps he got melancholy or even teary eyed because His disciples comment on the grandeur of the temple.
Instead of agreeing with His disciples and expressing appreciation of the beautiful temple, Yeshua chastises them for not seeing beyond the physical and tells them that the temple they are admiring will be utterly destroyed! The disciples are taken aback and can’t stop thinking about Yeshua’s words. Could Yeshua really mean that the temple would be destroyed? How did this relate to the coming kingdom of God?
In the last days of Yeshua’s ministry prior to His arrest and crucifixion, He spent His time teaching and admonishing His disciples and followers. Huge crowds gathered around Him and, in a way, afforded Him some protection from the Sadducees and leaders of the Temple who sought to have Him killed because He posed a threat to their power and exposed their corruption.
Despite the evil perpetrated by the high priest and his co-conspirators against the common people, Yeshua never cursed these leaders in the same manner in which he addressed the Scribes and Pharisees. He never said a word against the Sadducees. He totally ignored the third major sect of first century Judaism, the Essenes.
Why did Yeshua single out the Scribes and Pharisees? Why did they deserve to be publicly chastised? Did they perpetrate an evil against the people which was greater than that of the high priest and Sadducees? What was their sin?
As the Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread approached, Yeshua enters the temple for perhaps the last time before His crucifixion. On the previous day, He went into the temple and threw out the moneychangers whose job was to exchange Roman coins for approved coins so the people could bring their annual temple tax and offerings. He threw out the merchants whose job was to provide acceptable animals for sacrifices and offerings. Then, He spent the remainder of the day teaching in the temple courts.
On this day, Yeshua would be challenged over His authority to clean out the temple and teach in the temple courts. After meeting this challenge, Yeshua would be tested with three questions and then, return the favor by asking a question of His own. These four questions will address God’s kingdom, power, and glory.
Throughout the gospels, the Temple is a central focal point of Yeshua’s ministry as well as the center of Jewish faith and practices of the day. Yeshua observes all the festivals and holidays by making the pilgrimage from His headquarters in the Galilee to Jerusalem. Along the road He constantly brings the message of repentance for the kingdom of God is at hand.
But this time, as He approaches Jerusalem from the East, something was different. Yeshua stops and weeps over the city as it comes into view from atop the Mount of Olives. Before entering the city, he approaches a fig tree looking for its fruit, and seeing none, He curses the fig tree, forbidding it from bearing fruit in the future. What is different about this trip to Jerusalem? Why does Yeshua weep when He sees the city? And what is the significance of cursing the fig tree?
Yeshua’s final journey up to Jerusalem began in Jericho, the site of the first victory as Joshua brought the children of Israel into the Promised Land. Outside the city, on the plains of Jericho, the children of Israel first ate of the produce of the land and celebrated their first Passover in the land. Yeshua had spent the previous night at the home of the tax collector Zacchaeus who, that day, received salvation. The next day, Yeshua left for Jerusalem accompanied by His disciples and a great multitude.
This last trip to Jerusalem is entirely different from His previous three trips. Six months earlier, Yeshua traveled in secret to celebrate the feast of Sukkot. Afterwards, He again traveled to Jerusalem quietly to celebrate Hanukkah making only a brief appearance at the temple. Then, Yeshua traveled to Bethany just outside of Jerusalem where He raised Lazarus from the dead. This time Yeshua will arrive in Jerusalem accompanied by thousands of followers and be acclaimed the King of Israel. Surely, this is a time of great joy! Or is it?
Yeshua, the disciples and many followers had spent some time across the Jordan at the place where John the Baptist previously preached and baptized his followers. Now it was time to go up to Jerusalem. Now it was time to face the challenge ahead.
Yeshua had spoken about His own death and resurrection on several occasions. But His followers and disciples did not fully understand. They were still looking for the conquering king Messiah promised by the prophets.
The place where Yeshua and His disciples crossed back over the Jordan was most likely at or very near the place that the Children of Israel first crossed the Jordan to enter the Promised land led by Joshua. They then went to Jericho, just as Joshua did as the first stop on the mission to conquer the Promised Land.