The Big Picture (Continued)
The Son of David and the City of David
Everything that Jesus was up to led Him to Jerusalem at the climax of His ministry. The royal city of David with the Temple of Yahweh: a fitting destination for Israel’s king, the Son of God. So it all came down to how Israel, gathered in God’s chosen city, would receive God’s chosen Messiah. Would they embrace Him and inherit the kingdom? Or would they doom themselves to an irreversible and final judgment? In a final confrontation, Jesus would now bring His sword to divide the people and to cut open the secrets of Israel’s heart.
At first, the signs looked good. Jesus was cheered and greeted as the Son of David. Despite the protests of the scribes and Pharisees, the crowds were enthusiastic to bless Jesus as in Yahweh’s name. From the outside, this looked like the moment. But Jesus knew better. Before He even entered the city, He wept over His people. They were excited enough by His miracles, His teachings, and the prospect of God’s kingdom coming, but they were not prepared to follow Him. Especially not to death.
Quickly, Jesus headed to the Temple. It was one of the king’s jobs to maintain Yahweh’s house, so Jesus did just that. The money changers represented everything wrong with Israel’s leadership. They were greedy, they got in between the poor and God’s presence, and they occupied the court of the Gentiles. Though God had meant the Temple to be a house of prayer for all people, it was a den of ruffians. Though God had meant Israel to be a light to the world, she had become a violent and exclusionary rabble. Cleansing the Temple brought everything to a halt, and it perfectly imaged what Jesus was about to foretell.
The Temple was like a miniature Israel, and cleaning house like Jesus did symbolized what was coming for the whole nation. Then Jesus turned a little more straightforward. He promised that the Temple was on track for destruction. Of course, His disciples asked Him about this, and about how it relates to His coming with the kingdom. Jesus answered their questions with a prophecy that sounded a lot like the prophecies from the Old Testament prophets. Most of those talked about how Babylon or Assyria or someone else was coming to torment and conquer Israel. But they usually said this with earth-shattering images and symbols of the heavens shaking and the world falling apart. Jesus did the same.
In no time at all, Jesus explained, war and disease and trouble and persecution would break out. This wouldn’t mean too much yet. That would be a time for faithful witness before scribes, priests, rulers, and high courts. It would be a time to take the Gospel to the farthest reaches of the known world. But the conflicts and the wars would increase. He warned them to run for their lives when they saw the right signs. For Jerusalem was coming down. Before everyone there had died, the Temple would die. God would judge His people and put an end to the nation of Israel.
But this was not meant to be the end of God’s people or His promises to Abraham. The judgment of God’s rebellious people had always been the salvation of His faithful remnant. With the coming judgment, Jesus’ claims would be proved, His enemies defeated, and His kingdom glorified. The Son of Man would be publicly glorified as a true prophet, the true Messiah, and God would reveal that Jesus’ people were justified in following Him all along.
But the road to glory did pass through the hard hearts of God’s people. After the Temple cleansing, there was enough momentum among Jesus’ enemies to bring Him to trial. Jesus’ teachings and predictions about the future of God’s people didn’t sit well with any of them. It exposed the deep sin in all of their hearts, and the fault lines in Israel as a whole. So He had to die. Better the one man should die than the nation be proved guilty and damned.
Jesus, of course, was no fool. He knew what was coming. So He celebrated Passover with His disciples, but with a twist. The covenant they were ostensibly celebrating with the Passover meal was coming to an end. He took bread and wine, said they were His body and blood, and told them that it was time for a new covenant. He would soon be broken and poured out for them, and a new testament would go into effect. The Holy Spirit would come, and Jesus would lead them to the Father. They didn’t really understand, but soon they wood.
So then Israel’s leaders executed their plan. They took Jesus with Roman help, accusing Him of the same violent dreams of rebellion which Israel as a whole had deep in her bones. He was cruelly and illegally tried, yet remained silent in His defense. Let them dump all the worst of their evil on Him: He trusted in His Father. So they nailed Him to the cross, accusing Him of idolatry and revolution, the respective chief sins of the very Romans and Jews who condemned Him. And there He died for the sins of everyone but Himself.
But then, it seemed that the world itself was falling apart. The sun went dark, the earth shook, graves opened, and the veil in the Temple tore from top to bottom. What could it all mean? What would God do next?