Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tuesday Before Easter: Day of Controversy

This is an excerpt from The Immortal Story by Felix R. McKnight:
It was to be a bitter and full day for Jesus of Nazareth the Tuesday before Easter, last day in His public ministry.

So with the dawn over Bethany He arose, gathered His Disciples and started the day before. Jerusalem was feverish.

It had heard in every house how Jesus drove the wicked from the House of the Lord. The poor rejoiced and left the alleys; leprous beggars lurched toward the Temple ; craftsmen long suffering at the hands of the rich closed their shops.

The courts were overflowing as He walked in one of the porches to begin His teaching. The lame and the poor watched imploringly. The multitude belonged to Jesus that day.

But He was not to be without enemies. In small groups the Pharisees and Scribes who plotted His death filtered into the courtyard. They were haughty sights. Sneering mouths, scorn in their eyes, tilted chins.

Jesus paused and awaited their attack. He knew why they had come. He knew their cunning. Soon one of them shouted: "By what authority do you preach--and who gave this authority?"

Jesus' answer shamed them and the multitude was pleased. "I would ask you a question. If you answer, I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John--whence was it? From heaven or from men?"

The Pharisees were shaken. If they answered "from heaven" He would ask "Why did you not believe him?" If they answered "from men" they would be stoned, for the people were persuaded John was a prophet. So they shamefully said: "We know not."

And Jesus said: "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

But again the Pharisees attempted cunning. One asked: "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar? Why pay taxes?"

Jesus deliberated. To have said "no" would have been to command rebellion. To have said "yes" would have belied His own claim to Messiahship. But He knew well of their hypocrisy. He took a coin and said: "What is Caesar's give to Caesar, and what is God's to God."

The Pharisees heard and marveled and left the temple. And the solution Jesus gave has settled for all time the principles underlying it.

Jesus paused for rest on nearby steps and watched the multitude cast money into the treasury. He saw a pauper widow give two mites, the smallest of coins, and knew that her sacrifice was the greatest of all. Their glances met and Jesus was pleased, although He did not speak. Their silence was a tryst for heaven.

The day was long and Jesus was tired. He silenced the Sadducees when questioned on resurrection and then the Pharisees reappeared to plague Him on the law.

"What command is the greatest of the commandments?'' they asked.

"You must love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. There is a second. You must love your neighbor as yourself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

The evening came and Jesus wearied. He had told many parables and had attempted to correct many errors. It was then that He met the approach of the proselytes, Greeks who had married into Judaism. They wanted to become disciples of the Lord of Righteousness. They sent a messenger, Philip Bethsaida, accompanied by Andrew.

And Gentile converts were granted the right to worship and praise Christ, even as men of the Gentile world had paid homage to Him in the stable of Bethlehem.

Jesus said unto Philip and Andrew. "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall also my servant be. If any man serve me, him will the Father honor..."

And Jesus, perhaps the fullest day of His life ended- He had denounced the Pharisees and Scribes, He had foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and His own suffering on the cross--returned to the home of Lazarus in Bethany.

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