Lecture 10: Olivet Discourse
Course: Life of Christ
Lecture: Olivet Discourse
This is the 10th lecture in the online series of lectures on the Life of Christ by Dr. Darrell Bock. Recommended Reading includes: Jesus According to Scripture: restoring the Portrait from the Gospels by Bock, Baker, 2002 and Jesus in Context by Darrel Bock and Greg Herrick, eds., Baker, 2005 and Jesus Under Fire by Mike Wilkins and J.P. Moreland, Zondervan, 1995.
The Son of Man is coming, is it literal or symbolic? Some people say (N.T. Wright) that the return is a strictly symbolic picture. We shouldn’t think about an actual physical return of Jesus to the earth. Acts 1:9-11 is against this point where it shows that Jesus accented into heaven. So the coming of the Son of Man will be literal. Two angels said the Jesus would return in the same way. This is not symbolic! The second coming involves a descent from heaven. The Son of Man coming is not AD 70; we are dealing with cosmic chaos and the return is at the time of Judgement. This is why the Son of Man comes riding the clouds. The Son of Man is the human divine eschatological judge. The angels will gather the elect because it will be the time of vindication. The closing remarks are about the fig tree; once you see the fig tree beginning to bud, you will know that the same is near. The destruction of the temple in AD 70 is the fig tree budding. It is the start of the movement toward the harvest; this is the background of the imagery. Something that starts to bud, you wait until it matures and then you harvest it. ‘(Matthew 24:34) This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.’ There are two ways to understand this passage; first it may refer to the evil generation we live in. The word generation is not a temple term but instead, it’s an ethical term. This is a way of saying that the righteous will be vindicated and the wicked will be judged. There will be a judgement and accountability. For Jesus, the end starts with him. For us, we tend to think that the end is strictly future.
The application in Mark and Luke, both tell us to take heed and watch. In Luke the application is very concrete. Don’t engage in dissipation and don’t be weighted down with the cares of life. The day is a time of judgement and accountability. Matthew says that you have to be ready; the day will come suddenly, like in the times of Noah. Then Matthew follows uniquely with five parables starting in Luke 12. First, was the parable of the house holder; if he had known he would have been ready? The second was about the good and wicked servants; be ready when he comes to the door. In the ten virgins; be prepared. In regards to the parable of the talents; we are to be faithful. We are to make use of our stewardship and as in the parable of the minas; don’t be caught out by the delay of the return. In the parable of the sheep and goats; there is a separation that comes through the Son of Man and the response is related to how you respond to those associated with Jesus.
The Lord's Supper
This brings us to the Lord’s Supper; the context is that of Jesus’ teaching at the temple. The leadership wants to arrest Jesus but not during the feast. Jesus also predicts his arrest which Mark and Luke summarize while Matthew is very specific about this prediction. Matthew and Mark have Jesus anointed at Bethany. The woman stands in contrast to the next scene where Judas is announced as the betrayer. A suggestion that the waste of the perfume by the woman is what makes Judas react, but Jesus commends the woman out of respect for what she has done. Judas’ betray comes next and Luke notes that Satan motivated Judas. Luke is alone in this point. Matthew deals with the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas. In understanding the entirety of Jesus’ death; in the beginning what allows Jesus to be arrested is the betrayal of the disciple. This shows that one of Jesus’ disciples went to the Sanhedrin. And then the crucifixion was an act of Rome. They gave the guilty verdict. From this, the Jewish leadership is protected on both ends of these events. So there is the disciple who defects and the Romans who finish the job. The Sanhedrin could perceive a kind of insulation from all of this.
During the Lord’s Supper, Jesus foretells his betrayal which Luke places later. Matthew says as part of the answer, ‘you have said so,’ in terms of who is responsible. Jesus has a similar answer when ask if he was the Christ, ‘you have said so.’ The supper is a deliverance meal reinterpreted for a new era. It’s a new sacrifice for a new deliverance and Jesus is no longer hiding his identity. He is speaking directly in the first person in regards to who he is. Luke delays the discussion of the betrayal until after the meal is finished; a different structuring of the same event. Luke alone has it symposium and a fair well as a give and take around the meal which was very common in Greco-Roman society. There is a dispute over greatness, but Jesus highlights the greatness of service. The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as ransom for many. The twelve are rewarded with the kingdom and rule over Israel. Peter’s defection is predicted; Jesus knows his disciples better than they know themselves, but Jesus has a restoration build in for what Peter does. After he turns, Peter is supposed to lead his sheep. There is a remark about two swords; the new reality of living with a sense of self-preservation because you are going to be persecuted. All of this takes us toward Jesus’ arrest at Gethsemane, the contrast between Jesus’ intense struggle and the acceptance of God’s will, all involving the humanity of Jesus. In Luke 22:48 Jesus asked Judas, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ Will you betray the eschatological judge with a kiss? In Matthew, Jesus said that he could call down angels but he is accepting his arrest willingly. This brings us to the examination where I want to spend some time with. First of all, we get the realization of Peter’s denial which Jesus predicted. And as it is taking place, Matthew and Mark put the denial afterwards while Luke does it before. And John does it throughout the Gospel. The time of questioning involved a series of exchanges between Jesus and the leadership throughout the evening and into the morning. Even though it wasn’t an official trial, it was a long drawn out process that Jesus went through. This was a process simply to have charges presented to Pilate. This process and the charges violated the rules for a Jewish capital case.
So the Jews did not have authority to execute Jesus as ruled by the Roman leadership. As already mentioned, this was a brilliant approach because the leadership was protected on both ends and they could say to the people that they didn’t make the final decision; Rome executed Jesus. What they were doing now with Jesus was more like a grand jury investigation, a gathering of evidence as opposed to an official trial which ends up with a verdict. They also have to translate what comes out of the questioning into a charge that Pilate will deal with. So in the passages, Jesus is guilty of blaspheme, but they couldn’t take such a charge to Pilate. They turned this into a political charge as he claimed himself to be a king. Sometimes, the question arises that since there were no other Christians present at the time of Jesus’ questioning, how can we be sure what happened? Jesus was the only one present but he would not have talked about what he went through after his resurrection. The sources could have been Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who both had access to the council. They would have known what happened. Paul, also, would have had access to that council, being a major persecutor of the church. There was also the public debate that would have gone on after the crucifixion. The Jewish leadership would have had to explain to the people why Jesus was crucified. Note that there was a three decade battle between the family of Ananias and the family of Jesus and in 62 one of Ananias’ descendants was responsible for the death of James, Jesus’ brother. There would have been a public debate with Judaism between Christians and Jews about who Jesus was. So there are lots of possibilities as to where the evidence would have come from. In Mark, alone, the meeting starts off with the discussion of the temple and whether or not Jesus said he would destroy the temple. But Jesus actually said, ‘destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up, another one not made by hands.’ He did predict the destruction of the temple and Judas would have known about that. This ended up being a false charge because they could not get an agreement from witnesses.
Is Jesus the Messiah?
Next came a question as to whether Jesus was the Messiah or not. That was a natural question in the Judaism of the 2nd Temple era. If Jesus claimed to have authority over the temple, then the idea that he might be the Messiah might result; so Caiaphas’ question is not unusual. The way this plays out is, Caiaphas asked, ‘are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed one?’ If you paraphrase this question, it would go something like this, are you the Christ, the Son of God? The word, ‘blessed one’ is a circumlocution out of respect for God, when you choose not to refer to God directly. Even today, some orthodox Jews do not write out the name for God. Interestingly, Jesus’ reply does the same thing. ‘I am: and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ Caiaphas actually heard that Jesus is claiming to be able to sit at the side of God in heaven at God’s invitation, thus sharing God’s glory. There are a handful of passages in Judaism where this idea is considered for certain luminaries. There is a text in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha called the Exigolgy of Ezekiel, line 68 to 82. In this passage, Moses has a dream in which he is invited to sit on the thrones of heaven, and the language ‘thrones’ come from Daniel 7. It is a dream. This is regarded in part as a Midrash of Exodus 7:1, which says, ‘I will make you God to Pharaoh.’ So they entertain the possibility that Moses might sit by the side of God. But this isn’t an eschatological passage; it is simple a dream sequence designed to picture Moses authority during the plagues. When Moses spoke, God spoke and so in this, Moses shared the authority of God. It is a symbolic way of picturing it in a dream.
The 2nd part of 1st Enoch speaks about the Son of Man, his pre-existence and sitting beside God. So this text is a good parallel. This is probably dated 1st century AD or the last part of the 1st century BC. Many people will date it later but it should not be dated that way. Now in the 3rd Enoch; in giving Enoch a tour of heaven and it refers to Enoch as the little Yahweh. This is not a good thing to do. God has a conversation with him and punishes him for saying this. This was written by a group that didn’t like the ‘Son of Man’ text. So this is debated in 2nd Temple Judaism for a symbolic way to refer to Moses and maybe a figure like the Son of Man. But they certainly wouldn’t see it being true for a teacher from Galilee. So they view this as blaspheme. So how blasphemous is it? Very! In the temple in Judaism, the high priest could only go into the holy of holies once a year for the atonement. He went in and then he came out. If someone defiles the holy of holies by going into or offering inappropriate sacrifices on that site, Jews would get extremely angry and even violent. Antiochus Epiphanies (Antiochus was over one of the three divided realms after Alexander the Great died) did this which brought on the Maccabean War and the Roman General Titus did it again in AD 70. Antiochus offered a pig sacrifice in the temple. Jesus is not claiming that he can go to the holy of holies on earth in a symbolic representation of God, but what Jesus is arguing is that he is going into the very presence of God in heaven. This is how Caiaphas would have understood what Jesus said. They may have understood Jesus as being some eschatological figure but not really divine. Note that only some groups were comfortable with the ‘Son of Man’ texts. They interpreted the passage in Daniel as being Israel, not messianic. This is the first time that he has declared himself like this. Up until this point, it was only an Aramaic idiomatic son of a human being. When he declares it here, he was being explicit and they understood it and that’s what caused them to react the way they did. So they judge that he was guilty of blaspheme. Psalm 110 vs Daniel 7, but Luke only refers to Psalm 110. Why is it that the Christ can be called Lord? Because the Lord will be sitting on the right hand of the Father, which explains why David would give him respect.
Jesus Before Pilate
The next scene brings Jesus before Pilate, but in the meantime Judas commits suicide. He declares Jesus innocent and tries to return the money but the leaders ignore him. They are very hypercritical in following the law while acting unjustly. Matthew points this out. Before Pilate, Luke has three clear charges: 23:2-3 ‘we found this man subverting our nation, forbidding us to pay the tribute tax to Caesar and claiming that he himself is Christ, a king.’ So it was disturbing the peace of Israel, not paying taxes and declaring Christ to be king. Note that Pilate is in Judea as a Roman Prefect and has a handful of responsibilities. He is to collect the taxes, protect Caesar’s interest and once a year, he appoints a high priest. Those charges touch on all three of Pilate’s main duties. Disturbing the peace is subverting the nation and not paying taxes, (which is a lie) and the claim to be King probably bothers Rome the most. This is going to come across the same way in John’s Gospel. If you let him go, you will show yourself as being no friend of Caesar’s. You are here to protect Caesar’s interest. In this chapter of Luke, one way or another Jesus is said to be innocent about seven different times; innocent of anything that is worthy of death. Critics sometimes say that Rome is portrayed very favorably in Luke. I don’t think that’s true; they are just portrayed differently than the Jewish leadership. The Jewish leadership is portrayed as being out to get Jesus. The Roman leadership is being portrayed as largely being indifferent to Jesus and largely indifferent to justice as Pilate thought Jesus was innocent but still convicted him. Jesus is silent and has accepted his destiny. The injustice of Jesus’ conviction is portrayed all the way through Luke. He was sent to Herod who mocked Jesus but didn’t think that Jesus was guilty. Pilate against declares Jesus innocent but doesn’t release him and we get Barabbas in substitution. Pilate is seen as less responsible than the Jewish leadership but he is still at fault because he did not defend justice in the way Jesus was handled.
In Matthew, politically Pilate was faced with Caiaphas who he had appointed every year he served as prefect. Thus, the leadership before him was his own handpicked people and they are saying to crucify Jesus. He doesn’t see Jesus as a threat, Jesus has no army but he doesn’t want to do anything to upset the leadership he had assigned. And that leadership presses the matter because if Pilate releases Jesus, their authority will be greatly diminished and Jesus will receive credibility that they don’t want him to have. So, in the end, Pilate responds to those he is familiar with and gives them what they want rather than try and defend Jesus. It is also an opportunity to reaffirm Rome’s authority in a situation where some like to make trouble. The Jewish people is very much responsible for Jesus’ death, even Josephus tells us this. In the end, this is not a failing portrait of Pilate as he knows Jesus is innocent, yet sends him to his death. Pilate is not portrayed as having malice toward Christianity. I think Pilate should be portrayed as being politically calculating. He sees the forces around him and potential trouble and thus decides to act in a way that takes care of the problem. Pilate often aggravates the Jews by doing things that they didn’t like. For example, spending temple money to help build an aqueduct to bring water into the city and printing money with Caesar’s face on it. But he backed down when he put up the Roman Standards near the temple. This really upset the Jews, so much so that he was forced the take them down.
There was the dream of Pilate’s wife about Jesus. Dreams are an important part of life in the Middle East as Jesus has revealed himself to many Muslims through dreams. In Luke, Pilate does all he can to release Jesus but in the end, Acts portrays him as part of the conspiracy against Jesus in Acts 4:24-26. In Matthew and Mark, the crowd is incited and in Luke the crowd is responsible, and Barabbas becomes a picture of substitution. And as already covered, Pilate finally lets the Jewish leadership have their way as well as the public. Sometimes the question is raised, ‘how could Jesus who was so accepted by the populace be betrayed by the public a few days later. I actually think it was a misrepresentation of them. I think his disciples was responsible for his praise when Jesus entered his city and the rest of the city just joins in as part of the move being a pilgrim feast. There in a celebratory mood. The whole didn’t embrace him as such upon entering the city. I think the public that’s responding to Jesus and Barabbas is a public that is pro-leadership. It wasn’t the city but instead a pro-leadership group that was out there who knew Jesus was arrested. In the passage that is probably viewed as the most anti-Semitic text in the New Testament, ‘let his blood be upon us and our children,’ which is in Matthew 27:25. This is a passage that has been abused by the church, especially in the medieval period. It is said that the Jews killed God, etc. and most Jews know this. They were only saying and stating that they took responsibility for taking this judgement. It is said as a matter of fact, not with any kind of malice. We are taking responsibility for this decision. The use that has been made of this passage has been anti-Semitic. In the Jewish view, Jesus was seen as a false prophet and as someone that was pushing a kind of sedition. He was proclaiming prerogatives for himself that did not belong to him (Deuteronomy 13).
Jesus was scourged in preparation for the execution. Crucifixion was one of the most horrific forms of death and generally speaking Roman citizens could not be crucified. The mocking probably included gentiles as that the nations joined in the rejection. There are a lot of things going on during this event where Jesus’ crucifixion becomes a microcosm of how the world reacts to Jesus. He’s got some people mourning while some are watching, and some people were mocking. Jesus is so physical exhausted that Simon of Cyrene carried the Cross. The women who mourned and there was Jesus’ remark over Israel, ‘if they do this to the green wood, what will happen to the dead wood? Don’t mourn for me, mourn for Jerusalem. He refuses to take the wine vinegar drink because he will suffer fully. If that which is alive and honors God gets tested like this, what happens to that which is dead? He refuses the wine vinegar; he is going to suffer fully in line with Psalm 69. There is a call of forgiveness from the cross, ‘they don’t know what they’re doing.’ Stephen does the same thing later in Acts 7, modeling the attitude of Jesus when he is stoned. They cast lots for his clothes in line with Psalm 22. Jesus is portrayed as the righteous innocent. He suffers unjustly. That’s what these Psalms picture, the righteous suffer. The inscription says ‘Jesus, King of the Jews.’ This is important as the Tiflis (ancient manuscripts) tells you the charge in which Jesus is being executed is for not being a prophet. Neither is he being executed for being exactly a revolutionary. He’s being executed because he makes a regal claim of a messianic category. Jesus was mocked and others called out ironically, ‘you saved others, can’t you save yourself?’ The actions of Jesus in his last week before death were messianic. It starts with his entry into Jerusalem which was messianic. The thrust of the narrative, there are various types of characters there, a microcosm of the world’s reaction of Jesus.
The thieves of Matthew and Mark involve Jesus but in Luke one of them has a turn of heart and decides that Jesus is innocent and proclaims his innocence in front of the other thief. It is a picture of salvation about what Jesus offers. He defends Jesus in front of the other thief, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ I say to you, ‘today, you will be with me in paradise.’ So, in Jesus’ statement, the future is brought into the present by Jesus’ authority over life. Creation testifies as to what is going on, as darkness comes and the veil of the temple is torn. We have already discussed the principle that when creation talks, people are to listen. When creation becomes a witness, readers are to listen. Psalm 22:1 Jesus has his cry of abandonment, ‘my God, my God why have you forsaken me?’ Mark detailed that there was a second cry but he doesn’t say what it was. Luke gives it as a Psalm of trust as in Psalm 31, ‘into your hands, I commit my spirit.’ Matthew has the earth open up her graves. The creation reacts with an abnormal event; it’s also a prolepsis symbol of release from death. The centurion ends the scene by confessing that Jesus was truly the Son of God. Luke speaks only of Jesus being innocent of the charge. Luke has a mood of mourning at the end as the women from Galilee witness what is happening and remember what is taking place. Jesus is buried by Joseph of Arimathea and was buried on the day that he died which is the way all deaths are done in Judaism before sundown. But the family could not bury a criminal in a family tomb. So Jesus is given over to Joseph who buries him in his own tomb but not Jesus’ family tomb. The women with the spices, a body is spiced up. They show up on the morning after the Sabbath, the soonest they could get there. Matthew shows guards had been placed in front of the sealed tomb in reaction to the third day claims.