When the King Came: Stories from the Four Gospels - George Hodges

Three Days of the Holy Week

On Monday, coming from Bethany down the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem, Jesus saw a fig-tree full of leaves, and turned aside to gather some of the fruit; but not a fig was to be found upon it; there was nothing but leaves. It was like the Pharisees and Sadducees, who seemed to be so good, with their splendid temple and their many synagogues, and all their services and their interest in the church, but were not so good as they seemed. And our Lord said, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever." So they went on into the city.

Our Lord entered into the temple, and there looked again upon the sights which he had observed the day before with such sad and stern eyes. For the temple stood, as you remember, in a great yard which was paved with stone and had a stone wall about it. This yard was called the Court of the Gentiles, because the Gentiles were free to go into it if they chose, though they were not allowed to pass the gate of the temple itself. It had been intended that this court should be a holy place for strangers. It was hoped that men who were not Jews might enter and remember God and pray to him.

But nobody was praying there that day. The Feast of the Passover, with its multitudes of worshiping pilgrims, had of course increased the number of the sacrifices. Everybody who came to the holy city would wish to offer a sacrifice on the altar in the temple. And in order to accommodate these pilgrims, so that they might get the oxen, the sheep, and the doves which they must bring to the priests, a market was opened in the Gentile court. Indeed, it was much more like a county fair than like a church. There were stalls for sheep and oxen, and cages for doves, and men were buying and selling. There were tables at which money-changers sat to trade small coins for large ones, and to exchange foreign money for Jewish. And those who bought and those who sold were making a great noise, filling the air with shouts and cries. Thus prayer was made impossible.

This our Lord had observed the day before. Now, when he came back, he had a whip in his hand,—a scourge of small cords. And presently there was a great commotion in the place. They who were coming in at the gates met sheep and oxen rushing out, and behind the sheep and oxen was our Lord. He overturned the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of those who sold doves, crying, "Take these things hence." "Is it not written," he said, " 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?' but ye have made it a den of thieves." He would not even allow men to carry bundles across the yard. He stopped whatever interfered with prayer. There he stood, in the name of God, rebuking the traders and the priests. Thus for the second time our Lord presented himself as the leader of the people. This time, many were impressed, and a company of choir boys, coming out of the temple, began to sing verses of psalms which had been sung the day before on the way from Bethany,—"Hosanna to the Son of David."

On Tuesday, coming again to Jerusalem, our Lord and the Twelve passed the barren fig-tree, and behold, it was withered away. When he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him and said, "By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" But they dared not lay hands upon him, for now many of the people were on his side, taking him for a prophet. So all that day he taught in the temple, and the Pharisees and the Sadducees disputed with him, asking him hard questions, trying to entangle him in his talk, hoping that he might say something which they could use against him. But he put them all to silence.

As the sun was setting he went away with his disciples, knowing that it would not be safe to stay in the city after dark. And they sat down outside the walls, on the rocks of the Mount of Olives. The sun as it went down shone upon the city and the temple, so that the disciples were amazed at the strength and beauty of the place. "Master," they cried, "see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" But he answered, "Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down." And he told them how the splendid city should be destroyed, and how at a time which no man knew, not even he himself, even the wide world should come to an end, and how he would return to be the judge of all men.

On one of these three days, as he went away, he took his leave of Jerusalem, as he had before taken his leave of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum, saying, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"

On Wednesday, the fear and anger of the chief priests and the scribes and the elders of the people came to such a pass that they held a meeting in the palace of the high priest, Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus and kill him. But they decided that they must wait till the feast was over, and the pilgrims were gone home. They did not dare to take him publicly, on account of the people. As they were still debating, however, there was a knock at the door, and somebody came back with strange news. "There is a man here who says that he is one of the disciples of the prophet. Shall we let him in?" "Yes," they said, "admit him." And in came one of the Twelve, the dishonest treasurer, Judas Iscariot. And Judas said, "What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? I will lead you to a place where you may seize him quietly, and take him. What will you pay me?" And they promised to give him thirty pieces of silver. So he went out of the meeting of the clergy, leaving them very glad, and shut the priest's door behind him, and walked again beside our Lord.