Unit 13 – The Passion Week Begins


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 22, 2015  -  Comments Off on 13.02.01 UNFRUITFUL FIG TREE CURSED

13.02.01 Mk. 11:12-14 (See also Mt. 21:18-19) April 3, A.D. 30, Bethany



12 The next day when they came out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 After seeing in the distance a fig tree with leaves, He went to find out if there was anything on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples heard it. 

The fig tree was one of the historic symbols of Israel throughout the centuries (Hos. 9:10; Na. 3:12);[1] Israel – a nation that God brought forth for one purpose – to bring forth the Anointed One who was Jesus.  For generations, rabbis would sit under the fig tree and teach their students the Torah.  As the students would “eat the word of Scripture,” so they would find some fruit to eat on the tree most of the year.  In a similar manner, Israel was called to instruct the nations of the world about the covenants of God.  This imagery was used by Amos (Ch. 8) when God referred to His people as the “summer fruit” that would be destroyed.[2] The tree cursed by Jesus had an abundance of leaves and gave the appearance of being fruitful, whereas in reality, it was a barren tree.  Israel was the same.  The religious nation gave the appearance of being full of life but was, in fact, a barren people.

 “A fig tree with leaves.”  The story of the fig tree (ficus carica) is a story of hope.[3]   Modern readers who are not acquainted with the land of Israel often question why an innocent tree was cursed, but the tree may not have been quite as innocent as they may have thought.  It normally takes three years for a fig tree to mature and produce fruit, after which it has three seasons of fig production as follows.

  1. The early fig, known as the bekurah, ripens at the end of June, sometimes earlier in the Jerusalem area.
  1. The summer fig which is the main crop, it ripens in August and September and the Israelis preserve the fruit in the form of cakes.
  1. The pag is the winter fig or unripe fig. It ripens only after the leaves have fallen off the tree.[4]

The difficulty with this passage is that Jesus cursed the fruit tree for not having fruit, when Mark said that it was not supposed to have fruit (Mk. 11:13b).  So why was the tree cursed for being a normal fig tree?  There are two interpretations.

  1. The writers of the synoptic gospels focused the life and ministry of Jesus in the Galilee area while John focused primarily in the Jerusalem and Judea area. Galilee lies in a different climate zone than does Jerusalem, which is atop of the central mountain range. Josephus said that in Galilee figs are ripe every month of the year with the exception of January and February. In Jerusalem, however, the period of dormancy for fruit trees is longer due to the higher elevation. So anyone from Galilee visiting Jerusalem might expect to find figs on a tree as they would in Galilee, but there would not be any. Jesus might have expected to find a few early figs on this tree, but the ordinary fig-season had not arrived yet.[5] However, that interpretation obviously limits the knowledge of Jesus.
  1. Another interpretation is that just as an innocent lamb was sacrificed every Passover for the sins of the family, so the fig tree was “sacrificed” because it represented the sins of national Israel. The sins of the Jewish family were covered by the sacrifice; but the sins of the unrepentant nation brought forth a curse.




In the Old Testament, the tree was associated with God’s promises of prosperity as well as His prophetic warnings.[6]  While both the early fruit and later fruit are figs, the taste of each is clearly different. The early fruit appears only for a brief period and clusters of the later fruit ripen throughout most of the year. It is the only tree in the Middle East where, in early spring, the early fruit appears before the leaves.  Mark referred to the latter fruit, since this is the fruit that would have been the preferred fruit enjoyed by travelers. Fig trees were planted along roads for the benefit of the traveling public and its fruit was considered to be common property.[7]

The accounts of the fig tree are placed on either side of the second cleansing of the temple for symbolic reasons.  Not only did the temple leadership fail to represent God to the Jewish and Gentile people, but they were also about to condemn the Messiah.  The fig tree as a prophetic event had full significance in A.D. 70 when the temple was destroyed and judgment fell upon the Jewish nation.   When Jesus spoke these words, He announced that judgment was coming upon the spiritually dead religious leaders. The following three parables repeat the theme:

  1. The Parable of the Two Sons (see 13.03.03; Mt. 21:28-32; also known as “The Son Who did not Work”)
  1. The Tenant Farmers (see 13.03.04; Mt. 21:33-46; also known as “The Parable of the Tenants.”)
  1. The Wedding Invitation (see 13.03.07; Mt. 22:1-14; also known as “The Parable of the Wedding Banquet).

One of God’s divine principles is that men always be as honest as possible. His hatred for hypocrisy[8] was demonstrated in the cursing of the fig tree. The call for honesty was later quite emphatic when two people, Ananias and Sapphira, made false claims concerning the funds received from the sale of land and met sudden death (Acts 5:1-11).

Yet another law forbade the cutting down of fruit trees except for special circumstances (Deut. 20:19-20), namely, for the lack of producing fruit. In this case, both the fig tree and the nation it represented were condemned according to the Old Testament law. The message was clearly understood because the imagery of a plant to depict God’s people is common in Judaism.[9] The following discussion (cf. Mt. 24) took place as Jesus was on the Mount of Olives with all of His disciples and there He gave His famous Olivet Discourse. According to the Apocalypse of Peter, the disciple, Peter, recorded the following:

And I, Peter, answered and said to him, “Explain to me concerning the fig tree, and how shall we perceive it, for throughout all its days does the fig tree sprout and every year it brings forth its fruit (and)[10] for its master.  What does the parable of the fig tree mean?  We do not understand.”

And the Master answered and said unto me, “Do you not understand that the fig tree is the house of Israel?  Even as a man had planted a fig tree in his garden and it brought forth no fruit, and he looked for its fruit for many years.  When he did not find it he said to the keeper of his garden ‘Uproot the tree that our land may not be unfruitful for us.’”

Apocalypse of Peter Ch. 2[11]


While the Apocalypse has some Hellenistic overtones, both Clement of Alexandria[12] and Eusebius, a church father and historian of a later period,[13]  shared the unknown author’s opinion. Clearly, the phrase “fig tree” refers to the nation or house of Israel and is, therefore, preserved by more than one credible witness within two generations of Jesus.

“The fig tree is the house of Israel.” The children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are referred to symbolically in the form of three trees – each one for a specific purpose.[14]

  1. The grape vine is the symbol of Israel’s spiritual privileges (Jer. 2:21; Isa. 5:1-7.
  2. The fig tree is a symbol of Israel’s national privileges[15]
  3. The olive tree is a symbol of Israel’s religious privileges (Jer. 11:16-17)

Finally, while national Israel was cursed, obviously God’s love for Jewish individuals continues. In Acts 1:8 the disciples were told to go and preach the Kingdom of God first to the Jewish people, then to the Samaritans, and then to the far corners of the world.  If every segment of the Jewish people was cursed, then obviously the passage in Acts would have been written differently. Notice that in Romans 11:17-27 is the “Parable of the Two Olive Trees” that is additional evidence that Israel was not completely cursed. The two olive trees represent the Gentiles and Jews who come to faith in Christ Jesus.


13.02.01.A. THE EARLY FRUIT OF THE FIG TREE. The fig tree (ficus carica) was symbolic of both the king and people of Israel since the early days of the judges.[16] Jesus cursed the fig tree, symbolic of the curse that would come and the land would be destroyed and Jews from their homeland.  Photograph by the author.


[1]. See discussions on the fig tree in 02.03.04 “Education” and 09.03.09.


[2]. Jer. 5:17; Hos. 2:12; Joel 1:7-12; Hab. 3:17; Farrar, Life of Christ. 338-39.


[3]. Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 1:232.

[4]. Geikie, The Life and Words. 2:640. See also Josephus, Wars 3.10.8.


[5]. Farrar, The Life of Christ. 384-85.


[6]. Jer. 5:17; Hos. 2:12; Joel 1:7-12; Hab. 3:17; See also Mic. 7:1 and Nah. 3:12.

[7]. Farrar, The Life of Christ. 384.


[8]. See the discussion on hypocrites/hypocrisy in 08.03.04 (Mt. :5-15) and in “Pharisees” in 02.01.14.

[9]. Isa. 60:21; Jer. 45:4; Jubliees 1.16; 7.34; 21.24; 1 Enoch 10:16; 84.6; 93.2; 1 QS 8.5; 11.8; CD 1.7.


[10]. Parenthesis by Schneemelcher, editor.

[11]. Schneemelcher, “Apocalypse of Peter.” New Testament Apocrypha Vol. 2.  This passage was written in King James English and has been slightly modified by this writer for an easier reading by a modern audience. Nearly all scholars believe that the author was someone other than Peter; someone who recorded some events, embellished a few others, and then assigned Peter’s name to the document. It certainly should not be considered equal to the inspired text. See video by Dr. Doug Finkbinder 02.02.01.V.

[12]. 2 Clement 5; Schneemelcher, ed., in New Testament Apocrypha. 2:625.

[13]. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.14.1.

[14] Larkin, “The Three Trees to which Israel is compared in the Scriptures.” Dispensational Truth or God’s Plan and Purpose in the Ages. 4th 29:153-57.


[15]. Isa. 60:21; Jer. 45:4; Jubliees 1.16; 7.34; 21.24; 1 Enoch 10:16; 84.6; 93.2; 1 QS 8.5; 11.8; CD 1.7.


[16]. Judges 9:7-15; Lk. 8:6-9; Hareuveni, Tree and Shrub in Our Biblical Heritage. 60-61.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 22, 2015  -  Comments Off on 13.02.02 SECOND TEMPLE CLEANSING, MERCHANTS DRIVEN OUT

13.02.02 Mk. 11:15-17  (See also Mt. 21:12-13; Lk. 19:45-46) In the Temple



15 They came to Jerusalem, and He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple complex.

17 Then He began to teach them:

“Is it not written,

My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations (Isa. 56:7)?

But you have made it a den of thieves (Jer. 7:11).


This was the second of two recorded temple cleansings; symbolically, Jesus opened and closed His ministry with a call to purity of the people of God.[1]  The Sadducees had absolutely no respect for the Court of the Gentiles because they had no respect for Gentiles. That court was built specifically for worship by foreigners. The Sadducees believed that since that area was defiled anyway by visiting Gentiles; why not permit shopkeepers and money changers there as well?  Its sacredness was destroyed. Therefore, Jesus confronted them on four points:

  1. Defilement of the court reserved for Gentile worship and
  1. Robbery by excessive pricing of sacrificial lambs for the faithful Jews who had traveled long distances to honor God.
  1. Dishonest currency exchange, as the moneychangers charged between four and eight percent above fair value to exchange currency that would be given to the priests.[2]
  1. The temple tax had to be paid with the Tyrian silver half-shekel tax.[3] The Sadducees were considerably more interested in the pure silver than the pagan image stamped on the coin itself.[4]


Three years earlier Jesus cleansed the outer court of the temple from its degrading materialistic and commercial nature. Since then the money changers and livestock swindlers were back in full force.[5]  Even though it was now cleansed again, the change would be short-lived and the days of this structure and the religious system were numbered.

Nothing could have offended the Sadducees more than the Triumphal Entry and the two cleansings. The first cleansing (see 05.05.04) most certainly angered them, as they carried on their sacrilegious sacrificial lamb trade under the pretense of accommodating strangers. There is also an important point to consider, and that is that His appearance was a fulfillment of a prophecy by Malachi, and as such, was a bold messianic claim.

“See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire — see, He is coming,” says the Lord of Hosts.

Malachi 3:1

The beginning of this verse clearly refers to John the Baptist, but the second sentence refers to Jesus who suddenly came to the temple.  Jesus began and ended His ministry with the cleansing of the temple and, in doing so He made a profound messianic claim without a spoken word:[6] God’s judgment will always fall upon His house first. By the cleansings, He also fulfilled a prophecy in Psalm 69 that reads,

For your house has consumed me,

Psalm 69:9a


The psalm literally means,  the temple will be His destruction.[7]  That is precisely what happened.  The Sadducees were delighted to see Jesus challenge and humiliate the leading Pharisees, but when He cleansed the temple, He was threatening their turf – their social, economic, and political security. Jesus had done this once previously; they would not permit Him to get away with this a second time without a severe punishment.




“Would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple complex.”  The temple was to be a sacred place of worship for both Jews and Gentiles. Unfortunately, the Court of the Gentiles had degraded to the point that merchants carried their merchandise through the temple courts as a short cut from one part of the city to another.

Yet not all priests were as corrupt as the leading Pharisees and Sadducees.  The Mishnah preserved the comments of those who desired to a return of respect and reverence that would truly honor God.

A man should not behave himself unseeingly while opposite the Eastern Gate (of the temple) since it faces the Holy of Holies.  He may not enter into the Temple Mount with his staff or his sandal or his wallet, or with dust upon his feet, nor may he make of it a short by-path; still less may he spit there.

Mishnah, Berakoth 9:5[8]  


Yet while the Court of the Gentiles was treated with the utmost disrespect, the inner sanctuary was held in the highest ritualistic respect. Any Gentile who entered was subject to be killed on the spot, even if he was a Roman soldier. An inscribed stone found in the temple rubble threatened Gentile trespassers with death if they entered beyond this particular temple area.


13.02.02.A. TEMPLE WARNING INSCRIPTION.  This warning stone was discovered in the 1930s. It was originally imbedded in a stone wall that surrounded the inner temple court. The Greek inscription states that no foreigners, including Romans, were to enter the sacred area of the temple.[9] Photograph courtesy of the Rockefeller Museum.


In addition to the temple warning inscription discovered in the 1930s, another warning stone with a Greek inscription[10] was discovered earlier and published in 1871 by archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau.[11] That artifact is today in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum in Turkey. That stone was situated near the main entrance and reads:

No stranger is to enter within the balustrade (partition barrier) surrounding the temple and whoever is caught will be answerable for his death, which will ensue.

 Josephus, Antiquities. 12.3.4 (145b)[12] 


Twice the Mishnah makes a reference of the temple warning,[13] and twice Josephus did the same,[14] and he indicated that not even Romans were permitted to enter the sacred area.[15] No Gentile could enter the inner sanctuary and expect to live to tell about it.


“A House of prayer for all nations.” In the cleansing of the temple Jesus profoundly decried the degenerated state of religious affairs. By this cleansing and the reflection upon the words of Isaiah, Jesus declared Himself as the rightful Lord of God’s sanctuary.[16]

7 I will bring them to My holy mountain
and let them rejoice in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on My altar,
for My house will be called a house of prayer
for all nations.”

Isaiah 56:7


Jesus valued the temple because it was where people came with their sacrifices and to commune with God. Yet it would be only a few days until the New Covenant would be established and He would become the focus of worship.  Then, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the body of every believer would become the new temple. In light of the two temple cleansings, it behooves the believer to be a pure and holy temple in mind (personal thoughts) and body (physical) and spirit (worship). The Apostle Paul said that the bodies of believers were the temple of God.[17]   The holiness that Jesus demanded in the temple ought to be the believer’s gift given to Him in love and a willing desire to serve Him.  The devotion to purity and holiness is both a commitment and sacrifice, even if it leads to persecution and martyrdom.

After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the disciples continued to go to the temple to pray (Acts 3:1).  They realized that Jesus had been revealed in the seven Jewish feasts and festivals.[18]  There is no mention of a sacrifice of any kind since Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice for all humanity. Jesus, by His sacrifice of death and resurrection, was both priest and victim and, therefore, in Him believers live (Rom. 6:9; Heb. 9:23-28). Today sacrifices to God are good works (Heb. 13:16), faith (Phil. 2:17), evangelism (Rom. 15:16), almsgiving (Phil 4:18), and sometimes martyrdom (2 Tim 4:6), but not animal sacrifice.

“A den of robbers.” Not only did the Sadducees rob the people in their religious trade, but, more importantly, they robbed the temple of its holiness and sanctity.  Jesus recalled the words of Jeremiah.

9 “Do you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and follow other gods that you have not known? 10 Then do you come and stand before Me in this house called by My name and say, ‘We are delivered, so we can continue doing all these detestable acts’? 11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your view? Yes, I too have seen it.”

Jeremiah 7:9-11


However, the most descriptive narrative concerning the evils of the High Priest Annas and his family is from the pen of Josephus who said that

He increased in glory every day, and to this great degree, and had obtained favor and esteem of the citizens in a signal manner; for he was a great hoarder of money; he therefore cultivated the friendship of Albinus and of the high priest Jesus (obviously not the Christ), by making them presents, he also had servants who were very wicked, who joined themselves to the boldest sort of people, and went to thrashing floors, and took away the tithes that belonged to the priests by violence, and did not refrain from beating such as would not give these tithes to them.  So other high priests acted in like manner, as did those servants without anyone being able to prohibit them, so that some of the priests, that of old were wont to be supported with those tithes, died for want of food.

Josephus, Antiquities 20.9.2 (295-296)[19]


It is difficult to comprehend the evilness of Annas; he had no compassion whatsoever, not even for his fellow priests who served with him.  He was a religious dictator who literally caused some to starve to death. His so-called friends, who were “purchased,” gave him favor and esteem out of fear only when he was in their presence (by signal).   He was greed personified.  At no time was there ever a greater contrast of personalities than that between Jesus and Annas.  Just as Jesus had cursed the fig tree, which was representative of national Israel, likewise the temple system would be cursed because Annas and his fellow Sadducees.  Just as the fig tree was found to be dead the following morning, likewise the temple and all the Sadducees were destroyed in the following generation by the Romans.

A question that has been raised is how was it possible for Jesus to cleanse the temple without causing the temple police and Roman guards to respond?  They were well known to respond quickly to any sign of trouble,[20] especially at Passover when there was a tension in the crowds who believe that someone would come forward at the temple and announce himself to be the messiah. In addition to the temple guards and security forces, there were priests and Levites stationed as specific places to maintain order.

The priest kept watch at three places in the Temple: at the Chamber of Abtinas, at the Chamber of the Flame, and at the Chamber of the Hearth; and the Levites at twenty-one places: five at the five gates of the Temple Mount, four at its corners inside, five at the five gates of the Temple Court, four at its corners outside, and one at the Chamber of Offerings, and one at the Chamber of the Curtain, and one behind the place of the Mercy Seat.[21]

 Mishnah, Middoth 1:1


The priests were the temple gatekeepers who prevented unqualified persons from entering the sacred domain. Since there was a large amount of gold and silver, in both coinage and sacred objects, the gatekeepers were responsible that theft did not occur.[22] Security was obviously tight, so how did Jesus manage to cleanse the temple without being arrested?

The answer may lie in the fact that the temple area was huge – thirty-five acres and filled with thousands of people. The only area that Jesus cleansed was the Court of the Gentiles, as this had been converted to a market place sometimes referred to as Annas’ Bazaar. It was filled with thousands of people bringing the products needed by the temple staff – firewood, wine, olive oil, and many other products.  The merchants within this temple compound were, in effect, agents for the House of Annas and his son-in-law, Caiaphas.  They were in business competition with the shop keepers out in the street.

But there is another thought to consider: while there has been a great deal of negativity placed on the temple leadership, it is easy to forget that many individuals in the temple service were righteous and holy servants who functioned in their positions as best as they could. When they saw the cleansing, they probably praised God for the opportunity to see Malachi 3:1 being fulfilled.


[1]. The synoptic gospels record the temple cleansing at the end of Jesus’ ministry while John recorded a cleansing at the beginning. Throughout history the church has maintained that these were two separate events.  However, with the rise of textual criticism and various liberal theologies, this viewpoint has become the minority view. For an excellent article that supports the view of two cleansings, see Allan Chapple “Jesus’ Intervention in the Temple: Once or Twice?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 58:3 (Sept. 2015) 545-570.


[2]. Matthews, Manners and Customs. 248.

[3]. Crosson and Reed, Excavating Jesus. 156; For more information on the Tyrian shekel and related issues, see 05.05.04 and the discussion of the first cleansing.

[4]. Crosson and Reed, Excavating Jesus. 156.

[5]. The issue of commercialization in the commercialization within the Court of the Gentiles is found in the Mishnah Seqalim 1.3; 3.1 and Berakot 9.5; Josephus, Antiquities 12.3.4 (145) and 15.11.5 (417).

[6]. Bookman, When God Wore Sandals. CD Trac 6.


[7]. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 6, page 6.


[8]. Clarification in parenthesis by Danby, ed., Mishnah.

[9]. This stone was discovered in the 1930s outside St. Stephen’s Gate, a/k/a the Lion Gate. See Wilson, Jesus, the Evidence. 113; No photographic credit given. It is one of two temple warning inscriptions found.

[10]. A second warning sign has been uncovered with a Latin inscription.  Obviously that was installed after the Romans controlled the region, and most likely by the builders employed by Herod the Great.


[11]. Clarmont-Ganneau, “Discovery of a Tablet from Herod’s Temple.”132-133.


[12]. See also Josephus, Wars 5.5.2.

[13]. Mishnah, Middoth 2:3 and Kelim 1:8.


[14]. Josephus, Antiquities 15.11.5; Josephus, Wars 3.7.15.


[15]. Josephus, Wars 6.2.4.


[16]. Martin, Worship in the Early Church. 21.

[17]. 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16.


[18]. Acts 20:16; 21:17ff; 1 Cor. 16:8; cf. with Col. 2:16-17; Gal. 4:10.

[19]. Added comment in parenthesis mine.


[20]. Acts 21:30-33; Josephus, Antiquities 17.6.3 and Wars 1.33.3.

[21]. This “Mercy Seat” was outside the western wall of the Holy of Holies.


[22] Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. 417-18.



Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 22, 2015  -  Comments Off on 13.02.03 PLOT TO KILL JESUS DELAYED

13.02.03 Mk. 11:18 (See also Lk. 19:47-48) The Temple Courts in Jerusalem




Mk. 18 Then the chief priests and the scribes heard it and started looking for a way to destroy Him. For they were afraid of Him, because the whole crowd was astonished by His teaching.

“The chief priests and the scribes.”  This phrase clearly points to the Sadducees and scribes as the instigators, who were eventually successful in the execution of Jesus.  The leading Pharisees are not mentioned as they took only an accusatory role, not an active role, as they were apparently absent in the Roman trials that led to the final execution of Jesus. The population at large and some religious leaders (see Jn. 12:42)[1] remained faithful to Jesus, listening carefully to His teaching and expecting Him to announce His Messiahship at any moment.  Therefore, a heavy tension hung between them and the common people that would burst into the crucifixion.

As stated previously, amazingly, Mark refers to the Sadducees once by name and Luke refers to them five times, but only in his book of Acts. John never calls them by name at all.  Yet they were the primary instigators that led to the crucifixion. Along with them, the leading Pharisees clearly challenged Jesus numerous times and even planned His death, but eventually they stepped aside and let the Sadducees do their dirty work.



13.02.03.Q1 If the Pharisees planned His death, why did they not pursue their plan? 

The missing Pharisees were not there! Significant to the biblical narrative is a point that is frequently overlooked. It is important to underscore the point that not all Pharisees were the extreme legalists who attempted to kill Jesus.  If so, why would some have warned Jesus that Herod Antipas wanted to kill Him (Lk. 13:31)?  Why would Rabbi Gamaliel have taken a personal risk to save the lives of Peter and the apostles (Acts 5:34ff.)?  In fact, many writings outside of Scripture, quoted in this text, were written by devoted Pharisees who pursued God within the framework of their knowledge. It has wrongly been assumed that since the leading Pharisees plotted to kill Him, therefore, all Pharisees were active in His execution.

But from this time forward, the leading Pharisees are no longer mentioned as having any role in the prosecution and execution of Jesus. They did not consider the motivation to kill someone a sin, but only if the act was committed. Josephus clearly indicates the Pharisees avoided severe punishments and executions (see below). A case in point was recorded by Josephus concerning a man by the name of Eleazar, who was “of ill temper and delighting in seditious practices.”  In the discussion of Eleazar’s punishment for his transgressions, which were considered extremely serious, the Pharisees leaned on the side of mercy.


So the Pharisees made answer that he deserved stripes and bonds; but that it did not seem right to punish reproaches with death; and indeed the Pharisees, even upon other occasions are not apt to be severe in punishments.

Josephus, Antiquities 13.10.6 (294b)


The Pharisees, for the most part, were strongly opposed to being personally involved in any death sentence.  Therefore, in light of the words of Josephus, it must be concluded that the Pharisee elite must have been extremely corrupt and out of their Pharisaic norm that they would repeatedly plot the murder of Jesus. As previously stated, once the Sadducees seized Jesus, the Pharisees are no longer mentioned in Scripture. They still hated Him and wanted to see Him dead, but in their religious legalism they felt that if they did not have an active part in the crucifixion, they remained innocent.  So they handed their dirty work over to the Sadducees, who were more than willing to present a mock trial and hand Him over to the Romans.

Conflicts within the Pharisaic judicial system: While the term “Pharisees” covers a multitude of religious sects, the two leading schools of theology were the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai. Those of Hillel focused on compassion, kindness, and forgiveness while those of Shammai focused on harshness and legalism. This is highlighted in the following passage of the Babylonian Talmud.

If someone stole a beam and built it into a house—

The School of Shammai say, “Let him tear down the whole house and return the beam to its owner.”

And the School of Hillel say, “The owner has a claim only for the value of the beam alone, on account of the good order of those who repent.”

Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 18b[2]  


The entire conflict between the two schools became so intense that it caused division and conflict in the Jewish judicial system. Notice the following warning.

Abbaye said, “The caution against splintering into deviant groups applies only in the case of two courts of law, such as one deciding according to the views of Beit (meaning House of) Shammai and one according to the views of Beit Hillel, but two courts of law in separate cities would not be subject to this limitation.”  Rava challenged this, “But were not the Shammaites and the Hillelites like two courts of law [and they differed freely from each other in the same locale]?”  Said Rava, “The caution applies in the case of one court in the same city, with half the judges deciding according to the Beit Shammai and the other half according to the Beit Hillel.”

Babylonian Talmud, Yebamoth 14a[3]  


Furthermore, the Mishnah has numerous situations where the application of the Mosaic Law or Oral Law by these opposing schools led to intense arguments. There can be no question that some, if not all, of the legalistic questions presented to Jesus were from the Shammaite branch of the Pharisees. If there were any Pharisees before Pilate demanding the crucifixion of Jesus, it would have been those of this school.

[1]. This is an excellent example of a misunderstanding of a passage that appears to be rather simple to comprehend. Throughout the gospels the writers often wrote that the religious leaders were against Jesus.  Readers understand that to mean every leader of the Jews wanted to see Jesus crucified, when in fact, only those leaders, who were present with Jesus at that specific conversation, wanted to see His demise.  John 12:42 gives clear evidence that some leaders became faithful followers of Jesus.

[2] Cited by Neusner. The Talmud of Babylonia: An American Translation. Vol XVIIIB: Gittin. 93.


[3]. Cited by Boker. The Talmud: Selected Writings. 134-35; Bracketed insert by Boker; Definition in parenthesis mine.


13.02.04 In the Temple Courts THE CHILDREN PRAISE JESUS

Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 22, 2015  -  Comments Off on 13.02.04 In the Temple Courts THE CHILDREN PRAISE JESUS

13.02.04 Mt. 21:14-16 In the Temple Courts




Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 22, 2015  -  Comments Off on 13.02.05 LESSON FROM THE FIG TREE

13.02.05 Mk. 11:20-21; Mt. 21:20-22; Mk. 11:25-26  From Bethany to Jerusalem, Tuesday Nissan 12




Mk. 20 Early in the morning, as they were passing by, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that You cursed is withered.”                                                                                     


Mt.  20 When the disciples saw it, they were amazed and said, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?”       


21 Jesus answered them, “I assure you: If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”                                                                                      


Mk. 25 And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing. [26 But if you don’t forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your wrong-doing.]”


When Jesus and His disciples returned to the Holy City, they noticed the fig tree that had been cursed was dead.[1]  This sudden death was symbolic of the impending judgment that would fall upon the Jewish nation for their rejection of Jesus.  It was a profound prophetic object lesson; a lesson that found its fulfillment in A.D. 70 and again in A.D. 135.


“If you have faith and do not doubt.”  Faith is a gift from God that is to be applied to all life situations.  It cannot be produced by human efforts or positive thinking.  Faith is an applied decision for a divine result based on biblical principles when human intelligence would indicate other consequences. For this reason, an early church father known as the Shepherd of Hermas said,


You see then, said he, that faith is from above, from the Lord, and has great power; but double mindedness is an earthly spirit from the devil and has no power.  Therefore, serve that faith that has power.

 The Shepherd of Hermas[2]



A Lesson in First Century Hermeneutics:

13.02.05.X Explaining The Unknown With Use Of The Known

There are certain stories and historical events of culture that everyone knows. Jesus simply took some of those stories and events and used them in His lesson. In essence, He took His listeners from the known to the unknown; from the life of this earth to the spiritual life of the Kingdom of God.

“You tell this mountain, be … thrown into the sea.” Jesus used an example of the physical world to explain a principle of the spiritual world.  He used this imagery to say that feats greater than Herod’s could be accomplished by faith. One profound accomplishment of the king was the construction of the summer fortress-palace known as the Herodian.  He literally relocated the top of one mountain and placed it on the top of another, making the fortress impenetrable and creating the appearance of a volcano.  The lesson Jesus taught is that to have prayers answered one must have faith in God and forgive others. The imagery was impressive to His listeners.



13.02.05.A. THE CREATION OF THE HERODIAN PALACE-FORTRESS.  Herod the Great relocated the top of one mountain (left) and placed it on top of the other mountain to build this fortress-palace.  At its base he constructed an indoor Olympic-size swimming pool. The Herodian is located three miles south of Bethlehem along the edge of the Judean Desert, within sight of where Jesus was born.  Photograph by the author.


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[1]. For further study, see Moulton, “Jesus’ Goal for Temple and Tree: A Thematic Revisit of Matt 21:12-22.”  561-72.


[2]. Lightfoot, citing “The Shepherd of Hermas” in The Apostolic Fathers. 2:191-92 without reference.


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 22, 2015  -  Comments Off on 13.02.06 JESUS EXPLAINS THE PURPOSE OF HIS DEATH

13.02.06 Jn. 12:20-26




20 Now some Greeks were among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 So they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested of him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.              

23 Jesus replied to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 “I assure you:


Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground

and dies,

it remains by itself. 

But if it dies,

                        it produces a large crop. 


25 The one who loves his life

will lose it,

and the one who hates his life in this world

will keep it for eternal life,


26 If anyone serves Me  

He must follow Me.

Where I am,

There My servant also will be. 

If anyone serves Me

the Father will honor him.


While Jesus told His disciples that He would face death, they could not comprehend His words. They could not imagine that someone who performed such incredible miracles and raised the dead would permit Roman tyranny to kill him.  Rather, their anticipation was like that of everyone else; they continued to think that He would establish a revived Davidic Empire.



“Now some Greeks … went up to worship.”  Some Greeks worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To qualify to worship in the temple, Gentiles were required to affirm one of the following:


  1. Convert to Judaism, and be circumcised, or


  1. Worship God as Gentiles and affirm that they observe the Noahide Commandments.[1]


Those who went through the rite of circumcision could worship anywhere within the temple where other Jewish men worshiped, but those who observed the Noahide Commandments could worship only in the Court of the Gentiles. They became known as “God-fearers.” They were not Hellenized Jews or Jews from the Diaspora, but Gentiles, who observed the Jewish faith.[2]  Like the magi some three decades earlier, they represented the multitudes of Gentiles that would come to Him in the future from every nation of the world. Some of them later became Christians and consorted with Paul and Silas at Thessalonica (Acts 17:4).  The Jewish people placed Gentiles in three categories:[3]


  1. The Ben Noah, meaning Sons of Noah, who observed the Noahide Commandments. They were also known as “Righteous Gentiles,” “God-fearers,” and “Proselytes of the Gate.” When the early church was getting established, the Jerusalem Council met (Acts 15) to determine if Gentile converts had any further obligation beyond the Noahide Laws, other than repentance and baptism.[4]


  1. The Akkum, who did not observe the Noahide Laws (sometimes referred to as dogs).


  1. The Ger Toshav, who were those persons who, under oath, stood before a Jewish judge, stated they had two intentions:


  1. To reside in Israel and, if permitted,


  1. Their intention to faithfully observe the seven Noahide Laws.


A Gentile man could be honored and respected as a Ben Noah without circumcision, but if he wanted to become a full-pledged Jew, then the painful circumcision was required. For that reason, it is generally accepted that many women and few men converted to Judaism.


Finally, this passage challenges the common opinion that the Jews did not attempt to evangelize the world.  While most of the national leadership of Israel had no interest in this matter, and some even hated the Gentiles, God always has His remnant few to do His work. While the Jews as a whole failed to bring the Word of God to the Gentiles, it must not be stated exclusively that all Jews failed in this calling.


“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies.” Everyone understood that wheat, the most prized grain, dies at the end of the harvest season.  Yet seeds that die bring forth life when planted.  Likewise, here, Jesus told His disciples that life in Him could come to them only through complete death to self and dedication to Him.


“The one who hates his life in this world.”  This is a phrase of comparison and a reflection of the seed that dies. The believer’s love and dedication for Christ must be so intense that, in comparison, the concerns for his own well-being are so minute as to appear to be hatred. The word world, as John used it, means a human society organizing itself without God.[5] 


[1]. The Noahide Commandments were and continue to be, in the opinion of orthodox Jews, divine laws that Gentiles need to obey to obtain favor with God if they did not want to convert to Judaism. See Appendix 17 for more information.


[2]. Geikie, The Life and Words of Christ. 2:254.


[3]. Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 57.


[4]. See Acts 2:10; 6:5; 13:43.

[5]. Barclay, “John.” 2:185.



Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 22, 2015  -  Comments Off on 13.02.07 FORETELLING HIS CRUCIFIXION

13.02.07 Jn. 12:27-33




27 “Now My soul is troubled. What should I say—Father, save Me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again!”

29 The crowd standing there heard it and said it was thunder. Others said that an angel had spoken to Him.

30 Jesus responded, “This voice came, not for Me, but for you. 31 Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself.” 33 He said this to signify what kind of death He was about to die.


Throughout the Old Testament Period the Jewish people believed that God spoke to selected men, generally known as prophets.  For example,


  1. God spoke to Samuel when he was a child (1 Sam. 3:1-14).


  1. God spoke to Elijah when he had to flee from Jezebel (1 Kgs. 19:1-18)


  1. God spoke to Eliphaz the Temanite in Job 4:16.


However, after four centuries of prophetic silence and the invasion of Hellenism, most of the Jewish people ceased to believe that God spoke personally to anyone. So when they heard the voice from heaven, it was absolutely stunning!


Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 22, 2015  -  Comments Off on 13.02.08 CALL FOR WALKING IN LIGHT

13.02.08 Jn. 12:34-36; Mk. 11:19 Bethany




34 Then the crowd replied to Him, “We have heard from the scripture that the Messiah will remain forever. So how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”

35 Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.” Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them.

Mk. 19 And whenever evening came, they would go out of the city.


Believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.”  The phrase sons of light was used by the Essenes, as evidenced in their numerous Dead Sea Scrolls, especially in one scroll known as The Manuel of Discipline. The phrase means to have the knowledge of God.  Darkness, on the other hand, means ignorance of God’s Word, because it is ignorance that leads to disobedience of His laws that in turn results in death.  The phrase, as used by Jesus, was a common term throughout Judaism. The Essenes felt they were the exclusive sons of light, because they obeyed the strictest Mosaic Laws, and everyone else was a son of Darkness.  The Apostle Paul used the term in his epistle to the Ephesians (5:8a) when he said, “Live as children of light,” meaning to live as children with the knowledge of God. Paul and Jesus did not endorse Essene theology, but used the same phrase that was well known and everyone understood it.


In the evening Jesus returned to Bethany, a short distance east of Jerusalem.  He desired to spend the night there with close friends, before returning to the city in the morning.  He probably stayed with Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead. There He could enjoy quietness, seclusion, and prepare Himself for the trials and anguish of the coming week. It is here His humanness is revealed. This peaceful village of believers was His home until His arrest.

13.03 The First Examination Of Jesus

Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 22, 2015  -  Comments Off on 13.03 The First Examination Of Jesus

Unit 13

The Passion Week Begins


Chapter 03

The First Examination Of Jesus


13.03.00.A. JESUS ADDRESSED THE CROWD by James Tossit.

13.03.00.A. JESUS ADDRESSED THE CROWD by James Tossit. Tensions increased as Jesus continued to preach and demonstrate, by performing miracles, that He was bringing forth the Kingdom of God. For this the religious establishment confronted Him.

13.03.01 Introduction

Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 22, 2015  -  Comments Off on 13.03.01 Introduction

13.03.01 Introduction

The similarities between the sacrificial lamb and the Passion Week of Jesus are astounding.  Just as each family’s sacrificial lamb was examined for any possible imperfections, so likewise, Jesus was examined by the Pharisees for any possible “imperfections” (violations of the Written and Oral Laws). Both examiners looked for reasons to reject the “offering.”  Just as every small sacrificial lamb lived in a Jewish home and was loved by a Jewish family between the tenth and fourteenth of Nissan, so likewise, Jesus was in Jerusalem where He was loved by thousands between the tenth and fourteenth of Nissan.


From Bethany Jesus returned to the temple where Jewish leaders approached to examine Him. In their minds, the only authorized teachers were those who had graduated from a recognized theological school; they had “rabbinic authority.” Jesus obviously had not graduated from one of their schools and, therefore, another examination of the Miracle Worker was required.  Ironically, while they examined Him, in reality, it was they who were being examined. There were four examinations of Jesus that were parallel to the examinations of the lambs that occurred in Jewish homes at this same time. The religious leaders were looking for any possible imperfection in His theology, lifestyle, or intentions.[1]  They had two goals in mind:


  1. To find any issue by which they could bring Jesus before the Romans for execution. This was by far their primary objective.


  1. To find any substantial evidence they could present to the crowds, since His popularity was growing exponentially. But that goal was hindered by the ongoing problem, that due to corruption in the ranks of the Sadducees and leading Pharisees, the people were greatly displeased with their religious leadership. Therefore, their ability to persuade anyone was limited.


A summary of the four examinations is as follows:


  1. The first examination was by the priests (Sadducees) and elders (Pharisees) on Tuesday, April 4, the 12th day of Nisan. They desired to uncover cause for which to accuse Jesus before the Romans and discredit Him before the people. However, in that conversation Jesus responded by presenting three parables: The Parable of the Two Sons (Mt. 21:28-31; 13.03.03), The Parable of the Householder (Mt. 21:33-41; 13.03.04), and the Parable of the Wedding (Mt. 21:1-14; 13.03.07).


  1. The second examination was by the Herodians who desired to present Jesus before the Roman on the grounds of treason. Any charge of rebellion or failure to pay taxes qualified. So they presented the fundamental question on whether it was proper to pay taxes to Caesar (Mt. 22:20).


  1. Then the Sadducees returned for a third examination. They asked Jesus a question pertaining to eternal life (Lk. 20:28-33), something that they themselves did not believe in. Jesus responded with Exodus 3:6-7.


  1. After the Sadducees, the leading Pharisees returned for the fourth and final examination of the day. They were legalists who knew that Jesus highly prized the Written Law over their Oral Law. So they asked which was the most important law (Mk. 12:28-34). They agreed with His response and evidently, from this point on they abandoned their attempts to trap Him.

[1]. For an exhaustive study on this subject, see Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 25ff.


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