Throughout the next seven days, as a worldwide church we will study Holy Week and its events together. How much can really happen in seven days?
During Holy Week, the Lord is anointed, enters Jerusalem, teaches at the temple and the Mount of Olives, and prepares for the Last Supper. He takes mankind’s sins upon him in Gethsemane, is tried and crucified, and buried in the Garden tomb. During the days after his Crucifixion, He organized missionary work in the Spirit world. Then on Easter Sunday, Christ rose and broke the bands of death. Read prayerfully this week, and consider how your life has been changed by the events recorded in these chapters.
Come, Follow Me Insights
Learn about Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and the beginning of Holy Week.
Come, Follow Me Insights
Learn more about the Savior’s teachings on eternal marriage.
Study the days of Christ’s life leading up to the Passover and Crucifixion.
John Hilton III
The many symbols and signs of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry
Understand the historical context of Palm Sunday.
And I’m Tyler.
This is Scripture central’s, come follow me. Insights this week, matthew 21 through 23, mark eleven, luke 19 and 20, and John twelve. Boy, that’s a lot to cover.
It’s a lot because we are beginning the week of the atoning sacrifice. This is Palm Sunday today. And now that we get into this final week of Jesus’s life, you’re going to notice that all four gospel writers john joins with the synoptics in telling many of these stories, which remember there weren’t very many of those previously. The other thing to notice is that in our New Testament Gospels, matthew, Mark, Luke and John, 66% of the chapters cover the first 33 years of his life and a full one third of the chapters cover the last week plus a day. So eight days of his life are covered in one third of the scripture pages that we have in the Gospels. So this is day one as we now begin that final week of Jesus’s life leading into his infinite atonement. And because there’s so much here, it’s kind of hard to separate out before we do the, the actual triumphal entry in, we’re going to spend most of our time in Matthew 21 and 22. We need to go to John, chapter twelve, and pick up one little story that is a precursor to the triumphal entry.
And it’s this little feast that takes place over in Bethany. Verse one says, then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. So we’re back at the home of Mary and Martin. And there they made him a supper and Martha served. And Lazarus was one of them which sat at the table. And then took Mary a pound of ointment of spike nerd very costly and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. This is amazing. Martha is serving and Mary, her sister, is pouring this ointment, this oil on his feet and that smell is permeating the room.
And this ointment, our best understanding is it comes from the Himalayan mountains. So think about how far that has got to travel through the Tyler Pass, across the Iranian Plateau, through Mesopotamia, down the Levant into Jerusalem. It’s a significant trade route and it’s interesting, they’re in the village called Bethany, which in Hebrew means house of the poor. And this is one of the most expensive items anybody could ever acquire. So this contrast is quite interesting that the humblest of all men, Jesus Christ is in this poor village being honored by these poor people with the wealthiest thing they could get access to.
Well, and there’s another person sitting at the table who doesn’t think this is such a great idea. Verse four then, saith one of his disciples, judas Escariot Simon’s son, which should betray him. Why was not this ointment sold for 300 pence and given to the poor. You notice that he’s in front of everybody accusing Mary of doing a very foolish thing. She dumped that ointment onto his feet. It’s now we can’t recollect it and we could have sold that for 300 pence. Remember in previous lessons we’ve talked about what pence means. It’s plural for penny. It’s one penny is what a common laborer on a twelve hour shift for a day would receive as wages that would sustain him and a family at basically subsistence level. And she just dumped 300 days equivalent of labor onto his feet. That’s over an annual salary if you take out weekends and vacations for us today, it’s a lot of money. And Judas is saying that could have been given to the poor. Now, John, the author of this story, he wants to make sure that you understand motive. Verse six. This he, meaning Judas, said not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief and he had the bag and bear what was put therein.
He’s the treasure for the twelve and he’s looking with greedy eyes at that spike nerd ointment, thinking I could have been rich because I could have sold it with the pretense that I was going to give the money to the poor and I could have kept either all or a major part of that profit. And I love the fact that Jesus does it again. When somebody’s being accused, he jumps in the middle and he turns to Judas and he says in three words, some of, some of my favorite three words let her alone, back off. Basically, leave her alone. She hath done a good thing. And he says, if you look at the Joseph translation, seven A, it says, for she hath preserved this ointment until now that she might anoint me, anoint me in token of my burial. And then he says in verse eight, for the poor always ye have with you, but me ye have not always. This is, this is such a beautiful story again with Mary and Martha and now you get Judas in the mix. And did you see what John’s gospel tells you? The very next event is verse ten, but the chief priest consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death.
It’s not enough that we need to get rid of Jesus. Now we need to get rid of Lazarus too.
Yeah. Verse eleven, because that by reason of him, many of the Jews went away and believed on Jesus. They had seen the miracle, they’d known Lazarus and they had been empowered to believe because these miracles of Jesus. So let’s now remove this witness of Jesus.
So then after that you see the triumphal entry from John’s account. To make things perhaps a little easier to flow through this storyline, we’re going to go back and pick up the story now with Matthew, chapter 21, beginning with the triumphal entry. There are a lot of beautiful little elements here in this story that often go overlooked. This is one of my favorite unsung miracles in the entire New Testament. And some of you are probably thinking to yourself, the trample entry is a miracle. Hold that thought. Let’s see as we go through what you think about this first. Before we even start down into the Kidrun Valley, we need to get the animal because Jesus apparently doesn’t own a donkey or a mule. So we’ve got to get that first. So we begin in chapter 21 with him sending servants to go and get that animal.
And he says unto them, go into the village. Verse two over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tide and a cult with her. Loose them and bring them unto me. And if any man say odd unto you, ye shall say, the Lord hath need of them, and straightway he will send them.
So can you see there are two animals mentioned here in Matthew’s account? There’s only one in Mark’s and Luke’s and John’s. And you’re going to see that when we get down to verse seven, the disciples are going to go and get that animal. It’s the full of an ass. So we don’t know whether it’s a donkey or a mule, because the offspring of a donkey, depending on the parentage, is going to either be a donkey or a mule personally, not that it matters. This isn’t going to get you into heaven. But I love the analogy of this being a mule simply because it ties back in so beautifully to First Kings, chapter one in the Old Testament. And we’ll tie that in in just a minute. So hold that thought. Verse seven says, and they brought the ass and the colt and put on them their clothes and they set him thereon. Again, the two animals, joseph Smith in the footnote, you’ll notice he changed it to and brought the colt and put on it their clothes. And Jesus took the colt and sat thereon and they followed him. If you were to read Matthew’s Gospel, the way it’s written in the King James version, it makes it sound really literally.
Then he’s sitting on two animals, the cult and the cult’s mother. And so Joseph Smith fixes this to match up beautifully with Mark, Luke and John’s account. One animal.
And really what this comes down to is Jesus as the King comes into Jerusalem. And we will read in a little bit from First Kings, chapter one, verses 33 to 35 about how Jesus reenacts the triumphal entry of the King of Peace named Solomon. Solomon’s name in Hebrew comes from the Hebrew word for peace. And Solomon is this king who rides in on a donkey or a mule right into the same location where Jesus is going to be logically symbolism.
This is incredible. So again, earlier on I threw it out there that this is one of my favorite unsung miracles in the New Testament. And some of you are still probably wondering, how is this a miracle? Well, if you live near any kind of a ranch that has, say, horses or donkeys or mules, you might go and ask that rancher if he would ever in a million years have people put clothing items on top of a young donkey or mule that has never been ridden on before. That we learn in a different gospel. And then if he would be willing to climb up on top of that young animal and then go up a really steep hill from Bethany to the Mount of Olives and then down a steep road into the kidron valley and then turn south to go down this steep path past the guehon spring. And then the whole time have people come rushing up to that animal that’s never been ridden on before. Unbroken shouting, shouting and waving palm branches in the air and throwing clothing down on the ground in front of that donkey. And what are they shouting? Verse nine.
Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. And ask that rancher if he would ever consider doing that with a young donkey or mule. And he’ll probably look at you with an incredulous look of why are you even asking such a silly question? Nobody in their right mind would ever do that, but Jesus would. He takes this animal and he goes on this journey. He takes that donkey or that mule places that that little donkey or mule never thought possible. That’s a miracle to be able to calm even an animal in the face of that kind of a condition with the steep terrain and the people rushing up and all of the noise and the clothing and the waving of the palm branches, the fact that that donkey just kept walking. Someday I want to meet that donkey or that mule and thank that animal for being such an inspiration to me. Because I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have gone into a situation where I look down this steep hill, down into the Kidron Valley and look at where I’m supposed to go and think, I can’t do this.
I can’t. But then there’s this reassuring voice of he who holds the reins saying, you can. You can do this. You can go forward in faith. As long as you let me guide you, as long as I am holding the reins, you can calmly go into situations and accomplish things that you never thought possible. This miracle is one of the most relevant, and yet the applicable element in the story happens to be a donkey that I can relate to. And I love scripture study when you can get layers of symbolism, even in things like an animal that apply to us in our situations today.
So I love some of the words that show up here, things like spreading, which is our word, straw, comes from the same Greek word, and it’s also related to the word destroy, but in the opposite sense. So they’re actually spreading like goodness and the path, whereas to destroy is to cut off such spreading. And so when Jesus talks about the wicked will be destroyed, they’re cut off from the path. And here people are spreading forth the path. They’re using their cloaks. Also really interesting word. Listen to this one. And if any man will soothe thee at the law and they take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak. Also. It’s this outer garment worn under the undergarment. And it’s the same word. So on the Mormon of the Mount, when Jesus said you should be willing to let go of your outer cloak and give it away, people are actually doing that for Jesus, walking with him. Twain I love that. And also then, of course, you have this shouting and this word, it’s krazzo. In fact, ancient Greek writers would relate it to crows who would just inarticulately just shout their call. And its people are just so exuberant, they’re shouting with triumphant noise to a point that you can’t even really fully tell what’s going on, except you can hear this powerful Hebrew word, hosanna, which means save us, please, which is based on the name of Jesus.
Jesus’s name is based on the Hebrew word Joshua, which is related to hosanna. So all these really interesting things going on with the words in this text.
So now, if you look at this 3D recreation of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, as we look down this Kidrin Valley, you notice here’s the Gehon Spring. This area here, that location is significant. We already mentioned it back in One Kings, chapter one. That’s when David’s on his deathbed, and Nathan and Bathsheba come to him and say, hey, I thought you promised the throne after your death to our son Solomon. And he said, I did. And she says, well, Adonaijah is conspiring to take it. At which point David revives, tells Nathan to go take his finest mule, go to the Guehon spring, put his son Solomon on that mule and there anoint him to be the king anoint the Messiah, the anointed one, the Christos in the Greek, the anointed one at the Gihone spring. And then he will ride into Jerusalem on David’s mule amid shouts of triumph. Is the idea celebrating their new king? So the fact that Jesus is coming down this very same valley, past this very same spring, riding on an animal as the anointed one, the people are apparently getting the message, and so they’re crying to him.
As Taylor mentioned, the word hosanna is save. Now, please, it’s a plea for salvation from yeshua, Jehovah saves. They’re seeing the connection, and you see that it says hosanna to the Son of David. They’re seeing him as the fulfillment of all of their Jewish messianic expectations of a coming Messiah who is going to be taking the Davidic throne, restoring royalty back into the family line of David, and he’s going to overthrow the Romans, overthrow all the governments, take the government upon his shoulders and be in charge. They were expecting him on this experience to come in and fulfill all of the Old Testament prophecies that are pointing us to the second coming, the coming of the lion of the tribe of Judah. And instead of riding in like a lion, he’s going to come in meek and lowly like a lamb to be slain. So here they are on Palm Sunday shouting Hosanna. And there aren’t going to be that many people shouting hosanna on Thursday and on Friday morning of that week when he’s being led to Golgotha.
And yet, ironically, they actually are being saved.
They’re asking for salvation. And so he’s going to do what, Oliver? What needs to happen to save them by performing that infant atonement?
So let’s read in One Kings, chapter one, a couple of these verses. And as you hear these, I want you to think about Jesus and how clearly this connects to what Jesus is doing. Verse 33 to 35. The king also said unto them, this is David. Take with you the servants of your Lord and cause Solomon, my son, to ride upon my own mule and bring him down to Gihon. And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, anoint him there, King Oliver Israel, and blow you with the trumpet and say, God save King Solomon. Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne, for he shall be king in my stead, and I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah. We should also point out this Gehon Spring, which is still there in Jerusalem today, is metaphorically the lifeblood of Jerusalem. Just a few days ago, I was talking with my kids about we were actually studying some stuff in the Old Testament and about why the city of David was built on such a steep hill. We talked about because it’s very difficult to attack.
And so Jerusalem was very well situated because it had two major things. It had great defense and it had an eternal water source that starts at the Gehone Spring. And that water source still flows today, goes right through Hezekiah’s tunnel. You want to think about this. Any city, any civilization needs water ultimately for survival. If you look around the world today, conflicts, past and present, often water is related to that conflict. Consider what Jesus is doing. He begins at the source of life for the city, the Gehon Spring, and enters in symbolizing that he is the eternal source of life and water for these people. I just find it so powerful. The symbolism is so thick in these scriptures, and sometimes as much as I love the words. I wish it was just visualized for us and we could see and all the symbolism just clearly laid out here’s what Jesus is trying to communicate. He is the water of life.
Love that. So now he’s entered into the city on that lowly animal and he finds his way into the temple and all of the Jewish people around him are probably expecting him to go towards the Antonia fortress and to wipe out the Roman garrison and the, the guards and start overthrowing this, these Roman oppressors. But instead verse twelve, jesus went into the temple of God and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple and overthrew the tables of the money changers and the seats of them that sold doves. So instead of casting out Romans, he goes in and he casts out Jewish people who are up in the temple exchanging money and selling doves, selling sacrifices.
Why is that such a big deal? Like people were supposed to sacrifice, why is that an issue?
Exactly. So I don’t know all of the reasons here. Most of the sacrifices would be purchased outside of the temple traditionally. And to buy a sacrifice, the tradition is you can’t use your foreign currency. So if you’re coming into Jerusalem as a good practicing Jew needs to do, you’ve got the three festivals in the year passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. When you come, you exchange your foreign currency for temple currency. And you can see how the Sadducees who are in charge of this trade business there, you can see how they start to say, we’ve got these people over a barrel. Because for them to be good practicing Jews, they have to buy a sacrifice, because they’re not going to be able to bring a lamb or doves with them if they’re coming from, say, Greece or Italy or from Libya or northern Egypt, any of those places.
Even Galilee, or even Galilee 70 miles north, you’re going to sell your animal up in the north, get the money, it’s way easier to deal with, protect it in your pocket, get down to Jerusalem and transition it to the drachmas at the temple. But who controls the exchange rate? Who makes money off that exchange?
All Sadducees. So what happens is there’s clearly an increased charge going on from year to year to year where they’re now stealing basically from the people in order to be a good practicing Jew. And then you go to buy your animal for the sacrifice and once again they’ve got you over a barrel. So they can set that price anywhere they want and they can keep inflating that price artificially from year to year to year because it’s a monopoly. It’s a monopoly. And now they’ve taken that practice from out in the markets around the temple. Now they’ve brought them into the temple courtyards, probably under the porticos, and here they are making all of this money. Jesus comes in and he cast out all them that sold. This is another of my favorite unsung miracles of the New Testament. If you read books on the miracles of Jesus, you’re probably not going to find a section on the triumphal entry as a miracle and you’re probably not going to find the cleansing of the temple in any of those books as a miracle. But I’m here to tell you it’s a miracle. And if you don’t believe me, try going into a huge sporting event, and I’ll let you have a whip to use John’s first cleansing of the temple account.
You can use a whip, but you have to be alone and go and get all of the concessioners to leave that sports venue, that stadium, that arena, whatever it is. You all by yourself. Kick them all out and then tell me it’s not a miracle that one man went in against this entire group of people who are making an incredible amount of money for the sadducees and they hold all the power with the temple guards and he kicks them out. Brothers and sisters, this is one of my favorite miracles because if you’re not careful, you’ll read this story and think we’re just talking about a bunch of stones and mortar and buildings. I love Paul’s question to the Corinthians, what know ye not that ye are the temple of our God? And all of a sudden you say so the cleansing of the temple that happened on that day 2000 years ago could be seen as a symbolic object lesson for what Jesus is asking to do with me. But I have to let him in first. He’s the one who cleanses my temple. He’s the one who gets rid of those elements of my soul and of my life that are conquering me, that are holding me back, that are evil.
He’s the one who cleanses the temple and then he doesn’t stop there. There’s miracle number two. It says verse 14 the blind and the lame came to him in the temple and he healed them.
Now, previous to this, how would the blind and the lame have felt in the temple with all of these Pharisees, sadducees and scribes walking around looking down their nose at them?
Yeah, not welcome. If you turn to Isaiah 56 and Isaiah 58, there’s passages there where Isaiah prophesies about how eventually the temple will be welcoming to everybody who’s worthy but anciently. In the Isaiah’s time it was like if you’re lamed or had certain other physical situations, you weren’t allowed in the temple. Matthew has us reference Jeremiah connecting Jesus’s actions to things that Jeremiah the prophet did during the time of Lehigh around 600 BC in Jerusalem. Verse seven, or chapter seven, the word that came to Jeremiah for the Lord saying, stand in the gate of the Lord’s house and proclaim there this word and say, hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, to enter at these gates to worship the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in these lying words saying the temple of the Lord. The temple of the Lord. The temple of the Lord. Are these very interesting that Jesus is echoing Jeremiah saying, just because there is a building doesn’t mean you’ll be saved. In the time of Jeremiah, people believe that because there was the temple, that meant all was well in Zion.
And Jeremiah stand in the gate of the temple saying, it is not enough to have the building. You have to have the inward temple vessel cleansed. So the outward vessel of the temple actually helps. And Jesus is doing something similar. And to connect us to the Book of Mormon. It seems that Layman and Lemuel were part of the crowd in the time of Jeremiah, who felt that the presence of the temple alone was enough to protect them and the city from anything they might do and would protect them from the Babylonians and Nephi and Jeremiah, lehi and others, including Jesus. Teach it’s not enough to have the building. It’s amazing. You have to have the inward vessel cleansed.
So these references from the Old Testament, from Isaiah 56 and from Jeremiah seven, look back in Matthew 21, verse 13. He said unto them, so this is before he heals the sick folk that come into him. Verse 13 and he said unto them, it is written, my house shall be called the house of prayer, that ye have made it a den of thieves. There’s a subtle nuance going on here because here we are in the week of the Savior’s infinite sacrifice, his atoning sacrifice. In John’s gospel, the cleansing of the temple, by John’s account, occurs when Jesus is 30, at the very beginning of his ministry. So it’s possible that he either cleansed the temple twice, once at the beginning and John tells us that story, and once at the very end, where the synoptics tell that story. Matthew and Mark have it reversed in the order, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. But the amazing thing is that in John’s account, he refers to it as my Father’s house in his telling at the beginning of the ministry, and now here at the end of his ministry, he’s calling it my house.
Now, if you think about that in the context of you as a child of God, a child of the covenant, an adoptive son or daughter of Jesus Christ through the covenant. And now as a disciple of Christ, you can see that through that ministry, jesus is now staking ownership, staking a claim over you and over the temple. He’s calling it his house, the house of the Lord. And you’ll also notice he’s not defiling the sacrifices or the law of Moses or telling them they shouldn’t be doing all those things. What he’s rejecting is how they’re robbing from the people basically in order for them to get gain while the people are just trying to keep the law of Moses. I love the fact that they’re now gone, these poor people who have been blind and lame they come into the temple and he healed them. I could be wrong but for me I love looking at this two part miracle of Jesus taking things out of the temple that are defiled and unclean and bringing things into the temple that have been judged in the past to be defiled and unclean and making them pure, unholy.
It’s almost as if we get this miracle of forgiveness, of sins of commission, where he helps us get rid of those things out of our life that we’re doing, that we shouldn’t be doing. And where sins of omission are being overcome where he brings into our life things that, before we haven’t let in, that really need to be a part of our life. I love this miracle that once again often gets overlooked as a miracle. So next we come to this miracle of the cursing of the fig tree which many of you are probably wondering why is why is there a miracle where Jesus uses his divine power to destroy? Up to this point most of his miracles you’ve seen probably without major exception has been to restore, to build, to enliven and in this one he’s using his power to destroy. It’s worth mentioning that in Mark’s gospel he reverses the order of events. In Mark’s gospel you get the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus walks into the temple, looks around and sees what’s happening, goes back to Bethany, spends the night and in the morning comes back, curses the fig tree then goes into the temple and cleanses the temple.
So there’s a beautiful symbolic connection there of the fig trees representing the leadership of the Jewish people at that time. These sadducees and scribes the sanhedrin of showing all of the appearance of having fruits of righteousness. But there’s no fruit on the tree. So when Jesus comes to this fig tree can’t find any food on it in the morning when he’s hungry he says let no fruit grow on theeceforward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away. The Greek word there is immediately. And so the disciples are sitting there, marveling. And then he goes into the temple again. In Mark’s account, then you get the cleansing, but in Matthew’s account, it still works because he’s cursing the fig tree. And in the temple, you’re going to get different groups of people coming to him and questioning him, and he’s going to be showing the people the contrast between appearing to be righteous versus showing us fruits of righteousness. Verse 23 when he was come into the temple the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching and said by what authority. Doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority?
It’s a really good question. They want to know how do you have authority to cast people out and to perform these miracles? Where did you get this? And I love this moment when Jesus looks at them and says, well, I’m also going to ask you a question and if you can tell me the answer to this question, then I and likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. And then he says, the baptism of John, whence was it from heaven or of men? Can you picture that moment when these chief priests stand there looking at him with this confused look? And then they go and huddle up together and say if we say that it’s of God, then he’s going to say, well then why don’t you go get baptized? And if we say it’s of men, then the people are going to hate us because they all think John was a prophet, we’re stuck. So they go back to Jesus and say we cannot tell, we cannot say. And I love verse 27 when Jesus says, well, neither tell I you by what authority I do these things, it’s fair. You’re not going to answer my question, I’m not going to answer yours.
And then look at the very next word. 28 starts with the word but. But what think ye? The idea here is he is going to answer their question, he’s just not going to answer it directly to them. He’s going to tell a parable, a story with the answer of where did you get your authority and who gave it to you? And here’s the answer in parable form. A certain man had two sons and he came to the first and he said, son, go work today in my vineyard. And he answered and said, I will not. But afterwards he repented and went. And he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir. And he went not now. You’re hearing that parable and you’re thinking, wait a minute. How in the world does that answer the question of where’d you get your authority? Who gave it to you? Because neither of those sons sound like Jesus. But if you are reading in the King James version makes it really hard to see. But in the Greek, look at verse 29. Again, the first son, his answer was I will not.
The word will can imply I’m not going to do it, or it can imply it’s not my will, it’s not what I want to do. Now, if you picture Jesus going into Gethsemane a few days after this event when he falls to the ground, his prayer is abba father, all things are possible unto thee, remove this cup from me. He’s basically saying, I don’t want to do this and none of us are frustrated by that, he says, but afterwards he repented and went the word repented. Metanueo means to change. He didn’t persist in this request of I don’t want to do this, remove this cup from me. You don’t have to sin to change or to repent in the Greek context here. So this first son said, I don’t want to do this. But then he met a Noel he he changed his thinking. And in gethsemane Jesus said, nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done. And he went, he completed the task. Now, what about the second son? The second one said, I go, sir. And he went, not. If you look closely at your wording there in verse 30, the go is italicized, which means it didn’t exist in the Greek text.
They added it because they didn’t think that it was very good English to say. And he answered and said, I, sir. And went not. What he’s saying is ego kittier i, sir. Did you notice the word for I in Greek? Ego. Ego. E-G-O. With Lucifer, it’s all about the ego. It’s all about I. But he went not. He wasn’t willing to come and suffer, he wasn’t willing to pay anything. And he wasn’t the chosen from the beginning. He’s trying to take that role from Jesus. And notice it says, whether of them twain did the will of his father and they say unto him, the first. And Jesus saith unto them, verily, I say unto you that the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. You think you have power and authority. You think you have all these amazing things that make you better than everybody. And he’s saying, no publicans and sinners are going to go into heaven before you. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. He answered their question, where did you get your authority and who gave it to you? His answer is, I got it before the world was and my father gave it to me and he sent me down here to do his will.
Well, then he says in verse 33, here another parable. There was a certain householder which planted a vineyard and I gave the parable of the husbandman. Authority matters. It’s a big deal to know where did you get your authority and who gave it to you? So he’s already answered in parable number one, where he got his own authority. Now, in parable number two, he’s going to give a second parable about where the chief priests, the very people he’s talking to, where did you get your authority? Because they do have some authority. And he tells this example of a vineyard and the husbandman goes into a far country, leaving the vineyard in charge or under the care of these husbandmen. So then the Lord of the vineyard sends his servants into the vineyard to get the fruits of the vineyard from these husbandmen. But when they come, the servants beat one, they kill another and they stone another. And so then he sent more servants. And they do the same and worse to them as well. And finally the husbandman says, I’m going to send my son. Surely they’ll reverence my son. So the heir of the vineyard comes in and they say, here’s the wording.
When the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, this is the heir. Come, let us kill him and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him and cast him out of the vineyard and slew him. And then Jesus does something fascinating. Keep in mind, they’re interpreting these stories very literally. So he’s just telling this story and they’re thinking, man, these are terrible servants. And Jesus asks them this inspired question when the Lord, therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? So he lets them answer this question and they say unto him, he will miserably destroy those wicked men and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. And then Jesus quotes to them Psalm 118, verse 22 from their hymn book about the stone being rejected by the builders. The very stone that’s rejected becomes the head of the corner. And he finishes and you can picture this moment where those chief priests are standing there thinking, wait a minute. I think he might have been talking about us with that story. Look at verse 45. When the chief priests and the Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude because they took him for a prophet. And then he’s going to tell one more parable in the beginning of chapter 22, and this is where we get our authority. So he’s already told about his own and the chief priest’s authority. Now he talks about us through the parable of the marriage feast of the king’s son. And where all of these rich people are invited, bidden to come to the wedding, and they would not come. So the doors are thrown open, the party is laid out, and these people won’t come. And so what does he do? He sends servants out into the highways and he gathers as many as would come, both bad and good. And the wedding was furnished with guests. He brings people into this wedding feast. And when he came into the wedding feast, the king, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment this covering a kafar from the Old Testament. There’s a man who came in and he must have thought he could come in without going through the front door and accepting the clothing, the covering that the Lord of the feast would have provided as part of the wedding.
And he’s sitting there without it, as if to say, I don’t need the Savior’s infinite atonement to be saved in this wedding feast. And the king comes to him and says, friend, how camet thou in Hither not having a wedding garment and he was speechless, he didn’t have an answer. Then said the king to the servants, bind him hand and foot and take him away and cast him into outer darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for many are called, but few are chosen. And verse 14 Joseph Smith ABS wherefore all do not have on the wedding garment. There are some who are coming in acting like they, they’re taking Christ upon them, being clothed in Christ, but they don’t have the wedding garment on and there is no place for them in his wedding feast. So where do we get our authority? It’s by accepting the King’s invitation to come in to the wedding feast of His Son, this beautiful symbolic union between Christ and his church and to put on Christ, as Paul would say, and to be prepared. That’s where we get our authority. Now this is the end of segment one.
When we pick up segment two. We’ll start here halfway through Matthew 22 and finish 22 and 23 with some incredible teachings of Jesus there in the temple, likely on that Monday of the week of his atoning sacrifice. I hope that you can find meaning and purpose that you can apply in your own life from these stories that happened 2000 years ago that are getting the Savior closer and closer and closer to gethsemane the trials and golgotha. I hope you can see elements of yourself in that little donkey or that mule. I hope you can see elements of yourself in the stones and in the buildings of the temple being cleansed. I hope you can see elements of the Savior’s power showing what happens when we act like we have fruits of righteousness but we don’t have them in the cursing of the fig tree. And then these three parables showing authority. The amazing thing to me in these three parables as we conclude is how much God wants to share his power and his authority with us down here on the earth. But we have to be willing to accept it the way he intends to give it and to use that power and authority in ways that he directs us.
And it’s always going to be in ways to help build up his kingdom and to help people who are struggling in a variety of ways on both sides of the veil. How the Lord loves you for your willingness to take time to study these scriptures, learn of Christ and to try to apply these principles in your own life. May we receive his richest blessings in those efforts is our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. Know that you’re loved.
And I’m Tyler.
This is Scripture Central’s Come Follow Me Insights. This week, part two of the episode covering Matthew 21 through 23, Mark 11, Luke 19 through 20, and John 12.
So in episode one, we covered most of the stories that are in Mark, Luke, and John, and Matthew 21, and the first half of chapter 22. So today in this second episode, we’re going to cover the second half of Matthew 22 and all of Matthew 23. So to begin, there are three experiences here starting in verse 15, where Jesus is going to be judged, tempted, tried by three different groups of people. So in your scriptures, if you were to mark them, you would say, verse 15, this is where the pharisees come to prove him, to tempt him. Verse 23 is where the Sadducees take their shot at tempting him and pushing him into a corner to trap him. And then verse 35 is where a lawyer or a scribe comes to do his testing of Jesus. So there’s some incredible significance in having pharisees, Sadducees, and scribbes sending representatives in turn, right here a few days before Jesus’s crucifixion to tempt him, to examine him, and to try to trap him.
So we have in the Passover season, over the years, as the Jews would celebrate, they would have a lamb that they would use for Passover service that they would slaughter and consume. But before that, before you would slaughter that lamb, you would have to bring that lamb to the temple to be examined by the authorities to ensure that that lamb was ready for the sacrifice. And it seems that Matthew is making it very clear for us that Jesus is the lamb being brought to the temple, being examined by the authorities. Actually, he’s found worthy by God, even though the authorities don’t seem to get the message.
So let’s jump into the pharisees trap first, starting in verse 15. Now, keep in mind, this is a group who they know that they’re going to get their shot at trapping Jesus. So you can picture these back room conversations. What could we do with him in front of the big group in the temple that would make him just look terrible and would ultimately be his demise? So they’ve crafted their best case trap for him, and now they spring it, or rather they try to spring it on him. It comes in verse 15, Then went the pharisees and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they said out unto him their disciples with the Herodians saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth. Neither carest thou for any man, for thou regardest not the person of men. Can you hear the flattery and the false praise that they’re laying on him to try to soften him up so that he would walk into their trap? Now, while those techniques might work with normal people, they don’t work great with the Son of God. And so here’s their trap.
You ready for this? Tell us, therefore, what thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not? After their flattery, you speak the truth. You’re such a wise master. And we’re really wrestling with this debate of is it really okay for us to continue to pay tribute to Rome? Because we know what happens when we pay money to Caesar, it gets spent to build pagan temples, pagan idol s, and to build up that Roman Empire which is rooted in idol worship.
And you’re also using money to pay the army that’s oppressing us. So there’s a lot of reasons they don’t like paying the tax.
So can you see the trap two sided here? If he says, Don’t pay it, well, you now have an insurrectionist claim on their hands to say, see? And if he says, do pay it, then they say, well, then you’re not supporting the law of Moses. You’re not supposed to worship idol s. You’re not supposed to support oppressors. So they’re thinking, this is the perfect trap. We’ve got him. Can you picture that moment, that pause after they’ve laid the question at his feet and all the people are sitting there thinking, what’s he going to say?
I love what he says. Jesus perceived their wickedness and said, Why tempt ye me, ye actors, you hypocrites? So the word is actor. They’re not sincere. He’s like, Let’s have a real conversation about real issues that people really care about. Instead, you guys are just acting with the intention of creating problems for me and actually for a lot of other people.
So then he says, verse 19, Show me the tribute money, and they brought unto him a penny. So I have here a replica, Denarius, that was made out of silver from my friend Richard Beech, a jeweler. And this is an exact replica of what coins these pennies or a penny in that day would look like. And so he says, Show it to me. So they produce one and show it to him. Now look at the next thing he says, And he sayeth unto them, whose is this image and superscription? And they say unto him, Well, it’s got Caesar’s image on the coin, as you can see here. And his answer is, Okay, well, render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s. Now, most people read that verse and think, Wow, that was ingenious. He got out of their trap. He didn’t take a side. He just said, Look, if it’s got Caesar’s image on it, then render it to Caesar because it’s his. And then we often stop there and smile at how smart Jesus was to overcome this trap. And perhaps we might miss, from my opinion, from my perspective, the single most important part of the entire interchange here, which is a message not just to overcome the trap for this group of pharisees and Herodians that came to him, but for disciples of Christ in that temple setting, as well as in the 21st century today reading this story.
It’s that second phrase. It’s far less focused on render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s. And it’s the second phrase, And render unto God the things which are God’s. You’ll notice, how do I know that this coin is Caesar’s? Because it has Caesar’s image on it. So how do I know what to render to God? Well, probably something that has God’s image on it. There’s only one thing that has God’s image on it, and that’s God’s children. That’s you. That’s me. So at the end of the day here, when Jesus makes this statement, the message to me as a disciple of Christ is, Tyler, you need to give your life, render to God you. You’ll notice how much easier it is to pay money and to give things away as opposed to giving yourself. So full consecration is to render unto God my whole life. It’s to say to the Lord, you can have anything that you want. It’s all yours. I place my whole life into your hands to render unto God the things which are God’s is a very profound teaching for complete consecration to the Lord.
This is really transformative. If we go back into Genesis and we hear about creation and the crowning event is God creating us, his children in his image. And those in the crowd with ears to hear should have seen that that is true. I am in the image of God and I need to give myself to him. And it’s also significant that in the ancient Middle East, most of the surrounding cultures would create images of their gods and spend a lot of time taking care of those statues and dressing them up and giving them food and building temples or houses to those images. Think about the revolutionary concept that God teaches in scriptures. Instead of you creating images that you spend time focusing on, I’ve created an image that I want you to focus on. That image is me and it’s in you and it’s in everybody around you.
We’ve overcome the test or the trial from the Pharaohes that had started in verse 15. Now we go to the second trial laid at his feet, the second trap or examination from the Sadducees, which remember, they don’t believe in the resurrection. It tells you that in verse 23, The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection. It’s really simple to remember the difference between pharisees and Sadducees in their doctrine. Sadducees don’t believe in resurrection, and that’s sad you see. It’s just a simple way to keep that straight. The Sadducees is the group, they’re more of the aristocracy of the Jews. They’re more of the rich, the elite, the high born. And as such, they have many more opportunities for political appointments from the Romans and previous to the Romans, the Greeks back before Pumpy over through the Greek control. So they have become more, shall we say, attached to the doctrine and the philosophies of the world of their day. And the Greek philosophies that come down from Socratices, Plato, Aristotle, 400 years before Christ, all of those doctrine and those teachings have pretty much infiltrated the ranks of the Sadducees.
The Greeks don’t believe in the resurrection. The Greeks don’t believe in angels. The Greeks don’t believe all of these things that are in the Old Testament. And so it doesn’t come as a shock that the Sadducees are going to have adopted many of those philosophies and find ways to say, we’re still good practicing Jews, even though we don’t believe all of these things that the Pharaohes have been teaching.
So what their focus is on, they’re focusing on death. They’re trying to trap Jesus in this discussion about what happens at death or after death. And we’ll just give you the preview. Jesus focuses on life. It’s very interesting how he turns the tables and says, you’re asking the wrong questions. You’re so worried about what happens in death or after death. Why not focus on what happens in life? And he himself is the bringer of life.
This is the scenario that they’re using as a trap against Jesus. You ready? Verse 24, here’s this group of Sadducees and they say, Master, Moses said, if a man die having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up seed unto his brother. That’s called the lever of marriage. But if your older brother dies without seed, the younger brother, and it doesn’t matter how much of an age separation there is, it just doesn’t matter, when you’re of age, you’re under obligation to marry your brother’s wife and raise up seed.
And the economic system in the very far ancient Israelite past was that the children were supposed to inherit what the parents had and also use those resources to support the parents in their old age, and also to maintain the name of that owner of the land on the land. And so this is all about land and inheritance and posterity and prosperity. So this tradition or this culture had been preserved for a lot of years.
So the story continues. This trap is being set here. Now, there were with us, that’s a really important distinction. There were with us, so these are Sadducees, seven brethren, and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased and having no issue, left his wife unto his brother. Likewise, the second also, and the third unto the seventh. By the way, can you picture being the seventh brother thinking, My six older brothers have all not lasted long in this marriage. I wonder how it’s going to fair for me. Verse 27 says, And last of all, the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, remember, the Sadducees don’t believe in resurrection, so it’s one side of their trap. In the resurrection, whose wife shall she be of the seven? For they all had her. Now, watch carefully. Did you see the trap? In the resurrection, who’s going to be married to this woman because all seven had her? There’s the trap. Now, this next verse, Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do error, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God, for in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
That verse, that one verse gets used all the time to say, see, there’s no such thing as marriage. There’s no such thing as eternal family. Here’s the fascinating thing. The Sadducees had plenty of opportunity in their shady back rooms to come up with a trap for Jesus. Do any of you find it odd that they would use that example of pitting the doctrine of resurrection against the doctrine of marriage for eternity to say, we’ll come up with a scenario where marriage for eternity in the resurrection doesn’t work, and those are the two halves of their trap. If Jesus has never taught the eternal nature of marriage, why would they come up with a plan to trap him on something he’s never taught? The idea being that Jesus has openly taught about resurrection, and he’s openly taught about eternal marriage. So they’ve come up with this scenario to try to disprove him and make him look bad. And some would say, Well, no, he doesn’t ever directly talk about eternal marriage. Well, there are other places where he’s touched on this. He said things like, What God has joined together, let no man divide asunder. When he was having that debate with Pharaohes about divorce.
There are enough hints that even though certain plain and precious truths might have been taken out of the Bible at one point, doesn’t mean that Jesus couldn’t have taught about these things, and there are enough hints in other places that he is talking about the eternal nature of family. And this, ironically, is for me, one of the greatest sources to show that Jesus did teach eternal marriage because of what the Sadducees are using that doctrine as a half of their trap in this instance. And here’s the fascinating thing. If you write a cross reference in your scriptures next to verse 30, write Doctrine and Covenant section 132, 15 through 17. In that passage, the Lord, in section 132, is giving a series of different types of marriages that are performed and what effect they have. And the type of marriage in verse 15 through 17 is a marriage that is for time only. It’s not performed with sealing keys under proper authority. It’s just performed basically till death do you part. And if you look in Doctrine and Covenants 132, 15 through 17, you’re going to see some identical wording to this exact passage here that gets repeated there in context of they will not be married because they weren’t sealed.
And remember back in the beginning in verse 25, Now there were with us seven brethren. Those marriages were performed under what authority? Under Sadducean authority. And they don’t have the sealing keys. They are not sealing this woman to these seven brothers. They’re simply marrying her till death do they part. And those deaths came pretty quickly, and they parted pretty quickly. And so Jesus, in verse 30 is saying, for in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but there is the angels of God in heaven. Perfect description from over there in section 132 of what happens to people who choose not to enter into a temple ceiling that is for time and all eternity.
Really fascinating how this trap or this exchange ends. He uses these powerful phrase 31 and 32, but it’s touching the resurrection of the dead. Have you not read that which was spoken unto you by God saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? And pause right there. That phrase is the summary phrase pointing us back to the Abrahamic Covenant. So I find this extremely powerful that what is supposed to be a trap ends up being this lesson about covenants all of us have eternal access to if we choose to be loyal to God by keeping the commandments, which is a way of showing loyalty, which is interesting because what’s the very next challenge?
It comes from the lawyer, the scribe, a temptation. About which.
Commandment we should keep. How should we show our loyalty to God? So all these things are intertwined with the Old Testament, those two covenantal mountains, Mount Moriah, the eternal covenant that God gave to Abraham and all his descendants, and you are included in that as his descendant. And then Mount Sinai, where God through Moses gave a list of instructions for how people should be covenantally loyal to him. These are all bound up right here in these two little stories.
Look at the conclusion here of this Sadducean trap that Jesus unsprung and overcame. Verse 33, When the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine. They’re sitting there saying, Wow, this is deep. And so the Sadducee group walks away saying, We tried. We gave our very best thought to how we could trap him, and it didn’t work. And so now, verse 34, But when the pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him and saying… So now you get this expert in the law of Moses, this scribe who knows the Old Testament very well. Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Can you see what he’s trying to do? He’s baiting Jesus to get into a debate here to show how much smarter he is than Jesus when it comes to knowing the law. He’s going to let Jesus pick a commandment that he thinks is really important, and then he’s going to Bible bash with him and show him lots of verses that would show that other commandments might be more important.
So you’re thinking, Wow, how do you get out of that one? Well, watch what Jesus does. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God with all thy heart and with all your all, thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Two commandments.
This is really fascinating because how many commandments are there in the law.
Of Moses? 613. And then if you were to boil those 613 specific parts of the law down to its simplest form, you would say, well, there are 10 commandments.
Which we get at Mount Sinai. And Jesus is giving us two. Now, notice he says this phrase, upon these two laws hang all the law and the prophets. The law is the law of Moses or the five books of Moses, the Torah. Love God, love your neighbor, and if you do those things, you are loyally entwined with God and you receive all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
You know, Taylor, I wonder if there is great application to us today in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. I think the same thing could be said. All of the procedures that happen in church, all of the programs, all of the policies, all of the practices, all of the commandments, all of the ordinances, everything that happens in the Church could be hung on those two same commandments, those two same ideas of love the Lord, thy God with all thy heart, mind, mind, and strength, and love thy neighbor as thyself. Everything that we do in the Church today, all of our efforts are built on those two things. It’s pretty powerful when we keep things in that perspective. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get off in the weeds of one of those 613 laws of Moses and think it’s the most important aspect when God’s most important and loving him and loving the neighbor. These should all be means to that end. And isn’t it beautiful how you can take those Ten Commandments, for instance, even if we boil from the 600 to 13 down to the 10, you look at those first four, those are all focused on how you treat your relationship with God.
No other gods before me, don’t worship idol, don’t take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain, and remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. All of those are focused on your connection with God. Number 5 through 10 are all focused on how you treat people. Honor thy father and thy mother, don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, or bear false witness, and don’t covet. Everything really does boil down into these two parts. And then later on, we’re going to find that if you’re in the service of your fellow men in chapter 25 of Matthew, you’re only in the service of your God. So even if I’m keeping the second commandment, I’m actually, that’s an extension of how I keep the first commandment, how I love God. But we live in a world that wants to reverse that order. Have you noticed that? A world that wants to emphasize loving your neighbor first, and then if you’ve got any extra time or energy, then you can love God. There have been some beautiful conference talks given in the last few years about the importance of keeping that first commandment first. Love the Lord, thy God first, and thy neighbor as thyself, second.
So you can see here that he’s overcome the trap from the Pharaohes, the Sadducees, and now the Pharaoh cycle lawyer. And instead of just sitting there, now Jesus puts a little bit of focus on them. Look at verse 41, While the pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them. Now he comes to them and says, What think ye of Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one? All of your messianic expectations that you’re looking for. What do you think of him? Whose son is he? And they say unto him, Well, he’s the son of David. That’s the prophecy, right?
It’s an appropriate title, but it gets a little more involved in that.
So then he says, So if the Messiah, the Christ, is going to be the son of David, then why did David, in spirit, call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right-hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word. Neither dirst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. They’ve learned their lesson. You don’t try to debate with Jesus because it’s impossible. He always gets out of your trap that you lay for him, and you can’t get out of the questions he asks you. There’s no answer. And it’s this beautiful realization that they finally come to of, Okay, we’re not going to ask him any more questions. Which now brings us to chapter 23. This is a very direct chapter where he’s condemning the pharisees and the scribes, and he’s speaking to the multitude and to his disciples.
I find this interesting because it’s almost like he is done having all these debates, and then he turns his disciples and now says something about the individuals who are trying to trap him. And it doesn’t make it absolutely clear here, but my assumption is that Matthew’s trying to narrate that Jesus is describing for his people, here are the leaders of society that you should not be trying to spend any time with, unless you’re just loving them and encouraging them to follow me.
So let’s pick it up in verse 2. Jesus says to this multitude and to his disciples, The scribes and the pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So this is the judgment, the instruction, the seat of leadership over the people. All therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do, but do not ye after their works, for they say and do not. So he’s saying, look, they’re teaching you out of the law, observe the things that they’re telling you to do, but don’t watch their example and do what they’re doing. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be born and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. So they’re putting these expectations and these commandments upon you, but they’re not willing to.
Do it. Listen to some of these words in the Greek, the burdens, heavy, hard to bear. A burden, for example, is something like you would put on the freight of a ship. An individual ship just has to carry this and it’s like driven about. The heavy is something that’s very burdensome or weighty, even oppressively or violently so. Or hard to bear, also the word comes from being oppressive. And the core word is just the enormous difficulty. Let’s think again, let’s go back to Mount Sinai. Did God reveal the law of Moses for the intention to oppressed people and make life difficult? Now, let’s put context. The people had been oppressed and had very difficult task masters and burdens in Egypt. Life had been really difficult and God liberated the people. But then in Mount Sinai. Was his intention to be their task master now? No, to be in relationship with them. So listen to this subtle thing that Jesus is saying. These pharisees and scribes, they sit in Moses’ seat. They teach the truth of how to be liberated through the gospel and through covenantal relationship. But what are they doing? They’re acting like the Egyptian task masters to you.
God doesn’t like that. God does not like people to be oppressed. That is one of the core essences of the gospel. So you have these subtle connections to the Old Testament and God’s salvific efforts. Remember, this is Passover week. So this should be on people’s minds that this is the time we celebrate God liberating us from oppressors and burdens and toil that keeps us from being in relationship with God.
So now he picks it up in verse 5, But all their works they do for to be seen of men, and they make broad their phylactries and enlarge the borders of their garments. So let me show you some modern day examples of phylactries first. These are little boxes that inside have little scrolls that are written with certain key passages from the Old Testament. And the practicing Jews today will take these and bind them to their forehead and bind another one to their arm so that it’s up on their bicep near their heart. So the words of God would be bound in their mind and before their eyes and in their heart.
That way, and actually, it’s not just any words of Moses or God. These are specific commandments revealed by God to Moses at Mount Sinai about how to be loyal to God so that you can worship God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. I actually think it’s a great reminder. If you take the time to put something like this on or you see it with others, you’re like, I really need to be committed to God. So as an object lesson, it actually can be a really good thing.
Until until the pharisees and scribes have thought, Well, all of the common people have phylactries that have these scriptures written on them, this size. Let’s make our phylactries bigger. What is the message? If I walk into a synagogue or out at the street and it’s the time of prayer and I put on my phylactries and they’re this big, and I’m standing next to a guy who’s got a big box on his head and a big box sitting on his arm, the message is, Wow, he has more of the word of God in his mind and his heart. He’s more righteous than me. He’s better than me. I’m just a lowly simpleton with a normal size phylactery. That’s what Jesus is condemning. Now, they also have their prayer shulls.
Again, beautifully symbolic, lovely, a reminder about putting yourself in a state of reverence and humility before God.
Yeah. When you talk about holy envy, it’s this idea of they come up with these outward ways to shut out the world. So if they put on the prayer shul l, it’s this way of shutting out the world and focusing on God’s word and on heaven. So it’s a beautiful symbol.
And I’ll use another word that we’ve talked about, the word indul, which means to be clothed. Think about our temples. People are clothed in the garments of the priesthood. And these are not garments of the priesthood, but they are a form of clothing. And the point there is to represent or to symbolize your relationship with God and to say you’re in a state of worshipfulness. So there’s a lot of beautiful connections here with things that we’re familiar with.
And so if you look at the border or the hem of the prayer shal, you’ll see these four corners, these teet teet that come down from all four corners. And this is symbolic, the number of strands and the name teet teet having a numeric value of 600 plus 13 knots in the corner borders adds up to 613. So when I’m praying, I’m focused on God, I’m focused on his word, and I’m focused on his law. Just a reminder real quickly because we sometimes forget that the law was the set of instructions that God wanted his people to live by to.
Show that they loved him. Again, if you’re in a loving relationship with somebody and they gave you a list of like, here’s my top 10 list for how you can show me love, if you really love that person, you’d be interested to know what that top 10 list is to memorize it and to live it. And so everything we’re talking about here is all rooted in a deep desire to be covenantally related to God, to be covenantly combined with God.
Yeah. The practice, you’ll notice Jesus is not condemning the practice of using phylactries in a prayer shell. He is not opposed to them saying their prayers and feeling connected to God and God’s laws. What is the condemnation? Look closely back at verse 5, But of all their works they do to be seen of men, they make broad their phylactries, and they enlarge the borders of their garment. They increase the size of these these tassels. They make them bigger, longer, even start adding colored strands in to draw more attention to it. So if you’re standing there with a traditional sized prayer shal l next to a pharisee who’s got a much bigger and longer border to his garment, the implication is, oh, he’s more righteous than me. He’s more holy than me. He’s better at keeping these 613 laws than me because his borders happen to be longer than mine and bigger and maybe more colorful than mine. So how hard is it to make your borders of your garments longer or more colorful or make a phylactery that’s even bigger? You don’t have to be more righteous to do any of those things, and yet they’re doing it to be seen of men.
And that is one thing Jesus just doesn’t seem to have a lot of patience for is this hypocrisy, this self righteous self aggrandizement, drawing attention to, look how good I am at keeping the law of Moses and loving God. I’m so much better than you. Jesus doesn’t have a lot of patience for that. And he continues in verse 6, These pharisees, they love the uppermost rooms at feasts and the chief seats in the synagogues. They love the place of prominence. They love the glory, the honor that they can get from people. And quite frankly, we live in a world in a fallen condition where you have to recognize the human weakness that actually enjoys popularity, that enjoys honors of men, that enjoys the titles and honorific things that this world can place at our feet. And you have to fight against that natural tendency to worship God and love your neighbor because those are not quite as inherently natural in the fallen state. We have to work with the Lord at developing those. Verse 7, And greetings in the markets and to be called of men, ‘Rabbi, rabbi. They love these titles. They love these seats.
They love this attention. And Jesus is teaching the multitude and his disciples, Stop setting your heart on those things. Don’t love those. Love God and love each other. I’ve had to deal.
A little bit with this. I spent a lot of years in graduate school, and I eventually was handed a title called Doctor. And a few years went by and I realized, Wait a second, who’s the real doctor? It’s Jesus, and he teaches doctrine. Now, I think I do a pretty good job of teaching classes and so forth and helping students, but I realized my job is not to be teaching my doctrine. It’s to be teaching his doctrine because he’s the real doctor. And so it still happens today. Now, look, titles inherently are not the problem. It’s useful to understand who has what role and responsibility. There’s a lot of confusion when people don’t know who’s supposed to be doing what. But I’ve also seen where even in the modern day, people can use titles as almost a hammer to hurt other people. Well, I have this title, you don’t have it. So that says something about me that I should get more of God’s love than you. I actually feel like titles simply should be designations of opportunities for serving people, a greater weight of responsibility to serve people. Jesus, I think, was dealing with similar things.
I don’t think titles themselves are the problem. It’s how we choose to use roles and responsibilities and titles that God has given us. Is it for us or is it to serve other people?
So Jesus goes on exactly that line in verse 8, But be not, ye called, rab, for one is your master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. You’re all together. You’re all in this together. Look down at verse 10, Neither be called masters, for one is your master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. Are you seeing the subtle shift in focus here? I should.
Point out, I also happened to collect a master’s degree. So I have a master’s degree and a doctorate degree. Well, who’s the real master? It’s pretty clear in scripture. Christ. So even though a worldy institution gave me that title, I hope that I don’t get sucked into the honors of that title and forget who the real master is.
It’s beautiful. Verse 12, Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exulted. I love that because it goes so against the natural tendencies of trying to build oneself up. And he’s just saying, No, you just stay humble, give God the credit, and God will build you up. Don’t look for men to build you up. Look to the heavens for that. And then as you turn the page over, we’re going to go very quickly through verse 13 through 39, this end of this chapter, because he goes into this long speech about the scribes and the pharisees being hypocrites. And you’ll notice these are strong words. There’s nothing neutral about these verses. Now, again.
If the context is we’re at the temple, out in the outer courtyards, Jesus is teaching his disciples, and yet these groups that have been debating with him are still there hearing all of this. Verse 14 is interesting, Wo unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, or play actors, ye devour widow’s houses, and for pretense make long prayer. Therefore, ye shall receive the greater damnation. This underlying word for to devour means to squander or to fully consume down to there’s nothing left. Think about how often in the Old Testament God says in the law of Moses, make sure to take care of the widow, the orphan, the fatherless. Instead, these people who have been put in positions of power are taking advantage of those who are disadvantaged d. The disadvantaged are making more advantage for themselves by the disadvantaged even more. It’s very sad. So if.
I could sum up verse 13 through 22 using verse 23, I think it’s a conclusion to that entire column. Wo unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, for ye pay tithe of mint, anise, and cumen, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Did you notice his example, his little object lesson? Mint, anise, and cumen are the smallest herbs that you could grow. And they’re saying, Look how righteous I am. I even pay my tithing on my mint, anise and cumin, the very smallest of the forgettable herbs in my garden, I will even pay tithing on those. Look how good I am. And he’s saying, And you’re leaving out judgment, mercy, and faith. You’re missing the whole point.
These three words here, justice in the Old Testament, really could be translated as righteousness. Now, it’s a different word here in Greek. It means to make good, righteous decisions. The Old Testament, the word justice and righteous meant the same thing. So when he’s talking about meeting out justice, it means living righteously. But then you have this word mercy, very powerful. This word mercy, when it’s connected to the Old Testament, is related to the compassion, the chesed that God has and that we should be having, which means covenantal loyalty and everlasting kindness to one another. It gets back to those comments he made some verses ago where he said, Love God, love your neighbor. Look, it doesn’t matter how much tithing you pay on great or little things. That is an important thing, but don’t let that get in the way of loving God, loving your neighbor, living righteously and acting mercifully and showing loving kindness to God and to those around you, because that’s what he does. And he models for us how we should be living. And then.
Verse 24, he says, Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a chemical. You’ll notice the contrast. He picked the very smallest animal he could come up with, a gnat. And then he contrasted it with the very biggest animal. We’re on the two extremes of the animal kingdom here with these people. And he’s saying you’re straining at a nut or straining out a nut. They would actually put these cheese cloths over their pitchers and their amphoraes and their cups, and they will strain out in case if a nut or a little flying insect got into your drink, they’ll strain that out because they, by law, by the law of Moses, they’re not allowed to consume nuts or flies, mosquitoes, all those flying insects. So we’ll strain those out. And he’s saying, But you’re eating a Campbell. Both are.
In the law of Moses. So one takes a lot more effort.
And Joseph Smith gives this beautiful conclusion to verse 24 when he adds, when he added, Who make yourselves appear unto men that ye would not commit the least sin, and yet ye yourselves transgress the whole law. You’re eating the whole ll. But you’re showing people how righteous you’re appearing to be when you strain out these nets. Then he says, Wo unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within there, full of extortion and excess. And he basically tells them to cleanse the platter. Verse 27, Wo unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, for you are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness. So they’re on.
The temple mount. What might people be able to see when they walk right off the temple mount? What are they going to see?
And if you look to the left, if you’re walking down to the south, up on the southern part of the Mount of Olives, you’ve got tombs, you’ve got sepulchers. And keep in mind, when a person dies in the first century, and if you’re not going to bury them in the ground, you’re going to bury them in a tomb, you place them in the tomb, you prepare their body for burial, then you seal up the stone and you paint it white. That’s your message that there’s a newly buried body in the tomb. A year later, after it’s gone through a whole year cycle, you then unseal the tomb, go in and you gather the bones together, put them in an ossuary, and put the ossuary in a niche or a loculi, and now the table is ready for the next family member to die in your family. And so a whited sepulcher looks beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, it’s got a decaying body for that year. These are very strong words against the pharisees. This is.
A personal connection. Some years ago, I was at a graduate school that the outside of the buildings were absolutely gorgeous and compelling. And I went inside, went into the basement. It was just so oppressively, grimy, and a place that I didn’t want to be. And I thought, people on the outside and you see these pictures of these buildings out on brochures, the university never is sharing pictures with potential students. Hey, come to our university and check out our basement. And I remember thinking this very thing like, yeah, we shouldn’t simply just have an outward face of making ourselves look like something. We truly should be through and through what we represent. And remember, at the very beginning we talked about the image of God. We should be the living and lively image of God, not dead men’s bones. So let’s.
Conclude jumping over to verse 37 when he says, Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stoneest them which are sent unto thee. How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. That phrase, he’s going to use it again with the people in the Book of Mormon in third Nephi 10 verse 5, that exact phrase of I would have gathered you, but ye would not. It’s not me keeping you out of the covenant. It’s not me rejecting you and keeping you out of heaven. It’s you who is doing this. And he promises them in verse 38, Behold, your house is left unto you desolate, which ties in to Jeremiah chapter 22, verse 5. In closing, brothers and sisters, there’s righteousness, and then there’s self righteousness. There are deeds that help us love God and love our fellow beings, and there are deeds that help us get the honors and the praise and the glory of the world. For me, the message from this particular set of scriptures this week is to stop looking for the praise of the world and start looking to God and to love him with all of our heart, mind, and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves, knowing that God loves them perfectly, just like he loves us perfectly.
And there’s something liberating about letting go of having to orchestrate everything and let God be God and let me be a humble servant, doing the best I can to find as many people as I can to lift and to build and to bless and to serve, not for their praise, not to be repaid by them, but because I love them and because I love the Lord. What a beautiful pattern for us to try and try and try again to emulate from the Savior’s life in his perfect example. And we leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Know that you’re loved and spread light.
And goodness. you it..