Jesus faces Pilate

As soon as the sun rose, the chief priests, elders, scribes and the entire Sanhedrin met, plotting to find a way to execute Jesus. They bound him and led him out to hand him over to Pilate, the governor of that area. They did not enter Pilate’s headquarters because they would have become ritually unclean and thus unable to eat the Passover meal.

Pilate came out of his headquarters to speak to them. He asked them “What do you accuse this man of?” They answered “He has been dividing our nation, telling people to not pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that he is the Messiah, our king. We wouldn’t have brought him to you if he weren’t a criminal.”

Pilate replied “You should take him back and judge him by your own law.”

“Our Law doesn’t allow us to sentence anyone to crucifixion,” they replied. In saying this, they fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy as to how he would be killed.

Pilate then went into his headquarters, summoned Jesus, and asked him “Are you their King?”

Jesus answered, “You have said the truth. Are you asking me for yourself if I am the Messiah, or have others said it to you?”

“I’m not Jewish, am I?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and the chief priests brought you to me. What have you done to warrant that?”

“My kingdom is not an earthly one. If it was, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But actually, my kingdom is not of this world.”

“Then you are a king?” Pilate persisted.

“You say that I am.” Jesus answered. “This is why I was born, why I came into this world – to speak the truth. Everyone who is truthful listens to what I have to say.”

“What does ‘truth’ mean?” asked Pilate.

Pilate then told the Jewish authorities that he found no reason to press charges against Jesus.

The Jewish authorities began to accuse Jesus of many things, saying that he riled people up through his teachings, all throughout Judea, from Galilee to here.

Jesus did not answer their accusations.

Pilate said to Jesus “Don’t you hear all that they are accusing you of? Aren’t you going to say anything?” And Jesus still would not defend himself. Pilate was stunned.

MT 27:1-2 and 11-14, MK 15-1-5, LK 23:1-5, JN 18:28-38a

The impurity of death

What was Jesus talking about when he said to the Pharisees, scribes, and other religious authorities these words about them?

Luke 11:44 (HCSB)
“Woe to you! You are like unmarked graves; the people who walk over them don’t know it.”

Why would it matter if someone walked over an unmarked grave?

These verses from Matthew 23:27-28 (HCSB) give more insight.
27“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. 28 In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Jesus has already said in several different ways in Matthew 23:1-26 and Luke 11:37-52 that the religious authorities don’t practice what they preach. They tell people to follow the Law of Moses yet they don’t do it themselves. They get in the way of people who are about to enter the kingdom of heaven because they don’t understand the real reason for the rules and they give a bad example in their lives. The “kingdom of heaven” is not about when you die, but a state of awakened consciousness and connection with God here and now. It is about actively participating with God in making the world a better place.

Let us dig deeper on the “unmarked grave” idea. There is a Jewish concept about being defiled by death. Having contact with a dead body will result in you being unable to participate in normal life for seven days. It takes a lot of work to get you ritually pure again. You are essentially a leper – you have to live outside of the camp (or city). You don’t get to live with your family or hang out with your friends.

The rule comes from Numbers 19:11-12 (HCSB) –
11 “The person who touches any human corpse will be unclean for seven days.12 He is to purify himself with the water on the third day and the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third and seventh days, he will not be clean. 13 Anyone who touches a body of a person who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD. That person will be cut off from Israel. He remains unclean because the water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him, and his uncleanness is still on him.

If this wasn’t difficult enough, the cure itself isn’t easy. This isn’t just any water (see verse 12) that is being talked about. The “water for impurity” – rather, the water used to remove impurity – isn’t easy to make. It requires a long and involved process. Here are the instructions for making that.

Numbers 19:1-10 (HCSB)
The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, 2 “This is the legal statute that the LORD has commanded: Instruct the Israelites to bring you an unblemished red cow that has no defect and has never been yoked. 3 Give it to Eleazar the priest, and he will have it brought outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. 4 Eleazar the priest is to take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the tent of meeting. 5 The cow must be burned in his sight. Its hide, flesh, and blood, are to be burned along with its dung. 6 The priest is to take cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson yarn, and throw them onto the fire where the cow is burning. 7 Then the priest must wash his clothes and bathe his body in water; after that he may enter the camp, but he will remain ceremonially unclean until evening. 8 The one who burned the cow must also wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he will remain unclean until evening. 9 “A man who is clean is to gather up the cow’s ashes and deposit them outside the camp in a ceremonially clean place. The ashes must be kept by the Israelite community for preparing the water to remove impurity; it is a sin offering.10 Then the one who gathers up the cow’s ashes must wash his clothes, and he will remain unclean until evening. This is a permanent statute for the Israelites and for the foreigner who resides among them.

So walking over an unmarked grave and not knowing it would be terrible because you would accidentally become defiled. Whether you know it or not you are still defiled. If the grave is marked you have a chance to avoid it – but if it is unmarked you don’t have a chance. The same is true of the religious authorities that Jesus is talking about. They are defiling people with their examples. So people who look up to them are being dragged down into hell. They don’t realize they are being mislead.

This is why I paraphrased the verse from Luke 11:44 like this in the Condensed Gospel: “Woe to you! You are like unmarked graves. People walk over you not even knowing that they have become defiled.”

While this rendering gives a little more insight into the verse, I felt a further understanding of the Jewish death taboos was helpful, so that is why I have included it here.

The parable of the unforgiving person.

Jesus said “The kingdom of heaven is like the idea of the king who wants to balance his books. In the middle of that process, a person who owed him $10 million was brought before him. Since the man had no way of settling his debt, the king ordered that the man, his wife, their children and everything they owned be sold to pay off the account.

The man threw himself to the ground and said ‘Master, please give me a little more time and I will pay you everything!’ The king felt compassion for him so he forgave his debt and sent him on his way.

However, just after the man left the king he found a person who owed him $2000. He started choking him and demanded to be paid back immediately. That man threw himself to the ground and said ‘Please give me a little more time and I will pay you everything!’ But the man refused his request and instead had him thrown into prison until he could pay his debt in full. Other people saw what had happened and they went to the king and told him everything.

The king summoned the man who had owed him $10 million and said ‘You wicked man! I forgave everything that you owed me because you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you then have mercy on someone who owes you?’ Then the king had him thrown into jail until he could pay back every penny that he owed. My Heavenly Father will treat you the same way if you refuse to truly forgive everyone who has harmed you.”

MT 18:23-35

Ministry in Galilee

After Jesus found out that John had been arrested, he returned to Galilee filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea in the area of Zebulon and Naphtali.

This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah who said “Land of Zebulon and land of Naphtali, along the sea road, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles! For everyone who lives in darkness has seen a great light, and for those who live in the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”

News about him spread through the entire area. He was teaching in the synagogues there and was praised by everyone. From that time on he began to preach the good news of God saying “The time is at hand and the kingdom of God has arrived! Repent and believe in the good news!”

MT 4:12-17, MK 1:14-15, LK 4:14-15

The meaning of the parable of the wheat and weeds, along with the parables of the hidden treasure, pearl of great value, net, and storehouse

The meaning of the parable of the wheat and the weeds.

Jesus sent away the crowds and went into the house. His disciples asked him to explain the parable of the wheat and the weeds to them.

He answered “The Son of Man is the one who sows the good seed, the field is the world, and the sons of the kingdom are the good seed. The weeds are the sons of the Devil, who sowed them. The harvest represents the end of the age, while the harvesters are angels.”

“In the same way that the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will separate out every stumbling block and everyone who does not follow the Law of God. The angels will throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then, all the godly people will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears to hear should listen to this!”

MT 13:36-43

The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure a man discovered that was buried in a field. After he found it, he covered it back up again, and in his joy he went and sold everything he had to buy that field.”

“Also, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant on a quest for fine pearls. When he found a pearl of great value, he went and sold everything he had so he could buy it.”

MT 13:44-46

The parable of the net.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea. It gathers up every kind of fish, and when it is full, the fishermen drag it ashore and put the good fish into containers but throw away the worthless ones.”

MT 13:47-48

The storeroom.

Jesus asked them “Have you understood what I have told you?”

“Yes,” they said.

“Therefore, every teacher of the Law who has been instructed in the nature of the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings new treasures as well as old out of his storeroom.”

Jesus left there after finishing these parables.

MT 13:51-53

The parable of the barren fig tree

“There once was a man who had a fig tree in his vineyard. He went to see if there was fruit on it, but there wasn’t any. He told his gardener to cut the tree down, explaining that in three years there hadn’t been any fruit on the tree. It was a waste of dirt.

The gardener asked him to give it another year. He promised to dig around it and fertilize it. He said ‘If it doesn’t bear fruit after that then it can be cut down.’”

LK 13:6-9

The parable of the growing seed.

“The kingdom of heaven is also like this; a man scatters seed, and without his knowledge or assistance the seed sprouts and grows over time. The soil makes the seed grow all by itself. First there was a leaf blade, then the heads of wheat formed, and finally the grain ripened. As soon the crop was ready, the man sent for the harvesters.”

MK 4:26-29

The parable of the mustard seed

“How can I explain what the kingdom of God is like? What can I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed sown in the ground. It is smaller than any other seed, but when grown, it is a huge tree, taller than any vegetable. It becomes a tree big enough for birds to make nests in its large branches.”

MT 13:31-32, MK 4:30-32, LK 13:18-19