Olivet Discourse – Lesson 2
THE OLIVET DISCOURSE
JESUS REVEALS THE FUTURE
LESSON TWO – REJECTION OF THE KING
Surely no man has ever been more qualified or more prepared or more willing to reign than Jesus. We are told, “In the fullness of time God sent His Son…” Add to his qualifications the fact that He was sent by God and was sent at the perfect time. The circumstances seemed ideal:
- The Greek Empire had spread their language everywhere. Communication was made easier.
- The Roman Empire had opened borders, built good roads, and stationed military forces everywhere. Travel was made safer and easier.
- The ancient religions had decayed over time. The Gentile world was more receptive to new truth.
- The Romans were relatively tolerant of new religions. The Kingdom could spread to the ends of the earth.
- The Jews had been cured of idolatry and were settled in their homeland. The Jews who were still scattered in other lands were able to come to Jerusalem for required festivals and take back the good news from Jerusalem.
- Jerusalem and the temple had been beautifully renovated by Herod the Great. It was fit for a king.
But something was terribly wrong. The Jews had returned from Babylon about 500 years before with good intentions to give up idolatry, faithfully serve God and obey the Law of Moses. However, over the centuries their culture had undergone radical change. Unfortunately their religion had also changed.
What had happened?
- The language, customs, political parties, ideas, and old institutions had evolved. The country had even been divided into several small portions with different rulers – Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Decapolis, Tetrarchy of Philip, Perea, Syria, etc.
- The high priesthood who led the Sanhedrin Council was largely governed by Rome’s appointments. This governing body now had only a shadow of its former power and influence.
- Synagogues and schools had been established in communities all over the land. Rabbis taught in these Jewish schools and made rulings regarding religious matters. They had different understandings and interpretations of the Law of Moses. Rabbinical rulings had come to have equal authority with the Scriptures. Without a prophet for 400 years, there was no one to correct false teachings.
- The Hebrew language was not commonly used anymore. Greek was the official language of the Roman Empire. Aramaic was the language of the common people, and their original Scriptures were in Hebrew. It became necessary for Rabbis to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek.
- Political parties had developed over the centuries. The most powerful parties were the Pharisees and Sadducees. They loved their power and position. The Pharisees had used rabbinical rulings to add laws of their own to the Law of Moses, which they legalistically enforced on the common people. Their laws had become quite burdensome to the people and had so altered the intent of the original laws that Jesus had to correct or re-teach God’s laws. These ruling powers didn’t like to be challenged or corrected.
- The Sadducees and Herodians were the wealthier classes and were inclined to adopt Greek culture, customs, and ideas. They were self-absorbed and left the common people at the bottom of society neglected and enslaved. As Jesus described, “They (the common people) were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
This is the Jewish world that “welcomed” the Christ child. There was a desperate need for reformation in the nation.
DAY ONE: JOHN THE BAPTIST ENCOUNTERED THE RULING POWERS.
A. JOHN IDENTIFIED THE PROBLEM.
As a prophet, John was a fearless deliverer of God’s truth. He was not intimidated by any person of any class. He boldly spoke as God’s Spirit gave him utterance.
When the Jews of Jerusalem came out to be baptized by John, he called them a “brood of vipers.” The Pharisees, Sadducees, and many of the Jews saw no need for repentance because they were self-righteous sons of Abraham. They felt that they were automatically included in the coming Kingdom. John told the crowd that without repentance they could be cast off and burned. (Luke 3:7-9)
A short time later John rebuked Herod Antipas because of his illicit relationship with his brother’s wife (as well as other evil actions). Herod did not repent but had John put in prison. (Luke 3:19-20) It became obvious early on that the nation’s religious and civil leadership would not be easy to reform.
B. THE LEADERS WERE NOT READY FOR JESUS’ KINGDOM.
The people were confused and divided over the identity of Jesus as Messiah. Some believed He was the promised prophet; some wanted to arrest Him. But the Pharisees were staunchly against Him. (John 7:40-49) It was obvious that the leadership in Jerusalem would not be immediately receptive to the gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus came to bring. Their expectations for the Messiah and their false conceptions of their own positions of power would be a roadblock at this time. Jesus will wait for a more opportune time to confront them.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- How did John’s imprisonment affect Jesus? (Matthew 4:12-17)
- What later happened to John? (Matthew 14:1-12)
- Why do you think Jesus left the Jerusalem area?
- Changes in a culture are inevitable as progress is made in many areas. What should not have changed in the Jewish culture?
- Think back in your own country. What significant changes have been made in the past 500 years in your culture?
- What changes have you seen in the religious culture of your country?
- How have the changes affected your own family?
DAY TWO: JESUS MOVED TO UPPER GALILEE.
A. JESUS MINISTERED TO THE MASSES.
Jesus moved his headquarters and area of ministry from the Jerusalem area to Capernaum in upper Galilee. He went from town to town and synagogue to synagogue teaching the gospel of the Kingdom and confirming His message by performing many miracles. His aim was to cause the people to come to faith in Him as the long-awaited Messiah. During this twelve-month period the ruling powers in Jerusalem largely ignored Him, but the Pharisees carefully observed His actions, hoping to find some way to discredit Him.
B. LARGE CROWDS GATHERED TO HEAR JESUS.
Jesus drew large crowds, but the attraction was not what He desired. As we read through the gospels, we see dark clouds of disappointment at different junctures:
- Jesus was rejected at his home town of Nazareth. (Luke 4:16-30) He reminded them that “no prophet is accepted in his home town.” Later he returned but left again because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:53-58)
- Jesus denounced the people for their unreasonable unbelief in the face of much evidence (Matthew 11:16-19). They behaved like children who couldn’t be pleased.
- Jesus pronounced a woe on the cities of upper Galilee because they refused to repent despite the many miracles performed there. (Matthew 11:20-24)
Finally Jesus went away from the unworthy crowds and focused on the faithful remnant. When He was in public He began to speak in parables that were later explained in private to the true believers. He also began to prepare His followers for His death in Jerusalem.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Why do you think the large crowds followed Jesus?
- Were the people more interested in His healing or His teaching?
- What was the purpose of parables? (Matthew 13:10-12)
- What else could Jesus have done to create true faith?
- Is my faith bound up in the very person of Jesus or in what He can do to enrich my earthly life?
- What in my life suggests that I am vitally interested in the words of Jesus?
- Am I more likely to follow the standards of my culture or the moral standards of the Bible?
DAY THREE: THE NATION’S LEADERS MADE A RULING.
A. JESUS WAS REJECTED BY THE PHARISEES.
The Pharisees had been carefully observing Jesus as He continued to gain in popularity. They tried to find some fault with His actions or teachings or some way to trip Him up:
- Some people brought a paralytic to Jesus and Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees said to themselves – This fellow is blaspheming (Matthew 9:3). But Jesus was able to answer their objections as He then healed the paralytic.
- Jesus and his disciples picked some heads of grain and ate them on the Sabbath. The Pharisees accused them of Sabbath lawbreaking, but Jesus was able to provide an example from Scripture that allowed this kind of behavior. (Matthew 12:1-8) He declared himself to be Lord of the Sabbath.
- The Pharisees brought in a man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath and asked a question about healing on the Sabbath to try to accuse Jesus. Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath without touching him but with words alone, so they couldn’t accuse Him of working on the holy day. The Pharisees were beaten at their own game. They began to plot how they might kill Jesus (Matthew 12:14).
B. JESUS FORCED A DECISION FROM THE PHARISEES.
In Matthew 12, Jesus cast out a demon from a man who was blind and mute. This had never been done by Jewish exorcists. The Pharisees taught that when the Messiah came, He would even be able to cast out this kind of demon. This kind of difficult exorcism is validated by Jesus in Mark 9:17-29.
After the exorcism, people began to ask, “Can Jesus really be the Messiah?” (Matthew 12:23) So the religious leaders were forced to give an answer. They couldn’t deny the miracle, so they accused Jesus of being demon possessed and doing the miracle by the power of the prince of demons, Beelzebub. (Matthew 12:24)
This official decision rejected the Messiahship of Jesus for the nation of Israel. Jesus did not fit their ideas of what a Messiah should be like, and they determined that they would not have Him as their king.
- Jesus first explained how their conclusion regarding the miracle could not be true or logical because it would mean that Satan’s kingdom is divided. They were saying that Satan cast out Satan!
- Then Jesus told them that they have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit and their sin will not be forgiven. They had committed the unpardonable sin. By their words they will be condemned (Matthew 12:31-32, 37)
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What did God promise to people who are truly seeking? (Jeremiah 29:13)
- Have you ever met anyone who was looking for a reason not to believe (like the Pharisees)?
- What “smoke screen” questions do they usually ask?
- Have you ever prayed for your faith to increase like the man in Mark 9:24?
- What spiritual disciplines do you practice to help you to keep growing in the Lord?
DAY FOUR: PHARISEES DEMANDED A SIGN.
A. RELIGIOUS LEADERS TRIED TO TAKE THE OFFENSIVE.
The leaders were apparently stunned by the pronouncement of judgment. They sought to regain their authority by demanding a miraculous sign. But no more signs will be given. Jesus had performed all of the prophesied signs to substantiate his Messiahship. He refused to do something spectacular that was not sanctioned by God. The Pharisees had not accepted the God-ordained proofs, and more of the same miracles would not have made them change their decision. The final sign will be the SIGN OF JONAH.
Jesus performed miracles after this but for a different reason – to train the twelve apostles for their unique ministry (This ministry is recorded in the book of Acts).
B. SIGN OF JONAH WILL BE THE FINAL PROOF.
There will yet be a sign that will be decisive for many. It is the sign of resurrection after three days and three nights of death:
- The first sign of Jonah was the resurrection of Lazarus after he had been in the grave for three days and nights. (John 11:1-57). This miracle was performed for the benefit of the Jewish multitudes. (John 11:42) After this miraculous act by Jesus, many believed but some went to the Pharisees for confirmation from their leaders. The Pharisees convened with the chief priests and the council and again rejected Jesus and discussed how to kill him.
- The second sign of Jonah was Jesus’ own resurrection. Again the nation’s leaders rejected it. (Matthew 28:11-15)
- The third sign of Jonah will be the two witnesses of the tribulation. This will lead to the salvation of the remnant of the Jewish nation. (Revelation 11:1-12)
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Why was it wrong for the leaders to demand a miraculous sign?
- Miracles alone do not create lasting faith. How do people come to faith today? (Romans 10:17)
- Have you ever asked for a sign for confirmation regarding some decision or course of action?
- Does God answer this kind of request? (James 1:5)
DAY FIVE: JESUS PRONOUNCED JUDGMENT ON THE NATION.
READ: Matthew 23
A. JESUS CONDEMNED ISRAEL’S LEADERSHIP.
Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus took yet another opportunity to speak of the judgment that will come upon the nation’s leaders because of their rejection of His Messiahship in the face of ultimate proofs and in the very presence of the Son of God. He accused the Scribes and Pharisees of gross hypocrisy. He told the crowds and His disciples to obey what the Scribes and Pharisees say when they “sit in Moses’ seat” to read directly from the Scriptures, but not to follow their behavior. They had added their own rulings to the Word of God and imposed them on others but not themselves. They loved to be honored wherever they went. He listed 7 woes in Matthew 23 that will come upon them:
- Woe #1 They will be condemned for leading the nation in rejection of the Messiah. (Verse 13)
- Woe #2 They will be judged for corrupting proselytes from the Gentile world. ((Verse 15)
- Woe #3 They will be judged for making the Mosaic Law ineffective by adding their Pharisaic traditions to God’s divine instructions. They became “blind guides.” (Verses 16-22)
- Woe #4 They are judged for majoring in minors and neglecting the really important requirements for holiness. (Verses 23-24)
- Woe # 5 They are judged for being concerned with ceremonial cleanness while they are corrupt inside. (Verses 25-26)
- Woe #6 They are judged for being concerned with externals only while they are corrupt to the core. (Verses 27-28)
- Woe #7 They are judged for rejecting the prophets sent by God while pretending they would have behaved differently had they lived in their father’s times. They will be unable to escape the judgment that will come. (Verses 29-36)
This list of woes is the climax of the long history of rejection of the things of God by the religious leaders. It was a sad day for Jesus as He listed the sins that would culminate in judgment on this generation. This prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D. at the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews over the face of the earth. The worst is yet to come on a future generation as Jesus will reveal in Matthew 24.
B. JESUS LAMENTED OVER JERUSALEM.
Jesus’ heart was broken as He revealed the fate of the people and the city that God loved. (Matthew 23:37-38) Yet the people had rejected God and killed the prophets He sent. Now they had rejected the King and His Kingdom that could have brought great blessing to the nation and the world.
Jesus ended with a major announcement that was both sad and hopeful. This generation will be left desolate and alone since the Kingdom will have to be postponed. But one day He will come again when the nation is ready to receive Him. That will be a blessed day, but the generation of Jesus’ day will miss it.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What is the dictionary definition of hypocrisy?
- What did Jesus say about the Pharisaic rulings? (Matthew 23:4)
- Which of the woes would have the most devastating effect on the nation?
- What was Jesus’ warning to the people regarding their spiritual leadership? (Matthew 7:15)
- How do we know when to follow our religious leaders today? (Acts 17:11)
- Which of the woes could I be guilty of today?
There are many low points in Biblical history when man rebelled against God – the time of Noah that ended in the flood, the time of the judges with their recurring cycle of disobedience, the time of Rehoboam that divided the kingdom of Israel, the time of idolatry that led to the 70 years of Babylonian captivity, the times when they killed God’s prophets – to name a few. But the time of the rejection of the Son of God by the nation’s leaders is over the top and is unpardonable. Jesus was left grieved by the cost of this decision for His beloved people.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
Rebellion against God’s plans and purposes always has a high cost.
Examine your life choices to determine if there is any area where you are in rebellion against God’s revealed will.
About the author
LaWanda Neel is a lifelong Bible student. She has served as a Teaching Leader for Bible Study Fellowship and has conducted studies for neighborhood and church groups. She is now retired and lives with her husband in Lakewood, Colorado. She spends time reading, studying, teaching, writing, traveling all around the world and entertaining her five grandchildren. This is her third Weekly Word series for Thrive Ministries. Contact her for questions or comments at [email protected]View all articles by: LaWanda Neel
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