Jesus was trying to lead the people to understand who He was. One of the most common questions in the Gospels is, “Who is this man?” Our salvation depends on our answer to this question. How would you answer it? Jesus isn’t looking for an intellectual answer but He wants us to have a personal relationship with Him.
One of the religious teachers has just asked Jesus which is the greatest commandment in the law. Jesus has answered that it is to love God and that the second commandment is to love our neighbour. Jesus emphasises that this is the central and guiding principle regarding how we should live our lives.
The Jewish people in Jesus’ time loved to debate an infinite number of questions endlessly. They particularly loved to talk about the law and all the various commandments. One of these teachers of the law was impressed with Jesus’ answers, and so he asked Jesus a question that he had been wondering about. Of all the commandments, which is the most important?
During the years of His ministry, Jesus has largely avoided Judaea, and its capital Jerusalem in particular. It’s here where His enemies are: the ones who are out to kill Him. So now, in His final week, right here in Jerusalem, He is walking on dangerous ground. Jesus is surrounded by those who hate Him, and by the traps they set. Here is one of those traps.
In this parable, the man who planted a vineyard and built a wall around it is God. The tenant farmers he asked to look after the vineyard represent the people of Israel, to whom he had entrusted his blessings. But when God wanted to have some of the fruit rightfully his, they wouldn’t give it to him. Remember how the day before Jesus had gone to find fruit on the fig tree but found none? It’s the same story. The servants whom the vineyard owner sent to collect some fruit were the prophets. God had continued to send them, although they were ridiculed, rejected, and even killed. Eventually, the man sends his beloved son, but they also kill the son in the tragic climax of this story. As you hear this parable, your natural reaction might be to think, “I could never do what those tenants did to the Son!” And that’s probably what Jesus’ hearer’s thought as well. Yet a few days later, they would call for his blood. Find a quiet place today and reflect on where you are in your relationship with Jesus.
God gives us some simple guidelines on prayer. First of all, Jesus says that we should pray with faith and not with doubt; secondly, we must believe that we have already received what we pray for; and finally, we need to make sure that we have forgiven others before we come to the Father with our requests. These are the secrets of effective prayer.
Jesus explained why He had cleansed the temple by saying: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.” The church should be a welcoming place for everyone, where they can connect with God. We turn the church into a den of robbers when we push our own agendas instead of God’s. It’s all about the attitude of our hearts and that’s something to think about.
James and John have just come up to Jesus and asked Him to give them the leading positions in His kingdom. Jesus tells them that the notions of authority and hierarchy that we find everywhere in the world don’t apply in the kingdom of God. Instead, greatness is measured through humble, selfless, sacrificial service. What is He saying? He’s telling them that greatness is measured only in love.
It’s interesting how Peter, James and John react to having witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus in His dazzling glory on the mountain top. And they certainly couldn’t understand what Jesus meant when He talked about “rising from the dead.” They threw around different ideas of what this could mean, all of them over-spiritualised, because they couldn’t get their heads around the possibility that Jesus meant just what He said.
The religious teachers taught that Moses and Elijah would come to earth to announce the coming of the Messiah. These were the two greatest prophets of their religion. But God the Father is displeased when Peter wants to build places of rest for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. God hides the scene from view and his voice is heard from heaven pointing to His beloved Son, and commanding all to listen only to Him. And then, when the three disciples recovered, Moses and Elijah were gone. They saw Jesus only.
Peter, James and John are part of Jesus’ inner circle, since He makes a point of including them in some very special events. And so they witness Jesus glorified and speaking with Moses and Elijah. We don’t know what they spoke about, but it would have been an incredible conversation to have listened in on.
When Jesus said He was going to Jerusalem, where He would be killed, Peter strongly rebuked Him and wanted to stop Jesus from going because he didn’t fully understand the purpose of Jesus’ mission. And Jesus, in turn, has rebuked Peter for standing in His way with his worldly thinking and lack of spiritual understanding. Jesus wants to explain to His disciples the real purpose of His mission and why He must go to Jerusalem and the cross.