Summary: An outline of the events of the passion week.
PRELUDE TO THE PASSION WEEK
1. Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11.38-44)
3. The cleansing of the temple (Matthew 21.12-13)
A SERIES OF ENCOUNTERS WITH THE RULING JEWS IN JERUSALEM.
1. The Chief Priests and Elders question His authority (Matthew 21.23-27)
2. Three parables that further anger the Chief Priests (Matthew 21.28-22.14)
a. parable of the two sons
b. parable of the tenants
c. parable of the wedding banquet
3. Pharisees and the Herodians (a political party which favored the continuation of the dynasty of Herod the Great) together attempt to trap Him on the issue of taxes (Matthew 22.15-22)
4. A Sadducees’ trap for Jesus as to marriage in heaven (Matt 22.23-32).
5. The Pharisees challenge Jesus’ understanding and use of the Mosaic law: What is the greatest commandment? (Matthew 22.34-40).
JESUS RESPONDS WITH A QUESTION AND AN ASSESSMENT
1. What is the true nature of the Messiah (Matthew 22.41-46)?
2. Denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23).
Throughout Jesus’ ministry he had been careful to warn His disciples not to reveal things about Himself that might incite crowds caught up in the political hysteria of the day (e.g., Matthew 16.20; Mark 5.43). However, as the appointed time for his death approached, he deliberately began to set the stage for His own trial and execution. This is readily evident in the events at Bethany and Jerusalem during the week immediately preceding his crucifixion. The Pharisees and religious leaders, who had previously rejected Jesus’ public ministry and had unsuccessfully sought for an occasion to end his life (John 10.32; Luke 28.30), were no doubt eager to “greet” Jesus in Jerusalem. There was no longer any need to send emissaries to ferret out Jesus’ whereabouts. Jesus had come to them, although such an act was evidentially dangerous on His part. When Jesus heard of Lazarus’ death and decided to visit Bethany (about two miles from Jerusalem), the disciples said: “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” (John 11.8, 16). By going to Jerusalem Jesus seemed to play into the hands of the religious leaders who were seeking His life. However, as must now be clear, it was Jesus who was orchestrating the events of His own vicarious death (John 5.26; 10.17-18). The feigned concern for Jesus previously evidenced by the Pharisees at one point (Luke 13.31) would now be exposed as unbridled antagonism toward Jesus. Although the religious leaders seemed to be laying a trap for Jesus, in reality it was Jesus who was setting the snare for duplicitous Jewish leaders. The ruling Jews had little to gain from forcing Jesus’ hand during the Passover celebration. They would have been quite content to let the week pass and settle their accounts with Jesus after the festivities had subsided and the crowds had returned home. John the Baptist had identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1.29; cf. 1 Pet 1.18-19). Jesus clearly understood that His mission was to give His live as a ransom for the elect (Matthew 20.28) - an act that must take place at the appointed time of the paschal sacrifice.
The timing of Jesus’ sacrificial atonement was determined by God (Galatians 4.4), and Jesus, knowing his appointed time to be become a sin offering (John 2.4; 4.21; 7.6,30; 8.20; 12.23, 27, 31; 17.1), set the stage for the drama of His passion with three events. First, he raised Lazarus from the dead. One would think that such a miracle would win over his critics, but, to the contrary, it only accelerated their plans to put Jesus to death. They were driven by a fear that the whole world would soon follow after this man (John 11.45-57). As if that were not enough, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem agitated the leaders even more. Although the greeting from Psalm 118 was a customary greeting for pilgrims entering Jerusalem during special festivals like the Feast of Tabernacles and the Passover, the rejoicing at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem seemed to exceed all proper decorum, bordering on being sacrilegious (Luke 19.39). Robert Stein writes:
The fact that this is a pilgrim psalm and was shouted to pilgrims in general explains how Jesus could receive this kind of a welcome into Jerusalem and not arouse Roman reaction or suspicion. No doubt the welcome given to Jesus was more enthusiastic than that given other pilgrims (Lk 19:39-40). After all, he was a well-known teacher and was viewed by many as a prophet (Mt 21:11). For some of his followers who made up the crowd, Jesus was not a mere pilgrim coming to Jerusalem, but “the” Pilgrim, their Teacher, their Master and Lord. There may even have been some who entertained ideas that he might indeed be “the coming one.” (Stein, Jesus the Messiah, p. 181)