For nine weeks in the fall of 2011, Sunday church-goers will hear nine passages from Matthew’s Gospel that all have their source in a single event: the preaching of Jesus in and around the Temple in Jerusalem. These chapters mark the end of Jesus’ ministry. Perhaps two days after this sermon, Jesus and the Apostles will gather in the Upper Room for the Last Supper, and then he will be arrested.
The Sermon in the Temple is immediately preceded (Mark 11, John 12) by the triumphal arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling a prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. His arrival in Jerusalem is also reminiscent of King David returning to Jerusalem via Mount Olive (2 Sam 15:30), and then securing a donkey (2 Sam 16:1-2) to enter the city.
It might strike some readers as strange that we finish the church calendar year with readings from a Palm Sunday event. But the ministry of Jesus has come full circle. He begins his ministry with the Sermon on the Mount, which is encouraging and positive. And he ends his ministry, in the Sermon in the Temple, with a harsh judgment against the Temple leaders.
The Sermon in the Temple is an enormous opus, with a theology that reflects the time and place of the Sermon. While the Sermon on the Mount is a handbook for discipleship, and an affirming pep talk for his followers, the Sermon in the Temple is in many ways prophetic of what will happen to the Temple in the near future, and what will happen to the church in the distant future.
The Sermon in the Temple is told in Matthew chapters 21 to 25. It has five parts. Jesus first debates the Chief Priests and the Pharisees. Then Jesus indicts the Pharisees to the crowd in the Temple. Third, Jesus transitions and proceeds to leave the Temple with the disciples and predicts that no stone of the Temple will be left on top of another. Fourth, Jesus anticipates, in chapter 24, the beginning of certain calamities and a great tribulation. Finally, Jesus predicts his own return, and he urges the disciples to be vigilant, faithful, and to use the gifts given them for the benefit of others.
There are nine Gospel readings taken from this single event. You can click on the link to read my commentary:
1. An argument with the elders in the Temple – which of the two did the Father’s will?
2. A further parable – The Tenants in the Vineyard.
3. Jesus tells the Parable of the Wedding Banquet to the Pharisees in the Temple.
4. Jesus continues to debate the Pharisees – Render unto Caesar…
5. The Pharisees’ servants ask Jesus what is the greatest commandment?
6. Jesus speaks to the crowd about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
7. Jesus warns the disciples with the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.
8. Jesus again reminds the disciples to use their gifts well in the parable of the talents.