The Holy Week Observer
Wowee, what a week it has been so far. This Jesus of Nazareth has provided me with the three most interesting days of my life. Oh pardon, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Levi and I am a merchant in Bethany. I have come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover meal like every other good Jew that can travel this time of year. I always leave Friday morning to give myself plenty of time to get to my cousin Nathan’s before Sabbath starts. His house is right on the main strip into Jerusalem, so I just set up shop right outside his house Sunday morning and wait for the business to role in. But then the strangest site I ever saw happened. There were children waving palm branches being followed by a man riding on a donkey. Grown men were saying “blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! I ask someone who was shouting “who is this man? And he says “its Jesus of Nazareth.” Now I am excited but also admittedly a bit scared as well. You see, this Jesus of Nazareth has quite the reputation. He has been known to heal sick people, I mean really sick, like people who were born blind, or lame, or have incurable diseases. One time, in my own town, he supposedly raised a person from the dead, but I can’t claim to know the full truth of that. Man would I love to see a miracle like that with my own two eyes. But I am also afraid because the Romans are the authorities and we already have a Caesar. If the Roman officials hear about someone being heralded as the King who comes in the name of the Lord, there could be dire consequences. People have been executed for less, and I would hate to see this Jesus die, especially the Roman way for killing criminals, it is not pretty, I won’t go into it. Oh, I can tell from your expression that you already know the way that the Romans deal with criminals, and I assure you, if someone else is claiming the rights that only belong to Caesar, then he will surely be marked as a criminal. Anyway, so this Jesus, after processing, goes straight to the temple, and drives out all the merchants selling their goods. I was sure glad that when I was told last year that a spot had opened up in the temple, that someone else had snatched it up before I could get on the list. I wasn’t happy at the time, but I sure am now, because I heard that Jesus was really mad, and I would not want to be on the receiving end of that guy’s wrath. But get this, after Jesus drives out the merchants, he decides to stick around and set up shop, metaphorically speaking of course. He stays at the temple and teaches anyone who will listen about the kingdom of God. I decide that I can sacrifice one morning of sales to go listen to Jesus, and boy am I glad that I did. He taught about how we don’t have to live selfishly for ourselves, but instead are able to repent of the terrible things that we have done, and God would forgive us, even without an animal sacrifice. He taught that we can be counted as children of God in His kingdom, receiving the blessings of God and that we are able to trust in His blessings to provide for our earthly needs. He taught that we are able to give to those in need without worrying if we will have enough for ourselves because God is the endless source of our needs. He also taught that we do not need to follow the extra ceremonial laws that the Pharisees, that is the theological experts, claim that we have to follow, all we need to follow is the laws that are contained in the Tanak, that is the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.
Well shortly after Jesus starts talking against the laws of the Pharisees, suddenly a bunch of Pharisees come up to Jesus and ask him, by what authority is he saying these things. Now I have heard about how Jesus did miracles, and that he taught many different things, but in all the stories I have heard, I have never heard of Jesus as being a disciple of anyone, not Gamiel, nor Schlamiel, or even Schlamaziel. The Pharisees always quote the great Rabbi’s when they claim a particular truth, but come to think of it, in all this talk I have heard Jesus say, I have never once heard him mention the teachings of a great teacher, he has only referenced Moses, the Prophets and the writings. Well now Jesus seems to be in a bit of a bind to me, but instead he is cool as a cucumber when he retorts “was the baptism of John from heaven, or from man?” The Pharisees turn and whisper to themselves, but I have a trained merchants ear, able to hear the whispers of my patrons on the other end of the shop to help me get that sale. I hear them say “if we say from heaven, he will say why did you not believe him? But if we say from man, all the people will stone us to death for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” Whoa buddy, I did not expect that. The Pharisees never seemed to care about the people, and yet it was the people that were keeping them in check. The Pharisees respond that they don’t know and Jesus said that he wouldn’t answer their question either.
But then Jesus tells this story about a vineyard owner trying to get what belonged to him, but when he sent servants to the tenants then the tenants beat them and sent them back to the owner empty handed, and finally the owner sends his son, but the tenants kill the son and for some reason, they think that when they do that they will get the vineyard when the true owner dies. So then the owner comes and destroys the tenants. Now I am just a simple merchant and have no idea why Jesus told that story. Perhaps Jesus is saying that he will destroy the Pharisees because of what they are doing to him. In any case, the Pharisees are clearly pretty mad about the story, I guess they think that Jesus is saying it against them. Then some other people come up to Jesus and speak like I do when I am trying to flatter someone to make a sales pitch. They say “teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” Well now Jesus is really in trouble from the look of things, because the way I see it, if he says that it is not lawful to give tribute to Caesar, then the Romans can arrest him. Add to that the charge of claiming kingship and it is death for sure. But if Jesus says that it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, then he is likely to have the crowd against him, because the Romans are a foreign nation who have imposed their way of life onto the Jews, who consider themselves to be God’s chosen people. Add to it that Caesar declares himself to be a god, breaking the law of God which says you shall have no other gods before Me, and if Jesus were to say it is lawful, then most assuredly the very crowd which protected him just a minute ago will all up and leave him. But Jesus calmly says, “Show me a denarius, whose likeness and inscription does it have?” The antagonists say “Caesar’s.” And Jesus says “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” That’s pretty profound, considering that the coins in essence all belong to Caesar, and thus a tax is owed, but at the same time everything belongs to God, and thus all things should be subject to him.
Now the last thing to happen today was mind blowing. The Sadducees come forward to challenge Jesus. You remember the Sadducees, their the guys who feel really strongly about following the Torah, you know, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deutoronomy, but don’t care as much about the prophets or the writings. These are also the guys who have the slogan “Upsilon, Omicron, Lambda, Omicron,” “you only live once.” They don’t believe in the resurrection, and instead feel that this life is all that you have, so make it as prosperous as possible. So they are close with the Romans because that is of benefit to them. While they believe the Torah to be scripture, they view it more like guidelines for godly living, rather than communicating the very words of God. For example, they think that not everything that is recorded in Exodus really happened, but it is a great story about how God wants us to live. You get the picture. So anyway, the Sadducees come up to Jesus and they say “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, whose wife will the woman be? Now at first this seemed like a bit of a far fetched story. But then I remembered the story of Judah and Tamar and realized that this is actually a bit of a curious conundrum. Now this law, which is a bit outdated as of late and not really adhered to much in our day was actually a pretty important one when God established it. You see it was all to protect the widow from being abandoned. See the land belonged to the family, so if a brother of the deceased man just kicked the widow off of the property she would be alone and destitute, and the brother would essentially be stealing from the dead guy. That’s clearly not good. On the other side of things, there was that recent story where the woman’s husband who was some lord of something died and all the knights were fawning over her to get at her ample land, they didn’t really care about her, nor did they care about why God had established marriage in the first place. Now I’m no expert in the law, but I do recall in Genesis that God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it. And then later it says that it is not good that the man should be alone, so God created for him one who is like him but is also the opposite of him, a compliment if you will. So from the beginning marriage was established for the purpose that man should not be alone, that man and wife would populate the earth, that they would rule over the earth, and that within that relationship, the woman would be a complimentary helper for the man.
Now this is important, because Jesus says two significant things about the age to come, that is the resurrection of the body. He says to the Sadducees, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” I guess in the age to come there is no need to fill the earth because it will already be filled, and no one will be alone. Also I imagine that there will not be a need for man to rule the earth because at that time the true head, the Messiah of God will rule, and his helper, those who belong to him, they will support his will. But I am just a lowly merchant, what do I know. Then Jesus addresses the idea of the Sadducees that there is no resurrection when Jesus says “but that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live in him.” Now admittedly I needed my cousin Nathan to break down Jesus’s rationale for that statement, but that is because I forgot that in Exodus, God says “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” not “I was the God.” God uses the present tense and not the past tense, meaning that he still is their God even though their bodies no longer walk this earth. This is huge. Those who die as a part of God’s people do not really die, but instead are still living. This is the best news that I have heard all day.
When Jesus got done for the day, the religious leaders looked livid, like they were going to kill someone. Well if they do, maybe Jesus can raise him from the dead like that guy in Bethany. Following Jesus this day has changed my life, I can’t wait to see what else is going to happen this week with Jesus. Good thing he has the crowds to protect him from the Pharisees. Look at me, I have just been gabbing along, I never caught your name. Christian, like one who follows the Messiah? Oh how I long to see the days when Messiah will walk the earth and set God’s people free. Oh, Nathan is calling me to go home. Good talking with you. Shalom.