9. Jesus' last week in Jerusalem

Jesus' last week in Jerusalem

Part 9 of an EasyEnglish Bible Study Course on the Life of Christ


A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

Jesus enters Jerusalem like a king Matthew 21:1-11

Barrie Wetherill

It was nearly time for the *Feast of the Passover. The *Feast of the Passover was a holy day for the Jews. They remembered the time when God freed them from being slaves in Egypt. This event happened at the time of Moses. They met in the *temple at Passover. Each family had a special meal together.

Mary uses a special oil to prepare Jesus' body for his death

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany. Bethany was near Jerusalem. His friends there, Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, asked him to come for a special dinner. At the dinner, Mary put special oil, which had a sweet smell, on Jesus. It was very expensive oil (John 12:1-11). Judas Iscariot said that this wasted the oil. The *disciples could have sold the oil and given the money to poor people. But Jesus said that Mary had done a beautiful thing. She prepared his body for his death.


Jesus rides into Jerusalem

There was a large crowd there, not only because of Jesus, but also because of Lazarus. Jesus made Lazarus alive again after Lazarus had died. The Jewish rulers were plotting to kill them both. The next day, Jesus told two *disciples to bring a particular donkey [small horse]. They would find this donkey, with a young donkey, in a particular village. The *disciples put their clothes on the young animal. Jesus sat on it and rode into Jerusalem on it.

By this time, everybody was very excited. The *disciples thought that the *Kingdom of God would appear immediately. There was a large crowd of people with Jesus. Many other people, who were coming to the *feast, heard about him. Then they too came to give him a welcome. Jesus had done many wonderful *miracles. He even made Lazarus alive after Lazarus died. People talked about these things. They asked if Jesus was the Son of David. (Son of David was a name for the *Messiah.) The Jewish rulers believed that Jesus was not the Son of David. The crowd thought that he was. But they thought that the *Messiah would come like a soldier. And they thought that he would force the Romans to leave. But Jesus came in to Jerusalem on a young animal. This was a sign of peace, and not of war. Later the *disciples realised how important this was. Jesus made the *prophecy about the *Messiah come true. (Zechariah 9:9).

*Hosanna to the Son of David

The crowd shouted out '*Hosanna to the Son of David’, (Matthew 21:15). These are words from Psalm 118:26. The crowd repeated these words because they are about the *Messiah. The *Pharisees knew what these words meant. They asked Jesus to tell the people not to say such words. But Jesus replied with words from Psalm 8:2. He said this: 'God can make even little babies able to praise him with songs’.

There was excitement everywhere in the city. People had travelled long distances to be in Jerusalem for the *feast. Because Jesus and the 12 *disciples arrived late in Jerusalem, they returned to Bethany for the night.

Jesus shows his authority in the *temple

Matthew 21:12-17

Unfair merchants

The next day, Jesus went to the *temple. There was much trade there. There were merchants there who sold birds and animals for the sacrifices. [A sacrifice is a special gift to God. Sometimes the Jews killed an animal as a sacrifice.] Other merchants would change Roman money to *Temple money. The *Temple rulers did not allow Roman money there. These merchants probably paid a lot of money to the priests. You could bring your own animals for sacrifice, but they had to be completely perfect. Often the priests said that the animals were not perfect. Then the people had to buy expensive animals from the merchants in the *temple.

When Jesus entered the *temple, he forced all the merchants to leave. He turned over the tables of the money changers. He would not allow anyone to carry anything for sale through the *temple. Jesus said:

Jesus put together these words, from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. There were many caves in the hills in that country. Groups of thieves used to meet there. Jesus said that the *temple had become an evil place, like those caves. The words before and after Jeremiah 7:11 are interesting. They say that the Jews must obey the *Lord. Then they can continue to live in their land. But if the Jews did not obey the *Lord, they would have to leave their land.

Jesus insisted that men must respect God in the *temple. Jesus hated people who cheat.

Jesus sent away all the men who cheated other people. Probably, he could do this because he was so popular with the large crowds there. They hated the merchants who cheated them. Jesus could do it also because he had authority. He behaved like a king.

Matthew 21:14 Jesus cured blind people, and people who could not walk

God's law did not allow blind priests to work in the *Temple. Also, the law did not allow priests to work there if they could not walk (Leviticus 21:18).

The Jews changed this law. They made a stricter law. They would not permit anyone like that to enter.

But when Jesus was in the *temple, blind people came to him. People who could not walk easily came to him. He cured them all. By this, he showed that these people should enter. And the crowds who were with Jesus still shouted: '*Hosanna to the Son of David’!

Matthew 21:13 'The Bible says, “God's house [the *temple] is to be a house of prayer”. You have made it “a place for thieves”.’

The fig tree

Matthew 21:18-22

Jesus and the fig tree

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus saw a fig tree with leaves on it. (Figs are a type of fruit.) It was early spring. One type of fig tree had leaves early, and fruit appears even before the leaves. Jesus went to the tree to pick fruit, but there was none. He then announced that this tree would die. Immediately, the tree died.

An important lesson

Jesus did this to teach people an important lesson. The tree was like the people of Israel. Just as Jesus expected fruit from the tree, so God expected his people to obey him. But the nation did not obey him. They did bad things. The merchants in the *temple were an example of their bad behaviour. God would certainly *judge them. In the year AD 70 Roman armies came and destroyed Jerusalem and the *temple. Jesus was telling the people that this would happen.

'Who gave you this authority’? The rulers ask Jesus about his authority

The Jewish rulers came to Jesus. Jesus had shown his authority in the *temple. Now, the rulers demanded to know what kind of authority Jesus had. They asked who gave him that authority.

Jesus replied with a question. He asked what authority John the Baptist had. The rulers could not answer this. They did not believe John. But all the crowds thought that John was a *prophet. They did not dare to deny this. They could not agree that God had sent John. They did not want Jesus to reply, 'Why did you not believe John?’ So they would not answer.

The rulers did not respect Jesus' authority

Jesus' authority, like John's, came from God himself. But the rulers did not respect John's authority or Jesus' authority. So, they did not respect God.

Jesus then told several parables. (Parables are stories which have a meaning.) The real meaning of these parables became more and more clear. These parables are about the way that most Jews would not welcome the *Messiah. God would *judge the Jews. Especially, he would *judge the people in Jerusalem.

Parables [stories] that Jesus told in Matthew chapters 21-22

The parable of the two sons

[A parable is a story with a meaning.]

Matthew 21:28-32

In this parable a man had two sons. He told them to go and work in his vineyard. [A vineyard is where men grow fruit to make wine.] One son said that he would not go. Later, he was sorry, and he went. The other son said that he would go. But he did not go. The son, who at first refused, obeyed his father.

What was Jesus teaching people by this parable?

It is important to know God’s Word [that is, the Bible]. It is even more important to obey it. The Bible teaches this lesson in many places. It is a very important lesson for today.

See 1 Samuel 15:22, Psalm 25:4, Psalm 27:11, Psalm 86:11, Psalm 143:10, Isaiah 2:3, Jeremiah 21:33, Matthew 7:21-27, Matthew 28:20, John 15:14, Acts 5:29.

Parable of the workers and the vineyard

[A parable is a story with a meaning. A vineyard is where men grow fruit to make wine.]

Matthew 21:33-46

In this parable, a farmer allowed other people to rent his vineyard. They had to send him some fruit as payment. The farmer sent servants to receive the fruit. The men in the vineyard attacked and killed the servants. At last the farmer sent his son. The men in the vineyard killed the son also. Then the farmer killed the men in the vineyard. Afterwards, the farmer let the vineyard to other people.

This parable was very clear. A vineyard in the Bible often means Israel. The servants of the farmer were like the *prophets. Evil Jews killed most of the *prophets. The son of the farmer is like Jesus. The farmer killed the men in his vineyard. That shows that God will *judge Israel. He will give the gospel (the good news about Jesus) to people who are not Jews.

Parable of the wedding *feast

[A parable is a story with a meaning.]

Matthew 22:1-14

In this parable, a king has a wedding *feast for his son. The king invites certain special guests. He sends many messages to them, but they refuse to come. Instead, they kill the king’s servants.

The king then becomes very angry. He sends an army to destroy the city of these people. After this, he invites other, more common people, to the wedding. He encourages them to come.

In such *feasts the king usually gave special clothes to the guests. But when the king came he saw someone without special clothes. The king ordered the servants to force this man to leave. The man had refused to wear the clothes from the king.

In this parable, the king is like God. And the first guests are like the Jews who would not obey God. The first guests killed the king’s servants. These servants are like the *prophets whom God sent to the Jews. These Jews killed the *prophets or dealt badly with them. The city in the parable is like Jerusalem. In the parable, the king destroyed the city. Jesus spoke here about the time to come. 40 years after Jesus said these words, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.

The later guests are the Gentiles. [Gentiles are people who are not Jews.] Today, God invites everybody to join the *Kingdom of God, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.

The last part of the parable is very important. God wants all people to be sorry for the wrong things that they have done. They should obey him. Then they will belong to the *kingdom of God. But there is only one way to do this. God will forgive us because of what Christ did for us. He helps us to live in a new way. This is like the special clothes that the king gave to his guests. None of us can stand before God because of our own goodness. We cannot be good enough, on our own. We must trust in what Christ has done for us. When we believe in him, we can be part of God’s *kingdom.

The parable teaches us that people from every nation can be Christians. The message of Jesus is for everybody – both Jews and Gentiles.

Should the Jews pay taxes to Caesar? Matthew 22:15-22

The Jewish rulers did not like the parables [stories] that Jesus told in Matthew chapters 21-22. They decided that they must stop Jesus now. The *Pharisees believed the Law. It is strange that they joined up with the Herodians. The Herodians were a political group. They did not believe God's Law at all.

So, the *Pharisees and the Herodians came to Jesus with a question: Was it right to give taxes to Caesar?

If Jesus said 'Yes’, he would disappoint many Jews. If he said 'No’, the Romans could arrest him.

In reply, Jesus asked for a coin. He asked the people to describe the head on it. The head was Caesar’s. He then said:

There is great wisdom in this short answer. Rulers should do what God wants. We should obey our rulers if their laws are not evil. Paul later writes more about this in Romans 13:1-7. Other *New Testament writers also mention this subject. Men should pay the king what he deserves. But Jesus also said 'Give to God the things that belong to God’. Jesus said that God is the greatest ruler. We must not keep back anything that belongs to him. Rulers on earth can demand much. But this means that there is a limit to their demands.

Jesus' reply has another meaning also. On the other side of the coin, there were words. They said that Caesar was a god. Clearly, Jesus was denying this.

The wisdom of this quick answer was surprising. Jesus’ enemies went away. They could not answer what he said.

Marriage in the *resurrection Matthew 22:23-33

Now the Sadducees came to Jesus. The Sadducees were men who believed the first 5 books in the Bible. But they did not believe in a resurrection. (Resurrection means a new life that God gives people after death. The *Old Testament clearly taught this. For example, read Psalm 16:9-11, Daniel 12:2, and Job 19:23-27. There are also many other chapters where the Bible mentions the resurrection.)

There was a law in Deuteronomy 25. If a married man died without children, then his brother must marry the woman. They would count their first child as the dead man’s child. This was the law in some other countries too. Its purpose was to help widows. The Sadducees pretended that seven brothers all married the same woman, one after the other. None of them had children. They asked Jesus who would be married to the woman in the resurrection.

Jesus replied that in the resurrection there is no marriage. But he proved the resurrection in a very interesting way. He said:

Jesus is talking about words which are in Exodus 3:6, and in many other places. Every time, it is clear what the Bible means. It does not mean, 'God was the God of Abraham while Abraham was alive’. And so it means that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are still alive. They are waiting for the resurrection.

Matthew 22:21 Give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar. Give t
God the things that belong to God.

Matthew 22:31-32 Read what God said to you: 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’. He is not the God of the dead, but of those who live.

The Sadducees and *Pharisees both believed the Bible. But Jesus said that they did not understand. These groups read the Bible with their own ideas. They decided for themselves what the words meant.

The most important command

The Sadducees had nothing more to say. Now the leaders of the *Pharisees came to Jesus. One leader was a man who really knew God's law. He asked Jesus which was the most important command. The *Pharisees often discussed this. There are 613 commands in the law. They wanted to obey them all. (But often they only obeyed their own ideas about the commands).

Jesus’ reply was beautiful. He spoke words from the *Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18).

Jesus was saying what we must do. It is our duty to love God and to love other people. We must love very sincerely. This is the most important thing in our life. Of course, the *Pharisees did not like to speak about love. They thought that to obey the law very accurately was more important. When Mark wrote about this conversation, he told us more. He said that the *Pharisees liked Jesus’ answer. After all, his answer was from the law. They would not oppose God's law!

Jesus showed great wisdom in all these conversations. His enemies hoped that he would make a mistake. He did not. But now Jesus asked them a question. He left them without an answer.

Jesus asks a question

Jesus spoke from a well-known psalm about the *Messiah. It says this:

Here David was writing about the *Messiah. God had promised that one day the *Messiah would be born in the family of David. David called the *Messiah, 'My *Lord’. Jesus then asked a question:

If the *Messiah came after David, in David’s family, how could David call him *Lord? The only answer is to recognise that the *Messiah is more than a mere man. The *Messiah is God

with us.

Jesus’ enemies could not reply. They did not know what to say. They had wanted Jesus to make mistakes in his answers. He did not. He gave such quick answers to sudden questions. He showed such great wisdom. After this nobody had any more questions for him. Yet these people still did not understand who he was. They had seen the wonderful *miracles. They had heard his wise answers. They tried to make him say wrong things. But they had seen his patience with them. And still they did not understand. They had waited for a long time for the *Messiah. He was there in front of them.

These were the last things that Jesus said to these people. He spoke to them with love. He wanted them to look at him. He wanted them to answer the one important question, which everyone must answer:

Who is Jesus?

Matthew 22:37-40 'Love the Lord your God: with all your heart and with all your *soul and with all your mind.’

This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like it: 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ This is what the Law and the *Prophets really mean.

Matthew 22:44 'The *Lord said to my *Lord: “Sit at my right hand. I will destroy your enemies”.’

There was still time for some of these people to *repent. They could still trust in Christ. Then he would rescue them from God’s anger. He would make them able to live in a new way.

Jesus accuses the *Pharisees and Scribes Matthew 23

(The Scribes were officials in the *temple.) Jesus now spoke for the last time in public. He had more to say to his *disciples in private, but he now left the *temple for the last time. Jesus was very patient with those who disagreed with him. He listened to all their questions although they tried to make him give wrong answers. He understood what their questions meant. He answered them perfectly. He was humble and patient. Many people must have admired this. But the time had now come when Jesus would speak out clearly. It was very important that the crowds of people understood Jesus.

The *Pharisees and Scribes seemed to behave well. They prayed often in public. They gave away a 10th part of what they had. They even gave away a 10th of all kinds of small vegetables. They knew and could repeat much of the Law. Many people thought that these men were 'very holy’. But their behaviour was in fact the opposite of all that Jesus taught. Jesus had to make people understand this.

Jesus said that the *Pharisees taught many good things. They taught God's law. But the important thing was to obey it. Jesus called the *Pharisees 'graves that men have painted white’. They looked good and holy on the outside. In fact, their lives were selfish and greedy. They showed this by the way that they behaved with Jesus. They wanted people to praise them. They wanted to have the best seats at meetings. 'Do the things that they teach’, Jesus said, 'But do not do the things that they do’.

Some things were not important. But the *Pharisees said that these things were important. For example, they said that it was important to give away a 10th of some plants. They did not think much about how people behaved to one another. They did not think about being kind or fair to other people. They did not like what Jesus taught. This stopped some people from trusting Jesus. Jesus spoke out about the *Pharisees and the Scribes very strongly.

It is easy to copy the *Pharisees’ mistake. It is sad that people have done this in the church for many years. Christ left us a very different example. He was humble. He served other people all the time. He liked to be with people who did not seem to be important. He gave them hope. We are not holy if we only know the Bible. We must do what it says. It should not matter what other people think about us. For the *Pharisees what other people thought was very important. That was why they behaved in certain ways. Especially, they wanted the people to praise them.

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said something that is very important. (This was when Jesus taught people on a mountain. See Matthew chapters 5-7) He said that one day people would come to him. They would say that they had done great things in his name. But Jesus would send them away.

God accepts us only because of Christ. We do and think wrong things. Jesus died to take the punishment for those wrong things. Because of this, God can forgive us, if we trust in Jesus. Nothing else can help us. Nothing that we can do will help us. The important thing is to know Christ personally. Then we will obey him. 'If you love me, obey what I say’, Jesus told his *disciples many times.

Matthew 23:33 'You are like snakes! You are like a collection of dangerous snakes! You will not escape God’s punishment in *hell.’

Matthew 7:21-23 'Not everyone who says to me, “*Lord, *Lord”, will go into the *kingdom of heaven. Some people do what God wants. Those people will go in. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, *Lord, did we not speak on your behalf? Did we not send away *demons on your behalf, and do many *miracles”? Then I will tell them, “I never knew you. Go away, you wicked people!” ’

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem

The last words that Jesus spoke in public were sad words about Jerusalem. He felt very sad because most Jews had not accepted him. God would *judge them. Jesus had come to bring good news to the Jews, but many Jews did not want to listen to him.

Jesus then spoke about the terrible events which would happen in Jerusalem. Just 40 years later, the Roman armies marched into Jerusalem and destroyed the city. They burned the *Temple. They *crucified so many Jews that they did not have enough wood.

Jesus' good news is available for all. But it will not always be available. If people have refused to accept Jesus during their lives, there will be a *judgement. And one day, when Jesus comes again, it will be too late for people to trust God.

Jesus’ instructions to his *disciples - The end of time Matthew chapters 24 and 25

The last week in Jesus' life was very busy. He had more still to teach his *disciples. There were several subjects.

Enemies would destroy Jerusalem. This would happen soon, while some people there were still alive. Jesus spoke about this at the same time as he spoke about the next subject.

The Second Coming [when Jesus will return to this world in the future], and the last *Judgement. Jesus would come again. He would then *judge all who have ever lived. Before Jesus died, the *disciples could not understand this. But later they would remember Jesus' words. They would understand then.

The *Holy Spirit would come. Jesus promised that the *Holy Spirit would come. He would help Christians to obey Jesus and to tell other people about him, all over the world.

We can read about the first two subjects, especially in Matthew chapters 24-25. John chapters 14- 16 tell us about the promise of the *Holy Spirit. We will write a little about that in a later chapter.

Jesus started the discussion about the end of the age. They had just left the *Temple, which was perhaps the most beautiful building ever built. But Jesus said that enemies would destroy it completely. The *disciples thought that this would be the end of the age. [The 'end of the age' means the time when God's *kingdom will be complete. This will be after Jesus returns to this world.] They were wrong. Jesus’ answer puts two subjects together: what would happen to the *Temple, and the Second Coming. [The Second Coming is the time when Jesus will return to this world in the future.] *Prophets often spoke about two subjects together, like this. In the *Old Testament, *prophets often spoke about what the *Messiah would do in his first and second coming. They were not explaining about the time of these events. instead, they were warning the people. We should listen to what God says, and obey him.

There are two important things to remember about the future.

First of all, Jesus will come back again. He will not be humble then. He will come in great power and *glory. Men will see that he is *Lord.

The Bible warns us all to be ready.

Matthew 23:37 'People of Jerusalem! People of Jerusalem! You kill the *prophets. You throw stones at those who come to you. Often I have wanted to gather your children together, as a mother bird gathers her young ones under her wings. But you did not want this’.

Matthew 24:30, 31 'At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. All the nations of the earth will be sad. They will see the Son of Man, as he comes on the clouds of the sky, with power and great *glory. And he will send his *angels with a loud trumpet call. (A trumpet is a musical instrument.) They will gather together all the people who believe in him. God's people will come from all directions. They will come from everywhere.’


Next, there will be a last *judgement of all people. Every person will be humble in front of God. We must all answer when God *judges us. He will say that we are all guilty. He can forgive us only because of what Christ has done for us. We should ask ourselves, now: 'Are we really trusting only in him?'

The Second Coming and the last Judgement are important subjects. We should study them well. Christ himself taught us much of what we know about them. We will not find answers to all that we may ask. But we need to study Christ's words carefully.

The most important lesson for us is very clear. Jesus knew that he would die. He also knew that he would come again with great power and *glory. Jesus is *Lord, and everyone must be humble. How important it is that we should answer his loving call. We must *repent and trust him. How sad he was when many of his own people, the Jews, did not trust him.

Read: Matthew 21-23 Bible study: Matthew 24 and 25

Word List

angels ~ God's servants from *heaven

crucify ~ kill in a cruel way. Men make a large wooden cross and fasten a man to it with nails. He must hang there until he dies.

demon ~ a servant of the devil.

disciple ~ a person who believes in Jesus and obeys him. The first disciples were the 12 men whom he chose to be with him on earth.

feast ~ a large meal for a special event. Jewish feasts were part of their religion. glory ~ the power and greatness of God. heaven ~ where God lives and rules. hell ~ the state or place of punishment for wicked people after death. God is not there. Holy Spirit ~ God’s Spirit, whom Jesus sent to help people.

Hosanna ~ a word used to praise Jesus, or God the Father. It means, 'Rescue us!' judge ~ decide if a person is good or bad. judgement ~ the decision about whether something or someone is good or bad. kingdom ~ land that a king rules.

Kingdom of God ~ all those people who love and obey God. Kingdom of heaven ~ the state of being with God, after this life on earth. Lord ~ another name for Jesus or God, which shows that he has authority over everything.

Messiah ~ Messiah means the same as Christ. That is, the one whom God chose as *Israel's special king. God forgives us because Jesus, our Messiah, suffered the punishment for our evil deeds.

miracle ~ a wonderful event that shows that God is at work.

New Testament ~ the part of the Bible that tells about when Jesus came. It also tells what happened after his return to *heaven.

Old Testament ~ the part of the Bible that tells us about the time before Jesus came.

Pharisees ~ a group of Jews who thought that they kept all of God’s commands. Many *Pharisees did not like what Jesus said. They thought that they were always right. They became very proud.

prophecy ~ words that a *prophet speaks. prophet ~ a person who can tell other people what God wants. repent ~ be sorry that you have done wrong things. You decide to love God, and start to obey him. resurrection ~ to become alive after death. soul ~ the part of us that we cannot see. It is in us during life, and continues to live after death. temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the Jews went to worship God.