Next day, Mark reports a series of sayings condemning the
scribes and Pharisees, copied by Matthew with an echo in Luke; and
Matthew amplifies it with other criticisms, some of which are
found in Luke in document P; and the remaining ones are assumed to
come from document M since they are found in Matthew only. Jesus
speaks, but all three gospels differ as to whom:
The reference to justice and mercy and faith is a direct quotation
from the prophet Micah, who wrote: What does God require of you,
O man, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly
with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! for you wash the outside of your cups and pots,
but within they are grimy with all your extortion
and excess. You blind ones, first you should
wash the inside of your utensils, and then it
matters, and the outside may be washed as well.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! for you are like sepulchres, painted white on the
outside, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones,
and decay and putrefaction. You are like that;
you put forth great shows of righteousness before
men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! for you build monuments to the prophets, and
decorate with wreaths the tombs of the righteous,
and boast, If we had been in the days of our
fathers, we would not have joined in their acts of
despising and rejecting them.
But you are still the sons of them
that killed the prophets; and you are no better than your
fathers, unless you can strive to prevent the coming days of
disaster from making this place like Gehinnom!
And it is written that God has said,
I will send unto them prophets, and wise men, and scribes;
and some of them they will kill and persecute; and
the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from
the beginning of the world, shall be upon all
succeeding generations; from the blood of Abel
unto the blood of Zachariah, whom your fathers
killed between the holy of holies and the altar;
I say that it shall soon happen to this generation.
Despite all this, we should remember that the Pharisees were
actually a saving force in the history of the Jews. By their
insistence on the observance of the historical traditions they
prevented the assimilation of the Jews into the Hellenistic and
Roman culture, whereas the deported citizens of Israel had been
assimilated into Assyrian society and disappeared. But for the
Judeans who were defeated and deported by the Babylonians the
story was different; they have survived as a people, but the
Babylonians have disappeared completely. And the best among the
Pharisees taught and practiced ethical and moral teachings many
of which are the same as those which Jesus taught.
But the Pharisees had always been held back from practicing
their own teachings by the "chosen people" notion, which was a
narrow nationalism and sense of superiority to the peoples around
them. Ezra, the scribe who returned from Babylon in about the
fifth century B.C.E., insisted on everyone who was married to a
non-Jew getting divorced from them and expelling them from the
Jewish society. The book of Ruth, which taught that David's own
great-grandmother had been a foreigner, a Moabitess, and the book
of Jonah, which taught that God could forgive even the most wicked
of men, symbolized by the Assyrians who destroyed Israel, were
written about this time or later, to protest such narrow
exclusiveness. And by the time of Jesus this narrowness had
degenerated into primarily a practice of being rigidly different
for the sake of being different; and it appears that where Jesus
most rejected the teachings of his fellow-Jews was in his attitude
towards non-Jews. He preaches to and heals all alike: a Roman,
a Phoenician, a Samaritan; and he pictures a non-Jew, the Samaritan,
as the world's most unforgettable example of compassion and caring.
We can even conclude that it was not his breaking of the rules of
the scribes and Pharisees that set them so much against him as it
was his acceptance of and caring for non-Jews.
THE TRUE TEST OF GIVING
After his diatribe against the Pharisees just reported, he went
over to the contribution jars which were embedded in the wall to
see how much money visitors were putting in. As he stood there,
he watched many well-to-do persons tossing in many coins and
valuable gifts. Then there came a poor widow, who put in a tiny
coin, which Mark calls "two mites, which make a farthing." It
must have been almost the smallest possible coin in Hebrewdom.
But Jesus called his disciples over, and said to them:
(Mark 12:41-44;Luke 21:1-4)
JESUS: Look at this, I tell you: this poor woman has
contributed more than anyone else who has given; for
they gave but a little out of their great wealth; but
she cast in every penny she had.
So what is important is how much you give out of what you have,
and not the actual amount of that gift.
DISCOURSE ON FUTURE EVENTS
As they went out of the temple, Jesus took the opportunity to
give what is possibly his most important discourse in the gospels:
his prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem. This discourse is
often called the discourse on Events of the Future, which it is;
but it is not, as most Christians believe, a description of the end
of the world or the last judgment or even the coming of the kingdom
of God. It shows unmistakable signs of having been edited after
the death of Jesus. It begins as a response to an exclamation by
one of the disciples as they came out of the temple:
(Mark 13:1-2;Luke 21:5-6;Matt.24:1-2)
DISCIPLE: Master, look at all these great stones,
and all these magnificent buildings!
JESUS (shaking his head): You see all these great
buildings? I tell you, there shall not be left here one stone
upon another, which shall not be thrown down.
Remember how, when he first arrived on the hill facing Jerusalem,
he wept over the city, and said, The days are coming, when your
enemies shall build a bank about you, and compass you round, and
dash down the walls upon you, and your children with you; and
they shall not leave here one stone upon another. So this is a
reprise of that lamentation, but this time he goes on in great
detail about the coming events. The disciples ask him to explain
further, when all of this will happen and what will be the sign
that it is actually happening. Here is a presentation of this
final discourse, showing the passages which can be certain in the
central column and the questionable or inserted passages to one
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
(Mark 13:3-8;Luke 21:7-11;Matt.24:3-8)
Take heed that you do not get led
astray; for many shall come, claiming to be the
messiah, and shall lead many to their destruction.
But when you hear of wars, and rumours
of wars, do not be troubled; for the end
of Jerusalem is not yet.
For nation shall rise against nation,
and kingdom against kingdom; there shall
be earthquakes and famines in many places;
this is the beginning of the disaster.
YOU WILL BE PERSECUTED
(Mark 13:9,11-13;Luke 21:12-19;Matt.10:17-22)
I tell you again, take heed; for you
shall be brought before councils, and beaten in synagogues,
and you shall stand before governors and kings to bear witness
of the truths I have taught you.
And at that time, when you are asked
to testify, do not be anxious beforehand what you shall say,
but just speak the truth as it comes to you that moment.
And do not be dismayed even if a
brother delivers up a brother to death, or a father
his own son, or children deliver up their parents, and cause
them to be put to death.
I warn you, all men may hate you,
because you are speaking moral truth to them; but if you endure
all things, in the end you shall be vindicated.
They shall deliver you up to
tribulation, and shall kill you;
and ye shall be hated of all the nations
because of what I taught you.
And then shall many stumble, and
shall deliver up one another, and shall
hate each other. And many false prophets
shall arise, and shall lead many astray.
And because iniquity shall be multiplied,
the love of the many shall wax cold;
but if you endure all things, in the
end you shall be vindicated.
Note that Matthew has taken verses from Mark 13:11-13 and inserted
them into his earlier report of Jesus sending the disciples out on
a mission (Matt.10.17-22)
. To continue:
And the gospel must first
be preached to all nations.
And the gospel of the kingdom
must be preached in the whole world
for a testimony to all the nations.
Mark's verse about preaching to the whole world (13:10) is almost
certainly an interpolation; it is found in neither Luke nor Matthew;
and Matthew's similar verse at 24:14 is contradicted in his 10th
chapter, verse 23, where he says: You shall not have gone
through the cities of Israel, before the day of the son of man is
The three gospels continue with a description of the
second destruction of the temple.
THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION
(Mark 13:14-20;Luke 21:20-24,17:31;Matt.24:15-22)
But when you shall see the abomination
of desolation standing where it ought not, as predicted
in the book of Daniel, then let those who are left in Judea
flee into the mountains; and those upon the housetop
should not go back into their house to get anything;
nor should he that is in the field go into the house to
get his cloak.
And woe unto them that are with child
in those days, and those that are giving suck!
and I pray that it not be in the winter. For
this will be the awfullest time that has ever
happened in Judea, from the beginning of creation
until now, and may it never be again.
We can note especially that Luke alters the sentence "abomination
of desolation standing where it ought not" (Dan.11:31;12:11)
to read, "But when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies"
, which is the clearest possible reference to
the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman emperor Titus in 70 C.E. which
ended in its total destruction. Thus we can date Luke with
certainty as having been written AFTER 70 C.E.
(Mark 13:21-23;Luke 17:23;Matt.24:23-26)
And remember, if any man say
to you, See, here is the messiah, or there
he is, do not be fooled; for there shall arise false
messiahs, and false prophets, and they shall
claim to show false signs and wonders, so
that they can lead people astray. But take
warning, take heed; I have told you all these
SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS
All three narrators have inserted Old Testament quotations into the
text at this point, trying to prove that these predictions by Jesus
are a fulfillment of Biblical prophecies:
(Mark 13:24-27;Luke 21:25-28;Matt.24:29-31)
...The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her
light, and the stars shall be falling, the sea will be
overflowing, and the powers that are in the heavens shall be
shaken. And the son of man shall be coming on the clouds
of heaven with power and glory; and the angels shall gather
the elect from the four winds of the heavens.
These images can all be found in the Old Testament prophets; I
have shown a table with the references at the end of this chapter.
But compared with the sobriety of his other statements they are
just empty verbiage and blunt his prediction. The point of this
discourse by Jesus was to warn them of the rise of messianic
claimants in the 1st century C.E., and the final clash with the
Romans who would then destroy Jerusalem.
PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE
(Mark 13:28-32;Luke 21:29-33;Matt.24:32-36)
Now look here, and learn from the
fig tree its parable: when the branch is grown
and puts out its leaves, then you know that
the summer is nigh; and when the fruit is
purple, then you know that autumn is near;
therefore, even you will know when these
things are coming to pass. And truly I say
unto you, This generation shall not pass
away, before all this shall happen.
Heaven and earth shall pass away,
but my words shall not pass away.
But of that day, or that hour,
no one can say, not even the angels, but only God can say.
In other words, when the leaves are green it's summertime, and
when the fruit is ripe it's autumn. The sentence in Mark about
heaven and earth passing away, dutifully copied by Matthew and
Luke, is probably an interpolation; it does not have a logical
connection with the preceding sentence or with the following
Now Matthew inserts pieces of the description of the day of the
son of man found in Document P; we have looked at this description
in Chapter XIII (Luke 17:26-35;Matt.24:37-41). Then the
three writers conclude their versions of the discourse with the
following repetitious statements:
(Mark 13:33-37;Luke 21:34-36;Matt.24:42)
So take heed, and watch the
signs, and pray; for you do not know when the
time is. It is like a man who was vacationing
in another country, having left his house under
the care of the servants, and he commanded the porter
to watch for his coming home.
Watch therefore, for
you do not know when the events will happen, at
evening, or at midnight, or at the
crowing of the cock; lest when it comes
it finds you sleeping. And what I say
to you, I say to everyone: Watch.
Just remember this: if the owner
of the house had known when the thief was coming, he
would have watched, and not let his home be broken into.
This image of the owner and the thief was also present in Chapter XI
as one of the Parables about the Future.
I have stressed these aspects of Jesus' final discourse because
of the commonly-held misconception that this is somehow a description
of the Last Judgment, or even how the kingdom of God is supposed
to arrive. But this discourse, coupled with his three lamentations
over the fate of the city, proves that he was predicting the
destruction of Jerusalem and trying to warn them against it.
THE PARABLE OF THE WATCHFUL STEWARD
Matthew pads out the discourse with four parables, two probably
drawn from document P, and two from document M. These are the
parable of the watchful steward, the parable of the ten virgins,
the parable of the talents, and the parable of the sheep and the
goats. The first of these, about the watchful steward, was also
shown in Chapter XI under Parables about the
Who then is the faithful and wise
steward, whom the lord will set over his household to make sure
that everyone is fed? Blessed is that servant, whom when the lord
comes he finds so doing. But if that servant thinks to himself,
My lord delays his coming, and then begin to beat the other servants
and to feast and get drunk; the lord will return someday when he
is not expected, and in an unexpected hour, and fire that servant,
and send him into the darkness.
THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS
The second parable is a well-known one, but found only in Matthew:
Then shall the kingdom of heaven
be likened unto 10 virgins, which took their
lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
And 5 of them were foolish, and 5 were wise.
For the foolish ones took no oil with them,
but the wise ones took oil in their vessels
with their lamps.
Now because the bridegroom
was late, they all slumbered and slept. But at
midnight there was a cry, The bridegroom is
coming, come out and meet him. Then all the virgins
arose, and trimmed their lamps; but the foolish ones
said to the wise, Give us of your oil, for our
lamps are going out. But the wise ones
said, No, for there will not be enough for all of us.
You'd better go out and buy some more oil. And
while they were out to midnight market, the
bridegroom arrived, and the virgins that were
ready went in with him to the marriage feast.
And the door was shut; so that when the foolish
ones came back, they knocked at the door, but
the bridegroom refused to let them
in, saying, I do not know you.
The inappropriateness of this parable in this forecast of future
events is proven in the first few words, which likens the kingdom
of heaven to 10 virgins. Firstly, such a likening is out of place
here; and secondly, how can the "kingdom of heaven" be like ten
virgins? What does that mean? Especially, why are 5 of the virgins
foolish? is that part of the illustration of the kingdom of God?
Thirdly, 5 of the virgins were selfish about their oil; is that
part of the illustration of the kingdom of God either? It could
be that what Jesus said was, When the kingdom of God comes (not
What is the kingdom like
), if you are not ready, you will
be left out. Very well; but Matthew apparently didn't understand
that. Luke's version is much closer to such a meaning:
Let you be dressed, and your lamps
burning, like men waiting for their master to return
from the marriage feast; so that, when their master
returns, they may immediately open unto him. Blessed
are those servants, who shall be watching when
their lord comes; and he shall sit down with them, and
serve them. But if he is very late, in the second or
third watch, and the servants are there to meet him, I
say, blessed are those servants.
PARABLE OF THE TALENTS
The next parable reported by Matthew at this point in the
discourse is the parable of the talents, which we discussed in
Chapter XIV; we will not repeat that discussion here. But we can
ask, what does it teach about the coming events that justified
Matthew in placing it in the Discourse on Future Events? That our
talents will grow if we use them? rather commonplace. That we
will be punished if we don't use our talents? Why? That we will
miss the coming of the day of the son of man? That we shouldn't
follow after false messiahs, as he has warned us in this discourse?
None of those suggestions makes any sense.
THE PARABLE OF THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS, OR THE LAST JUDGMENT
But the next and last parable reported by Matthew which he
attached to the Discourse on Future Events is perhaps the third
most famous parable attributed to Jesus, after the parable of the
Good Samaritan and the Parable of the Talents; it is called the
Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. If this was the only one of
Jesus' parables which survived, we would surely have to think that
he had taught a Last Judgment in which good people were rewarded
and bad people were punished, forever. But as picturesque as it
is and as appropriate to a discourse on future events as it is, it
is inconsistent with all of Jesus' teachings which we have seen.
In brief, the parable as told by Matthew is as follows:
When the King of Glory comes, he will
separate all people into two groups, one on his right hand,
and one on his left hand. He will then say to the
ones on his right hand, Since you have fed me when
I was a-hungered and given me drink when I was
thirsty, you are rewarded by being allowed into my
kingdom, forever. And when those ones asked when
they had done so to him, he replied, Inasmuch as
you did it unto the least of my disciples and
followers, you did it unto me.
And then he will say to the ones on his left
hand, Since you did not feed me when I was hungry
or give me drink when I was thirsty, you are to be
sent away into eternal punishment. And when those
ones also protested, he said, Inasmuch as you did
not do it for the least of my followers, you did
not do it to me.
This is not a parable, and it is not from Jesus. It can't be. In
the first place, it does not begin with the formula, "The kingdom
of heaven is like"; it is a description of something like a Last
Judgment, when the good people will be rewarded and the bad people
will be punished. Jesus has never spoken of such an event. It
describes someone like a judge of righteousness and presents an
image of that judge dividing people into two groups, absolutely
separate from each other, one group going to heaven and the other
group going into oblivion. Everyone knows that people are more
mixed than that, some bad and some good. This so-called parable
was probably written by a much later Christian who wanted to
encourage people to do acts of kindness, and not neglect them or
ignore them. That may be appreciated as a worthy teaching, but
not with the infliction of eternal punishment if you don't do them.
As we have it here, this story cannot be from Jesus.
This was the fourth day of Jesus' visit to Jerusalem, and that
visit now begins to wind itself to its tragic close.