THE STORY OF YESHUA
by miriam berg
(THE DISCOURSE ON FUTURE EVENTS)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.