by miriam berg
Chapter XXV

That afternoon, as they went out of the temple, one of the disciples exclaimed, "Master, look at these great buildings, and look at the huge stones!" But Yeshua responded grimly by predicting the complete destruction of Jerusalem:
You see all these great buildings? there shall not be left here one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down.
This may have been his entire purpose in coming to Jerusalem: to warn the Jews that their city was facing destruction, just as Jonah had warned the Ninevites that their city was facing destruction. And his next discourse with the disciples, enlarging upon this dire prediction, is perhaps the most difficult to untangle in the gospels, since in Matthew, Mark, and Luke it shows unmistakable signs of having been edited by his later followers. Perhaps the clearest such sign is the parenthesis in Mark, copied by Matthew, which says, Let the reader understand. Such a statement could only have been added by a scribe copying the text, and could not have been uttered by Yeshua or anyone else quoting the passage.

It begins after they have left Jerusalem for the day, and are sitting on Mount Olivet on the other side of the Kidron valley, and Simon and his brother Andrew and also Yakub and Yohan ask him to tell them when this would happen, and by what sign they would know that it was about to happen. Yeshua started by saying,
I warn you not to let any man lead you astray. Many shall come, and shall claim to be the messiah; and they shall mislead many.
      And if you hear of wars, and rumours of wars, do not be troubled; these things will happen; but the end will not have come yet.
      For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be earthquakes in many places; there shall be famines; these things are the beginning of the final disaster.
In fact, there was a great famine in Palestine in 44 A.S.D.; there were great earthquakes in Phrygia in 53 A.S.D.; and there was another disastrous earthquake in 61 A.S.D. which destroyed the city of Laodicea. Perhaps Yeshua foresaw these natural disasters. But it is more likely that they were interpreted as fulfilment of his prediction of great disaster, and words were put into his mouth foretelling them. Yeshua then begins to discuss their own tribulations in the times to come:
      I warn you also to look out for yourselves; you shall all be delivered up before councils; you shall be beaten in the synagogues; and before governors and kings shall you stand, for a testimony unto them.
      But when you are being led to judgment, and are to be delivered up, do not be anxious about what to say; but speak from your heart in that hour; for that will be truer than any prepared rhetorical monologue.
      And you shall be hated of all men because of my teaching; but if you keep up your courage and love, you shall convince them in the end.
Mark inserts a quotation from Micah, that brother should turn in his brother, and father his child, and children their parents, which Yeshua might have quoted; but it breaks the flow of these paragraphs. Both Matthew and Mark insert exhortations to preach the gospel to all the nations at different points in this discourse by Yeshua. Perhaps Yeshua told his disciples that they must travel and preach in all countries before the destruction of Jerusalem came; but again it is more likely that this commandment was put in Yeshua's mouth to justify those travels and preachments. It seems clear that Yeshua thought that they should rather have stayed in Jerusalem and tried to prevent the destruction by the practice of love towards enemies instead of hatred.

Now Yeshua becomes very specific about the nature of the final days of which he is speaking, in almost the same terms as in his discussion of the day of the son of man during his brief stay in Ephraim. He says:
When you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not, then let them that are in Judaea flee into the mountains; and let him that is upon the housetop not go down, nor enter in, to take anything out of his house; and let him that is in the field not go back to get his coat.
Luke changes the phrase "abomination of desolation", which is a reference to the desecration of the temple by the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes, who sacrificed pigs on the altar of the temple, into the phrase "Jerusalem compassed by armies", which is a very plain and accurate description of the siege of Jerusalem carried out by the Roman emperor Vespasian in 70 A.S.D., which is another bit of evidence that this discourse has been tinkered up many years later to put accurate predictions into Yeshua's mouth. But then Yeshua grows poignant again, with the desperate pain he feels at the fate of his countrypeople:
But alas for them that are with child and for them that are nursing their babes in those days that are coming! And you should pray that it not be in the winter. For those days shall be tribulation, such as there has not been the like from the beginning of creation which God created until now, and never shall be again
Thus he foretells that they will be hiding in caves, having fled into the mountains; they will freeze if it be winter; and mothers will lose their milk and toddlers will starve. He knows it is coming, he can foresee it all, and he tries to make it vivid to his followers, hoping that they will think about his teachings and try to practice them and teach them to others. He has only a little more time: perhaps a day or two, perhaps less than twenty-four hours, before his pilgrimage on earth will be over, and he will be silenced by the chief priests and elders.
And then again, if any man should say to you, Lo, here is the messiah, or Lo, there, do not believe it; for there shall arise false prophets and false messiahs, who shall claim to be able to show signs and wonders, and will lead many astray, even yourselves. But watch out; see, I have told you all this beforehand.
The book of Mark inserts a few other verses which are clearly copied from the books of the prophets: Isaiah and Ezekiel and Joel and Amos. After that Yeshua continues:
Now learn this parable from the fig tree: when her branches are tender, and the green leaves are showing, you know that summer is near; so shall it be, when you see the things I have spoken of coming to pass, you will know that it is nigh, already at the door.
      And I truly say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, until all these things come about. But of that day or that hour no one can tell, not even God himself.
      So again, pay attention, and watch and pray; for you do not know when it will happen.
He knows that it must happen eventually, that the intransigence of the Jews will bring about retribution from the Romans; but of course he cannot tell them the day or even the year.
It is as when a man, who was living in another country, having left his house, and left his servants in charge, with instructions for each of them, also commanded the porter at the gate to keep watch for him.
      Watch therefore; for you do not know when the lord of the house will return, whether at eventide, or at midnight, or cockcrowing, or in the middle of the morning; and if he comes suddenly he may find you sleeping. And this that I say unto you I say to everyone, Watch.
Does he mean that they should wait patiently and do nothing to stave off the disaster? does he mean that they should never sleep? Neither of those seems sensible; but it could simply be that he wants them to keep a weather eye out for the signs of the times even while they are engaged in their other labours.

This is the end of the discourse on the events of the future as found in Mark and Luke. Matthew interpolates some parables which are found elsewhere in Luke, including the parable of the talents, which Luke tells on the way from Jericho to Jerusalem; and the parable of the sheep and the goats, which we have told as one of the parables on the reign of God during his discourse on the plain of Gennesaret, since that is what it is relevant to. Matthew also tells two parables here, one called the parable of the wise steward, which Luke tells on the way to Jerusalem, as follows:
Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall set over his household, to see that they are all fed at the right time? Blessed is that servant, when his lord shall come and find him so doing. Truly I say unto you, that his lord will set him over all he has.
      But if the servant shall think to himself, My lord will not be back soon; and shall then begin to abuse all the other servants and to eat and drink himself into drunkenness; his lord shall return in a day when he doesn't expect it, and at an hour which he can't predict, and shall kick him out with the rest of the unrighteous.
Matthew says "with the rest of the hypocrites"; Luke actually says "the unfaithful." As committed to the principle of universal love as Yeshua is, more and more he seems to be teaching that there will be some who are left outside in the coming disaster. Most scholars believe that by this time Yeshua had accepted an apocalyptic view of history: that is, God would intervene, cancel all contracts with humanity, and wind up earthly affairs. But we have not seen any evidence of this: he has denied the reality of supernatural intervention, explaining that such an expectation is like jumping off the temple and expecting to survive, or expecting someone to rise from the dead, or himself giving any magical sign to the people. In his last hours here in Jerusalem therefore he is telling them as strongly as he can that they had better pay attention to events and not be fooled by false hopes of a messiah, but to properly exercise their stewardship over their great ethical and moral heritage.

The second parable which Matthew inserts here is a famous one called the parable of the ten virgins, which resembles a parable that Luke has told on the way to Jerusalem, called the parable of the servants waiting for their lord. Luke's version is as follows:
Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning; and be yourselves like unto men looking for their lord, when he shall return from the marriage feast; that, when he comes and knocks, they may open at once unto him.
      Blessed are those servants, whom the lord shall find watching when he arrives; truly I say to you, that he shall gird himself, and invite them to sit down to dinner, and shall come and serve them himself.
      And if he come in the second watch, or in the third, and find them awake, blessed are those servants.
This may be just a different rendering of the previous parable. Matthew's version, while better known, is at once more divisive and exclusive than the simpler version in Luke:
So the reign of God shall be compared to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five were wise, and five were foolish. For the foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them; but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
      Now while the bridegroom tarried, they all dozed off. But at midnight there was a cry, Here comes the bridegroom! let us go and welcome him.
      Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolsh ones said to the wise, Give us some of your oil; for our lamps are going out. But the wise would not, and told them, There isn't enough for both of us; therefore go out to the marketplace and buy your own for yourselves.
      And while they were gone to the market, the bridegroom came; and everyone who was ready went in to the marriage feast; and the door was shut.
      Afterward came the other five virgins, saying, Lord, lord, open to us. But he said to them, I don't know you.
      Watch therefore; for you do not know either the day or the hour.
Did Yeshua really tell this parable, or did Matthew make it up? It resembles the parable of the sheep and the goats, with half of the population rewarded and half of them sent away or left outside. Somehow it seems more consistent with Yeshua's earlier teaching if the five who brought their oil with them had shared it, just as the righteous gave food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty and clothing to the naked and comfort to the sick and imprisoned, and the householder who hired all the loafers in the town late in the day paid them as much as the labourers who came to work early in the morning, and his denunciation of those who keep others from the reign of God. If Yeshua actually told the parable in this form, no wonder he found that he was setting family members against each other! Luke's version of the parable merely praises those who stay awake and keep watch, rather than condemning those who sleep to being left outside. Both gospels make it clear, though, that Yeshua was warning them that the disaster could come at any moment.

That night, they were again back in Bethany, having dinner in the house of a man named Simon, who is called a leper, although that is unlikely since lepers were kept outside the villages, unless perhaps he was the leper who had been pronounced cured by Yeshua. The story is similar to the one reported by Luke earlier when he was still in Galilee; a woman comes in with a flask of expensive lotion, and after breaking the flask, pours it over Yeshua's head; perhaps it is the same event, told slightly differently. But people find different ways of expressing their adoration of others; and the act of the woman was certainly very reminiscent of the ancient rite of anointing the kings of Israel and Judah, but may have been no more than her desire to do something as nice as possible for this man whom she adored. She might even have been the adulteress who had been saved from stoning by Yeshua.
But the disciples, who were very narrow in their vision, were indignant, and asked, "Why has this ointment been wasted? it might have been sold for more than three hundred dollars, and the proceeds given to the poor." So they were critical of the woman; but Yeshua said gently:
      Let her alone; why do you complain of her? she has performed an act of love towards me.
      For the poor you have always with you; and whensoever you want to you can do them good; but you will not have me here much longer.
      And in a way, she has done this to prepare my body for its burying.
Yeshua quotes from Moshe himself, who said, in the book of Deuteronomy, For the poor shall never cease out of the land; and therefore you shall open wide your hand to the poor and needy around you. Whether he compared her act of beautifying him to preparation for burial may be doubted, since it would have converted her joyous act into a rather grim one. Mark tells us, and Matthew copies him, that this act would be a memorial for the woman herself throughout the world; but that must have been his opinion, and not necessarily Yeshua's.

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