Lesson Sixteen


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Memory Verse: John 12:26
Further Study: Matthew 23; Mark 13:1, 2; John 12:20-36; The Desire of Ages, pp. 610-628, The Bible Story, vol. 9, pp. 48-52

This week it’s important to understand context. Throughout Jesus’ three-and-a-half-year ministry we’ve learned about an individual who was, for the most part, understated. Mostly itinerant, Jesus typically spent His time away from Jerusalem. He avoided conflict, withdrawing if necessary. As He healed, He admonished people to keep quiet about what had happened. It seemed Jesus wished to remain more unknown than to call attention to His presence.

It seemed Jesus wished to remain more unknown than to call attention to His presence.

But now as we enter the last week of Jesus’ ministry, we need to be aware of a significant change. On Sunday, we found Him at the center of a loud, noisy, celebratory parade into Jerusalem. On Monday, His eyes burned with passion, and His voice rang with authority as He cleared the temple. Now on Tuesday, Jesus has again returned to the temple. 

It isn’t uncommon, when a military campaign has ended, the general will offer a “farewell to the troops.” It’s a mixture of commendation and counsel. As we left on our honeymoon, our mothers, neither aware of the other, pulled their child aside to give their last words of advice. I’m guessing we did the same to our girls when we left them at college or as they left for their honeymoons. It’s those last words of counsel when leaving someone on their own. This day as Jesus spent time in the temple was a bit like this but His words carried a much more serious message. 

Matthew 23 records at least some of the words Jesus spoke that day to those gathered around Him. He first addressed His disciples and the general crowd. But the second half of His message was directed at the Jewish leadership, priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees. His words are direct and harsh, but at the same time filled with pity and pathos. His seven (or eight depending on how one counts) woes described the religious leaders as blind guides, whitewashed tombs, and hypocrites. His message warns them of their downward path that, if nothing changes, will lead them to hell itself.

His message warns them of their downward path.

What is most sad was that just the day before when Jesus cleansed the temple, He called it “My house.” Now, at the end of this discourse, the temple is “your house.” This is the moment of separation, yet not without the yearning of a heavenly Parent. Comparing them to chicks that a hen protects beneath her wings, Jesus reminds them that for three-plus years of ministry, He has desired nothing more than to gather them to Him. But the moment has arrived. Jesus walked away, separating Himself forever from the temple because He knew that in a few days, He would become the ultimate sacrifice eliminating the need for the temple anymore. While the priests might continue their empty work, it was, just that, completely meaningless.

We should read these words sorrowfully. But we also should realize that what happened then can happen now. The priests had taken God’s simple prescription for sin and completely complicated and burdened it, so much so that God was lost in the process. We, too, can get so tangled up in our own religiosity, rules, and routine that we think we are following God when we’ve created our way to salvation.

Jesus desires to enter the temple again, but in this case, the temple of our hearts. Let us clear away all that encumbers us, invite Him in, and be renewed.

Digging Deeper 

Jesus references the murder of the prophet Zacharias in Matthew 23:35. The text in Matthew specifically says Zacharias son of Barachias. This person has sometimes been confused with either the prophet Zachariah of the same book by his name or another Zechariah who is mentioned in Isaiah. 

The person Jesus was referencing was Zacharias, the son of Jehoiada the high priest, who was stoned because of an order by King Joash (2 Chronicles 24:20-22). Hebrew Bibles in Jesus’ day had the book of Chronicles last where we now have Malachi. Thus, when Jesus references the murders of Abel to Zacharias, they would represent the first and the last recorded martyrs. As for the reference to the “son of Barachias,” this is assumed to have been added later by a scribe since the book of Luke makes no reference of this relationship (Luke 11:51).1

Ellen White relates that when Zacharias was killed his blood “had imprinted itself upon the very stones of the temple court and could not be erased; it remained to bear testimony against apostate Israel. As long as the temple should stand, there would be the stain of that righteous blood, crying to God to be avenged.”2

1 Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 492.

2 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 619.


Making it Real

During this same time in the temple as Jesus was observing all that was happening in the temple, He noticed the widow who put in two small coins—all she had. We would be reticent not to mention it as well as ponder its importance this week.

If you have children, spend some time this week talking about sacrifice. Ask your children what their most cherished item is. Talk about what it would be like to give that up. How would they feel? What if Jesus asked for it? Would they be willing to give it up?

If you are an adult reading this, it’s a similar question. List items that you cherished (not family members, but objects). Would you be willing to give them up if Jesus asked? What could you do financially this week for Jesus that might represent some sacrifice on your part?



Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being a grandmother to two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus, and a granddaughter, who’s delighting everyone with her smiles. She is blessed to have all three living close by, continually bringing joy and delight.


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